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…”

Release the BEAST! (From the east…)

A lot has happened here in the past month or so, I’ve had my stand at craft markets, been to conferences, and have been getting out and seeing people, which makes a nice change from working at home in isolation. It’s good to get out and connect with other people.

One of the most exciting things lately came from a twitter conversation and ended up with a group of us starting an illustration collective here in Norwich.  – BEAST!

BEAST! are:
Grace Sandford
Karl Newson
Kellee Rich
Mark Standbrook
David Hurtado
Me (Fiona Gowen)

We gave ourselves  a little project to get started on first, put all our names in a hat, and drew a beastly portrait of the beast who’s name we pulled out. It was a super fun project, and there’s some awesome drawings!

You can follow us on twitter here @BeastNorwich
We have a website HERE
and a Facebook page HERE

We’ve been working hard on some christmas cards, and have chosen a charity (The Hamlet Centre) to donate all the profits to. They’re currently at the printers being finished off, and we should have them available to buy in all our etsy shops, and at local craft markets soon!

Hooray for collaboration!

Autumn Clutter City and Winter craft market preparations.

On September 28th, I took part in the Autumn edition of Clutter City, a local craft market held at Norwich Arts Centre. It was a fab day, and I met some lovely people, Including the super-talented Kellee Rich, and Deerly Beloved Bakery, with their tasty cakes. 
I took along a fair bit of new stock: a good few of my new little notebooks, – Mushrooms designs and Norwich themed ones – as well as a new, improved stand setup.

For a couple of weeks beforehand, I’d been preparing some screenprints of my Norwich Illustrated map down at the Stew gallery and print rooms. It’s the first time in about 7 years I’ve done any proper  screen printing. I had a brilliant time, and learned a lot. I’m definitely going to go back and do some more work down at Stew. It’s a brilliant resource for local artists and printmakers.

I’ve also been accepted for several local craft markets in the run up to christmas. 
• Sat 26th Oct – Pottergate Crafts – Rackheath Holy Trinity 
• Sun 17th Nov – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
• Sat 23th Nov – Thorpe Christmas Fair
• Fri 6th Dec – Castle craft fair
• Sat 7th Dec – Norwich Makers 
• Sun 15th Dec – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
The Courtyard garden centre cafe is also stocking a selection of my earrings too. 
I’m currently working on some new stock, and should have some new screenprints, cards, notebooks and earrings for sale soon.

Zero2Illo 2013 ‘LIVE’ Illustration Conference

Last Saturday I got up super early, took the first train out of Norwich to Nottingham to attend Zero2Illo ‘LIVE’ a brilliant illustration conference set up by Jonathan and Lea Woodward. It was a series of talks and discussions centred around ways to progress your illustration career.
I arrived in Nottingham at about 8.30, so had plenty of time for a mooch around and to grab a coffee. What I saw of Nottingham seemed nice. There were some good looking abandoned factories as the train pulled in and there were also caves in the shopping precinct… I’d definitely like to go back and explore more of the city. 
The event was held in Nottingham Contemporary, a striking art gallery in the centre of the city. Architecturally it’s very bold, and apparently inspired by the industrial factories that were in the area, and the silk market.

The conference started at 10.30. After some tea, and a chat, Jacqueline Bissett – a prominent UK fashion Illustrator provided a keynote speech, and a great insight into her career and working practices. She stressed the importance of being open minded and keen; she also talked about how her style has evolved over the course of her career. 
Lea Woodward was up next, talking Strategic Business planning. She introduced us to her recommended business planning tool – the OGSM, – a kind of one page business plan – and with the help of brilliant illustrator Joy Gosney, talked us through how to fill it in, ensuring we get the most out of it. This was a really useful insight into how getting all your ideas and goals onto paper can help you achieve more. I’m definitely going to be taking this on board. 
‘Adding an additional income stream’ was the title of the next panel discussion. Featuring Gemma Robinson (illustrator / creative coach) and Alex Mathers (Red Lemon Club / Ape on the Moon). It was really interesting to hear how other illustrators are adding to their career. Alex focusses on helping people via his website and earning a bit extra from selling banner space, and stock illustrations. He stressed the importance of having a passion, and purpose for your ‘extra’ work. Gemma is a creative coach. After becoming disillusioned with the lonely freelance life (I think a lot of illustrators can relate to this), she decided to get out and coach others. She talked about the hurdles she has had to overcome – not least her crippling fear of speaking in front of people, but now she does it for a living alongside her illustration work. Both are very inspiring cases.

One of the most useful parts of the day for me, was having my portfolio reviewed by Victoria Pearce – a senior agent at Illustration Ltd. She talked about what agents look for in a successful online portfolio site. She reviewed three peoples websites – Including mine – and talked about what was, and wasn’t working in each of them. Her advise was invaluable, and she stressed the importance of keeping lots of work on the front page, and avoiding too many click throughs. She was a great advocate for the one page website – apparently there’s a trend for them at the moment. Her thoughts and review of the day can be read here.
Ross MacRae from Bikinilists – the events sponsor, joined in a panel discussion alongside Alex Mathers and Jacqueline Bisset. Together they gave us some very useful insights into smarter ways to market ourselves in the digital age and how to connect with more potential clients via email. He stressed the importance of following up on connections, sticking to a regular routine and staying in contact with people.  
Amy Taylor, a freelance accountant was up next. Her talk on accounting was fun, interesting and engaging, she gave us valuable advise on tax brackets, what you can and can’t claim expenses for (using a fab array of props) and the pro’s and con’s of becoming a ltd company. 
‘How to animate your Work’ was the final talk by Claire Cheung, of Wired and Esquire digital magazines. She gave us lots of tips about the best way to optimize illustration work to be animated, should the need arise, and how important it was for illustrators to know this in the digital age. She went on to give us some pointers on how to go about animating it yourself. It was really inspiring, and I’m definitely going to give it a go when I upgrade to Creative Cloud.

All in all it was a brilliant day. I met lots of lovely, inspiring people, learned a lot and came out feeling inspired and motivated. Jonathan and Lea did a fantastic job of organising the day and although they’ve decided not to host another Zero2Illo LIVE event again, I really hope they come up with something similar – It was a great opportunity to meet other freelancers and pick up lots of tips and advise. The speakers were all fab and everyone had wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon. 
You should check out the Zero2Illo website for lots of useful resources. They’re on twitter too, why not give them a follow @zero2Illo

They have a fab blog post on the day here too.

Autumn Clutter City

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting ready for the Autumn Clutter City at Norwich Arts Centre. 
It should be a good day, with live music, and lots of stalls selling arts, crafts and lots of handmade goodies. There’s always some pretty fab cakes there too. Yum. 

I’ve been expanding my stall a bit too, there will be lots of affordably priced illustrated earrings, notebooks, bunting and more.
Pop down and say hello! 

‘Yesterday’s World’ Map – Behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, I was approached by the lovely chaps at Creative Sign Co. to produce a visitor map of ‘Yesterday’s World’ – an attraction/museum based in the sunny seaside town of Gt Yarmouth. It’s a fab collection, showcasing old packaging, tradesman’s tools and lots of other weird and wonderful objects. They have a great display of old cameras and even an apothecary too.

Now the project is all finished, I thought it would be nice to share some of the process here.

After a couple of site visits, conversations and hundreds of reference photos, I got to work sketching out a plan of the building, the rooms and areas both upstairs and down, onto squared paper.

Once both floors were planned out, with everything lining up, I transferred the drawing onto isometric paper, where I started working upwards, plotting in the walls and walkways and making sure the map was clear and easy to read. 

I altered the plan on both floors to accommodate the 3D nature of the map, ensuring all areas could still be seen. Once the detail was all roughed in, I scanned it and dropped the drawing into a rough indesign layout and sent it off for approval.

After a couple of inevitable tweaks, I was able to start inking up the final drawing. Using the lightbox I traced over the rough in ink, with crisp lines, adding in more detail as I went. Once inked the drawing was ready to be scanned again, imported into photoshop and coloured up digitally.

For the colouring, I used solid colour layers with vector masks for each of the large areas – the floor, walls etc. This makes the colours far easier to alter once it’s all coloured up. When the base colours are all down, I started painting in the detail, shading etc and when finally happy with it, I dropped it into the indesign layout again, and sent it off to the client for approval.

Once approved, I made the file ‘print ready’ and sent it off to the client.

It’s brilliant seeing the illustrations you’ve worked on in their final environment, in this case, printed as 2x massive panels, to be placed both inside and outside of the attraction, as well as on a printed map and as a downloadable file from their website. This was one of my favourite jobs so far and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot whilst doing it.

The final project can be seen over in my Behance portfolio HERE

Illustration Friday – Robot

Just a little Illustration Friday post – I’ve not taken part in a while. This week’s theme – Robot

I actually did this a while back for a friend in Norwich. It was a t shirt design for one of his colleagues. It features a few Norwich landmarks – the Norman castle, and cathedral, and also the iconic market awnings.

TTS Warrior ©Fiona Gowen

Shirt proposal

Freelance – A Year In

Just over a year ago, I finally took the plunge and ventured out into the big, scary world of the freelancer.
My first new batch of business cards
Despite it being something I’d been considering for a while, the security of having a full-time job kept me from taking that initial leap. In spring 2012 however, the recession finally took its toll and I was made redundant from the little company I’d been working at. This was the push that I’d been waiting for. Rather than rush out to the job centre, I set about preparing myself for a life of freelancing. This was a fantastic opportunity and I was determined to make the most of it. Like they say, when one door closes, another opens.
Luckily, I’d been taking on the odd freelance project in my spare time to satisfy the urge to do my own thing. So already had a taste of what to expect.
Map – Work in progress

Although I had a couple of clients already set up, one of my major fears now was that they would stop giving me work for whatever reason. I was a tad worried about keeping all my eggs in the same basket. So I set about planning how to get some more. It started off gradually, but as the year has progressed, I’ve been gaining more clients. Mostly my enquiries have come through social media, chance meetings, and on the back of personal projects that I’ve undertaken. I feel pretty lucky that I’m yet to implement my plan… though it’s there, waiting, for when I need it.

 

Lily the studio bird
Working from home was something that I’ve had to get used to. I already had my studio set up in the spare room, so taking on a rented studio space seemed like an unnecessary cost. Although It would be nice to have a space where I could see and talk to other people, working from home has its benefits. You can drink as much tea as humanly possible, wear what you want, and listen to whatever music you feel like. Which is nice. I also got myself a little assistant too, a small parrot, (green cheek conure) who is a welcome distraction when things get a tad stressful.
Another thing that I’ve had to get used to is the lack of routine. There’s no-one to be annoyed if you’re late into work, and no-one to tell you to go home at the end of the day. It’s something I’ve admittedly struggled with to a certain extent, but am hoping I’m finally getting on top of. I’m still working longer hours than before, getting up earlier, and working later too. I still have to learn to put work down.
My skill set has grown with every new project, in order to accomplish the wide variety of projects being sent my way. I’ve learned a lot more about photography, 3D illustration and much more about working in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve also picked up a lot of new crafting techniques, crochet, needle felting and embroidery, as well as doing a bit of woodworking too for various books I’ve worked on. A fair few of these are now things I now want to carry on with in my spare time.
I’ve really enjoyed the journey so far, I’ve done some work I’m dead proud of and projects that I feel incredibly lucky to have been involved in. There’s been times of frustration, sleepless nights and stress, but they’re by far outweighed by the good. The best thing is that I’m now responsible for the work that I do, and that means doing every job to the best of my ability.
I’m incredibly grateful for the people who have given me a break, involved me in their fantastic projects, commissioned maps, illustrations and who have given me the chance to be my own boss.

My First Few Craft Fairs

At the beginning of the year, I set out to get involved in a few craft fairs.

It’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for several years, but although I’ve had bits up on Etsy for a while now, I’ve not got around to taking the plunge into the world of craft markets. It seemed like a bit of a daunting prospect, to begin with. 



A few months on, and I’ve now had my stand at around four local events, with varying degrees of success. Some have gone better than others, I think that will always happen though, depending on the day, the location, and the weather. My stand has grown each time, and I’m happier with it each at every new event.

Each event has been a bit of a learning curve for me. Seeing how people react to my products, seeing what people are buying, and what they’re not. It’s really very interesting. 
I’m constantly coming up with ideas for new things to sell, and am gearing it all up to centre around my Illustration, maybe with the odd crafty bit creeping in, but mainly Illustration. I’m looking forward to expanding it, with some larger pieces. 
It’s an exciting project, and I’ve met some lovely fellow stallholders, and some fab customers. There’s still a lot to learn though, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Clutter city!

I’m dead excited about being included in the spring Clutter City Market this year at Norwich Arts centre. There’s going to be lots of local artists and craftspeople selling their handmade goodies! 
If you’re about in Norwich on Sat 20th, then pop in and say Hello!