Puppy Diaries – Vol.5

LillyWe’ve had Lilly for just over a month now. It’s been a full on month of watching her every move, pulling random bits and pieces out of her mouth that she’s found on her travels, seeing her terrorise Elsie one minute then see them cuddle and clean each other the next.Elsie & LilHaving a puppy is harder than I thought! Some days seem more challenging than others when Lilly wants to jump up and chew Elsie’s lead (I thought this was over, but I spoke too soon!) when Elsie gets protective of Lil around other dogs and when Lilly scans the room with a mischievous look in her eye and you just know she’s looking for trouble or something to chew! By the way she has zillions of chew toys but all she wants to chew is the wicker basket containing the toys ;) When you see them cuddled up sleeping in the same basket, playing with the same tug toy and sharing the water bowl it’s just too cute and makes it all worthwhile. It’s still an adjustment having a pup around that you have to give your full attention to but it’s all good.LilI can’t lie I’m looking forward to a more chilled out and not so high maintenance (I hope) dog in the future, but let’s face it that’s not gonna happen for awhile so it’s all about embracing her crazy puppy behaviour and enjoying getting to know her. She’s found a little puppy buddy in the park, a pedigree staffie called Sid who she loves running around with, I might try and get some snaps but she moves so quickly it’s hard to capture much. From these photo’s she’s looking very chilled but trust me this is probably only 30% of the time!Sleeping LilThis week we started obedience training at the Dog’s Trust. It’s a shame as there’s only one other puppy! He’s a gorgeous Doberman with giant paws called Boycie. We’re doing the puppy equivalent to the obedience training we did with Elsie so we’ve already started the training at home but I figured it’s good to have a bit of bonding time with Lil away from Elsie which is making a big difference in her training. It’s hard juggling the two of them while trying to train Lil. She got to play with Boycie at the end of training class which was hilarious! It was all paws and legs!wet dog Elsie & LillyThere’s been oh so many walks, lots of training (working on stopping Lil pulling on the lead,) a couple of runs (just with Lil unfortunately as Elsie is on lead rest still,) pigs ears (gross!) and not as many shoes missing & ending up in the dogs bed this week. I think we’ve definitely made a bit of progress :)

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Currently working on & website update

Tea work breakToday the sun is shining and I’m feeling happy as I finally have internet back on in the chalet. Long story – short is that we had unlimited internet that we tethered through a mobile phone, it was glorious but it only lasted a few months as the contract changed and we were no longer able to tether from the phone. Because we live in a wooden ‘house,’ at the end of a garden in a rural area internet is hard to come by and at the moment we’re using myfi but it’s limited. Last month I went WAY over so this month I’m reminding myself to turn it off. Up till now I’ve been sending odd bits of work/blogging etc. via coffee shops. This morning I decided to leave the studio again as I’ve been feeling entrapped in a prison of my own making recently (dramatic? I know!) So I went for tea at my local (and prettiest) tea shop. I’ve just got a new commission for a German book cover which is lots of fun, you can see the sneakiest of peeks above with some of the typography.   Website updateWith the internet back up and running (hurrah!) I also took the chance to update my website with some new work and take down a few of my older pieces. You can take a look here if you like. I’ve been thinking about refreshing the look of it but i’m not sure what I want to change…any critique would be very welcome! Below is a recent book cover for German publishers Rowohlt, it’s translation is ‘Reading upside down.’ It was really coincidental that when I got this commission I’d just finished listening to the audio book and I was in Germany at the time. Book coverI hope you’re having a good week so far, it’s so nice to have the studio door open with Lilly & Elsie playing in the garden :)

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Puppy Diaries – Vol.4

Me & LilThis week Me and Avie took Lilly and Elsie for a lovely countryside walk in the sunshine and then to the pub for the first time (for Lilly.) She met lots of people and other dogs (including an Akita in a bikini…don’t ask!) I’m hoping there’s lots of countryside walks with pub lunches (and wine!) in our future :)With LilLilly has seen horses, rabbits and alpacas this week! I took Lilly for her first run this week. It was the day after Elsie had been sedated for elbow x-rays which resulted in 4-6 weeks lead rest(!) so I left her to have a rest and me and Lilly headed out at 7:30am to go to the woods. Because Lilly is just a pup she can only exercise for short amounts of time because her bones are still growing so we only went for a short run in the local woods. She was off lead the whole way and was amazing! I kept giving her encouragement and treats along the way. There was one time I nearly stepped on her and after that I think she learnt to keep away from my feet! As we neared the end of the run there were tree trunks lying flat and she bounded up to them leaping over, she loves jumping!! When we got home the grass was still icy but she had a crazy puppy moment and started going mad, she was hiding behind (tiny) tufts of grass and bowing and pouncing on me soo cute!The CricketersI’ve been dreaming of summer this week and I can’t wait for more sunshine filled days walking and playing with the dogs.PuppiesNext week is Lilly’s first session of a 6 week puppy training course at the dogs trust so I’m looking forward to that and wondering how we’ll get on with a room full of puppies all distracting each other. It should be fun!Avie & the girls                                                                           xx

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Puppy Diaries – Vol.3

Puppy happinessThis week with Lilly has been really fun. She seems a lot more settled now and we’re all getting into a good routine with her. Having two dogs is hard work! Lil is a confident little pup, so far there isn’t anything she’s scared off, touch wood it stays that way! Puppy playThere has been endless amounts of doggy play this week, it’s great when they play together as they entertain each other & I can get on with stuff. I was ill last week which wore down my patience a little but Lilly really is a great pup to be around and you can’t blame her for being playful and inquisitive with bounds of energy, it’s all good!Chris with poochesThis week after lots of recall training Lilly was allowed off lead. I used a long training lead for the first half of the week and then dropped it (so I could grab it if needed) then took her off completely. I went to a quiet and safe park and she was so good! We bumped into a group of other dogs with two puppies so she got to have a good play with them, so adorable! Elsie has been quite protective of Lil when out walking when other dogs are near which is cute but not desirable! I’m using a squeaker to help combat this and hopefully we’ll get there in time. Elsie will do anything for a squeaky toy!  Lilly & lakeAfter going to the same park and practising recall during the week at the weekend we decided to go to a bigger park with more distractions, people & dogs. We thought we might need to put Lilly on the lead if it got too much but she was good as gold (proud parent!) Lilly & Elsie playing ballWe had a great week with lots of playing, training and sunshine which was nice! I love the above photo – there’s no way Elsie would give Lil her tennis ball but it was fun watching them run around together, they’re practically doing the same pose (with their footing!) Hope you have a happy weekend!

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Getting started with running

Footsteps quoteIn the last few months I’ve started running and I love it. I find it meditative, it’s a really good form of exercise, opportunity for me-time and It’s nice to be outdoors. There’s a few different reasons why I started running; one of them was because I was walking everyday with Elsie (and now Lilly) and I thought I might as well be running, why not? Another reason was because of the winter months being gloomy and miserable and with working from home as well its really easy not to leave the house at all so running was kind of my incentive to get out, get some fresh air and give Elsie a run too. I always found even if I was running in the rain or frost and the weather looked depressing outside the window being out in it the reality was a lot nicer and not so dark as it looked from the inside looking out. Running perked me up on rubbish weather days when I could’ve easily stay cocooned inside. Running gave me something positive to do during the miserable months of the year and I’m looking forward to running into the Spring and Summer and seeing how the runs change with the weather.

I thought about running for ages before I actually got started. I would make excuses to myself (although I wanted to do it) things like: running is high impact for your body I could injure myself and when I was heavier I’d think I’ll start running once I lose a bit of weight, ha! In an attempt to get into it I had a personal training session where I asked for a session on running but that put me off a bit as we did hill runs combined with strength training and more running, it didn’t really sell me on just running. When I did eventually decide to commit to go on my first run I went with Brooke as I knew she ran and we live near each other, she was a good motivator and it was good to chat to her about it too. I only ran once a week alongside my existing exercise regime because I only ran with Brooke. Brooke went to Thailand at the end of the year and I decided to sign up for a 10K race so that’s when I started running on my own and upping how often I ran.

Once you get the first run out the way the rest is just a gradual build up to running for longer and further. At the moment I run mainly on trails (so Elsie is off the lead.) I have a few different routes I take which is nice to mix them up depending on where I fancy going and if it’s really wet to avoid boggy fields. I run slowly and I don’t worry about the pace at the moment, I’m just happy to be running! Every Sunday I increase my distance by 0.5km so I run three times at that distance then increase. I know that I could probably increase quicker (and I want to!) but I feel like this approach keeps me injury free and wanting more. The goal of upping my distance each week keeps me focused.

Here a few tips on getting started with running and what helped me:-

1) Run with Someone. If possible start running with a partner, it helps to get that initial first run out the way and it’s an added bonus if they’re a runner already as they can share tips with you. If you don’t have anyone to run with take your dog (or borrow one!) I love running with Elsie alongside me.

2) Set yourself adjustable goals or targets. When I first began running my goal was simply to start. Then it was to run once a week with Brooke and then to run three times and complete a 10K run. If you can start off with really small achievable goals then it spurs you on once you complete them and keeps you interested.

3) Make a playlist. Apart from my last few runs I literally listened to the same playlist on every run! It probably sounds really boring but I liked having the same ‘running playlist,’ to listen to and use the same tracks as markers. Because I run more often now I like to mix it up with different music and I like listening to podcasts too.

4) Plan your route. When I started running I always ran the same route as it helped to motivate me to keep going and push a bit further each time. It’s good to chose a circular route so you don’t have to go back on yourself. Now I like to go on runs in new places as I get to experience different terrains and views.

5) Schedule your runs. I currently run Tues, Thurs and Sundays and I know that on these days I have to make time for a run. It’s good to set yourself the same day(s) each week as your running days as it gets you into a routine. If you’r running with a friend plan in advance when your next run will be. I also find if I schedule my runs I’m less likely to not go. (I use my fitness journal to plan my runs.)

I hope this might spur you on if you’re thinking about running, I only wish I’d started sooner :)

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Puppy Diaries – Vol.2

Me & LillyIt’s our second week of having Lilly and it’s full on! She has so much energy it’s a full time job trying to think up ways to keep her entertained. The best is when her and Elsie are galloping round the room or the garden playing together. Lilly likes to use Elsie as a springboard. The second best is the quiet times when they’re both cuddled up together or with me & Chris.Lil & ElsWalking has been fun with Lilly, there’s never a dull moment. She likes to constantly jump up at Elsie the whole time lead walking and try and chew her lead. We’re training her not to obviously and training in general is going well. Lilly in the parkShe can do sit and down really well and we’re still working on paw (pretty much nailed it) over (so cute!) and stay. She’s learning really quickly considering she didn’t know her name when we got her. This week she’s seen snow for the first time – she was too excited for me to get any pics, she was trying to dig it, run in it and surprisingly didn’t try to eat it! Her favourite things at the moment are antlers – yuck…Thanks Andrea! ;) slippers, trying to eat everything and spring boarding off of Elsie.Elsie & LillyThis week I took her to meet my nana & grandad for the day which was lovely. She’s really good in the car and her & Elsie look adorable in their matching little and large car harnesses! She also went to puppy class for the first time this week and there was only 4 puppies to play with which was a bit of a shame. Lilly was very confident whereas 2 of the other pups had never met any other dogs before so were a bit shy. Lilly plays with Elsie all the time so she’s used to rough play with a big strong dog – it was funny Lilly kept trying to paw the other pups which is a classic staffie playing characteristic, she’s learning lots from Elsie! Hopefully next week they’ll be lots of pups to wear Lil out!

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Confessions of an illustrator: money matters

Confessions of an illustratorI did a “confessions of an illustrator” post last year about 3 things I’ve learnt in 3 years (you can read it here) so today I thought I would stick to the same theme of ‘confessions’ to write another post about my experiences of working as an illustrator with a focus on money matters. My aim of writing posts like these is to share my own views and to reach out to other illustrators who may be starting out or in a similar position, I think it’s good to be honest about these things and I always love reading about other peoples experiences. If you have any questions or thoughts on this post, or want to talk about your own experiences please share below in the comments!

Now to my confession… :) 2014 was the first year I’ve made a living out of illustration. To be clear when I say made a living I mean earned a decent enough income to support myself or in other words earned a full time wage equivalent to some of my friends who have ‘normal,’ full time jobs. (This is within a year period.)

When I first started out as an illustrator I was desperate for the magic number. When would I start being commissioned regularly? How long would it take until I could call being an illustrator a full time job? Well it took me 3 years to get to 2014 and last year was the year for a full time wage. (Although I’m definitely not saying three is the magic number here and I’m certainly not comfortable thinking that the same will happen this year, there’s just no way of telling.) The years previous to this my income from illustration wasn’t bad, it was more of a part time wage which was equivalent to the amount of work I was doing. I was busy building my client list and developing my portfolio and work. I supplemented my illustration business with other avenues of income; part time shop work, nannying and dog sitting. My combined income was enough to pay my rent but it wasn’t easy. Up until 2014 my illustrations brought in a part time wage.

Income. Money. Wages. In my mind they’re all quite taboo subjects, am I wrong? Especially in the instance of being uttered from the mouth/pen/keyboard of an illustrator. I feel in our field it’s a bit of a secret topic. Maybe it’s just that it doesn’t really come up, I don’t know. Plus we’re always sharing our latest work, jobs and commissions, all the good fun stuff. Because of this I think it can be very daunting as a new illustrator. It can be hard when you’re not earning a lot and you have no way of knowing if this is the norm and whether it will change.

I have three years behind me now (which in my mind means I’m still very much ‘new,’ to this career, I have a lot to learn.) Money is one of those awkward topics. Especially when you’re carving out a career doing something you love, your not in it for the money (obviously) but you still need to pay your rent, buy food, afford living expenses etc.

I was hesitant at first to write this post and have had it sitting in my drafts for a couple of weeks but I feel like it’s important to be transparent about the ups and downs of being an illustrator. It’s not always about the high profile clients or latest commission. At the end of every tax year when I’m working on my finances I have mixed feelings (more so when I wasn’t earning full time) I’d feel incredibly proud of myself for earning money, real, good money out of my illustrations and at the same time feel disappointed that it wasn’t enough to fully support me in the same way a full time job would. When you break it down you can see that the days, weeks, months, years it takes has no relevance because in each moment of time and opportunity you are working towards the same thing and building from knowledge and experience.

I’m really proud of myself for last year and for managing to increase my income significantly and earn a decent full time wage. I’m incredibly thankful to my amazing agents and clients who support my work by promoting, advising/directing and commissioning me for various jobs. I’m also grateful to everyone who has shown an interest in my work, offered me words of encouragement and constructive criticism and kept me going.

I guess I wanted to write this post in the hope that it might help someone who’s in a similar position as I know how despairing it can feel when you’re working hard towards something and it feels like progress is small. Keep going! I have no idea how this year will pan out but I’m hoping that they’ll be lots of exciting projects and new commissions in the pipeline and that I get to carry on working and drawing and loving what I do. I hope you do too.

Thank you for reading my rambles.

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January round up

January-roundupI must admit I’m fairly glad January is over. I didn’t really want to jump on the I-hate-January bandwagon but during the end of the month it kinda steered that way. It was a long month of not a lot going on and lots of planning, not much doing. The best thing about January was getting a puppy, lots of running (I did 12 runs in January, yay!) going to the Theatre twice and celebrating one of my best friends birthdays, you can see the portrait I drew of her here.

Boring talk…This month I also organised my finances which sounds pretty dull (which it was) but I feel like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I really was quite disorganised on that front and it was all a bit out of control because of said disorganisation. As it was self assessment tax time I decided to give myself a bit of a finance overhaul. This resulted in lots of spreadsheets and lists and I feel like I’ve finally come up with a good system to enable me to see what money I have coming in and organise my outgoings in a more manageable way. I’m awful when it comes to numbers but spending a few days going through everything has felt really empowering and I feel soo much better! I think this will really help  me to keep on top of my saving goals this year too.

I’ve also been planning some exciting illustration projects which I’m hoping to be able to reveal soon once I put my plans into motion. I’m excited for this year but it feels a bit like it hasn’t really started yet. I’m hoping now it’s February things will start moving! I hope you’ve had a good first month of 2015!

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