Over the weekend, I asked on Instagram which topic you would like to see me tackle in my next blog post and, overwhelmingly, you agreed with Olivia's suggestion: the pros and cons of freelancing and working for yourself. In this blog post, I can only speak from my own experiences and, naturally, everyone has a different point of view. Anyway, here is my take on working independently. Don't miss my Q&A with Aimee at the bottom!
⟢ HELLO, FREEDOM ⟣
Freedom is wonderful. Not being dictated to is the age-old teenage dream, right? You can eat when you want to, take breaks when you're bored, and break up your day with exercise or by running errands. Best of all, you can schedule your work around your life. Who says you can't see your loved ones when you would like to, or take time off if you're ill? You can even have an early finish if you really fancy it.
⟢ CREATIVE CONTROL ⟣
Not having a boss means that you decide what to work on. You can pick and choose which projects you want to do. In a creative field especially, having that free rein is amazingly liberating. Those decisions are yours to make and you don't have to get the okay from somebody above you... unless you're working with a client, then you should definitely make sure that you're both in agreement.
⟢ LIVING THE DREAM ⟣
Most people daydream about waking up everyday and doing what they love. For freelancers, that can be a reality if you are building a business around your passion. Even small victories will put you on cloud nine and have you feeling so empowered, and rightly so. Obviously, it's not all sunshine and roses, so we'll get to that bit now.
⟢ INCONSISTENT ⟣
Working for yourself can be really stressful and overwhelming at times, and it's hard not to take those setbacks personally. Some months are good, others are rubbish - especially in the beginning. My stakes are not as high as other small business owners and freelancers, I don't have a mortgage or children to provide for. Fortunately, my family are supportive and I'm good at saving my pennies, so I'm never down to my last one. Know that there's no shame in getting another job to pay the bills, if needs must.
⟢ IN THE DEEP END ⟣
Working solo can make you feel like you're in over your head. You are solely responsible for the upkeep and reputation of your business. Everything falls on your shoulders - customer service, social media management, re-stocking, tax returns... You can feel completely capable in one moment, and like everything is falling apart in the next (but maybe that's just me being dramatic?). Thanks to social media, you will probably feel inadequate at times - like you're not doing enough work or you're not reaching the potential customers you want to.
⟢ PEOPLE SURPRISE YOU ⟣
Some people can get a bit weird when you own a business or if you freelance. Customers might randomly cancel on you or challenge you on your prices. You might receive amazing support from some totally unexpected people, and perhaps you won't get the response that you hoped for from others. I've found that it's often easier to work with people who you don't already know, as they are more likely to deal with you professionally. My advice? Try to give your family and friends the same service you would give to any other customer and follow your usual procedure.
⟢ Q&A ⟣
I think a lot of artists I know don't really know how to value themselves and their work.
I think this comes from the fact that it's hard to feel legitimate when you first start out. You feel like you haven't yet reached the level of professionalism you aspire to but I think, as a creative at least, you're constantly evolving. So, it's best to just roll with it.
I'm really interested to know how do you determine pricing for your work?
For me, there are a few things to factor in, like time and material costs, meaning paper, pencils, paints, Adobe membership, if the work is digitally edited. There is also framing or packaging to consider, plus postal charges which are determined by the post office and not me. Original drawings have more worth than prints too, as do custom artworks.
How do you separate your work and personal time when at home?
I use a diary religiously. If I don't plan out time to relax, then I overwork myself. So, a to-do list is must-have for me. I really like getting out of the house on my full days off, just so I'm not tempted to do a little bit. Luckily, I have a good social life now.
Do you think it's balanced?
It's far better than it used to be. I've learned not to go about my work with this crazy sense of urgency that I think I developed as a student at university! It's taken a long time to unlearn my habits and get into a healthier groove. I still struggle to switch off though.
The best bit of advice that I can give you to take away from this is: have perspective. There is good and bad in every situation. If you're considering an independent career move, or if you're already a freelancer like me, then always trust your instincts and make the best possible decision that you can make at the time. I think self-employment tends to be a rocky road, but it is a rewarding one.
⟢ THE CELEBRITY SEAL OF APPROVAL ⟣
Following Brad Pitt's Golden Globe win earlier this month, I shared my Inglourious Basterds illustration on Instagram - which you can buy a limited edition print of, at A3 size and in super high-quality, by clicking here. This drawing features Brad Pitt alongside B.J. Novak during the final scene of Tarantino's 2009 movie. Fans know it as the last, striking shot of the film, just before the credits start rolling. Much to my surprise, notifications suddenly bombarded my phone as the likes started sky-rocketing. I knew something was up. As it turns out, someone had kindly tagged Novak (@picturesoftext) in the comment section and he actually responded?!
B.J. Novak has liked that same drawing of mine when I posted it on Instagram in the past, but I was so taken aback to see my work on his Instagram Story, captioned: 'Definitely my favorite picture of Brad Pitt'. In all honestly, I sobbed a little bit on my living room rug after rushing downstairs and gathering my family and my boyfriend to share the news; I could barely get the words out of my mouth. The 8th of January will certainly go down in my books as a lucky day.
⟢ MEET MY NEW PUP ⟣
On the 20th of January, after spending the day puppy-proofing and cleaning, she became the newest addition to our family at around 5PM. A chestnut-coloured cross-breed, her mother was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and her father a Toy Poodle; so she looks just like a teddy bear. Wrapped in a blue blanket at 10 weeks-old, she took a car journey to her new home and, naturally, she was slightly shaken to arrive in her new surroundings. In no absolutely time, she came to greet us all with happy tail-wags.
Ruby has been with us for one week now and I am so happy to share that she is doing amazingly well. Growing into a happy and confident puppy, she is becoming really curious about our home. Being rather food-driven, she is proving easy to train. She is so responsive to commands and she is learning to use the puppy mats; she even entertains herself with her toys. Because we have been laser-focused on making her feel safe and comfortable during her first week, she has had company downstairs at bed-time.
It is so amazing to see her learning to become more independent though. Ruby is still too young for her first walk but, since she's in her prime for socialisation, we've been exposing her to all kinds of brand-new experiences. So, she has met plenty of visitors to our house, including a young toddler and another dog with whom she did great. She has since met the hoover (which she is not a fan of) and the exercise bike - and she's doing incredible! Watch your fingers and toes though, Ruby is teething right now.
⟢ A CHECKLIST FOR CELEBRATING! ⟣
With so many of you itching to feel festive this year, I sold lots of my brand-new Christmas Countdown lists. These jam-packed checklists included 42 family-friendly activities to do during the most wonderful time of the year. Why? Well, my lists had a clear Christmas message. Each one personalised for individual children, they were written and designed mindfully. Most of the activities centred around spending quality time together, encouraging imagination and kindness, and they were budget-friendly for parents!
Being the big kid that I am, I saved one for myself. While all 42 activities don't apply to adults (like writing a thoughtful letter to Santa Claus), I substituted those suggestions for other must-do activities, like shopping with friends, enjoying festive dates with my boyfriend and finding cute, cosy places to have a drink!
⟢ TIMELESS TRADITIONS ⟣
As the great thinker Ferris Bueller once said, 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.'
Age is just a number! No matter how old you are, December is the month of excitement - so why not make the most of it? After all, everyone loves to unwrap a gift, sit down for a hot dinner, and we all cross our fingers to wake up to that white flurry of snow! From my official Christmas Countdown list, I managed to cross off 24 activities. Some of them simply went without saying, I enjoy making hot chocolate with marshmallows every year and I always decorate the Christmas tree - but trying my hand at festive baking and going to a Christmas lights display were totally new to me, and that's not all...
⟢ FINISHING THE DECADE WITH A BANG ⟣
So, with the aid of my Christmas Countdown list, I was fully inspired to celebrate the final bit of the decade wholeheartedly. What did I get up to? Tons! Black Friday shopping ended with seeing Last Christmas at the cinema with my friend. The decorations were put up promptly on the 1st of December. Date night saw my boyfriend and I wrap up warm for a winter walk around the park, and we were blown away by our local lights display! It was truly magical. Cut to gift-wrapping to Christmas tunes, watching Jacqueline win I'm A Celebrity, and then going for a drink in a toasty tipi with a fire pit and live music.
Mid-month, we ventured out to Durham for a chilly walk and to light candles in the spectacular cathedral. I snuggled up for a pyjama day and watched loads of my festive favourites, and we put on The Nightmare Before Christmas which I had never seen before! By the winter solstice, the family celebrations began with many gift exchanges and house parties. We enjoyed not one, not two... not even three, but four family games nights in between Christmas and New Year. And as the festive season unwinds, my boyfriend and I went on a cinema date to see Jumanji: The Next Level yesterday which was absolutely brilliant! Christmas well spent? I think so.
Did you enjoy your Christmas Countdown list too? Would you like to see me create more of these action-packed bucket lists for the year ahead? For adults as well as kids? Let's make 2020 bigger and better. Happy New Year to all!
I was thrilled to have been invited to Employability Day this year. Flashback to November 2016, it has been three years since I attended Employability Day as a stressed-out student in my final year at University of Sunderland. So, I took it as a real compliment to be invited back to my old stomping ground. Only this time, the shoe was on the other foot.
Employability Day is a day full of networking and advice, created for BA students who are in their third year and MA students alike. Creative professionals, alumni and companies visit the university every year and offer their time and expertise to design students who are thinking ahead and wondering what their next steps should be. There is someone to cover every design discipline for the various courses studied at Sunderland, such as illustrators, graphic designers, fashion designers, animators and so forth. As they are all linked under the umbrella of design subjects, I had the pleasure of meeting students who were specialising in other fields.
I arrived to St. Peter's Campus in the chilly afternoon of the 11th of November where I had my own little booth tucked away in the Media Centre. It was a rather private area and I was delighted that so many students had booked appointments with me. One by one, they showed me their blossoming portfolios and each of them offered so much talent and potential. Better yet, they showcased a variety of styles, mediums and projects so no two looked the same.
We chatted in depth and in confidence. A few students really opened up to me about how they were feeling and I made sure to support and encourage them. After all, they are all such promising designers. I wish them all the very best of luck and I would love to support their journeys further during their final academic year. In the meantime, we have all connected on Instagram and I am looking forward to watch their portfolios grow even more.
I don't know about you but eye strain is the bane of my life. That's the curse of spending your days between typing on a keyboard, staring into a computer screen, and pencilling teeny-weeny details onto a piece of paper for hours on end. At this rate, I should be a contender for the world championships of staring contests but instead I'm just a girl with headaches.
Scrolling through Instagram, I'd seen all the ads for blue-light blocking glasses but, for a while at least, I assumed that they'd work as well as those weight-loss shakes and juice cleanses. But every time I found myself feeling as though my eyes had dried up as much as SpongeBob in that one weird episode, I thought back on those supposedly magical glasses. I hummed and hawed over trying them. With a pea head like mine, there was no point in ordering the one-size-fits-all, unisex cheapies from Amazon. The more I thought about it, if I was going to wear the glasses nearly everyday, I wanted to like how they looked. So, I scoured the internet for some petite-sized, pretty glasses and resigned myself to the fact that this could well be an expensive flop.
I found Quay Australia who was collaborating on sunglasses with JLo at the time. They had a cool range of eyewear but, by true fashion industry standards, the petite section offered me a total of two pairs to choose from. Luckily, they were both cute. The website also has a try-on feature which was super helpful in giving me an idea of how they'd look in advance! I ordered the 'GOTTA RUN' glasses with clear frames for £45. They arrived with a soft, high-quality pouch for safekeeping. Keep your eyes peeled on the website for online discounts, I bought mine after noticing a price reduction code scrolling across the banner.
So, what about the results? For me, blue-light blocking glasses have worked. I'm still wearing them! According to Specsavers, the symptoms of computer eye strain include: eye discomfort, tiredness, headaches, difficulty focusing, watery or dry eyes, blurred or double vision and sensitivity to light. I ticked a lot of those boxes beforehand. Now, the only thing I suffer from is tiredness (which has reduced since before) but that is likely due to my crazy, irregular work schedule sometimes. Personally, I can only speak for one brand from my own perspective and I don't know if there are scams out there - it's definitely possible. If you find yourself having computer eye strain symptoms, maybe you should consider investing in blue-light blocking glasses too? The prices may be a little steep for some but, hey, I value my eyes more than my bank balance!
Check out Quay Australia's range of blue-light blocking glasses. Keep up to date with me and my work via my social links:
Here we are, British summertime is officially around the corner as May came to a rainy close yesterday. Despite the unlucky weather, this week has been shining with reasons to celebrate. Monday marked the beginning of The Takeover at The Customs House in South Shields.
The Takeover is an annual arts festival ran by teenagers for young people in the North East, up to the age of 25, to get involved, showcase their talents, take creative workshops and network. Five of my artworks were lent to The Customs House Gallery this year for The Takeover Exhibition and many flocked to the Gallery Preview for the grand opening on Monday evening.
My boyfriend and I arrived at the upstairs venue before the refreshments were served at 7:30pm and we were met with a well curated exhibition, filled with diverse pieces decorating the walls. It seemed that no particular age group, style or medium stole the show and the space itself was large enough to comfortably accommodate all of the people who arrived after us.
I had the pleasure of overhearing strangers compliment my work; it was a lovely opportunity to mingle and enjoy the work of others too. Everyone gathered for a welcoming speech which was delivered by The Takeover Team who arranged this event. I handed out business cards to those who wished to know the price of the Dita Von Teese illustration on display. For the first time out of my house, I am happy to report that Dita was my most popular piece of the evening.
Please check out my Instagram @hannahrichillustrator to view more images and videos from the Gallery Preview.
Following that success, Katy Wheeler wrote an article about the celebrity responses to my take on the 100 Day Project; it was published by the Sunderland Echo on Tuesday. To read my blog post about first 50 days of the project, please click here. The article was met with an overwhelming amount of support from my family, friends and my university. The press team from University of Sunderland reached out to me on Wednesday and posted an alumni story on Thursday.
Finally, at the end of this week, I have accepted an offer for a creative writing internship at a wig company in my city. This whirlwind of a week has well and truly marked the end of Mayhem; monthly pun intended. Here's to hoping for a bright June.
Today marks Day 53 of the 100 Day Project. After a miserable May day in not-so-sunny Sunderland, I thought this was the ideal moment to check in and report all of the exciting highs and mundane lows of my creative journey so far. For those of who you don't know, the 100 Day Project is a challenge popularised on Instagram where a person practises their passion and posts about it for one hundred consecutive days. So, let's dive in.
I set off on my artistic endeavour with the goal to experiment more with styles. I had a plan to commit to weekly themes but that idea quickly flew out of the window. Aside from appealing to my followers, not much happened with my posts until Day 7. Comic actor Seth Rogen liked my illustration of him which blew my mind, much like the smoke ring I had just drawn. Picture this: it's breakfast, LA time, Seth scrolls through his notifications and takes the time to interact with my artwork because I'm pretty sure that's what happened. Then, NY Times best-selling cartoonist Ed Piksor also liked my sketch of Seth and another one of Margot Robbie shortly afterwards. On top of that, actress Madeline Brewer approved my portrait of her, as did The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne two days later. Bearing in mind, this all happened within the first two weeks; I had started with a bang.
As the days rolled into weeks, the novelty started wearing thin. My commission work was stacking up, my personal life was getting busier and I was struggling to make any time for the 100 Day Project. By Day 20, I was seriously considering calling time of death on the whole thing. By starting this project, I had put myself under a lot of unnecessary pressure. With most days ending in severe eye strain, I wasn't putting down the pencil until 9 or 10PM; instead working tirelessly to create the daily portrait on top of a regular workload. Some days meant resorting to posting my commission pieces to substitute the extra sketches. After all, life can't be controlled every single day.
Google told me that Day 20-25 was the quitter's mark. Barely a quarter of the way there, the finishing line seemed light-years away and others online agreed. I was determined to keep going but I knew that I had to alter my working routine if I was to stand a chance. Thankfully, the decision to jump over the hurdle paid off on Day 31 when supermodel Tyra Banks liked my portrait of her. She is the most recent celebrity encounter I've had to date and she's likely the most well-known of the bunch.
So far, I have produced some pieces that I am really proud of, in styles that I thought were too foreign for me to ever master, all neatly tied together under the same black and white filter. I have shaped a much healthier working routine for myself which tends to see the 100 Day drawing completed early in the day, freeing up afternoons and evenings for other commitments. I highly recommend starting the challenge if you're out to push yourself like I was. You never know who will support you.
Follow me on Instagram @hannahrichillustrator to see the project in full and keep up-to-date with the second half. Be sure to check out the #100DayProject hashtag on Instagram to view brilliant work produced worldwide. That's all, folks!
Establishing an online presence is crucial these days. Every artist is expected to have their portfolio out in the open for the world to see, but how does anyone even find anything with so much being posted online? Well, last week, I thought it was time to learn about what SEO is and what I should be doing. As it turns it, it's all important stuff.
⟢ WHAT IS SEO? ⟣
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. That's a very technical term for how you get Google to like you. Google is programmed to determine whether your content is good or bad. A good SEO score means that anyone who is searching for you or for what you do is going to find your website quickly and easily.
Making your website SEO-friendly just means that more visitors will find your website. Imagine your website as a your shop and SEO as your shop front. Your shop might sell the best things in town but if your shop front needs a makeover, you're not going to get many visitors. Instead, you want a clean shop front which is easy to find, one that looks trustworthy and attractive to potential customers. If you keep polishing your sign and you put some pretty lights in the window, then Google will move your shop to a busier, better street in the city. That's what you want.
⟢ BECOMING SEO ⟣
Just like with hashtags on social media, it's really simple. Your content should include buzzwords and short phrases that are really relevant to what you do. These are called keywords. Unlike with hashtags, less is more.
See the image above? The Google preview should look familiar. Since this is what appears in the search results, it's crucial to get it right. The blue link is called a title tag, the green link is your website URL and the black text is your meta description. For your title tag and meta description, you need to use keywords to summarise everything you do in a few words. My green ticks mean that Google approves.
Keywords state who are you are, e.g. "illustrator". "portrait artist", where you are based, e.g. "North East", "Sunderland", and what you do, e.g. "private and commercial commissions". Your call-to-action is important too because it gives visitors a focus on what to do, e.g. "contact for a free quote". That's it. Just be clear, there's no need to dive into your CV just yet.
If you're like me and you're not into coding, and you've used a website builder to create your own website, then you're able to make every page and blog post SEO-friendly. I use Weebly but there's also Wix, WordPress and Squarespace to name a few and apparently they're all quite similar. With Weebly, you can make your pages SEO-friendly by going through your Blog Editor, into each page and into SEO Settings.
See the image above? Up until last week, everything on the left was blank. I didn't understand what information was supposed to go where and how much of it. But by following the pattern of the Google preview in the last image, you can edit your blue title tag link, your green page URL link and your black text meta description here. You also have meta keywords which are essentially just your hashtags. Whereas, last time I was writing for my website as a whole, this page is for a specific project in my portfolio. So, your descriptions change each and every time to suit the page or blog post.
⟢ TIPS & TRICKS ⟣
Improving your SEO score further can be tricky. Some website builders are better programmed than others for certain aspects of SEO-friendliness. Some things you can't just re-code yourself if you haven't got a clue what you're doing. But here are some easy things you can do to start improving your online presence.
A short custom domain name
If you're ready to buy your own domain name, that's great. Google approves. Google also thinks that the longer you have your domain name registered and renewed, the more trustworthy you are. Keep your online address short and sweet so people can remember how to find you.
Alt text on images
All of your images should have alt text descriptions for two reasons. Number one, computers can't see and they rely on text to decide what is good and bad. Missing descriptions mean that your images might as well be invisible to Google. That's bad, especially if you are an artist or your work is mostly visual. Number two, visually impaired visitors to your website rely on alt text for the context of images. Keep your descriptions to 150 characters maximum, including spaces.
Font size legibility
Make sure that your website's text is big enough to read on all devices. That's pretty self-explanatory. Your headers and titles should be bigger than your body text. Large text is trendy at the moment at about 16px but as long as it's comfortable to read, Google approves.
Use a contact form on your website. Don't type out your business email address and certainly don't publish your personal one. This encourages spam and Google is not a fan. I didn't know this, so I had an angry red cross for sharing my business email before switching to a contact form.
Link up the holy trinity of social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to your website. If you don't have accounts on these platforms, consider signing up. Google and potential customers alike want businesses to brand themselves and engaging in social media marketing.
It's good to give credit where credit is due. Google wants to see you linking your website to other websites and vice versa. So, if anyone was to read this blog post and then link my website to their own, we would both be better off. The more links you build up over time, the more your online reach grows and the more your SEO score improves.
So, there you have it. I'm brand new to all of this too but I'm already seeing a rise in visitors to my website. If you're interested in finding out how I discovered out my SEO score for free, please leave a comment below. Let me know if you want me to share how I monitor my web traffic or if you'd like to see another post about SEO in the future. Be sure to hit like down below if you found this helpful and follow me on social media for regular art updates.
At long last! After high hopes, interrupting illnesses and weeks of waiting, I finally got to experience the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in my hometown. Following a captivating lecture last month with Martin Clayton from the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle, read my blog post here — I was expecting nothing short of amazement to see Da Vinci's works with my own eyes.
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens certainly did not disappoint. As Martin had explained, each of the twelve cities which are holding exhibitions to mark the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death received a fair distribution of the drawings held by the Royal Collection Trust. Within the exhibition at Sunderland, you can see examples of Da Vinci's portraiture, his medical illustrations, his cartography commissions, botanical drawings, costume designs and his military interests. It's clear that a lot of thought had been put into how this display was curated. There's something for everybody.
The exhibition had a clear layout, showing a visual timeline of Da Vinci's life through his works. Each piece was accompanied by a wealth of information which naturally guided us around the room. My boyfriend and I were pleasantly surprised that the exhibition comfortably lasted its full duration of one hour. Although an hour was the allocated time slot which was stated on our tickets, the gallery itself isn't too big and there was no guided tour to fill up our time.
That being said, outside of the gallery, there was a seating area with a recorded video which explained Da Vinci's technical process and delved into the background information of what was on display. This was a good spot to wait and brush up on the facts before going in. Honestly, there was no real need for a guided tour. Our mid-afternoon booking had reached full capacity and the atmosphere was relaxed and informal with visitors meandering around the room, enjoying the exhibition at their own pace.
We were so taken aback by the actual size of Leonardo da Vinci's works. His handwriting was minute. It became more cramped and messy the further he got down the page which was so relatable. In a way, the subtleties of his doodles and the faint errors in his drawings were even more magnificent than the pieces which were worked up to full completion. In every piece of work, however, his genius still undoubtedly shines through.
One man brought a magnifying glass which was a brilliant idea that I highly recommend. Da Vinci's artworks are filled to the brim with the finest of details at a scale so tiny, we were just glad there was no rope to keep us at a distance. Whether you're an art enthusiast or just curious to see what all the fuss is about, this exhibition at Sunderland is a must-see if you're anywhere nearby. After all, it's not everyday you get so close to 500 year-old drawings from one of the most well-known artists in history.
For just £2.50, don't miss out. It's on until 6th May at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Yesterday marked International Women's Day 2019 and women all over the globe were spending their time celebrating, loving, protesting and resisting. What made me decide to really get involved with International Women's Day 2019 was my commission for the North East Equality Awards 2018. My project celebrated 100 years since women in the UK first achieved the right to vote. Producing artwork which was socially aware like this made me feel proud. I knew I was saying something worthwhile with my creative voice. So, I got in touch with Katy from Hope Street Xchange and joined a line-up of charities and speakers for a morning of empowerment in my hometown. Katy requested that I draw Smart Works' new Royal Patron, Duchess Meghan, for the occasion. You can view all three of my poster designs here in my portfolio.
I was over the moon when Harpy magazine found me on Twitter after I tweeted my poster designs. On 2nd March, they released an article about my work for this event. Harpy is based in Leeds and is ran by women for women. One of the writers, Althaea, interviewed me and asked me some thought-provoking questions, including why I chose to include Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai as part of my trio to showcase at Hope Street Xchange. I explained:
Collectively, I think that they do well to represent the current generation of women who are making a difference today. All three women come from varying backgrounds but they are working towards this common goal of equality. They are each leading many young girls by example and it is uplifting to see.
Althaea gave me and the event itself fantastic coverage and she wrote about my previous works too, including my pro-diversity FMP for university, Unite This Kingdom. Quite honestly, I could not have wished for a better report about what I was doing. If you want to see my interview responses and more, click here to read the article on Harpy.
This week, I had the misfortune of battling a heavy cold. So, I took the pressure out of a rushed morning with an 8:30AM start and I went to set up my display the evening beforehand. On 7th March, I met with Katy and I was finally able to put a face to the name after quite a bit of emailing. She gave me an ideal table space in the foyer, exactly where our break and networking would be held. I brought a stack of business cards as my display was guaranteed to have a lot of passing foot traffic. My illustrations stood proudly beside Sunderland Foodbank's donations stall and opposite Smart Works' clothing rack, where people would be able to donate ladies' workwear to disadvantaged women with job interviews. The Red Box Project was also there to take sanitary product donations and give them to girls in schools to combat period poverty.
On the day, I arrived bright and early for the conference and I was instantly hooked by the intimate personal stories of strong women. Many of the speakers had battled illnesses, left violent relationships, struggled through single motherhood, suffered with low self-esteem and overcame hardships which inspired to achieve big in education and employment. These women were highly accomplished while sharing vulnerable anecdotes which brought a few tears to the eyes of a diverse room, including men, as well as big rounds of applause. During the Q&A, all of the speakers were presented with beautiful bouquets of flowers and were asked to reiterate their main message for us all to take away from International Women's Day. Some of their positive responses included:
Spark FM were airing their Spark Breakfast radio show live from the event. It is available on Listen Again for a week. While I didn't strike up a conversation with the presenters, I did get a chance to chat with plenty of guests about my work during the refreshments break and lunch when many of my business cards were taken. A lovely bonus to the vibrant morning.
Did you know that International Women's Day has its roots in the United States? After New York held a Women's Day in 1909, it became an annual event the following year. It has touched many of our hearts since then. Here's to striving for an equal future and to wondering what may change in 2020. Until next year, ladies.
To me, Leonardo da Vinci meant the Mona Lisa, the Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper, all while making a conscious effort not to slip up and accidentally say Leonardo Di Caprio. Little did I know about the extent of Da Vinci's colourful career, until yesterday when I attended the most enthusiastic lecture delivered by Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings for Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle. Not an everyday occurrence in Sunderland. Clayton's passion was absolutely infectious as he discussed everything from Da Vinci's greatest works to tidbits of information that painted him in a much more human light.
The first thing which blew my mind a little bit was that Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and he wrote his extensive personal notes perfectly mirrored from right-to-left. This differentiated his own studies from his commissioned works when he wrote in the usual way of left-to-right. Isn't that just weirdly cool? Saying that, I did understand Da Vinci's thorough approach, as I too take great pride in my sketchbooks, annotations and all of that preparatory work. Clayton explained that this was much more about Da Vinci's own character and perfectionism rather than what was actually required of him. It was typical of Da Vinci to go above and beyond what was necessary. Touché. While that might sound stuffy and scholarly, this thinking was applied to all aspects of his life. He is known to have been very fashionable, taking great pride in his appearance while obviously loving the finer details and accuracy of proportions in his artworks. Da Vinci often drew focus to careful hand gestures and the decorative elements, such as ornate hairstyles and draped clothing. My goodness, Leo, illustrating hair is the bane of my life but I know how fulfilling it is once it's all done.
Leonardo da Vinci was a multidisciplinary artist. He was an illustrator, a painter, a muralist, a mapmaker, a costume designer and so much more. He had a very scientific mind and a thirst for knowledge which was limited not by his own curiosities, but routinely interrupted by political turmoil during the Italian Renaissance, meaning that he left behind a trail of unfinished projects. Clayton thankfully told us about the lulls in Da Vinci's career too.
While Michelangelo was busy painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo was drawing cats. Martin Clayton
Phew. It was reassuring to hear that Da Vinci was no stranger to competition and there were times when he simply couldn't measure up to his younger contemporaries, despite how seriously he took his craft. After all, Da Vinci had been earnestly signing and dating his work since his earliest known sketches, which was not standard practice at that time for the masters of art, let alone for a 23-year-old with no reputation and little creative experience. Despite that, Da Vinci must have had big dreams that his illustrations would one day be viewed by many.
So, as a 23-year-old illustrator with a constant want for perfectionism and preoccupation with detail, much like Leonardo da Vinci, I left the lecture feeling hopeful that maybe one day I could be drawing cats while some younger and more popular woman is busy painting a new wonder of the world. Just kidding. Maybe I can create my own Mona Lisa someday too.
Dreaded January. Naturally, I was expecting the post-Christmas blues from the Monday of months. Much to my surprise, however, the New Year kicked off to a very interesting start. With the long overdue set-up of my online shop (click here to view), I now have an exciting platform which will allow me to take commissions from further afield and I can finally sell prints as well. Limited edition prints have been on my to-do list for ages. In other news, I am exhibiting two prints for sale in a cosy pub called The Cannon Inn which is tucked away in the country village of Earsdon, Whitley Bay.
Then, in mid-January, a huge achievement swept me off my feet as I sent two of my reimagined movie poster prints to Rodeo Drive. That's right; the renowned luxury capital of Beverly Hills in California. I was so overwhelmed in the best possible way. The prints illustrated the 2009 hit, and my personal favourite movie by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds. This was especially cool because this summertime marks the ten-year anniversary since the film's release at the box office. I can only hope that this success is a reflection of even more incredible opportunities to come this year.
To find out more about these new prints, visit my shop where the product details are listed in each description.
Returning to my former studio to deliver a presentation to the Illustration and Design undergraduates was so nostalgic. This was my third time doing so at University of Sunderland. I first showcased my portfolio to the first year undergraduates while still a student myself in 2016. Then again, in 2017, I returned to chat to the second and third years. Only a few months had passed since my own graduation ceremony, so putting myself into their shoes was near effortless as the memories remained fresh. A year on, the time had come again. Now, however, I felt myself returning with more professionalism and experience under my belt. Instead of just imagining what could be after higher education, I actually had some things to report.
My university tutors and mentors urged me to share these post-grad experiences with those now in their final year of the course. I prepared a formal presentation that I delivered before opening up an informal Q&A. The students gathered to look through my university portfolio and previous sketchbooks; seeing my creative progression from first year to third year. I gained uplifting feedback from students who told me that my talk was helpful and reassuring. A few connected with me on social media too. I was able to get involved with portfolio critiques and see where they were up to with their latest projects, offering my advice during the studio session which followed. I am happy to say that I have been invited back for future talks.
The North East Equality Awards 2018 marked the fifteenth year of the event. On a much more personal note, it was my first ever solo show. It was the largest ceremony that Equality North East had organised to date and it was held this year at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead with over 360 guests. In such a prestigious venue, this was a big deal for everybody involved. I was the Event Sponsor as I had been commissioned by Andrea at Gateshead College for the last six months to create the '100 Years of Women's Rights' project.
The final piece, which had been collaboratively created by myself and the board at Equality North East, was beautifully printed and handed out as the art prize to each of the category winners. The evening celebrated outstanding achievements in equality by companies and individuals across the region. I am so appreciative for such an incredible opportunity so early on in my career. We were all entertained wonderfully with dramatic performances, live music, a formal dinner and speeches. The Keynote Speaker was Frances O'Grady of the Trades Union Congress who had flown over from Europe specially to attend. It was an unforgettable night and the greatest honour came in having one of my art prints taken home by the TUC where it now hangs proudly in Congress House, London.