Printable Cheer

In these strange days, I’ve been heartened by the examples of kindness and community spirit I’ve seen.

Whether it’s been neighbours discussing home schooling, postcards offering help through my parents’ letterbox, or images of Italians on balconies singing, each time I witness this kindness in action it helps me to focus on hope rather than fear.

I’ve seen how inventive people are – Rhymetime sessions for babies and children that my friend Esther Steward held in Bristol can now be live-streamed so that families can still enjoy them – anywhere.

I’ve listened to Oliver Jeffers reading aloud from his picture books (he’s doing this each weekday until it’s safe to go out again). My children claim to be too old for this now but I’m not!

Singer/songwriter Emma Wallace is singing a cheery song or soothing lullaby everyday on Instagram (and taking requests!) – she has the most beautiful voice.

I’ve been trying to think what I can offer, apart from in my local community, and I thought some cheering images to download for free might be welcome.

Fox Hug Card

So if you can’t hug someone for the time being and would like to send them a Fox Hug card, you can download one here! It’s an A4 sheet with an A5 image on so that you can fold it in half.

You can also download it as an A4 image to frame here:

Or if you’d like to send someone a digital hug instead of printing it :

Please let me know if these work ok, I’ve never put downloadable images on my website before!

I hope everyone is well and taking care xx

Elegant & Burly

A couple of years ago, my youngest fell over and hurt her knee.

As I cuddled her, I whispered ‘You’re a big strong girly!’

She replied ‘Elegant and burly!’

I had no idea why – although I think it was because she’d been watching an Ice Age film where a character was described as ‘Elegant and hairy’. Anyway, I thought to myself that it would be a good name for something. A shop, maybe.

So when my friend Sarah Lowe and I decided to set up a shop on Etsy selling Handmade Things, we decided to call ourselves Elegant & Burly. (In fact our first choice was Lightfoot & Lowe, but that already existed! And I’m glad now that it did).

We realised that Elegant & Burly could also mean a certain balance… beauty with just enough burliness to stop it being overly refined. We thought of a few examples (the bearded fisherman, who wears glittery nail varnish; the hefty rhino in a delicate fascinator; or the divine opera singer eating a great big pasty).

We even invented a word – Burlegance: 1. The state or quality of being both elegant and burly, whether it be hugely hefty with a hint of elegance, or exquisite with a touch of burliness. 2. Something that is burlegant.

We chose The Secret Garden as a theme for our first range, as we both loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book when we were little.

Sarah has made some beautiful jewellery, including pendants of silver leaves cast from leaves from her garden (she is an amazing garden designer).

So there you have it – ElegantandBurly is our new Etsy shop!

Drawing Dogs

A few years ago I started doodling scenes from my family life. I wanted to capture moments that I might forget, things that made me laugh or stop and think.

I meant the sketches to be very quick and silly, but I was getting caught up in whether they looked enough like my children.

I tried drawing them as little dogs instead, and to my surprise the drawings began to flow much more easily.

When I tried out drawing them daily for #inktober on Twitter a few years ago, the characters began to develop a different shape.

Then on holiday in France we got caught in a thunderstorm while we were visiting an amphitheatre. We made a dash for the car under a tarpaulin that didn’t quite cover us all, and as we ran though the streets of Orange laughing and getting soaked, I knew that it was a scene I wanted to draw. I sketched it that day, then did an ink drawing back home in England. I wanted to capture the exhilaration and the holiday feeling, and it was the first time that the dogs seemed like a family.

There have been loads of dog drawings over the past few years. There have been stories that didn’t really get anywhere, and lots of dioramas.

Last year I was very ill and was lucky enough to be able to take the time to really rest and recover. Throughout my treatment and as I grew stronger I drew, wrote and collaged a lot, and found I didn’t want to draw dogs at all. Because I was drawing in a journal just for myself, and not thinking about posting anything, it didn’t matter if my characters looked ‘right’ or not. For the first time in years I could draw without thinking about an audience. Despite the circumstances, it was liberating. I began to realise that I wanted to do more than little inky dog doodles.

I didn’t know if I would go back to drawing dogs, but alongside experimenting with printmaking, painting on canvas, writing and paper cutting I started working with an iPad and Ipencil for the first time, and the dogs have found a new lease of life there. So I think the dogs characters may still be around for a while…

… but in amongst lots of other things.

This is the life…

I’ve been playing round with paper-cutting and lightboxes (at and after a brilliant workshop at the House of Illustration with Courtney Dyer) and it is SO MUCH FUN…..

This is a work in progress, I’m learning as I go along and the slow nature of the work really suits me st the moment.