Designing cards wasn't ever something I planned to do, it wasn't in my business plan for last year, it was just something that started from an urge to be creative during our 'off' season last year and kind of snowballed.
I have always been creative and loved painting. During my A levels I developed a love of painting large scale canvases in bold bright colours. I like to look for colour where others don't necessarily see it and blue tones are very predominant in my paintings as a way of depicting shadow. A huge fan of modern impressionists, I have always loved work by artists such as Sheree Valentine Daines and wish I had her skill in capturing the beauty of English country life.
After a busy Christmas season in 2017, at the start on 2018 I felt the urge to get out my paints and capture some scenes of the rural North East. This started with fairly simplistic paintings of Tan Hill pub in the Yorkshire Dales, and Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. I went on to work more on illustrations of fish, anchors and flowers, before deciding to try my hand at watercolours.
I had never used watercolours before and it was a totally new skill I had to learn, completely different to my usual technique of layering up bold colours. I had to restrain myself, paint delicately and constantly remember that less is more! One of the hardest things to get my head around was creating the highlights. With acrylic paints that would always be my final touch, adding bright white to eyes, or the edges of a hair to 'lift' the painting and bring it alive. With watercolour I had to completely change my way of thinking, and leave the white space there at the beginning and layer up the darker tones to add depth.
As with everything I do, I was very much led creatively by things I personally love, so I started painting nature; bumblebees, flowers and then dogs. I love dogs! They have the happiest and most loyal of souls and as someone who spends a lot of time working from home, I love the company of my four legged friend. She's always there, quietly close to me, providing company without making a fuss (except when a delivery driver arrives, then all hell breaks loose!).
Ruby my loyal Sprollie
And so, a series of dog paintings began. Now initially I painted these as simple dogs, but as my commercial brain kicked in, I realised that these could work well as greetings cards and I went back and added in balloons and party hats, giving them a quirky nature and an appeal for lots of different celebratory occasions.
Once I had created a series of illustrations, this is where the learning curve really began. I had to learn how to digitise them, edit them and lay them out in a print ready format. I also began researching card printers, trying to find someone who could print for me on a small scale but that had the eco credentials that remain very important to me.
All of my cards are printed on sustainably produced FSC accredited card. But it wasn't as simple as finding a printer who could do this, I had to research different card stocks and textures to get the right feel for the cards. They had to be of a good thick quality, but also show off the watercolour illustration at it's best. After a bit of trial and error, I found the right card stock and a fabulous UK based printer who could print them for me. Sixprint in Cornwall have been so helpful from the very beginning, by providing templates and for having such a simple process for uploading designs and ordering, with a quick turn around time and excellent customer service. Even better, they are part of the The Woodland Trust project which means that every card they print results in a donation to the Woodland Trust to go towards caring for and planting more UK woodlands.
Cards are now very much a part of my business plan in 2019 and I will keep adding to the designs throughout the year. They are available to buy online and at country events. We will also be adding a list of stockists to the website soon so if you are a retailer looking for something new - please do get in touch!