Winter Makers Markets

In the run up to Christmas I’ll be out and about peddling my wares with other creative sorts in and around Norwich.

Sat 26th Nov – Norwich Makers Market 

• Sun 4th Dec – Clutter City @ Norwich Arts centre

• 16th – 18th Dec – Xmas Makers Market @ Shoe factory Social Club

I’ll have Illustrated local maps, books, badges, magnets, notebooks, cards, earrings, necklaces and more 🙂



Daily Sketching Goal

They say you should draw something everyday if you want to improve. Lately I’ve been a bit slack on the drawing front. It’s so easy to fall behind when life gets in the way. Juggling projects, client briefs, admin, emails and trying to have a life as well, sometimes leaves little time for self development work and without a goal it’s easy to let it slip.

With that in mind, i’ve decided it’s time to set myself a little daily drawing challenge – to draw something everyday and post it up on my Instagram (#FGDailyDrawings) and my blog once a week. It should be a good way to get into a sketching routine!

I had a little warm up drawing session yesterday, both in town and with the birds. To keep it neat though I’ll start properly today – 1st August

Things to Consider when Creating Illustrated Visitor Maps 

Visitor maps play an important role in any visitor attraction. They provide an instant overview of the site on arrival, help visitors to easily navigate the area, promote walks, highlight services (e.g. toilets, shop, café), encourage people to visit key areas, and make a lasting visual impression of the site.

They’re usually found on welcome boards near the entrance, on information boards around the area and in visitor leaflets and guidebooks, allowing people to navigate on the move.

Although their main purpose is to help visitors to find their way around the site, they also need to be visually interesting and to enhance the visitor experience. They need to convey all the relevant information, in a clear, engaging manner to get both kids and adults excited about what the site has to offer.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of things to consider when creating (or commissioning) a new visitor map. I have used my recent illustrated map of Conkers Discovery Centre as an example.

Understand the brief 

This one is pretty important. There are lots of things to consider when being briefed (or briefing) an illustrated map.

Area – Make sure you know the area that needs to be covered by the map.

Format / Purpose – What will the map be used for? Is it just for large format visitor/welcome boards, or also in leaflets? Will it be used on a website for online promotion too?

Size – How big will the artwork need to be. Will it need to be provided at different sizes to cover Web use, leaflets and larger signage?

Deadline / Schedule – When does the map need to be finished? You need to consider time to do the illustration, send and collect client feedback at various stages, and to output for print (or send to a designer). If you’re commissioning, you need to take into account any lead time that the printers have. You may also need to consider that the illustrator/designer may be busy and not able to start the work immediately.

Illustration Style – Make sure you agree to an illustration style before the map gets underway. Pick some examples out of similar styles, so both parties know what is expected.

Key Sites and Points of Interest – Make sure you know which areas need highlighting.

Colours – Will the map have to fit into any current branding? Is there a particular colour palette or fonts that should be used?

Any other specific requirements – Does the map need a key / numbers? Does it need to specifically appeal to children? Does it need to sit in a particular design/shape?

If you are replacing an existing map – Ensure you know what wasn’t working with the old one, and make sure that this issue is addressed within the new map.

Visit the site 

Take lots of reference photos, make notes, draw sketches, talk to the staff and visitors – anything to help you build up a clear picture of the area from the ground up. You gain a lot of understanding from walking around the site that you can’t get from aerial imagery or other maps.

Visual reference

Depending on the time of year of your visit, you may not be able to get enough info from your trip (I visited Conkers in the winter, when the trees were bare, some of the key areas hadn’t been built, and others weren’t open.) You will need to get your hands on as much supporting imagery as possible to work from. Other maps are also very useful. Any other maps of the area, including past visitor maps can help you understand the site and area a bit more. Look for online maps, Ordnance Survey maps, and any other supporting material to help you build up a good picture of the site.

Conkers map visit

Plan the map – what goes where?

I start by mapping out the different areas and pathways, to get a ‘base map’. For Conkers I used two sizes of paths, highlighting the main and the smaller walkways. You can jot down the locations of the key sites to make sure they’re in the correct places. Once this base map is done, I usually send it to the client to make sure they’re happy with the underlying map.

Conkers map visit

Populate your map

Once the ‘base’ map is approved, I start adding in the ‘points of interest’. I will rough these out and drop them into their places, occasionally tweaking the base map a little so they fit and the pathways are not obscured. Once the roughs are approved, I’ll do an inked version and finally add colour, giving the client a chance to see and approve the illustrations after each step. I will also add in some trees to indicate wooded areas.

Conkers map visit

Adding in a key / labels

Sometimes adding in lots of labels can make a map look very messy. I’ve taken to adding in a numbered key to a lot of my maps that have multiple areas and points of interest. This keeps the map clutter free, so labels don’t cover the map and fight for attention. The placement of the key will depend on the shape of the map, and usually tucks into an empty spot in the page. I tend to add in icons for services such as toilets, shops and cafés to keep them visually separate from the key areas. When working on the Conkers map, I combined the use of a key with labels for the few major areas around the site. This gave the labelling a sense of hierarchy.

Conkers map visit

Once the Conkers map was approved, I handed it over to their graphic designer who had been commissioned to design their leaflets and signage for 2016. He dropped the map into his designs and replaced my fonts with the ones he was using for the design work.

Conkers map visit

You can see the finished visitor map in the final design of the 2016 leaflet. By making sure you understand the brief, the requirements and the area, you can ensure you have an attractive, informative, readable map.

You can download the new visitor leaflet as a PDF from their website, and the new signage can be seen around site.

This post was originally published as a guest blog post on the PSLplan blog

Pubs of the Cathedral Quarter Walk

It’s been a couple of weeks since I joined one of the free walking tours of the Norwich Cathedral Quarter, that my illustrated map was used to promote.

There was a huge response to the press campaign and the walks were all booked up within a couple of days of being promoted.

Luckily, I managed to book a couple of tickets for the ‘Pubs of the Cathedral Quarter’ walking tour before they ran out. I’m so glad I did, as it was a brilliant couple of hours.

We all met at the Adam and eve pub, where we had a swift half before Jonathan Hooton, our guide and current chairman of the Norwich Society introduced himself and handed out copies of the map.

He talked about the history of the Adam and Eve which is believed to be the oldest public house in the city still serving. The links to Kett’s Rebellion and the death of Lord Sheffield who was killed in the area and supposedly died in (and apparently haunts) the pub.

We moved on to the law courts, where there were at one time three pubs on long gone roads. the Worlds End, the original Beehive, and the Cupid & Bow. This area used to house the gas works, so was once a busy part of the city. The Beehive had a huge window attached to the side of it, which, when it was demolished, was relocated to a building on Whitefriers, and can be seen today.

Walking past over white friers, and down Palace st we passed the wig and pen (White Lion), and two other long gone pubs, the Bakers Arms and the White Friers. On Riverside he told us about the New star/Jolly waterman and we made our way onto Fye bridge.

On Fye bridge Street lies the Mischief, Originally a merchants house, built with mullioned windows, knapped flint and a fancy fireplace, which can still be seen today. It was originally named the Wine Vaults, and then in 1763 renamed the ‘Man loaded with Mischief’ after the Hogarth painting of the same name. In the 60s it was renamed the Mischief Tavern

We made our way up Magdalen street, and around to Fishergate, where there are several long gone pubs. Then back onto Fye bridge street where we walked past the Ribs of Beef, Olives, which was once a pub called the Turkey Cock, the Black horse tavern (now the opticians) and Take 5 (the Waggon and Horses / louis Marchesi) – these were all affected by the widening of the road to make room for trams. There used to be a building next to Olives (Turkey Cock) on the corner, but it was demolished to make room for the road. They were all owned by Stuart and Patterson (S&P) who re-fronted them in a mock tudor style.

We finished up at the Maids Head Hotel, where we had a brief history of the building, and some of the clientele and societies associated with it.

It was a brilliant walk, and if they decide to put on some more, we’ll definitely be checking out some of the others – there was something for everyone. The full list can be seen here The Medieval churches walk looked really interesting, and they have their own website here, and had produced a brilliant leaflet with info on each church and a map, which can be picked up from the Forum or the Adam and Eve.

There’s also a great book on the history of Norwich pubs, it’s recently been updated, and includes some handy maps and lots of info and photos. I found it in Waterstones in the city, but I think it’ll be in Jarrolds, it’s on Amazon too: Amazon link. The website is also a great resource for anyone interested.


10 Things i’ve learned on my freelance journey so far…

It’s pretty much 4 years since I went freelance now. It’s been a brilliant, rewarding experience, and I couldn’t imagine going back to working a ‘proper’ job. I’ve learned a lot since I started out, so I figured it might be a good time to round-up a few of the things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Working from home is tough: It’s hard to get used to being alone all day, it can get pretty lonely and having no-one to bounce ideas off can feel a little frustrating at times. Studio pets are great though and I’ve found it’s been really helpful to get out and see people too. Building up a network of friends and like-minded freelancers to meet up with, swap stories and experiences and even collaborate on projects and exhibitions with helps it feel a bit like you’re part of a bigger community.
  2. Time Management: You’re your own boss and if you want to get paid, you have to keep on track of your own time and put in the hours. Luckily there are ways to combat this, I’ve found tools such as Toggl really useful for keeping track of my time throughout the day and on different tasks and projects.
  3. Keep a record of your projects: It’s a great idea to keep a spreadsheet with all your jobs listed – it’ll help you keep track of clients, jobs, income and invoices, you could even add columns for time taken on a project, purchase order numbers, and any outgoings too. It’ll help you with your tax return at the end of the year, and make quoting for similar projects much easier.
  4. Manage your finances: Life as a freelancer is full of ups and downs, you’ll have a dry spell, wondering whether this is it, then several huge projects will come along at once. To make it easier on your finances, it’s a good idea to put some money aside during the good times, to see you through any rough patches. It’ll make it a much more bearable experience and you can get on with self-initiated work and self promotion without worrying too much about the next pay cheque.
  5. Creating extra income streams: A great way to use spare time is to work on creating extra income streams. Extra income streams support your freelance work and once set up, they can drip-feed you a bit of extra money every month. Examples include an online shop and selling prints and products, having products in local shops, teaching, tutoring, and creating stock imagery, eBooks, or resources.
  6. Create a routine: I’ve found it pretty hard to get set into a daily routine if I’m honest. BUT once I found one that worked for me, I found it a great way to make sure I get stuff done and make time for certain tasks. It means I start work at a reasonable time and stop work before having dinner. It also means I make time for a bit of downtime too.
  7. Downtime is important: It’s really important to take time out for yourself, to relax, unwind and generally take stock. You’ll feel better, happier and more inspired for it. I’ve struggled a fair bit with this, but over the past year or two, have realised that there’s more to life than work.
  8. Do some exercise: It makes you feel better, healthier, happier, more productive and it’s so easy not to do when you’re busy working from home. Last year, I got a Fitbit and realised how little I moved. I’ve since built going for walks (often taking a photo on the way as a little creative task) and doing a bit of exercise into my routine and have felt a lot healthier.
  9. Make time for personal work: It’s really important to make time to do some self-initiated stuff. It fuels your creativity, enables you to play, experiment and try out new ideas and ways of working. It can often lead to some of your best client jobs, and new ways of working can feed into client work too.

    IMG_6676 copy
    I painted this map for fun, but it has led to some of my biggest commissions.
  10. Nurture client relationships: Clients are the lifeblood of your business and word of mouth counts for a lot. A lot of my newer clients have come from recommendations from existing ones, so it’s really important to make a good impression.

The Making of GoGoDennis

This Summer, Norwich will be taken over by a blaze of 84 huge Dragons sculptures – the GoGoDragons. A follow on from the gorillas of 2013 and the elephants before that. 

GoGoDragons is an interactive art trail organised by Break charity (You can see their website and the excellent work they do here) and Wild in Art. Each sculpture is sponsored by a local company, and painted by a local (and sometimes not so local) artist. The sculptures all have Bluetooth sensors in them, so with the help of an app, you can complete the trail using a smartphone. You can also fill in the trail map and send it off the old-skool way to win a pair of flights from KLM. You can download the trail map here, or pick one up from the Forum, or Jarrolds.

My world map design was sponsored by Konectbus and Anglianbuses, and was inspired by medieval maps and the monsters who inhabited them. 

Continue reading “The Making of GoGoDennis”

Freelance life – 3 years in.

Once again, it’s been a while since I wrote anything on here. My blog has been somewhat neglected in favour of social media lately – If you’ve been following me on twitter, FB or Instagram, you’ve probably seen a lot of what I’ve been up to.

A lot has happened in the last 18 months, both on a professional level and a personal one. I’ve worked on lots of brilliant projects for some lovely clients, expanded my portfolio a lot – I’ve decided to specialise in map illustration (not exclusively) I’ve met lots of excellent people – many fab local artists and illustrators, painted some dragons, had some exhibitions and have taken part in some great local markets and street fairs. I’ve been to more funerals than I’d have liked too. (I shan’t go into that here)

I’ve also just reached my three year anniversary of being freelance, and it seems to have gone in a flash. I’ve now been freelance longer than I’ve spent in employment, and it’s been a really enjoyable learning curve. I’m happier (and more overworked) than ever. I would recommend it to anyone though, and it’s really not as scary as it seems at first. The fear of having no work, quickly turns into worrying you might have taken on too much.

Continue reading “Freelance life – 3 years in.”

Latest Projects…

It’s been a while since I wrote properly on here, the last few months have been crazy! I’ve been super busy working with the lovely chaps at Green Android on a brand new set of kids craft books – ‘Mini Crafter’ to accompany the ‘Mini Artist’ series I did a couple of years ago. As well as producing hundreds of new illustrations for the third and fourth books in our ‘How to Draw’ series – Space’ and ‘Vehicles’

They’ve both been brilliant projects to work on. For the Mini Crafter books, I was commissioned to design, make, and photograph all 11 step by step projects in each of the 4 books. They’re quite a diverse range of titles – Junk Modelling, Puppets, Masks, and Clay Modelling, and together they saw me making all sorts of fun and messy projects, from bin bag snowmen, to vampire masks, and Toilet roll tigers. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it!

I’m particularly pleased with the clay modelling title, which I was (if i’m honest) a tad apprehensive about. I’d not really done much clay work before, so it was a bit of an unknown. However, It’s the title i’m most pleased with and i’m over the moon at how some of the models worked out.

Continue reading “Latest Projects…”

I’m a Busy Bee at the mo…

It’s been a while since i’ve posted on here, I’ve been super busy working on new books for the Bolognia book fair at the end of the month, alongside some other brilliant projects.

Some great stuff has been happening lately though that I just wanted to share…

The little Illustration collective that I’m part of has an exhibition up at Cherryleaf coffee house in Norwich all this month. It looks fab, and i’m dead proud to be part of a group of such lovely talented and organised people. We all took a classic book, and re-designed the cover art. They’ve come out brilliantly and everyone has done a fab job.

Continue reading “I’m a Busy Bee at the mo…”