art

Hand-Drawn Summer Postcards (and Inspiring Illustrators…)

Holiday Postcard with Quentin Blake Frame


Harry loves to draw – at the moment.  His enthusiasm goes in fits and starts, so I try to go with the flow and encourage him to have fun with painting and drawing and thus delay for as long as possible (forever, I hope) the moment when he throws down his pencil, decides that he’s ‘no good at art’ and is lost to the sports field forever.

We’re going on holiday soon and I’ve designed Harry a pack of blank postcards to draw on during the long waits for dinner, or in quiet times between dips in the pool and races on the beach.  We’ll post them home to family and friends – and address one to ourselves for our Memory Box – and it should be a fun, creative way of capturing the best bits of the holiday. He’s already feeling inspired..

Hand-Drawn Holiday Postcards 1

The back of the postcard is a simple template with  - crucially – space at the bottom for the artist to sign their name (and because after all that hard work drawing, it’s only fair that the grown-ups should have to do all the rest of the dull writing and address-filling);

Postcard Template

And the front of the cards I’ve either left blank or used this brilliant free download from the illustrator Quentin Blake’s website (see later) to make the white space a bit less daunting and provide a bit of additional inspiration..

Postcard DIY

I’ve packaged Harry’s into a box with a set of fun twistable crayons and we’ll pack them in his case at the last minute, along with approximately 104 other things that he considers to be critical for a week by the sea (Batmobile, pirate telescope, Lego, winter boots, random household objects etc).

Hand-drawn Holiday Postcards 2

They make good small gifts for Harry’s friends as we prepare to say goodbye at the end of term…

Hand-drawn Holiday Postcards 4

You can download my template below if the idea appeals (and there’s no reason why this should be just a children’s activity of course; I’ll certainly be painting a few of my own to mail alongside Harry’s ;-) ).

Postcard Printable

Talking of inspiring children to paint and draw, I love discovering how some of the best-known illustrators are providing resources and encouragement to help kids do just that.  I mentioned Quentin Blake earlier, who has a site full of activities and projects, like this one where you are encouraged to decide – and draw – the marvellous person who has just arrived at the door;

Colour_in_no_4The Guardian newspaper in the UK featured a series of awesome illustrators showing how to draw famous characters from their books and animated films, like Emily Gravett, who is helped by the unreliable Cedric in teaching us how to draw dragons;

How-To-Draw-Dragons-by-Em-001 How-To-Draw-Dragons-by-Em-004

…and the wonderful Polly Dunbar who draws pigs, step by step… (follow the link for the whole tutorial).

Polly Dunbar draws pigsdrawing by Polly Dunbar

I remember that when I was growing-up, copying pictures and learning how to draw the characters and things I loved were what slowly built my confidence… and I’m hoping it does the same for Harry.

I’d love to know who your favourite illustrators are, and any other links and resources… the more the merrier!  Here are a few more of mine;

Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar) has a great site with kids colouring pages but also resources for artists on how to create wet-tissue works like his.

Fans of the Gruffalo and Axel Scheffler’s drawings  can find lots of brilliant crafting activities here

Elmer is our current favourite bedtime book; David McKee explains here how to draw elephants like Elmer – or if colouring-in is more the ticket, find a printable here.

Have a great week!

Kate

 

Quick Tricks: Painted Paper Hearts

DIY watercolour hearts for valentines day


Thanks for the wonderful cake ideas last week; inspiration enough to keep us going through till Springtime!  This week has been a crazy one at work (I’m back to full-time now), but with Valentine’s day just around the corner I’ve spent a few minutes making these hand-torn, watercolour hearts to use in various ways.  All you need is a heart-shaped cookie-cutter, a sheet of watercolour paper and some basic paints – and about 10 minutes to spare.  No more artistic skills than that, I promise you… Torn paper hearts Valentines watercolour hearts
Take a sheet of regular watercolour paper, and place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on it.  Cut very roughly around it and snip at each end of the shape to get you started.  Now press the cutter down hard on a flat surface and tear around it so you have a heart shape.

how to make torn paper hearts

making paper hearts

Loosely mix up some red & white paint and swirl until you have a vibrant, watery pink.  Load a big brush and just wash it all over the shape.  You can add areas of deeper colour for an ombre effect.

painted paper hearts

Let them dry (you can paint both sides if you’re using them for a garland), and you’ll find they settle into a beautiful array of different shades and tones, with the colour deepening at the torn edges;

Watercolour hearts for valentines

…and the only thing left to decide is how to use them!  I’ll be using mine to make a Valentine’s card and matching gift tag, and will also use a white chalk pen to scribble our planned Valentine’s day menu on it (I’m cooking for us at home), to nestle on plates on the table.  These would also look great strung together to make a garland, or simply adorned with a love message and then tucked discreetly in your loved one’s pocket to be discovered later in the day… the possibilities are endless.

valentines card



Finally, if you enjoyed my post about watercolour stencilling, try using cookie cutters instead of stencils – it works beautifully (and is great fun with kids…)

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing..

handbag logo

Quick Tricks: Printing Onto Tape

Magic tape printing master

How are you… are you having a good week?  We are beyond excited as our New England trip looms; suitcases are packed and stand in the hall (somewhat prematurely, meaning we have to rummage in them daily for crucial things buried deep inside).  Harry is determined that his entire Lego collection should accompany us, along with his stuffed-animal menagerie, so every night under cover of darkness we stealthily unpack his backpack and try to lighten the load a little.  We cannot wait!  A quick craft therefore this week, squeezed in between frantic completion of work projects and endless small preparations and errands; I present to you the art of printing onto tape.

This may well be one of those crafts that divides readers into those who cry ‘Lawks! That’s genius! However did I live without this knowledge?’ and those who are frankly mystified as to how this could ever come in useful.  Have faith; read on.  I used Scotch magic tape, because I had it to hand, but coloured washi tape also works well and easy to print on and peel.  I decorated a box of inexpensive wooden pencils from here, and now have a pot of prettiness on my desk for those times when only graphite will do…

pencil on book

To print onto washi or satin tape (don’t try using high-glass tape like Sellotape; the ink won’t adhere and you will end up in a tangled, inky mess and blame me..), firstly print out your words onto a regular sheet of paper.  Check that the font size is right for the width of your tape, and then cover each line with the tape, as below.

printing on tape 1

Now run the sheet back through the printer, positioning it the same way as before so that it prints over the original text and – Ta-Da! – over the tape itself.  Wait for the ink to dry (don’t skip this step; adopt a yoga pose and think zen thoughts until you are sure it has dried).  Then gently peel the tape away, and position it onto your pencil (or envelope, or giftwrap, or whatever else you want to use it for).

tape printing 2

printing on tape 3
If you’re covering pencils like these, gently roll the tape around the sides and then press firmly into place.  I’ve gone for the understated, Muji-esque look, but blinging bright washi tape would be equally delicious.

printing on tape 4

Pencils on notebook

Printed Pencils

I used exactly the same technique to print a sheet of tape strips to use on the back of envelopes to help them stand out from the dreary bills and other junk mail that arrives each day;

Washi tape Printing

So there, as promised, a lightening quick technique to use whenever the fancy takes you….

DIY printed pencils

I’ll see you soon!

Kate

DIY Concertina-Fold Photobook

DIY Concertina Photobook Project

When I was in Paris recently, I saw a range of beautiful silk-covered concertina photo albums in the window of a stationery boutique.  A tiny, eclectic paradise stuffed full of the most beautiful things, it was a shrine to all things paper.  Their beauty diminished a little when I saw the price; about 25 Euros, or £20/$35.  Alors!

I resolved to have a go at making a few of my own at home to capture photos  of special days or big events  - and to make and give as gifts, packaged up with a little pack of photo-corners so that recipients can fill them with whatever photos they like.  I made one to go in Harry’s Time Capsule, with a selection of photos reflecting a typical day this summer, so he can look back and remember what it was like to be 3yrs old…

Concertina Photobook DIY folding Photobook
DIY Photobook Then for something a little more grown-up, I found some pretty Paris street map paper and made a concertina book of the best photos from our Paris trip; a copy each for me and my best friend Vicky who came with me…

Paris Concertina Photobook
Parisian Concertina Photobook
DIY Vacation Photobook

All you need for this is a large sheet of black craft paper (or any colour, if you prefer something brighter for the inside), two pieces of cardboard, some spray glue and a sheet of decorative paper.  Oh, and a stack of heavy books to place it under at various stages.  If you’re feeling inspired, click below for the step-by-step directions (and do let me know how you get on!)

DIY Concertina Photobook Instructions (click the link to download and print, or simply view them below)

DIY Concertina Photobook Guide Notes

How to impress with your watercolour skills, even if you have none…

watercolour stencils DIY from katescreativespace

You can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Turner and Kandinsky refined their watercolour skills over decades, diligently painting day after day as they mastered the art of pigment on paper, water and brush.

Not us, oh no.  This is, after all, the home of slapdash crafting where most projects take less than an hour and benefit from the accompaniment of a glass of wine.  And I’ve discovered, somewhat by accident, that using basic stencils can create impressively accomplished results with very little skill.  It’s a great thing to try when you have a few minutes to spare, and the results are likely to be as good if you’re 8 as if you’re 80 (and there’s not much we can say that about).

watercolour palette

A few basic materials are all you’ll need; simple stencils, watercolour paints and something to mix them in (I used an inexpensive plastic palette), heavyweight paper and brushes.  The choice of paper is the most important thing; using 300gsm paper will help the paint flood within the stencil but then be quickly absorbed, reducing the risk of it running.

DIY materials

Once you’ve chosen your stencil and assembled your paints and paper, simply hold it in place lightly with your fingers and brush your chosen colours into the stencil.  Work quickly, so that the colours can mix before they dry.  Warm colours work beautifully together (pinks, oranges, reds and golden yellows), as do cool ones (blues, greens, lemon yellow), but there are no rules.

bird in pinks

If you have a steady hand, you can whip your stencil off straight away; otherwise, wait for the paint to dry completely.  I’ve found the best technique varies from one stencil to the next (I guess it’s to do with the shape); for my hummingbird I was able to lift the stencil off instantly and the still-wet paint retained a perfect silhouette.  For the pigeon at the bottom of this post, it took 20 minutes patient waiting and a cup of coffee before it could be successfully revealed.

watercolour stencils tutorial

Once I’d done a few stencils, I began experimenting with rubber stamping, into both wet and dry paint.  Make sure you do this with the stencil in place to get a clean finish within your chosen shape.

watercolour stencil and stamp

watercolour pigeon with stamping

pigeon stencil how to

I used these bird stencils, but letter / monogram stencils would also look wonderful .  If you don’t have any stencils to hand but do have craft punches, simply punch out a shape in a sheet of thin plastic or cardboard, and use it as a stencil.  Use the finished paintings for cards, gift-tags or collage, or even frame them as paintings in their own right.

So; a morning’s artistic activity where you should be able to refine and develop your prowess in the space of an hour.  Much better than a lifetime spent starving away in some bohemian artist’s garret and waiting for the muse to strike…

stencil painting

Weekend notes

weekly shop

You just know it’s going to be good weekend when you go to the supermarket and find all the Spring bouquets discounted to £1.  Even then, buying flowers for yourself is somehow deliciously decadent.  Add baguettes, fresh figs, french cheese and drizzling honey and you have a sunshine feast in the making; never mind that I forgot the far more crucial household staples (domesticity will never come easily to me; lack of effort, I suspect…).

The same trip took me past a haberdashery store which was selling roll-ends of fabric; I bought some majestic raspberry velvet which will easily see Harry through a childhood of Harry Potter cloaks, wise man nativity outfits and Santa hats, plus a length of this cheery tea-party cotton for which I have a myriad of ideas; it will hang over my desk till inspiration settles.

time for tea

And on the theme of lovely-but-unnecessary purchases, the postman delivered me a long-awaited and utterly impractical lukrecja cotton apron from Polish company COOKie.  Whilst serious cooks would doubtless throw up their hands at the skittishness of my apron, I am giddy with adoration for it.  In its defence, it is made of heavyweight industrial cotton and designed for the kind of heavy-duty labour a kitchen skivvy needs.

lukrecja apron

Undermining this defence completely is the publicity shot for the apron (below), with the tagline  ’it is easy for Lukrecja to leave the kitchen to buy vegetables whilst absent-mindedly forgetting to wear clothes under her apron’.  Hmmm.  Completely mad, and all the better for it.  I have been waltzing round the kitchen in my jeans and apron, twirling and admiring myself in the oven door and every other reflective surface.  Dinner has been late.

LUKRECJA bicycle

In other despatches from the weekend, we’ve been channeling our inner Picasso, making a homemade picture for Harry’s grown-up brother who has recently moved house.  Harry adores Chris, so going to Chris’s first grown-up house is a very big deal.  In real life, Chris and his girlfriend Emma look as if they have stepped from the pages of an Abercrombie catalogue.  Harry, in the manner of Lucian Freud, has chosen to render them looking rather simian and obese, with no hint of flattery.  He stood back to examine them, then waved his hand dismissively; ‘they are done, mummy’. A 3yr old artiste.

Harry draws BIG, so I took his two pictures and scanned them in, adding the names and date, then mounted the print and placed it in a simple silver frame; he is immensely proud of his efforts, which manage to look stylish and understated in C&E’s hip neutral living room.

picture gift

The sun has shone this weekend, almost throughout, causing Britons up and down the country to hurl off their clothes and lie on every available patch of grass.  It’s a cultural kind of carpe diem; sunlight is so rare and cherished that we tend to overreact completely to the melting of frost and make the most of every ray of warmth.  In a rather more domesticated reaction, we hung washing on the line for the first time this year, and Harry tackled the spring-cleaning of his playhouse (for about 5 minutes; he gets that staying-power from me).

spring cleaning

We’ve planted our sunflowers, turned over a couple of flower beds and then there’s just been time, as the spring sunshine fades today and the air cools again, to lie on the still-damp grass and look up through our magnificent magnolia tree, which has suddenly burst into bud and bloom.

Heaven.

magnolia skies

I hope you had a lovely weekend too…especially those who planted sunflowers with us; let the race begin!!

Kate

Typography for toddlers

Typography is definitely enjoying a moment in the spotlight, with the ubiquitous Keep Calm and Carry On mantra leading the field.  I saw something a little like this (below) in a glossy spread of someone else’s magazine, whilst reading over their shoulder on the tube. The phrase stuck in my mind as being exactly the kind of guidance we want to give to Harry, so I had a crack at creating it in eye-popping brights on my home laptop and printer (in Powerpoint, nothing more sophisticated).  Framed simply, it graces the playroom wall and adds a splash of colour, and can be replaced within minutes for something cooler as Harry grows up.

Even more temporary, which suits my fickle nature, is this poster which I made for the bathroom today, reminding Harry of the morning routine (when read aloud, of course; though destined for great things, literacy for H is still a little way off…).  Being 2, Harry loves a good routine, although one which involves hair brushing and the donning of clothes is less appealing.  If H could skip steps 1-4 and depart the house full of Cheerios and cuddles but still sporting PJs and a bedhead, the world would seem to him to be a very lovely place indeed. Tacked to the wall with a nail and bulldog clip, we can replace this whenever it gets dogeared or needs updating.  I don’t anticipate it still being there at the point that we need to add ‘shower and shave’ to the list, but hey, who knows…

If you fancy having a crack at something similar but can’t face starting from scratch, my files are attached below for download, so you can tweak text and colour to personalise… enjoy!

WORK HARD PLAY HARD poster-1

mr sunshine master

The Lost Art of Letters

As a child I was completely obsessed by beautiful stationery. The dark, furry space under my bed reserved for Special Things To Be Kept Safe From My Brothers was stuffed with papery treasures given to me at birthdays and Christmases, but which I deemed far too precious to use; gift sets of paper and envelopes, 5-year diaries in which my most important thoughts would be captured for posterity, and so forth.  I would regularly take these out and admire them but rarely actually used them, lest they run out.  Or, in the case of the diaries, in case my thoughts turned out to be not quite important enough after all.  A hopeless case, as you’ll agree…

Now, as a mostly-grown-up, I love making stationery to use myself and to give as gifts, and with a printer and a cupboard full of paper to hand, I’m less inclined to stockpile.  As a parent, I also want Harry to be able to say a proper ‘thank you’ for presents and the kind of general loveliness that frequently arrives from relatives and Godparents. So when the Easter Bunny delivered big time, bringing not only chocolate but also, awe-inspiringly, a fire engine, I made him these cards to send out as thank-yous.  Big enough for a crayon scribble on the front from H, and small enough for a brief but heartfelt thank you from me, they do the trick nicely, and also make him keen to join in the fun…

Even for younger children and babies, it’s nice to have something personal; I made cards like these for a friend’s daughter on her first birthday, both to make her mother’s life easier and to give something a little different to the norm.  Tips and notes for both projects below, for those interested in giving this a whirl….

Here’s what I used for the two projects above:

1. craft edging punch for the ‘Amelie’ paper; this one from Martha Stewart 2. A selection of A5 coloured, textured card – Papermania does great packs in different sizes. 3. soft bristled brush for removing loose glitter 4. coloured triangle cut freehand from scraps of card 5. Glitter – any type will do, though Martha again has a great range 6. Glue pen (for precision) and craft knife, and finally 7. Paper tape – not shown in these projects but great for accessorising home-made notecards and paper.

Making the Monogram Cards:

1. Choose your letters and colour combinations.  I used a die-cutting machine for these but you can buy pre-cuts shapes in craft shops and on Ebay, or simply draw and cut out freehand. 2. draw a half-circle for your bunting; I used a glass cloche so I could see both sides of the line. 3. Add your bunting triangles alternating colour; use a glue pen for neatness. 4. Find a toddler and scribble away!

For the faux-letterpress Nursery Notelets:

1. Print out your chosen wording onto an A5 sheet, centring on the page. 2. Measure and cut your card to fit the size of your chosen envelope 3. Use an edging punch to carefully decorate the top edge (this is MS’s Birds on a Wire, from Amazon) 4. Carefully glue one of the birds and sprinkle liberally with glitter before brushing off. 5. Admire. Decide these are too pretty to use. Store carefully under the bed and accidentally forget about them.

After all this careful snipping and sticking and sighing at how zen and restful such crafting can be, especially when one’s son and husband are exhausting themselves with much shrieking on the new trampoline, I decided I wanted to make some of these for myself (below).  The final version of course has my address, but I thought that might just be over-sharing, so here’s the website instead..