Behind The Scenes

Every tradesmen – or tradeswoman in this case – has their own tools and tricks of the trade. I thought I’d share with you how I work, and my tools, and what makes me a multimedia designer.



During my studies, I put into practice what I’d been doing since I could hold a crayon – and that was draw. I fumbled my way through paint, pastels and wax until I discovered my love for ink, pencil and charcoal. During my studies, I got to use those more and more, and fell in love with them even further. I learnt to transpose from pencil to ink, charcoal and then onto digital.


I was a digital artist for many years as well, so going from a scribble on some paper to a full digital painting was second nature to me. Then, when I entered the working world, I was stuck in a digital realm. Designs were done in the digital air, and it was a huge learning curve. I simply didn’t have the time to sketch things out before doing them digitally. It drove me crazy!

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Then when I went on my own, I realised I could go back to my process. And boy did it feel good. It makes every project feel more personal, special and each get their own dose of creative attention.

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Now, I am venturing to new territories – watercolour being my first. I have never been a natural painter, and while my first acrylic painting looked fantastic, I think I pushed myself and lost it completely. I did that for a pencil project once – I changed my shading style for a particular section of the drawing, and since then my style has never been the same. I’m not sure if I’d call it progress, but it’s certainly different.

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Now, my digital skills come into play. The more I work on something physically, the more I have to play with when it hits the digital realm. I love Photoshop – but mostly for drawing. It’s underrated as a creative tool by most people, but it’s my best friend. Illustrator is a mean machine that I leave all my design work to. Need a precise curved line? Done. Need a strange shape with a stroke and a gradiented fill. Done. Try do that in Photoshop and it’ll take a bit longer, and take you on a slightly more scenic route. I think of Photoshop as a bit of a hippie, and Illustrator is a perfectly organised and efficient sergeant. I love them both for it.


My Tools.

My oldest set of pencils – I’ve had them since 2005, and I’ve only lost 2 pencils. They’re not a well-known brand, but they’re fantastic. They’ve been put through more art exams, personal drawings, commissions and projects than any other stationery I own. They are rather tough, and up to 4B, the graphite has lasted well despite being dropped too many times to count. The softer pencils are more delicate and prone to breaking, but that’s pretty normal. I think you can see I clearly like the softer pencils more – that poor H pencil has barely been used!


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As much as I adore charcoal, it’s tough to find the right kind. Some charcoal is too thick, to soft, too brittle or just plain rubbish. This guy was fairly pricey, but as a git from my Mum, I’ve made them last quite nicely. And I *love* Daler Rowey like a kid loves ice cream in a heatwave. Nice and thin, not too brittle, you can even sharpen them if you’re gentle enough. And I love the fact that they’re wrapped in tissue paper, like a gift.


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If I didn’t have such a phobia of needles, and an ever-changing list of visual things I like or dislike, I’d get tattooed. Ink is such a fun medium to work with – it’s like that friendly kid in the playground that plays with you even though you don’t know them, and they just make it so much more fun to play. I’ve had this bottle of ink for about 10 years. It’s rather watery now, but it’s still fun to work up layers of ink. This bottle of Scrivener’s ink I got from Ordsall Hall in Manchester with some quills. I’ll probably buy some india ink and pop it into this pot when this one is finished, it’s just special and something I’ll keep for as long as I can.

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My latest experiment – watercolours. Everyone in my family is good at painting, apart from me. So I’m starting with watercolours, because they’re like ink, only with colour, and I can handle ink! And I love watercolour paintings, they’re so gentle and interesting to look at, with all the layers and edges where the paint has dried thicker and darker. And I’ve recently come across watercolour handlettering – something I need to try. We did minimal typographic work during my studies, only the boring basic stuff. Handletter is stunning, and with watercolours it looks like summer on a page!


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These beauties are my pride and joy. I got them in about 2006, and adore working with them. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about blending colours and creating new colours with pencils instead of using paint. I did most of my matric art projects in coloured pencil. The great thing about these guys is that they don’t smudge while you’re working. And the colours you can get are just gorgeous. When these run out, I’ll definitely be buying some more!

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