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Tangled Up In Blue…


In early 2015 I was asked by Orion Publishing if I would be interested in illustrating not one, but THREE 51 page colouring books for adults, entitled ‘Colour Me Mindful: Birds’, ‘Tropical’ and ‘Underwater’. I had literally just moved out of my parents’ house and finished up two huge sketchcard projects for DC and IDW within the same week. The first thing I had moved into my new home was my drawing desk and computer and I spent the first few days surrounded by boxes begging to be unpacked while I furiously scribbled away. I had mistakenly thought that moving house ‘only down the road’ would be simple and of course I could take on two sketchcard projects in the middle of it – I mean, who turns down jobs from DC and IDW when they come knocking? My Kickstarter backers were more than understanding and so many of them wished me luck with the projects. I was just so proud to be working for two of my favourite comic publishers that I didn’t mind the sleepless nights.

I had been living at home with my parents for the last few years while I worked on getting my art career off the ground. It had been amazingly beneficial of course and I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me that chance to work on my portfolio, travel around the country easily and of course being there for me. But nothing prepared me for the incentive and drive having ‘the fear’ of living in a rented house again (especially when you are a self-employed freelance artist) would give me. So of course when Orion contacted me with their brief for three colouring books I jumped at the chance. This was not only an opportunity to work on a project which meant a lot to me (having studied mindfulness and art therapy in the past) but also get my name into bookstores (and of course pay my rent!).

At first things developed at a nice easy pace. The books were due in June and I was communicating back and forth as I drew up sample pages and covers, taking time to make sure they were what the publishers wanted and working up roughs and pencils before moving onto inks. As I was going to have to wait until the pages were all complete and sent in to get paid, I obviously had to take on other work at the same time, including several new sketchcard sets, private commissions and of course travelling around to conventions. On top of all of this I was determined to get ‘Cirque Du Mort’ ready for London MCM in May. I had already made my backers wait for so long due to being offered the DC and IDW work (as well as working on everything alone) and I was obviously getting worried about them becoming discouraged. So essentially, I was working on four books – the ‘Cirque Du Mort‘ and the colouring books.

It was only 10 days to go until London MCM and the final launch of the ‘Cirque Du Mort’ that I had the phone-call that boosted everything into overdrive. There had been an issue with the printers and Orion now needed the final pages for all three books by the 29th May instead of late June – giving me 16 days (not including the 4 that I would have to take out for London MCM) to completely finish the books – that’s 140 pages in 12 days. 11 pages a day. In those 16 days I think I slept for about 4 of them. My rubbish bin was full to the brim with energy drinks’ cans and when I did go to bed it was usually when my partner’s alarm went off for him to get up for work.

I suppose I can appreciate the irony that creating books to alleviate stress would be the most stressful experience of my life.

I did not have much time to celebrate getting the pages for the books in as I had to start sending out ‘Cirque Du Mort’ backer packages (now that the books had been printed and most merchandise ordered). Of the 268 amazing backers, I managed to pack up and send off 207 rewards before I got another message from Orion. They had liked the books so much that they wanted me to do another three. As I had not taken on any new work during the creation of the last books, I had nothing lined up for the coming months and of course I wanted to keep my working relationship with Orion going. They were a wonderful team to work with and they were giving me my own book series with my name on the cover – this is what artists dream of. So before I even had chance to breathe after the first Colour Me Mindful books were done and dusted, I was working on ‘Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies’, ‘Enchanted Creatures’ and ‘Seasons’.

I felt like I was ready for this series. That I knew what to expect. That I wouldn’t let any unforeseen circumstances creep up on me and force me to panic again. That was when someone very close to me, who had been in and out of hospital most of the year, became very ill. I was in and out of hospital visiting them and driving back and forth from Newport to Penarth, on top of which the emotional stress began to take its toll. I started turning down sketchcard work or having to finish projects early. I started coming home prematurely from conventions and getting my partner to post on social media for me when I was actually just zoning out and struggling to hold a pencil.

I knew the signs that my mental illness was rearing its ugly head. I had learned to spot them from a young age. So I called up my doctor for a pre-emptive strike and booked myself in for counselling. I was put on a three month waiting list. I called up MIND. Their waiting list was two months. I became even more reclusive and started cancelling social occasions with my friends (if I organised them at all). When I wasn’t traveling back and forth to the hospital, I was staring at a blank page trying to will my pencil to actually move. The publishers were amazingly understanding and I ended up getting the next books in a little late, but to a standard I was incredibly proud of considering the circumstances… You’d think it would end there, right?

Well. That was when I was asked to do three more books… Part of me of course wanted to say no, if only due to my mental health. But I didn’t want to stop working with Orion. It’s not often that an artist and a publisher work so well together. By this point I also needed the organisation of drawing every day, I felt like that was what was keeping me together. I needed a job to keep me structured. I needed to pay rent and bills of course. But mostly I had met so many people during the publication of ‘Colour Me Mindful’ who had messaged me saying that my books had helped them through tough times. I had emails upon emails from other people who had depression and felt that my work was helping them. That was probably the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to me.

Despite everything I was going through myself, there were people out there who found the fruits of my labour calming. One person even told me how they helped him stave off a massive panic attack when he was on the train. Another told me how they helped her forget her chronic pain – if only for a moment.

It was during drawing the last three books, the ‘Draw Your Way To A Younger Brain’ series, that the someone very close to me passed away. I had to take time away from working obviously, and stepped away from everything for a while. I phoned up my doctor and tried to push them to let me see a counsellor sooner and they booked me in with some local student counsellors after the books were done. I tried my best to keep on top of my mental health but everything just felt hazy. The stress, grieving, sleep deprivation, poor physical health (mostly from ‘deadline diet’ and reliance on energy drinks  *see sleep deprivation), guilt from the other projects I had allowed to fall to the wayside and those that just overwhelmed me; all hit me at once and it just seemed like everything was just too much.

I had a bit of a breakdown in front of my partner (I’m sure it was more than one of course, but one really stood out) and he just said “What can we do to fix it?” I suddenly realised that all the advice I had been giving people with mental issues, all the mindfulness I had been preaching, the #endthestigma conversations I had been encouraging – I finally needed to practice what I preached.

I started seeing the student counsellor every week. I went off my hormonal pill medication (which had been changed by my doctor earlier in the year and had been causing me a lot of distress). I started meditating every morning using mindfulness tapes. I improved my diet and stopped drinking energy drinks as much. I slept. I slept so much.

When I handed in the final three books it wasn’t to huge fanfare and congratulations, but the largest sigh of relief I have ever felt. And I couldn’t even feel it due to my anhedonia (emotional numbness) flaring up so badly. I have not taken on any new work since and have saved up enough that I can work on personal projects like ‘Cirque Du Mort’ and commissions over the Christmas, in-between looking after myself and trying to get back on a more healthy and personally productive schedule.

I look back over the things I have done this year: Self publishing my first creator owned book, ‘Cirque Du Mort’. Becoming a recognised colouring book artist. Being published in Germany, Australia, Canada, America and Korea. Publishing 10 books in one year. Working for DC, IDW, Dynamite and Marvel as a sketchcard artist. And it is still hard for me to feel proud. My depression robs me of that and that is just a sad fact. I see the loved one I lost. I see how disappointed some of my backers are that I didn’t get my books out to them in good time. I see the little things I could have done better. Those are the things my depression shows me.

But I also know that I will not let it win. I know that I got help. I know that I told those closest to me what was going on and let them help me. I know that I can get through this just like I have got through this before. I know how proud of me that lost loved one is. I know how proud of me my parents and friends are. And even though I can’t feel that pride myself yet, I know I will. It will just take time. Time, rest, help and heck – maybe even some mindful colouring in. Why not?


Win The BRAND NEW Colour Me Mindful Series


Win The BRAND NEW Colour Me Mindful Series

Time really does fly! It seems like only yesterday I was adding the finishing touches to the next batch of Colour Me Mindful titles: Butterflies, Seasons and Enchanted Creatures; and now, in little over a week (on the 24th September), they are due to be released.

This series was a lot of fun to work on. While butterflies was fun and relaxing, Seasons and Enchanted Creatures were both interesting and challenging. Not only to come up with original content but to research interesting concepts.

Enchanted Creatures is definitely my favourite of this series and I would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you helped by telling me your favourite magickal creatures, myths and legends. In this book you will find selkies, mermaids, dragons, magical birds, nagas, sphynx and many, many more and I really hope you enjoy colouring them all in.

The books are all still available to pre-order from Amazon and will also be available from your local bookstores, WH Smiths and Waterstones (so make sure to ask if they are due to be stocked). But, if you would like the chance to win a FREE COPY of EACH BOOK then keep on reading!


COLOUR ME MINDFUL BOOK GIVEAWAY!

To be in with a chance to win a FREE COPY of Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies, Colour Me Mindful: Seasons, and Colour Me Mindful: Enchanted Creatures, simply check out the Rafflecopter box below.

All you have to do is subscribe to this blog via email (link in the box at the bottom of the page) and comment on any of the blog posts on my website, then you will see a whole host of other options to grab extra ‘tickets’ in the raffle. Amazon reviews are the BIG TICKET! If you review the current Colour Me Mindful titles (Underwater, Tropical and Birds) you will get a grand total of 15 entries into the raffle! Significantly boosting your chance of winning.


PRIZE BONUSES!

Also – the more entries – the more prizes! That’s right, if I receive a significant amount of entries, I will add extra prizes into the raffle. So the more entries you encourage, the more prizes I will add into the mix! This will include extra copies of the book, copies of the current titles and even original pages! So if you would like a bigger and better chance to win, spread the word!

The giveaway will be running from 16th September to Monday 28th September.



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Colour Me Mindful Launch Day


Well, the day is finally here! Colour Me mindful Birds, Tropical and Underwater are now available to buy in stores across the United Kingdom. To celebrate this ‘Book Birthday’ I am running a Launch Event over on Facebook which includes fun things such as giveaways, behind the scenes images and auctions; but mostly it is just a place for us to gather and meet each other and, of course, share your beautiful colouring in!

One of the biggest events of the day that I am running is an eBay auction for an original page from Colour Me Mindful: Birds. This is one of my favourite pages from the book and it features a highly detailed owl. All proceeds from this auction – that’s 100% of the money – will be going to the Mind Charity, a charity and cause very close to my heart that offers support for those living with mental health problems.

So please, if you can take the time to visit the auction or simply Tweet it/Facebook it/blog about it, that would be wonderful. You can find the link here. The auction will be running for the next three days so there is plenty of time to take part.

Also, due to the HUGE popularity of my previous Rafflecopter Giveaway, I will be running a similar giveaway today. The difference is – EVERYONE who takes part will get a FREE digital download of an EXCLUSIVE colouring page! This colouring page is not featured in ANY of the Colour Me Mindful books but is based on the theme of Enchanted Creatures‘ which will be released in October. So just by entering the very simple giveaway below, you will be sent a FREE COLOURING PAGE!

Happy Book Birthday everyone! And happy colouring!

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Colour Me Mindful Competition


COLOUR ME MINDFUL COMPETITION


I have recently received the complimentary ‘author’ (I love how it says I am an author in the introduction…) copies of my Colour Me Mindful books from Orion Publishing. They are absolutely beautiful! The team did an absolutely amazing job editing them and I love the travel-size-for-your-convenience dimensions of the books themselves, which are ideal for sticking in your hand luggage for a Summer Holiday, or keeping in your bag for when you fancy a cheeky doodle on the go.

I have really enjoyed following all the buzz that Orion are creating for the launch of these books in the UK on the 30th July (not long now!) and seeing all of the book bloggers and reviewers trying their hands at colouring them (you can see some samples here). And speaking of BUZZ (see what I did there), Colour Me Mindful: Underwater was even mentioned on Buzzfeed’s ’17 Colouring Books That Every Grown-Up Needs’, how amazing is that!

There is still chance for you to pre-order your copies from Amazon.co.uk and it seems that the hype has even extended to the next series of three books out in October!

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Colour Me Mindful: Butterflies isn’t even finished yet and already it is generating enough pre-orders and clicks on Amazon that it is a #1 New Release! Before it’s even released! No pressure or anything! This is testament to the art department at Orion’s excellent job at creating a beautiful cover out of my artwork and I cannot thank them enough. Not to mention my editor Anna Valentine who commissioned me to work on the projects in the first place.

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But, enough about the future books, let’s be mindful of the present and live in the now. The first three books haven’t even been released yet!

So here is your chance to get your hands on a copy of each: Colour Me Mindful: BirdsColour Me Mindful: Tropical and Colour Me Mindful: Underwater; each signed by myself; and an ORIGINAL PAGE from one of the books – and you get to choose which book!


HOW TO ENTER

The competition is hosted by Rafflecopter and as such is a Raffle! In order to enter the raffle, you simply have to follow the instructions in the box below. You can login using either Facebook or your email address and there are a number of different ways to enter.

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The two mandatory fields are that you have to sign up to my Blog (scroll to the bottom of this page and you will find the form in the footer) and visit my author page on Amazon. Doing both of these things will give you 10 entries into the raffle! You will also unlock a number of other ways to get more entries into the raffle – all of them pretty simple things like tweeting or visiting a Facebook page.

So get entering! The competition runs until the 24th July and the winner will be announced via Twitter and Facebook (as well as on this blog). This means that you will get your copies of the book before it comes out in the UK (post allowing). Some international entrants will be in with the chance to win these books months before they come out in your country!

Thank you so much for entering and good luck!

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Colour Me Mindful Book Series Announced


Colour Me Mindful Book Series Announced


I  am really happy to announce that I have been working with the lovely folks at Orion Publishing Group on a new series of colouring books for adults. These things have really taken off at the moment and it is wonderful to see the amount of beautiful books being brought out by some truly phenomenal artists. I have always been a huge lover of intricate line art, so this project is a dream come true for me. If you ever thought that colouring was therapeutic, drawing that much detail is double that for me. 

The first book, Colour Me Mindful: Tropical will focus on tropical scenes, ideal for wild bursts of vibrant colour.  You can expect intricate designs including tropical plants, fish, animals, birds and insects. I absolutely love what the guys at Orion have done with the cover. The colours are lovely and tranquil with a nice pop of colour from the parrot. If I am getting this excited at my editor’s digital colouring skills, imagine how excited I am to see what you make of my designs when the book is released in July!

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The second book in the series is Colour Me Mindful: Birds and does exactly what it says on the tin. You can expect a cute and (if you have anything to do with it) colourful array of characters from garden birds to birds of prey, owls to humming birds, peacocks to kingfishers, all drawn in a unique and heavily detailed way which should encourage your imagination. I can’t wait to show you more soon.

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Finally we have Colour Me Mindful: Underwater. This is probably the one I am most enjoying as I have always loved drawing underwater creatures (See Viceroy’s ‘The Deep’ or ‘Ocean’). As you can see from the cover, we will be delving back into the tropical waters again, but you will also see sea mammals and of course fresher waters too.

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At only £4.99 each, these books are set to be incredibly affordable and you can even pre-order them on Amazon now. I really hope you like what I’ve shown you so far and can’t wait to show you more in the Summer when they are set to go on sale.