I want to be honest, this post is almost entirely an excuse for me to draw some of my favourite film characters. But this is my blog and I’ll make what I want to. So, in the same spirit as my podcast posters, I’ve done a small series of portraits of characters from four of the films I’ve watched the most.

 

I’m a bit of a serial film rewatcher, there’s just something so comforting about a rewatch, so this definitely isn’t the entire list (there are a load of romcoms that should be in here) but these are the four which came to mind first. If there are any on this list you haven’t seen, they’re all quite different, but all come highly recommended by me and the fact I’ve seen them all at least 5 times.

 

La la land

I know La La Land only came out quite recently, but that didn’t stop me pretty much putting it on repeat as soon as it was released on Netflix in the UK. I’m a sucker for a musical, and have always been, as you’ll see with one of my later picks. So, when you combine some Gene Kelly-esque magic, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone trying to fulfil their creative dreams you’re always going to be onto a winner for me. I may or may not have cried the first time (and every other time I’ve seen it) at the scene outside Mia’s childhood home. The position of this one has certainly been boosted by the number of times I’ve listened to the sound track. If you need to put some pep in your step on your morning commute, Another Day of Sun usually does the trick for me.

 

 

Garden State

This was the film that introduced me to The Shins, which I always feel is kind of shameful til I realise I watched it in 2006 and I was 13. It’s my favourite of a whole group of films all about the ways in which we isolate ourselves, and why should reach out and actually feel. I think it was a film that came to me at just the right moment, and has continued to comfort me in those moments when I want to tap out and detach myself from everything. It’s also one of only perhaps two films I’ve watched with the director’s commentary.

 

Bedknobs & broomsticks

Bedknobs & Broomsticks was my favourite film as a child (along with Spy Kids – the first one) so I’ve been rewatching this since I was probably about 5. It’s got a wonderful mix of romance, Angela Lansbury, adventure, mild peril, magic, cockney accents and animated animals, all of the keys to a great children’s movie. Plus, it’s got some darn catchy songs – bobbin’ along anyone? I’m always torn between wanting someone to remake it to introduce it to a new generation, and my love for the 1970s (I know I’m a 90s baby but still) grain and animation which just wouldn’t translate in the same way in 2018.

Die hard

I love Die Hard. I have no shame. I love it. It is a great piece of cinema. I’ve seen all of the entire series (apart from 5) multiple times, but I’ve gone classic with this illustration with our introduction to the badass that is John Maclane and his ever-white vest in the original Die Hard. I’m not sure there’s anything more I can say, other than Yippee Kay-yay.

I was recently gifted Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by Sir David Attenborough because despite having spent many years watching, and loving, his documentaries, I’d never actually read any of his books. Despite initially being daunted by getting to grips with such a big hard back, I was just as delighted by reading about Attenborough’s adventures as I would have been watching them.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Sir David Attenborough is an English veteran broadcaster and naturalist.

Essentially, he’s something of a British broadcasting legend. Adventures of a Young Naturalist combines three books he wrote in the 1950s to accompany three series of the BBC program Zoo Quest, which were the first nature shows of their kind and were the beginning of Attenborough’s illustrious career. The three logbooks have been updated and abridged in places but retain their original spirit and include a number of photos from the time.

As Adventures of a Young Naturalist is a collection of other books, it follows that the three key sections are discrete and each cover a single trip. Within each section, every chapter also contains a discrete story, as if each one is a mini-episode, which means the books lend themselves well to comparison with Attenborough’s small screen programming.

 

It’s easy to get swept up in Attenborough’s storytelling. Each story has just the right mix of excitement and gentle humour that it keeps you engaged but always feeling safely along for the ride. I think the fact that you can genuinely hear his voice in your head as you read is both the greatest asset of the book and a real testament to his power in broadcasting. There are few voices I know so well in audible and stylistic tone.

It’s not just how the stories are told, that keeps you reading. It’s fascinating to learn more about the way nature was approached what is now half a century ago. I’ve grown up with nature documentaries and google image search at my fingertips, so I can clearly picture the majority of the animals the team set out to find in the books. But to imagine seeing many of these creatures for the first time, through the eyes of someone so passionate is thrilling. Plus, there are some real characters in the book both animal (the armadillos are some of my favourites) and human, who really make these stories feel like adventures rather than just a catalogue of exotic creatures.

I do think that if I were to read this again, or if I could go back in time and have a chat to my January self, I would recommend reading Adventures of a Young Naturalist in sections. I would even, perhaps, read something else between the different Zoo Quests. I say this, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I think each story loses its impact when read hurriedly – like if you try and walk around the entire Louvre in an afternoon, by the third hour all of the master pieces you’re seeing blur into one. So perhaps this would be a perfect commute companion.

If you already know and love programs like Blue Planet, or if you just have an interest in adventure, I would highly recommend picking this one up. It’s easy to pick up if a little tricky to put down.

 

SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ

  • Do you think that a similar expedition could be done now? Why? Would anything have changed?
  • Did you enjoy the episodic nature of the chapters and sections of the book?
  • Who did you think stood out more within the narrative the animals or the people encountered?
  • If you’ve seen any of David Attenborough’s documentaries, how did reading about his adventures compare to seeing them on the screen? What were the similarities/differences?

 

 IF YOU WANT SOME FURTHER READING TRY…

IF YOU WANT MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS HAVE A LOOK AT…

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis was my Christmas read. It’s the perfect curl up in front of the fire while it’s cold outside novel with its mix of detective-esque plotline, Edinburgh scenery and what can only be described as Call the Midwife vibes. 

After Mrs Walker dies alone in a cold Edinburgh flat on a snowy Christmas night, a glass of whiskey dropped from her hand and the remanence of a clementine on her side board, Margaret Penny gets the job of finding out who she was through the Office for Lost People. Margaret has returned home a lost herself, middle-aged without a career, a relationship or a life she can call her own. But what Margaret Penny doesn’t realise, is just how entangled her own life will become in the death of this dead old lady.

However, The Other Mrs Walker not quite so simple as just being a mystery. The plot jumps back and forth between 2011 and the 1940s-60s, and between Margaret and a group of three sisters Clementine, Ruby and Barbara. That kind of split-plot is something I would have normally avoided in the past, but here it works well. The jumps are well defined, and you always have a clear sense of where you are and which character you’re with, and all of the strands of the plot feed into each other and inform the narrative. 

Female characters – mothers, daughters, and sisters – dominate the pages. Their relationships are fraught and complex, but never over-complicated. They’ve each got their strengths and flaws, but they’re all a little too mysterious to be fully “rounded”. It is a novel of real women though, to the extent that I would have been surprised had it not been written by a woman.

I’ve read a lot of crime thrillers and detective novels in my time and I’m not sure this will go down as one of the greatest I’ve read. The reader sometimes knows too much, and the resolutions don’t always feel quite satisfying enough. But, it is “a detective story with no detective” and in that category, it’s pretty strong.

If you’re looking for a cozy page-turner to ease you into the new year, then The Other Mrs Walker should definitely be on your considerations list.

For this month’s alternative cover I chose to highlight one of the recurring symbols in the book – the clementine. I had a lot of fun playing with textures and a slightly rougher illustration style than I normally use.

 

SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ

  • Symbols repeat themselves quite frequently throughout the novel, what do you think the effect of this is? How well do you think this is done?
  • There’s a lot of reference to family heirlooms (prized or not) do you have anything you would want to pass on to a loved one?
  • The action of The Other Mrs Walker is driven by a set of female characters, how do you think the story would play out differently if it were about fathers, sons and brothers?
  • What social commentary can you draw from how the mentally ill and the dead are treated in the story?

 IF YOU WANT SOME FURTHER READING TRY…

IF YOU WANT MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS HAVE A LOOK AT…

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet
  • Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue

 

I’m back and I’m, hopefully, going to be better than ever!

Based on your feedback last year (thank you to all of the wonderful people who filled in my survey) and some thinking I’ve been doing things are going to be changing a little bit around here.

I’m still going to be producing the content I want to make and I’m still going to be posting at the same times. But I’m going to be prioritizing quality over quantity which might mean that some weeks I’m only going to post twice.

I’m also going to be doing a few more regular features including a monthly “how to” design based post, monthly roundups of some of my favourite people/reads/links and a few more researched long-form pieces a bit like my design stories series last year. I also want to share a few more reviews, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’m also going to be way better at replying to comments – I got super overwhelmed at the end of 2017 and pretty much stopped, which doesn’t help foster the kind of community I want.

Personally, I’m implementing a few changes as well. I know that new year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone. A new year doesn’t have to mean a new you. But I’m the kind of person who likes to have a marker to review against, and a new year is as good an arbitrary marker as any other. So, I’ve set myself a few habit based challenges.

Just like last year, inspired by a friend from uni (the inimitable Tucker Cholvin), this year I decided to put together another poster of my new year’s resolutions to hang above my desk to remind me to stay on track because I really think it helped me stay on task. 

I’ve gone for 5 habits again this year, because it felt like a doable stretch last year and I succeeded (with a minor blip) on 4 out of the 5, which isn’t too bad. This year I’m going to:

  1. Read 25 books. This is 5 more than last year’s goal. I know for a lot of people, this might not seem like a lot, but my time to sit down and read full books for fun rather than articles is always very tight
  2. Take a photo/video of some kind every day. This is building on how much I enjoyed doing my one line a day journal last year (and am continuing).
  3. Learn 10 new skills. I really want to push myself to go to more classes and to try my hand and making a few new things – I’m kicking this one off with a screen printing workshop next month which I am super excited for!
  4. Do 120 hours of exercise. Last year I ran the equivalent distance from London to Edinburgh, this year I want to keep up that momentum but also start to try a few new things rather than just running, so I’ve gone from distance to time.
  5. Implement a better sleep schedule. Last year the resolution I failed (really hard) at was getting up without hitting snooze. One of the big issues was that I didn’t address the fact that I hit snooze because I’m tired, so this year it’s all about having a better, more regular sleep schedule.

Did you set any new resolutions or goals for the year? How are they going? If you’re struggling it’s not too late to put up something visual as a reminder (I really like the fill in as you go aspect of these posters) – they actually work!

And this is it, my last post of the year.

It’s been an incredible year, and I just want to take a moment to say thank you for the role you (yes you reading this) have played in it. Thank you for reading or commenting on anything I’ve made. It’s still weird for me to think that the things that I put out into the world get picked up by other people and resonate with them. Thank you for making this more than just a glorified online diary, for letting me make something just a little bit bigger.

Thank you so much for all of your support on my portfolio and shop. Whether you bought something, got in touch, or even just visited, it honestly means so much. This felt like a bit of a step up for me, and you all gave me the confidence to take that step with purpose.

Thank you to anyone who has dropped me a line to say hi! Hi back! I feel like I’ve made some really lovely internet pals this year, and I can’t wait to make more and for those relationships to grow. Also, I’m sorry that I’m sometimes really bad at responding, I promise it isn’t personal!  

And finally, thank you for all of the opportunities you have given me. So many of the things I’ve done and conversations I’ve had this year have been down to you giving me a platform. It’

I’m going to be taking around 3 or 4 weeks off blogging (and sporadically off social media) so that I can enjoy the holidays with my family and recharge ready for 2018. It’s been a big busy year and now it’s time for me to hit pause. But know that I will be coming back, hopefully, even better next year, especially now I’ve had the chance to really take your feedback on board.