October 31, 2017

The Making of an Illustrated Children's Picture Book: Part 2

So I left the last post about illustrating a children's picture book at the story board stage. You can read about part one here.

*Update. Things have been a little slow here lately on the blog. I have reevaluated my priorities and time commitments and for the rest of the year I will still post here, but not as frequently as I was. I will reassess in the new year and decide what direction I want to take with all my arty and crafty projects. I'm still producing tutorials, and will update here on my creative life now that my latest kids book is finished, but for the rest of the year it's going to be a bit slower here on the old blog! Ok, back to the blog post!*

After everyone is happy with the way the whole book goes together, it's time for the final roughs.

With this book, some of the pages were shuffled around and text needed to move and new quick roughs needed to be done. It is in this stage when you see the images with the text that something you feel needs to be changed will become apparent, where it might not have been before.

A section of a rough from one of my favourite pages

The text is a huge part of the book and needs to not be an afterthought. I designed where the text would go in this book, and had a lot of help from a designer. The space for type is allocated before the final roughs are done.

Looking through kid's picture books is interesting to look at the amount of space type takes, the placement, size and font choices. You'll see wavy text, enlarged text, bold text, hand written text. The choices are varied, just as the illustration choices are.

I do my roughs to scale. I did mine larger than the final book would be, so I can fit more detail in where needed.

Some pages need more nutting-out than others. Some I wrestle with and redraw parts, and I also use my scanner and photoshop to help me rearrange parts of the roughs if it's not working for me on paper. Modern technology!

Some come easily. I'm sure this is similar to the workings of many different creative pursuits.

Things that I have to keep in mind when doing the roughs are character continuity, and keeping the style throughout the whole book. I also nut out landmarks or features if there are a few pages that will feature the same area. You want the same colour & shaped roof on the same house on different pages for example. Notes are helpful for you to remember things when it comes time to render the final illustrations.

I read and reread the text, as it's easy to miss out on little details that you thought you would remember.

Once the roughs are all done they are scanned in, edited and compiled into a PDF for viewing by the publisher. For my last kids book, I made a little dummy book which I loved. It was great to be able to pick it up and hold it and flick through the pages and get an idea of the final look and feel of the real book.

Extra detail is added into the final roughs, and I like little surprises such as continuing themes that aren't in the text of a book. It's great to think of all your characters (and even background characters) as total individuals so you can make them unique in their expressions or what they're wearing.

Taking breaks is important. Minds go stale and tired, and after a break I return fresh with new perspective.

So many tea breaks :)

If I get a bad case of the fears, also known as procrastination, I remind myself that no matter what I do, I will always be better off sitting down and doing an hour or so of work. If will learn something. I will progress, even if just by a tiny bit. Even if it's a stuff up, it's a stuff up that needed to happen as it is part of the process. This mindset has helped me deal with procrastination a lot. No matter how dull and practical and unmystical that is!

The cover design needs some in-depth thought and a fantastic illustration. I'm hoping mine lives up to the task! It is after all the first thing you see, and it either catches your eye or it doesn't. I did a couple of different layouts, and it was funny that in a survey to some little people they all chose the one I liked least! Considering it's for kids, we decided to trust those fresh untainted opinions, and that they knew best.

The next instalment will be regarding painting the finals, and the final book will be on it's way very soon! Stay tuned!

Next up... painting the final illustrations

Jules :)

September 28, 2017

DIY Pet Memorial Stone

A craft DIY for you today in the form of pet memorial stones, if you have any furry friends to honour.

Just before our new pup came along I had a pang of guilt that I hadn’t yet made memorial stones for my two previous fur babies who have since passed on. So in their honour, I purchased a bag of mortar mix, dreamed up the project and completed the task. I couldn't find what I wanted them to look like online, so I came up with a project myself.

You will need:

-Mortar mix
-Cement additive/ fortifier (optional- but gives your finished piece extra strength)
-Chicken wire (use a small gauge- not the big size)
-Masking Tape
-Acrylic paint in black and white
-Matte medium

Tools & other useful items:

Pliers, metal spatula, rubber gloves, various clay tools or skewer, stamps, paintbrush, rags, plastic bags.

To start with draw on a piece of paper how big you want your stone to be. Scrunch up some newspaper and wrap it in masking tape. Make the scrunched newspaper shape about two thirds the size you want your final stone, as adding wire and cement layers will add extra bulk.

Cut some lengths of chicken wire and start wrapping around your newspaper shape. Cover the shape with approximately 3 layers of chicken wire. Use pliers to twist ends together and inwards so there are no spikes sticking out.

Take your mortar mix and mix some up adding some cement fortifier as per instructions. I used Bondcrete. I guess how much cement I’m going to use, trying not to make too much as I can always make more. Make your mix on the drier side rather than making it too wet. You will get better detail when it comes to making the marks, and a stronger mix.

Working on a plastic work surface start pressing your cement mix into the chicken wire. You need to do this all over the stone shape, including underneath. 

Keep adding cement until all of the wire is covered. My stones ended up having a flat base, and I just smoothed the cement all around the bottom edge for a neat appearance. On the top of the stones you need a fairly thick layer of cement, so that you can stamp & draw some elements in without hitting the chicken wire underneath.

When this is all done make the whole stone nice and smooth using your gloved hand or a metal spatula. It’s quite fun- similar to icing a cake.

Use a clay tool to write words by pressing into the cement rather than ‘drawing’, and use stamps with bold shapes to press into the surface. Fine detailed stamps will not show up so well. I made some stamps out of polymer clay specifically for this project.

Once you are happy with your creation, leave to set under plastic. Wrap the plastic around the stone loosely, as you do not want the plastic to disturb the surface of the stone.

Once the cement has set (keep checking at half hour intervals. It might take 1-3 hours and it still should be wet), come back and wrap wet rags around the stone, then wrap in plastic and leave to cure for 3- 7 days. Curing cement slowly like this gives it extra strength.

Once the stone has had decent time to cure let it dry, and mix some black acrylic paint with equal parts matte medium and enough water to make a runny mix. Working quickly, paint the black paint mix into the stamped and written crevices, and wipe the excess away using a damp rag. As I used a cement fortifier, my cement wasn’t super porous, so this stopped a lot of paint seeping in where I didn’t want it too. If you didn’t use fortifier, wetting the stone first might help.

If you want extra depth and contrast to your stone, dry brush some white acrylic paint over the top to highlight. You do this by getting paint on your brush (not diluted) then brush most of it off on some paper so that when you paint your stone only minimal paint is being transferred. 

Place your stone in the garden and you can remember those furry friends every time you wander in the backyard.

Yes, we named our previous dogs after Futurama characters!

RIP you guys.. miss you xx

I’m also thinking this project would work well as gifts to grandparents with little handprints pressed in with names and dates, heart shapes and pebbles pressed in.
Have fun,

Jules :)

September 21, 2017


Hello! My book project is nearly done, so I will be back babbling on here again in no time. I am dreaming up lots of outdoor crafty projects, as I want to get outside and away from the computer now that the weather is warming up. I'm thinking mosaics! And cement! I have caught the cementing bug :)

We have mostly an Australian native garden here but I still manage to find some colour for a vase

Spring has arrived in the land down under and it is a sight for sore eyes. I think the winter just gone was the coldest ever, or maybe it's just that I'm getting older? I'm not built for the cold.

Another reason for getting outside more is this little guy:

Meet Archie! The cheeky fluff- ball bundle of mayhem! Our newest family member.

And in honour of our not-too-long-ago-passed previous fur babies, I have finally made them memorial stones for their graves in the backyard. That was a project I'd been meaning to do for a long time. I have made it into a tutorial too, as I couldn't find instructions online specifically for what I wanted, so stay tuned for that one.

Another thing that's been taking up a lot of my time is cooking. Miss 6 has been put on a special diet by her integrative doctor which is similar to the paleo/ gaps way of eating. I'd go into why, but don't really want to get into finer details but I will say that I think functional/ integrative medicine is the way of the future! I'm doing the diet too as I just feel so much better when I eat this way. I do it mainly to tackle some niggling health issues that I have. I always believe in addressing the root cause of issues and asking the question "why?" Because I'm never satisfied with "it just is." :)

The authors healed ailments such as eczema and OCD through diet, and this just fascinates me no end.

My favourite cook book at the moment Life Changing Food

Mmmm veggie seaweed crackers and baba ganoush- from the book

Gluten free sausage rolls with homemade tomato sauce (both in the book) with a side serve of steamed cabbage and kombucha

I just wish I could eat this way and not have to make all of it. And the dishes are mountainous! I've started asking the kids to help me with washing up, and they can earn a bit of pocket money on the side.

So combined with puppy mayhem (it's like having a baby again!), masses of cooking, and the kids book I've been working on, things got a little crazy busy. I'm looking forward to chilling out a bit more in the warmer weather and focussing on what's important, and not trying to do everything and be everything to everyone. I think as mama's or even women we can easily get stuck in that trap, until we realise we must do some tweaking for everyone's sanity and ease back on some things. Hence the break from the blog. And I decided, that was OK.

Here's another little snippet from the book:

This dog is quite small within the illustration I did for this page, but I'm interested in enlarging parts I've done so I can see individual line marks and colours. I love seeing brush stories and paint marks.

I'm at the stage now where I'm touching up and editing images, so... nearly there.

Catch you soon,

Jules :)

August 31, 2017

Taking a Short break...

I have entered an intense period illustrating my latest book. Consequently, I've realised I'm not superwoman and I just can't do everything! So I'm taking a break from the blog for a few weeks, so I can concentrate on this book. I'll be back soon! Here's a sneak peak:

See you soon,
Jules :)

August 19, 2017

Painted Doilies as Wall Art

Hello creative souls!

I have a craft tutorial for you today to make some wall art using doilies. The fun thing about this one is that it's easy to do but looks really effective. And if you're a craft hoarder collector like me, you might just have some doilies lying around waiting for the perfect craft to upcycle them!

This tutorial recently appeared on Alisa Burke's blog. I like to post my tutorials here too so that you can find all my crafty projects under the one roof, so to speak. 

So, here's how you do it...

Painted Doilies as Wall Art

I had some lovely friends share their doily collections with me for this tutorial. It's great when others share their stashes with you for crafts sake!

For this project you will need:

-A collection of crocheted doilies
-PVA glue
-acrylic paints

The original doilies before receiving their make-over

First, I dipped my doilies into water and then wrung them out so that they were damp when I painted them. This makes them easier to paint. If the doilies are dry when you start they will just draw so much of the paint and water out of your brush that you will find you are forever adding more paint.

I watered down my acrylic colours to make them work more like watercolours. You’ll get a feel for how runny to make the paint once you start. Keep in mind your doilies will really lighten as they dry too, so even though my colours looked quite strong as I was painting them, they really lightened to pastel tones when they dried. You do need to use acrylic paints because we want those colours to be waterproof for the next step, and acrylics are waterproof when they are dry.

Paint all of the doilies, filling them all up with colour.

Once painted, leave them to completely dry.

Next, make a 1:1 ratio mix of water and PVA glue and stir well. Dip each doily in, saturate it with the glue solution then gently squeeze each doily out and lay flat on a sheet of plastic to dry (they won't stick to the plastic). You don’t want to squeeze them out too tightly that you are not left with much of the glue solution in the doilies, but you also don’t want blobs of glue in the little gaps either.

Now leave them to dry completely.

Once dry they can attached to a wall and will hold their shape. I think they look great in clusters. The more the merrier. I must get my hands on some more!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Jules :)

August 09, 2017

Home Decorating Book Review: The New Bohemians

I love home decorating books! I'm chatting "The New Bohemians: Cool & Collected Homes" today here on my creative blog.

This post contains affiliate links (see bottom of post for explanation).

Justine Blakeney has divided this home decorating book into different themes of boho. The modern bohemian, the folksy bohemian, the romantic, the earthy, the nomadic... and the maximal bohemian. Each section showcases various houses along with snippets of the lives of the people that reside within them.

The book explains the bohemian decorating style as it is seen today, which aligns with a shun-the-rules, creative, and free spirited state of mind. Best of all, it's an affordable way of decorating. I'm so glad I really love the boho home decorating style- can you imagine the damage on the credit card if I was into designer furniture!?

Bohemian decorating is about mismatching, displaying your collections, celebrating the sentimental and being intuitive rather than following rules such as "your rug needs to extend past the edge of your sofa by 'x' centimetres" kind of ideas that would stop people in their tracks with decorating because they feel like they don't know what they're doing.

This is one of those books that helps give you the confidence to shun the rules and just make spaces you totally love.

It was fun to look through the book and choose which bohemian style was for me. It was Maximalist, hands down! In the book it states that the maximalist boho "includes a whole lot of everything" and "decorates wild". Uh huh.

So much yes. What a gorgeous outdoor area...

I love how within the boho style Justina Blakeney has whittled the boho decorating style down and categorised each section. Each different category could so very much be it's own separate spin off book. I have a good friend who I would order The Earthy Bohemian for, and I'll back order The Maximalist Bohemian, thank you!

The book includes practical tips and hints to achieve certain looks, as well as some DIY projects too. There is an "adopt an idea" section, where she has zoned in on a detail of home decor and explains how to recreate the effect in your own home. The DIY projects go into more detail with step by step instructions.

And a boho home ain't a boho home without plants so The New Bohemians includes a handy guide  for the best indoor plants to use & their care. (My tip: Want to decorate boho? First fill your house with cushions and plants and you're almost there!)

Best of all The New Bohemians is full of lots of juicy pictures to gain inspiration from.

Overall I really enjoyed The New Bohemians. I think it's a fabulous coffee table book chock full of home decorating eye candy for the free spirited, the wanderers and the dreamers...

Find The New Bohemians on Amazon here.

Jules :)

*Affiliate Information: Affliliate links help me earn small commissions on products (at no extra cost to you), which helps support my love of blogging and sharing creative things. I only ever recommend or link to products that I'm genuinely into.

August 01, 2017

Creative Life Round Up

Hello creatives :)

It's been a few more days since my last blog post than usual. I have quite a bit on at the moment so posts may be fewer and further between, but rest assured I'm still here. I'll get a bit more regular with my posts when things calm down a bit here with my workload.

Time for a creative life round up! These posts are bits n pieces type posts, showing things I'm working on or thinking about or planning. Kind of like the blog post equivalent of all the left over veggies you have in your fridge that you turn into a soup :)

I feel like I haven't been achieving much because I have a children's book I'm working on brewing in the background that is taking most of my time, but gathering some images today and thinking about other projects that are happening and I'm not yet showing here, I realise I actually have got a bit of other creative work done!

First up is a dragon painting that has been requested of me. It's in it's final stages now. Nearly done, I think. It's acrylic on canvas.

I had one of my plaster birds hanging up on a wall and the hook fell off the wall! So a wing chipped. I thought I may as well make some more whilst I'm in the process of mending one. So I now have some plaster birds and hearts ready to be painted up. I have our local Arts Market to think about coming up later in the year which will be here before I know it.

As well as commissions and tutorials and artwork I'm supposed to be doing, I also love to create for the sake of creating. Creating art that has no owner waiting for it or no purpose in mind for it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Therefore, I'm free to just be as strange as I like and explore. That's when discoveries and growth as an artist happens (which is why I think working in sketchbooks is so valuable). 

Speaking of sketch books, here's a recent entry. Mixed media.

This cement water fountain sculpture that I made years & years ago is having some repairs done. Unfortunately the first layer of cement I added had gone off and didn't set, so I had to hose it all off and start again. It's a very time consuming project. Cement works in weird ways; it's hard yet sloppy, grainy but then you can make it super-smooth. It's heavy and subject to gravity, and it's so hard when cured but so delicate when unset. Knock a bit before it's set and it's gone! But I enjoy using it. I like it's permanency and the fact that you can put cement creations outside in the weather.

I have two tutorials nearly finished. One involves cement and the other doilies. Coming soon! I've also been dabbling with mosaic pieces out in the garage, but I might save those for another blog post. Nothing exciting to see yet. Just grouting some of the kids' old works. 

I'm now counting down the days to winter ending. I am tired. I feel like lying in bed watching movies and reading books and truly hibernating till the end of this month. It's not mega cold here or snowing or anything like in some parts of the world but I'm still feeling it. And where has this fatigue come from!? Bring on Spring!

Jules :)


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