Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Favourite Books of 2017 (by Month)

Besides reading and falling in love with a few new series this year (that I've raved about so many times already) I haven't actually read any 'punch in the air throw it across the room amazing' books this year. I barely rated any of them five stars. Hopefully, this year will be different as after a year of mostly average books I need some good'uns in my life!

So, because of this, I thought I'd share something I saw floating around Instagram stories. Basically, you share the best book you read for each month of the year, they may not be favourites at all but they were the best of the month.

January: Marley & Me by John Grogan
This book will forever remind me of my Grandad, he rarely read books that had interesting covers or ones I could remember apart from this book. I remember seeing the wee lab puppy on the cover as a kid and telling myself that one day I would read that book too. I obviously read this after watching the movie, which meant that the entire time of reading it I heard Owen Wilson narrating in my head. Not really a bad thing! I rated it four stars I think purely because I was familiar with the storyline, and was used to the movie. Had I had read it before watching the movie I would probably have given it 5, so I do recommend it.

February: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Oh yes, welcome to the first month that is overrun with one of my new series discoveries. I'd always wanted to read this book but never got around to it, I'd had it on my kindle for months but could never get into it. Eventually, I had to buy the physical book as usually this helps when getting into a book I was struggling with. I persevered past the first few chapters and then I was hooked. Hooked enough to hop onto BookDepository and purchase the second book so it would hopefully be here shortly after I finished this one.

March: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Aaaand it did, this book is actually my favourite of the series just because of my love of how the relationship develops between Rhys and Feyre after her bargain. Basically, I loved it, and it's probably tied as my favourite book of the year. I've written about it before so if you'd like to delve into more you can here.

April: The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
I'll say it now, I wasn't a big fan of the ending of this. But as April consisted of a three star and a two star book this one won. Most of the book is alright and enjoyable, the character developments are average and it's your rather cliche 5 random high school teens of different 'cliques' are brought together and end up being friends type of thing. Alright, but an average ending, still better than the two star book.

May: But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure
One of the two books I took on holiday to Rarotonga with me and I flew through it in the first day or so. As stated in a previous review over on Nana Wintour's blog here it took me until around 3/4 of the way through to realise it was a sequel to a book I've already read. It was a quick easy read, and you definitely don't need to read the first to understand.

June: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Ah, the finale to my first favourite series of the year. The worst of the three but I still rather enjoyed it enough to give it five stars, at that point, I think I was too invested in the characters to give it anything but. Again, my problem was with the ending, it was too happily ever after for a series like this. Sarah J Maas needed to take some tips from George R R Martin or J K Rowling and KILL SOME PEOPLE!

July: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
I did give this four stars but it was hard to get through, I was actually listening to this at work as an audiobook so it could have possibly have been the voice that made it drag. Similar to Marley & Me I'd already seen the film so knew what was to happen which didn't really make it any easier to get through. The story is great, just a bit slow.

August: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Here we are, the second favourite series of the year. I finished all five Percy Jackson books this month so of course, my favourite was the first initial book (tied at first place of the year with ACoMaF), the one that dragged you into the world. The thing that was different to the other books that I'd already seen the movie for was that it was totally different. I couldn't remember anything other than the Medusa scene that happened in the movie so I was flying blind. I actually went back and watched the movie after finishing the series and it's no wonder I felt like I was flying blind because while the bones were the same but most of that movie was totally different. If you like fantasy and greek god type stuff read them all now.

September: Secrets of the Mad by Dodie Clark
This isn't a happy book. The deep and saddening stories are separated by journal entries and photos that give enough of a breather to allow you to enjoy this book without sinking into too much of a sad wallow. Because of the way it’s written, Dodie’s expression sings through the entire novel. Dodie is essentially sitting next to you on the couch telling you her stories, and that’s what makes it less ‘nonfiction/memoir-y’ and so much easier to read which made me enjoy it more.

October: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
I have so many mixed thoughts about this book. I'm going to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm currently reading the sequel, there were just a few things about it that made me not give it five stars. I struggled to get into it so much, I was pushing through for about a quarter of the book before I fully got into it. I'm pretty sure this is to do with the pace, of which this book has none of (well not any good pacing that's for sure). Most of the novel was slow and steady with minor action and then the last few chapters sped up to the last 20 or so pages going so fast that I don't even remember what happened. I'm 90% sure this is what's happening with the sequel too as I'm currently at the 'struggling through the first quarter' stage.

November: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
I've always wanted to read this book as my mum rates it so highly, so I finally got around to borrowing her copy and I really enjoyed it. Classics for me can be very hit and miss, some language for me is dry and dull and I struggle so hard to get through. However, probably because this one was told through the eyes of a 10 year old child, the language was less intense and I enjoyed following the story. And animalsssss!

December: Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
I hadn't planned on reading this book, in fact, I wasn't really aware of its existence until it was made the Bloggers Bookshelf book club book for January. Knowing I'd probably be busy over Christmas and early January I decided to get in early and read it during December so I know I'd be done in time to join in with the discussions. In actual fact these short stories were perfect for December when my mind had slowly died off in need of a holiday, a story a night was perfect as my brain didn't need to think much about backstory at all. Great little book if you're a fan of Ransom Riggs' peculiar world.

If you want to see what I rated the other 28 books of the 40 I read in 2017 you can check them out on my shelves on Goodreads. I will point out I reread most of the Harry Potter books in 2017 but thought it was unfair to include them as at 5 stars each they would dominate the post and I wanted to share some different books. What were your favourites?



Friday, 12 January 2018

Creative Chats with... Pepper Raccoon

Hello and welcome to the first part of my Creative Chats with... series, starting at home in little ol' New Zealand with the lovely Pepper of Pepper Raccoon. Illustrator, artist, designer, pin maker, patch maker, and an apparel maker, this girl does it all. She's even got her own washi tape for sale! This series is to look into the lives of creatives, see how they got there and hopefully give us some tips to achieve as much as they have, so Pepper is a great example for our first post!

Obviously, I cant show each and every awesome piece of work Pepper has so be sure to check out all her links at the end to see some more!

1. Obvious first question, and one you're probably sick of answering but how did it all start? Where did your love of illustration come from?

My mom definitely had something to do with it, and I've always loved drawing animals. I remember we had this old book that showed you how you could make little drawings from rectangles, circles, and curved/straight lines. I loved making a whole farm drawing just using that technique. In high school, I discovered Juxtapoz Magazine, as well as comic artists like Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine. I wanted to be just like them, making things that were graphically beautiful, but also really meaningful. I'm still working on that.

As a preface to my answers to some of the other questions, I do moonlight as a fine artist as well as an illustrator (making installations, etc.), but I don't really draw too much distinction between the two practices, it's all part of my portfolio of work.

2. At what point did you feel comfortable sharing and selling your work? Did you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?

I didn't feel comfortable for about five years after art school. I sold some of my collages in art school, but didn't really feel that excited about the work. Once I got out of art school, I was really disenchanted with the "art world" as it was pitched to us as students, and stopped making work altogether for a few years. I definitely was insecure/suffering from imposter syndrome, but also just didn't want to participate in the art community unless it was on my terms (affordable artwork that didn't put commentary and conceptualism above accessibility and humour). So there was this weird paradoxical interplay of personal insecurity and external frustration that took a while to reconcile.

What tipped the boat is a bit hard to pinpoint. I think the rise of pins and patches, which have always been a part of the aesthetic I find most attractive, gave me a really easy outlet to get back into just making things. While pins aren't the end-all-be-all of my work, they've been a great gateway drug to build confidence, gain supporters, and quickly iterate on ideas.

3. What's your favourite piece you've ever created and why?

A piece from art school, which I unfortunately don't have photos of. I was a horrible art student who never took the time to capture my work. ALWAYS TAKE PHOTOS OF YOUR WORK. I created a conical vortex that you could stand inside of, which was constructed out of hundreds of multi-coloured paper feathers that I hand-folded over months, and painted eyes on. This was hung in a darkened room with an hour-long sound piece by Antony DiGennaro (dope guitar player, check him out). You'd walk in, slide under the end of the shape, and stand up inside. A coloured-changing bulb was hidden in the top, and caused all the feathers to appear like they were changing colours and moving in a series of spirals.

This was my favourite work because I spent months creating it and it came out as I had hoped (you never really know how things are going to turn out!). It was an expression of an exceptionally meaningful metaphysical event I experienced in my life, and I thought I did an adequate job of recreating an intangible memory that wasn't based on anything in reality.

4. I loved following your Inktober journey. Did you feel it helped you develop as an illustrator?

Thank you! Inktober this year was really, really helpful. I've spent the past year (prior to October) creating small digital works and getting comfortable with having an art practice again. Inktober was the opportunity to take some of my really old skills (technical ink drawing, life drawing), and my new practice (more colourful!), and mash them together to see if I could still work on paper in traditional formats. I'm excited to be bringing colour into my style of drawing via markers, coloured pencils, and watercolours. I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Inktober was instrumental to getting me excited about creating traditional works again.

5. Do you think you stick out from the crowd of other pin makers? If so, how did you manage it?

My pins are hand-drawn and are always original. Pin making has gotten to be a really oversaturated market, and while it is true that anyone can make a pin, many pin makers simply copy the style of successful designers or create pop-culture designs from their favourite shows/movies/books. That's just not for me. I don't necessarily fault anyone who does that, but I definitely think there's a line between being an artist/illustrator who makes pins and being a pin maker who appropriates the work of others.

I always try to come up with my own ideas, even if it means I make fewer pins and take my time. Of course, I'm influenced by external inputs, but I definitely try to distill my ideas down until they're something that hopefully hasn't been done before. Again, the fact that the market is so oversaturated means that this is pretty hard, sometimes I think I've come up with a super original idea, only to do a search and find out that it already exists!

6. Who creatively are you loving right now? Feel free to pick more than one!

I've become a social media trawler for awesome artists, and I'm really loving a lot of the cool women being featured on the @womenofillustration Instagram account.

Others include Phoebe Wahl and Shing Yin Khor (Sawdust Bear). I'm also really vibing hard on Andy J. Pizza's Creative Pep Talk podcast, it's the ultimate panacea for your creative woes.

7. Finally, if someone was wanting to pursue their creative dream right now, what would you tell them to remember?

Creativity takes massive discipline, but don't worry if you're not a hugely disciplined individual. I get distracted really easily, forget what I'm supposed to be doing, and the trick is to just always make sure you come back to what you're trying to do. You may not work as fast or as fancy as other artists (it doesn't help when you compare yourself to their curated social media pages), but if you keep coming back to it, you will get somewhere with it.

For me, the first step to feeling like I was getting somewhere was just to share my work on social media. Next, it was to try selling a few pieces here and there. Eventually, if you keep at it, you'll build up some confidence (and hopefully some supporters/friends), and it'll become a regular part of your life. It can be a grind. The biggest thing I can say is that if you actually want to be a creative person that takes their work seriously, you have to try. The whole mythology that creativity is a gift and some people have it and some people don' nothing. It isn't really true. Some people do have some innate talent, sure, but at the end of the day, the people who show up and do the work are the ones who get recognition/satisfaction in their work/paid, even in art.

** I shouldn't have to say this, but just in case we have any keen eyes on this page, all of the artwork belongs to Pepper so please don't take and repost them anywhere without her permission!

If you want to check out more of her awesome work (I do recommend it!) check out her links below: 



Monday, 1 January 2018

Creative Goals for 2018

I never really set goals or New Year’s resolutions because things end up getting in the way and I never end up finishing most of them. This year, however, I’ve managed to get into a routine with my life and I could do a few things I wanted to do at the end of last year. So, I thought because of that I may be able to manage some goals this year!

Complete Inktober again
Last year I was able to complete Inktober and I was rather proud of myself for that. So, I want to try and do it again, all of my free time is spent trying to improve my lettering to the point where I’m comfortable selling my work so Inktober is 31 days of guaranteed practice! Whether I do physical ink lettering or digital ink lettering we’ll have to see. But either way I want to complete it again, and hopefully with more planning than deciding I wanted to do it two days before it started I should be able to!

Sell prints
I am constantly making this goal and not meeting it because I’m NEVER HAPPY with my work. This year I am going to release prints, even if I’m not happy with my work because frankly I don’t think I’m ever going to be happy and the longer I put it off the more amazing work I’m going to see and continue to think my work is awful. This also includes the calendar I talk about creating each year and never get as far as finishing January. Keep your eyes open for prints and a 2019 calendar coming soon!

Create a handwritten typeface
Just the one font, I’m not planning on creating a crazy font family with various glyphs and weights. Just my usual writing I use all the time in personal projects converted into a font so that I can just type it out instead of constantly free handing it. Timesaver really, and learning how to make a font in the first place.

Pull off my Creative Chats series
If you haven’t seen one of the few tweets where I’ve mentioned this, I’ve started a series this year called ‘Creative Chats with…’ and have interviewed a few lovely creatives (and a few more to come). These should be coming to you once a month throughout the year, with the lovely Pepper Racoon being our first next week. I haven’t got everyone locked in for the year quite yet, so my goal is to get all 12 locked in and posted for you lot to see.

Let's see how this goes, feel free to remind me and reprimand me if you don't see any evidence of this happening throughout the year! I do have a few other goals that are more lifey and less creative so fingers crossed I can get all these completed. What are your goals this year, they don't necessarily have to be design/creative based?