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Life lessons from my MA - part 1

Reflections on reflecting about Children's Book Illustration. So wise.

2023 was an absolute cracker. I’ve just handed in my final project for my MA Children’s Book Illustration and am completely exhausted, but I’ve never felt more alive.

2.5 years of hard work, a thousand trains, 3 winters of drawing outside, and 4 picture books later I feel very powerful. I’m so proud to be lying on this sofa thinking back to 3 years ago when I nearly didn’t dare to apply.

I’ve learned a LOT, especially in this last year, so here’s a rundown of my biggest revelations:

1.Just show up

I’m learning that creating good work is just about showing up every day. Each day doesn’t have to go perfectly, and I don’t need to know what I’m doing.

Over time this daily showing up adds up.

Last summer I drew from life every day for 100 days (#3materialsdrawing challenge). Many drawings were mediocre, a fair few were rubbish. But I liked a lot of them and it felt really good make 100 of anything.

This built up a bank of useful visual references. I found that even quick or bad sketchbook drawings could more easily be worked up into final artwork than starting with a blank page.

And on a spiritual level, pre-deciding that just showing up is ENOUGH made me much happier to work and create from a place of calm, joy, and inspiration. Ergo, more work and better work.

2. Reflect

In this reflection, I am reflecting on how beneficial reflecting was to me this year(!)

I wrote morning pages since the start of last summer thanks to Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. Writing 3 pages each ay about my creative process made it so clear what was working and what I was enjoying, and therefore what was best to try next. I made creative decisions quickly and had a clear plan for the day.

I really enjoyed using liquid watercolour in my sketchbook. So I tried using it for my MA book project ‘The Bird That Wants to Boogie’ and it brought the joyful vibe the book was craving.

Reflecting reminded me how much I’d done so far giving extra fuel to my picture book fire. And I completed final artwork for 2 whole picture books in 3 months! (In. SANE.)

3. Look after myself

At the start of the summer I joined CrossFit. Yes, I have become one of THOSE people.

Exercise has been a part of my daily routine for years, but CrossFit gave me the extra confidence, strength, and sanity I needed to carry me through the most intense 6 months of my life.

Sweating my way through a brutal 7am workout in the company of other nutters meant I’d often exceeded my own beliefs in my abilities before I’d even brushed my teeth. So just imagine what I could do with the rest of the day?!

I also tried to see my friends as much as possible.

And baths. Lots of baths.

4. Collaborate

I used to think making good work was about working hard, alone, at a desk. YUCK.

I make work about happiness and togetherness, so I tried a new approach. I also had no time, so whenever I got stuck I asked a buddy for a call or talked to my hubby (a.k.a Chief Creative Consultant Colin). Talking things through was SO MUCH MORE FUN and SO MUCH QUICKER and than agonising over things alone.

The titles of both my final projects were other people’s ideas (thanks Lorraine!) as were the cover designs (again, thanks Lorraine, and thank you to my MA colleagues).

Very proud to have made 4 books on my MA. Thanks to everyone who was a part of the process...I loved working with you!

I also loved contributing to my MA buddies’ projects, and learning from their processes. Win win win.

5. Draw what I like

And like what I draw.

When I struggled to make choices about what projects to make, I looked at my instagram feed where I could see clear patterns in what I was drawn to drawing (ahem).

Colour was an obvious love. And plants. And tall things.

Themes of London, botanical gardens, and ‘place’ in general were apparent. So I made ‘Look Up! London, a narrative non-fiction exploration of London’s tall landmarks. And ‘The Bird That Wants to Boogie’, a picture book dance party in a greenhouse.

Check out all my new book work on my website and stay tuned for more MA finale antics next month.

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