Healthy Chicks’ Affirmation Card Deck: Illustration Process

One of the most fun freelance illustration projects I’ve worked on to date is this – Healthy Chicks’ “Spark Your Bliss” Affirmation Card deck.

Rachel contacted me to ask if I’d like to work on a cover illustration for her affirmation  cards she let me know her concept, size and dimensions – a positive portrait of her enjoying a healthy balanced lifestyle to be printed on a 3.5″ square card.

I took a look through her social media to get a feel for her branding and the kind of images she used, then sketched up 3 rough concept images for her to choose from:

Concept Sketches for "Spark your Bliss" Affirmation Card Deck

Rachel’s favourite was #1 – her sitting on a yoga mat in front of a mandala, with a salad in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

I drew it up into a more developed version, making a few changes as I went along – a feather on her t-shirt, a more drape-y t-shirt, and a little more detail – although not too much – the final print would be quite small, so overdoing it would be a mistake! That done, I inked in the outlines, being careful to ‘trap’ each section (that is, making sure there are no gaps in the lines) for digital colouring in Photoshop.

 

Heath Chicks "Spark your Bliss" Concept Design Illustration

I got to work with Photoshop, using soft, feminine colours and textures to complement Rachel’s existing brand, making sure to leave enough space for text and bleed.

Healthy Chicks Affirmation Cards Final Illustration

Rachel sent the finalised image off to print, and my work was complete.

Here are a couple of product shots, courtesy of Healthy Chicks!

Healthy Chicks Affirmation Cards Product Shot

Affirmation Cards Positivity Meditation Flatlay

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Totally Tasty Illustrated Biscuit Greetings Cards!

Attention all biscuit fans!

My biscuit paintings  has now not only been turned into a into beautiful  art print, but also lovely little greetings cards! Each one features one of my favourite biscuits alongside a cheeky hand-lettered message, professionally printed on high-quality card – ready to go with a manilla envelope, of course!

You can buy your own on my Etsy shop, or keep an eye on my Twitter to see if I’m appearing at a craft fair near you soon.

Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t like biscuits?

Surely not…

Illustrated Biscuit Greetings Cards

Lebkuchen Heart Biscuit Illustration Design Flatlay

Jammie Dodger Illustrated Greeting Card Design Flatlay

Party Ring Biscuit Illustration Greeting Card Design Flatlay

Instagram for Illustrators – How I’m Improving my Feed!

Fun fact: I’ve been on Instagram for 5 years. I started using it just after moving to Cambodia, because it seemed like a kinda neat way to share my travel snaps. I took bad photos and overused filters, because it was 2012 and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Although I’ve been ‘gramming regularly for half a decade (!), I’ve only recently decided to really use it as a tool to promote my artwork. Here’s how it looks right now, November 2016, compared to last year:

instagram-illustration-before-after-nov-2016

SUCH a difference, right? And it’s taken just a little focus and effort. I’m not going to pretend like my current feed is perfect, but it’s definitely a big improvement, showing my current illustration work while reflecting my branding and aesthetic.

I only started improving my feed this August (so literally 3 months ago), and seen some definite results; I have improved my following, am slowly getting a higher number of average likes/comments, and been approached for commissions as a direct result of the work I’ve shared. Yeah, my numbers have nothing on any ‘power’ Instagrammers, but the difference is evident.

Here are my “Top Tips!” to keep in mind when improving your Instagram feed for your illustration business:

Your Feed’s Overall Aesthetic – I never used to think of what my feed looked like as a unit. But if people have clicked through to your profile, that’s where they go.From there they decide whether to follow you or move on. So it’s gotta look good to someone scrolling through, or they’re going to click away. Your feed needs to show the viewer roughly what they’re going to see from you day-to-day, that your content is reliably high quality and attractive, with a good mix of interesting posts.

Lighting – My feed last year was definitely too dark and gloomy. Now I try to keep it bright and light! This is tricky throughout a London winter, especially since I don’t have access to a good camera or fancy lighting in my home right now. I make the effort to take the photos using Camera360, and tweak them before posting using the same app.

Colour Scheme – Not only was last year looking pretty badly lit, I didn’t have any unifying colours in mind to keep it unified – though I guess the black gloom is pretty prevalent! Now, I try to use a colour scheme to match my branding (basically “CMYK plus white”!) as much as possible.

Theme – Each month I’m trying to pick a theme. October was easy – I shared my Inktober sketches, and tried to present them in interesting ways. I’m trying to continue showing my work in a similar way throughout November. December is going to get more festive! Let the seasons guide you and join in with challenges (like Inktober) if you can.

Variety – I’m definitely working on this! I mostly post my artwork, but very little of my studio/environment/myself. I guess because my life does not look terribly ‘aspirational’! But I’m going to work on presenting my work in interesting ways, showing off my workspace and materials, and possibly posting the odd selfie.

Tags – I never used to use tags very much, but now I max them out. I have no shame. I use a mix of generic tags, such as #illustration and #sketchbook, for example, but also tag in appropriate communities like #myunicornlife and #calledtobecreative, as well as more general ones that may relate to my work, such as #feminism and #bodypositive. Obviously I change what tags I use to relate to what I posted!

I’m happy with the results of my mini Instagram makeover – it really doesn’t take that much hard work to show your illustrations off that little bit better! Maybe this time next year I’ll be able to show off a truly beautiful Instagram feed!

Follow me on Instagram to check out my Insta-journey from here – I try to check out & follow back every legit human being who follows me!

– Rachel xx

 

New Portfolio! Fashion, lifestyle and portrait illustration on CarbonMade

I’ve put together  a proper portfolio, using CarbonMade. I really like their sleek interface and design. So pretty, and easy to organise my illustrations into neat little projects.

Take a look!

carbonmade-folio-screenshot-rachel-destecroix

Taking Part in Inktober 2016!

Throughout October, many artists and illustrators aim to draw one image a day using traditional inking tools – markers, pens, bottled ink, etc. Throughout ‘Inktober’ the idea is to produce 31 ink-based drawings over 31 days.

A lot of people follow official (or non-official) prompts and themes to get them stared, such as this one from http://inktober.com/:

inktober-official-prompt-list

All you have to do is create an ink drawing (following the prompts or not) and post it to social media including the hashtags at the bottom of the image above. Simple!

Personally, I am not following a prompt list, because I have my own aims for development this month, and want to follow my own intuition and ideas each day, with my own targets for improvement.

Although I have always used ink in my work, I ordinairily stick to outlining, either using a very thin-nibbed pen or a miniatures paintbrush. This Inktober, my 3 personal guidelines are:

  • include inked hand-lettering in every image – my lettering skills need a lot of work!
  • use ink as the primary medium in each image – I usually only use ink for outlining, but this month I want to develop my use of tone and washes
  • have a colour scheme of black, white and either yellow/cyan/magenta in each image – helps to keep thing simple and graphic with a pop of colour in each image, and also creates a cohesive unit when viewed on my Instagram as a group (I’ll write more another time about my work on finessing my Insta-brand!)

For the curious, here are my first 7 days worth of images. Admittedly, I missed the real life day 1, and I expect a visit from the Inktober Police any second. (Just kidding: there are no Inktober police; if you miss a day, don’t let that become an excuse to give up!)

intober-drawing-2016Day 1

prettier-on-pinterest-inktober2016Day 2

starsarecalling-inktober-2016Day 3

heartbreakclub-inktober-2016Day 4

getcrafty-inktober-2016Day 5

girlgang-inktober-2016Day 6

teen-witchDay 7

I’ve been quite enjoying working on these, although I’ve kept each image relatively quick and low maintenance. You can definitely tell days where I put more effort into the lettering! What do you think?

Have you been working on Inktober? If so please share in the comments, I’d love to see your work! Have you given yourself guidelines? How have you been finding doing an image a day? Add me on Instagram or Twitter and let’s share some inky goodness!

-Rachel xx

19 Awesome Podcasts To Entertain You While You Work From Home!

Monti the podcat's favourite podcasts creative industry

I spend a good amount of time working from home, and like many other creative types, I have developed a love of listening to podcasts to get me through the day. I spend a lot of time working on visual, hands-on tasks, and feel more focused when I can keep both the visual and audio/language parts of my brain occupied (science!)

It’s also a bit like having really erudite colleagues you can listen to and switch off when you become bored of them. Perfect. Monti (pictured above), is also a fan.

Anyway – maybe you love podcasts too? If you do, please share your faves with me. I’m always interested to listen to new stuff – especially ‘creative industry’ podcasts, because as you’re about to find out, I don’t listen to nearly enough of those!

As I listen to a wide variety of things, I’ve split my list into neat little categories. Here we go…

Creative

Arrest all mimics – “The original thinking & creative innovation podcast!”- Ben Tallon interviews people who are work in the illustration/design industry. There is some seriously inspiring stuff and solid advice here, about all subjects from surviving as a creative introvert to working internationally. Love to listen while I work, or sometimes when I need an extra boost of morale to get started on an independent project!

Big Illustration Party Time – Kevin Cross and Joshua Kemble talk about their experiences in freelance illustration and cartooning, with relevant weekly themes (getting representation, dealing with rejection, developing your style). The podcast actually stopped recording a few years ago, but the informational is still relevant, useful and inspiring if you’re working as a freelance illustrator. Give it a listen!

Book Shambles with Robin & Josie – Robin Ince and Josie Long (love them) plus a notable guest review a selection of their favourite books. They regularly discuss literature, film, theatre, stand-up comedy, politics and the arts. Always interesting, and gives me regular inspiration for new books to read!

99% Invisible – This podcast explores the history behind the architecture and design  which we don’t always notice, but is around us every day. Interesting stuff.

Storytelling

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People – aka Beautiful/Anonymous. “One hour. One phone call. No names.” Chris Gethard answers the calls, and whoever in on the other end has up to one hour to talk about whatever they want. Only the caller can hang up. Some amazing, deep conversations to be heard.

Reply All – A show ‘about the internet’, although that doesn’t do it justice. It examines our use of the internet and social media to tell fascinating, human stories. I don’t love every single episode, admittedly, but some are amazing – listen to the On The Inside shows, which have a ‘Making a Murderer’ vibe, if that’s your thing.

The Mortified Podcast – People read out their high-school diaries, in front of an audience, without comment or embellishment. This is everything you think it will be.

Lore – The website describes this podcast as ‘true life scary stories’, which is accurate, but doesn’t do it justice. Aaron Mahnke re-tells tragic or horrifying historical stories, which are occasionally supernatural in nature, but always creepy as hell, regardless of whether or not you are a ‘believer’ (I’m not). I try not to listen to this in the dark.

Risk! – The show where ‘people share true stories they dare not tell in public’. A bit like The Moth but grittier – stories of relationships, sex, death and all the things you might not want to listen to with your mum/kids.

Educational

The Skeptic’s Guide – Weekly discussion of science news and discoveries, with regular segments like Forgotten Superheroes of Science, What’s the Word and the weekly news. You (well, I) need to stay quite focused to follow what they’re talking about, but it’s always good to learn something new!

You Are Not So Smart – A podcast on the science of self-delusion. Learn about things like confirmation bias, crowd psychology and the Dunning-Kruger effect, and realise how you can be easily mislead by your own brain. Every episode features a bonus cookie recipe review. Yum.

The Allusionist – Helen Zaltzman talks about the English language and etymology. The podcasts are funny, concise and full of information for word nerds. I love.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – The opposite of ‘The Allusionist’, insofar as an episode can be 4 hours long and doesn’t typically have a lot of laughs. However, Carlin goes in-depth into a  variety of ‘hardcore’ historical topics – the second world war, the siege of Munster, and the  growth of the Mongol Empire. No punches are pulled, and we are left in no doubt as to how to unforgiving life must have been at other times in history.

The Infinite Monkey Cage – A BBC Radio 4 show released as a podcast, Robin Ince and Brian Cox plus guests talk about science in a funny, approachable way, following a weekly theme (The Science of Sleep, Artificial Intelligence, A Guide to General Relativity, etc).

Monster Talk – This podcast sceptically examines the science, history and folklore behind crypotozoological creatures and ‘monsters’, from Nessie to poltergeists. I think they occasionally give a little too much credence to the stories they’re examining, and I’m not personally interested in every creature they bring up (ahem, Big Foot) but I do enjoy hearing people’s stories, the history of legends both new and old, and understanding why people believe the things they do.

No Such Thing As A Fish – The podcast affiliated with ‘QI’ off the telly. The QI elves share the most interesting facts they find each week, in a typically amusing fashion.

Comedy 

Answer Me This! – People e-mail/call in with questions, and Helen & Olly answer them (kinda). Silly fun, tightly edited so it doesn’t outstay its welcome!

A Whole Lot of Nothing – Chris and Phil talk about the weekly news, share ‘hilarious headlines’, compete in a meme war and occasionally do drunk film reviews. Sometimes Ryan turns up to encourage everybody to remember to fact check, and go on about Unions. A bit like hanging out with your mates down the pub, but you can skip the bits when they talk about wrestling. They would recommend not listening to anything before about episode 12, which I can’t really argue with.

So, there are just a few of my favourite podcasts! What about you? I’m always on the lookout for something new, especially, as I said before, creative industry podcasts. Please leave a comment with your recommendations!

Playroom Mural for SongSaa Island: Throwback Thursday!

I’ve written a little bit about getting commissioned to paint a mural while I was living in Cambodia. While that was a great little project, this one is especially memorable to me because I got to stay & work on Songsaa Island. Songsaa (which means ‘sweethearts’ in Khmer) is an amazing little private island near Koh Rong, a few hours’ ride by speedboat off the cost of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. And it is insanely gorgeous. So before I share any of my actual artwork with you, I am going to show off some photos of the island, because, wow.

Speedboat to Songsaa Private Island

I was picked up at the docks near Sihanoukville and driven by speedboat to the island. It took a couple of hours, if memory serves correctly, and I was joined by Hun Sen and his family. That’s the president of Cambodia. Friendly enough, but also possibly not the world’s nicest human being. Ahem.

SongSaa Island jetty

The boat stopped at the end of this jetty.

SongSaa Private Island Bungalow

I hadn’t expected to stay in an actual bungalow (staying on the island costs about $500 a night I believe), but I guess I got lucky! This is the inside – though this photo doesn’t really do it justice! The place was huge, and perfect in every way. The incredible view from the balcony doors got over-exposed here, because I am not a proper photographer!

Infinity pool balcony songsaa island

View from Songsaa Island infinity poolHere’s the balcony, with my own private infinity pool, well-hidden from any neighbours while having a wonderful view…

Songsaa Private Island playroom - with my mural inside!

… and here’s the playroom, where I painted my mural – you can see the silhouette of a hornbill and some branches on the wall inside! The animals and plants featured in my mural are all native to Cambodia, from gekkos to elephants.

Songsaa playroom mural in progress - blues and greens

I started off by drawing my design (originally sketched on paper and approved by the island’s owners) up on the walls, and filling in the largest areas of colours with acrylic paint – the blue water and a few different shades of green for the leaves. You can see where the water lilies and animals are going to go later!

songsaa island playground mural painting progress

Once all the blue and greeny background shades were done I started to fill in the basic colours for the animals. The scene wrapped right around 2 walls of the playroom, so impossible to photograph all in one go!

Songsaa island mural painting

Once all the flat colours were done, I outlined everything & added details with a permanent marker.  Here are a few close-ups of showing the detail… click for a better view!

The mural took a good 5 solid days to complete! My Songsaa Island jungle mural & me!

Me just after completion..

Songsaa private infinity pool at sunset

…. & me relaxing after a hard week’s work!

I’m sure you can see that this was an incredible place to work on a really fun project, and I feel pretty lucky to have had the chance to work on this. I did work really hard, and it was quite intense – I had to make sure I brought all the paints etc. I could possibly need, plus a little extra, as I imagine the closest art shop would be over 100 miles away by sea & land! So guys – if you happen to have your own private island (or somewhere less glamorous) in need of a little sprucing up, I’d be more than happy to help out! Just drop me a line 😉

Hope that was interesting and not too image heavy! Have you ever had the chance to work on a project in an unusual/awesome place? I’d love to hear about it!

Xx Rachel

Fun Foodie Dim Sum Illustration! Yum!

One thing I miss from living in Asia is the food… delicious, steamy dim sum! So, I figure, why not commemorate that in a gouache illustration with a cheeky hand-lettered slogan? And guess what? Prints are available on my Etsy shop – you can even get 20% off with the code PRECIOUS16 until mid-September!

steamy-dimsum-print-72dpi

I’m new to hand-lettering (as you may be able to tell?) but I’m relatively pleased with how this turned out. Next time I’m going to try & make it a little smoother and more regular – but I also think that perfect-looking letteringcan be a little dull, and this does at least balance out quite nicely with the painted dumplings & crockery!

It’s currently making my shelf at home look a little cuter:

dimsum-print-shelfie-framed-72dpi

You can buy your own copy here if you’re also a fan of jiaozi! Top tip for anyone living in Phnom Penh – visit Chinese Noodle Restaurant near the Bayon Bakery on Monivong Blvd. Looks like a dive, but the food there is SO GOOD!

Does anyone out there have any tips for creating flowy, balanced hand-lettering? What tools do you use? I’d love to know!

– Rachel xx

Biscuits, Biscuits, Biscuits!

Who doesn’t love a good biscuit? I know I do! So after some extensive biscuit-y research, I painted a lovely biscuit alphabet. Yum.

biscuit-illustrations-fortune-cookie

biscuit-illustrations-viennese-whirl

biscuit-illustrations-jammie-dodger

biscuit-illustrations-zebra-cookie

Next step: scan ’em all in, and tweak the text and layout to create a cool alphabet poster! Hopefully that’ll be completed and in my Etsy shop in the very near future!

Important question of the week: what’s your favourite biscuit?

-Rachel xx