September 2019

Illustration

In July and August I showed you the technique for physically making a couple of very simple books. This month, I’m looking at the process I go through when designing the content of a book.

For me, it all starts with the storyboard. I map out the number of pages in the book and draw them as double page spreads as it’s important that the pages seen together work together. This is a very rough process with little more than simple sketches at this stage. I may work through several versions of the layout before I refine the drawings in the storyboard, as in the image at the top.

This may involve working on individual pages within the overall storyboard.

Although the book might work within the storyboard, it isn’t until you produce a mock-up of the book that you can see how it will work on the actual page and if the design works as a whole.

Looking at these two pages, I didn’t feel the text was sitting comfortable with the images and so changed it for the next version of the book. It was quite a simple change, but it brought the images together within the design.

The mock-up also revealed that the text dominated the images in the final double-page spread and so I was able to adjust the relationship between the two to bring about a better balance between image and text.

These are pages from another book where the design initially focussed on the composition within each double-page spread, but then looked at how the layout and design worked as a whole.

Although much of the design is confined within the format of the double-page spread, it is a useful technique to have an element within the design spread over to the next page as the eye then leads the reader on to the next page.

This simple technique for planning the layout of an artist’s book is fundamental to the design process and can be as simple or as complicated as the final book you wish to produce.

Gardening

I’m a keen wildlife gardener and 2019 has been a fantastic year for butterflies. I took part in the Big Butterfly Count that was organised by Butterfly Conservation. The results of this citizens’ survey are now available on their website – which is a fantastic resource for lovers of butterflies and moths.

I also took the step of signing up to become a member. My membership pack arrived a couple of days ago and I was delighted to received a magazine full of outstanding photographs, plus lots of other guides on how to improve my garden for even more butterflies and moths.

I’m already looking forward to next year when I can take part in butterfly and moth related activities with my local branch here in Norfolk.

In the meantime, my annual order of bulbs have arrived from Clare Bulbs. I’ve already planted the snowdrops and the snakeshead fritillary – I’ll provide more details on my bulb planting in October’s blog.

Recipes

Courgette Cake is my favourite cake of all time – so don’t be put off by the thought of using vegetables in a cake. Instead, think ‘carrot cake’ but even more delicious! It’s super easy to make, dairy free (always useful to have in your repertoire) and probably one of the healthiest cakes going – plus it’s absolutely delicious.

This cake couldn’t be easier to make. Just put the ingredients into a bowl and stir well to mix.

Pour the contents into a lined 2lb loaf tin.

And bake in the oven.

Courgette Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients
175g plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g caster sugar
175g coarsely grated courgettes
75g walnut pieces, chopped
75g sultanas
175ml sunflower oil
2 medium eggs

You will need
a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper
a wooden or metal skewer

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly grease and line the loaf tin, or pop in a liner.
  3. Measure all the ingredients into a bowl, sifting the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in together.  Tip the bran remaining in the sieve into the bowl.  Stir with a large spoon until well mixed.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  Bake for 60-70 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.
  6. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Like many cakes, this is best made the day before you plan to eat it. It also freezes beautifully. Indeed, I often cut it into slices and, carefully wrapped, freeze the individual slices so that I’ve got a couple of slices for afternoon tea whenever I want.

Until October….

May 2019

Illustration

The BIG news on the illustration front was my attendance at the ‘turn the page‘ Artists’ Book Fair in The Forum in Norwich on the 17th and 18th of the month. It proved to be a huge incentive to finish my two latest pop-up books – ‘British Butterflies’ and ‘Tulips’ But this month I thought I’d talk about the inspiration for a couple of my little concertina books – ‘Flowers for Butterflies’ and ‘Flowers for Bees’ shown on the nearer part of my stall.

It started at the end of the second year in my Illustration degree at the Norwich University of the Arts when we were given a project on reportage. I know we were meant to go out into the vast outdoors and draw in public but, being a very shy illustrator, I choose to interpret the brief as being outside – but in my garden.

I didn’t enjoy the experience; I recall writing in my sketchbook: “I’m sitting on a small, uncomfortable stool feeling hot and bothered. Greenfly keep landing on the page and I’m hating working outside in the sunshine”. However, all that changed when I started drawing the plants that bees were visiting and then, as often happens, an idea emerged. I drew the plants that were growing in a line at the edge of the patio, photocopied it several times and then plotted on the paths taken by various visiting bees.

Several years on, it lead me to experimenting with this horizontal format in a book all about flowers that attract bees to your garden. Below is the very first draft. I’d actually only folded some paper to mock-up the possible dimensions for the book, but then couldn’t resist inking in some flowers, and then adding a splash of colour. I undertook a bit more research into the actual flowers to include before producing the final books. And if you’re interested in planting flowers to attract butterflies and bees to your garden take a look at my blogs for December 2017 where I give the botanical name for each of the plants in the books so you know what to look for at your local garden centre.

Gardening

May is such a wonderful time in the garden, with so many plants bursting into leaf and flower. I love the play of light on the garden, throwing plants into sunlit contrast against other shaded areas.

I’m delighted with how established this area of the garden is looking as it was only added a couple of years ago. And, of course, the bees love all those alliums.

And continuing my suggestions for plants for shady areas, I’m a huge fan of the white version of camassia. They are actually a very subtle shade of off-white and perform beautifully in the shade. Flowering a week or two later than the blue version, their flowers seem to last much longer and they have such a delicate, starry appearance.

Recipes

This is the quintessentially British cake for afternoon tea in the garden. It’s one of my tried-and-tested super-easy loaf tin recipes that you can whisk up in moments. I like to make it the day before so that the flavours have a chance to all melt together. Don’t expect it to have the ‘high rise’ of modern sponge cakes with their layers of icing. This old-fashioned recipe produces a cake which may look more modest but more than makes up for it with its wonderfully dense texture and delicious taste – the perfect partner with a cuppa!

Cherry & Almond Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients

150g self-rising flour
125g glacé cherries, quartered*
125g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
125g soft butter or baking margarine
2 medium eggs
1 tsp almond extract
25g flaked almonds

You will need

a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
  • Lightly grease and line the loaf tin or use a non-stick liner.
  • Mix the flour and quartered cherries together in a bowl, stirring to ensure the cherries are all coated with flour, and then tip into a sieve.  Sift the flour into a mixing bowl retaining the cherries in the sieve.  Set these aside to fold into the cake mixture later.
  • Add all the other ingredients (except the flaked almonds) to the flour and beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for one minute.  Fold in the cherries ensuring they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Sprinkle the flaked almonds across the top and bake for about 60 minutes until the cake is well risen and springs back when the surface is lightly pressed with a finger.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.

*  If you have time, rinse the syrup from the glacé cherries and dry thoroughly before quartering.  This really helps ensure the cherries are evenly distributed throughout the cake.

Until June….

Flowers for Butterflies – A Little Concertina Book

I’ve always gardened for wildlife – I love watching the butterflies, bees and birds that come into the garden.

This female green-veined white butterfly spent a long time feeding on a sunflower in the garden – long enough for this photograph to be taken!  It prompted me to think about producing a little concertina book that illustrated the flowers that attract butterflies into a garden. If you’re looking to add a plant or two to do the same, here are the Latin names of the flowers illustrated in the ‘Flowers for Butterflies’ book:

Wallflower – Erysimum
Pasque Flower – Pulsatilla vulgaris
Pinks – Dianthus
Hollyhocks – Alcea rosea
Cranesbill – Geranium
Heartsease – Viola tricolor
Lavender – Lavendula
Shasta Daisy – Leucanthemum x superbum
Pincushion Flower – Scabious
Sunflowers – Helianthus annuus
Primroses – Primula vulgaris
Sneezeweed – Helenium
Purple Coneflowers – Echinacea purpurea
Red Valerian – Centranthus ruber
Stonecrop – Sedum spectabile
Michaelmas Daisies – Aster symphyotrichum
Verbena – Verbena bonariensis
Butterfly Bush – Buddleja davidii

Butterflies prefer a warm and sheltered part of the garden so plant your chosen flowers in such a spot and wait for the butterflies to come and feed.


A small tortoiseshell butterfly on a lavender plant.

Little Handmade Concertina Books with Hand-Stamped Covers


My ‘Flowers for…’ books are now in production.  Featuring watercolour illustrations of the flowers in my garden that attract either butterflies or bees (and often both), these little concertina-folded books are handmade from art quality prints.  The covers are made from natural 250gsm textural card and hand-stamped using archival ink and stamps made to my own design by Rubber Stamps Direct – a wonderful company who’s site is really easy to use and who always produce my stamps in super quick time.

The books look lovely displayed on a window sill or mantlepiece and at just £5.00 each they make wonderful small Christmas gifts or stocking fillers and are available from my online Etsy store The Museum Shelves.