Shrew Love

I posted bits of my latest RSPB illustrations on social media as I worked and had such a lovely response I thought I'd blog about the whole process. The RSPB are my longest running clients and there's nothing I love better than a Wild Times commission popping up in my inbox! Even better, the latest tale starred a shrew! Shrews are absolutely my new favourite, which frankly means I'm going to have to work really hard to resist the urge to create a new range of shrew homeware. Sadly, I don't think Not on the High Street will ever include any rodents in their trend forecasts and, unlike with the orangutans, I probably shouldn't risk it...

Anyway, I've started experimenting a bit lately, and for this story I tried a slightly more mixed-media approach, using paint and charcoal to create some of the background before assembling it all in Photoshop.

Not so long ago I was such a collage-purist that even using a pen to dot the eyes of my characters felt like cheating! But slowly, over the last couple of years, I've been straying from my roots as a scissors-and-glue evangelist to branch out ever so slightly.

The great thing about illustrating the RSPB stories is that I can adapt my technique to suit the tale. I don't usually decide exactly what kind of collage I'll make until the roughs have been approved. This is how one of the shrew illustrations turned out (you can see the following page, along with more of my RSPB work, here), and below are two previous commissions in different styles. For the harvest mouse I created both illustrations as whole, flat collages, only scanning them in when they were completely assembled. For the other story, about a boy's bedtime adventure with his toy animals, I worked in a really three-dimensional way to create a series of spot illustrations, quite similar to the way made the sets for The Birthday Crown book.

I'm really lucky to have a client who allows me to experiment a bit, and I'd definitely like to carry on down the mixed media route for other projects.

Going for Geese

This is my new philosophy for life.

I had grand plans to design myself a really nice thirtieth birthday party invitation which I could adapt and sell online (I know, I have quite a startling aptitude for business). I thought I'd create something which said, Kate is a person of style and elegance, her collage simply oozes sophistication, but I couldn't get it right. I spent a huge chunk of the day trying to make various flowery things work, and still, the sophistication wasn't oozing at all. I had the same disheartened feeling I get when I read trend forecasts all about pineapples or concrete, or whatever.

In desperation, I turned to Peter Scott's Observations of Wildlife, because a good bird book has never let me down, and I found this:

Swans! I drew them, decided the looked more like geese and, hey presto...

So this is it. I'm going for geese.

I think it's kind of how I always work; I had no idea people would buy tea towels with orangutans on, but it turns out there is a niche market out there for jungle themed kitchen textiles. Whoever would have guessed? I'm not entirely sure if this is the best way to run a business, but I expect I will find out.

And there are always concrete pineapples to fall back on, if all else fails.

 

Blue Peter visits the Farnes Flock!

Finally, at the grand age of seven-and-twenty, I am the very proud owner of a Blue Peter badge! A couple of weeks ago, on my birthday in fact, I was heading into the Peak District for a celebratory luncheon, enjoying the sunshine and generally revelling in the fact that I had not one single bird to cut out, when my telephone rang. It was Blue Peter's director asking if I could go up to the Farne Islands that very evening to be part of a feature they had planned the following day! What would Diane Louise Jordan* do? I asked myself, and quickly said YES before I had chance to get too nervous. So, after a quick sandwich, we hot-footed it back home for a slice of birthday battenburg (homemade with lots of marzipan - my favourite!) before I caught the train back up to the Farnes, just three days after I returned home from hanging the exhibition.

It's very exciting having your travel arranged for you by someone else. I spent a good chunk of the journey quickly trying to get to the part of Susan Cain's Quiet where she enlightens introverts on how to deal with public speaking. It turns out you need 1) practice: "Aaargh, I have no time to practice!" and 2) a passion for your subject: "BIRDS! COLLAGE! BLUE PETER! YES!" Everything would be ok, I promised myself, my jar of Night Time Kalms rattling reassuringly in my pocket.

In fact, everything was super. It should come as no surprise that people who work on Blue Peter are very lovely people indeed. They even gave me a special HAT. Anyone who knows just how much I love a good hat will not be surprised by my delight in having such a fine, green M&S specimen to add to my collection.

The children from the local middle school in Seahouses were brilliant. They asked some great questions about my exhibition and made lovely bird collages in a really short space of time. We also did quite a lot of walking in and out of the chapel, donning our hats at the appropriate moment, and a good deal of pointing at puffins:

Blue Peter

Blue Peter

It was broadcast today and you can now see the whole programme here if you're in the UK, it will probably be available for a week or so and the Farnes bit is about 19 minutes in.

I'll be back on the Farnes during the summer holidays to run some children's collage workshops (as seen on Blue Peter!), I'll keep you posted and should have some definite dates lined up soon.

Diane Louise Jordan

Diane Louise Jordan

*My absolute favourite Blue Peter presenter when I was young: