Bespoke Notebook Commission

Spent today setting up my graphics tablet and having a doodle …for testing purposes (see earlier post) and doing a one-off bespoke notebook.

White and blue acrylic with black embossing bespoke Supernatural notebook

Tried embossing a few days ago on a bookworm notebook and didn’t like the result, maybe the ink pen I was using, or just needed the practice as I’m happy with how this 1 turned out.

Tomorrow’s plan is a quick sculpt AND progress on a teddy miniature… planning on reworking the Christmas 1 I’m not happy with. But none of that is going to happen unless I go to sleep. #CantSleep


So I woke up this morning (Ahem well my idea of “morning”) thinking, “great a job crossed off the list last night” stayed up till the early hours to finish it so I can move on to something else today!  Had a quick look again and…

Some days I hate my job.  Well I hate ALL the days in my “day job” lately …it’s not supposed to overspill into my “me job” 😣

Last night’s work is now ready to be trashed. When I thought it had ended so well.

The heat from the embossing gun has raised the paper from the backing board over night. So yes I won’t be heat embossing these books. 😔 It doesn’t feel so bad making mistakes and restarting when you’ve made an error during the process, a few curse words and a little artists strop maybe, then back to fixing the problem or starting again.  But to finish and have it show up hours after you’ve done the photos and mentally filed it away as job complete is… Depressing. 

Ah well, you never stop learning, it’s part of the process, notebook v2 will be better!  Just wish I had more time to spare! 

Now do I get back on the horse today or have a break and do something else before Monday hits. If I wasn’t trying so hard to escape my day job IMMEDIATELY I’d chill. So coffee first then back to it.

P.S. I wouldn’t mind I’d finished it, photographed it (and almost sent the photo to the client), then thought “Oh go on, the lettering would look nice embossed, you know you want too”

And it does though 🤗

It’s just the rest of the cover with a giant b!@@%y bubble in it that doesn’t! Arrrrghhh….COFFEE!!!!!!!!

P.P.S. Oh yes I just remembered the embossing I did on the other book in the week. I didn’t like the result with the colour I used …Now that didn’t warn me with a bubble did it 😣

Graphics Tablet Impulse Buy!

Okay, so back in 2016 I was picking up my well loved Wacom Bamboo tablet to design some new website graphics thinking it would be nice to upgrade to a newer model.

Finally! An XP-Pen Artist 22, It’s not the Cintiq I wanted (poor struggling artist here) but there just so happened to be an Amazon flash sale, I had 3 hours to decide. 2 hours later on my lunch break I click the Buy button. Quickly followed by guilt 😣😔😞 for spending so much ££ on myself.

Cue delivery of said tablet (in a very large, exciting box).  It arrived very securely packed …even had a sheet of thin mdf in there (thank you I’ll make some use of that along with the masses of cardboard*).

The tablet comes with:

  • Adjustable stand (already attached)
  • 2 rechargeable pens
  • Pen stand with 8 replacement nibs stored screwed inside the stand
  • 2 pen charging USB cables
  • AC Power cable & adapter (a YouTuber recommended these be changed for a better make as this type of unbranded adapter often tend to fail)
  • USB cable
  • HDMI cable
  • VGA cable
  • Some sort of Mac cable (pc user here, excuse the Mac ignorance)
  • Artist Anti-Fouling Glove (not sure what to make of that description. It’s a bit big for my little hand, but not uncomfortable considering it only has 2 fingers…will get some of these for drawing on paper too)
  • Screen cleaning cloth
  • Screen protector (with another cloth)
  • Quick setup guide and Manual (same 1 available to download on the XP-pen site)
  • Driver CD (though as always download the newest driver version online)

At first I was really disappointed, it was impossible to get smooth flowing lines, I was having to roughly sketch everything in and try and erase to a smooth line. Hardly a nice drawing experience 😑 I had uninstalled all other tablet drivers before installation so there’s no conflict there.  I thought I was going to have to return it so didn’t put the protective screen on.  I want to produce some embossing blocks so need smooth neat line work. For example…

Traditionally hand drawn artwork for a Wandsworth embossing die
Hand drawn ink on paper angel with dove for a book cover embossing die

Then I switched from a mirrored screen set up to extended screen and problem over. Nice smooth lines …phew!!!  An occasional jitter but not too bad at all, the faster the stroke the less jittery it is.  Well “that” problem over. 

The calibration is way off now, even after several 9 point calibrations. The cursor is about an inch away from the pen tip at the screen corners and along the edges (the closer to the middle the better it gets) but need my bed now so will try and recalibrate and mess around with screen resolutions another day. 

Top left cursor parallax
Centre parallax

After a little test it looks like it won’t interfere with drawing too much but using top and left hand side menus may be troublesome. The pen stopped working last thing too but I hear this corrects itself with a quick reconnect. I’ll see how it goes when I have chance to have a better look at the weekend.  It’s been a while since I last used my Wacom Bamboo but I’m sure the pen strokes have no jitter at all and obviously no offsetting problem as there’s no graphical display.  

I really hope it runs well when I give it my full attention, it looks great and has a huge workspace (not that the size was ever limiting on the small Bamboo) I really want more of a connection drawing onto the screen rather than the blank pad of the Bamboo and I love the monitor extension but if I’m not comfortable with it’s performance it has to go back.

[Update Sat 23rd Sept]

I’ve done a clean reinstallation of the drivers today as couldn’t get the pen working again, made sure both screen resolutions match (though this is supposed to be relevant to screen mirroring not extended screens I believe) and recalibrate. It was still off a good 2.5cm round the edges of the screen. Recalibrated the pen holding it vertical to the screen not at the angle for drawing and it’s much better. Still off about 5mm on the edges but I can cope with that.  For some reason since the driver reinstallation the pen won’t move the cursor unless it’s on a drawing program now ?? So I have to move it with the laptop track pad if it’s on the desktop. It won’t select menu items on the control panel (but luckily okay with menus in Photoshop), it will work in the pressure sensitivity box and the calibration screen. It was working before but not since reinstallation, odd but as long as it’s drawing nicely that’s all that matters and at some point I’ll sort it out.  It seems to be drawing even smoother since a reinstall too.

The screen protector has a matt paper like feel to it. It just fixes along the top and clings firmly in place over the rest of the screen. It would be a nightmare to fix a fully adhesive film to a screen this size yourself, I think I saw 1 briefly on a video, complete with trapped bubbles so I’d have this 1 over that any day.  It’s actually a bit of a chore to lift it up off the screen once in place as it sits along the slightly raised rim of the screen. It’s not going to get caught on a sleeve and roll or worse, fold up, nice job. There’s a rainbowing of the screen in parts as you apply pressure but this isn’t really an issue for me while working on it, maybe it would be if you’re using the screen to watch a video etc but I’ve not tried yet and don’t really need or want too.  I read a comment somewhere that using dryer sheets eliminates the rainbow but it’s not bothered me enough to try it yet.

The fact it took me 20 attempts to even start the laptop earlier made me wonder if I should of just spent the cash on a new 1 of those instead at first!.. But it’s working now along with the tablet which I’m beginning to really like.  I’m enjoying drawing on the screen much more than on the none graphical Wacom Bamboo I’ve moved from, feel more connected to the drawing this way.
*Packing cardboard, particularly corrugated, makes a great blade saver when cutting mounts/matts. Use it on top of your cutting board and the blade doesn’t dull quite as quickly. It’s also good for… packing 😉 

Illustrated Notebooks & New Giclee Pet Prints

I spent some of yesterday visiting Coopers Crafty Corner in Pelsall to stock my art shelf with a batch of giclee pet prints and notebooks.  

My breast cancer survivor picture ‘Contemplation‘ will also be available from Oct 16th for their Breast Cancer Awareness campaign with donations from the sales going to Walsall Breast Cancer Support Group

Giclee prints hot off the press ready for hand embellishing and mounting

Also added a new page on my site for my notebooks yesterday, it features a slide show and PayPal ordering facility.

I really have to aesthetically redesign my desktop site in line with the mobile version, but will be merging them into 1 as updating both is taking too much of my time away from the most important part… ART!  So for now try not to look <shudder> at the desktop version! I also need to look into a site catalogue now I’ll be adding more products.

I’m itching to redecorate my studio (won’t happen) and I still have that little sculpt to do, currently not happy with one of the Woodland Teddy miniatures I’m working on so giving that a break for the weekend then I’ll re-compose it this week… where does all that precious time go! 😯 I can’t thank my dad enough for coming up every week to keep on top of gardening!!!

The only artwork I did at ‘the day job’ this week (knee deep in laying out a bespoke military book print run) was finishing this pair of cuddling meerkats in a bespoke memorial book…

Watercolour Meerkat Illustration
Purple Pansy Illustration

It’s turning into a beautiful book cherished by it’s owner that gets updated on anniversaries, birthdays and at Christmas. 

A few other pages I’ve illustrated in it over the last couple of years…

Lioness and her cub
The Lion King’s Princess Nala
The Lion King’s Rafiki
Bleeding Hearts (lamprocapnos spectabilis)

And the book cover…

Painting an Heraldic Family Crest

Okay so need to get off here and do some work… hand embellishing prints, mounting and… hmmm sculpting? Suddenly I want to emboss something <shakes head>

Hand embellishing some fine art giclee prints using metallic gold ink.

And I really do need to attend to the desktop version…

Device analytics


Miniature Artwork Sketches and To Do List

The Old Me Is Back.
I don’t want to speak too soon but… I’ve been so productive lately, full of enthusiasm & ideas, all thanks to the thyroxine increase 5 weeks ago. Just need to find the time to start cycling 50 miles a week again now. I don’t need to sleep as soon as I get home from work anymore (it still needs to work on my mornings!  😴🤦) So as a result I’m getting lots done and spent yesterday evening sketching 10 designs for my Woodland Teddy miniatures.

A christmas bonneted mother and child teddy sitting looking at a Woodland Christmas tree
Christmas Cuddles
Sketch of teddy in woods hiding behind tree
Previous miniature ‘I See You Teddy’ sketch
Sketch of teddy in woods sitting in picnic case longingly looking at honey jar holding a spoon
Previous miniature ‘Just One Little Spoonful’ sketch

Jobs on the go for the rest of this weekend are:

  1. Varnishing the 2 woodland teddy miniatures, ‘I See You Teddy’ and ‘Just One Little Spoonful’   …TICK  (Look at me ahead of myself!)
  2. A new notebook design.
  3. Start one of the teddy miniatures I sketched out last night (AND/OR..)
  4. I REALLY WANT to do a quick dog plaque sculpt I’ve been thinking about for weeks!!! (OMG please have the time this weekend! …Yeh coming off here now would help 😒)
  5. *Photographing the newly varnished miniatures and editing for print.

Still waiting for my pet and ‘Contemplation’ art prints to arrive (everyone must be ordering their Christmas stock) so **mounting and packing is off the list till later in the week.  But at least the new blades have arrived ready …Yay! Sharp blades make the job so MUCH easier!

I really need to have a ruthless studio tidy up at some point this weekend. It always helps to be able to walk (I’m not flexble enough to hurdle) to your desk and be able to find the pencil you’ve just put down…somewhere…2 seconds ago. Find all sorts of forgotten interesting bits and pieces too, hopefully I find my embossing kit …its been too safely put away 🤔

*Relatively boring bit.

**Tremendously tedious bit.

Feathers Appear when Angels are Near, Notebooks

Following up from my last Bookworm notebook design with a Guardian Angel notebook. ‘Feathers appear when Angels are near’

Illustrated in ink with copperplate and italic calligraphy on a hardback kraft covered A5 notebook.

Ruled white pages with kraft paper inner cover

Spiral bound with approx 80 ruled paper leaves.

Close up of Illustrated cover with feathers and angels written in white copperplate and 'appear when' and 'are near' in gloss black italic with ink feather illustrations

Any how, something to look forward to on Saturday!..

ART MATERIAL redeliveries!! Need to work from home more!

…Oh and some of those missing comics 😉


Hand Illustrated Book Worm Notebooks

Tonight’s little job is the first of a batch of hand illustrated/inscribed/embossed A5 size notebooks, I’ve had requested for Christmas stocking fillers.

Hand illustrated with a hungry book worm!

Book Worm sitting upright wearing glasses with a cheesy grin
Book Worm Sketch

Spiral bound with lined paper pages and kraft covered inner cover

Notebooks are spiral bound with approx 80 lined pages. Hardbacked and covered in kraft paper on outer and inner cover.

A kraft covered hardback notebook hand lettering in red black and white with Feed a book worm... write a book with the letter K in a book worms mouth

Hand written in acrylic coloured versals and black ‘typewriter’ script.

Miniature oils, ‘I See You Teddy’ & ‘Just One Little Spoonful’

A cute little canvas miniature oil painting this afternoon while watching art vids on YouTube from the sofa, well it is Sunday a.k.a. my most productive day of the week. 

Canvas work in progress of teddy bear peaking out from a tree in a heart on toned miniature box canvas #WillProbablyNeedANewSofa #LivingRoomSmellsOfTurpentine Canvas painting of cream teddy with red bow peeking out between trees displayed on a miniature easel

I love painting miniatures, they’re so much quicker and I’m accustomed to illustrating this small at work all day, but in watercolour not oil. This is my first miniature in oil and I loved every minute of it.

I’ve avoided licking the brush too, all’s good!

I find working in oil so much more satisfying and I don’t mind the smell, kind of like it really which is why I haven’t moved on to odourless yet. No doubt the toxicity of turpentine will force my hand sooner or later. Will add a few more highlights and finer touches once the oils have dried a little in a day or so.

The sofa survived.

This time.

Sent a batch of pictures off for printing yesterday, so have a delivery to look forward to this week (again) now off to do some illustrated notebook sketches before bed… actually no, I’m doing another teddy instead, sketches can wait!

Rough sketch of bear in picnic case looking at honey jar on tonal ground canvas

Really rough sketch on canvas.

Teddy leaning out of picnic case longingly looking at honey pot with spoon in hand

Blocked in, details to add later in the week. Need to get another canvas now, I feel there should be more Woodland Teddies!

Teddy leaning out of picnic case longingly looking at honey pot with spoon in hand

Magical Fairyland Birthday Card

Made a bespoke birthday card at work today for our fairy mad, tree – hugging friend and fellow artist Ivan.

Before and After pictures of Ivan in a tree in the grounds of the studio with and without fairies.

Close up of fairies dancing round tree

Close up of Fairies dancing round Ivans legs

Just left to put some fairy silhouettes on the card border then it’s down to our bookbinding department to construct into a card and get it looking all birthday card-ish! …Then we all get to scrawl over it 

…In glittery pens of course!


The finished card & envelope
Close up of the finished card

Walsall Breast Cancer Support Group charity piece

I’ve now finished a small graphite and watercolour drawing in support of Walsall Breast Cancer Support Group. Took me 14 hours at the weekend.

It will be in Pelsall at Coopers Crafty Corner on 16th October ready for their charity event on the 20th. There will also be some prints made.

Also finished framing an oil canvas

Now on to my next pieces (Exciting! Calligraphy, illustration and sculpture but that’s as much as I’m saying) I have a few planned for the weekend just waiting for a stock delivery (oh and multiple comic deliveries 😉 poor postie has his work cut out this week!) In the mean time processing my print orders.

It’s all go this week!

Gamvar & Comics

Gamvar Varnishing

I’m varnishing a horse commission today as it’s completely dry (always a good thing!) and ready for a 1st coat.

I’m using Gamvar as this gives a nice finish and allows a much shorter application period* than other varnish as it’s breathable.

Bottle of gamvar gloss varnish in front of horse oil portrait

*once the oils are touch dry

Nose section of varnished painting of horse

Geeking Out!

I’ve spent the rest of the day being a complete geek organizing my little collection of old and new comics as I finally got around to buying some more boards & bags.

Sandman, Eternals, SM Overture, Star Wars, Mr Hero, The Dreaming, Mass Effect, American Gods… feeling more inspired by the artwork than geeky!

Small comic book collection

I also hit eBay for a few missing issues. I don’t want to think about how much that cost, so I won’t.

Tomorrow I start a new piece in aid of a Breast cancer charity, and have some mythology pieces in the planning stages… now if only I didn’t have to go to work all week.