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Sarah Allen Beautiful Birds

May 4, 2020

Instagram has been a great source for finding new artists and designers for me lately. I’m forever (mentally) OOO-ing and AHH-ing at the wealth and range of people’s creative styles and talent. I am taking part, on Instagram, in the #artistsupportpledge which was created by the Matthew Burrows Studio for artists to have a platform from which to sell their work.

Here’s some of my latest work before it goes off to be kiln fired today. Fingers crossed that the fire gods are in a good mood lol

I have more ceramics and Illustration work available for sale on there right now and you can find me by clicking here. Please remember to follow me @fishinkblog so you can see the latest work and blog posts that are happening weekly. Thank you to everyone who has helped support my work and has made a purchase lately too, it all helps enormously.

Today’s guest Sarah Allen, inspired me from the moment I first spotted her beautiful birds on Instagram and from there on in, I was hooked !

Sarah lives in Austratlia and works in a marvelous studio where she breathes in nature and creates her own beautiful version of it. I tracked her down and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

What’s your earliest memory of spending time doing artistic pursuits ?
I was always drawing and crafting as a kid. I remember taking great care in lettering fancy headings with my Derwent pencils in primary school. I was always making something but never gave creativity much thought as something serious or as a career option as I didn’t know anyone who was a professional artist.

When did you first realise you had developed a definite style to your work ?
Around 2014, I decided to change careers and become a professional illustrator. I started taking courses with Make Art That Sells, taught by Lilla Rogers. The courses are fast-paced and you produce a lot of work in a short amount of time.  After taking several courses and working on developing my folio over three or so years, I began to see my style emerge.

Which other artists presently inspire you?

So many that it’s hard to name a few. I’m a huge fan of Yuval Zommer’s non-fiction picture books. His series, “The Big Book of Blue” … are fun, vibrant and filled with interesting facts. I love them as an adult and would have loved them as a kid. Other artists that I’m currently inspired by include: Miroco Machiko for her unique drawing style and distorted shapes, Makoto Kagoshima’s amazing decorative ceramics, Ophelia Pang for her beautiful abstracted patterns and colour sensibility, and Anne Bentley who draws people and plants in such a unique, stylish way.

Do you have any plans to expand into other ranges, such as gift wrap , textiles etc ? I think some of your prints would work really well in these areas.  
Thank you, Craig!  I had the pleasure of seeing my art on gift wrap for the first time earlier this year.  I’d love to design more for this market area and have plans to expand my ranges. My gift wrap and cards are available through Earth Greetings.

Your love of Nature is clearly an important part of your work and all that you create. Where do you see your work going in the next few years ?

The natural world always inspires me. Australia just had the most devastating bushfire season on record and we have a huge list of threatened and critically endangered species. I feel that it’s really important to create art about the species we have on this planet in this extraordinary moment in time. No matter what I create, I hope to make beautiful things that bring people joy. If my work can also educate through delight, then that would make me very happy.

Do you have a particular colour palette that you work to or just a feel for colours that work in any particular line or collected product range ?
I tend to gravitate towards greens and yellows and need to make a conscious effort to mix things up. I love experimenting with how colours play off each other and the moods that can create. I think there are benefits to sticking to colour palettes for bodies of work and creating collections.  To date, I’ve tended to jump around a bit more than that but I’d like to explore working in collections some more.

Which is your most favourite item ?
I think the Regents Honeyeaters image is my favourite because it’s where I hit upon subject matter that I care about, expressed in a way that seems really me. Visually, it is a culmination of colour, transparency and crisp shapes that are common throughout my work. This piece is also one of my first bird drawings which led me to draw a bird series which, in turn, led me to write the text for a picture book. I was lucky enough to get a publishing deal and I’m currently working on the illustrations. The book is due out at the end of 2020.
Sarah is no stranger when it comes to creating books, she has a fair few under her Illustrator’s belt already.

She has also decorated buildings !

She also has an eye on the food and drink market. Take a look at some of her stunning retro-flavoured artwork below.

Sarah says:- “Since becoming a full-time illustrator, I’ve mainly focused on illustration commissions and children’s book work. I’ve always loved pattern though, and I’d love to see my art on textiles and homewares too. I hope to make more time for experimental, personal work because that is where my work seems to evolve the most”

Beautiful work, full of life and energy. Thanks again Sarah for answering my questions, the best of luck with your new book.

You can find more from Sarah on her Instagram account or website.

Fishinkblog Works for Sale

April 27, 2020

Good Morning everyone. I hope this finds you well and getting used to the new indoor routines and way of living.

For those of you who are familiar with my blog, you will know that I work predominantly as an artist and ceramist and sell my work through shops and fairs in the local Manchester area. Like many other artists, all of my ususal places to sell and display my work are closed which makes the idea of making a living quite difficult. I heard about a trend that was developing established by an artist called Matthew Burrows. He created the idea on Instagram of the #artistsupportpledge, a page where people like myself could showcase their work with a view to selling and creating a small living again. For every £1000 raised, each artist agrees to spend £200 on another artist or artists work within the pledge community, thus creating a place where people can view and purchase work and keep some flow of funding trickling through the arts community.

I therefore have a favour to ask my readers. Firstly, if you are on Instagram could you please follow my account which is @fishinkblog (, please tell your friends to pop over and do the same and have a look at the work I have for sale right now, which I’m adding to daily. There is quite a range of different items from original hand drawn Illustrations and artwork. Greeting cards and Ceramics, all made by hand by myself and in this quiet time I’m even taking on personal commissions for drawing quirky characters of your choice.

My Illustrations start from £10 plus p&p for a small (8 x 12.5 cms) hand drawn piece of artwork and a greeting card.

Some drawings come from sketches and some of my artwork inspire greeting cards (like the cat above).

Larger collage work ( 20 x 20 cms) are £30 plus p&p. Everything is individually designed, drawn, cut out and assembled my hand.

Larger framed work (25.5 x 30.5 cms) is £50 plus p&p.

Hand drawn black and white inks for £30 plus p&p.

Ceramic brooches for £8 plus p&p.

Different sized Fish for hanging on your wall (with a wall hook attached), these guys are £10 each plus p&p.

Birds at £15 plus p&p.

Ceramic Cats, Dogs and Creatures, different sizes and prices ranging from £15 plus p&p.

To £22 plus p&p

Dogs at £22 plus p&p.

Smaller Cats at £18 plus p&p.

Some Cats and Dogs who get along !! at £22 plus p&p.

If you know of anyone in need of a beautiful birthday, wedding, lockdown or ‘treat yourself’ present, please have a think about the work available at Fishinkblog on Instagram.

I sell using secure payments through Paypal (which you don’t need to have an account to use) and ship all over the world.

Just a thought, happy week ahead and I’ll be back with another artists work next week. Thanks for listening, reading and being part of Fishink Blog too. Much appreciated, Craig.

Emily Spikings Fun in the Sun

April 20, 2020

Hello everyone, I hope this finds you well and keeping safe. The designers and illustrators I’m selecting for my posts at the moment are making me feel bright and happy, I trust that’s the same feeling for you too. What strikes me about living in Emily Spikings world of illustration, is that everyday means fun in the sunshine.

Hi Emily, what’s your earliest memory of spending time doing artistic pursuits ?
I grew up in a very creative household, my father was an art teacher and an artist in his own right having various exhibitions and selling his work through art galleries. Being creative was always encouraged, and with creativity all around, there was always access to paint, paper, crayons, scissors etc. I’m told that one of my favourite things to do as a kid was cutting up bits of paper into tiny pieces (something that my 2 year old son has inherited). My earliest memory would be of my dad drawing pictures for me to colour in, and making cards for my sister and family. He had both my sister and I making etching plates and Lino cutting as soon as we were able. Art has always been a part of my life in some form or other for as long as I can possibly remember.
When did you first realise you had developed a definite style to your work ? 
It’s only recently that I’ve started to explore illustration for myself, my sister is an illustrator and from an early age it was clear that she was far more talented and skilled in that area than me. I was more into shapes and colours and my dad suggested I’d be better suited to graphics, I took his advice and that is what I did. I’ve been working as a graphic designer for over 23 years now. I’d worked on a few projects that involved the odd bit of illustration and enjoyed it. About 3 years ago my daughter decided she didn’t like the beautifull ‘Famille Summerbelle’s – Maximilien le magician’ print which I’d hung on her bedroom wall and requested I drew her a giraffe. It all started from there, I drew her a giraffe (which is currently on my G print and still on her wall) and the style of illustration just progressed from there. It’s the only style I can do, strong, simple clean lines, I guess it comes from my graphic education.

Which other artists presently inspire you ? 
Eric Carle has always been a favourite of mine from a young age. I remember vividly his books that were read to me as a child ‘The bad tempered ladybird’ being my favourite, and now reading the same books to my own children, I can recognise now why I liked them so much. The bold colours, the graphic style and simplicity.  My Dad had an ‘Aesop fable’ book illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen and I can remember pouring over the pages as a child, loving all the quirky friendly animal faces. After my father passed away a few ages back, I am now the owner of the book.
I’ve discovered lots of extremely talented people on instagram since joining, I always look forward to posts from susie hammer, amy blay, carly gledhill, they make me smile the most.
Do you have a particular colour palette that you work to or just a feel for colours that work in any particular line or collected product range ?
I was told at a young age never to be afraid of colour, and it’s stuck with me in everything I do. My home, my clothes and my work. I like bold, bright colours. I do have a swatch range that’s permanently in my colour palette on illustrator and tend to work within these but it’s not a given. I enjoy spring, summer colours the most, ones which make me smile.
I’ve recently designed a range of cards available through Wuzci which I limited myself to around 10 colours to tie them all together.

Do you have any plans to expand into other ranges, such as books, gift wrap, textiles etc ? I think some of your prints would work really well in these areas.
I’d love to expand, I really would. An A-Z book would be the dream. I designed one a few years back for my daughter and got a it printed through the internet, but a published book would be so exciting. (If you know any book publishers, feel free to send them my way). I’d like to develop greeting cards in the future. Another wish would be some sort of nursery set – duvet covers, curtains, prints, rug etc. I found when I was pregnant with my first child that the shops were full of beige, plain, whimsical designs, nothing fun, colourful or exciting.

How do you manage to balance your own work, commissions and raising a family, do you find you can still have regular work hours or is work fitted in around your family’s needs ?
After I had my second child I was made redundant. I made the decision that I would try my hand at freelancing and see if I could fit it in and around school and nursery times. I was fortunate to have some wonderful friends who provided me with freelance work that I could do at home with the odd office visit. My son is in nursery 3 days a week and my daughter is at school, so Mon, Tues, Wed I’m able to work from 9 till 3.20. The rest I have to be flexible and fit into an evening or weekend. My own work came about from a lack of creative freelance jobs, I felt the need to do something for me, I started to make little mobiles for the kids and more requests came in from them, fairies, lions, sunshines…… I loved creating them and decided to try and open an Etsy shop and start an instagram account so I could share my designs.

Your family is clearly an important part of your work and all that you create, an inspiration too I’d guess. Where do you see your work going in the next few years ?
Tough one….. I’d like my work to support me finically over the years so I could stop the freelance job. In terms of my designs…. ummm my children are going to become older and will grow out of love with my little mobiles and prints that I design for them. Will my designs evolve to an older audience? Oooo I don’t know, I’ll have to wait and see.

If you had a whole month to dedicate just to your work, what would you do with it ?
Oooo blimey that would be a luxury. I’d promote, promote, promote, get more people seeing my work. I’d find out ways to advertise my designs and Etsy Shop. I’ve noticed lots of people send out free prints to influential people on instagram to advertise to target markets, however unfortunately I don’t have the budget for that. I’d spend time researching craft fairs and publishers and apply to as many as possible. I’d really like to develop a series of Illustrations based around nursery rhymes and fairy tales, that’s on my list of things to do and continue to have fun with it. I love designing the posts on my instagram which reflect my family life and what we’ve been up to, it’s like my own pictorial diary. Hopefully the kids will enjoy looking back on these in a few years.

Thanks Emily for sharing your fab work and ideas with us. You can wander through Emily’s Etsy Shop for something to make your kid’s smile or if you need some amazing Graphic Design work for your company then she’s great at that too. She’s handled creative projects for the likes of Nottingham City Council, Royal Doulton and Wedgewood to name but three impressive clients. You can also see more on Emily’s Instagram .

Peter Emmerich A Retro Eye

April 13, 2020

Hi Everyone, Happy Easter if you are celebrating this holiday where you live or a happy start to your week anyway. I’ve a special treat for you today with a toe dipping into the world of celebrity caricature.

I recently made contact with Peter Emmerich, whose stunning work has caught my eye for some time now and asked if he would like to feature in a blog post.

I half expected there to be a long delay in hearing back from Peter, (who must be a rather busy chap being Art Director at Disney TV Animation and having over 39,000 followers on instagram alone !), but to my surprise (and delight) he messaged back within ten minutes saying ” Hi Craig, I’ve admired your blog for years ! It would be a privilege and an honour! ” Wow I thought what a great start.

Hi Peter, can I begin by asking what’s your earliest memory of drawing, and who first got you interested in being an artist?

I can remember drawing alongside my brother who is also talented artistically (but did not pursue it professionally). My mother was very supportive when I was little and never inhibited me from drawing. If I said I wanted to draw, she would hand me a stack of typing paper and pencils or markers and allow me to just do what I wanted, as long as I didn’t make a mess. As I got older, I can recall both of my parents being incredibly supportive of my gifts and really encouraging me to use them.

How right to describe your artistic talents as ‘gifts’.

How long have you been working with Disney? Did they find you or how did your meeting come about ? Would you call it your dream job ?

This June  will mark a 25 year association with The Walt Disney Company. I was recruited straight out of college, graduating on a Friday from The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, and starting at Disney that following  Monday. A marvelous woman named Cyndee Whitney who had been an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation was now recruiting artists from around the country to be a part of an apprenticeship training program at Walt Disney Consumer Products. I was very lucky to be included and it was the best training of my life. A dream job, to say the least.

A Happy Quarter Century for June too !

I’m sure you can spot a few famous faces here today.

I read in your blog back in 2008 that you have a gent called John Quinn to thank for advising you to carry and use a sketchbook at all times. What advice would you give to young artists today who want to be like you and follow their dreams in illustration ?

John Quinn is a great friend and we were both part of the Disney apprentice program in 1996. He kept and still keeps the most beautiful sketchbooks. Watching him draw and keep his books filled had an enormous influence on how I approached drawing and learning to draw. It was his influence that made me pick up a book and draw it it daily. It was the most important influence on my draughtsmanship, and I am so grateful to John for having inspired me to do it. Learning to draw and observe things properly has allowed me to be able to have a career. I am always practicing my craft, but I would advise any young person to spend a period of their life drawing and keeping sketchbooks and truly learn to observe what they see and interpret it in their own unique way. Draw, draw, draw.

When you start work on a new caricature, what process do you go through to get the results you’re happy with ?

The process of caricature is something I have always been fascinated by. I gather lots of reference and study them all. Quite often when I start a drawing, I am drawing from my memory of the images and my interpretation of who I feel the person is, not directly from one photo. Sometimes one image dominates because it is the essence of who I feel that person is, but mainly I am drawing a feeling, not a photo. I will also listen to that persons music, or play their films, or even listen to interviews of them speaking. I believe it helps me to imbue their feeling into the drawing.

What mediums do you most love to use.. digital.. paints etc ?

I work in all media really. Most of my professional work is done digitally because it is faster and I can easily correct and change work according to the requests of my editors/art directors, When I am just drawing for myself it is a mix of both but I have a tendency to lean more towards traditional media, especially ink. I have been sculpting more lately as well as some collage work.

I love the book you have out at the moment, do you have any plans for other books or products ? Famous greeting cards come to mind lol.

There are other things in the works, but I can’t speak about them specifically at the moment. I will just say thank you for liking the new book, and know there is more to come!

Do you feel it’s harder or easier to draw famous people? There maybe hundreds of photos of them for reference but then everyone knows what they look like!

What’s funny is until I illustrated my first children’s book last year, A is for Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies from A to Z , I had never drawn any caricature for professional purposes, it was only for my personal joy. I tend to only draw people I liked or admire or want to pay tribute to, which means I have some level of emotional interest in them. Somehow that makes it easier for me. If you asked me to draw someone I was not interested in, I could do it, but my heart wouldn’t be in it quite the same way. I like drawing people I feel something for and it is usually the version of them that says who they are to me. I was once asked to do a caricature of Cher, which I was happy to take on, but I asked the person, “Which Cher? 70’s long and sleek Sonny and Cher, Cher? 80’s Moonstruck, dancing on an aircraft carrier Cher?” The period says so much about the person and how they should be interpreted. It goes beyond just hair and clothes.

Who has been the hardest to draw and why ? Who have you most enjoyed drawing ?
I had the hardest time drawing Michael Jackson in my first attempt. I had this very elaborate idea in my head of how I wanted him to be posed. Something that really reflected his energy and spirit. I roughed it out and labored over it for hours trying to get everything that would define his gesture just so. It was awful….I stopped and opened a new document in Photoshop and without much thought, from memory, drew an extremely closeup image of just his facial features. It honestly could not have taken more than five minutes and that wound up being the one I went with. It said all I needed to say, I just added some color to it. I enjoy drawing Liza Minnelli very much, she has so much energy and liveliness that whenever I draw her, it comes through very naturally and effortlessly. Nina Simone and Elizabeth Taylor are also subjects that I tend to return to quite a lot.

What ambitions do you still want to achieve and where do you see your career taking you in the future ? 

I am enjoying working in children’s books very much at the moment. Since we have had so much time where we are required to be at home, I am getting the chance to experiment with new styles and projects. I would like to write and illustrate my own books as well as illustrate other authors’ work. I would like to start designing and making short films as well. I am lucky because I get to enjoy my job developing children’s programming at Disney as an art director and I get to experiment with fun personal projects at home.

Peter thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions and be a part of Fishinkblog. It’s been great getting to look through your portfolio and I look forward to seeing what you have in store for the future. There’s plenty more of Peter’s work on tumblr, blogspot and Instagram.

Printed By Alyn Contemporary Retro Illustration

April 6, 2020

PrintedbyAlyn is a name to watch out for in the world of Illustration. Printmaker and Illustrator Alyn Smith, is finishing an MA in Multidisciplinary Printmaking at UWE, Bristol.

I love the fun, quirky smile-enducing nature to his work. It makes me think of such great illustrators as Alain Gree and more recently Ingela P Arrhenius and Christian Robinson.

There is a beautiful, simplistic and sixties naivety that I find both refreshing and captivating. I sent Alyn an email to find out more and he happily agreed to answer some questions for us.

When and where did your love of print originate from ?
I was introduced to print firstly on my foundation year at college and then later at university but my love of print really developed during my time as a member of print workshops whilst being a stay-at-home parent. I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands and using paper and print seemed a great creative outlet for me at the same time as being at home with my children. Over the years I have gone from using only screen printing to now using a mixture of letterpress, photopolymer plates, lino and rubber stamping. The magic of the reveal is what draws me to print, you never know the exact result you will get and using more low-tech printing methods, no two prints are ever the same.

You can see how his process of creating, develops from his stamp-making and spongy cut-out shapes, to his assembled illustrations and sometimes digital end-use.

I saw that you studied at Liverpool, how helpful was your time there ?
Yes, I studied Graphic Arts at Liverpool John Moores University 2004-2007. Liverpool was such a great city to live and study in. Up until this point I didn’t really know what illustration was as I had specialised in a mix of fine art and graphics for my foundation year. I had some great tutors in Liverpool and I learnt a lot but I don’t think I was ready to embark on a career as an illustrator at that time. Fast forward 13 years and I am just about to complete a masters degree in multidisciplinary printmaking from the University of West England. Over the past 3 years my confidence has grown massively and I think I am a lot more comfortable in the work I am producing now.
Great to see Alyn’s original sketchbook ideas and how they develop into a final print.

Alyn aims to encourage people to share positive messages that are often forgotten in today’s technology driven society. What better way to do this than by sending a postcard by traditional post to someone you care about. Using Alyn’s own stamps, well you might have to put a real stamp on there too !

Who currently influences your work and whose work do you admire ?
At the moment I have been looking a lot at midcentury poster artists including Herve Morvan, Harry Stephens and Daphne Padden. For more contemporary references I really admire the work of Paul Thurlby, Stephanie Wunderlich and Blexbolex. Whilst at Liverpool I was lucky enough to be taught by printmaker Christopher Brown, who studied under Edward Bawden. What I admire most about Chris’ work is the humour in his work, especially in his animals. This is something I strive to create in my own work.
The V&A museum of childhood is one of my favourite places to get inspiration. I have spent hours there looking over all the brightly coloured toys and I am in particular drawn to Galt Toys and work produced by Fredun Shapur.

I assume like myself you are a fan of 50’s and 60’s design style, style and illustration. Do you recall where that influence came from ?
I have always been drawn to design, film and music that epitomises the idea of a more simple way of living and maybe a slightly romanticised ideal. I think the 50’s and 60’s really seem to tick a lot of those boxes for me. There seems to be a sense of fun and playfulness about the design and illustration of that time. For an A Level art project I bought a large reference book of 1950s advertising, probably from just browsing the art section in Waterstones. This is the first time that I remember really looking into midcentury references.

I also like your gentle (and not so gentle) advice cards. They remind me a little of the wartime ‘Don’t Forget to Post, Wrap Things Carefully, Keep Britain Tidy’.  Where did your ideas come from here and your colour palette generally ?
I am a big fan of the vintage London Underground and General Post Office posters that have the messages like, Catch the Midday Post or Label Your Parcels Correctly. This seems to represent the simpler time to me that I mentioned before, and there’s something quite comforting in a way about them. The colour palettes are beautiful too and have definitely influenced my work.
For me, printmaking is a form of escape, something I can do to relax and enjoy myself. From this, I have been looking at other ways in which people escape or relax and as a reminder to others I thought it would be fun to put some on the front of a card so people can send the message on. The top tip: Don’t be a Dick design came from a chat with a friend and this stuck in my mind for a while before I though about making into into a print. I like that it’s a bit humorous but also if everyone was a little nicer to each other the world would be a much better place. The same for be nice or be quiet. This idea came from getting annoyed by people on social media, twitter especially, who feel its their right to criticise other people !
I hear you Alyn and I’m sure the Fishink blog readers are currently nodding their heads in agreement too : )

Great to feel and see this positivity.

Spreading the message gets easier with these cards, don’t you think ?

Some posters and ideas have also been prompted by recent worldwide events.

Alyn has very kindly allowed people to acess their own printable version of this poster by clicking here.

I love your animal and weather symbols in particular. Do you have any more plans for more beautiful products for your Etsy shop…clocks, cards, prints, etc ?
Thank you! I currently have some small isograph prints that I will be adding to my etsy shop and I am hoping to get the shape circus book produced in a small edition for sale. I really enjoy making card designs and have plans to expand the range I have already with some birthday designs. My etsy shop is a way for me to sell designs that I’d like to be commissioned to produce for other people, so I don’t want to turn my etsy shop into a massive enterprise or anything, just a few products I enjoy making.
I have been asked if I would be willing to sell any of ny stamp sets, at the moment they are my everyday tools and are not really viable as products but I am looking at a simple basic stamp set that people could use to have a go themselves.
Yes please, put me down for a set too.
I can imagine kids and adults having lots of fun with these.
Great designs.

Where do you see your work in 5 years time ? I’d love to see it taken into books, gift wrap etc.
Upon completion of my masters degree this summer I going to be looking at getting as much work as I can in children’s book and magazine publishing, It’s an area if have resisted pursuing in the past as I feel there is a lot of competition but now I feel that my work is strong and would suit this area. I would also like to look into self-publishing some of my own small books and I am particularly interested in producing work for pre-school and early school aged children as there is still an element of play and fun at that age.
Over the past 18 months I have been teaching printmaking to secondary school students and this is something I really enjoy and would like to continue further.

I love these animal prints made from simplistic shapes. Charley Harper eat your heart out !!

Such a fab Clock.

What do you like about the print process that is different to other processes or working digitally ?
Although I use a lot of low-tech printing methods, a lot of my work begins digitally. I use adobe illustrator vector files that are then laser cut into rubber and foam stamps. Once the laser cut shapes are stamped out I then scan them into photoshop to arrange and colour them. For me, this still gives me the play element of print but with the flexibility and convenience of digital. That said, I would like to do more original printed and stamped pieces that don’t rely on digital processes as much.
Alyn, thanks so much for sharing your work and thoughts with us today. The best of luck for the future and I for one will be revisiting your Etsy Shop in a few months to see all the new pieces for sale.


March 30, 2020

Hi there and I hope this finds you all well, I picture you snuggled down with a cuppa ready to be visually entertained lol. Well I hope not to disappoint with the vibrant and fun artist I have in store for you today.

I’ve been following Helen Foster’s company Rollerdog for quite a while now. Helen is an Illustrator and Designer, living in Derbyshire. She is also on Instagram as rollerdogdesign. As you can probably tell, Helen, like myself, has a penchant for lovely (and often lanky) longdogs! Here’s a couple of her initial drawings.

I messaged Helen to ask her more about her company.

How did you first become interested in the Lurcher, Greyhound, Whippety dogs that you illustrate?

I’ve always been enchanted by the gentle elegance of these dogs with their supremely long snouts, and their affectionate, sweet nature really appeals to me. I had a whippet called Speedy and sort of shared our neighbour’s beautiful greyhound, Talent, who I had a deep bond with. I also love it that despite their noble appearance, they often have hilarious, tangled sleeping positions and some extremely goofy facial expressions.

I noticed that you had been inspired by some great pics of other hounds from Instagram, which helped create some of your wonderful designs. Do you have any plans to branch out into more products using antics from pet profiles online as your inspiration? Perhaps it could be a competition for a new tea towel design lol


That’s a lovely idea! I’ve run a few competitions in the past and invited folks to upload their hound photos and I was overwhelmed with the funny and touching responses. And yes, I’ve been so inspired by my Instagram feed: I love the ‘pile of whippets’ photos of @cosmicpearlwhippet, and those of your very own Boo of course! I really enjoy making a cup of tea and scrolling through the beautiful photos and incredible artwork that’s being made all over the world. 

Talking of Instagram, I’ve found happiness in the ‘creative hub’ experience of getting to know fellow creatives. As an example, a creative ‘visual conversation’ started after I made drawings based on some of @cosmicpearlshippet’s beautiful whippety flower crown photos. Jane then recreated her original photo, complete with flower crown and a handmade collar to match the collar I’d worked into my drawing, as you can see in these photos:

What is your training or business-life prior to Rollerdog Design?

I became a freelance illustrator after leaving uni in the late nineties, and carried out commissions for some wonderful and diverse clients, including educational publishing houses, charities and public sector organisations. One memorable project was to design the children’s range of packaging for Hotel Chocolat, for which I was part-paid in Turkish delight! (Don’t worry Association of Illustrators, I was paid properly in actual money too).

I love the fact that you donate to the Forever Hounds Trust. Did you choose this worth-while Charity for a specific reason?

It started with a phone call from Naomi from the charity, who’d seen my work online, and we hit it off. Afterwards I looked at the gorgeous hounds on their website and I’ve never looked back. They have a fabulous team of volunteers who rescue abused or abandoned greyhounds, lurchers and other sighthounds from all over the country.

I believe the business is more than 2 years old, is this a full-time venture for you or something that’s still developing and growing?

Answering this question reminded me that Rollerdog turned 3 in January this year, and I completely forgot to celebrate! Yes, it’s a full time venture which continues to grow. It still feels new and I don’t get bored – there are always new products to try my designs out on (some more successful than others…let’s try to forget the unfortunate saggy socks experiment of January 2020).

Cushions, Tote Bags, Cards, Coasters, Aprons, Magnets, Tea Towels and Keyrings… what’s next for Rollerdog Design?

I often get asked about producing art prints and have recently found a fab print house that produces beautiful quality prints onto a range of art papers, so I’d like to offer this as an option in my shop. I’d also like to look further into getting my work licensed so that I can spend more time making new designs (although retail that can be great fun, and not meaning to lay it on too thick but I’ve truly never had a mean customer. I receive the most touching feedback, sometimes with very sweet photos – and quite often with the hound interacting with their new Rollerdog goody in the cutest ways, as you can see in these photos, the first one giving new meaning to the term ‘doggy-bag’ !

I’m loving the new cards and would like to see more of a range of those that you can purchase separately or together with the gift selection you presently offer. Also a few more male centered doggy designs for us dog loving males too : )

I’ve been talking with my printing chap (@artistgiftprinting) who produces the cards and we’re hoping to start offering just the cards on their own in the months to come. I’m also planning to bring some other animals into the mix, such as one of my favourite mammals of all time, the beautiful but endangered pangolin. I’m also a great fan of the beautifully dinosaurial rhea and seeing a hare in the wild always gives me a jolt of happiness – and they need our help too due to the cruel sport of hare coursing.

Any other dog related businesses or Illustrators work that you follow and admire?

So many. One of my favourite artists who also happens to love sighthounds is Whyn Lewis (@whynlewispaintings). I admire the characterful drawings of J. Otto Seibold (@jottoseibold) and Marc Boutavant (@chienpourriii) and Helen Dardik (@helen_dardik) produces the most gorgeous, fun patterns and paintings. Not dog-related I know but as a lifelong Moomin lover I find the work of the wonderfully wise and funny Tove Jansson endlessly inspiring. The list could go on and on.

Many thanks Helen for your informative, amusing replies. I get a sense that you match your chirpy characters very well ; )  I recently bought four beautiful coasters which I admire everytime I make a cuppa, which as were all in home isolation right now.. is quite often these days lol. How fab are these ? You can purchase anything from Rollerdog’s great range of gifts here and tell Helen I sent you : ).

Stay Safe everyone, I’m thinking of you all.

The times they are a changing !

March 23, 2020

Hi everyone, welcome to a strange time for one and all of us. I don’t want to dwell on what’s happening, nor make any particular comments as the media is filled with these already.  Sometimes, I think that it’s important to be able to find places of calm, when online too, where you are free to visit and wander without being bombarded with reminders of the world outside or the writer’s personal politics. I hope Fishinkblog is one of these places for us all.

I wanted to remind everyone that Fishinkblog has now been going for 10 years, which means there’s 10 whole years of blogposts to drift back through and read.. all 1,250 of them !!! Plenty for even the most bored of readers to contemplate !

You can look for specific names or topics using the search function box on the right of the blog, or if you like (for example) Midcentury work, then scroll down to the section headed

“Mid century Artists Posts on Fishinkblog”

and you’ll find a list of what or who has been covered there to date. I also thought that today I’d pick out a few artists, whose sites I’ve enjoyed visiting over the years, or simply work that has made me smile for one reason or another. I hope they flow out and bring amusement to you too. Do (as ever) please leave a comment and let me know.

Let’s start with the stunning work of Claire Ireland and her ceramic beasts.

Image result for claire ireland fishinkblog

Vriad Lee, these needle felted animals are so wonderfully serene.

Michael Sowa, I adore his little characters off on their day to day adventures. Wouldn’t they make a great animation.

Some sixties illustration from married artists John Ross and Clare Romano.

Fishinkblog 6740 John Ross & Clare Romano Ross 20

Fishinkblog 6724 John Ross & Clare Romano Ross 3a

Cartoon cookery illustration from Bill Charmatz.

Fishinkblog 7610 Bill Charmatz 12

A sense of wonderment and tranqility from Joey Chou.


Well behaved pooches by Christian Robinson.

Fishinkblog 7954 Christian Robinson 9

Beautiful scenic drawing from John Minton.

Or a little nature studies by Peter Donnelly.

Fishinkblog 8259 Peter Donnelly 9

Finally some sunny and summery illustrations from Paul Evans.

Fishinkblog 9277 Paul Evans 8

Just look at that yellow.. wow !

Fishinkblog 9278 Paul Evans 9

Needless to say there’s so much enjoyment to be had by losing yourself in another artists world for an hour. Grab a cuppa, sit yourself down and recharge your imagination and your smile cells !!  Thanks for accompanying me on my own continued journey and I hope you are staying safe, being kind and keeping well.

Zoe Stainton Marvelously Mad March Hares

March 16, 2020

Hello everyone and welcome to a rather special and rather beautiful return to the Mad March Hare. I spotted these guys recently doing their crazy boxing and looking rather splendid in the early morning /evening glows.

They reminded me of the work I’d seen a while ago at one of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fairs, by Embroiderer and Needle Felting Artist, Zoe Stainton. ( )

I tracked down Zoe’s site ( and asked her a few quick questions.

Hi Zoe, where did your knowledge and love of embroidery originate from ?

HI Craig, I am self taught in Felting and embroidery. I was actually originally trained in Ceramics B.A & M.A at U.W.I.C, Cardiff.

How did you first get inspired to create the animals you do ?

I suppose it was the natural thing to do , living in Holmfirth and surrounded by beautiful landscape and wildlife I was simply inspired by what’s around me.

Your pieces are wonderfully realistic, do you ever surprise yourself by thinking there is a Fox or Badger when you enter your studio room ?

I think the very nature and qualities of needle felting means you can create life-like animals. Although my latest ideas are leading me down the path of more experimental use of textiles and using printing within the piece.

What is the most common reaction when people see your work ? Any unusual responses ?

People love the fact they are realistic and very tactile. They are sometimes surprised by the fact the eyes are all felted and not glass and that they are so light in weight.

When you see the animals up close you can appreciate the intricate work that helps make them so realistic. Such lovely details.

How long would it take you to create a large Hare and is each one different in it’s own way from previous Hares ?

It can take me around two weeks to create a larger piece. Yes they are all unique which I love. The layering of colour and stitching is difficult to replicate and that is not my intention. Each piece has its own unique presence and character.

Are there more animals that you are thinking of introducing into your range and if so what are they ? I personally would love to see some red squirrels and hedgehogs : )

I’m currently working on some new ideas through drawing, something I need to do more of. I’m firstly looking at making an urban and rural fox incorporating textile elements. I also want to explore the idea of mother & daughter bonds , experiment with textiles and printing onto textiles which can be used in my pieces.

Any plans for other gift products, greeting cards or gift wrap featuring your animals would be lovely too ?

A lot to do but I’m very enthused and excited about pushing my work forward.

Thanks Zoe for the insight into your beautiful work. We will certainly be watching this space for more animals coming along in the year ahead. In the meantime you can also catch Zoe on Instagram (@zoestaintonsculpture).

If you liked this post check out the work of Mister Finch too.

Clarke Hutton Mid century Illustration

March 9, 2020

Stanley Clarke Hutton was born in Stoke Newington, London, on 14 November 1898, son of Harold Clarke Hutton, a solicitor, and his wife Ethel, née Clark.

In 1916 he became assistant stage designer at the Empire Theatre.

About a decade later he took a trip to Italy, which inspired him to become a fine artist. In 1927 he joined the lithography class at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He studied under A.S Hartrick, replacing him in 1930-1968 as the instructor in lithography.

As soon as he took up his post, Hutton began to experiment with using the autolitho technique for book illustration. His aim was to develop a process that would make it possible to produce affordable, colour illustrated books for children. Here’s a few of the covers he created.

For many different publishers and on a wide variety of subjects.

This is the story of Noah.

He later worked with Noel Carrington at Penguin Books to develop the Picture Puffin imprint.

He used the same technique on Oxford University Press’ Picture History series. He illustrated about 50 books in all, for publishers in the UK and USA.

The Story of Tea.

Wartime in Britain.

Life in other parts of the globe.

Also some of his geometric work from the sixties.

A more Surrealist feel.

His paintings, figures and lanscapes, were widely exhibited.  He died in Westminster in 1984.

Leaflet promotions by London County Council.

Such a wealth of talent, don’t you agree ?

Any images that grabbed your attention today ?

Evaline Ness American Mid Century Illustrator Part 2

March 2, 2020

Welcome back to part 2 of my post about the life and work of Evaline Ness (April 24, 1911 – August 12, 1986). Please look back one post to see part 1.

Evaline was noted for her ability to work in a variety of media and her innovative and unique illustrations that interweaved text and pictures to create a story that captured a young child’s attention and imagination.

This talent is especially evident in her own written works with their girl protagonists and subtle stories that have a backdrop of ‘feminism’ and present ‘real’ characters learning about all of life’s pleasures, problems, and pains. Because printer’s ink is flat, Evalines’ constant concern was how to get texture into that flatness. The primary challenge in illustrating children’s books, she believed, was how to maintain freedom within limitation. Some of the techniques she has used to combat these limitations include woodcut, serigraphy, rubber-roller technique, ink splattering, and sometimes spitting.

Her first illustrations for publication in a children’s book were for Story of Ophelia by Mary J. Gibbons (Doubleday, April 1954) —using “charcoal, crayon, ink, pencil and tempera”. Not, I feel, her finest hour illustration-wise !

Kirkus Reviews said, “Evaline Ness’ colour pictures of elongated, human-looking animals express in their flimsiness, a searching quality.”

Evaline considers her illustration career to have officially begun in 1957 when Mary Cosgrove, editor at Houghton Mifflin, approached her with the manuscript for The Bridge by Charlton Ogburn. Jr. Originally, Ness refused the offer, thinking the profit would not produce enough income for her to live on. Cosgrove persisted and eventually Evaline agreed. She used offset printing techniques for the production of The Bridge. Ness pushed her silkscreen illustrations beyond the page margins and integrated text outside strict boundaries. The Bridge received much acclaim and Ness decided to leave commercial illustration and only focus on book illustration. In the following years, Ness’s use of mixed media and experimental materials garnered accumulated attention from a wide audience.

According to Charles Bayless at the bookshop Through the Magic Door, the 1960s were a time of experiment in illustration for children, with some fashion for “drawings with sharp, angular figures, muted colors and representational or cartoon-like styles”, which helped Evaline to thrive. “Macaroon” from 1962 shows this to be true.

The first story Evaline both wrote and illustrated was “Josefina February” (Scribners, 1963), after visiting Haiti for one year. It was set in Haiti, about a girl’s search for a lost burro, with a series of woodcuts.

Evaline was known for her variety of styles and techniques in her artwork.

Look at the many different styles here in some examples from her illustrations.

There’s a rich diversity in her work, perhaps that helped make her art so desireable to publishers.

I still am really drawn to the more simplistic two or three colour work.

Here’s a few examples of her magazine work from the early fifties.

Her three Caldecott Honor Books were published 1963 to 1965: All in the Morning Early by Sorche Nic Leodhas, A Pocketful of Cricket by Rebecca Caudill, and Tom Tit Tot: An English Folk Tale retold by Virginia Haviland.  She herself wrote the Caldecott-winning Sam, Bangs and Moonshine (1966), about a fisherman’s daughter, illustrated with line and wash drawings. “Sam” (Samantha) tells lies or “moonshine”, which finally endanger her pet cat “Bangs” and a neighbor boy; she learns responsibility for what she says. (see post 1 for illustrations).

Late in life Evaline experimented with cut-out colouring books such as Four Rooms From The Metropolitan Museum of Art To Cut Out and Color (1977).

Her last illustrated book was The Hand-Me-Down Doll by Steven Kroll (1983) —using pencil, watercolor, ink and charcoal.

Evaline died in 1986 in Kingston, New York, then a resident of Palm Beach, Florida. What a colourful life and a talented artist.