I have some very VERY exciting news to share. After months of work behind the scenes, I have redesigned my portfolio, and more excitingly, I’ve opened a store!

That’s right you can now buy my illustrations on greeting cards, postcards, in a zine, on stickers and, if you’re feeling extra fancy as originals!

Check it out

This is a huge step for me, and a bit of a big gamble on myself. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and after proving to myself I could stick to blogging for a year and build a little audience, it felt like time. I’m super proud of how it’s turned out, and I’m hoping it’s the start of a new chapter in my creative work.

I want this to be a much better platform for people to learn more about my work, and hopefully allow me to indulge the idea that making things could be a feasible part of my career.

It feels super indulgent to have just designed the cards I would want to send, the zine I would want to read, the originals I would want to hang on my wall, but I felt like there was no point in doing this unless it truly felt like it was mine. And it does.

I love everything I’ve made. Each piece has a story behind it and a lot of love in it.

I’m going to be doing a series of behind the scenes posts in the next week or so, so you can see in a little more depth how they came together and where my inspiration came from. I might also do a post on my switch to Squarespace and redesign, if you’re interested?

In the meanwhile, head on over to my new site and maybes pick up a greeting card or five while you’re there!    

If you want to keep up to date with new products, and get some exclusive discounts (as well as free downloads and some ace reading recommendations) sign up to my newsletter in the side bar!

This is my first post as a 24-year-old and I’m pretty darn happy about it.

It was my birthday on Friday and I wanted to reflect on it a little bit here. I had a lovely birthday (weekend) and, as ever, felt super lucky to have such lovely and loving people in my life.

This year my birthday fell on the same day as I finished my grad scheme, so it felt like a particularly noticeable milestone. Both my most recent trip around the earth and my trip around the Engine group came to a close at once and I really felt it. Every time my mum asked me if I felt different on my birthday when I was little I would say no, and while I don’t necessarily feel “different” now I do feel a difference if that makes sense. I can see the change between me at 23 and me now at 24, and I can see the difference between my world on Friday and my world today.

In a weird way, this also feels like one of a few birthdays where I really feel like I’m ready for the changeover. I need a fresh start.

This year has been a big one. I guess they all are. But it’s been a big year of change. It’s been my first year in the world of full time work. It’s been my first year in London. It’s been my first year of really being out and adrift in the world.

It’s been a hard year in a lot of ways. I’m not sure there has been a year in memory where I’ve cried more. I have questioned every decision. I have been anxious and scared and angry. I have worked my self to exhaustion. I have felt alone and overwhelmed by the sheer number of people I’m surrounded by in the city. But most of all I have been unsure, of what I’m doing and why and who I want to be.

As much as this year has been hard, and I remain confused and anxious about the future, I’ve also achieved a lot. I’ve survived my first year of work, and completed my grad scheme working in four different companies and learning a lot along the way. I’ve managed to secure a job I think will teach me more in the future. I’ve made myself a home. I’ve attempted to start looking after myself better. I’ve stuck to blogging for a whole year, which has meant I’ve made more consistently than I think I have in a long while.

That consistency has offered me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Those opportunities have afforded me hope.

I’ve also figured out some stuff, that I think is going to be important going forward. I know much better the kind of work I want to do. I want to make things. I’m not sure what or how but I know I need to make things to feel fulfilled. I know I work best alone or in small teams. I know that I need to have a purpose behind what I’m doing. I know I like logical work as much as I like creativity. I know I need to be doing something more.

I also know that, as much as I doubt it, that I can do something more, because I’ve made it through this year.

In short, I’m 24. I’m not quite sure what that’s going to be, but I know it’s different to 23 and I’m so ready for that.

A little while ago, in fact just after I published my post about reaching out, I got an email from the lovely Shanelle Chua asking if I would be interested in collaborating on some work. Naturally, I said yes. Shannelle’s lettering work is absolutely gorgeous and I love having the opportunity to work with other creative people and really push myself and my work.

After a bit of discussion, we decided to make some desktop backgrounds based on words from some of our favourite poets and combine my love of portraits and Shannelle’s love of lettering to create something really beautiful to share with you all.

Both of the backgrounds we created are below, along with a few words on why we chose the lines we did – hope you like them!

EMILY DICKINSON, I DWELL IN POSSIBILITY – Shannelle’s pick

Emily Dickinson was how I got into poetry. They were able to convey so much in so little, and I loved that. She also was the first person to make me realize that I didn’t need to seek approval from other people at a time when I needed it the most. At this stage in my life, though, I’m keeping this one close because it’s an accurate representation of my life right now, as a college student.

Download the background

WALT WHITMAN, LEAVES OF GRASS – my pick

Despite having studied English literature for quite a while, I only recently got around to reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Rather than reading it all in one go, it’s something I’ve dipped in and out of, but one section I’ve come back to time and time again is “Give me the splendid sun” from Drum-Taps. I love its repetitive refrain. I love the real sense of yearning it creates. I love how Whitman captures the beauty and fleshy vivacity of nature. I love that it sums up pretty much exactly how I feel living in London, wanting to escape and just have fresh air. Whenever I want to run away to the Lake District this is a passage I love to come back to because it brings that longing to life and because it makes me a feel a little less alone in my desire to just lie down on some grass and look up at the sun.

Download the background

If you’re not already, please go follow Shannelle over on Instagram too, she’s ace and posts so many positive messages! 

I am a sucker for a RomCom. There’s something about their familiar feel-good factor that I just love and can’t stop watching. But, I don’t really ever read Romantic Comedies. I’m not sure why. I think it’s perhaps something to do with an internalised stigma that they’re somehow less worthwhile than “more serious” fiction. I know they’re not, and yet something has held me back from really getting into them.

That was until I chose Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project as my holiday read last month. I knew I wanted something easy and fun, and I thought, after reading glowing review after glowing review, I thought The Rosie Project would be the perfect pick and it really was. I had such a good time reading it, and honestly, it felt so good just to be sucked into a story and get to revel in an upbeat love story.

This month’s cover redesign takes inspiration from Don’s relationship with ice cream (and relationships)

The Rosie Project is the story of “a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, [Don Tillman], who’s decided it’s time he found a wife”. So, he decides to apply logic to the problem and designs what he calls ‘The Wife Project’, a survey to find his ideal woman by filtering out the smokers, the heavy drinkers, the late arrivers, and those with any dietary requirements. Surprisingly, he runs into a couple of hiccups along the way.

One such hiccup is Rosie Jarman, who although being recommended by one of Don’s only friends Gene, quickly fails to meet The Wife Project’s standards. Despite not being wife material, the pair do embark on another project together, one to find Rosie’s father. The progression of that project sees their friendship begins and many hijinks ensue.

As I said in my intro, what really stood out to me was just how easy The Rosie Project is to read. That might sound like a strange thing to praise, but finding a book that really pulls you through its pages and makes you smile as you go can be hard to find. While I didn’t find it to be laugh out loud funny (it’s rare I find a book that makes me audibly chuckle) I did find myself grinning at the end of each chapter. It was a story I could imagine on screen, which is I think why I enjoyed it so much.

That enjoyment was sustained throughout. But there were moments when Don’s Asperger’s seems to be skated over or easily forgotten in a way that doesn’t quite ring true. For example, he describes his intense dislike for being touched, but when it’s convenient to the plot that seems to be forgotten. As a novel that tries to get into the mind of a man with high-functioning Asperger’s to me at times that felt like it didn’t ring completely true. However, maybes those quick solutions are just part and parcel of creating a book with such pace, and similar plot solutions are generally taken as part and parcel of the genre.  

If like me you’re a fan of a romcom, or you just want a story you can race through I’d highly recommend The Rosie Project. It’s fun and light, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ

  • Romantic Comedies characteristically have quite set plot points, how does having a sense of what’s going to happen before you go into a novel change how you read it?
  • How well do you think Simsion presents and handles Don’s “cognitive difference” in the storyline?
  • The Rosie Project was originally started as a screenplay, do you think that has had an effect on the writing style?
  • How does Don’s initial Wife Project compare to how the web has tried to make a science out of dating?
  • What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour? Can you tell the difference between it and something similar? (This is the aspect of the book I’ve probably spent the most time thinking about)

IF YOU WANT SOME FURTHER READING TRY…

 

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

Why not use The Rosie Project themed bookmark I designed to keep your place as you read? You can print and download it for free here.

As ever, let me know if you’ve read The Rosie Project, or if you have any recommendations for what I should be reading next.

People have been drawing portraits pretty much for as long as people have been drawing. They were the only way to capture someone’s likeness whether that be in a painting, a sculpture, a drawing, or a print. But portraits have always been about more than just documenting what someone looks like, they’ve been about capturing something more of that person whether that’s their wealth, their status, their taste, their work, the nobility, the political agenda, their virtue, or their intelligence.

Portraits began as something only available to royalty, and then the wealthy, before making their way through the middle classes and the working classes. These days portraits are for everyone. Whether that’s a 5ft oil masterpiece or a snapchat selfie.

I love portraits. I’m always drawn to the faces in galleries to try and work out what they’re thinking, to catch the light in their eyes. That’s why I’m now offering portrait commissions! I do a weekly portrait on my Instagram, but I just want to draw more faces and offer more people the chance to have their likeness captured. My portraits sit somewhere in the middle of the oil painting-selfie spectrum and are, I hope, perfect for their digital context. Simple and easily recognisable but still able to capture something of their subject and ripe to be personalised.

Today I thought I’d share with you three of my favourite portraits of all time, and a little bit of why I love them, as well as some info on how you can get your own.

THE NOBLEMAN WITH HIS HAND ON HIS CHEST, EL GRECO

I first saw this portrait in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and it has stayed with me (in my heart and in postcard form) for the 5 years since. I’m not sure quite what it is that I find so captivating about this image but it stopped me in my tracks in the Prado and it has the same effect still. I’m normally just drawn to faces in portraits, as I think most people are, but I think I could spend as much time staring at his hand as I do any other aspect of the portrait. It’s such a quiet and muted painting, but there’s a kindness in his eyes and a gentleness in the hand that betrays a softness you wouldn’t expect from a Nobleman and the other regal portraits of the time. Perhaps that’s why I love it. Also, if you haven’t seen El Greco’s Portrait of Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara I would highly recommend it for the glasses alone.

JOSEPH ROULIN, VINCENT VAN GOGH

I never really understood why people loved Van Gogh so much until I saw this painting in person in MOMA in New York. There’s just so much tenderness in this painting it can’t help but to move you. It’s truly  “the modern portrait,” a picture that renders character not by the imitation of the sitter’s appearance but through the independent, vivid life of colour, that he wrote to his brother Theo about. You can really see their Roulin and Van Gogh’s friendship in the composition and the softness of the eyes. I’ve since seen a number of the other portraits Van Gogh painted of Roulin, but this one remains my favourite, because I love the character of the darker green wallpaper and the way its depth is sits almost at the same level as the portrait, as if Roulin has become a part of the furniture.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, ARNOLD MACHIN

Machin’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is the most reproduced artwork of all time, being printed on stamps over 220 billion times. Despite being in circulation since 1967 and being printed so many times it hasn’t aged at all. Perhaps that’s why the Queen has said it would take a “real work of quality” in order to replace it. I love the balance of grace and beauty with a real determination and authority. I love how you can see the relief in the plaster sculpture so well, even when printed. I also love that it took Machin about a year to create the portrait, with his first attempt being decried as “unrecognisable”. It wasn’t until he started working from the photographs taken by John Hedgecoe, as backups in case Machin didn’t produce anything, that he made the image we all know so well. As someone who’s just starting in portraiture, and often uses reference photos rather than live sitters, I find that really heartening.

 

If you’re a business looking for a set of matching profile images of your team, a blogger in need of a new profile image, an editor who requires a portrait to go with an interview or feature, or someone who just wants a portrait of themselves/their mum/their partner/their best friend/their crush/Ryan Gosling, I’ve got you covered.

Portrait prices start at £20, but if you’ve looking for a group or a rolling commission we can definitely chat! Plus if you include the magic code words “Joseph Roulin” when you email me, you’ll get a special friends and readers discount of 25% meaning you can have your very own portrait for a real bargain price of £15.

So, if you want your face up there with the Queen’s, just drop me a line.