Those were the days

I'm having one of those "Anywhere-but-here" days.  You know the ones.  When things suddenly pile up and it feels like it might be easier to escape rather than face the immense to-do lists.

A lot of times when this happens I imagine myself escaping to somewhere I've never been.  Shall we follow Gauguin to Tahiti?

But this time I decided to imagine myself in a place I've been before; someplace where I was really happy.  I scanned through my travel pictures, and hit upon Tuscany.  Our time in Italy was filled with autumnal sunshine, wine, olive oil, and lots and lots of happiness.  (That's where we got engaged, after all!)

So here we are, an antidote to the to-do lists: a sketch of the many towers in San Gimignano, Tuscany.

What do you do, when you feel the to-do lists towering over your head?  I'd like to know!  

Adventures in... Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

I just returned from a weekend in Dublin, visiting a friend who recently got a job lecturing in medieval art history (think the Book of Kells) at Trinity College Dublin (I'm so proud of her!). 

I've never been a very good at keeping travel sketchbooks, so I decided that my one goal for this trip was to take some time to do some sketching.  Luckily it wasn't too cold in Dublin, so I didn't have to try to hold a pencil with mittens.  

I only brought pencils along with me; I tend to pack far too many art supplies and then never use them at all.  This time, I only travelled with a selection of pencils, an eraser and a sketchbook.  The simplicity of my supplies made the sketching less intimidating.  There were no decisions to be made (pen or pencil?  Colour or no?), and less to carry in my satchel.  

I haven't posted all my sketches.  Many of them were really messy, just little doodles to help me remember moments I enjoyed.      

This trip to Dublin was a substitute for going to Bologna.  The past two years I have joined thousands of children's book writers and illustrators in an annual pilgrimage to the Bologna Children's Book Fair.  I love the fair, and I love spending time with so many talented and inspiring people...  

But this year is different...  

For the longest time I've been working relentlessly towards my goal of becoming a children's book writer and illustrator.  I love what I do, and I love striving for ever-greater opportunities... but... somehow...the relentless pursuit of one goal at the expense of everything else results in a very flat and shallow life.  

I need to take a small step back to spend time with my friends; have new experiences; be inspired by the random things I encounter. 

And on that note, I need to hunker down in my studio and work towards another illustration deadline (due Friday! eek!).   

Dublin Castle

Georgian House and Plane Tree, Dawson Street, Dublin

Into the great beyond

This week I finished the last of a long sequence of deadlines.  I rushed and panicked, and then sent everything in on time anyway (so why worry so much?).  And now I have this feeling of release.  You know that moment when a helium balloon escapes your hands and it bobs around within arm's reach for a moment before zooming upwards into the great void of sky?  

That's exactly how I feel:  at the moment I'm bobbing around, not far from removed from my previous project.  I can feel the rush of air, and that sense of free breathing.  I'm done!  Yay!

But, any second now, I'll zoom into the great unknown and I'll be surrounded by the outer atmosphere. What?  You mean there's no work on the horizon, for the foreseeable future?  Eek!  

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the illustrations I completed for my latest illustration projects.  They're all commissioned by Pearson Education and Oxford University Press (both in South Africa).  

The Tea Robot

Yesterday afternoon Alicia Padrón and I had a twitter conversation about our mutual wish for an assistant in the form of a robot. Alicia wanted hers to make her coffee and bring cake; I'd love mine to bring endless cups of rooibos tea.

She drew the cutest coffee robot ever invented. (See here) And I promised to draw my version of a tea robot. This is a super-duper quick sketch because I'm panicking to finish a huge job before tomorrow.

Where's that soothing cup of rooibos tea when you need it?

Don't worry. Everything is going to be amazing.

It was one of those days when I woke up and wished I could go straight back to bed. Working as a freelance illustrator means that my days are largely self-motivated. If I don't get something done, I'm the only person I have to answer to (aside from the occasional deadline). And... speaking of deadlines, I love them, because then it means that I'm needed! But this also means that I am often too hard to myself. I probably speak more harshly to myself, and more critically, than any manager, editor or boss would. Sometimes I need to remind myself to enjoy the moment, and remember that I'm doing what I love.

So, I went for a walk in the (almost) rain to clear my head and attempt some ambulatory encouragement. Low and behold, the universe sent me the sign I needed. At the corner of Westbourne Grove and Chepstow Villas in Notting Hill I saw a shop window whose sign read, "Don't worry. Everything is going to be amazing."

I suppose I have to take the universe at its word, and believe that it is true. Wasn't it Deepak Chopra who said, " attention: nothing is random, your life is full of signs and symbols."

I haven't posted much artwork lately, mostly because my current illustrations are of the boring variety (more Roman pottery, anyone?). However, I have been turning a little bit of spare time to working on one of my book dummy ideas. I had shelved the sketches for "One, Two, Buckle my Shoe" several months ago because I couldn't see where they should go. But, now I have a little more clarity.

And remember. DON'T WORRY: Everything is going to be amazing!