Bristol bound and inked out

October has been brilliantly busy for me, with Inktober through the month and finishing with Bristolcon at the end. It was a wonderful event, and as well as selling some paintings and postcards, my colourful stall even had a mention in a few people’s blogs! (Thank you Sophie and Thomas). To finally see all 5 of the Urban Faerie paintings hanging together in the very city that inspired them gave me a great sense of achievement which has left me creatively fired up to get started on my next series in the new year. Masses of love and thanks to everyone who helped make it possible by babysitting, driving, carrying canvases, chatting to me, buying art and supporting me.

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I tried my best to take part in Inktober this year, but with varying degrees of productivity. I caught a cold, various members of my family got ill and life generally happened. I’m not going to say that I failed it though – even though there are some artists out there that insist if you don’t complete an ink drawing a day you’re not doing it right. I completed a total of 5 ink portraits: one of Aidan Turner as Poldark, one of David Bowie as Jareth and a triptych of David Bowie eyes.  The original paintings of Bowie’s eyes I had beautifully framed and sold at Bristolcon – I don’t call that a failure! If you’d like to have a look at the paintings, or download a digital version of them for yourself, you can find them on my Etsy store  You’ll also find some beautiful prints of the 5 Urban Faeries paintings on there too, and to celebrate their arrival, I’m offering free UK postage on them until next year.

So what’s next? Well I’m finally getting back to work on the comic book that I’m illustrating, which was written by Neil, and then after that, I will begin photographing my models in preparation for my next series. I’m very nervous excited about this series – I can’t say too much about it at this stage, but I think it might divide people like marmite! There will be a total of 7 paintings in the series and as with a lot of my art, they will explore our relationships with ourselves, environment and each other. It is my hope these paintings will invite the viewer to question the things we do, things we don’t do and what type of relationships they think they are seeing. Stay tuned!

 

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Inktober 2018

It’s almost October, and that means it’s almost time for the annual artistic challenge that is Inktober. Every year, artists strive to create a piece of artwork every day for the whole month entirely in ink. To find out more, have a look at the official website.

You may recall I tried Inktober in 2016, with mixed results. I managed about 25 out of the 31 days – not bad considering it was my first time working in that medium, and I only owned one single bottle of violet coloured ink! In 2016 I challenged myself to ignore the official Inktober prompts and instead alternate between two subjects I loathe painting – self portraits and still life.

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This year I’m going to ignore the prompts again, but challenge myself to complete some portraits – hopefully you will be able to recognise who they are! I will be sharing my efforts over on Instagram and Twitter, so please have a look and do give me a ‘like’ if you think it looks good. Once the month is complete, I will share my favourites on the Gallery page.

It’s a tough challenge, but that’s kinda the point – you need to challenge yourself as an artist and occasionally step outside your comfort zone to develop and grow. In preparation, I am cutting the watercolour paper to size in advance, have sourced all of my reference photos and am practicing sketching the people whenever I get some spare time. To further give myself a chance of completing the challenge, I have decided to stick to a small size. Jake Parker, the creator of Inktober, says you don’t necessarily have to complete the 31 days “You can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it. Inktober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.”

As a full time parent, I’m sure there will be a few spanners thrown into the works for good measure, I may not complete all the ink sketches I want to and towards the end of the month I am also exhibiting my artwork at BristolCon, so there’s plenty to be getting on with! Are any of you taking part in Inktober this year? If so, let me know in the comments below and feel free to include a link to where we can all follow your progress.

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

Last year at BristolCon, I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet author and illustrator Sophie E Tallis in the art room, where she was exhibiting her fantastic pencil portraits, silk paintings and incredibly detailed fantasy maps. She’s been a practising artist for over 20 years, has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education, was a teacher for 16 years and has been a freelance illustrator for the last 6 years, including working for HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and as an Artist-in-Residence for Oxford University.

Sophie has illustrated 15 books so far, specialising in hand drawn detailed pen & ink illustrations and fantasy maps, including creating the fantasy maps for Anna Stephen’s ‘Godblind’ and Anna Smith-Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, both published by HarperVoyager 2017 and for Diane Magras’s ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Penguin Random House, published 2018, for which she is now drawing the sequel’s map for.  Most recently Sophie has seen her artwork on the front cover of Far Horizons magazine. Sophie has also been a panellist, moderator and an exhibiting artist at BristolCon. Sophie is a shortlisted nominee in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards in the Best Artist category.

 

She is also a published author with BFS Award winning independent press, Grimbold Books, has been a full member of The Society of Authors and ALCS since 2013 and was an author/illustrator in the 2015 Cirencester Literary Festival. Her epic illustrated fantasy debut, ‘White Mountain’, the first of her Darkling Chronicles trilogy was re-published in December 2014 by Grimbold Books. She is still writing the sequel, ‘Darkling Rise’ and has had a number of stories published including her sci-fi short story ‘Silent Running’ featured in acclaimed anthology, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ published by Kristell Ink in 2016, and ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, a dark fairytale in anthology, ‘Shadows of the Oak’, published December 2016 by Tenebris Books.  Sophie also has two Darkling Chronicle novellas, ‘The Siege of Kallorm’ and ‘A Friendship Forged’, coming out later this year.

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If this wasn’t enough, she has also recently opened her own Etsy store! Sophie lives in Gloucestershire with her four white wolves, and over the summer I asked her if she would take part in my continuing series of interviews about finding the time to be creative. Here is what she had to say…..

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
ST: I wake, usually after an insomniac night of between 3 – 4 hrs sleep and sit for about half an hour while my vertigo settles so I know I’m safe to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Annoyingly I get vestibular vertigo every day, some days are far worse than others, but I need to move slowly and give my brain a chance to stop swirling. My waking times vary due to my library job, so on mornings I’m working at the library I wake about 7ish on non-library days it’s nearer to 8:30 – 9 depending on how late my four doggies will let me sleep! I take them out for exercising & play for at least an hour, they then get their daily Piriton and treats, more exercise and play, then ‘fishy on a dishy’ (I have a whole embarrassing song ritual which goes with this) which involves giving them tablets/supplements in their favourite tinned salmon and tuna. Did I mention that my daily life is dominated by my four huge white wolfies? More exercise and play (and at the moment a lot of massaging my poorly dog and Photizo laser treatment). I never eat breakfast, I had forced myself for a few months but in all the heat that’s dropped off entirely. By about 10/11am after I’ve fed the birds and done my doggie stuff, I work for about 2/3 hours, either on drawing for a commission work or silk painting/other art (for sale). Sadly, I rarely do any writing these days. Before I got ill, I’d be writing for a solid 6 hours or so, now, my concentration and the mental exertion needed for writing maxs out at about 30mins. After the dogs lunch and my own, I continue working until 3pm ish when I take them all out again for a couple of hours. Back in for them to rest and more work then out again for another hour before they have their dinner. I only check emails and social media in the evenings, I’d get nothing done otherwise. After a final toilet for the dogs I head upstairs and mess around online or writing notes/little excerpts or sketching drawing ideas until about 2am. I rarely sleep much before 3.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
ST: One of my older dogs Tolly has degenerative myelopathy which paralyses his back legs and travels up the spine, so he requires so much help and attention throughout the day that it’s difficult to carve out any time for other things. I deal with it better on some days, if he’s relatively good and can walk a few steps before collapsing and worse on days when he’s bad and is just dragging himself around. The other time zapper is usually having to juggle several projects at the same time, like buses you have a quiet period then they all come at once!

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
ST: Small steps. It’s obvious, but if you have a hectic life or are struggling with illness, you physically and mentally can’t take 5 or 6 hours just for yourself to go work on a project or block everything out until you complete it. No-one scales Everest in one go, tackle the small foothills first, one stage at a time. Every moment spent on a creative endeavour, no matter how short, is time well spent and is a success.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
ST: I get my best writing ideas/scenes when on the toilet or in the bath/shower, bizarre but true, and I get my best art ideas at night when I’m struggling to sleep. Actually being a total night owl my creative brain really ramps up in the wee small hours. There’s something a little magical about being awake when everyone else is asleep and just listening to the night sounds outside for inspiration.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
ST: Some quiet alone time at least, which is why I’m so active at night, I rarely get quiet times during the day to just think about ideas and work out plots/scenes or artwork solutions, so my night times are essential. If I do nothing creative in a day, in whatever medium that may be in, I get really depressed, I literally need creativity for my physical and mental health!

GB: Final words of wisdom?
ST: Try to be kind to yourself. I say this as someone who beats myself up all the time over my lack of productivity, not being prolific, not writing fast enough (I’m glacially slow), not getting a project done by a deadline etc etc. Criticising yourself to the point of paralysis is self-defeating. Try not to be like me! Life throws curve balls at you all the time, it’s hard, it’s tough, shit happens, so give yourself a break if you’ve dropped a ball, missed a deadline, if you’re only writing a book once every 5 years while your friends whizz one off every few months, or if you’re only completing a few artworks every year while others manage new works every day.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her answers and insights. I love her advice to those of us struggling to find time and am a great believer in the power of small steps to move yourself closer to your artistic goals.

If you’d like to find out more, contact or commission Sophie, then all her links are below:

Website & Blog: sophieetallis.co.uk

Illustrations: sophieetallisillustrations

Book: thedarklingchronicles

FB page: facebook/fantasyepic

 

If you’d like to read more interviews about finding creative time, the previous ones can be found here: Andy Bigwood, Joanne Hall, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell, Iain Clark.

Sorbet

Now that I’ve finally finished the Urban Faeries series, and before I get really deep into my next series of paintings, I’m taking a break and doing something completely different. I’m thinking of it as an artistic palette-cleanser. I’m going to have a go at doing a small 6-page comic.

Luckily for me, I have a writer-in-residence: my husband! (Neil Beynon) who has written the script and even given me a breakdown by panel. Needless to say, I am massively out of my comfort zone and probably my depth. I’m using bits of my brain I haven’t used in ages and it’s a steep learning curve to say the least!

As a complete break from my usual working process and never one to shy away from a challenge, I’ve also decided to draw it in alcohol marker pens, which I’ve never used before! These Windsor and Newton promarkers if you’re interested.

All will be revealed when it’s completed, but I will probably share the odd sneak preview over on twitter and instagram, so if you’re not already following me there, please do!

It’s About Time for Iain Clark

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews about creative time. This month it’s the turn of artist Iain Clark. Iain divides his time between producing art for the Dublin 2019 WorldCon (slowly seeing the light of day in the form of adverts, flyers, posters, badges, bookmarks and t-shirts) and fan art for Doctor Who and other genre TV.  He has reviewed TV and film for Strange Horizons, and was a panel member at LonCon 2014 discussing the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).  He currently fits drawing and blogging around the capricious whims of his young daughters.

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
IC We’ve got our two daughters (aged 6 and 9) to a point where they no longer yell for us at 6.30 sharp, so we actually get some semblance of a lie-in until, ooh, maybe even 6.45 am (Okay, 7.30 on a good day). Then it’s simply of case of breaking the mesmeric spell of children’s television at 5 minute intervals until the kids are actually ready to go to school.

I work full-time and my wife works part-time so weekdays are pretty hectic.  After work it’s feed the kids, wash the kids, read to the kids, say night to the kids, and then try to fit creativity into whatever is left of the evening. (Not that raising kids isn’t creative, but it’s a very different kind of creative and like any manuscript they seem to need constant revisions and spend most of their time covered in biro.)

Generally I paint while sitting in the living room, which probably sounds a bit odd.  I’ve found that I’m far more likely to work if I can stay in the heart of the house with the TV as comfort noise in the background, rather than some isolated corner.  I have an easel set to the right height for the sofa, and I can happily paint until bedtime while my wife does one of her vast array of crafts.  Fortunately I mainly work in acrylics so the paints don’t stink out the room.  I’ve been trying some low-odour water-miscible oils recently too (such a different technique.)

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
IC Mentally I need a bit of a run-up to creating art.  I can’t just do ten minutes, I need to know I have at least an hour.  The later the kids go to bed, the more squeezed it becomes.  Depending on how the evening has gone up to that point, I generally end up with 1-2 hours to paint – that’s assuming we don’t watch TV or anything crazy like that. I always sit at work itching to paint, get home too knackered to even think about it, and then bounce back.

Current time management strategies are to try to eat when the kids eat, something we’d fallen out of the habit of doing, and we limit TV viewing to just the few shows we’re following.  Just one TV show a night really eats into my painting time.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
IC I need them more than the kids! Twitter is my Achilles heel. My rate of reading books has suffered the most, because social media eats time and then I prioritise art over reading.  It’s so easy just to sit glued to the internet consuming and consuming and never make that step change into creating.  I don’t use any limiting tools. Maybe I should start!  I do really value the social interactions I have on social media so it’s a balance.

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
IC
I’m learning all the time as a parent and I’m learning all the time as an artist, but the two don’t crossover all that much.  My daughters love art and are very supportive of their daddy doing pictures (lots of gratifying oohs and aahs!).

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
IC Tip: don’t have kids, a day job or social media!  Since I’ve foolishly pursued all of those things, when knackered-ness takes over I trick myself into doing art by getting out a work in progress and just looking at it; very simple but it gets me over the mental hurdle of starting because I immediately become obsessed with what’s wrong and sucked into fixing it.  Editing is easier than writing.  I also remind myself how I’ll feel later if I don’t knuckle down, looking back on all those lost opportunities.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
IC
Despite having painted numerous fan art likenesses I still struggle to ‘find’ the face. They generally end up too long in the vertical axis.  I never trace, and I haven’t used grids when copying a likeness but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more structured to sharpen up my proportions. I know many proper artists don’t bat an eyelid about grids but it always feels a bit like cheating to me.  I’m not judging, this is my hang up! Everyone’s process is different.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
IC
Er…no!  Having an understanding spouse who allows you painting time is something I would highly recommend.  If you don’t have one, take yours back and get a refund.

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
IC
I’ve used my eldest daughter as a model in one picture (below).  ICpainting

And I’ve done a couple of pencil sketches of the girls as gifts for my wife. Other than that I do occasionally sit down and draw with them, particularly with my eldest.  She doesn’t want me to actually tell her anything or show her how to do anything (because obviously she knows best), she just wants the shared experience.  She’s inspired by cartoons she sees (she’s been perfecting manga-style eyes!) more than me.  I think there’s a fine line between being an encouraging role model and setting them an impossible standard. My art at age 9 was nothing special – they’re already much better than I was!

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
IC Coffee.  By the gallon.

I don’t need to do art every day but I really crave the satisfaction of completing a piece, and I enjoy showing it to people and getting positive reactions.  That keeps me coming back.  I actually paint and draw now far more than I used to, despite the crazy hours.

GB Final words of wisdom?
IC I’m a fraud! I don’t know anything about art!  I’m just winging it. But it’s great when it works.

I think you’ll agree with me that Iain is anything but a fraud, and I can’t wait to see more of his Dr Who art and the Dublin 2019 WorldCon artwork as it’s revealed over the coming months. Iain’s gorgeous artwork can be viewed and bought on his website: iainjclarkart.com
You will also find him on twitter: @iainjclark
and Tumblr: iainjclark.tumblr.com

If you have missed any of my previous interviews with other wonderful writers and artists, the links are below:

Aliette de Bodard
Andy Bigwood
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Kim Lakin-Smith

 

 

The Litter Faerie

The final faerie is complete!! Feast your eyes on the Litter Faerie, our final in the series of five.

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The Litter Faerie

A ray of hope in the morning sun, our young litter faerie perches on a wheelie bin and gazes towards the coming day. Although surrounded by the discarded items of everyday life, the youthful optimism shines through on her face.

Intended to be the first in the series – each painting following the progression of the day to night – she is the most forward looking of the five and hopefully an auspicious faerie to finish painting the series on.

To see the rest of the paintings and read all about the inspiration behind the concept of the series as well as the real life locations in Bristol, check out the Urban Faerie Gallery Page.

So, once I’ve properly photographed, varnished, ordered prints to purchase here and framed them, it will be onto the next project! I have a very exciting collaboration with my husband Neil coming up – a complete departure from anything I’ve done before, so watch this space…..

And now, if you’ll excuse me – I have a long-awaited box of chocolates to devour that he gave me and I have kept myself from opening until the last painting was completed!

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The Graffiti Faerie

Our Graffiti Faerie is caught in the act of producing her street art. Looking over her shoulder, as some street artists have to do if they don’t have a spotter, her gaze is defiant – daring us to challenge her art and actions. Strong midday sun shines on the colourful and chaotic canvas of graffiti and street art around her.

Of all of my Urban Faerie paintings, this one has been the most demanding. I actually started this one first out of the five, and it is the penultimate one to be completed. The more observant may spot some crossover graffiti and street art from the other paintings in the series. There is a suggestion of high rise faerie, graffiti from the neon and diesel faeries and a hint of the litter faerie, which is coming soon….stay tuned!

Competition Time – UPDATED

The competition has now closed and the lucky winner is…..

 

SARAH MILES

Congratulations Sarah!

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It’s time for a competition!

I’ve taken the plunge and have added a page to my website where you can buy prints, postcards and originals of my artwork. To celebrate the launch of my new online store, I would really love to send a free 10″ x 12″ print and a pack of 6 postcards to one of you. All you have to do to enter is tell me which of my paintings on my Gallery page is your favourite and why. Doesn’t have to be an essay – just a few words/lines will do 🙂
Comment below, or  contact me on Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.

Deadline for entry into the competition is May 3rd (midnight GMT). After that I will put names in a hat and randomly select one on May 4th. I will post a short video of me drawing the winning name below, and contact the winner to find out their preferred print and postal address.

I hope you enjoy browsing through the Gallery and Shop and Good Luck!

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The Neon Faerie

She’s finally here!

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The Neon Faerie

It’s taken a while but I hope you agree she’s been worth the wait. Sitting in a nightclub doorway,  our neon faerie matches the viewer with a steady gaze. Guardian-like, yet in stockinged feet, in a dark alleyway that would usually be fearful for women alone, she is quietly confident – her inner strength is a comforting, shining light in the growing darkness around her. The location of the painting is inspired by Leonard Lane in Bristol. If you’d like to know more about the locations of the five Urban Faeries, check out their Gallery page. Feel free to ask me anything about the series in the comments below.

 

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Detail – The Neon Faerie

In other news, I’ve been doing a few practice portrait studies of the two remaining faeries. Although these 5″ x 7″ head studies are much larger than the size the faeries will be portrayed in the finished paintings, they are still excellent practice. I definitely know these faces well now, and am hoping that will help to make the Graffiti and Litter Faerie paintings even better.

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The Litter Faerie – study on 5″ x 7″ canvas board

I originally posted this portrait on Instagram, so if you’re not already following me there, please do. The Graffiti Faerie will be posted there soon too, along with other little work in progress shots now and again.

Until next month my friends!

Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies

Welcome to My Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies!

Apart from obvious things like paint, brushes and canvas (though you don’t actually need any of those things to create art), the art supplies I couldn’t do without might surprise you. Takeaways, bedsheets, and masking tape feature heavily in making the magic happen!


So here, in no particular order, are ten things that are among my very favourite art supplies.

10 Palette knife

I know a lot of artists do this, but I’m going to give it to you straight – mixing paint with your brushes wrecks them. Seriously – it will eventually gum up the bristles and ferrule, take you longer to mix a colour and you’ll never quite wash out all the paint from deep in the brush. Over time, this will accumulate and ruin the brush. Do yourself a favour and get a couple of palette knives to mix your paint. Metal ones are the most fun, but even cheap plastic ones are better than mixing with a brush.

9 Tiny takeaway containers

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As a takeaway addict, I never need an excuse to order a curry. Luckily for me, our local takeaway uses little plastic containers with air-tight lids for condiments. Once washed out they make excellent storage for spare paint when you’ve dished out too much and for that carefully mixed colour you want to keep for a while.

8 Watercolour pencil

Not for doing watercolour paintings as I’m useless at them, but for sketching on the canvas, drawing grids and guides for the underpainting, and drawing on top of the acrylic paint . Unlike a graphite pencil, which will muddy your paint and never fully erase, watercolour pencils will wipe off cleanly with a damp tissue or even your finger.

7 Tear-Off disposable palette

These pads of disposable palettes are fantastic – the glossy surface is a joy to mix paint on, there is a pre-cut thumb hole and no clean up needed. For very detailed work I sometimes tear a bit off and tape it to my painting next to the area I’m working on.

6 Masking tape

From sticking reference photos on my wall and easel, to taping things to the actual paintings while I’m working on them, this low tack tape is super useful and doesn’t damage anything. Use it to help you painting straight lines or even to paint your entire painting as demonstrated on You Tube here by Jamie Dougherty.

5 My phone!

Researching reference images, taking in progress shots and tweeting when I’m painting to hold myself accountable. I work hard to turn what could be a major distraction into a valuable tool.

4 Stay wet palette

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As an acrylic artist, I am blessed and cursed with the rapid drying properties of acrylic paint. An indispensable tool in every acrylic artists studio has to be a stay-wet palette. There are loads of different types available, but they are simply a shallow container with a lid that keeps your paint from drying out. They work by using a membrane at the bottom that you soak with water. My favourite thing to use is old bedsheets that I’ve torn up into duster-sized pieces, but you could also use a j-cloth or blotting paper. Top with a piece of greaseproof paper that you can then put your paint on. It will wrinkle when it gets damp from the cloth underneath – there is no way to avoid this. Make sure your greaseproof paper is white not brown so that it doesn’t affect your colour mixing. I get mine cheaply and pre-cut to roughly the size of my palette from here.

3 Daylight bulb and stand

Lightstand

Due to parental commitments, most of my painting takes place at night after the children are in bed. My daylight bulb enables me to paint at night but keep my colours true – a normal tungsten bulb can cast a yellowish shade over your work and will make your colour mixes slightly off when viewed again in daylight.

2 Spray mister bottle

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The quick drying properties of acrylic can be slowed by the occasional light spritz of water. This is especially useful when painting plain air as I did here

1 You

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Look in the mirror!

Yes.
Seriously.
None of us exist in a vacuum, and I am so grateful for the friends and family around me, and an audience for my art. Thank you for sticking with me, reading the blog, liking and buying my art. I really appreciate each and every one of you.

So what are your favourite art supplies? Anything you absolutely couldn’t do without? Please leave me a comment and let me know!