It’s rare I do any kind of shopping guide, except for my Christmas gift guide, even though they seem to be something of a staple in the blogging world. But today I’m changing things up, because I’ve been bulking up my art supply cupboard so I’ve been doing a little bit more shopping over the past few months.

So, these are some of my favourite places to get supplies, or just to look lovingly at supplies. They’re all based in London, but where they have online stores I’ve linked those as well in case you have the good fortune of having escaped the capital.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here we go…

 

CASSART

Cass Art is probably the place to go if you’re looking for supplies in London. They’ve got stores across the city – Islington and Soho are my most frequented – and they have a huge range covering all price points and styles.

 

THE LONDON ART SHOP

The London Art Shop does exactly what it says on the tin. It sells a little bit of everything at a fair price, in a lovely store in northwest London.

 

L. CORNELISSEN & SON

If you’re after a bit of London history with your shopping, L Cornelissen & Son has been selling high-end, hard-to-find artist’s equipment since 1855. It’s a bit pricier and more niche than the other stores on this list, but it is stunning, and who doesn’t have a treat yo self ***link*** moment every once in a while?

 

GF SMITH

GF Smith is the go to place for everything and anything paper related. If you’re looking for a soothing afternoon activity, they have a gorgeous and perfectly colour co-ordinated showroom just off Oxford street.

 

LONDON GRAPHIC CENTRE

So, this is probably my most visited art supply store in all of London. There was definitely a period when I worked closer to Covent Garden when I popped in every other week just to touch the paper. They’ve got pretty much anything you could ever want, especially if your work has a more graphic rather than fine arts (they have you guys covered too don’t worry) as their name might suggest. Plus, if you ever find yourself with a Ryman’s voucher you can spend it at LGC as well! Just as an FYI, it’s not open on bank holidays – I’ve been caught out by that a few times.

 

QUILL LONDON

Calling all letter lovers and calligraphy cats, you need to visit Quill. They have everything you could ever need in order to write a beautiful letter, and a whole load of gorgeous stationery besides. Plus, they run calligraphy workshops if you’re looking to brush up on your skills to help you make good use of all of the correspondence cards you will undoubtedly leave with.

 

PRESENT AND CORRECT

It took me a little while to visit Present and Correct, as it’s not on my normal routes, but it was well worth the trip out. Their store is the stationery heaven you would expect if you’ve ever had the good fortune of stumbling onto their Instagram feed. The only problem is that it’s very hard not to walk away with 15 kinds of paperclip that you definitely don’t need.

 

CHOOSING KEEPING

Based on Columbia road, Choosing Keeping is just as beautiful as the flower market its based next to. The next time you’re in need of a stationery fix, or you just want to ogle some stunning “desk objects” I would highly recommend you give them a visit.

 

If you have any hidden (or not so hidden) shopping gems I’d love to hear about them!

I’ve spent a bit of time recently talking about finding a focus for my work, a direction to grow in if you will. A big part of the reason for that new focus on, well, focus is so that I could measure my trajectory a bit better, and to feel like I’m developing. But I’m still not quite sure of the best way to measure my success as a creative.

Success is different for everyone, and so the best way to measure it is different too. But here are some of my initial thoughts around how to measure success in a creative context.

The method of measuring our success we commonly seem to turn to first is comparison – how are we doing compared to our peers? But unless you’re doing exactly the same thing as someone else, and starting in the same place, it’s very hard to find a group of peers who we can actually measure against. This is made even harder by the internet. With a whole world of other creatives out there, there’s no shortage of people you could choose as your peers, but that means the choice can be overwhelming, and even harder to make well.

More often than not, we (or at least) I pick a peer group who I see as better than me, or are more established, which is great for pushing you forward but not for accurately measuring how well you’re doing, because you might never overtake them. I’ve also ended up comparing myself to people making different work, for different reasons, with different circumstances meaning any comparisons I make are just assumptions, which, again, rarely go in my own favour.

So, comparison with others doesn’t really work.

In fact, the only person you can fairly compare yourself to is yourself. You are the only person who’s working with your specific circumstances. So why not just periodically look back at what you’ve made and see how far you’ve come. I mentioned in my recent post about sketchbooks about the importance of revisiting old work and even of revising old pieces. You could even rework the same piece every year or 6 months, and see what you can add to it that’s new. This allows you to see your progress, but it’s less about pushing you forward.

But what if you want to look forward rather than back all of the time?

That’s where goals come into play. Setting goals allows you to give yourself a challenge to work towards, which you can clearly mark as achieved. The best goals are based on something you can control and lie just out of your reach.

These goals could be quantitative or qualitative. So, they might be that you want to produce a certain number of pieces or make a set amount of money. Or, you might want to be doing a certain kind of work or have a certain skill. This gives you something to work forwards to, and something you can easily measure. But perhaps it doesn’t take into account the process of accumulated growth that happens as your progress, or the power of the process of making in the way that self-comparison does.

In the end, I think it’s clear there’s no one way of measuring creative success that works all of the time. So, perhaps, the answer is to employ a mixture. To set yourself a range of goals, whilst remembering how far you’ve come.

After all isn’t the process just as important as the outcome when you’re making things? The only way to measure that is how you feel at the end of the day.

Something I’ve really struggled with in the past, and still do to an extent, is maintaining my voice when doing client work. So, I thought I’d share the things that have really been working for me, because it’s a lot trickier than it sounds.

 

The first step is to find your voice and use it to shout about your work. It’s hard for potential clients to know about the kind of work you want to make, and are great at making, unless they’ve seen it. That means you need to find your style, or at least the style you want to be making work in right now and use it. Use it to make the work you want to make, whether or not you have a client who’s commissioning the piece or not. So, if you want to make illustrated album covers, just make a few for your favourite albums, share them, and use them as examples of your work when you reach out to potential clients.

 

If you’re really intent on maintaining your voice in client work, you’re going to have to be discerning about the clients and projects you work on. That might mean saying no to work that won’t allow you to produce work that’s either of a style or quality that you want to be making. This isn’t something you have to do all at once, or at least I’m certainly not. I’m still taking on projects that don’t quite align with the work I want to be making in the future but I’m aware of that, and am actively looking to move away from those projects.

 

Once you’ve found those clients, work out how to translate their brief into your design language. If you’ve gotten into the habit of using lots of different styles when you’re working with different clients, which I have, this might take a little bit of work. But whenever you receive a brief, take a moment (or several) to work out how you can answer in a way that stays true to your style and artistic desires whilst being what your client needs. Remember that if you’ve worked hard at the first step, the person you’re working with has probably decided to work with you because they like the work and style you’ve shown them.

 

Then make sure you present any work in the style you want to be using, and sometimes only in that style. When you’re presenting options make sure you show the approach you prefer in the best light you can – this is just good practice generally but is particularly appropriate here. If you want to reduce the risk of working outside of your style, only present works in that style. People anchor onto what they can see and what they know, so if the only work you’ve shown looks a certain way that will inform your client’s frame of reference. With this, you do have to work out when it’s appropriate and also be prepared for the occasional potential push back or requests for further variety.

 

But even with the perfect client, and those processes in place you might need to push back, so work out which battles you’re prepared to fight.

 

Maintaining your voice in client work is a constant and active process, that requires you to really know your style and be committed to using it. You might decide to pick and choose those moments or make it a central part of your practice. Personally, it’s something I’m working on making more and more present in the work I take on.

You have undoubtedly heard the Picasso quote: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” It’s a quote that’s famous because it’s so true. There’s a certain freedom to making art and creativity when you’re a child, that you seem to lose somewhere along the way to becoming a ‘grown-up’.

But the simple way to protect your creative child is to keep playing. But it’s harder than it sounds, so it’s something we all leave at aside.

It’s so easy to get in a space of only putting energy into creative projects that have some kind of cause, especially if it becomes part of your job. You start to associate creative time with making money, or trying to make something that will do well on Instagram. Or, you simply just prioritise the work that pays the bills rather than the stuff that feeds your inner child. It makes sense. That’s the world we live in. I know, I for one, do it all of the time. Playtime quickly becomes the least important time to ring-fence.

But making time to play is so important. It’s good for your wellbeing. It reduces stress. It’s great for helping you get through a creative block or just coming up with ideas. It’s a big part of what helps you “remain an artist once [you grow] up”.

So how do you play creatively as a grown up? Quite simply you’ve just got to make time and do it. 

Playtime has to be something that isn’t attached to a need for a certain outcome so it needs to happen outside of your working time. In order to differentiate play and work there are a few things, you can do if you make things for a living.

First, do something outside of your creative bubble as your play time. For me, my creative playtime is cooking, which is about as far from illustration as you can get. But it could also be something as simple as using a different medium or style.

Second, go back to school. By that, I don’t mean go back in time but to try a new class. While that might sound like the kind of structure that’s the opposite of play but learning something new often unshackles you from the expectation that you have to make something good.

This year, I’m going to do my very best to make more time for play, even though it feels so unnatural to me now. Do you do anything to keep your inner child playing?

This year I want to share a bit more of the process around my work as well as few more tutorials and tips, so today I’m killing two birds with one stone and showing you how to do the exploded lettering I did for Oxford University Drama Society’s festival ‘Breaking the Fifth Wall’.

I’ve only recently started playing with lettering within my work but I’ve really enjoying it. So, when OUDS got in touch with me and asked for a graphic to go with their festival of drama centered around women breaking through the glass ceiling, I knew I wanted try something lettering based. I’m really pleased with how the final piece turned out. I think it definitely illustrates the spirit of the festival in a simple but fun way. 

Here’s how I did it.

 

FYI I’m using Affinity Designer and a Wacom Bamboo tablet to draw with, but you could also easily use illustrator or even photoshop (with a few tweaks) to do this.

 

Step 1

First, I just drew out the text. I used big block capitals because I knew I was going to break them up so they had to be clear and have a bit of weight to them so the text was still readable after it had been smashed. 

Side note: I always do all of my rough sketches in bright colours because I find them easier to work with.

Step 2

Then, I added in the smash lines. I had a look at some images of broken glass and found tried to replicate their patterns to make the smash a bit more believable.

Step 3

With all of those rough outlines in place, I traced over the individual broken sections of the letters to create vector line illustrations of the smashed letters.

Step 4

Once I had the vector illustration of the letters, I got rid of the pixel guides. I separated them out a bit more on the page to give them the feeling of really having been smashed. I made sure to try and strike a balance between exploding the individual pieces and maintaining the integrity of the letters so that you can still read the copy.

 

Step 5

When I was happy with the composition, I took each individual letter (by grouping sections) or individual broken piece and sheared it. To do that I rotated the vector a little and then used the shear function so that the vertical lines were still vertical – I’m hoping the imagery above explains that a bit better.

Step 6

Next, with the letters all tilted, I added in the lines that give the letters some depth and the appearance of being three-dimensional.

 

Step 7

Then, all that was left were any final adjustments.

 And that’s how it’s done.

 

Let me know if you try out this method or style, and if there’s anything else you’d like to see how tos/tips on!