Another year nearly over.....

I can't beleive we're on the countdown to the end of another year, it really doesn't seem that long ago I was sitting down and doing last years Christmas blog post.
This year has been a jam-packed 12 months, with amongst other things selling our house and making the move to the country, freelance designing, trying to maintain regular blog posts and being a mum to a now 17-month old active toddler.  It doesn't sound much when written like that, but each week I seem to struggle with fitting everything in, and my 'to-do' list never seems to get any shorter!
To all the people who read and comment on my little blog, thank you for taking the time to check in once in a while to see what's going on over here, and apologies if I haven't been able to respond to comments, or regularly comment on your blogs.
This little Santa illustration was for some Christmas ceramic designs I was commissioned to create last year - I wish I could wrap up my Christmas presents as prettily in real life!   
Wishing everyone a fabulous festive season and much peace and happiness for the new year x x

A Year in Provence

A Year in Provence - illustrations by Paul Hogarth

I love how Paul Hogarth paints everyday French people!

          Rumbly tumbly old buildings, local architecture, landscapes and townscapes are
                     captured in quick pencil studies and light washes of watercolour.   

A few weeks ago I posted about a series of old Penguin books I have, which are all illustrated by Paul Hogarth.  Writing the post reminded me of another book I have, A Year in Provence, which again feature illustrations by Paul Hogarth.  It was a lovely excuse to rummage through my bookshelves and leaf through this partially forgotten about book.

'When Peter Mayle fled grey London for Provencial sunshine and bought an ancient farmhouse in the Luberon mountains, pastoral dreams were disrupted by the year's round of icy mistrals, demanding visitors, ruinous floods and absentee builders.  He soon realised that the only thing to be relied on was lunch, with military regularity at midday'.

All painted in watercolour, Paul Hogarth's illustrations perfectly capture the changing seasons and charm of life in Provence.  I'm really drawn to his expressive painterly qualities, and the quick sketches of landscape, people and historic buildings.  They are simply executed in pencil with washes of watercolour and minimum detail, but they are so lively and almost whimsical in feel.

The book is punctuated with these fabulous snippits of visual life in Provence - you hardly need to read the book, but just look at the illustrations to get a sense of the story.  I'm always in awe of people who can paint with such minimal fuss and detail, and I think this is a classic example of less is more.

New illustrations sneak peak.....

I've been working on a project recently which has involved creating some new hand-painted illustrations.  The objects I'm painting all have a slight vintage feel to them, and the artwork itself has all been created using watercolour.  I've loved getting back to doing some drawing and painting and it's been a really fun project to work on.  I'll blog about it again when the work is all completed, but for now, without giving too much away, here is a little sneak peak of what I've been working on including the initial sketches and finished painted versions......

A rather quirky second-hand kids cook book!

'My Fun-to-Cook Book' illustrated by Martin Mayhew 

I picked up this rather quirky children's cook book from a second-hand book shop recently.  First published in 1969, it's full of these fabulously crazy child-like illustrations by Martin Mayhew which appear to have been done with coloured texta's, felt tips or magic markers.

I love the care-free and relaxed style of the illustrations, and the cute visual step-by-step diagrams to accompany the recipes and cooking methods.  The illustrative style is such a world away from sophisticated computer generated illustrations or stylised photography, but I can see how these simple and fun images would relate to children, and make cooking seem quite easy.

I love having these sort of books as reference material to remind me that everything doesn't have to be 'perfect' or too finished, sometimes a quick scribble can be just as visually effective as a fully polished piece of artwork. 

Frankie calendar 2013

Work featured in the 2013 Frankie calendar by The Black Apple,

I was asked to contribute to the Frankie magazine calendar for 2013 with my 'A Splash of Milk' vintage coffee pot & jug illustration, and it was very exciting to receive the calendar last week!

The calendar is filled with a lovely selection of quirky, vintage and retro inspired artworks, by various illustrators from around the world - and I was delighted to be included amongst so many other talented painters.  Thanks Frankie! :)

You can order a copy of the calender online here

Fab vintage second-hand finds

I've been rummaging around in the three second-hand shops here in Kyneton, and I've come across a few treasures recently. 

Last week I picked up this super-cute yellow embossed Carlton Ware dish in the shape of a leaf with a design called Apple Blossom, and little silver teaspoon.  After a bit of research it looks like the Apple Blossom design was introduced around 1937 and produced until the 1950's.  I love the backstamp with the decorative Carlton Ware script, and I've since found out the 'Australian Design Registration Applied For' on the backstamp was used from about 1935 onwards, in order to prevent the Japanese from copying the designs.  In the 1930's the Japanese were copying good quality ceramics and Carlton Ware was a target, however a clause in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation between Australia and Japan meant that designs registered in Australia couldn't be copied by the Japanese - therefore many designs were registered in Australia!   

I also found this Broadhurst coffee pot with a design by Kathie Winkle.  The pattern is called Woodland and features classic Kathie Winke style of strong black geometric lines (created by rubber stamping), with a limited colour palette of orange and olive green applied by handpainting.  The tall, statuesque coffee pot is the Riviera shape which was also designed by Kathie Winkle about the mid 1960's, specifically to allow for rubber stamped patterns.  Again I love the backstamp which incorporates and celebrates not only the pattern design, but the ceramic shape design, as well as the actual name of the designer. 

Blackwood & the Garden of St Erth

The Garden of St Erth, Blackwood 
The small township of Blackwood
One of the nice things about moving to a new area is the opportunity to head out and explore new places, and last weekend we ventured out for the day to the Garden of St Erth at Blackwood.  Nestled in the Wombat State Forest, Blackwood is a very small little township with just a local pub and cute cafe / deli punctuating the quiet streets, the main reason to visit Blackwood however is the lovely garden of St Erth.

The gardens are situated up a winding and hilly road, but once arrived you're rewarded by a very pretty 1860's sandstone building and several garden spaces housing a mix of drought tolerant flowers and plants, alongside fruit trees and organic vegetables (including many heirloom varieties).  The home-grown produce is put to good use at the rather delicious St Erth cafe where it's imperative to partake in a cup of tea (Earl Grey of course) and whatever yummy home-made cake is on offer! 

There's a little nursery on-site for seeds and plants (including some of the heirloom varieties) and it's also home to The Diggers Club which promotes sustainable gardening practices.  It was a lovely lazy day and perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday.            

Frankie mag - issue 50

Fabulous Frankie

Desk illustrations - Amy Borrell (left) and Mel Stringer (right)

I'm loving the latest issue of Frankie mag - not only does it have a super cute front cover, featuring embroidered illustrations of sweet household items such as teacups, jugs, cooking pots, chairs and coathangers - but it also has a great spread on five artists who have illustrated their desk spaces.  Love!

The retro-esque front cover illustrations are by the talented (and by the look of it very busy) Sara Hingle and Lara Burke (thanks to Meet Me At Mikes for the Lara Burke info), with perfectly neat embroidery by Noela Siddans.

I loved the feature on the artist desk illustrations, and I always find it interesting to see how other creatives work along with their studio spaces.  It's probably a good job I was never asked to illustrate my desk space, as it is currently covered in a growing pile of scribbled 'to do' lists and notes.  I did chuckle when I saw Amy Borrell's illustration showing numerous post-it notes on her monitor - that certainly looks very familiar!  It's very frustrating as I have so many ideas, projects I'd like to start, courses I'd like to do, people I should contact..... but most things never seem to get crossed off my list!

Nice one Frankie - and happy issue 50!!

Paul Hogarth for Penguin

                 Second-hand Penguin books featuring cover illustrations by Paul Hogarth 

A few years ago I decided I should read some of the 'classics' in English literature, but whilst browsing the shelves at a local second-hand bookshop I was drawn to a series of Graham Greene books because of the front cover illustrations!  On a whim and knowing very little about Graham Greene's books (apart from watching 'Travels with my Aunt' with the fabulous Maggie Smith) I bought the books, and later learnt the illustrations I admired were by English artist and illustrator Paul Hogarth.

Paul Hogarth illustrated all of Greene's novels for publisher Pengiun, and I love the power of the simplicity found in these cover images.  Predominantly created in inks and watercolour and utilising a limited colour palette - or simply just black ink.  Whilst the illustations are simple, they cleverly manage to capture the mood and feel of Green's stories.

"The distinctive style of the artist Paul Hogarth is instantly recognisable: a strong line, a broad watercolour wash and a flamboyant signature.  They are characteristically simple colour drawings which manage to capture a mood – whether of menace or anxiety or general seediness and invariably set in an exotic location – true to the writer's work".  Taken from the obituary in The Independent newspaper, 7th January, 2002

Whilst I love the illustrations of these second-hand books by Paul Hogarth, I've also enjoyed reading Green's stories, the majority of which were written in the 1940's, 50's and 60's and are set in various countries around the world, incorporating his writing with his love for travel.

You can see some more images of Paul Hogarth's cover illustrations for Penguin at this fab Vintage Penguins blog! 

Spring lovelyness

Nature at her best and showing off her latest spring collection

The Jolly cat and Mr J also enjoying the spring sunshine
Ahhhh, Spring has finally arrived (although it seems to have disappeared again this weekend) and I've been loving the sunshine and all the changes to the garden it brings. 

We're really lucky that the house we've temporarily moved to has a beautiful established garden (along with two gardener's - woo hoo!) and it's been magical watching the changes to the garden in just a few short weeks of sunshine and warmer weather.

Rather like a fashion designer and a model, spring and nature have collaborated to create their latest 2012 garden collection..... Bare spiky tree branches have adorned spring cardigans of bright green leaves.  Plain, skinny and angular rose bushes have slipped on ball gowns of flourishing glossy new growth.  Small tightly wrapped buds have burst open into ballerina-style tutu's and garden beds have been accessorised with a mass of colourful foliage and decorative floral jewels.

I'm always in awe of nature at work, her ability to create such harmony of colour, the detail and intricacy she puts into each petal and leaf, and the seemingly perfect use of symmetry and repetition.  I'll happily pass on a Gucci, Prada or Versace in exchange for a spring design by nature any day.