Chronos and kairos

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My desk is a whirlwind of paper, pens, brushes and paint. One book is almost finished, with a little luck and prayer I’ll send it off by the end of the week, and then I can focus on two other book projects that need to be completed “emergently” (my daughter’s new word for urgently and emergency)

My other little whirlwind is napping, and then we’re going to bake banana muffins for our playgroup tomorrow morning. And maybe spend some time smelling the cherry blossoms down the road, and chasing the petals as they float to the ground.

There are perks to working from home: being able to set my own hours, spending lots of time with my daughter, and making coffee and stepping out into my garden whenever I want. But it’s not always glamorous. Being able to set my own hours sometimes means I work too much. When work is at home, how does one set boundaries?

These are things I contemplate as I rush towards illustration deadlines, and also try to slow down time with my daughter. It’s the endless push and pull of chronos and kairos: time that is fast, and time that is slow.

How are you starting your week today?

Progress not perfection

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Progress, not perfection. That’s my motto at the moment. Does that resonate with you, too? Are you also juggling a million tasks, and sifting through a gallon of priorities? How do we even start? 

This is how I started today: this morning I lay all the illustrations for one children’s book on my desk like stiff, white quilt squares and started painting them assembly-line style. I mixed my colours (cobalt green, opera rose and indianthrene blue) and lay the colour in washes on each illustration, one at a time. Slowly the layers built up and the squares of paper transformed from white to multi-coloured. 

This is an efficient way of painting. Quick even. But not easy. It means pulling the images apart in my mind so that I’m not painting people and characters and emotions, but fields of colour. The emotions will come at the end when I add the final details. 

So, I repeat, “progress not perfection” to myself as I work. The perfection will come at then end. Right now, progress is the most important. 

What are you working on? How could you simplify it? Make it easier and more effortless? Would making progress of any sort give you a confidence boost? Can I give you permission to start today, just start and do anything so that you’re toes are wet? I promise the water is nice, once you dive in!

The magic spell

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Watching my daughter grow up is like watching the progress of a magic spell. From one day to the next there is a new light behind her eyes, a new imaginative idea, and a deeper comprehension of the world around her. 

Her favourite thing to do right now is put on a lace and chiffon dress-up dress and dance around the room to the tinny twinkling of her plastic music player. She transforms from a leggy three-year old girl into a Renaissance Italian princess, bedecked in brocade, lace and silk. Her tiny leather ballet shoes peek out from the bottom of the dress. She takes deep, swaying steps, then rises on tip-toes and holds the long layers of her chiffon skirt delicately between her fingers. Then she turns slowly and does her “balancés” to the other side. 

When did she grow up? How did she know how to carry her head and her shoulders like a princess, as if she were born to it? 

And, what will she be tomorrow? Where will this magic spell take us?

In the studio

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Most days you can find me hunched over my studio table, pen flying across the page, trying to finish the art for three children’s books before the end of May. Colourful papers are scattered everywhere like flower petals falling from a tree: reference sketches spread on the floor so I can see them at a glance, working sketches and final art layered on my table in a careful sedimentary arrangement. The most recent and most urgent work is on the top. My laptop is open and humming, so that I can search for reference material at a moment’s notice. My favourite kuretake brush pens are never far from my side, and several can often can be found wound into my messy bun, or tucked behind my ears for safe keeping. Time of of the essence, and my mess, rather than chaotic, is actually a sign of efficiency.

Growing up

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Every day after lunch Mary and I sit together and watch some of her favourite cartoons before we cuddle down for a nap. We sit on her “reading cushion” on the floor. She folds herself onto my lap and stretches her legs along mine. Every day she measures them, and stretches her toes as far as they can go. “Mommy, I’m growing. My legs are almost as long as yours are!

 

She grows and changes so fast. I try to hang on to these little moments and sweet memories. Recording them in my sketchbook is a way to stop time from spinning forwards too fast.

Don’t forget, dear friend, that you still can enter to win a signed and doodled-in copy of my newest book. Just check out the link on the post below this. You don’t want to miss this chance!

Meet Lily and win a copy of On Our Street

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Meet Lily.

She’s loving, loyal and creative. She gives her clothes to charity. She collects books. When she sees someone who needs help, she always has a minute to stop.

 

She’s a character in the newest children’s picture book I illustrated called “On Our Street,” which is a compassionate look at poverty and homelessness for young children. It approaches the tricky issues as a conversation between and adult and a child, and offers simple ways for even the youngest children to help. It is an incredible and inspiring resource, and I’m certainly looking through it with my three-year old daughter. It is written by Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist extraordinaire, and Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist.

 

For my daily drawing, I decided to doodle Lily on the title-page of the book with my Japanese brush pens.


But I can’t keep Lily to myself. I’d love you to have her!


To win a copy just head over to this link! The grand prize is the doodle-in and signed copy plus an exclusive greeting card and sticker pack.  Five more North American winners will win copies of the book sent out by Orca Books. All are eligible to enter this giveaway!

It might be your lucky day!

 

enter here!  

 https://mailchi.mp/11d311ace091/onourstreetgiveaway

 

 

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One step at a time

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We are slowly reentering our routines. The washing machine is humming in the kitchen directly below my studio. I’ve hung clean laundry on the drying rack in a sunny patch of our garden for the first time this year. Is summer really on it’s way? My hands cradle a warm cup of coffee and my pens and pencils are spread in an array of rainbows across my desk.

 

This seems like such a serene moment. But, in reality I have three children’s books to finish before the beginning of June, and I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, considering life’s constantly complicated balancing act.


So, I’m focusing on the first steps instead of the whole journey. I’m making edits to my sketches that are due next week. I’m creating a shopping list for art supplies (I’ll need a lot of paper, and fresh pens). And I’m writing lists upon lists: some are realistic and achievable, and some are super-optimistic and coated with fairy-dust. I’m hoping I can achieve the first, and if I’m lucky, a little fairy dust might land on me, and I’ll be able to achieve the second, too!

In this moment: hanging laundry, sipping coffee, making lists, and modifying sketches.

 

What are you up to?


P.S. The address on the bottom of my fantastic mailing list is: the studio above the kitchen. Sign up on my home page and get a few sneak peaks!

Easter moon and pink mountains

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Hello Friends! I’m back in the studio and remembering our three-week trip to South Africa fondly. I had intended to post daily drawings of our holiday in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but when we arrived and started to relax, I honestly had no inclination to draw. That’s ok isn’t it? I left my sketchbooks, pencils and paints unpacked in my suitcase, and I never looked at them once.


Here are two little memories before I resume my usual studio hours in London. I loved waking up to the rose dawn light painting the reverse side of Table Mountain pink. It was the view from our bedroom window, and I couldn’t wait to draw the blinds to see the new colours each day. (Even if it was at 5am, with our little one’s early wake-ups).


And, in my quest to paint all the full-moons of 2018, here is the Easter moon, as seen from the wing tip of our flight from Johannesburg back to London.


Now my lists are made, my schedules are drawn up, and deadlines are fast approaching. I can’t wait to get started on it all. Plus, I’ll be hosting another giveaway next week, so stay tuned!

Hello world!

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Hello! I thought I’d introduce myself. I’m a children’s book illustrator, and when I’m not busy working in the closet-sized studio in my house, I’m playing with my three-year old daughter. I do daily sketches in my tiny moleskine sketchbook. It is a way to warm up my fingers, like a pianist playing scales, before I start with my “real” work. I love these daily sketches, and even when I have a hard day, when I can get nothing else done, the fact that I’ve taken 15 minutes to draw in my sketchbook, post it here , and connect with all you lovely friends, gives me so much joy. 

I also love sipping decaf lattes. Reading anything and everything. And writing in my journal. 

A few more random facts: I grew up in Canada but now live in suburban London (Kingston Upon Thames), my husband is South African and we love visiting Cape Town, my daughter was due on Guy Fawkes day (fireworks night) and, but she arrived early. 

Are you curious about anything? Ask me a few questions and I’ll answer them in a FAQ post soon. 


March 1st was also World Book Day! There’s so much to celebrate today!  I had two children’s books launch already this year: Princess Angelica and On Our Street. And another one is coming in October. I’m running a give-away to celebrate World Book Day and the magic of reading. I’m giving away a signed and “doodled-in” copy of Princess Angelica with a greeting card and sticker bundle from my online shop. It’s written by the incomparable Monique Polak. And Orca Books is adding in 5 more for five more lucky winners.

enter here! .https://mailchi.mp/9e3c58250faf/win-princess-angelica

 

 

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Worm moon snow storm

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I’ve been trying to document all the full moons of 2018. Last night’s “worm moon” was hidden behind a thick blanket of storm clouds, which were illuminated by the glowing city below, and the ghost of the moon behind them.Snow swirled on gusts of Siberian wind. 

This blizzard reminded me of the March blizzards we had when I was growing up in Canada; just when you thought spring was around the corner a storm would whirl through from the Rockies, dumping drifts of snow on the thawing ground. 

So, this is my home. Kingston Upon Thames. In March. We live across the street from an old WWII gun tower. 

Hopefully spring will come soon and the cherry trees will bloom, and the 150 bulbs in my garden will emerge from the frozen soil, painting the world with bright colours.

Snow in London

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This is the first snow she will remember. I loved watching her marvel at the trail of footprints she made on the quiet street; the cars layered with snow like iced cakes. The outside world was silenced by the deep, downy duvet covering our neighbourhood. Time stood still in that moment, and we watched the ice crystals fall from the sky and they landed on our noses and eye lashes. 

These little moments mean so much to her.

I try to remember this every day. But sometimes it takes something extraordinary, like a blizzard in London, to get me to slow down and savour the moment. 


What can you do today to remind yourself to live in the moment? 

Plans for the weekend

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Just when I was making grand resolutions to pursue my dreams with passion and courage, I got a little reminder to slow down and savour the moment. Mary has a fever and a bad cough. Nothing serious. Just enough to need lots of extra cuddles and naps. It’s in these moments that I know, without a doubt, what is the most important. My work is my passion; drawing and writing flow from my fingers, and when I can’t create on a daily basis I start to feel scratchy inside. But, the most important thing is nurturing my little family. So when someone needs hugs and kisses, I drop my paintbrushes and pens and run to their side.

This weekend I’m planning to do lots of sketching (for my big deadline on Monday), as well as lots of cuddles and cartoons with my baby. 

What are your plans for the weekend?

Dream plan do

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Want to know something? You don’t have to know your whole plan before you set your goals. You just need to have a dream. As your dream gets brighter and more tangible, your plan will become clearer. It is like a path leading through a misty forest; you dream of the glimmering, fantastic destination you want to reach, and as you walk, step by step, the ground becomes firmer and clearer and the path becomes wider. Just take one step at a time. And, most importantly, do your best!

What are you starting this week? I’m diving straight into the sketches for the next novel in the Princess Angelica series. Let me know what you’re working on in the comments! We’re all in this together!

Imagination for a day

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 “Do you want to be a doctor when you grow up?” I asked my daughter as she pushed her stethoscope against my chest. “I already AM a doctor,” she replied. -

Of course. -

She is whatever she imagines. She gets so immersed in her make-believe that it is more real to her than anything else. -

Isn’t that a wonderful way to live? -

I’m wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with creativity and flights of the imagination that are so tangible that you truly believe they’re real.