Arty update

SAA Poppy painting challenge

Where have I been? Looking back through my blog, the last time I posted was in April this year. That’s seven months ago!

The only excuse I have is that a busy schedule of work, looking after our almost three year old son and completing illustration commissions has meant I’ve been neglecting my blog, and for that, I’m sorry! The longer I’ve left it, the harder it is to pick up where I left off. So I’ve taken the leap and to get back into it I’ll just give you a whistle-stop tour of what I’ve been working on since my last post.

Fasten your seatbelt (or grab a cuppa), there’s a lot to get through!

One of my first projects this year was an illustrated map of the Rideau Canal in Canada for Le Boat, a company which hires out self-drive boats on waterways around the world.

Rideau Canal illustrated map

The finished piece is a fold out map which is included in their Rideau Canal guide. The map is fairly accurate in terms of scale, but I widened the river to accommodate the different attractions en route.

Rideau Canal Illustrated Map

I’ve previously illustrated the Canal du Midi in France and the River Thames for the same company, but this map was different in that I put it all together digitally. Each element was illustrated and painted by hand, then ‘photoshopped’ into place on the map. This made it easier to make tweaks to positioning, and even remove and add elements at the request of the client.

Rideau Canal illustrated map

Since I finished the map, I’ve been working on quite a few house portrait commissions which came about when I posted a few paintings I did for fun on Instagram.

I’ve worked on quite a few now, and have several more to paint as Christmas commissions.

I’ve also done a handful of paintings for

I’ve been working on some more realistic style watercolours to add to my portfolio and for an exhibition with my local art group which was held in May. I arranged the mushrooms below in a frame which is now hanging on the wall in our lounge!

I painted the poppy below for the SAA’s paint a poppy challenge for a special exhibition for the centenary celebrations. I enjoyed building up the layers and establishing the contrast between the dark background and paper-thin poppy.

This rainy Japanese street scene was painted for my art group’s exhibition. I was so pleased with this one that it’s also ended up on our wall! If you would be interested in a print, please let me know as I’m going to look into getting some professionally printed.

Finally I’ve been working on various art journals as a way of relaxing and enjoying the little free time I have!

If you’d like to keep up to date with what I’m up to, you can follow my social media accounts:



YouTube (I only have a couple of videos at the moment, but hope to upload more at some point!)

Midori traveler’s notebook style workshop

Midori traveler's notebook

Last year I saw an advert for a leather Midori-style traveler’s notebook workshop and I was so excited I booked it there and then, three months in advance! Stationery is my vice, particularly journals, so the workshop was right up my street.

For over two years now I’ve been keeping a journal every day, and I loved the idea of making my own. Prior to the workshop we were asked to choose the colour of leather we wanted for the cover. This was the first of many colour and design dilemmas! I pored over the photograph showing the 20-or-so colours and finally came to the decision that I wanted mine to be quite natural looking, so I opted for ‘olive tan’. It was interesting to see the colour combinations that other people on the workshop chose – each as beautiful as the next.

Midori traveler's notebook

My Dad came to the workshop with me, and I can honestly say I had the best of days! I can’t recommend our teacher, Mandy, from Learn Bookbinding, enough. She was excellent; very patient, friendly and knowledgeable.

Besides the cover, we also made three traveler’s-journal size notebooks to fill it with. We learnt how to cut and fold the paper, hand stitch the spines and add pockets to hold odd bits of paper.

I chose to make two notebooks of plain white sketching paper, and one of cream paper so that I could use one of them as a journal and the other two for watercolour painting.

Midori travelers notebook with watercolour illustrations of some pebbles, a lock and a buddha ornament

It took me a good three weeks after making the journal to pluck up the courage to actually start using it! I follow lots of amazing artists on Instagram who combine painting with journaling to create beautiful spreads, so I wanted to give it a go. I’ve started taking photos while I’m out and about that I can use for inspiration back home.

Midori traveler's notebook spread with watercolour paintings of a daffodil, wine glass, ink pen, mushrooms, succulent plant and rocks

So far, I’ve been really enjoying it. Something which has often stopped me beginning a painting is the feeling that I don’t have enough time to complete something, but in this little book it’s easy to finish a sketch in half an hour or so if that’s all I’ve got. I’m still a bit scared to ‘spoil’ it, but I need to just swallow that fear and just accept the fact that sometimes it’s not going to turn out as I’d hoped.

To see more of my journal, please follow me over on Instagram.

A new illustrated map commission

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that I’ve worked on two previous illustrated map commissions for canal boat hire company, Le Boat.

They are maps of the Thames and the Canal du Midi, depicting the course of the river, the locks and the attractions which can be found close by. They feature in the company’s guide books which are full of information on things to do on your boating trip. I am now delighted to have been asked to illustrate a third map, this time of the Rideau Canal in Canada.

Canal du Midi Illustrated Map by Clare Willcocks

Click on the image below to see a larger version – it’s not at full resolution so there is some pixellation!

I painted the last two maps ‘in one go’ – that’s to say that only the text was added on digitally, everything else was all on one big piece of paper (well, two stuck together, actually). This time I’ve decided to illustrate the attractions separately from the river and use Photoshop to put together the final piece. This gives me the advantage of being able to maintain a steady flow when I paint the river and surrounding countryside, as painting around hundreds of little attractions and icons is a challenge when working in watercolour and trying to avoid it drying.

Thames Illustrated Map by Clare Willcocks

Above is a section of the River Thames map, there’s more river to the left on the final version.

This time I thought it might be nice to share my map-making journey, to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to produce the type of map you may see when you’re visiting somewhere new. You can read about how I created the Thames map on my blog post from February 2015 (was it really that long ago?!).

Planning an illustrated map of the Rideau

My first task was to plan out the course of the river; Le Boat kindly provided a very detailed sketch to help this process. You may be wondering why I can’t simply copy out the course of the river from a map, but it all gets rather complicated!

Firstly, the river needs to be skewed slightly to fit on the six panels allocated to it in the brochure, and secondly it needs to be widened in order for me to be able to fit in all the necessary illustrations. Thirdly, it needs to accommodate all the attractions, so if there is a glut in one area, I need to use some artistic licence to make the river fit around them.

The Rideau Canal comes with the additional challenge of including a lot of lakes, which are difficult to represent as I have to find a way to keep width in the river while still showing the lakes as large expanses of water.

After about a day’s work which involved a lot of rubbing out, zooming in to Google maps, and tearing up several drafts, I hope that I’ve come up with something fit for purpose.

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

To give myself a break from the headaches of plotting the river, I’ve started to draw and paint each of the attractions. This is the part I really love! I use the images supplied by Le Boat and I try to position them as much as possible in the orientation they are in relation to the river, so Google Earth comes in handy!

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

As with all my watercolours, I sketch them out with coloured pencil first and then outline with dip pen and black koh-i-noor ink. For the previous maps I have used Pigma Micron pens, but since then I have been experimenting and love the varied line width and blackness of proper pen and ink.

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

That’s about as far as I’ve got! I’ll try to keep you updated as I make progress. It’s going to take up most of my free time for the next month or so, but I am going to try to squeeze in some personal projects too, for my own sanity!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour.

New Year’s resolutions 2018

Bullet Journal New Years Resolutions

I know the end of January is a little late to be talking New Year’s resolutions, but I need to get these out into the wide world to give me motivation to achieve them this year.

I wrote them on New year’s day and am embarrassed to say that I’ve been a bit lax with some of them already!

Bullet Journal New Years Resolutions

#1 Plan and have a craft stall

This is the major one. I have always thought that one day I would have an art and craft stall somewhere, but I’ve never put any time and thought into what I’d actually sell. 2018, I’ve decided, is my year, and this resolution is designed to keep me motivated and give focus to the art I create on a daily and weekly basis. I’ve set myself the target of holding a stall in time for Christmas, so I’m aiming to have all my products ready by November.

To keep me on track, I’ve made a list in my bullet journal of all the things I’d like to sell, and all the things I need to do in order to make this a reality. I have already started on a few bits of artwork which I’ll be blogging about in another post, but for now, you’ll have to settle for this sneaky peek!

dogs for craft stall

#2 Finish my colouring book

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for years may remember me harping on a while ago about a colouring book I was creating. Well, it went a bit stagnant for a while (a year at least) as I worked on other projects and lost interest in it. Flicking through the pile of drawings I’d already finished, I realised that I’m actually quite close to finishing, so I’ve brought it back onto my to-do list and have already drawn out a couple more designs to include.

Adult colouring book

I’m planning to print it (or have it printed?) ready to sell on my craft stall, and will probably add it to my Etsy shop too. If anyone has any experience getting books printed, please let me know your tips!

#3 Make my sketchbook into a zine

In reality, it’s going to be a bit more than a zine! I’m so proud of my 2017 sketchbook that I’ve decided to make a printed version which will be available to buy. I naively thought that I’d just scan in the pages and print them out, but I’ve reached some hurdles already. It took me an age to tidy up the scanned images in Photoshop, and then comes the challenge of aligning the pages for printing.

chain and succulents watercolour sketchbook

I also haven’t decided yet whether to include annotations on each page, or just leave it as a book of pictures? Again, any advice would be appreciated!

#4 Spend less time on social media and more time doing

I have to admit that at the beginning of January, this resolution was not going well! Now, however, I feel more focused and have been spending my evenings painting and planning products for my craft stall. I’ve also got an iphone now which has helped immensely, as it’s enabled me to quickly add photos and videos to Instagram and Facebook without being side-tracked by browsing.

social media addict

If you’re not already a follower, please pop by my social media pages as I update them regularly with photos and videos.

#5 Focus on being happy and keeping healthy

This one doesn’t take much explanations, but is something I think we all forget sometimes! This year I’m going to remember the bigger picture and embrace every day!

Clare Willcocks

#6 Pursue illustration career

I have been working recently on building up my portfolio to demonstrate my illustration skills. I’ve completed some portraits for our local food and drink magazine ‘Taste Buds’ which you can see on page two of the online version of the magazine.

Taste Buds Portraits

I have also got an illustration ready to be published in ‘Devon Life’ magazine, which I’m very excited to see in February. This year has started off with another exciting project which I hope to be able to share more about soon. So all in all, I’m doing quite well with this resolution!

#7 Use diary to be organised and productive

I’m certainly using my bullet journal to its full potential already this year, with lists for my craft stall and daily/weekly to-do lists. That’s not to say I’ve managed to tick many things off, but having them written down gives me focus and it’s always better to have too many things to do, than the other way around – I like to keep busy!

I’m also using my bullet journal to create photo collages and to keep a daily diary. I’ve been doing this every day for over two years now and I love looking back and reading exactly what I was up to on any given day!

This year, I’ve also started a new little ‘memory’ book, in which I’m writing one happy memory a day. There’s space for 5 years’ worth, so it will be lovely to look back and remember happy times over the years.

Memory diary

#8 Spend lots of quality time with Sam and the munchkin

Our little man is nearly two and his little character is really coming through now he can talk and make decisions for himself. He’s so funny, coming out with lots of little quips that make us smile. I just want to make the most of this lovely stage and spend as much time as we can together as a family.


#9 Start a new 2018 sketchbook

Well, I can tick this one off already! I’m now three pages through a new a5 sketchbook and loving the creative outlet it gives me just as much as I did last year. I’m hoping to fill this sketchbook up throughout the year with experiments, memories and illustrations. I’m aiming to use my own photography as reference, or draw from real life where I can, so that the sketchbook holds more meaning for me.

Pavilions torquay

#10 Make regular YouTube videos and blogs

I’ve given myself a little leeway here with the word ‘regular’ – it leaves things a bit open in terms of frequency of posting. I may post once a week sometimes, I may post once a month. I’m going to try and make some more videos and I’d love to try my hand at vlogging my art activities but I’m a little scared to start! Subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep track of the progress I make on this resolution!

Thanks for reading, see you again soon!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

A rusty chain watercolour

Rusty chain watercolour

I’m sat here with a cup of tea thinking it’s got very chilly all of a sudden and wondering where the last few weeks have gone! This morning it was dark outside at 7.30 and at the weekend there was a frost on the car – winter is here and I don’t like it.

Despite its obvious inconveniences, though, winter does have some advantages. Like feeling all warm and snuggly in a cosy Totnes café last weekend with my dad, holed up with a slice of cake, pot of tea and our sketchbooks. We were planning to sit outside and paint down by the river, but we’re big softies really and couldn’t bear the cold.

Totnes Cafe watercolour

My little painting from that day needs a bit more work, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get round to it. Even incomplete, it’s a nice memory to have in my sketchbook and when I showed it to my toddler son I was pleased to hear him shout out “cake!” in appreciation of the subject of my masterpiece!

As the café filled up, dad and I moved on to the church of St. Mary which promised another warm place to draw. I was intimidated by the beautiful architecture and stained glass windows, so instead of trying to cram in loads of detail, I decided to focus on the ornate chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Chandelier pen and ink

Rusty chain watercolour

Next is a piece which took me slightly longer. I took inspiration from the topic ‘rust and decay’ which was the focus of my local art group during our last session. Sam took a photo of a rusty chain on a beach while we were on holiday in Cornwall this year, and I thought the seaweed in the background fitted the decay part of the topic perfectly.

Rusty chain watercolour

I built this piece up in layers and used masking fluid to keep the shiny areas white. It was a challenge but a very enjoyable piece to paint, and a nice addition to my sketchbook.

Rusty Chain watercolour

Rusty chain watercolour

My sketchbook is looking rather full now, and I’m planning to do a ‘sketchbook tour’ over on my YouTube channel when it’s complete. I’m also thinking of making the contents into a zine or hand bound book to sell in my Etsy shop. I have no idea how much this would cost and what price I could sell it for, but would anybody be interested, or does anyone have any experience doing something similar.

That’s all for today folks, I love to read your comments so please drop me a line below! Until next time, ta ta for now!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Toddler portrait: My son

Watercolour portrait of a toddler child

In between commissions, trying to start Christmas shopping and one thing and another, I’ve not had any time to update my blog for a couple of weeks, but finally, I’ve got around to it!

I really wanted to share this portrait of my son, the only picture I’ve painted of him so far, besides a little biro sketch about a year ago.

Watercolour portrait of a toddler child

I am so happy with the result. It’s definitely one for the wall, however it’s still wedged in a history book to keep it flat until I find time to frame it!

When the reference photo was taken, Munchkin was sat in one of those car rides that you find outside supermarkets. He loves them at the moment as you can see from his smile! Walking past an arcade can take half an hour as he needs to sit in every single one!

I haven’t got much more to say about this piece, except that I videoed the whole process to make into a speed painting video which you can view below if you are interested.

If you’ve enjoyed the video, please subscribe to my YouTube channel as I will be uploading more sporadically.

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Sketchbook update

Captain's Cottage Filey watercolour illustration

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working in my sketchbook a lot, so I thought I’d share some of my little paintings with you.

Last week we went to stay in a little house called Captain’s Cottage in Filey. We’ve never been up to Yorkshire before and really enjoyed exploring the little towns and villages along the coast.

I didn’t paint any of the scenery as I didn’t manage to take any reference photos I was happy with, and it was too cold and too difficult with the little Munchkin to stop for long enough to paint!

Watercolour paintings from our holiday

There were some lovely lamps in the house (bought from a French shop I believe). Munchkin loved to peep into the windows and imagine the ‘people’ inside! I thought I’d paint one to help save the memory.

Lighthouse watercolour illustration

In the painting below I was experimenting with using heavier pencil lines than I would normally, rather than outlining in ink. I like the way it looks more natural than ink, but I think I need to use a softer pencil next time to make the lines a bit darker. More experimentation needed!

Captain's Cottage Filey watercolour illustration

There were so many lovely little ornaments and decorations in the house, like the pretty hearts hung from the curtain pole and the little telescope standing in the window.

Captain's Cottage Filey watercolour illustration

I wanted to try painting glass, so one evening I sat down at the table and painted Sam’s beer bottle (empty of course!). I used masking fluid for the highlights and a white gelly roll pen to add a few extra highlights at the end.

Food illustration, watercolour beer bottle by illustrator Clare Willcocks

I did the rest of the illustrations below in the weeks before and after we went away. The chillies were painted partly from real life, and partly from a photograph, because I began the painting one day with a plate of them in front of me, then photographed it to finish the next day.

I can remember exactly what I was listening to while painting this – it was an audiobook version of a book series by Scott Westerfield called Uglies. I always find it funny that paintings help jog my memory of exactly what was going on around me in that moment!

Chillis food illustration by illustrator Clare Willcocks

Food illustrations: Doodlewash Challenge

I’m a member of an online art community called Doodlewash and have decided to dip in and out of their #worldwatercolorchallenge this month. The theme is ‘cornucopia’, celebrating food and a plentiful harvest! Here are some onion and potato food illustrations which I did as part of the challenge.

Onions and potatoes food illustration by illustrator Clare Willcocks

Watercolour Christmas card

For the local art group I go to, we’re all making a painted Christmas card to be given out like secret santa. This is my contribution, I got the idea and technique from this YouTube video. I’m pretty pleased with it so think I’ll scan it to make our Christmas cards this year!

Watercolour christmas card - baubles

Inktober round up

It’s a bit late, but here’s my completed Inktober collage. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it so I decided to go easy on myself and only do one small flower drawing each day. I’m glad I did, as even that was a challenge! If you’ve not heard of Inktober, it’s a fun drawing challenge each October with only one rule: you must use ink. You can see all of my Inktober drawings day by day on my Instagram. If you sign up to my newsletter, I’ll be sending out a copy of this FREE to all of my subscribers later in the week.

I really enjoyed watching my favourite artists’ YouTube videos of their Inktober drawings too.

Inktober floral collage

Introducing my art vlogs on YouTube

Finally, I’ve started tentatively uploading some art videos on my YouTube channel. So far I’ve posted a couple of of bullet journal videos and a speed painting of my son, during which I talk about my process and the decisions I’m making with colour etc. at each stage. I’ll make a blog post about this painting within the next few weeks.

I’d love you to pop on over to take a look and leave me a comment with your thoughts! Please subscribe if you enjoy the videos as I’ll be making more very soon.

Thanks for reading to the end, this was one long post today!

Rainy day watercolour painting

Japan street in the rain watercolour

Japan street in the rain watercolour

I recently joined a local art group which is proving to be a great source of inspiration and motivation! You can read about my first visit in my post ‘I’ve got the watercolour bug‘.

The theme for the last session I went to was ‘rainy day’. After pondering for a while on how to approach this, I decided that I wanted to take the opportunity to test my skills in depicting reflections – something which I’ve always found very difficult, especially with watercolour which can sometimes have a mind of its own!

I found my reference photo of a shopping street in Japan on Google. I love the colours, the umbrellas and the interesting details and was particularly drawn to a Japanese scene, having spent hours watching Mateus Urbanowicz paint similar places in his vlogs.

Japan street in the rain watercolour

I did a quick sketch in purple pencil to get the composition right, then outlined with dip pen and ink at the art group, before adding the first watercolour washes.

Japan street in the rain watercolour

Over the next few days I built up the layers when I had a spare hour, making sure each one was thoroughly dry before applying the next.

Japan street in the rain watercolour

There are so many details in this scene, I found it quite therapeutic to work through them all, one by one.

Japan street in the rain watercolour

I couldn’t be happier with the final piece. It’s one of my favourite paintings to date and makes me feel like I’m really getting the hang of colour mixing and watercolour glazing. I always say this about my new paintings, but I have a feeling that it will be a while before I like one as much as this!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!

Paintings of Cornwall

Watercolour painting of St Ives

At the end of September, my partner, Sam, and our little Munchkin took a trip to Cornwall for a week. We stayed in a lovely spacious cottage close to Helston, and spent our days exploring all the little coastal towns and villages on both the north and south coasts.

Higher Trenower Honeysuckle

The cottage was called Higher Trenower Honeysuckle, and it was perfect for us. Particularly as there was nothing for little hands to break, and plenty to keep them occupied! There’s a play barn with slides and pedal along tractors, which I’m sure was the highlight of the week for my son, and a play area and trampoline (“trampine, trampine!”) outside. The kitchen is huge, so that’s where I set up to paint each day.

With a little one in tow it was impossible to do any sketching out and about, so I did the next best thing and took lots of photos to use as references once back at the cottage.

Here are a few of my paintings of Cornwall.

This is St Ives – it looks a bit flat and I think that’s down to the tonal values all being quite similar – particularly on the water. There’s no really light sections, or shadows to give an idea of depth.

Watercolour painting of St Ives

I do like the drawing though, the buildings and the people, so it was good practice.

Watercolour painting of St Ives

Watercolour painting of St Ives

Next I did these paintings of Porthleven, and I much prefer them.

Watercolour painting of Porthleven

I’m very pleased with the water in the painting below, I think the dark shadows and white highlights really give the illusion of ripples. I particularly like the boat with the blue tarpaulin where the light is reflected back up onto the bow from the water.

Watercolour painting of Porthleven

I’m pleased with my little painting of the Harbour Inn too. Sam and I were watching people drinking wine, sat in the sunshine in the window of their room and saying how lovely it would be to stay there.

The Harbour Inn, Porthleven - watercolour


The waves at Porthleven were incredible!

Waves at Porthleven

I did do another painting of the pool where Sam took Munchkin swimming, but it’s so bad it’s embarrassing so you’re not going to see that one!

If you’d like to read about our other trips to Cornwall, see my blog posts here and here.

Thanks for stopping by, see you again soon!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Paint Party Friday!