The Evolution of Change

It has been a while since I made a decent update to this page, what with my Facebook, Etsy and Tumblr pages taking up most of the time I had dedicated to networking each day, but I have experienced a number of changes over the past two months that have inspired me to put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) and give this blogging lark another shot.

The most notable development since my last update has been my decision to quit my part time office job, a position that caused me a great deal of stress, and focus all of my energy on Sweet Illustrations. It has been a rocky month, to put it lightly, though I am still earning more than I was before I took the plunge, and in my eyes that’s as good an achievement as any!

Having seven whole days a week to dedicate to my artwork has allowed me to explore mediums and styles that I simply felt I couldn’t dedicate the time to before, and my recently completed artworks have got me thinking about how much my art and, most importantly, my approach to art has changed since I first realised that I was actually pretty ok at it.

To start this tale, I’m going to take you on a magical journey back in time, where a younger, much smaller and much more naive little Holly stood outside of her art class at break time, talking to Mr. Endicott, the only art teacher that I have ever felt I learned from and who inspired me to do something with my talents. It was during my GCSE years that I really started to commit myself to the idea that I loved art, and to allow myself the time to work on my skills, and to feel confident enough in what I was producing to feel proud to show my family and my teachers. I loved drawing in graphite, drawing animals and cartoon characters, and presenting them in my art classes as my finished products. Endicott would give me advice and constructive criticism on my work, and over time my skills continued to improve, but there was something I really could not cope with. And that was painting. I refused to paint, because when I tried it look awful. I realise now that I was approaching paint in entirely the wrong way, that I was expecting the same results I got with my pencils without having to put in the effort, and it frustrated me. I outright refused to work in paint, no matter how often he would try and encourage me too, and as a result of this I spent most of my life never touching a paintbrush and certainly never touching paint. When it came to university we were expected to do our design proposals in paint, namely using gouache, but the method was simply filling and shading, and I almost always managed to find a way around that by using gel pens and pencils. When university was over I stopped drawing completely, too depressed to find any joy in it any more until, by chance, I was bought some promarkers and, when a friend lost one of her ratties, I decided I would try drawing them for her. I got back into art again, but still I refused the paints! I stuck with the markers, eventually moving onto graphite and coloured pencil.

I did get the old goauche set out during that time, though I used it exactly the same way that I used the markers … blocks of colours, refusing to utilise the many benefits that paint offered because, in my head, I still couldn’t paint. I would tell people that I couldn’t paint, that I was hopeless at painting, and further more I convinced myself that I didn’t need to paint. Whilst there are artists out there who find markers and photoshop and coloured pencils enough, I hadn’t come to this conclusion because I preferred the markers and pencils, but because I was too stubborn to give something a try. Because I had done a stupid thing and convinced myself that, because I couldn’t paint ten years ago, how can I possibly paint now? This is a mistake I see so many people making … people who tell themselves over and over that because they didn’t get the results they wanted years ago that it was impossible for them to do so now. People who say that ‘I tired but I can’t.’ But I was that person, for all that I had improved, I was still stuck in the same mindset as my sixteen year old self.

My journey into painting came about quite accidentally, rather recently. I bought myself some coloured ballpoint pens to do play around with, and realised that I needed an effective way to create some contrasting and dynamic backgrounds to the ballpoint subjects. I have an old watercolour set that was bought for me many many years ago, and dubiously I pulled them out, and after doing a little research I began playing around with throwing and splashing the watercolour onto the page. I loved it, I loved the result, and I loved naturally the results formed.

sweetrat222

People loved them, and I sold them in a very short space of time, and got a number of comments from people saying how much they adored this new style. It was a huge boost for me, as although commissions had been coming in fairly steadily since I quit my job, I still didn’t feel particularly confident that I was doing the right thing. Little did I know, that by simply splashing some watercolour around on some paper, I had begun to chip away at this idea that I couldn’t paint, and a few days later I found a wonderful reference photo that I was really excited about, and after I had done the splashed I realised that, actually, I may as well see what I can do by still working with the watercolours.

Let me just say, this was about as hallelujah a moment as I could possibly ask for. I LOVED it, and I was able to apply what I had learned with the markers, and the coloured pencils, in a way that really complemented the medium. Watercolours suited me, and how who knew? Certainly not me. It was the first piece that I had finished that actually had me beaming with pride. I had achieved something that the sixteen year old me always told the world was impossible. I had painted something, and I liked it!

sweetrat224

I am now exploring this new style that I have discovered, playing around with it as much as I can, adding other mediums when I can to see what sort of result I can get. Although I love doing the commissions, it’s nice to actually feel like an artist again, to know that I’m pushing myself. I have learned a very valuable lesson throughout all this, one that I wish I had learned earlier, and one that I hope everyone reading this can take from as well; you can’t expect to be good at something without first putting in the work to GET good at something. No matter how naturally gifted or talented you are, or you are not, everything that you do, that you want to get good at, requires patience, it requires an understanding that you won’t be producing a masterpiece of getting thousands of notes and likes on whatever platform you’re used to the first day, or the first month, or even the first year! What makes the difference between someone who is ‘good’ and someone who is not, is that one of these people didn’t give up.

I leave you now with a preview of the painting that I have been working on this evening.

11535663_1004967246194737_6816225004016944619_n

Holly x

Why I Love Promarkers

When you think markers you are probably put in mind of those old Berol felt tips you had at school, those red and blue horrors that would start the year as a shiny new set no one could wait to get their hands on, and by the end of the first art session would be found snapped under chairs, their lids having mysteriously vanished into the Void.

Honestly, just seeing them without their lids sets my teeth on edge, and I find myself irrationally angry at whoever happens to be sitting next to me.

But, in fact, felt tips can be a wonderful and delightfully simple medium to work with! In my two years of *sob* periodic unemployment after university I tried my hand at comics. Not writting them, you see, but illustrating them. I told myself that I could easily finish a 100 page graphic novel, no problem, yet partway through I realised that, actually, comics really were not for me. I get bored of doing the same thing for two long, and included in that was drawing the same character over and over and over. On the plus side, however, I invested in a decent set of fine line blacks as well as a couple of choice Letraset Promarkers. I was in love! A product that needed no water, left no mess, and that I could get really creative with. Sweet Rattery Illustrations itself started purely with Promarkers, and it became sort of the trademark of my work. Before long I began to appreciate just how versatile these markers were, working well alongside gouache paint, easy to blend with one another, and with a layering quality that allowed me to create the sort of depth that I wouldn’t have imagined you could achieve with felt tips.

I suppose the huge benefit of Promarkers is that there is no fuss. Before long you will find yourself with an entire drawer dedicated to these pens, which I’m pretty sure eventually start breeding and nesting in various places in your house, and with that drawer open, a pad in hand, you can scribble and blend to your hearts content. They are perhaps the most addictive of mediums … I have found myself buying several colours that I’m all but certain I’ll never use just because I don’t have them yet, and many a dull evening has been brightened by ordering them by hue. Truthfully, they are fun. Going crazy with a brush can be every bit as enjoyable, but there’s something … childish about them. It brings me back to my days as a child, scribbling away with the few coloured pencils I’d managed to salvage from under the sofa, imagining to myself that I was some big shot artist working for Disney. Characters come to life before you as you layer on the impossibly perfect skin tones (seriously, the days of colouring people in pink because it’s all you have are over!), and I now find it very difficult to do a pencil sketch without grabbing one of my colours, grabbing my right wrist with my left hand, trying to fight back the urge to just add ‘a liiittle bit of colour here’.

The only issue I have found, personally, with Promarkers is that they do tend to run out quickly. Despite the impracticalities, I adore working on Bristol Board, and it very quickly sucks the life out of my pens. But the smoothness of the finish is just too good to sacrifice for the sake of saving a few pounds. They are the stable of my portraits, and still the most popular of the products I offer.

A selection of old boys enjoying some Bakewell.
A selection of old boys enjoying some Bakewell.
The range of colours available make it very easy to replicate real life colours of subjects.
The range of colours available make it very easy to replicate real life colours of subjects.
One of the best things about the Promarkers is the ability to layer a colour upon itself to create degrees of shading upon the subject.
One of the best things about the Promarkers is the ability to layer a colour upon itself to create degrees of shading upon the subject.
But equally, you can use a range of different colours on a subject, which creates an almost abstract result that I'm very keen on.
But equally, you can use a range of different colours on a subject, which creates an almost abstract result that I’m very keen on.

I get the feeling that Promarkers are one of the products that, the more you use them, the more you continue to learn about them. I suppose that much in itself is true about all other mediums, but the range of different techniques and results you can get from a simple felt tip is insanely satisfying.

My First Lesson: Gouache is Not Goulash

When I first set off the University we were given a list of books and products that we would apparently find very useful throughout the course. There was the usual, books we’d never in a million years read, pens and pencils, a couple stacks of paper, but one of the items on there was something that, in my lower class upbringing, meant nothing to me. A Introduction Set of Designer Gouache. I’d heard of Goulash, but I wasn’t sure that was quite what they meant. So, totally bemused as to what I would find, I set off the nearing art store to find this goo-ash stuff.

Turns out, it was a type of opaque watercolour. I’ve used watercolour and acrylic before, of course, but this was like heaven in a tiny squidgy pot. I loved the stuff! It had the strength of acrylic with the spread of watercolour, and better even than both, and ever since it’s been my paint of choice.

However, once uni was over and those two years of mind numbing boredom passed and inspiration hit once more, I found myself addicted to Letraset Promarkers, and they were so wonderful to use with my little pet illustrations, and gouache sadly got rather forgotten. It sat in it’s little box, it’s colourful squishy magic unused and unloved for the best part of three years, until I came across it again one day whilst clearing out ‘that’ cupboard.

Whilst I only seem to have one intact brush remaining, and have yet braved Hobbycraft to get another set, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that working with paint gives over working with ink. And gouache, in particular, is such a fantastic medium to use. As it is water based, I don’t have to worry about any wasted paint and can reactivate the palette whenever I fancy, which makes it convenient as well as pretty. When using it throughout my degree it was used, alongside Chinese Ink, to paint very delicate and detailed jewellery design proposals and illustrations, so it’s very freeing to be able to work a little bit larger. I’ve still got a lot of practicing ahead, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Below are a few example of some of the pieces that I’ve been working on the past two months. Personally I think there’s a little bit of a theme going on here, but I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

sweetrat125
The first piece – rainbow rat with slight wash.

sweetrat127
One of my first attempts to illustrate a ferret in a good year or more, turns out they work quite well in … rainbow.

sweetrat128
Perhaps betraying another key interest and care of mine, you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t here 😉 But everyone loves a pretty cow. In rainbow.

sweetrat143
By this point I had grown more familiar with the process and the paints, and starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the strength I could work at. In rainbow, of course.

There are quite a few other pieces that I’ve worked on since, and it’s an idea that I wish to continue with and grow upon in the coming year. Gouache really is wonderful paint to work with, and if you’re a fan of watercolours and/or acrylic then I very much recommend giving it a go.