Being a self-confessed adventurer, I've wanted to visit Japan for what feels like a lifetime. Mainly because of Harajuku (a district of Japan that has the quirkiest fashion I've ever seen). I guess it's fair to say I was a tiny bit infatuated with Gwen Stefani's music videos while studying at Art College and remember pleading with my tutor that my year-long final project idea should be based on her Harajuku girl backing dancers. My proposal was utterly rejected.
Kawaii illustration, (Kawaii meaning 'cute' in Japanese) infiltrates everything in this place. The Kawaii Monster Café is an absolute must see - the waiters could've walked straight off Gwen's HollaBack Girl music video!
Kyoto was... different. In Tokyo the city is totally flooded with sharply dressed professionals, but in Kyoto, I don't know, people seemed more laid back, less 'in a rush' and more… traditional looking.
The shrines and temples are a must see for those who are interested in honing their landscape illustration techniques, and the bamboo forest is infinitely cool.
Now I'm not a sushi fan, but there are ways and means of finding... donuts.
Naoshima, the 'art island': This place has some of the most amazing sculptures nestled away in the landscape! I guess we visited about 2 indoor galleries and a whole heap of outdoor sculptures including a massive yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama (check her work out it will blow your mind).
We slept on a traditional futon… my back did not like this.
Zoe wanted to visit Hiroshima , she's a bit of a history buff and was super keen to see the site of the first atomic bomb… the museum is harrowing but so essential for us to remember those who were lost.
Towards the end of the trip we headed back to Tokyo. If I can recommend just one place to inspire you as an illustrator, it would have to be Studio Ghibli... it's a smorgasbord of ideas and character - a huge hit for me! I'm such a fan of their animated film The Flying Island. If you want to visit the studio be sure to buy tickets before you fly out!
If you want details on where we stayed and what we did in more detail, ping me an email and take a look at my visual travel video at the top of my post!
This s#@! is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S! ;D
It’s not often I create artworks for personal purposes, hell knows I have enough things already adorning my walls. But a few months ago I was asked to be Godmother to my one year old Niece. So, with the Christmas rush behind me and a little extra studio time, I thought it would be a nice idea for her christening gift to create a large-scaled canvas. After all, she'll be inundated with jewellery and books - I can keep that trip to Thomas Sabo and Waterstones on the back-burner until her birthday.
So first things first, I needed some ideas! I made a list of things I knew were important to her, and although she doesn’t quite have the vocabulary to articulate what she enjoys most, a chat with her parents and a peek at her toys did give me an insight.
I’ve been told that she’s starting to love animals; has a mild obsession with In The Night Garden; and has been clutching a Peppa Pig book for the last 5 or so weeks. (I’m beginning to think my sister-in-law birthed the book at the same time.) With these nuggets of information I thought to myself that an animal-themed, family adventure scene would be nice.
Now, I have to confess, as the brief was a little open-ended (and I too love animals), I wanted the artwork to raise awareness and teach my Niece about the importance of animal welfare as well as being a piece of art she can enjoy for years to come.
I did visual research on some endangered animals and began creating some rough sketches to see which would work with my theme.
When I had my animal choices locked down, I started sketching out a composition with my Niece being the focal point at the centre. The colours came next with a predominantly green palette to match her room and echo the natural surroundings.
Below I’ve picked out some important details:
When the canvas was opened I received this lovely message from my sister-in-law:
To get a bespoke print of your own, get in touch with me using the button below.
All the best,
Dear friends of Tiny Grey,
A few months ago I stopped selling my mug designs on my website so I could concentrate on illustrating more artwork. Well, with the help of my agents, retail giants House of Fraser requested them to sell on their own website. YAY!
Since then, I’ve had some wonderful news. My mug designs are now selling in selected House of Fraser (actual, physical) stores across the UK. AND… the lovely people over at Fenwick’s department stores will also be adding them to their product lines too!
Needless to say I had a small, yet expressive, celebratory dance around my studio when I heard the news...
More importantly though, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to each and every one of you who have encouraged me along the way. Your ongoing support and kindness over the months (and some of you years) has been my motivation to take Tiny Grey from a small peanut-of-an-idea to what it is today: a full functioning illustration studio.
I hope I’m doing you all proud and will keep reaching that little bit further and making art that will brighten your homes.
Here's to more magic!
This October, I'll be taking part in the wonderfully challenging Inktober, an idea thought up by a super-creative chap called Jake Parker.
Let me explain...
A few weeks ago I was commissioned to create a piece of art that would spark the imagination of a new baby girl (soon to arrive) for years to come.
Having a keen interest in fantasy, her parents wanted a Tiny Grey print that featured a magical griffin. They weren’t sure of the best direction so they gathered a few pictures of existing art that they liked, along with the colour palette of the new nursery.
Here are a few images the couple sent me. They loved the colours and playfulness of juxtaposing quirky objects, like an ice cream with a griffin. The deer was chosen as the exaggerated eyes give additional cute-factor! The contrasting colours used for the mountain print was also something they liked so I planned to utilise similar shades to pick out detailing.
The biggest hurdle in creating a large scaled scene is to create balance. This doesn’t mean symmetry, but if the majority of detail is on one side, the other side would seem empty and therefore would create imbalance (not pretty).
Adding Line and Colour Experimentation
Once a loose layout was locked down I began using the original sketch to experiment with a colour palette that would be vibrant enough to engage a baby, while still complimenting the muted tones of the nursery. Next I drew carefully around the pencil sketch with a fine ink pen to pick out the details that I wanted to remain in the final digital composition.
After experimenting with colour, I settled on a pastel ice-cream inspired palette with flashes of darker blue to pick out the topsy-turvy sky pools in the ground; this made the stars really vibrant. I also added a moon character to the right to both balance the panda, and emphasise that the sky was below ground.
Shadows and Highlights
Once the colours were confirmed with the client, highlights and shadows were added to give the scene a greater sense of realism and three-dimensional form. This was important as I wanted the little girl to really feel like she could enter the world and imagine interacting with all of the Tinies on the canvas.
The proof was signed off and the canvas was printed using giclée inks on gallery quality cotton canvas, which really made the colours sing. When hand signed and tightly packaged in bubble wrap, with the addition of a Tiny Grey Certificate of Authenticity, I delivered it to the clients' home. Both parents were over the moon with their baby’s first artwork and couldn’t wait to get it hung on the wall ready for their new arrival.
The Client Vertict
"We are over the moon with our baby mural from Tiny Grey, it looks perfect hanging up in our nursery. Sophie took our initial brief and brought it to life and with her keen eye for detail she produced something spectacular. Thank you so much!" - Jen
If you would like to commission your own Tiny Grey artwork (whether it's a family portrait, or playful scene), for your home, or as a gift, and don't know where to start, please contact me for ideas and a quotation.
I consider myself very lucky to be doing what I love on a daily basis. Being a freelancer has allowed me to really study the things that surround me; from the fantastically marvelous to the gloriously mundane, I'm less likely to take the little things for granted.
This morning I spent a bit of time outside a cafe at the Gloucester Docks, partly grazing on french toast but mainly sketching the things that I could see. Here are the drinks I've sipped on today...
I'm super-excited to have printed my new Certificates of Authenticity! So with your next character design print, family portrait, or pet portrait, one of these will now accompany it!
I love arts and crafts fairs. I find them to be a super-affordable alternative to high street shopping, with heaps and heaps of talent.
Here are my five top reasons why arts and crafts fairs make a wonderful way to pass the time.
This Saturday (30th July) I’ll be doing just that. In fact I’ll be taking Tiny Grey to the wonderful Arts and Crafts Fair on Tewkesbury High Street where a whole host of my illustrations and homeware will be on display (I’ll also be available should you fancy some banter).
In the meantime, I've had a website overhaul so you can see all of my latest bespoke portraits in one lovely place. I've also started uploading my sketchbook pages so you can get a first glance at my doodling for potential new projects.
Pet Portraits and The Dogs Trust Fun Day - Sunday 19th June
I love dogs. In fact I named Tiny Grey after my retired greyhound, and studio mascot, Susie (she's grey and smaller than average). So, when I got invited to hold a pop up stall at next weekend's Dogs Trust's Fun Day at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, I jumped at the chance.
While there, I'll be displaying some of my latest super-cute pet portraits (as well as some of the old favourites). You might even meet Susie in person (if I can wake her up in time - she is NOT a morning person)!
Prints of Susie and her naughty ginger sister Teddy (our studio intern both below) will also be available to buy this Sunday. Alternatively, if you'd like one of your own pets illustrated by me you can order a bespoke print of them using the handy button below. (NB: cats, rabbits, llamas etc. aren't excluded.)
See you there!