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Cynthia Amrine School days revisited

June 24, 2019

For those readers of Fishink Blog, growing up in the U.S.A in the fifties and sixties, the artwork of Cynthia Amrine may seem familiar. Her bold distictive style using, line, shading, texture and minimal colour was as popular then as it is today.

Many illustrators (like Helen Borten or Bernice Myers) working in the mid century found this style to be the way forward. Publishing costs were expensive, so artists were encouraged to use additional textures rather than colours. Cynthia’s work for children is particularly engaging as it’s clear, precise and yet still has an educational element, that combines both fun and humour too.

In 1965, Cynthia Amrine worked with librarian Mary Joan Egan to publish Using Your Library: 32 Posters for Classroom and Library, a lavishly illustrated book of tear-sheet posters for educators and librarians to promote library usage in primary and secondary schools.

Due to the interactive nature of this book, there are only a handful of copies still in existence – we can only assume it is because those posters were torn out and used in school libraries across the country! How many of my American readers remember these book illustrations and posters ?

Her popular style led to many books being written and published supporting her illustrations.

Her work features animals and plants.




Looking at the world around us.

How things work.

Man-made and natural things.

Alongside a wealth of great illustration.

This lovesick girl, below, reminds me of the style of Mary Blair.

Everyone is happy and times look carefree and fun.


Wish we could see more like this day to day in the world around us. Cynthia’s work reminds me of the drawings or Bernice Myers, you can find more here and here. What do you think ?

Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2019 Part 2

June 17, 2019

This is post 2 from my travels to the Manchester School of Art Degree show this week. Post 1 is just before this. The show is on until June the 19th so you still have two days to go and visit.

Opening times: Mon – Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat/Sun – 10am – 4pm at Manchester School of Art (Benzie, Grosvenor and Chatham Buildings, Cavendish Street, M15 6BR) and 99 Oxford Road (Old Manchester Met SU, M1 7EL). The Grosvenor building is stunning inside.

This piece of sixties sculpture also caught my eye on the local church.

Back to the final part of this years show and I’m starting off with students from the Illustration with Animation course.

Some quirky feathered characters from Matthew Rooney, without a feather in sight !

I also liked the sixties style of Fabia Fowler’s illustration. Look at that great scientist.

Michelle Shore’s work is much more natural in form and theme.

Eunjin Oh brings some simple yet powerful imagery to the show.

I always enjoy seeing sketchbooks.

Sian Manning created some intreaguing wooden blocks, with a CIA influenced theme.

For me the most stunning and professional show of work came from the wonderfully named Alexsandra Manastirska.

“Growing up with Bulgarian folklore guided me towards the fantasy horror genre. My passions are gaming and fantasy horror design. Gaming inspired me to start drawing and continually influence my work. Without it I woudnt be here and study illustration with animation. My dream is to one day to do illustrations and concept art for game companies”

With work of this quality I’m sure Alexsandra will get there too. She’s definitely one to watch out for in years to come.

A collection of beautifully cut shadow puppets from Chelsea Masterson-Brown.

There is a competition going on in-house to find the best sketchbook. Plenty of stunning ones to rifle through and explore some lovely drawing and ideas.

Like this one from Sharon Howarth.

Such beautiful work exploring natural scenes and ceramic forms.

A few quirky stetches by Yue Tam and Bjorn Martin.


A collection of stunning posters by Val Stepien from Graphic Design.

“Interested in publishing, editorial and poster design. Print lover. Trash collector. Passionate about image making and hand-drawn lettering. In my work, I like to combine handmade with digital solutions. I search for ambiguity and juxtaposition. The relation between the controlled and unexpected is what excites me. I try not to take myself too seriously – I appreciate a good sense of humour and intelligent dialogue with the viewer ”

I also liked these more technical drawings advertising MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) here in Manchester by Leah Tuson.

“I have a love for colour, form and typography that I use when creating visual identities, self-directed projects and illustrations. Working both digitally and in print, I aim to communicate my idea’s clearly, whilst also having fun with them ”

Finally onto the Three Dimensional Design show and three graduates whose work caught my attention.

The first being Roslyn Ashcroft. “In a culture where exhaustion is a status symbol and experiences are rewarded with immediate results, when do we ever take the time out of our busy schedule to be mindful and reflective of the present moment? The concept of mindfulness, “The deliberate act of awareness to the present moment.” (Andre, 2014) heavily influences my practice. My body of work focusses on the mindful activity of doodling in the sand ”

The second being the stunningly beautiful purple glass vases by Alice McKenzie.

“Inspired by floral design and arrangements, I design and make collections that deliver visual harmony between flower and object, questioning the way we place and view blooms.

Within Ikebana there must be balance and proportion of the flower in the vase, the vase to its surroundings and in both colour and line. The arranging takes place as you position each flower in a vase together with the placement of the vases in relation to each other. The act of movement allows ‘ma’, the space you cannot see, to grow. By arranging the space in between each object, it allows the flowers space to breathe and helps us appreciate uniqueness ”

Last but not least the colourful, coral like forms from Erum Aamir.

“I am a ceramic artist and nature is a source of inspiration for me. I enthuse by the details in depth, therefore I explore through the eye of a microscope.Sometimes the compositions found in the microscopic study and my imagination’s interpretation bypasses what is found in nature. This blurred line between reality and created reality intrigues my practice . If only for a moment, one might lose themselves in the curiosity of the composition, perhaps creating a personal narrative with the piece. This process of creation and exploration forms a shared experience between us.

In my work, there’s always a repetition of single or more than one element which mimics the process of growth by repetition. I like this repetitive action – it’s not a thoughtless activity but is meditative. Moreover, the repetitive nature of bringing together many components creates a rhythm and facilitates an active trance of intention ”

Wow well what a note to end on for another year. Who’s work made you smile today and why ? Good luck to all this year’s graduates, may you go forth and prosper because they are the future of this countries art.

I hope you enjoyed my findings, if you did please let me know and feel free to like, share and follow my blog. Thanks Craig

Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2019 Part 1

June 15, 2019

I went to the Manchester School of Art Degree show this week and caught up with a few creative graduates work. In case you are interested the show is on until June the 19th. Opening times: Mon – Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat/Sun – 10am – 4pm at Manchester School of Art (Benzie, Grosvenor and Chatham Buildings, Cavendish Street, M15 6BR) and 99 Oxford Road (Old Manchester Met SU, M1 7EL). I was greeted by a giant in the foyer!

I began in the Textiles in Practice area with clean florals and wildlife from Leia Butterworth.

“My final collection ‘Fresh Traditional’ includes original drawings, digitally printed wallpapers and digitally printed fabrics for cushions and curtains. The collection is inspired by botanical drawings from Manchester Metropolitan Library Archive and my own photographs of florals. ”

Modern sneaker street art from Kristine Kho.

Graphic and architectural representations from Nicola L Dean.

“My most recent project ‘Soho Suitor’ was inspired by exploring the architecture of New York city; I have used this research to create both woven and printed fabric designs that provide a unisex style of clothing and accessories suitable for the modern day business person. Through trend research I have selected the appropriate colours, fabrics and yarn choices for various areas of suiting and, with both genders in mind, I adapted my colours and designs accordingly to incorporate both masculine and feminine qualities. The designs take on a vivid and graphic nature showing my interest in unusual colour combinations and hand drawn elements ”

Niamh Baker show some vibrant inspiration and some textured, printed fabrics.

” My most recent practice Mimicry has been inspired by movement and mimicry of fish scales and how they shift their form creating misleading patterns and colourful lures to protect from predators; Batesian mimicry. I’ve been working on the Gyotaku which is a Japanese art form which uses actual fish to create an ink image traditional with sumi ink and rice paper ”

Some jungle inspired prints from Hannah Sheldon.

” My final project, ‘A Walk on the Wild Side’ is a Spring/Summer 2020 Collection inspired by wildlife within their natural environment. A focus on majestic animals gives a sense of power and sophistication to the designs. Being influenced by East Asian print and traditional style clothing as well as current Haute couture catwalk, I intended for my work to have a feel of opulence and luxury ”

Lauren Boland’s printed fabrics speak of opulence and grandeur.

“My project ‘Oriental Plush’ is a collection of bespoke digital paper designs and screen printed fabrics. Through a strong colour palette, I have created an interior collection with a luxury touch. The project has taken inspiration from chinoiserie and Japanese art with added tropical elements, enriched by the choice of colour and fabric ”

Two woven designers work that caught my eye were Elle Moors and Mimosa Rickets.

Elle says “The British Countryside has been a recurring concept inspiring my practice this year, researching into wool, colour composition and traditional woven structures. My final show is inspired by the great outdoors of England and the need to keep warm, whilst being stylish and practical ” I think these would compliment some Harris Tweeds very nicely.

Mimosa says

“Inspired by the familiar and ever changing Peak District landscape of home, the geometric structures found in the urban landscape of Manchester and most recently the children’s illustrated book ‘Where the wild things are’ have provided me with a wealth of visual information that I have recorded through stitch, collage and weave ”

Thanks to Fern Cooke for providing a great reminder about recycling. ” All of my fabric pieces have been created out of recycled or discarded textiles, with all the denim cut from second hand jeans. Sustainability is incredibly important to me as not just a message, but a key factor in choosing materials too ”

Whilst Chloe Allen introduces us to her insects which speak about social values and cultural identity within fashion markets.

“My final year of study has focused upon providing an insight into how we collectively treat our world – and all that’s in is as disposable. My textile collections endeavour to bring a treasured aesthetic. By taking a resourceful and sensitive approach to practice my work aims to bring into discussion the precarious position we now find ourselves in due to the depletion of precious natural resources and the continued destruction of nature, and its wildlife ”

Some creative prints from printer Maisie Short.

“Playful experimentation and sampling is critical to my design development and I particularly like using hand-made processes. I aim to show a crafted element in all my work, to establish a connection between maker and audience and often to give the work a bespoke feel. By engaging with the tactile qualities of fabric and embellishment I gain a broader understanding of the materials I use and how they can be combined and enhanced ”

Ella Slade brings a sense of rural calm to her wall paper collections.

“The aesthetics of my print design resonates from growing up within the countryside. I have always had an indefinite connection to natural elements within my practice. With a primary focus on botanical illustration, liner fluidity, and carefully considered composition’s. The rich variety of blue, green, and yellow shades largely make up the colour pallet for ‘In the herb garden ”

Beautiful silk and linen work by textile designer Megan Burton.

“The project ‘concertina’ explores how woven samples can be manipulated into three-dimensional forms inspired by Japanese culture, in particular origami. Becoming more mindful of my surroundings, inspiration came from recognising folds within daily life and finding beauty and use in everyday objects and materials”

I liked the contrast and structural element to the 3D printed and assembled forms by Jack Thomas.

“I am currently investigating how geometry can be used to create material properties in 3D printed structures. I have explored how 3D extrusion can create forms that flex, stretch, bend and spring. The forms incorporate repetitive structural patterns which use pleated lines and sharp angles to facilitate movement. This year has been a year of research and development; getting to grips with this expanding technology and learning the behaviours of the hardware ”

Jack will be continuing onto an MSc in Digital Digitalisation next year. He says ” I want to apply my research into a real-world context. I have had interest in my structures for medical, architectural and environmental fields. These areas would enable me to solve practical problems that would have real impact in the world as we grow during this current industrial revolution ”

Great to hear of students thinking practically about their future environments, the impact their work can have on and in it and how to change things for the better.

Check back in for part 2 of my Degree show visit on Monday. See you then. Tell me who’s work has inspired or caught your eye today ?

Fishink in Manchester, the Peterloo Masacre and Sale Arts Trail Pop Up Shop 2019

June 12, 2019

I went into town yesterday to go to the Manchester School of Art Degree show which I’ll talk more about later this week and early next week. Whilst I was there, I popped into the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and saw this comissioned work by Newcastle based ceramist Alex Sickling, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in August this year.

I thought it interesting to see a ceramic response to a historical event and that Alex did an impressive job of creating a personal depiction of something that happened so long ago.

Many people living in Manchester today perhaps aren’t aware of the extent of the massacre that occured, and so it’s a great way to document the event and tell a story using ceramics.

This was a poster sent out by the local police before the event some 200 years ago, warning people not to attend.

On a more contemporary note, I also dropped in to see the lovely Linzi Ramsden who is selling her beautiful stoneware and porcelain ceramics from her groundfloor shop, opposite this display.

Beautiful colours and movement in her work, thanks for the chat and for letting me showcase your work again Linzi.

More local news is that I’ll be part of this years Sale Arts Trail based at Minikin 57 Cross Street, Sale, M33 7HF. It’s on 13th and 14th July and there will be a great mix of artist and designers taking part, covering areas such as ceramics, illustration, jewellery, painting and much more. Save and share the date !!!!!  Also announcing the Arts Trail POP UP shop.


” We are pleased to announce from Sale Art Trail HQ that we will be opening our Pop Up Shop. The shop is located at 21 The Mall in Sale Town Centre and will be opening this Sunday 16th June to coincide with Sale’s very first Makers Market.

There will be a selection of work in our artists gallery and find out what we will be up to in the shop for the month prior to the Sale Arts Trail.

We will be open from 11-4. Drop in, say hello and collect your Sale Arts Trail leaflet ”

A small selection of my Fishink work I’m assembling for the show.

Look forward to seeing many of you there soon. I’ll be showcasing my selection of graduates work from the Man School of Art on Friday and Monday, drop back in for more news.

Halima Cassell Nature in Stone

June 10, 2019

Any sense of familiarity we have with the art of Halima Cassell perhaps comes from seeing geometry in nature. I came across Halima’s work on a recent trip to the Manchester Art Gallery and marvelled at the flow and movement of her work.

As a child, Halima investigated the patterns of maths and nature by dismantling plants. Trying to understand the art in the multiplication of living cells brought Halima the same joy that many people feel while gazing upon her creations. Although being dyslexic created challenges for Halima’s academic studies, laying the family carpet at the age of 11 was one small sign of the creativity and beauty her hands would bring into the world.

She was born in Kashmir, grew up in the north west of England and her sculpture reflects her dual international and local heritage. Early ceramic works such as Mancunian Roofscapes, (below) first shown at Manchester Art Gallery in 2005, were influenced both by the architecture of the north west and the repeated geometric patterns of Islamic design.

In recent years, Halima has travelled throughout Britain and in Italy, Japan and Pakistan to explore new materials, techniques and approaches.

These experiences have enriched her work and taken it in previously unforeseen directions: the regular repetition of carved geometry and immaculate symmetry giving way to sensuous organic curves and asymmetry.

Travel renewed her appetite for experimentation – in Japan she threw pots whilst stood on a step ladder and in Italy she worked in marble for the first time.

She is gifted with an exceptional ability to visualise complex patterns and mentally project them on to 3-D objects. Her work is diverse in inspiration and form, but her personal style is instantly recognisable due to her bold, energetic designs, crisp carving and intuitive understanding of how to integrate pattern, form, material and scale. You can’t appreciate the scale and intricasy of the work until you see it close up.

Here (above) Halima explores the idea of organic shapes emerging from natural structures, and (below) makes a flowing sculpture turn into liquid marble.

A few early ideas and prototypes, discovering form and movement.

Amazing to see how her travels and gathering of clays from other countries have had such an influence of the textures, colours, patterns and shapes of her final pieces.

Is this an Owl or some ancient spirit watching over it’s owner !

In her artist’s statement Halima says :-

“In my early work I was exploring the boundaries of my new found modus operandi, which was infused with Islamic influences drawn from heavily carved architecture. This led me to look to other examples of intricately carved and constructed buildings from all around the world. In addition, I was inspired by the repetitive motifs of pattern derived from the influences of North African surface design.

Delving deeper into these architectural influences and looking closer at structures of past and contemporary building styles, I discovered that I was also greatly intrigued by the internal space and the construction, which were articulated together on the external surface envelope. These relationships have informed my own work as I strive to unify not only internal and external forms but also the parts to the whole. In this respect I am reminded of the Greek principle of the Golden Section, namely that, the smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole ”

The exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery runs until early February 2020.

Kat Flint Devilish Details

June 3, 2019

I believe that there is something magical about the process of carving a piece of wood or lino in reverse and then printing it to see, for the first time, what you have created in all it’s glory. I’ve been following the extroadinarily creative prints from talented artist Kat Flint on Instagram as they take shape, develop and are finally revealed for the first time. They are fascinating.

Kat’s work has great depth, detail and drama. She has a love of sayings, traditional rhymes and folk tales which appear again and again in her prints, like “Storm in a Teacup”.

“Hey Diddle Diddle” and “The Owl and the Pussycat” also make an appearance.

Alongside Goldilocks and George and the Dragon.

Kat has also painted directly onto ceramic surfaces.

I’ve flipped this linocut image so that you can read the text, as “Fortune Favours the Bold”. Normally everything has to be carved in reverse in order to be printed the right way round.

I love this series of elementary men and women. Ideas around Air, Water, Fire and Earth are explored here.

Kat often shows tantalising images from her sketch books, revealing how her ideas take shape and how many times she may draw and redraw a subject, before the final decision is made for which one to carve.

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (above) and a circus theme with tatooed lady Lion Tamers and barbell lifting Strongmen.

A few coloured repeat designs, which show lovely movement.


Snake charmers

Lately she’s been carving a huge illustration with imagery based around Fishwives and the Sea. I can’t wait to see the final result.

Buy an original print from Kat’s shop here and follow her on Instagram.

Stunning work, looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her designs.

Paula Metcalf Illustrating a wonderful life.

May 27, 2019

Chances are you won’t find today’s guest illustrator Paula Metcalf lounging about taking a rest in a tree like this chap below, no, no, no… she’s far too busy !

Presently completing her 20th Children’s Book and teaching on the M.A. course at Angela Ruskin University, she generously took some time out of her hectic schedule to answer some questions for Fishink Blog today.

Hi Paula, many thanks for joining us today, I’ll get straight to the questions. You wanted to be an illustrator from the age of sixteen, and I’ve read you’re now working on your 20th book, (congratulations) what does it feel like to be doing what you’ve wanted to do?

Thanks Craig for asking me. I feel incredibly lucky! As a kid I dreamt of making this my career, but it seemed almost impossible to get noticed by publishers. It took a LOT of determination and tenacity, but finally I got my dream job and I still can’t quite believe it’s true!

With so many wonderful books already created, do you prefer to write and illustrate your own work, or collaborate with writers to create a joint book ?

There are different ups and downs with both. With illustrating someone else’s text, you come to it fresh, without having wrangled with the plot/words/pacing etc for weeks (even months) before. But on the other hand, you may not love or be as invested in the story as much as one you have written yourself. Writing stories is a big passion of mine, so getting to do both is very exciting indeed.

When you’re working with a writer, how much do they get to influence the scenes you depict and how much are you left to create ideas and illustrate them yourself ?

It’s generally the publisher, not the writer, who influences how I bring the story to life, and it depends on the publisher how involved they get. Sometimes they monitor you so heavily you end up wondering if they should be illustrating rather than you! And at other end of the extreme some publishers leave you to your own devices almost entirely. Somewhere inbetween is probably best, and mostly that is what happens.

Do you have a preferred style or way of working, i.e. naturally or digitally and roughly how long would a typical book take to put together from start to finish ?

I like to work on paper using real paint, real pastel, real pencil. But those elements always get scanned into Photoshop, and meddled around with a bit. I will layer drawn or painted elements over each other, then add extra depth, colour, contrast …. whatever I think is needed. I used to over-Photohop my images, which often wrings the life out of an illustration. These days I try to keep freshness and energy in the image by walking away earlier!

Illustrating a 32 page picture book usually takes me 3 – 4 months, but can take rather longer! Recently I completed one in a much shorter time-frame (2 months) which was extremely stressful and left me quite unwell. Being an illustrator is not the healthiest career. You can spend incredibly long hours hunched over your desk/staring at a screen, so it can cause neck, shoulder and back problems. Approaching a big deadline can make you miss out on sleep, eat badly and forgo fresh air and exercise! All of those things have happened to me, so I am trying very hard to get a healthier work-life balance from now on.

Wise words indeed Paula and familiar to many artists reading this I’m certain.

I believe that you spend some time lecturing on the MA course at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. What advice would you give to any budding illustrators who long to draw and design children’s books ?

The competition in this industry is enormous so you really have to put your heart and soul into it. Only do it if you feel genuine huge passion for illustrating, not just because you think it sounds like a fun job. The financial rewards are often not great, so this career may mean you have to make a lot of sacrifices in life. If you REALLY love what you do, this won’t bother you of course, because nothing in the world makes you happier than sitting with your pencils, brushes and paint, beavering away into the small hours!

Something else I think is important is to not panic when you don’t seem to be progressing, or everything you draw is horrible. Every illustrator has periods where they hate their work and feel totally defeated. Those feelings can even persist for a long time. But be patient, keep trying, and whatever you are struggling with in your work will generally resolve itself.

How do you see the future of Children’s books in the UK. Do you think we need to be more adventurous with our stories and styles in order to compete with the European markets or does the UK have its own look that we can be proud of ?

When I go to Bologna I barely spend any time looking at UK publishers! I feel so much more excited about books from Europe and further afield. I think British publishers do play things much too safe, in terms of stories and illustrators, and it’s a shame.

Which of your books are you the most proud of to date ?

‘Dog In Boots’ (OUP) definitely. It makes me laugh a lot – even though I wrote it myself, and even though I’ve read it lots of times. As much as I love it, I’m also a bit heartbroken that the funniest bit got axed (it was too rude!!). Maybe one day I will self-publish the uncensored version!

Which illustrators do you most admire and does anyone influence your own work ?

I am obsessed with so many illustrators! I spend far too much of my time drooling over stunning images on Instagram, and envying their talented creators. Roger Duvoisin is my all time favourite, followed by an ever changing selection, currently featuring: Lee Gee Eun, Natalia Shaloshvili, Alisa Yufa, Viola Wang, Olga Demidova, Ekaterina Khebnikova and Natascha Rosenberg.

I’m also a huge fan of Roger Duvoisin and you can see more of his work on my blog here and here.

Can you reveal which characters we might expect to see more of in the coming years ?

Philip’s best friend Ralph (the lurcher) will have his own adventure at some point in the near future. He is in a supporting role in Dog in Boots, but he is such a sweet and funny character I can’t  wait to give him a lead role!

I love this moonlit scene, such wonderfully warm feelings and sentiments arise looking at this.

I’m also a little fond of these kooky-eyed elephants.. fabulous !

Paula thank you so much for your inciteful and honest replies.

It’s so interesting to hear what an experienced artist like yourself feels about Children’s book illustration today. Let’s hope some of the UK publishers are listening !

Beautiful work, I wish you all the best for your future and well done for creating the career you have, I know it’s never as easy as people think. Do keep us posted with your new books, my own lurcher Boo is already interested in offering her services as a potential character model for you lol.