Ink After Ink

I can't even remember quite why I decided to try Inktober. I hadn't used ink at all since about 2006 (to which my lumpy jar of Windsor and Newton will attest) and wondered if it was a good idea to invest so much time in something that certainly wouldn't lead to any more work.

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But sometimes having to stick to a 'style' feels like such a trap. Sometimes I even feel there's this huge gap between the kind of work I make and the work I see that makes my heart sing; I'm just not brave enough to try it. I think, I want to draw and I cannot draw, I want to paint and I cannot paint. I want to write another picture book. Create another window display. I want to make giant sculptures as big as a house and tiny, tiny books with beetle-wing covers. To hang a big tangle of ten-thousand paper stars glued to gold wires from a vaulted ceiling. I want to write poems and make costumes and design sets for theatres. I can picture, exactly, the wallpaper I want in my bedroom. I want to sit in my favourite tree and document everything I find there. I want to paint faces on eggs. I want to fill every second of every day doing things that matter, because otherwise, really, what is the point?

There are so many things. I sit at my desk, paralysed by endless possibility and the thought that I would do every single one of them if I was quite a lot braver and a bit less rubbish. And I think about what my decade-younger self would have thought of that (I can half-remember her having a lot more self-belief, at least in terms of work) and I want to go back in time and sweep her up.

So that's what Inktober was about, in the end; being braver. Speeding forth in on my inky-stained steed, throwing caution to the wind, rescuing self-belief and possibly blobbing on some ancient masking fluid for good measure. Somehow, just making time to do one small painting per day and actually doing it (albeit not always on the day), for a whole month feels like it might be the beginning of something. Although so many things have felt like new beginnings this year, I've almost lost track.

This isn't quite the blog I thought I was going to write - I thought I'd write about how difficult it is to know when to stop painting; the frustration I felt when I knew I'd ruined something at the last minute, or the relief when, after a couple of hours, that day's effort seemed much better than I originally thought. How with collage anything is fixable with pritt-stick and scissors, but with ink you're sort of stuck. How possible it is to lose yourself in painting trees.


Here are all the paintings, in order (plus a bonus bear).


I'd already begun using some pencil line in my more recent work, so I'm going to try painting a bit more of it too - beginning with this month's RSPB commission!

I'm also planning to auction these off, probably on Facebook, to kick-start my London Marathon fundraising for Refuge (yep, I'm doing it again!), so please keep your eyes peeled if you'd like to buy one and support a fantastic charity at the same time! You could also stay in the loop by signing up to my mailing list.

My Inner Gazelle and the Bournemouth Marathon

I'm starting off my thirties in a spectacularly non-Kate Slater fashion by running a marathon.

(I will pause while anyone who was in my PE class at school scrapes themselves off the floor.)

For everyone else, I cannot impress upon you enough how unlikely this is. When I was 10, I won the sack race and when I was 15 my PE teacher asked me to demonstrate backstroke to the rest of the class. Those are my only sporting achievements so far. (I might also be able to save you from drowning if I'm wearing my pyjamas but, let's face it, that's not a real life situation.)

When my brain isn't awash with the serotonin that swooshes round as I run, the main thing that keeps me marathon-motivated (apart from eyeing up fluorescent orange running gear online) is that I plan on raising some money for Teenage Cancer Trust while I'm at it, in memory of my lovely friend Ben.

I'm by no means the first of Ben's friends and family to run a ridiculously long way to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, but I promise you I'm the most unlikely runner of us all, so any donation, however tiny, will definitely spur me on! You can find my Just Giving page here. We all miss Ben so much; this is just another small way to remember someone really wonderful and hopefully make things a little bit better for the next young person diagnosed with cancer.

(As you can see, the other thing I've learned to do on the cusp of this new decade is make a gif!)

(As you can see, the other thing I've learned to do on the cusp of this new decade is make a gif!)

I started running (aka, jogging, very slowly, on strictly flat surfaces) just over a year ago, after reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Yep, not only has Murakami written 13 novels, been translated into 50 languages and won masses of awards, he's also run at least 25 marathons AND one ultramarathon (and seems to squeeze in quite a few triathalons too).

I borrowed the memoir from my friend Sarah and, thoroughly inspired, we decided to find out what all the fuss was about and go for a jog (under the strict agreement that we wouldn't try to chat at the same time).

We had a glass of wine before we set off, a slice of cake when we got back and managed at least half a mile! I wouldn't say I caught the running bug exactly, but it was a nice way to spend time together and I even bought myself an actual pair of leggings from TK Maxx. I hadn't worn leggings since about 1993. (FYI: I've since discovered that running leggings are called tights, which is just one example of the befuddling, yet rather alluring, world of sportswear; a world where the most reliable way to identify if something is for women is that it's got pink bits on, and where you find yourself trapped in a changing cubicle, ensnared in a sports bra you don't understand, wondering how likely it is you'll need to dislocate a least one shoulder to get out of it.)

By autumn we'd reached the dizzying heights of 2 whole miles, with conversation and the odd hill thrown in for good measure (and a shared slice of millionaire's shortbread at the end). It was quite brilliant. I had a vague idea it might be nice to be able to manage 6 miles, but that was probably enough and something I might accomplish in the distant future, around the same time I finally knit enough squares to make a whole blanket or learn to make gravy.

Then Sarah suggested we sign up for the Bournemouth marathon... and I said yes.

I was slightly alarmed, but it was almost Christmas, other parts of my life were going awry and I thought running a marathon seemed like the sort of thing the Kate Slater I would like to be would do without a second thought.

And it is quite handy, really, because when the question "what on earth am I doing with my life?" pops into my brain in an inconvenient sort of way, I have a ready answer: "I know! I'm running a marathon" which appeases my inner Spanish Inquisitor a little bit.

I am a gazelle. A gazelle in running tights. But really I fear I am more like one of the cows when they're let out in spring. Full of joy, rather ungainly, and you know it won't last.

Either way, I'd be eternally grateful if you could sponsor me, here.

The Birthday Crown

Towards the end of last year, I was contacted by the Royal Collection about illustrating a book to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday. So I popped into St James's Palace one Friday morning in my best hat, got there far too early and then walked around outside for far too long, til I was almost late, flung my sketchbooks all over the security office floor, and somehow still managed to get the job! Cue: a lot of celebratory dancing. The story is written by Davide Cali, who has won 33 awards and is, you know, a proper children's book author, so after even more celebratory dancing I sat down to wonder quite how on earth I'd got this job and practice drawing corgis.

I LOVED working on this project. The story is all about finding the Queen the perfect crown for her birthday celebrations and involves a lot of snazzy headgear, but ends simply with a perfect paper crown from made by the prince and princess. Really unusually, the story is almost entirely set in one room of the palace, and I think the book's brilliant designer, Duska Karanov, and I simultaneously had the idea that I could make a proper set!

Here are a few photos of the whole thing:

Working on this made me think a lot about my own Grandma and Gran. They would have been beside themselves with delight if they'd known I was illustrating something for the Queen's birthday. The pose the Queen's adopting on the front cover is very much how my Grandma would look if she was opening a present - or just peering over your shoulder, waiting to make sure she'd boiled you the perfect egg.

You can buy a copy here and it's also available in all good bookshops.

Giveaway: Win a New Concertina Copy of ABC London

Competition now closed. Thank you very much to everyone who entered! And the winner is...

No. 5: GEMMA LUKER! Hooray! Please get in touch, Gemma, and email me your address.


I've extended the closing time for this competition by a day because some people have been having problems commenting. I think I've sorted it out now so please try again if you couldn't comment before!

Competition time! (It's been TOO long.) I was thrilled to receive advance copies of ABC London back in January (originally published by Frances Lincoln in 2012, written by James Dunn and illustrated by me). The super folk at Frances Lincoln have reissued it in a new concertina format, a compact 13 x 13cm in size, all packaged in a rather lovely box! A shame then, that I completely missed it's publication earlier this month, only remembering when my sister snapped a photo of it in Foyles!

I'm so pleased with how this book has turned out (possibly because, as one of my tutors at uni observed, everything looks better when you shrink it down - and I do much prefer the simpler type), that I've decided to give a signed copy away! All you need to do is leave a comment below.

Find out what makes London one of the world’s most exciting cities in this unusual alphabet that can be unfolded to nearly a metre in length. A is for Art, B is for Brick Lane, C is for Changing of the Guard… this delightful alphabet of words and pictures looks at some of the things that give London its unique and stylish cultural identity.
— Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Please share and tweet and like and so on, it's all hugely appreciated, although do make sure you leave a comment to enter. This competition is open to anyone, anywhere in the world and will close at midday (BST) on Monday 30th April The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday afternoon.

Good luck!


PS. I've still got spaces on my collage workshops on Saturday the 11th and 18th April. Lots more info here if you fancy a relaxing day in a lovely Staffordshire farmhouse learning a bit about my collage techniques accompanied with a slice of cake or two and lunch included!