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….

June 2019

Illustration

The garden has been full of butterflies and bees this year. Having completed my ‘British Butterflies’ pop-up book in time for ‘turn the page’ I’m delighted to find that I can now identify the butterflies that visit the garden.

For the first time, I’ve made a simple concertina-fold version of the book. This has all the artwork and calligraphy of the pop-up version but is encased in a soft cover.

Both versions are available in my Etsy online shop The Museum Shelves The pop-up version at £40 and the concertina version, which comes in a pack with a postcard, at £15. There is free P&P in the UK.

I’ve also adapted the illustrations to make some rather fine greetings cards which are printed locally in Norwich. These are £3 each or 3 for £7.50 – again available from my Etsy shop and with free P&P in the UK.

Finally, I remembered to take a quick snap of some of my Etsy orders before taking them to the post office. It’s always really lovely to receive an order and I do enjoy wrapping them up beautifully so that they are a delight to to receive.

Gardening

The garden is full of the most delightful scents at the moment. A couple of star performers are the David Austin rose ‘Gentle Hermoine’ which has the most delicious fragrance, repeat flowering and a lovely old rose appearance of a wonderful shell pink.

Climbing over the arch and bathing the seating area with it’s delightful fragrance is this rambling rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’. This rose erupts at the start of June and puts on a wonderful display throughout the entire month.

And finally, it’s so pleasing when a design idea comes to fruition. I planted this grey-leaved crataegus so that it would catch the morning sun while the plants behind it would still be in shade, so throwing it into sharp relief. This ploy of having items of interest that pull the eye to different plants or structures within the garden is a technique for making a small garden look larger. While only quite spindly at the moment, this hawthorn tree is already attracting bees and will soon start producing berries for the birds.

Recipes

Still on a gardening theme this month as the recipe is for a loaf cake flavoured with the herb rosemary. No-one ever guesses what gives this delicious cake it’s lovely flavour – the addition of the rosemary just adds a subtle taste of Summer. Make it in two ways: either with a layer of icing – or add a bit more orange juice for a lovely drizzle topping. Either way, this is definitely a cake to eat with a pot of tea and a splash of sunshine.

Orange and Rosemary Loaf Cake

Makes 8-10 slices

Ingredients
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
175 unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
225g self-raising white flour, sifted  
For the icing
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
finely grated zest of half an orange
1 tbsp orange juice
150g icing sugar, sifted 
You will need
A 2lb / 900g loaf tinButter and greaseproof paper
Wooden or metal skewer
Cocktail stick
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark four.  
  2. Lightly grease and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper, extending it by 2cm beyond the sides of the tin.
  3. Put the rosemary in a bowl with the butter and caster sugar and, using an electric hand mixer, beat until pale and light in consistency.
  4. Continuing to use the electric hand mixer, add the eggs a little at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  If the mixture threatens to curdle add a small amount of the flour.  Fold in the vanilla extract, milk and flour.
  5. Spoon into the tin and level the surface.  Bake for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Make the icing while the cake is baking.  Place the rosemary into a small bowl and pour over 2 tbsp of boiling water.  Leave to infuse and when cool strain and add to the icing sugar with the orange zest and juice.  Mix to the consistency of single cream, adding a little water if necessary.
  7. When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce the top with the cocktail stick and then brush over the icing ensuring it is spread evenly over the top of the cake.  Leave to cool in the tin.

To convert this into a drizzle cake, when making the icing increase the amount of orange juice from 1 tablespoon to the juice of half an orange. The icing will then sink through the cake rather than remaining on the top as a layer of icing.

Until July….