My Fullest Self

A couple of weeks ago, I started work on this. In case there's the tiniest chance you haven't seen one of the million times I've mentioned it on Instagram and Twitter, this is something Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said on Woman's Hour last year, in response to the question, "What is the most important thing we can teach our daughters?" Adichie replied:

"Your job is not to be likeable, your job is to be your fullest self."

Obviously, this struck a bit of a chord with me at the time. Well, more of a direct radio punch, actually. Especially when she said that women must "reject the idea of likeability". You can hear this bit of the interview here and also watch Adichie's brilliant "We Should All Be Feminists" TED talk, here.

It came to mind again, recently, when I was thinking of ways to raise more money for Refuge, alongside my London Marathon attempt! So, I'm selling prints and postcards of the finished artwork (still a work in progress, but almost done!), with all the profits going to Refuge with the rest of my London Marathon fundraising. Buy yours by 3pm on WEDNESDAY 29th MARCH, and you might even win the original artwork! In a frame and everything! Please visit my shop to have your very own bit of Adichie inspiration on your wall and support this amazing charity.

The best thing about creating this particular piece of art is that, somehow, I think Adichie's words have finally sunk in; really deep in, to my heart or gut or subconscious, or wherever it is that you have to keep things so you just know them. As though in carving out letters from paper, they've marked themselves on my bones, too.

And finally, I watched this video last week. More than anything I've heard or read, this best describes my experience of how it feels. I think because it's non-specific, it doesn't make me think, "well, of course it wasn't as bad as that", which I used to think all the time. A friend nailed it when she said to me, "no one wins any prizes for being in the most abusive relationship. It's either abusive, or it's not." So, if you're reading this and thinking, "well, things aren't that bad...",  that's already quite bad enough. There's a list here, if it helps; just ONE of these, or something similar, is bad enough. Please tell someone what you're going through. You are worth so much more.

BE YOUR FULLEST SELF. It's taken me a long time to find out who my fullest self is, but I finally feel like me again. It's the most wonderful thing.

Remember, one in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, Refuge is running an amazing campaign with Avon at the moment, all about what you can do to help a friend suffering abuse. It's really worth checking out, here. That could be you in the video, holding out the umbrella.

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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.