She'd probably call me a "Bum face"
(But, she always had a bit of an attitude)
If I could talk back, I'd tell her to follow her heart, be a go-karting engineer (if she really wants to), but first, listen to Debbie Millman...
At seven years old, I remember my older brothers building go-karts, dressing up in army clothes, climbing trees, and on Sunday evenings, during The Clothes Show, secretly wrestling on the fold-out double bed in my Dad's office (why a carpet fitter needed a home office, I still wonder). Many brothers would have shaken their little sister off for 'cramping their style’, but I didn't give mine the choice. I joined in each and every one of their activities growing up, whether they liked it or not. I've even been known to pull out a podgy 'clothes line' during wrestling nights. I may not have been tall but I was darn mighty.
Writer, designer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of Design Matters (the first ever podcast about design), Debbie Millman has been the facilitator of change in my life. Bold statement, I know, well, she deserves all the accolades people can bestow upon her. She has opened my mind to more creative and critical thinking, and has expanded my visual learning with the stories and experiences of creative women owning their place in the creative world. In her podcast Design Matters, Debbie has, for the last 14 years, interviewed some of the most amazing female (and male) minds. Here are some of my favourites... Paula Scher, Marina Abramović and Elle Luna.
Many of the themes and topics discussed by Debbie and her podcast's guests: from brand identity, to modern tribes, have massively shaped both my undergrad and postgrad dissertations, as well as my practice.
Quite simply, without this lady, and her ground-breaking podcast, Tiny Grey may never have become the illustration studio it is today.
So, happy International Women's Day everyone, and thank you Debbie, thank you.
Oh, and my seven year old self says she thinks you're neat!
The brief (x9 multi-paged Word docs) dropped into my Messenger account on the 28th Dec. Firstly, I'm blown away by the organisational skills of my client. She's kindly laid out every person with their name, photo and connection to the other 70+ people and pets that were to be depicted in time for a big birthday reveal mid-Feb.
Ordinarily, I ask for 4-6 weeks to work on a portrait, and it's at this point I'm slightly panicked that the timescales are going to be too tight. After all, my 14 month old son lovingly likes to remind me (with a hair pull or nostril poke) that he is now my top priority, but this project is a big deal, in fact it is the biggest portrait I have ever been asked to create. At this point my biggest portrait was of a family of twelve - that I thought was my limit!
With each person being connected to one or more other people, it required meticulous planning before I even began sketching.
I started by counting each immediate family 'set'. These would then be grouped loosely within the much larger extended family composition, but the number of people within each set ranged from one or two to six or more. This meant placement of each set would need to be balanced over the left, centre and right thirds of the artboard. This took a few days to perfect as I also had to balance colour (clothes, hair, accessories) across the family sets and even the couples within this.
Alongside composition, I immersed myself in the brief - especially the photographs of each person, so I could get an understanding of the sort of mannerisms and expressions they adopt. I studied themes of identity in my under-grad and post-grad degrees, so this is my absolute favourite part! I love people watching and learning about the type of characters they embody through what they wear and even how they stand or pose for the camera.
Sketching starts with very faint pencil marks of body outlines to ensure I have allowed enough space for each character to be clearly displayed. With a darker pencil, applying a little more pressure, I then start to detail limb placement and the direction that each person would be facing. Features and finer details comes next with a fine tipped pen. I then scan the sketch into Illustrator and begin working up the lines, by drawing around them and changing or omitting areas I am less happy with.
The colour palette had to be complimentary and evenly distributed in order to make the composition flow and have no area that draws the eye more than the other. The addition of shading under arms, below hemlines etc, all help bring the Tinies to life.
If you'd like to get your hands on your own portrait, or have one made for someone you rather like, click that lovely button below.
Here's the final portrait, 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'...
Ever looked at your walls and thought, they could do with some personality?
After moving house a few years ago, I thought the very same thing! Looking around at the cheap, generic prints I bought as 'space-fillers' a few months ago I decided it was time to get rid of them and inject a little 'me' into the mortar.
This gave me the idea to create these giant hand-painted portraits of my family (me, my wife and our son). The giant stretched canvasses (60cm x 80cm) now sit proudly in our kitchen and highlight a few of our favourite hobbies - see if you can guess them from the photos!
If you'd like me to create one or more for you (or as a gift for a friend or loved one), please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices are £220 per portrait plus £12 postage and packing.
Day to day I get to find out about new people and illustrate their quirks and hobbies, my latest commission was no exception - this pair are such characters! The super-trendy couple from Shoreditch consist of Babs and Bobby. Babs describes herself as a "geeky fashionista" who loves her oversized pink specs, her partner Bobby is a self confessed "bearded extravert".
In this special, extended blog post I take you through everything I did to create this bespoke portrait, from start to finish!
As with all of my commissions, I requested the brief from the couple via email. Their reply included an attachment of a photos (this couple sent through six: three of Babs, two of Bobby and one of the pair of them together, but this can vary from client to client). Also included in their reply was a brief description of their personalities and what sort of clothes they like to wear. (Briefs can often include any hobbies, objects, or any jobs each person may have too.)
I then took a good look at the photos and descriptions and started to create small, rough sketches of the couple's facial expressions, body language and accessories. It's at this point, I concentrated on their fashion sense and experimented with the composition and position of their bodies in relation to one another.
As they're a fun-loving, "larger-than-life" couple, I chose to pose them in a way that spread Bobby across a good portion if the canvas to exaggerate his bold and playful personality. He loves Babs to bits and this is easy to see from the brief I received "he's dead romantic, and always showers me with little, but meaningful, gifts - I can't count the amount of playlists he's made me... he's a real goof-ball". This dictated the expression on Bobby's face: I chose to have his eyes shut with a cheeky, goofy grin. I placed Babs in the centre of the composition (after all she is, as Bobby says, "the centre of my universe!"). Her arms are raised with shoulders shrugged in a way that suggests she isn't surprised by Bobby's playful behaviour in the slightest, and the smile on her face portrays she quite likes it.
When happy with the sketches, I made one final preparatory, line sketch that consisted of all of the things I think worked well in the preliminary rough sketches. I then scanned this into Illustrator and began working it up into layers of line and colour.
I chose subtle colours for Babs' clothes and accessories to highlight her calmer character. Bobby, I dressed in earthy tones, because although he's an extravert, he likes the relaxed look: "being raised on a farm, I just can't part with my tweed patches and chunky-knit jumpers".
I coloured the complete composition using complimentary tones from the same palette, rather than mixing colours belonging to contrasting palettes, like neons and pastels, which, believe me, can look really odd! With pink being the couple's favourite colour, I chose to colour the background of the portrait in a subtle pink, which also compliments Babs' top.
After colour was applied, I focused on the shadows. For this, I needed to think about where the light source would be coming from. Many directions of light would confuse the shadows, and as the charm of Tiny Grey prints come from their simplicity, I chose to have the light shining directly from above the couple. Shadows would then fall beneath areas where the light couldn't reach, such as under Babs' collar, under Bobby's cap, and on the underside of both Babs and Bobby's limbs. Including shadows adds more interest to the composition and helps bring more life to the characters' forms.
I then emailed the composition (called the proof) to the couple where they had the opportunity to feedback anything they would prefer to be changed. In this instance the couple loved their portrait and approved it for print immediately. The print was then dispatched a week later.
"OMG, thank you! We've opened our portrait and couldn't love it more. We'll be in touch at Christmas as my sister has now seen it and wants a Tiny Grey too!"
If you're looking for a unique portrait of you and your family, or as a gift for a loved one, please pop me an email to email@example.com detailing the following things:
I can then create a bespoke quote for you. Alternatively, you can fill out my handy form via the button below.
For those of you who aren't familiar with my work, you may not know that I started out creating designs for ceramics (mugs and coasters to be precise).
Well, this week I've had some incredible news. My mug designs are now soon to be stocked in a real life art gallery: The National Gallery of Ireland for that matter!
Not too shabby!
Illustrating ten Tiny characters in one composition is no easy task: space is the real issue. Firstly, Tinies look much better when they are displayed on a grand scale (the colour really pops). Secondly, the thick black outlines that are synonymous with Tiny Grey illustrations, along with the (sometimes) detailed possessions of each character, can look a little crowded if there are too many elements on the page.
Having said that, I'm not one to shy away from a challenge; when a lovely chap, from across the border in Scotland, contacted me to commission a special extended family portrait of ten for him, I jumped at the task.
Having played around with positioning of the individual characters, I decided on a rough composition and then tested various colour palettes in pencil before scanning the pencil sketch into my computer to work on the digital piece.
After adding colour, I added shadows to the characters' forms and also beneath each of them to help give a very slight hint of a three-dimensional form. The shadows on the ground help place each Tiny within a 'situation', in this case the situation (or location) is ambiguous as it is in many of my artworks - this is due to the absence of a background landscape. You may have noticed this isn't always the case in my work and some portraits do have detailed backdrops. However, what makes this kind of portrait unique is that it encourages the viewer to interpret their own location, and to play around with it: imagining from day to day different scenarios. (I find this helps give the artwork a 'fresh' and contemporary look.)
Here's the final piece...
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about how I plan my Tiny Grey compositions. If you're a budding illustrator and would like me to share more of my processes with you, let me know here and I'll make a note for future blogs and vlogs.
If you're looking for a Tiny Grey portrait of your own, simply complete this speedy form with your details and I'll be in touch very shortly with a price for you.
All the best,
You may think my Tiny Grey illustrations are limited to creating prints for the home. Well, although I ABSOLUTELY love creating wonderful family portraits (and won't be stopping), on a weekly basis, a good portion of my time is spent as the Head of Design at a digital creative agency, where I help transform brands' visual identities, through design and illustration, to help set them apart from their competitors.
Over the years, as Head of Design, and Chief Illustrator at Tiny Grey, I've created thousands of bespoke logos, business cards, letterheads, icons, digital graphics, and even super-sized office wall art for British institutions such as the NHS, global law firms, and sole traders selling anything from buttons to beer!
So, if you, or someone you know, has a business that they would like to transform with Tiny Grey illustrations, then please get in touch - I'd love to help.
All the best,
From time to time I get asked how I illustrate my prints. Well, I create them in a number of different ways, but in this short video below, I demonstrate my sketching and inking steps on an analogue illustration.
*Apologies the pencil section of the video is a bit faint (this is intentional as leaning hard on the paper can make it tricky to rub out the pencil markings once the ink has been added). I've upped the contrast of these bits to make it a little easier for you to see (but you may still have to squint). Hopefully the sneaky shots of my dogs will make up for it...
After this process I scan my illustrations into my computer and work them up digitally with line and colour. This takes a while so I'll perhaps create another video for these processes at a later date.
Until the next time!
When wedding bells ring, I always get excited!
April's traditionally a busy time for me as the wedding season approaches and people are looking for a unique gift to give the happy couple on their special day. However, it makes a nice change when I get asked to illustrate something a little different.
A few weeks ago I was commissioned to create a portrait depicting married life; more specifically one that paid tribute to a couple's journey from meeting at Glastonbury Festival, to their lovely new home in the countryside, where bluebells grow just outside.
There was one snag though... depicting an entire music festival would detract from the family and make the overall appearance cluttered. I had to find a way of introducing a subtle nod to the festival without it overpowering the peaceful setting of their new home.
Here's the initial sketch and final coloured up artwork (including a Glastonbury tent in the background, entry wristbands and of course... muddy wellies):
I love a good doodle on the parcel!