Advice for my nephew – illustrated poem commission

watercolour illustrated poem

I was honoured to be asked by a friend from work if I would illustrate a beautiful poem which she had written for her nephew’s christening. She wanted to give the poem to her sister and nephew as a lasting reminder of that special day and her advice to him throughout life.

watercolour illustrated poem

My friend had seen a lot of my work on my Facebook page, so wanted to leave me completely to my own devices to come up with something which I thought would work for this poem. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that one of my main objectives is to develop a recognisable style, and recently I feel that I’ve made a huge step towards this with my layered watercolour paintings. This was the ideal opportunity to apply my style in a new way to illustrate the written word.

watercolour illustrated poem

Having read the poem through several times, I debated whether to illustrate a scene, incorporating imagery such as muddy boots, the beach, trees etc. but decided that as there was such a variety of things to include it would be better to depict them as individual illustrations around the text.

watercolour illustrated poem

Once that was determined, I set about creating a digital version of the illustration, which allowed me to sketch out ideas, move them around and resize them until I was happy with the composition. It is here that I tried out a few different colour combinations, consulting my friend who requested a bright colour scheme to match her nephew’s bedroom which she’d designed herself.

watercolour illustrated poem

I wasn’t sure whether to print the poem or write it out by hand, but after trying a few different hand written fonts I settled on one I liked and decided it would be easier to apply a watercolour wash if I didn’t print it. I also wasn’t too sure how I would get the thick watercolour paper through the printer, as I have tried before and failed! (Any tips appreciated here!)

watercolour illustrated poem

Once I’d written out the poem, I applied the background wash, wet on wet, and added a bit of interest with salt, which sucks up the colour and leaves pretty crystally shapes when it’s brushed off when dry.

watercolour illustrated poem

I printed a copy of the digital sketches I’d done, and traced the vague outline of each little illustration onto watercolour paper before drawing them in more detail and inking them.

Then came the fun task of painting them. I’m really getting into watercolour painting at the moment and am watching YouTube videos to pick up more tips any chance I get! Here are a few of my favourite artist channels if you fancy having a look.

My top artist YouTube channels

Mateus Urbanowicz

Alisa draws

Holly Exley

Minnie Small

Fran Meneses


Miriam’s Illustrations

Watercolour Misfit

In fact, one day if I get around to it, I think I’ll write a blog post solely on the artists who inspire me, because there are HUNDREDS!

Anyway, back to my poem illustration. The last task was cutting out the illustrations and mounting them on the background ready for framing.

watercolour illustrated poem

My friend said that her sister was over the moon and even shed a tear, which makes me very happy too!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

A goldfish in gouache

Gouache Goldfish

I find myself being inspired by other artists all the time. I pore over Instagram, scrolling, scrolling, looking for posts from my favourite artists to fill my eyes with the beautiful artwork I love and admire. I am inspired to try new techniques, experiment with different media and, more often than not, be more spontaneous and less constrained by the reality of what I’m painting.

‘Loosen up’ is often a phrase banded about by art teachers, but what in theory sounds easy is a million times harder in practice. Take anything that you have spent years doing and perfecting – for example writing, riding a bike, driving – and then imagine someone telling you to do it differently (change the way you write your ‘a’s, pretend you don’t know how to ride a bike, drive your car like it’s the first time you’ve done it). It’s not easy.

A lot of the time it is the fear of making a mess of a page in a nice, tidy sketchbook, or creating something I’m not happy with which stops me creating anything. It’s stupid, but a hard thought to fight off.

Anyway, the long and short of this is that I’ve been watching videos by the wonderful artist Minnie Small (SemiSkimmedMin) on YouTube and she has inspired me to set up a sketchbook for experimenting. A place I can create whatever I want, even it it ends up looking a mess, all in the name of developing my artwork.

And to my surprise, this goldfish in gouache is one of the first pages to have come out of my little foray into the world of ‘looseness’ and I LOVE it! It took one evening. I used reference photos for the fish, but didn’t stick to them rigidly, letting the shapes flow as my hand took them on the paper, rather than labouring over every detail.

Gouache Goldfish

I feel that the result is more vibrant and alive, and I’ll certainly be revisiting this technique. Thank you SemiSkimmedMin!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Windows Surface Pro 2 – Artist’s review

Windows Surface Pro 2 Artist's Review

Windows Surface Pro 2 Artist's Review

On my birthday last month, I became the proud owner of a Windows Surface Pro 2, bought for me by my lovely boyfriend so that I can get better at digital illustration, something which I haven’t done a lot of up until now.

I thought I would write this review as it may be helpful to other traditional artists looking for a stepping stone into digital illustration. I know that I’m a few years too late and other models have come out since this one, but I can only comment on the device I have!

Just as a disclaimer, I haven’t been paid to write this review; everything below reflects my honest opinion. I am certainly not an expert in technology, so I’m just going to brush over what I don’t even understand and just talk about the user experience.

If you’re not interested in the review of the device itself, skip straight to my review of free drawing apps for the Surface Pro 2.

Windows Surface Pro 2 – Good points

As I mentioned above, I am using my Surface Pro 2 primarily for illustration purposes, therefore the excellent pressure sensitivity was a real draw (despite it being a present, I did have some input!).

Those who have been following my blog for a while will know that I’m quite attached to my traditional pen, paints and paper, so when transitioning over to drawing on a screen I wanted to keep the experience as similar as possible. The Surface Pro 2 has stepped up to the mark – there’s very little lag when drawing which helps with quick sketching and writing. However, fine details are a trademark of my work and without zooming in, I find it hard to replicate quite the same level of intricacy that I can achieve on paper. This is mainly because of the pen, which while a lot finer than some pens I’ve tried, it still isn’t as teeny as my favourite ‘real life’ pens – the Pigma Micron 005!

The sensitivity of the screen has enabled me to do some quite realistic ‘airbrush’ style digital paintings. In fact, I was surprised at how easy I found it to adapt to. These are my first couple of drawings using the Surface Pro 2 (can you tell I like turquoise?) using a free program called SpeedyPainter (see my review of free drawing apps for the Surface Pro 2 below).

Windows Surface Pro 2 Artist's Review

Windows Surface Pro 2 Artist's Review

By touching the screen very lightly with the stylus pen you can get a very faint line (or thin depending on the drawing tool you’re using) and by pressing harder the line becomes more defined (or thicker). It doesn’t have quite the same responsiveness as a pencil and paper though – for example if you barely touch a piece of paper with a pencil, you’ll still see the faintest of lines, but you need to apply slightly more pressure to see anything on the Surface Pro 2.

Being the lovely boyfriend that he is, Sam also bought me a Wacom Bamboo pen which takes advantage of the Wacom Feel technology with which the Surface Pro 2 is compatible. I have no idea what that actually means, but I believe it is good and from my point of view it makes for a more realistic drawing experience. The pen has a bit more ‘drag’, if that’s the right word to use, so the resistance makes it feel more like drawing on paper. My Dad has also offered me a screen protector sheet which has a paper-like texture, which will hopefully improve it even more.

Wacom Bamboo with Surface Pro 2

It’s also a lot slimmer than other stylus pens I’ve used, which makes it feel more like a real pen or pencil in your hand.

Wacom Bamboo with Surface Pro 2

Sam also bought me a keyboard, which in turn acts as a cover. This is ideal for those who are looking to use the Surface Pro 2 as a laptop. The keyboard is great, and the two positions of the kickstand mean it’s easy to use it comfortably. The magnetic connection makes it really satisfying to connect and easy to deconnect when you just want to use it as a drawing tablet.

Wacom Bamboo with Surface Pro 2

Windows Surface Pro 2 – not so good points

The Surface Pro 2 that Sam bought had been a demo model, so wasn’t full price. However it is pretty much as good as new. When it first arrived though, after a few hours of use the battery died (not a problem, you would have thought) so I put it on charge. It wouldn’t turn on after a few minutes, so we left it for a few hours, and then over night. After trouble shooting online, we realised that the problem was with charging, rather than the tablet itself. The charger is designed to connect so you can have the lead trailing up or down on the right hand side, but mine only seems to charge one way. While doing our research, it does seem that the Surface Pro 2 can have a few problems switching on sometimes, but mine has been fine since we discovered the problem (touch wood).

There is a micro SD slot, but not a normal sized one, which is a bit of a pain for me as I take photos on my camera for my blog and for reference photos for drawings. I think that if you a buy a brand new model, however, they come with an external SD card drive (but don’t quote me on that!). This makes it a bit less convenient to use on the go, but would solve my problem.

The edges of the pressure sensitive screen aren’t quite as well aligned with the nib of the stylus as the middle of the screen. We knew this when Sam bought it and, to be honest, I never draw at the edges anyway as it’s so easy to move your drawing around the screen.

Free drawing apps for the Surface Pro 2

The first thing I wanted to do when I got my Surface Pro 2 was draw, but I had to try out a few apps before I found one which suited my style of illustration and the way I’m used to working.

Fresh Paint

Fresh Paint came ready loaded onto my device and it’s a very good app, but not for professionals. If you’re into adult colouring, you may like to try this one as you can load a line drawing and colour it in with oil paints, watercolour, pencil or pastel. The media are rendered quite well and there’s a handy little fan icon which you can press to ‘dry’ your layers of colour.


Inkscape is an excellent program which I have used for a long time to convert scanned drawings into vector images so that they can be resized and coloured digitally. From what I can see though, it doesn’t support the pressure sensitivity of the Surface Pro 2, so drawing using this program doesn’t have much character. Also, as you draw each line a set of nodes appears, so it doesn’t make for a very natural drawing experience. It is a fantastic tool when used in conjunction with other programs such as SpeedyPainter though, as I like to draw a jpeg image in these, and then convert to a vector using the ‘Path->Trace Bitmap’ tool.

Free drawing apps for Surface Pro 2


For some reason I really haven’t got on very well with Krita, although it is raved about by others. I can’t seem to get it to work with the pressure sensitivity of the Surface Pro 2, which seems to be a problem for a lot of users. I’ve also just tried loading it and using it with my Wacom pen but it seems to have gone a bit crazy and is drawing lots of squiggles if I just touch the screen once. If I could get it to work, it seems as if it would be quite a versatile program though – I need to spend a bit more time getting to know this one, and as it’s free, it would be worth downloading to see what you think.


SpeedyPainter is my favourite free app that I’ve downloaded. The possibilities are probably not as endless as in a paid program such as Illustrator (I don’t know, I’ve never used it), but for what I do, it’s great. I’ve enjoyed drawing with the airbrush tool, and there are lots of other tools to experiment with. I was surprised that the airbrush was the one which I took to the most. You are able to use layers, which is great for digital artists which like to work in that way. One of the best features is that you can easily see a reference image side by side with your drawing, but remember you need to load it up before you start!

And that’s that! I hope this post has answered your questions if you came across it in a search. I would definitely recommend a Surface Pro 2 to digital artists – it’s a great, portable device which has all the usefulness of a laptop or desk top computer.

Paper cutting art: Caesar’s Roam

paper cut artist

I have something special for you this week! I was absolutely thrilled to be commissioned by an old school friend to create a paper cut to help her and her boyfriend remember their over landing trip across Europe and Asia in their Land Rover, Caesar.

paper cut artist

They had an incredible journey, filled with many memories, so I began with a list which grew as my friend remembered more and more to include.

paper cut art

The design vaguely follows the route that they took, from the UK in the top right hand corner, down to their final destination Vietnam. It turned out that most of the coastal countries they visited ended up on the bottom, so I used wave motifs as a sort of bottom border.

paper cut commission

The most difficult part for me was putting together the composition with some of the elements in negative (ie. cut out of the paper) and some in positive (like the jumper in the photo above).

In the below photo is my favourite section with the little panda. In fact, the first paper cuts I ever did were chinese designs with pandas for my Mum and Dad’s wall over 10 years ago!

china paper cut

I love doing the text – I prefer to do it in negative as it’s easier and I like the effect (like the Caesar’s Roam text above).

paper cutting art

paper cutting art

I sketched out the design first, then drew it out again neater, then scanned it in to my computer, reversed it and printed it on the blue paper ready to cut. The first section I cut was the Land Rover, because I thought it was the bit that was most likely to go wrong, and most important to get right!

paper cut

I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It was a first for me to design something like this, and it’s worked well, even if I do say so myself! I think a paper cut like this would look beautiful displayed in a box frame with fairy lights in behind to illuminate it – perhaps a next project? (After all the other projects I have in my ‘ideas’ notebook!)


I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my photos! See you all again soon 🙂

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

What’s on my workbench?

paper cutting art

Never mind what’s on my workbench, what isn’t on it?!

My little fingers are in a lot of pies at the moment (so to speak), but with so many projects on the go, I have nothing finished to share. However, fear not! I’m here to update you on a few of my works in progress, which will hopefully be finished next time I check in. They are mostly personal projects which I grab an hour on here and there, but I also have a really exciting paper cut commission which is taking priority over my time in February.

Paper cutting art

This little snippet hopefully gives you an idea of the level of detail and intricacy of this paper cutting art work. It is an A4 piece depicting memories from an over-landing journey which the client took in their Land Rover across Europe and Asia. I was thrilled to be commissioned to do this piece as I have been wanting to try my hand at a montage like this for a while, but just haven’t found the inspiration anywhere!

paper cutting art

I’m pleased to say that it is turning out even better than I expected and each time I pick up my knife, I’m excited to cut away and reveal more of the journey.

Handmade jewellery

The next thing I’m working on is a selection of pins, fridge magnets and earrings to sell. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to make more of my Etsy shop, so when I’ve perfected these, that’s where you’ll be able to find them! Besides the pieces themselves, I’ve been working on packaging so that they look their best when I send them out.

shrink plastic pins

Layered watercolour

I wrote about this next project in my last post. It’s going to be a layered watercolour painting showing a queue of people lining up along a street of shops. I’ve started drawing out the shops, but there are a couple more to go, and more detail needs adding before I start painting. Unusually for me, I’ve already bought the frame for this one, so it’s made to fit, rather than the other way round.

layered watercolour painting

Daily sketches

This month, I’ve also been working in doing a drawing a day. I thought it would be fun to see my whole month laid out on a single piece of paper. I’ve got a few plans for this once it’s finished: I’m thinking of scanning it in so I can colour it digitally or make a colouring page out of it, and I might paint it in watercolour. It all depends on the time and motivation I have in March!

Draw every day


Finally, I’m sort of taking part in #InCoWriMo (that’s International Correspondence Writing Month for the uninitiated!). The idea is to send out a letter a day throughout the month of February, to anyone you like. What with looking after the little Munchkin, decorating our hall, working on commissions and finding time for personal projects, I knew that that would be impossible for me, so I decided to send out four letters, one per week, to four ‘volunteers’ from my Facebook page. I popped this first one in the post yesterday (OK, I know I’m a little behind schedule!) so it’s hopefully winging its way across the world to Queensland, Australia as we speak!

I couldn’t help prettying it up, so I included some little sketches, a small original watercolour and a colouring page too.

I want to make the contents of each letter different, so check back to see what I send the rest of the month’s recipients!

#InCoWriMo International Correspondence Writing Month

And that, my friends, is that! See you again soon, hopefully with some finished projects! In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Painted people all in a line

watercolour people

I have been feeling very artistically inspired recently! I had a fantastic evening last week with my friend Emma from Outlaws & Skeletons who came over to teach me how to use shrinking plastic. As a child we had used some from a kit, but had never been able to get the pieces to come out of the oven flat. However, Emma has imparted her expert knowledge and the few designs I’ve tried so far have come out as perfectly formed miniature pieces of amazingness!

art pins or brooches

shrink plastic pin/brooch

Moving on from one set of miniature things to another, I’ve also started work on a new layered watercolour painting. These little painted people are going to be cut out and arranged to form a queue – the destination of which I haven’t quite decided yet! I’ve had some wonderful suggestions on Facebook, ranging from passport control to a merry-go-round, all of which would make for a lovely fun scene.

watercolour people

watercolour people

Watch this space for more on this project!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Watercolour succulent and other illustrations

watercolour succulent - botanical illustration

Happy New Year everyone! It seems that despite my best intentions in my last post, I haven’t actually managed to blog at all since November…oops! Perhaps 2017 will see me posting a little more frequently.

To get back in the groove, I thought I’d share some little watercolour paintings I’ve been working on. This first one was inspired by Holly Exley. If you don’t know her, you’re missing out! She’s a fantastic illustrator/vlogger who combines inspirational chat and snippets of her daily life with time lapse videos of the illustrations she’s working on. I urge you to hurry over to her YouTube channel and you’ll soon be watching her videos back to back!

I tried to use a few of her techniques to paint this watercolour succulent, such as under-painting the outlines in the correct colours to get a feel for how they work together before jumping in head first with blocks of colour. I think it did help me get to grips with the painting, but then my layers let me down. I struggled to keep the translucency because I built up too many layers. I felt I had to add some coloured pencil to get back some of the definition I’d lost through over working it.

watercolour succulent - botanical illustration

It was a learning curve and I’m itching to try another one already!

The following are just quick little paintings from my art journal. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I find it very hard to loosen up which can result in my work lacking character. In my art journal I’m really trying to do quick pieces that I don’t think about too much.

toy illustration - watercolour

Most of the paintings are my little Munchkin’s toys – partly because they’re illustrations for the memories they accompany, but also because I want to work more from real life, and if there’s one thing not lacking in my house at the moment, it’s toys!

toy illustration - watercolour

toy illustration - ballpoint pen

toy illustration - watercolour

As you may have guessed, I’m a bit fond of succulents at the moment! Sam grew these from the ‘pups’ (yep, that’s the botanical term!) of a large one.

toy illustration - watercolour

That funny pink thing at the bottom of the photo above is a ‘sing-a-ma-jig’. Look up a video of one – you’ll want one of your own!

watercolour illustration

I did the last painting above using watercolour pencils as I was given some for Christmas. It’s been a very long time since I used them and this was a bit of an experiment!

That’s all for today, I’ll try not to leave it as long before I post again 🙂

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Our eyes met across the not-so-crowded dance floor

Venue nightclub torquay watercolour painting

I have been a bit slack with my blog as of late and for that I apologise. From now on I solemnly vow I am going to try my utmost to update more often. While that may not be weekly like it was in the pre-Munchkin days, I’ll at least aim to blog about each new project I embark on.

So, without further ado, this is one of the many pieces I’ve been working on lately. I’ve got quite good at finishing things, I must say. Well, at least the last three projects have come to a satisfactory end (which for an artist is all you can ask – nothing is ever perfect!).

Venue nightclub torquay watercolour painting

This little scene may not look like much, but it depicts the foundations of the last seven and a half years of my life. You see, the nightclub in the middle, Venue, Torquay, is where I met my boyfriend Sam. I’d love to recount a tale of love at first sight etc. etc. but if you were ever to set foot in Venue (not recommended) you’d realise that its sticky dance floors and stumbling drunks are hardly conducive to romance!

Venue nightclub Torquay watercolour painting

No, it was rather more of a dull story. I was out with my friends, he was out with his, I knew one of them and we were introduced. The dance floor was far from crowded, I was stone cold sober (having driven) and he was the opposite end of the spectrum. The most romantic thing to happen that night was that I gave him a lift home. The least romantic thing was that he took my mobile number and promptly lost it. It’s surprising really that we ended up together at all, but luckily (sometimes I question this!), our mutual friend is somewhat of a matchmaker.

close up of watercolour

So there you are, that’s how we met, and that’s the story behind this little painting which will grace the wall in our lounge when we finally get around to buying a frame (it’s been known to take months).

If you’re wondering, the little people outside aren’t anyone I know. I have to admit I added them as an afterthought as I painted the building using Google street view as a reference and it didn’t even cross my mind that the club was closed at the time!

Art inspiration

I spend a lot of time browsing the work of other artists and Mateusz Urbanowicz has been one of my favourites for a while. He is a Polish artist living in Tokyo and many of his personal projects feature scenes of Japanese life and cities. He is an incredibly skilled watercolour artist and I can only dream of one day being as good as him!

Anyway, he has painted a ‘Tokyo Storefront‘ series which got me round to thinking that it would be nice to have on our wall an illustration of somewhere which is meaningful to us – hence this painting of Venue.

Another illustrator which I was introduced to by an artist friend is Fran Meneses and I’ve become obsessed with her YouTube videos. She doesn’t just post videos of herself painting, but also talks about working as an illustrator, her techniques, tools etc. Check her out, I think you’ll like her! I now feel inspired to make some videos of my work, so a camera desk bracket is top of my Christmas list!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour, Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!

Homemade jammie dodger recipe

jammie dodger recipe

jammie dodger recipe

Thought I’d mix things up a bit this week with a recipe! Besides art, I love baking. I’m not a very adventurous baker though, preferring to stick to sponge cakes and simple biscuits rather than fancy ‘bake-off-esque’ treats.

The other day I was walking through town and I caught a whiff of something which reminded me of the taste of Jammie Dodgers, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get them out of my head! Returning home to a Jammie Dodgerless house, I decided the only way to satisfy my biscuit craving was to make some myself.

jammie dodger recipe

I cobbled together this recipe by stealing bits from others, but it worked very well and the resulting 22 biscuits were demolished within a few days – always a sign of a good bake!

jammie dodger recipe

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Clare’s Jammie Dodger Recipe

You will need…


250g butter or margarine (quite soft)

140g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

2tsp vanilla extract

400(ish)g plain flour


Strawberry jam

140g butter

280g icing sugar

1-2 tbsp milk



  1. Mix the butter and caster sugar in a big bowl.
  2. Add the egg yolk and vanilla essence, stir well to combine.
  3. Sift over the flour (I find 400g is about right, but add it slowly and stop when the mixture combines to form a dough which doesn’t stick to the bowl)
  4. Roll out the dough and cut approx 22, 2.5″ diameter circles with a cutter. Cut a small circle out of the middle of half of them (for the tops).
  5. Bake for about 15 mins, or until golden on top.


  1. Mix icing sugar, butter and milk in a bowl until smooth and spreadable.
  2. Spread butter icing on the base biscuits. Top with jam and sandwich together. Yum!

This week I’m going to attempt to make Mary Berry’s carrot cake to take up to my brother-in-law’s weekend birthday celebrations. We’re all staying in a cottage near Bath, so I’m sure some cake will go down well!

PS. ‘The Wise Old Man’ has used my Jammie Dodger photo in the background of one of his videos – Failure – about failing to keep to his diet after being tempted by the biscuit jar!

Ballpoint pen drawing

ballpoint pen biro drawing

It has been six months since our little Munchkin was born! Six months! That’s longer than the lifespan of a dragonfly (apparently – I just Googled it)! While it does feel like it was only yesterday that we were bringing him home from the hospital, at the same time it feels like we’ve had him forever.

Anyway, yesterday I came to the shocking realisation that in those six months I haven’t done a single drawing of him. Not one. It was time to put things right. I’m a big fan of drawing with ballpoint pen and after a quick Pinterest trawl to get the creative juices flowing, I put pen to paper and produced this little sketch.

ballpoint pen biro drawing

Just in case you were wondering, my son doesn’t have a little mohican, that’s just part of my dress!

ballpoint pen biro drawing

I was going to add a few white coloured pencil highlights, but I risked ruining it, so in the words of a video I watched yesterday, it’s ‘finished, not perfect’!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Paint Party Friday and Blue Chair Diary Illustrations!