Saturday, 25 January 2014

GROW YOUR BLOG! A Re-Introduction!

Hello and WELCOME to the 'GROW YOUR BLOG' post! I'm so happy to take part in this blog-boosting event hosted by Vicki at '2 Bags Full'.  It's really quite exciting.... It's pretty scary to put your art 'out there' on t'interweb, especially on a blog, as you're basically asking strangers to judge and comment on the work that's on display. I'm still relatively new to blogging and I still get all nervous when I check up on my comments page (like...30 times a day!) - when there's a lovely comment there from an incredibly kind fellow blogger it's like all my birthdays have come at once! I think all artists need approval and blossom when we receive support - so taking part in this blog hop event is both terrifying and exciting!

This post collects a selection of my work which regular visitors may already have seen, but I've added several new pictures for you to look at too. Those of you who are new visitors to 'Shroo's World' might want to know a bit about me, so here goes...

My name is Rachael, although I'm known as Shroo - at least as far as internet communications are concerned, and that's how I sign my work, so please feel free to call me 'Rachael' OR 'Shroo', whichever you prefer.  I'm an artist and  journal maker and I live in the UK with my almost-spherical black cat.

I'm an only child of a single parent, raised by my wonderful mum and my grandparents with help too from my globe-trotting uncle, and some lovely family friends. My mum is a dancer and a commercial artist, whose work and encouragement have been invaluable and inspiring to me. She filled my life as a child with music and art, drawing little cartoons on messages and cards at every opportunity. She still does -

Her work is FILLED with joy - my house is filled with it, which is fabulous! You can find more posts including her artwork by clicking the following picture link:
Yule dancer
My grandfather was a carpenter - a good one, and my grandmother knitted and cooked and loved painting and poetry. I made swords and shelves with my grandfather, and never ONCE beat my grandmother at scrabble or cards, but did make some lovely scones!

I've always loved art, and would have loved to make it a career, but circumstance sometimes forces a different path.... Many twists and turns later, and I'm at a point in my life where I'm fortunate to have my own space - no negative influences or nay-sayers, and my heart has returned to art. It's saved me - a grandiose statement, but true - and now I want to make use of any skills I have and try and earn a living. Bold move, made with tentative steps! The blog was my first leap....Etsy, my second....this is my third! *JUMP!*

My influences are manyfold. My mum and my grandma both loved literature and book illustrations, so I grew up surrounded by the incredible variety that books provide. I love animation  and comic book art, which are both highly underrated in the art world. I adore sculpture and classical art including the wonders created by ancient cultures as well as the bold modern movements.  You can read about some of the artists who've influenced me by clicking the link below:
Influential artists

Other than existing artwork, my main influence is the natural world and it tends to feature heavily in most things I do. I love to express the beauty of the organic world around me in arts and crafts and hold it close to my heart.

 This is a copy of a piece I did for a very awesome friend of mine, without whom I'd not have had the confidence to pursue my dreams. Some people are more valuable than they will ever realise. You can find more examples of this black-and-white work in my gallery (click on the mouse picture below), which will take you to the relevant posts if you clicks the links!
I love colour, and I love to experiment with different mediums and collage elements - play about with textures..

This was painted with Derwent watercolour pencils, Caran D'Ache Neocolor II soluble wax pastels, Winsor & Newton gold ink, fine liner pens and gel pens.

The following images might give you a better idea of the kinds of things I like to draw and paint and will link to their related blog posts/pages if ya clicks 'em:

Oh -  and I love the sea, marine life and BLATANTLY obviously, mermaids and will find any excuse to paint one.

They also find their way onto the journals I make..

.....and colour is a key feature of my handmade books and journals. I only started making my own books a couple of years ago, mainly because I have 'pristine page terror' - that blank brain effect that comes with a nice pretty new pad of paper. I discovered that pages that were 'rustic cut' (ragged round the edges) presented less of a weird barrier to creativity, and I started cutting my own sheets. Learning to bind them into books was relatively easy thanks to the plethora of tutorials on Youtube! I took a chance and opened an Etsy shop to sell some of them and it seems other people like them too - which is AWESOME! Here are a couple of exampes -

I do tend to get over-excited with arts and crafts and I love learning new skills. I love to embroider my own designs and I find making jewellery REALLY theraputic. Mum loves this as she's even more of a magpie than I am and has a collection of jewellery that would make the Queen feel inferior!


Ok - that's a bit about me and my work - LOTS of piccies and links which I really hope you'll enjoy. I would LOVE it if you left a comment and if  you like what you've seen, perhaps you'd consider becoming a blog follower (you'll find the link in the right hand page border). I'm off now to begin a day of  utter indulgence enjoying the variety of blogs and blogged subjects out there thanks to the awesome work of Vicki at '2 Bags full'. I hope I'll see you again - and you can email me if you like at 

The email is on my public profile but BLOGGER can be glitchy! I'll leave you with three little watercolour illustrations of my fat black cat, Count Harvelstein Fluffpants III (Harv for short...or 'Colonel' if he's feeling bossy!) These were for mum for Halloween 2013. I bid you a very fond farewell - see you soon! Shroo :) xxx


Saturday, 18 January 2014

The 12 Books Of Christmas - Part 3 (The Last Stand!)

Happy Friday!

WOW! - Another week gone...some grotty stuff, some annoying stuff AND some good stuff, so the month's balancing out so far! Now THAT'S a relief!

Very shortly, I'm going to share the last few pages of that Christmas book, but first I'd like to share some thoughts on doing commission work and I'd love to hear your experiences and opinions if you can spare the time.   Over the years - despite being wedged firmly into tedious jobs with LITTLE joy - I have found some small time for art. When people find out that ya draw, they tend to ask ya for pictures ...mostly as favours, and because with me, like with most arty people, confidence doesn't seem to come naturally, I'd do stuff free of charge, thereby avoiding any potential upset from my 'customer'. Let's face it, once cash is involved people tend to get picky and things can get awkward, and when you're not TRYING to be a self-supporting artist, that hassle's better avoided. That being said....there are people wandering through their lives now with my work tattooed somewhere about their bodies! There are cartoons and the occasional pet portrait floating round on walls here and there..... and it brings a [nervous] sense of acievement and, yeah, maybe some pride to know that people like my work enough to have it in their lives. But I've never charged a fee for a private commission.

I've had friends in the art world tell me horror tales of private commissions that never end...the picky client with a million things they want to add or alter for no extra charge. It puts me off completely. But then there are bills to pay.... and a commission opportunity comes up - and the person asking is THE most lovely person possible......  What then? I've been asked to produce a piece of work that is NOTHING like I'd normally do. I would LOVE to be able to help, but the more I look at the plan, the more I know it's so alien to me that I will have to decline. And that sucks. Massively. I've gone through page after page of a sketchbook this week and the more I work, the worse I feel about the project. I know I'm the wrong artist for this commission and I'm going to have to tell a beautiful human being that I can't help. Sucks.

The thing is - I'm not the kind of person to take a deal or a job "just because". That seems dishonest, saying I can do a thing when it's blatantly transparent that it's so far out of my remit that it's a kind of Bizarro world kind of job - my polar opposite, as it were. A challenge, I relish...but this is not for me. I'll give it a few more days in case something 'clicks' never know....  I'd HAPPILY look at a brief that fits my skill set - and I need the work, so I hope some of them are round the corner.

How do YOU feel about private commissions, as opposed to the professional publisher-type gig or the gallery/shop sale? Do you look forward to them, or dread them?  Do you have criteria for accepting or declining a job? Have you ever gone ahead with one against your better judgement - if you did, what happened? I'd love to know.

Ok. That was my dilemma of the week. Kind of. Now to some colourful piccies! We were up to......

Page 9: A Fairy Went A Marketing by Rose Fyleman

"A Fairy went a-marketing, she bought a little fish;
She put it in a crystal bowl upon a silver dish.
An hour she sat in wonderment and watched its silver gleam,
And then she gently took it up and slipped it in a stream."


This is a very special little poem as my grandma used to sing it to me almost every night that I slept at her house when I was a little girl. As I got older she used to add some little mimes and arm-dance actions to make me laugh, and it was charming - truly charming - to hear her sing it when she was very elderly, still with the silly mimes and the a cheeky "Tra-LA, tra-LA, tra-la tra-la tra-la...POM!" at the end of every verse. I can hear her singing it RIGHT NOW and it makes me smile to think of her, rather than feeling sad at missing her.

I used Derwent watercolour pencils, almost exclusively. The colours do exactly what I ask of them, which makes them a joy to use. 

I used fine line and gel pens to add detail, and Winsor & Newton gold ink WHICH, when added over a pewter coloured gilding wax and super-heated with a heat gun, makes a really deep silver/gold reflective finish... who knew? *happy face*

The die-cutting worked really well on this page. At this point I was very happy that I'd chosen to go ahead with that as an idea. I look at all pages with an eagerness to hack at them with a scalpel now!! Mooowahahaha!

Page 10: The Whale by Erasmus Darwin
..lin fact... Whales. In General. Go with me here...

I love whales.... Don't you? They're incredible creatures and I've been FASCINATED with them all my life. This page is kind of representative of whales in every genre - poetry, literature, art, movies, err.... the all-whale production of 'Cats' ...something  else.....

It started with Monstro the whale in Disney's incredible animated adaptation of 'Pinocchio', who I thought was AWESOME! When I grew a little older, I read Moby Dick and that was pretty awesome as well. I then learned about the complexity of whales - you know, ACTUAL ones, not the RAARRGH ones from movies and books... Discovering that they are so intelligent, gentle and graceful just blew my mind. Then they were in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That sealed the deal... I love whales!

I used the blend of watercolour pencils and Neocolor II soluble wax pastels, and added smooshly lovely gold ink while the paper was nice and wet, heat drying it to achieve a flowing, blended look to the water, and a more blotchy look to the whale. Once dried, I sprayed it with the Chestnut satin acrylic lacquer, then used a black gel pen on top so that the ink would stay wet enough to splodge about, which worked well I think. I like the contrast of the orangey-gold of the fish - they have a shimmer from adding Tattered Angels 'Orange Crush' Glaze, but you can't really tell in the scan...pfff..

Oh - and I had fun with the white gel pen, and the scalpel again ....heh heh heh....

Page 11: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Yes, ALL of them. This is an incredible series of books. Of course, academics will tear them apart, word by word, sentence by sentence, and try to cover up the sense of magic and beauty with the frankly BLATANTLY obvious layers of spirituality and social commentary (evident to even the dummest of thickies), yet still, it's that magic and spellbinding narrative of Narnia that captivates children with each new generation. It's a beautiful escape and it STAYS with the reader, even after the trauma of 'The Last Battle'.  Narnia and Aslan will forever be in my heart and I care not who titters or sneers - I'm richer for reading these books, for loving the characters, for closing my eyes even now and seeing the rolling green hills of Narnia and the shining spires of Cair Paravel.

This page took me the longest to do.... I imagined all my favourite scenes from all the books, but when all is said and done, it HAD to be Aslan. Again - you can't really tell from the scans, but I added gold to his eyes so that they'd catch the light, which they do in the original page.

Like most of the previous pages, I used a combination of the Derwent pencils and the Neocolor IIs, but I added them in several layers. Both can still be reactivated if you re-wet them after drying, but combining them slightly retards the process, allowing for greater freedom and opportunity for manipulation. I used Uni Pin fine liners (0.3, 0.1) to add detail, and white gel pens for highlights.

The beauty of this technique, combined with the (hoo-hoo-haaaaa-haaa!) scalpel-frenzy die-cutting is that it's not essential to add every last hair to achieve the look of a mane. I do appreciate hyper-realism as an art-form as the attention to detail is immense and impressive, but I PREFER a more illustrative approach.

Page 12: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

This is a beautiful story about a little velveteen rabbit who longs to be real. It's a classic for good reason - an incredibly gentle, poignant and moving little book which should be read by everyone! Because I want you to enjoy the wonder of this book, here's a digital copy for you - just click the image right below .....

Did you click it? Why not? Go and click it and read it right now - it won't take you long and your life will be better for it! Go on!
I'm assuming you've done that then? *sniffle*....another weepie! Oh I cry every time, but I love this book so much. It's responsible for everything I own having a name, though, including my computer, my printer, pots, pans, heater and even shoes! Dammit.

I used the Neocolor II soluble pastels quite copiously on this page because I wanted the colours to be vivid. I chose this as the last page because the story begins on Christmas Day.... and that's when my book was being given to mum! AHA! Also - and I only remembered this after I'd finished the page, because I'm an idiot - I did four illustrations for this book as part of my A level art exam when I was 18. Weird huh? I also went MENTAL with the Winsor & Newton gold ink again! Shiiiiiny!!!

In order to just add another layer to this page, and finish the book, I painted one last page -

*  *  *

That's it then! That's the last of the book. I really hope you've enjoyed that. If you have any questions please just ask - I'm happy to help and look forward to your comments. I'm going to look forward to Sunday, when I've planned in a couple of hours to drink my coffee and look through your wonderful, gorgeous and inspiring blogs, which I've not had time to do at all this week. I can't wait to see the amazing work you've produced so far this year! Sending love and hugs out to the Universe and you too. See you soon - Shroo :) xxx

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

12 Books Of Christmas - Part 2

Happy Tuesday!

Well... any cause for a celebration eh? The weather here is wet and dreary, but even with the damp and cold and chill there are THE most beautiful skies to be seen and celebrated!

Yeah. I know.  So anyhoo, I thought it about time that I wrote a part 2 for that 12 Books Of Christmas - I'll still need a part 3, but I promise that's not far away.  So....where were we...? Up to page four I think......  yep. Here we go:

Page 4:Gus The Theatre Cat by T.S. Eliot

This page was painted completely with Derwent watercolour pencils - they're so easy to move around on this lovely Bockingford paper. Using the brush to take colour directly from the tip of the pencil gives a nice vivid colour where needed too. I added detail with Uni Pin fine liner pens (0.1 and 0.3),Uni Ball Impact gel pen (1.0mm) and gorgeous, rich Winsor & Newton gold ink.

Die-cutting the page added a layered effect - I like that!

I love Eliot's work, but I wanted to choose one of the poems from 'Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats' in particular - partly because mum and I both love musical theatre (yes, I know, but we do) and also because we've always had cats for pets, and this poem about old Gus reminds me of a cat we had when I was little. His name was 'Tuesday' (go on - guess on what day mum found him...) and she rescued him after he'd been abandoned (horribly) by some scumbags. She nursed him back to health, and although he remained thin and scrawny all his life, he was tough as old boots, defending his territory against all manner of invaders.... foxes, other cats...the invading undead know the sort of thing.

  ...hey! Where'd the cat go?!

Page 5: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

So - there HAD to be a mermaid, right? The story of the Little Mermaid was so beautiful to me when I was a child. I think Andersen's stuff is way less creepy when viewed from a child's an adult they can a bit depressing! But then - there was the wonderful Danny Kaye, who made it all wonderful, then Disney with their sugar sprinkles and singing crustaceans and kapow! A whole big McFilet o' Fish of awesomeness! Mermaids are fabulous. I decided to give this one a golden tail and seaweed hair - and a li'l seahorse (have to give SOME nod to Ariel!)

I used the Derwent pencils to set down the base colours and then used Neocolor II soluble wax pastels from thereon in. A Uni Ball Impact gel pen (white 1.0mm) added texture and detail once a quick spray of Chestnut lacquer added a base, and I highlighted with that yummy Winsor and Newton gold ink.

I also added some Tattered Angels glaze (Mellow Yellow) to the tail and super-heated with my heat gun to make it bubble, then highlighted the textured surface with some 'Treasure Gold' gilding wax.

I cut away quite a lot of the page as I wanted to have her look like she was floating to the surface of the sea in a whirl of bubbles...kind of thing. I resisted the urge to 'Disney' her up and gave her a look of longing, which seems appropriate for the original story. 

Page 6: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

This was done using a combination of Derwent Watercolour pencils and Neocolor II soluble wax pastels - they blend so completely beautifully it's a delight!  I was given an illustrated collection of these short stories when I was about 9 years old and completely fell in love with them. I chose this one in particular as I recited a large extract in a 'speech and drama' competition/festival thingy and my mum remembers it fondly.

This picture represents the part of the story where the little swallow, left behind to brave a freezing winter, sheltered by the glorious statue of the Happy Prince, takes flakes of gold from the statue to deliver to the poor people of the city at the bidding of the Prince who can't bear to witness the suffering that their poverty brings. It's a tragic but beautiful story. I'd recommend that you read it - and have a tissue ready for when you have a good old cry!

Detail added again with Uni Pin fine liner pens and that Winsor and Newton gold ink is just perfect for the gold leaf. Again - LOADS of die-cutting! WOO!

Page 7:The Marvelous Mongolian by James Aldridge

Yuh-huh....second only to mermaids.... there HAD to be a horsey! I read this book when I was 11 years old and when my mother found me sobbing as a result she took the book off me and read it herself ....and sobbed! Oh it's a wonderful book, written in the form of letters between pen-pals, about a wild Mongolian stallion, and a small tame pony. Read it. More tissues. You'll sob too or else you're not human and/or alive!  This, along with 'Black Beauty' affected me SO MUCH that I can't read a book about horses, or watch a film about horses without sobbing uncontrollably if anything happens to them! In fact - I'm not permitted to OWN a copy of the Black Beauty movie for the sake of my own health and sanity! Pathetic, yet true...

I used the Derwent pencils for this one with plenty of gold ink swirls to represent dust. Before anyone points it out - yes, I did give horsey a longer mane than these ponies actually have, but I like him this way - he looks more wild, so shush.

Page 8: White Fang by Jack London

Hmmm....another weepie! I'm an emotional wreck! I must have read this book a hundred times as a child and loved it more with every read. There's a darned good reason that this is a classic.

For this page, I used the Derwent pencils as a base colour agent and then Neocolor II pastels for layers. As this book was done for my mum, I chose an extract from the beginning, about White Fang as a cub with his mother and reflected it in the illustration.

Detail added again with Uni Pin fine liners and Uni Ball Impact gel pens.

Ok. I'm going to leave that there for now as I have a stack of journals waiting to be bound and/or decorated and they're making me feel guilty for avoiding them! Grrr...  I'll be back in no time to finish this set of posts with the last few pages and HOPEFULLY some finished journals for Etsy. I'd love to hear what you've been up to, or hear your thoughts on these pages. Please feel free to leave a comment as it's awesome to hear from you, and very encouraging. If you'd like to have updates on new posts you might like to 'follow' my blog - just click the link in the right-hand border.

Thank you for visiting! Huge hugs from Shroo :) xxx