I made this sketch of a young Jessica Mitford for my sister Cass’s partner Dave who had a birthday recently – Jessica Mitford is a hero of his. Overall I’m happy with the way it turned out (especially the frame) but she does look a little like Nicole Kidman in my portrait, which was not deliberate! I recently scrapped a sketch of F Scott Fitzgerald I was doing because he looked way too much like Dick Van Dyke for my liking! I think it’s important to do your best to capture a likeness when you’re drawing a specific person, but for me, I also like to stylise my subject somewhat – I guess it’s all about achieving that balance.
I’m totally hooked on white charcoal and tinted paper at the moment. Speaking of white charcoal…does anyone know how to sharpen the General’s pencils to a nice point without them breaking? If so, please let me know! At the moment I just sharpen them to a dull point and use a sandpaper block, but you can never get a really fine point that way. This paper’s made from recycled sugar cane pulp and I really love it; lots of colours and beautiful textures. I wanted to decorate the frame and echo the design in the collaged part of the drawing. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and would like to do some more of these to sell in my shop before the year’s out.
I had to find a use for the batch of sour cream I made, and since it’s most definitely soup weather, I decided to make some cream of pumpkin soup and, well, you don’t really need an excuse to make cake! By roasting the pumpkin, this soup is full of intense flavour, and really smooth and creamy. It’s just one of those simple, classic recipes.
The cupcake recipe is adapted from one of my favourites – East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch. It has a very light texture, not too sweet, with a really yummy crunchy crumble on top and a fruity filling. I’ve made these cakes so many times now I’ve made lots of modifications, so I thought it was worth posting my version. My main aim has been to make a lower GI alternative, so there’s less wheat flour and more oats and nuts. Another little tip…I always include two tablespoons of arrowroot when baking eggless cakes, pancakes, etc. It really improves the texture.
In this version I’ve used blackberry jam, but most often I peel and thinly slice a couple of granny smith apples and zap them in the microwave with a little sugar and cinnamon, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and use that. I’ve also made these cakes with halved and pitted fresh cherries, and frozen berries. You could also change the walnuts in the crumb topping to a different nut to compliment your choice of fruit, such as toasted, peeled and crushed hazelnuts if you’re doing a raspberry version, or apricot and almond. Macadamias would be great too (with a little coconut in the topping), if you made these cakes with pineapple.
Although these are vegan recipes, you could easily substitute the non-dairy ingredients with dairy if you like. Recipes after the jump…
I posted my recipe for vegan whipped cream a while ago. I thought it was about time to post some more of my recipes for dairy alternatives. This cream serves a different purpose to the whipped kind; rather than for decorating cakes and pastries, these are more of a spoonable consistency and are great for cooking, as well as a garnish or accompaniment to sweet and savoury dishes. The best part is they’re really quick and easy to make, and you don’t need a high-speed blender – I just use a regular stick blender.
Be warned though, this is not health, whole or diet food – this is rich, fat-laden cream! If you’re looking for a low-fat alternative to dairy, there are plenty of recipes around using silken tofu, etc. These recipes are all about emulating the richness and taste of dairy – but without the cholesterol, and best of all, they’re totally plant-based. I’ve also given details of some variations of the basic recipes. Please report back if you give any of my recipes a try, and I’d love to see photos if you have them. I hope you like them! Recipes for cream, sour cream, and mayonnaise after the jump…
I’ve just taken part in an illustration challenge held by Lilla Rogers, and here’s my entry! The brief was to create a journal cover with a playground theme, and I really had a lot of fun drawing this. It brought back fond memories of risking life and limb doing crazy stunts on the monkey bars, and tightly gripping onto the roundabout to stop myself being propelled into the stratosphere by centrifugal force from being spun way too fast by my sister – so much fun! You’re never too old to have a go on the swings though, are you?
I read this interesting article on Digital Arts yesterday: 10 Colour Secrets from Leading Illustrators. It’s great getting some insight into how other illustrators work with colour. I might not be a “leading illustrator” myself, but I thought I’d share my own thoughts on choosing colours – maybe you’ll find it helpful!
A limited palette
I pretty much always work with a limited colour palette – anywhere from one to six colours. That Photoshop colour picker, loaded with squillions of options (or that huge tin of pencils, plethora of ink bottles, etc) is very tempting, but too much choice can be a pitfall. I think that limiting your palette helps with the logic, rhythm and flow, so the important elements stand out and the secondary elements recede and work to create depth and texture (or whatever they’re there to do!). Limiting your colours also calls on your ingenuity to create something that’s still dynamic or rich with detail and variation. I like to use halftones, pattern and negative space, rather than introduce more colour. I also love the charm of vintage illustrations where a limited palette was a practicality. I remember in some of my favourite picture books when I was little, you’d have the lovely glossy full-colour pages alternating with the pulpy, uncoated pages featuring one or two colour illustrations. I think I used to prefer those to the shiny colourfest! I think there’s something really intriguing about what an artist does with line and tone when a full colour palette isn’t an option.
Nothing’s black and white
Black isn’t always black. I very rarely use pure black, preferring softer blacks, such as a desaturated dark blue, a warm brown-black from a yellow palette, or a dull, dark red. For something more subtle and muted, I also like to use less intense colours in place of black. As long as there’s enough contrast, it can still work. White might mean 0% ink, but it’s still a useful addition to your palette – especially if you’re only working with one or two other colours. There are some really amazing illustrations around that use negative space and let the colour and texture of the paper/background do the talking.
I usually try to work out my colour palette before I begin, but there are often changes as I go along. In trying to pick the right combo, I like to desaturate my palette and check the percentage of black for each colour. You can make lovely, muted illustrations using colours with a similar tonal value, but most times I prefer to have a range across the greyscale spectrum, to create enough contrast. I’m mindful of the saturation of each colour for the same reason.
Anyway, that’s my five cents’ worth!
Look what I found at a recent secondhand book sale!
Here are some proofs of a few of my new greeting card designs. I can’t wait to have them all printed! They’ll be in the shop soon, and if you’re a retailer interested in stocking my cards, please email me!