Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It's a Printing Party!

This is going to be fun! We'll be starting with very simple designs, and working all the way through to two-colour repeats. 

Registration closes on the 17th of April, and space is limited, so do email me if you'd like to know more. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Two Hour Tops

A quick dash through the charity shops on Saturday morning, for men's shirts, and then a few hours of sewing, and I have 3 new 100% cotton tops for R30 to R40 each.  

I used the 2 Hour Top pattern from Sew Different. It's a free pattern! It's only available in 1 size, but easy to scale up or down. I took off 3cm on the side seams, and 1/2cm  on the raglan seams. (Looking at these photos, I think next time I'll only take 2 1/2cm off the side seams.)

On this shirt I cut out the neckline a bit further than the pattern, and the sleeve and hip lengths are unchanged from the pattern.

Shirts without pockets are obviously easiest to work with, but if the fabric under the pocket isn't noticeably less faded than the rest of the shirt, you can take the pocket off and put it somewhere more useful. You'd probably need to take the pocket off to fit the front pattern pieces into the available fabric, so do check the condition of the shirt carefully before buying.

These 2 were short-sleeved shirts to start with, so my sleeve length was determined by how much fabric was available. I kept all the original hems, which made things even quicker.

 On both these shirts I used the neckline as drawn on the pattern. 

I didn't have binding in the right colour for any of these, but I did facing/binding thing that worked quite well. It takes a bit of ironing and fiddling, but not bad for a first attempt, don't you think? 

I folded the sewn-up shirt in half, traced the neckline, cut a facing, sewed it on, then cut it down to binding width and sewed it on like binding.

A note about sewing with charity shop shirts: wash them before you start sewing (I'm looking at you, Salvation Army Shop). Though perhaps generally it might be nice for people to wash clothes before donating them to charity shops.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Boring? Is Maths Fun?

This is not (just) a syringe. Drawing for MEPP/copyright MEPP

One of the most difficult (and so most interesting) parts of doing an illustration is getting the tone right.

When I told a friend about a recent illustration job I had, drawing syringes and other volume measures for training materials for maths teachers, he said it sounded boring. But besides that a few days spent drawing simple objects with straight lines is about as relaxing as life can get, it was anything but boring.

I enjoy drawing illustrations that make sense to me, and maths and science authors are noted, at least in my experience, for writing wonderfully clear briefs. These authors tend to know exactly what the purpose of each illustration is (in the case above, to teach students how to read volume measures). Maths and science authors go beyond simply listing what they want in a picture, to meticulously noting which features are important, which are likely to be misinterpreted, and what they want the picture to do. It's very seldom that an illustration simply repeats what is in the text, and even more seldom that an illustration is superfluous. The illustrations are needed to explain things that can't be explained any other way.

In contrast, the most boring illustration jobs for me are those in which I'm told to 'have fun with it'. It can be hard to fathom exactly what's needed for a brief like "Teacher talking to 3 pupils. Make it fun!" and hard to know exactly what such an illustration is for. (And not as if the author doesn't have a clear idea of what they want, just that they can't really articulate it until they've seen a few guesses from the illustrator.)

I already find drawing fun. I like it to be sincere and to the point as well, and to be as clear a means of communication as possible.

So it's a delight to pare a drawing down to the essentials and to try to help put the point across.  I don't think that it's necessary or even helpful to make this kind of illustration 'fun'. I think learning is fun when concepts are concisely explained and instructions are helpful. I think learning can be easier when the tone is serious, confident, and uncomplicated. There's a place for fun illustration, obviously.* But sometimes a subject is difficult, precise, absorbing, and completely fascinating in its own right, and illustrations can reflect that.

With all that to consider, how could it be boring?

*I am thinking in this post mainly about educational illustration. Storybooks are a different story (sorry). Though tone also matters there.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

All the drawing

I did tons of drawing for the Paper Planes project; not much of it made it into the final drawing, but in a way, all of it did. 

I think I spent a whole day chewing my pencil and scribbling. Of course I'd thought about the drawing from the moment I got the brief, and knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I never know how I'm going to make that happen until I start. Or how it's all going to turn out.   

Sometimes the same stubborn idea keeps popping into my head, and I have to draw it to get rid of it. Sometimes I have to draw it to see what's wrong with it. 

I really really liked the picture of the ghost looming over a small town, but the story didn't have anything to do with the town, alas. 

I'm saving the idea of the town, though; it's going to make a very nice stripey repeat pattern for a lino block. 

Once I settled on a composition I liked, I drew it up on A3 paper, which took about a day. That evening I looked at it again, hated it, and redrew it, which took about two hours. I used the discarded drawing as a practice piece for the texture of the mountain, and to see whether the flowers stood out well enough on it, which also meant I wasn't too nervous when I started inking the final piece. (Usually the first half an hour of inking is complete rubbish.)

So all in all, a week of solid drawing. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Die Heks van Heksrivier

This is a post that should have gone up exactly a week ago, when the drawing above was actually on display at the Design Indaba, and prints of it for sale. It was part of the Paper Planes exhibition organised by Alexander's Band. (The prints will be on exhibition elsewhere, and for sale online, later in the year, in case you missed it.) (And I'm working up some lino blocks of the disa flower from the drawing that I think will make very nice cushions.)

I've been printing up a very big fabric order and illustrating 2 books, which wiped me out and brought ordinary day-to-day existence to a standstill. Time to revise my estimates of how much printing I can do in one day, or twenty.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


Some lettering I did for the cover of The Chameleon House (Modjaji Books). See the little chameloen tails?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Paper Planes, Alexander's Band & Design Indaba

I'll be exhibiting a drawing at the Design Indaba! How exciting is that? It's part of the Paper Planes exhibition organised by Alexander's Band illustration agency. See here for more info, and some teeny tiny peeks of some of the illustrations (there are 44 in total).

No pictures for this post, it's all being kept secret until the exhibition, but when it's up I'll do a post showing the entire week of drawing I did to come up with one good idea.