Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Orkney

Last week we visited the Orkney Islands in the Northern Isles of Scotland. After debating whether we should get the plane there as it is a very long way, we decided to drive. We thought that it would feel like more of an adventure if we drove and also we wouldn't have to worry about connecting flights and getting to airports etc... also we would be able to bring as much luggage as we liked if we were in our own car! 

The drive to Orkney took two full days. On the first day we did 435 miles and then stopped off at a bed and breakfast in Pitlochry. We went out for dinner that night and had a really nice meal. Then we walked around a bit and went to bed.

The second day we drove all the way up, through the highlands (I love driving though the highlands!) to the most northerly part of Scotland - John O Groats! It was right by where we were catching our ferry to Orkney.

I had to get a picture of Topaz at the John O Groats sign. There's proof we were there! As you can see the weather wasn't great at this point. Wet and rainy but it didn't matter. It made the hour ferry crossing all the more fun because it was quite rocky. 

(Of course Topaz is wearing her tartan for Scotland!)

We drove off the ferry and onto Orkney. It wasn't far to our holiday house. We stayed in a beautiful converted chapel called Herston Hall on South Ronaldsay. There were no other houses immediately nearby and behind it was a field of cows who kept coming and looking in at the window. One of them came up and mooed at me while I was sitting on the sofa!


We stayed there for one week and we had a great time going out and exploring some of the different parts of the Orkney Islands. It was a very beautiful place and very interesting. It wasn't actually exactly how expected it to be. I thought there would be more mountains and brown, heathery landscapes, being a Scottish island and I thought it would look more wild. However, Orkney is actually reasonably flat and very lush and green. There are cows and sheep in most of the fields and everywhere looked very well kept. It also wasn't as remote as I had imagined it to be. There were quite a lot of houses and towns - also very well kept! It was completely different to the Isle of Harris and Lewis where we went for our honeymoon two years ago. 

The weather was very changeable, as you would expect from Scotland but I think we had quite a lot of sun considering. One day was so hot and sunny that we were able to sit on the beach all day! We set up our beach tent thingy and had a picnic and sunbathed and paddled in the sea. The sea, although very blue and twinkly was icy cold. 


Topaz had fun collecting shells on the beach! ^

And Henry had fun looking in rockpools. He loves to look in rockpools.

Topaz did some rockpooling too! She didn't catch anything though. They wern't actually very good rockpools. There wasn't much wildlife in them. No starfish or anything. The most we saw were some little fish and a jellyfish.

The great thing about Scottish beaches is that they are not busy at all. Sometimes you find you have the whole beautiful beach to yourself!

On one of the days we decided to take a ferry across to one of the other Orkney Islands called Hoy. Henry specifically wanted to go and see a bit sea stack which is called The Old Man of Hoy. Unfortunately we picked the very worst day to do this as it was extremely rainy and grey. However, it was still nice to see Hoy. It was different to the main bit of Orkney that we had been on previously. It was much more mountainous, wild and remote. I found it incredidibly stunning. 

Going to see the sea stack on Hoy involved walking three miles round a cliff/mountain and then three miles back again. We were all prepared for this with a picnic packed, walking clothes on, backpacks, raincoats etc. We started walking the route to the sea stack in the grey, ominous weather but I really wasn't liking the atmosphere. The clouds were so black and heavy above us and it was windy and starting to rain. Then I heard a rumble of thunder and that just did it for me! I wanted to turn back. I did not want to walk three miles in round a mountain in thunder and lightening and heavy rain. I get really scared in thunder and lightening so we turned back and went back to the car. I am so glad we did as the rain started to absolutely bucket down and there were crashes of thunder and flashes of lighening. I saw some other people going out in it but it just wasn't for me! 

Iron rations! ^


The rest of the week we stayed on the main part of Orkney and didn't get ferries across to any of the smaller islands. There were lots of things to do and see. We went to Kirkwall which is the largest town and the capital of Orkney a couple of times. We had lunch there in a cafe and also looked round the amazing cathedral which was founded in 1137! We also went round a couple of neolithic sites which I ended up finding very interesting despite saying I wasn't interested in going to them before going! I am not usually a one for looking round museums and historical sites and that kind of thing but actually, I bet it is beneficial for story writing etc to do those sorts of things. I am glad we went now anyway. We saw all the tools and the houses that the stone age people used on Orkney so many hundreds of years ago. We also saw an old stone age tomb that had skulls in it. 

My absolute favourite parts of being on holiday are just being out in nature. Especially being out on the beach! We had a lovely evening one time, just sitting together on Newark beach in the sunshine, reading and looking for shells and rockpools. I realised afterwards that the book I was reading (Lorali by Laura Dockrill) was all about mermaids and the beach we were sitting on was actually famous for mermaid sightings! 

Another evening on this same beach we noticed a little stream running all the way from between the sand dunes and I wished I had brought my miniature boat to put Topaz in. The top part of the stream was all rocky like mini rapid and I think it would have been such a fun ride for a miniature person!

I think Orkney really is a fascinating place and I am so glad we went to visit it. If I could use one word to describe I'd say it is a very pretty place.

There seemed to be bright green grass and flowers everywhere...

This one was taken whilst on a cliff top walk one day. There were loads of fields like this.


We also saw a lot of bog cotton.


And everywhere you turned there was another gorgeous landscape.


It was a really wonderful holiday. I enjoyed it so much!

And it was also good for miniature people. Orkney if famous for a certain type of chair and in some of the shops they sold miniature versions of the Orkney chair! So Topaz got a nice souvenir...

I look forward to going back and exploring more of Scotland some day. It is such a beautiful place!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Isadora Moon, my birthday and school visits

It's high time for an update on this blog! 

So let's start with a picture of Isadora Moon celebrating her birthday. I am currently in the middle of sketching out and painting the illustrations for 'Isadora Moon has a Birthday.' It is quite fitting as my own birthday was this week. I turned twenty eight on Tuesday.


I didn't really do anything for my birthday this year but I did get some nice presents. I got a miniature necklace and a miniature dragon! I am not sure why I have such an obsession with miniature jewellery but I just love it. It's like fairy jewellery. 

The necklace is tiny, only about the size of a penny. And it is SO sparkly. I only wish I could photograph it better. It is made by Nalladris on Etsy,

I also love the tiny crochet dragon. It goes perfectly in my castle as Celestine has a collection of miniature dragons. I was amazed when it arrived - it looked better in real life than in the photo! It is really amazing actually. Made by SuAmi on Etsy. I wish I knew how to crochet.


Other things that have happened recently: I received a proof copy in the post of the first Isadora Moon book a little while ago which was really exciting. So cool to see it in proper book form! I just love Isadora Moon sooooo much and love every second of working on the books. It's such a dream project of mine.


I did this little picture of her just for fun the other day. She is making flower crowns with Pink Rabbit and looking forward to spring! I guess they are maybe blossom flowers or maybe magic flowers.

I have also done a couple of giveaways lately for Isadora Moon original artwork (see below) These are finished now but I will try and do more if I have time. You can get an idea of what the original pictures look like from these. I draw them in pen and ink and them watercolour them. Then I put them into two colour on Photoshop. They end up looking almost digitally coloured once they have been put into two colour but they are not digitally coloured at all.


Isadora Moon loves Pink Rabbit!


So yes, I am currently in the middle of illustrating Isadora Moon book three. I absolutely love working on them as I have said but I am also reeeeally excited (and a bit nervous) for these books to be out in the shops! They will be released in September but you can pre order them if you wish.

Another thing I did recently was two school visits for world book week. One of them was at an infant school and the other one was actually at my old school, talking to the year 8 and 9's. I haven't had a lot of experience doing school visits before so this was quite new to me. I really enjoyed both of the visits though and it was really interesting to go back to my old school.

I actually made it into the paper for one of the school visits so that was pretty cool. I only found out because my aunt spotted it and texted me to tell me. 

I'll finish up with a picture of me showing my Witch's Cat sets to the children at Highbury Infant School in Hitchin. Photo taken by the school.

And that concludes my update!

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend.

X

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Meet Topaz!

If you follow my blog then you'll know all about Celestine. Celestine is my little, miniature character who I like to photograph in various places, especially when I go on holiday. I made her over three years ago now and she has been to a lot of places! Dubai, Bruges, Cornwall, Scotland, Turkey to name a few.

I have often throughout my life, felt the need for a little character/mascot to take around with me/put my energies into. I have no idea why! In a weird way it is actually a kind of therapy for me. It keeps me sane.

Anyway, so I have had Celestine for a long time now and she has become incredibly precious to me. So precious that I have stopped wanting to take her out in case I lose her. I have stopped wanting to bend her into different position for photos in case her limbs break. I have stopped feeling that really nice freedom I had at the beginning with her. Which is a shame. And not so good for the creativity.

So, I thought it was about time that I made a new one. A friend for Celestine. One that I could be free with again without worrying so much that I am going to damage her all the time. I have briefly tried to make various friends for Celestine in the past but they never worked out. Recently I thought I would have another shot at it. I was hoping that this time I would finally be able to make a friend for Celestine that I would be happy with. I was hoping that it would only take me a couple of days.

Haha.

It ended up taking me almost two weeks! It was the face you see. And the head. I just find them so hard to make. I can still see loads of imperfections in this one but I have decided that she is the best I can do for the moment. Maybe in the future I will try and make another one but not for a while as it was quite stressful!

I think I am pretty happy with this one.

She is called Topaz and her birthday is the 16th February. She wears hats all the time, bobble hats and beanies. She loves the countryside with a passion. She loves to wander and explore. She is much more adventurous than Celestine. Kind of like Snufkin maybe...


She also had a bit of a rough start in life. Firstly, while I was making her head, I accidentally dropped it in my glass of water which was really stupid of me. I put it out to dry on the windowsill with the window a little bit open. Then the window cleaner came to clean our windows. I forgot I had put Topaz's head on the windowsill and discovered it a few minutes later absolutely squashed and sodden because the window cleaner had pushed the window shut with his long brush. Luckily the head was save-able but still. Rough start I say. Poor Topaz.

She is called Topaz for these reasons:

1 - She has green hair and whilst I know the stone topaz can come in lots of different colours I always imagine it to be green. 

2 - There is a character called Topaz in the book 'I Capture the Castle' who is a free spirited, artistic  character and she was always my favourite. 'I Capture the Castle' is an amazing book by the way if you haven't read it. it's also really nice to listen to on audiobook. 

3 - In the book 'I Capture the Castle,' they dye all their clothes sea green in an attempt to rejuvenate their old clothes as they are very poor. This is probably why I have always associated the name Topaz with the colour green actually.

Sidenote - I sometimes suggest to Henry that we should call our future child Topaz if we ever have one but he is very disparaging of the name as he used to have a cat called Topaz. He says it's a cats name. I disagree. I love it.


And what about Celestine?? Well, I guess Celestine is semi retiring. She is going to stay safe in her castle for the time being and I am going to continue to work on the castle so that she has a beautiful home to live in. So it's not like she will disappear. She will always be in the castle so I can see her whenever I want (and I'll probably photograph her occasionally) but it will be Topaz who comes on the adventures now. That's the plan anyway. We'll see how it all goes. It's always good to change things up once in a while.
X