A list of small pleasures

For today’s post I am thrilled to have collaborated with the illustrator Eva Polakovicova (Eva Pola Illustration & Design). She created these lovely illustrations to accompany my words, working by hand  combining her stencil technique and colour inks.  She did a wonderful job of capturing the joy of these small pleasures, and I am in love with this gorgeous colour palette♥

You can find out more about Eva’s inspiration and this technique in the interview we did back in January.

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #182

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Watching little groups of sparrows come to drink water on my balcony

The sound and smell of white wine evaporating from risotto rice

Lying down at the end of the day and relaxing into my pillow, knowing there is still time to read a good book

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Opening the mailbox and finding a postcard or an envelope from someone I hold dear

Having no plans and letting myself fall asleep in the sofa in the afternoon without setting an alarm

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Cooking with radish leaves and carrot tops and feeling like there is twice as much food and no waste

The smell of rain on the garden after a long dry spell

The lovely feeling of fatigue after several hours of walking or cycling in nature

Perfect Creatures

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WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? #3

One wintry afternoon in November I had the pleasure of taking pictures of my dear friend Eva as she worked on a couple of artworks in her studio in Den Haag.  Then at the start of the year, we sat down to have an in-depth conversation about how she learnt this particular technique, what inspires her and more…  I really enjoyed our chat and the photo-shoot, as I could admire the process and how the illustrations evolved. I am very excited to share this interview with you.

How did you start? How did you come up with the idea?

I got back to doing creative work through an amazing online surface pattern design course I took three years ago. We had been creating motifs for patterns, so I tried experimenting with many techniques and ideas and came up with different patterns. My plan was to focus on pattern design, but as I started drawing more and more, I realised I also enjoy illustration a lot.

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Through the illustrations of little creatures,  I allowed myself to look for my own style. What’s particular about these illustrations is that the inspiration just came from my imagination, I didn’t need to look up any images for reference. I always liked to observe animals and when working on the Perfect Creatures project (find more info below) I realised that I already have a lot of images stored in my head and now they were coming out in a creative flow…

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How did you learn this skill?

I learnt this particular technique during a short workshop given by Tom Haugomat at ELCAF festival in London last year. What I really like about it is the combination of paper-cut which I used a lot when I was doing stop-motion animation many years ago and beautiful textures. I have always enjoyed working with paper, cutting things out and moving them around, because it gives me more flexibility than just drawing…

What I appreciate in illustration or any art form really, is when you can ‘feel’ the technique – its tactility. You can sense it’s handmade through certain textures that appear. I really like this texture in particular, achieved with the ‘stencil-ink-sponge’ technique because it’s very soft – almost dream-like – and it creates nice layers. Also, your palette is very restricted. This is great because you get more creative with the colour tones and you create new colours by layering them

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Where do you find your inspiration?

Most of the time I find my inspiration either in nature, looking at its many patterns and creations. I also love old engravings of animals that show them in the way people imagined them. I like when there is a little bit of story-telling in the illustration as well, and I’ll be working more on that this year.  Lately my inspiration comes from my favourite Czech and Slovak children books and when I start drawing more regularly, I get a lot of ideas when falling asleep. Or sometimes I dream in detail about a pattern, its colours and if I still remember it in the morning, I draw it!

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What effects have your pieces had?

What is really nice is that people enjoy these illustrations. They cheer them up because they show these playful little creatures dancing together and having fun. For me, when I was creating them, I was in a flow and it was almost a kind of meditation for me. Especially the first part, when I worked with paper and ink. It was calming me down. I also experienced flow when I was editing them on the computer. But that’s a different way of working – focusing on every little detail and composition. I must say I prefer not to work in front of a screen though.

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How does this work impact / interact with other activities you do?

It’s kind of all mixed together because the new techniques I learn and discover, I can then also use for my freelance projects, and vice versa. For example, certain elements, like the triangle texture appearing on some of the creatures comes back in my other projects. (BTW Triangles ARE my favourite shapes! Haha!) And when I work at the freelance projects on my computer, I constantly learn new skills that I can apply to my illustrations.

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Also, my pottery classes give me new ideas. Pottery is very relaxing to me because it is not connected to work and I am doing it purely for myself. I just play and I come up with ideas that I can use for illustrations….

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Any ideas for what you plan to work on next?

What I would like to try to do is work on how to illustrate stories because that’s what I enjoy a lot. I have bought an online course from one of my favorite illustrators – Adolfo Serra – and I would like to learn how to do children’s books illustrations because that seems like a good way to start storytelling through  illustration. I’d also like to make a zine, work on my portfolio, create some new book cover illustrations/designs and hopefully create end-papers for a book!

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Any closing words? Where can we find you?

As mentioned before used this technique for creating Perfect Creatures, my first licensed illustration for a Slovak company called Remini that makes high quality hardcover notebooks using paper from sustainable sources. They are very special because they are 70% handmade and the company promotes Slovak illustrators. You can purchase the notebooks in 5 different formats here.

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For all up-to-date information follow Eva on Instagram: @evapolakovic (further links: linktree)

Photos above taken by Fanny and edited by Eva Polakovicova

Photo with Perfect Creatures taken by Euan Monaghan and edited by Eva Polakovicova

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The other interviews of the series WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? can be found here and here.

Downtime before the festivities

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #158

I made it back to my hometown in France without too much trouble, despite the on-going strike. After a busy week trying to finalise things before the holidays and packing, I appreciate being able to simply take my time.

This morning I slept in and after breakfast I slipped back under the colourful duvet to read Flow magazine. I love the slow-paced articles accompanied by beautiful illustrations, that get me thinking and remind me about the important things in life. I am particularly grateful for this precious downtime to recharge my batteries before the xmas festivities begin.

Wall of art

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #148

Last Thursday, at work, we had our annual talent show.  The acts were fantastic, often poking fun at the absurdities of our organisation and we laughed a lot. I love seeing colleagues showing up in a new light and being vulnerable. It’s heartwarming and a lovely way to get to know colleagues just a little bit more.

I contributed some photos to the wall of art and I really enjoyed this mini-exhibition alongside the pieces of my talented photographer, painter, illustrator and sculptor colleagues. For me, it was particularly interesting to see my pictures printed, as opposed to only on screen, to note how the details and colours work in the physical photograph.

I’m grateful that we have this opportunity to celebrate people’s artistic qualities and discover what they like to do in their free time. If it was up to me we would do many more creative activities in the workplace;)

A gift to myself

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This magazine cover with the phrase ‘The rise of eco-feminism’ called out to me while I was browsing in a bookstore on our recent trip to London. After briefly leafing through it’s pages, I treated myself to a copy that I read with great pleasure from cover to cover on the train back to Amsterdam.

The content feels very refreshing and easy-going, like a non-judgemental friend who tells you dreamy stories and knows unexpected fun facts about far flung places.  Visually it is a gorgeous mix of photography and illustrations that support the articles, as well as inspiring quotes.  I enjoyed that part of the content is submitted by readers with varied voices and styles, and that there is no advertising to distract you.  I’m excited that I decided to subscribe for a year in order to support the magazine and have the joy of receiving it in the mailbox every 3 months:)