Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Festive markets and online goodies

Christmas season is well underway at Clo's Line! I'm currently exhibiting at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Winter Fair, which is running from 31st October - 23rd December. I had a fantastic time setting up my display and having a peek at some of the other lovely stands. I'm looking forward to visiting again soon to do some Christmas shopping of my own!

I was delighted that they even chose to use one of my bears on the posters advertising the event. He's ready to party!

I also had a stand at the Flat Cat Gallery Christmas Open Evening at the weekend, which was as fun and festive as always! It's one of my favourite events of the year. Wine, chocolate, artwork, gifts and good company... It's the perfect way to spend an evening!

My online shop is now fully updated and ready to rock. I had a great time taking photos for the website with my very talented friend Mairi of Mairi Helena Photography. She's going to be exhibiting at the Country Living Fair in Glasgow from the 20th - 23rd Nov, and I can't wait to visit her there! Here are some of the beautiful pics she took for my website.

I was also delighted to find out that I've been selected to have some of my work showcased on the Blog and Buy Sale Christmas Wish List. It launches in a few days and my cards and coasters will be listed alongside a plethora of other lovely goodies. Selling my own giftware seems to be a fantastic way of finding other gorgeous products to buy... 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Christmas Time Again...

It's now October and it's getting well and truly festive in the Clo's Line studio. (To be perfectly honest, it's Christmas nearly all year round in here!!)

A few months ago, I created my 2014 Christmas design. Following on from my cheeky penguin characters last year, I decided to opt for another cheery animal line and chose polar bears as my inspiration.

I liked the idea of drawing bold, white bears on a fun coloured background. I wanted to keep my characters fairly simple, like the penguins, so I decided to keep the detail focused on their faces. 

First, I created a page of inky watercolour blots.

Once I had some inky brushstrokes, I then drew in some polar bear noses and eyes. 

My characters were starting to appear! I scanned the pages into the computer and started to choose my favourite faces.


When I opened these drawings in Illustrator, I was able to Live Trace the textures and simplify them into vectors. This would allow me to rescale the drawings to any size without losing any quality. (Using the scans as they were could pixelate quite quickly if they were scaled up for bigger items, like tote bags or art prints!)

Here are some of the faces Live-Traced in Illustrator. I tried putting a coloured background behind them just to get a sense of how it might look.

I was pleased with the progress! The next step was to draw in their bodies. This took a lot of time to get right! The shapes look very simple but I edited them a lot along the way. Below are just some of the versions for one character. Tiny adjustments in the shape of the body could end up making a huge difference to the personality of the character.

After a lot of editing and adjusting, I created my final selection of characters. There were quite a few!

I started building a repeat pattern with these characters. In the end, I didn't need to use all of them but I was glad to have a large selection to choose from. I kept my repeat pattern quite simple in style, so that the focus would be on the characters. Again, I wanted the design to relate to last year's penguins. I put a subtle texture in the background and used a half-drop repeat.

The design was now ready to start applying to products! For wrapping paper, I added some cheeky snow-bears into the mix. You have to look closely to spot them!

I created a variety of card designs to accompany the wrapping paper.

Along with cards and gift wrap, I've also been designing coasters, placemats, gift tags, badge sets, tote bags and goody bags. 

I applied for a Winter Gift Fair in Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and was delighted to find out that I had been successful. The fair will be launched on the 31st October, so it's going to be a busy few weeks getting everything ready. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search

A few weeks ago I came across an amazing competition with the Lilla Rogers illustration agency. Check out their beautiful website here!  They only take on a few new artists a year, and this competition offered the chance of being represented for two years along with a host of other awesome prizes. I was in!!

Last year they had over 1500 entries in the first round, so I knew I would be up against a huge number of talented and diverse designers. I decided to treat it as an exciting new design challenge and to forget the potential pressure of the task! My main priority was to create something that I was really pleased with that I could continue developing into a new print range.

Our brief was to be inspired by 'Little Terrariums,' and to create a piece of wall art capturing this theme. We could choose any medium to create our canvas and target any market with the design. The only other element we had to include was at least one word of text within the piece.

My mind was filling up with ideas! I started by collecting lots of beautiful imagery on Pinterest and creating a board of inspiration. I was looking at different types of terrariums along with bonsai trees, mushrooms, painters, embroidery, colour palettes, sculpture, glass, ceramics, interior design.... anything that caught my eye!

I knew that I'd want to incorporate a little scene into my terrarium, but what would it be contained within?? I loved these Victorian style glass houses:

And I also loved these antique Demi-John bottles:

I kept both of these in mind when I started some doodling. I decided to approach this challenge by drawing and painting some elements first, then scanning them into the computer to create a digital design with them.

I started with some watercolour and inks.

 I scanned the pages in so that I could use the textures on the computer and try experimenting with some of the plants. I drew a quick bottle outline on Illustrator, popped some of my paintings inside, and here was my progress by the end of Day 1. 

Although I liked some of the inky textures, I didn't feel like this medium was giving me the style of drawing that would work for me. In my research I found some amazing examples of beautiful watercolour paintings and studies, but I know that this isn't a medium that I'm good at! I decided that I would try something different on Day 2. It can be pretty disheartening at this stage in a design, when I'm unsure what direction I'm taking, but it's best to stay positive and look at every trial as part of the process. I think every doodle and experiment contributes towards a final outcome, even if it seems like an unnecessary detour at the time!

On Day 2 of my design challenge I had a new hit of inspiration. One of the requirements of the brief was to incorporate a word or phrase into the design, so I decided that this might be an excellent excuse to include a pun (I do love a good pun.)

I was staring at my progress so far thinking 'This is terrible. My terrarium is terrible. In fact, it should be a terrorarium.' Bingo!

I stripped away all of the lush green elements that I'd built so far, and started with a messy canvas and a caption. Now, I could source some new inspiration that REALLY appealed to me! What sort of creepy plants and evil dwellers would inhabit a terrorarium? Could there be tentacles and venus fly traps and buried monster bones? Yes. Yes there could. At last, this was a concept that I could see working!

I started doodling again to get some new elements to play with. I also scanned some more inky textures and paint splats for extra murkiness. 

I still didn't feel confident with my drawings, but I was reminded of some old doodles I had from my university days of swirling sea-scapes. I liked the idea of having sinister curling vines around my 'terrors,' so I thought that these drawings might be a good place to start.

I took the original drawing scans and Live-Traced them in Illustrator. I liked the shapes as they were, but wondered what the negative spaces were like. I inverted the colours to find out.

This helped me to see what shapes I could use for my 'evil' plants. I started pulling some of the shapes away from the rest of the drawing, and I could see venus fly traps and curling vines starting to come together!

My favourite shape came from part of a wave shown below, and when I rotated it I could see it becoming part of the mouth of a venus fly trap. 

Finally, it felt like I was hitting on a style that I liked! I continued working with my abstract shapes and drawing new ones to build more venus fly traps. I also started adding eyes to create characters.

Now that I had my 'terrors,' I needed to build up my jar around them. I was really enjoying this technique so I created some new drawings to use.

Again, I Live-Traced them in Illustrator, inverted the colours, and started pulling out some of the lovely shapes. 

Now I had plenty of elements to work with! I used my original bottle shape and started building my design. Working in black and white helped me to focus on my layout, and I quite liked the contrast! The final designs will be displayed in an online gallery as a small thumbnail initially, so it was important to think about how our design would look at this tiny scale. I knew that contrasting colours should be a priority to help communicate the detail as clearly as possible.

I tried adding my bottle onto a background to get a feel for how the design could look. I used scans of inky marks and distressed papers, and went through lots of different stages and experiments.

During my trials, I accidentally changed the colours in the bottle, but this created the spookiest version yet!

I really liked the piercing white eyes, but felt that for this particular design challenge it was perhaps a bit too dark. 

I also wanted to create some creepy lettering for my text component, so I tried a few different styles. 

It had taken several days to reach this point in my design developments, but I felt like I finally had everything I needed to build my submission!

I tried keeping my layout minimal and my colours reduced:

I liked the bold contrasts but thought it needed extra depth and a more interesting palette. I went back to my Pinterest research and pulled out some images with colours that I loved. I follow an amazing blog called Oh Joy ( and this is my go-to source for beautiful colour palettes and inspiring ideas! 

I singled out this photograph in particular for the colours, and created some swatches from it to inspire my own palette. All credit goes to Joy Cho of!

With these swatches to hand, I started to inject more colour into my design. I tried adding a gradient to my bottle, then adjusted the transparency settings to emphasise the colours. This was already making a huge improvement! I kept the base of the bottle dark and rich and then faded out towards the top as if there was an eerie atmosphere being contained within...

I liked these colours, but experimented with a few more options before I settled.

I continued adding more swirls, texture and a 'Terrorarium' label to create this:

The submission was almost ready! Just as I was finishing off the final tweaks, I accidentally changed the Transparency setting on one of my background layers and created an exciting new colour way. (I have these happy accidents fairly often. I'll pretend this one was intentional...)

It was becoming even more difficult to choose the final colour scene! Eventually, I settled on a lush teal background. I carefully checked the submission guidelines and prepared my presentation board, and my submission was ready. My entry - TERRORARIUM!

I tried not to obsess over the 'competition' side of this challenge, and just focused on creating something fun and appealing that I could imagine developing further. I'm really happy with my outcome, and realise that this design would never have existed without the inspiring brief we were set! I would definitely recommend getting involved in any future Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search competitions for a refreshing new challenge. 

We had to keep our entries under wraps until the winners were announced, and you can see the full list of semi-finalists here: Lilla Rogers

Sadly I didn't make the cut, but after seeing all of the amazing entries I wasn't surprised! There were 999 submissions altogether, and only 50 could go through to the next round. I can't imagine how they were able to decide between so many lovely artworks! You can see the whole gallery of 999 entries, including mine, here: Global Talent Search