digitizing calligraphy skillshare class review + free card to download

hi everyone! blogging has been pretty slow over the last few weeks as I have been busy with a few projects- I’ll share what I can here soon! In the meantime, I recently did Molly Suber Thorpe’s online skillshare class- “Digitizing Calligraphy- from sketch to vector” and thought I’d post a quick review for anyone who might be interested in doing the class or learning more about taking traditional lettering into digital format.


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52 weeks of hand lettering

Sometimes I feel like there are so many different things I want to try and work on and have trouble focussing on just one thing to get better at it. While I have goals for all the different areas of illustration that interest me (children’s book, scientific, lettering, animation) it seems there just isn’t enough time to devote to all the areas consistently to get better at any of them. I think my major focus for this year will be to keep working on improving my basic drawing skills and developing more of a natural history + scientific illustration portfolio, but with a focus on communicating scientific concepts + research to children. Of course, I really want to keep all the other areas going as well! With that in mind, I thought it would also be fun to have a lettering goal for the year. It had to be relatively easy to achieve ( why I chose 1 per week instead of every day!) and low-pressure (ie it doesn’t matter if its not perfect- just to have fun!).

Here are my first two of the year- both took about 30mins, using tombow brush pens.




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how-to: make a chalkboard (for hand-lettering!)

to make all your hand lettering dreams come true! (<–or something like that).

A couple of weeks ago I made up my own chalkboard to practice with as I was lucky enough to be asked to do some chalkboard hand-lettering for an event (you may have seen some of the photos of my practice I posted on instagram). I used to do the chalkboards every week at the bakery I used to work at, but have never done anything like this before so I was super-excited but also super-nervous! Hence the practice board.

SO, without further ado, here is what I did…

Quick Guide to making a Chalkboard (for hand-lettering practice)


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chalkboard quotes+ giveaway winner announced!

hey everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was spent working mostly- but I also got the chance to play with the new chalkboard I made last week. Here are a few pics of my chalkboard practice:








Today I am annoucing the winner of the skillshare giveaway- the randomly chosen winner is Maryam who is interested in taking photography and calligraphy classes! Maryam- I’ll send you an email to organise your prize!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and if you are interested in trying out skillshare, their new membership scheme makes it really easy to access and try out classes for free before you leap into a full on membership, as you can now watch up to 1 hour of classes for free every month.

See you all later in the week with some art and also another $1 book sale round-up!


inktober complete+ NOVEMBER calendar download

happy november! last week was the last of inktober 😦 I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and definitely think I’ve discovered my favourite inking method (brush and india ink). In the past I’ve always avoided using ink because I can’t seem to get my head around the technique but this challenge was a good way to try to start conquering my ink fears!!

Due to other things going on, I only managed to get one ink drawing done this week:


‘nature study’

AND I thought I’d make it into a free calendar for you to download! Just click the image below and you’ll be able to download the full resolution A3 image. Hope it helps with your end of year planning!!


Hope you are enjoying your weekend. Check back tomorrow as I’ve got a very exciting giveaway (the first on this blog!!).


TUTORIAL: make a custom mini sketchbook for sketching on-the-go!

If you followed along a couple of weeks ago- I did a week long sketch book challenge (all the sketches from the week are up now).  The sketches were done in my handmade sketchbook (made from recycled computer paper) with an HB pencil. Doing this challenge has made me realize how much more practice I need at using my sketchbook!! I think next I am going to try ballpoint pen sketching- check out the amazing sketchbook work of Pat Perry, for inspiration!!

This week I’m going to be showing you how I make these little pocket-sized sketchbooks so you can make one of your own. The only way to make sketching a habit is to have your paper and pencil with you at all times and then to use it (<–essential step). This little sketchbook fulfills at least one half of the equation- and is dirt cheap to boot. I think cheapness is the essential requirement in a sketchbook- as it means you are not so afraid to mess it up!

I came up with this design after trying a few bought journals as well as making a few of my own (see this post)– but this is the only little sketchbook that I really like using so far.



What you will need:

Paper: I used recycled computer paper (21 x 29.7cm- A4 size) from the bin at my work (most if it had hardly any printing on it at all)- which is lightweight (more pages) and fine for sketching (and the cheapness of it means you will be less afraid to mess it up- and therefore be more free with what you doodle). I would recommend trying this out first, but if you use a lot of watermedia for sketching, you can definitely try this same process out with watercolour paper (you will end up making less pages though as the paper is so much thicker).

You’ll need 6 A4 size pages if you follow this tutorial exactly.

Card: for cover. I used a piece of navy card stock I had lying around, probably around 300gsm at a guess? Its not very heavy-weight. You can definitely use thicker card but I quite like the flexibility of the cover on this one.

Thicker (decorative) paper for end papers- go crazy with patterns if you like! I just used some white or black card because I didn’t have anything else at the time.

A sharp needle

Strong thread (I used linen thread (this one), but heavy-duty furnishing thread will also work really well)

Sharp stanley/exacto knife

Cutting mat

Piece of foam (optional- helps in punching holes in paper signatures)



PVA glue+brush

a few bull clips

1. Assemble your printer paper (or other paper of choice), and mark off one sheet into thirds (make a mark at every 9.9cm) along the longest length. Cut into three sections using your exacto knife and ruler. if you are using paper of a different size to A4 the final dimensions of your pages should be 210mm x 99mm


2. Fold each ‘page’ in half. You will end up with 18 folded pages- which you will then split into three lots of six. Stack each of the pages within one another to make three signatures of 6 folded pages each (12 leaves in each signature).



3. To mark off the points where you will be making holes for binding the signatures together, stack the three signatures on top of each other so they are well aligned. Its helpful to use a bulldog clip to hold them in position so they don’t move whilst you make your marks.

Then mark off five points along the ‘spine’- at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9cm (I do this by centring the ruler at 5 as the middle of the stack). Make your marks along the top signature in pencil, and then use a ruler to rule across the spine (over the three signatures) so each now has a pencil mark in the same position.


From this point on, try and keep the signatures in the same order and orientation through the following steps to make your resulting book look as nice as possible.

4. Now make your holes in each signature at the points previously marked off, using a sharp needle. Open up each signature of 6 pages and use the needle to make an even hole at each of the five marked off points. It can be really helpful to place a soft bit of foam behind the paper stack or something else you can pin into, so your holes get to the full size of the needle and look nice and neat.



5. Now its time to stitch your signatures together. Instead of doing a terrible job of explaining how to do that here- check out the wonderful tutorial by Damask Love on creating a book block- these were the same instructions I used to bind this book and its the best instructions I’ve come across for the stitching process:

Bookbinding University: How to Make a Text Block from DamaskLove on Vimeo.




6. Now your book block is all bound together- its time to glue the spine to make it more sturdy. I applied PVA glue over the bound edge (after having clamped it with a bull clip) and let it dry. I did this twice to make it nice and strong. You have now created your own book block!


7. Time to cut your cover and endpapers. Cut an A4 piece of card length-ways into a strip 10cm wide.


Score a line approximately in the middle of the strip (at ~15cm) and fold the card neatly. Then place your bound book block with the glued spine butted up against the 90 degree angle made by the card. Take a pencil and mark off the width of the book block spine. This gives you the width required for the spine of the cover.


Score along this line and fold. The cover edges will now stick out way past the book block- so trim them down to the exact size by opening one cover side and using a pencil to mark the edge of the book block on that side, then repeat for the other cover. Trim them down to size with your exacto knife.


You now have a cover ready to glue!

8. Before you can glue your book together, you need to make your end papers (which are pieces of paper that sit between your cover and the book block, and help to stick the book together).

You want your endpapers to be the same width as the regular pages, so in this case 9.9cm wide. I cut an A4 piece of card in half length-ways, which gives you two long strips that when folded will stick out of your book (between the cover and the book block) when you insert them. Leave them long for now.

This is what you’ll have so far:


9. Assembling your sketchbook: First step is to glue the endpapers onto your book block. Apply PVA glue onto one side of your endpaper from the folded edge (spine end) outward, about 2/3rds across the endpaper, towards the outer edge. Align your endpaper so the edges are equal with the edges of the book block, and press the endpaper firmly onto block. Apply the other endpaper in the same manner to the other side of the book block. Clamp this to dry overnight.

Once it is dry you can trim the long ends of the endpapers so they are flush with the pages of the textblock.



10. Now its time to glue your text block+endpapers into the cover. Apply glue over the inside of the cover of the sketchbook- from the spine outwards across ~1/3rd of the front and back covers. Put extra glue on the spine. Place your text block into the cover so all the sides of the block are well aligned with the cover.



Now your book block is fully glued into the cover, clamp the book together with a bull clip or two- or even better, place under a stack of heavy books (less chance of getting marks on your cover from the clips)- and leave to dry overnight.

You’ve made your own sketchbook!!


Let me know what you think of this tutorial!


september goal review + free calendar download

I can’t believe its already September- here in New Zealand we are heading towards Spring and with a third of the year left- it felt like a time to do a review of some of the goals I am hoping to achieve this year. Its easy to get stuck in day to day routines and avoid pushing through to get things done-especially if you are working on  your own projects to develop skills and improve technique (rather than being commissioned to do work!!).


so true for so many things…. ad campaign for Frucor designed by Automatic (Dan Wright)

Anyway- as one of my major goals this year was to develop my portfolio, and lately I feel like I’ve been going a bit off track SO here are some of the things I am going to set myself to do this month:

  • Week long character challenge– sketch out a random character every day for one week. It doesn’t have to be amazing- just a sketch, but hopefully it will generate some ideas and things for other drawings. I’m aiming for 15th to 21st September– is anyone else keen to join along? See Brad Woodards character series for inspiration!
  • Sketchy sketchy sketch! Fill up my tiny sketchbook that I made (will do a post on this little sketchbook I made+ how I made it at a later date)
  • Do a digital painting of a native whale/dolphin (scientific style). I really wanted to try this out and saw this quick tutorial. It will be a good project to practice my digital painting technique so I can apply it to more scientific illustration projects
  • From ZoologicalApt
  • And the BIG ONE- complete 5 finished illustrations that I could use in my portfolio (don’t all need to be from different projects). I’m not actually sure this is achievable but I will do my best ;0

I have seen some great info online regarding generating your own projects and practice- the most recent one I found useful was Drawing Drills by Meg Hunt. I am finding it useful to set myself projects + assignments with a timeline to get things done. Hopefully I can make it to my portfolio deadline in October!!!

Until then- what are your goals to make it an amazing+productive September? Think about the goals you want to achieve by the end of the year and break them up into little chunks you can get working on now….


To help you out- here is a handy little calendar planner I made for you to get started:
(click on the image above to download the full size image- I recommend printing on A3 so you have lots of space to write in your plans!! Make your goals achievable and tick off the things you achieve as you go)

Have a great weekend!



drawings that move

I have been reading quite a bit about hand drawn or traditional animation lately, and thought I would do a quick round-up of some of my favourite short movies that I have come across so far, for the blog- even though it is a bit of a departure from my regular posts! I think the process of animation is so interesting- the amount of thought that needs to go into creating pictures that move convincingly is an art form in itself.

Model Sheet from Bambi by Marc Davis via Disney Concepts and stuff

Because most current animation books and resources deal with animating as aided by the computer, I found that older books tend to be the most useful in descibing HOW to create different kinds of traditional animation in detail. The books I have found most useful are:

The Animation Book – a complete guide to animated filmmaking- from flip-books to sound cartoons, by Kit Laybourne (1979)- see here

Disney Animation- The Illusion of Life , by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson (1984)- see here



While the Disney Illusion of Life book has not been reprinted since 1984 (though there are reproduction copies that have been made and are available, as well as secondhand copies), Laybourne’s book has been reissued in 1995 with added information about digital animation, so that would also be an interesting read.

Ok- now on to the shorts….

5. Lotte Reiniger‘s cut out silhouette movies. Reiniger pioneered the technique of animating cut out cardboard figures in the 1920’s before the Disney style animation (hand drawn on cels) was invented.

There is an interesting video on her technique here. and also quite a few of her movies available on youtube. Interestingly, she apparently inspired the depiction of the Tale of the Three Brothers (from Tales of Beedle the Bard) which was animated in Reinigers cut out style for the Harry Potter movie– Deathly Hallows part 1.

4. This awesome slow-motion animation of cut out paper for Hyundai

3. Caroline Leaf’s work in sand and coloured paint on glass combined with the technique of stop motion animation. She also has a website where you can see how she made her films, and it is also covered in detail in Kit Laybourne’s book.

2. Animated hand drawn cels by Hombre McSteez aka Marty Cooper which integrate amazingly with daily life to create an awesome short movie called Aug(De)Mented Reality– watch it!!

p.s check out more clips on his instagram

1. And last but certainly not least- Glen Keanes beautiful and awe-inspiring short film Duet, which was premiered at the recent Google I/O Conference. Mr Keane has been an animator at Disney for quite a while and has worked on such movies as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan. He created Duet for Motorola to show how traditional techniques could be combined with modern technology to create interactive hand drawn animation. It is a beautiful story – if you don’t watch anything else, make the time to watch this.

Above is the uncoloured animation, but if you can also see the finished coloured version here, and a making of clip here.

I think one of the most fascinating things about animation is that there are such a wide range of styles and techniques, that can be used to tell a story. Have you got any other traditionally animated movies that you could recommend?


Lastly- again, slightly off topic, but you may know I am a fan of hand-lettering (see here, here and here) and have been eagerly awaiting the movie Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon for agggesss (see trailer). Apparently not in New Zealand yet, BUT I discovered that for this week only, www.cinepacks.com is offering Sign Painters plus 3 other art movies in a bundle, for however much you want to pay for them. I have personally already bought and downloaded my copy. If you are interested, the deal is closing on 21st July (2 days left!) and you can buy it herePlease not I am not affiliated with this company in or receiving any compensation for promoting this deal- I simply thought it was really awesome and wanted to share the word with you lovely readers!

And with that said- I hope you enjoy the movies above and the weekend which is almost here! I know I’ll be fitting in some time to watch a documentary or two!


hand drawn timelapse video

Recently I was asked to illustrate the scenes for a video my sister produced with some other students for a university project. The idea was to have it resemble those hand-drawn whiteboard videos you see on youtube, and it was used to illustrate their vision of a library of the future. It was filmed scene by scene, and then sped up with video editing software. First time I’d tried this, and it was a lot of fun! I’d definitely like to try it again soon.

Here is the finished video:

I also found this video very inspiring. It is a clip from the BBC childrens programme, Jackanory, on which Quentin Blake used to do live illustrations of stories on a giant canvas! Amazing. Google it and you will find many more clips of episodes to watch 🙂

Thanks to my sister and her friends for asking me to get involved 🙂

Something else to check out:

* Quentin Blakes official website has been updated, and you can now see a whole load of awesome videos including interviews and an interesting How I draw section, as well as download free e-cards and desktop backgrounds! Definitely worth a look.

Have a great week!