Saturday, November 14, 2015


I didn't know what to say today, so I left it to the inks.

A Fairy Tale Job.

In June 2014 I was invited by Katrina at bareMinerals in San Francisco to create the illustrations for their ‘Fairy Tale’ Holiday range. It’s common to be sketching out baubles and Happy Christmases in the summer time, but I don’t think I’ve worked on Christmas a whole year and a half ahead!

What a job though. It combined Things Mole Loves: ink, make-up, sparkly and scary things. What we can safely call ‘a no-brainer’. The theme was ‘Enchantment’, and before we’d even had the set-up call they'd lasered right in on what I so obviously like to draw - the comfort zone of detail, thorns, natural objects, snowflakes, stars and hidden things. So this was a joy to do from start to finish.

Among other folio pieces, they were inspired by this illustration created a few years ago for a jeweller; clearly suggestive of night time and sparkle!

The packaging required several elements including details for the website, but we started with the big ‘hero’ piece, from which most of the packaging elements would be derived, everything sketched out in pencil, with a few rounds of refining, followed by ink on paper and finally, applied to the packaging at the designer’s end.

The packaging required several elements including details for the website, but we started with the big ‘hero’ piece, from which most of the packaging elements would be derived, everything sketched out in pencil, with a few rounds of refining, followed by ink on paper and finally, applied to the packaging at the designer’s end.

I often prefer the pencil sketches of the things that I draw, and these were good examples of that - there’s a soft organic side to pencil that the ink, although still clearly hand-done, doesn’t have - and this is the ‘spirit’ I have to protect when I’m being asked to vectorise something for technical reasons. It’s something I guard quite fiercely! Here’s the illustration for the Mineral Powder lids - and yes that is a spot for a real jewel in the centre!

There were details to make for the behind-the-scenes stuff too - spines and edges for boxes and products, web elements and little flourishes - here they are in their natural, unmade-up state!

Oof! these spines! I designed them to fit together a variety of different ways, to give alternative looks depending on the requirement:

And here are the finished things. Here’s ALL of ‘em, ‘cos I can’t choose. You can’t get all of these things in the UK, but they have a decent selection in bareMinerals boutiques within the UK.
Here’s QVC’s Christmas presentation!

or buy direct from Bareminerals here.

And finally, here is a strange shot of my excited by camera-awkward face holding one of the products in the nearest bareMinerals boutique. The ladies tactfully pretended they couldn’t see me. Bless them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hallowe’en Signwriting at Cocoa Amore.

I went back to Cocoa Amore last week to add the sign writing to his new shop in Silver Street, in the medieval part of Leicester. The job was to paint a permanent logo in the centre of the huge windows, add opening times, a building number and bullet points, and then make a right old Hallowe’en spectacle in the windows - those to last only a few days, to give way not long after to Christmas.

Here’s the shop in all its glory, and how it got there!

Shop pictures courtesy of Andy Baker at The Leicester Mercury.
This was my first experience with proper sign writing materials, and it was a bugger to get used to. I used an ivory enamel to match Pete the owner’s existing colours, and built up layers to make solid letters:

 - never work with children or animals:

Then, the split cocoa pod at the top was added, and a shout line. Kneeling on two bags worth of dried cocoa beans, the crunching and constant chocolate smell made for a bittersweet agony/ecstacy environment (Pete wasn’t shy of keeping the hot chocolate coming either):

A freestyle building number now nestles under the Victorian gold swags:

And then the job was to add some opening hours too:

- remember everything is painted in reverse, on the inside of the glass!

Of course I made sure I was appropriately attired. Yes, yes, overalls - but more importantly the chocolate brown lip colour (mixed from two different shades) and brown and copper eyeshade. (Question: why can’t you get brown mascara anymore eh?)

Once the main sign writing was in, it was all about getting the temporary Hallowe’en painting up for the opening night. On this I could unclench a bit and relax into painting familiar shapes with a series of non-permanent Posca inks applied with a brush - the sign writing took four times as long as the Hallowe’en work, due to the concentration required of an amateur combined with sticky, enamel-based paint!

All was now ready for the pre-Hallowe’en Grand Opening, by invitation only, to the shop which sits just in front of Leicester Cathedral where King Richard. As far as I know, he was invited, but no-one saw him. OR DID THEY...

'I liked the company so much I bought it’.

We were introduced to Cocoa Amore by our friend Caroline who was at school with Pete, the owner. Previously the owner of Chocolate Alchemy in Loughborough, four of Pete’s delicious chocolates appeared at the door in Caroline’s hand, which everyone in the house could eat - by that I mean, us vegans, - and we were so impressed we bought the company.

Pete Gardner makes chocolates, runs workshops and courses, makes delicious hot choc and cocoa, and serves very creative savoury and sweet cocoa-based confections in his four-storey place in the centre of Medieval Leicester. King Richard III can, in fact, smell the melted chocolate from where he now lies. Our relationship started as customers but quickly became a working one, as he co-hosted our Buddy Wakefield show just before Christmas last year, from his previous shop in the Silver Arcade.
Pete’s philosophy is that chocolate should be good; the best quality, handled correctly and creatively, and edible by everyone. His array of chocolates has something for everyone with any kind of dietary specification - except those with a cocoa allergy of course - but it’s done in a gentle, no-big-deal, no massive sign shouting “DAIRY FREE” kind of way. This we applaud, and it makes for a welcoming, warm and inclusive atmosphere. We liked the company so much, we bought it.

Well, that’s not quite true - we bought ‘into’ the company! In the summertime we became shareholders, and I created the company's Share Certificates, starting with a sketch:

- and some reeeeallly careful hand-writing:

followed by a version in chocolate brown ink. These were printed on fat ivory cover-weight board, and each shareholder’s name was written in using gold ink:

New shareholders also received a VIP card which was designed to match the certificate, then hand-letterpressed on Graham Robson’s tiny letterpress machine, again using gold and brown. The card entitled the shareholder to special events, products and discounts:

How lovely do they look?

Needless to say, that hasn’t been the last of our adventures with Cocoa Amore. Well, we’re shareholders, we’re chocolate-balls-deep now, aren’t we?


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