Studio! I've just taken on a studio space in The Archives, a new creative space in Tottenham Hale. I'm sharing with some lovely creatives including Bud Studio and May Glen. After a year of maternity leave and 18 months of pandemic lockdowns, it feels so so good to have a dedicated space of my own to go to for my creative practise!
I'm immensely proud of all my third year students on the BA in Illustration at the University of Northampton. Throughout a uniquely challenging year they have worked incredibly hard to complete a range of unique and personal projects, I wish them all the best in their future careers! Check out their digital degree show, Maker's Dozen here:
I was asked by Bud Studio, who are working with Haringey Council to pair local artists up with Tottenham shops and businesses to bring colour to our neighbourhood.
I've loved seeing all these colourful shutters popping up all over Tottenham so I was really pleased when I was asked by Bud Studio to take part in the scheme.
I was matched with OMG Fashion - a great match because I love colours and patterns, and Yilmaz's shop is packed full with them!
Luckily, as we'd recently come out of lockdown, I was able to go into the shop and sit and draw, this is always a good starting point for me when coming up with ideas.
As I sat there drawing I noticed how people were touching and holding the clothes to get a sense of whether they wanted to buy them or not. Seeing this reminded me that a lot of what is important about choosing clothes is their texture and this is lost when shopping online. I knew then that I wanted to base my design on that.
Back in the studio I started working on a design which combined the patterns and colours of the clothing with a close up image of two women shopping. I looked back through some sketchbooks and came across a small sketch of two women at an airport. I liked their closeness, they are obviously sharing a moment, and so I decided to base my characters on this image.
I developed the rough sketch further and added a headscarf to one lady and white hair to the other to represent greater cultural and age diversity. I completed the artwork on my iPad using Procreate and during that process I started to think in terms of what would work in spray-paint. Procreate has some 'spray-paint' brushes and I had fun playing around with where I could add interest and depth with gradients and fades.
The week of the install was rainy but we were lucky with a clear evening. I've painted at large scale before but not for a long time and never with spray-paint. It was a great experience. Albert from Bud Studio showed me the ropes, it was so much fun to learn from him! Initially I found it hard to control the spray but I got better over the evening, and with the help of an extra ladder from the shop next door we were able to finish just as it got dark.
Thank you Bud Studio and OMG Fashion for the opportunity to be part to this amazing project!
I have been awarded a 'Developing your Creative Practise' grant from Arts Council England to learn animation skills and apply them to my illustrations! I am going to be taking the School of Motion's After Effects Kickstart course in the summer and then working on four pieces of moving illustration for local organisations. Confirmed partners for this so far are Wildbulb, Bruce Castle Museum and Friends of the Earth Tottenham and Wood Green.
I've just completed Beth Cox's fantastic 'Foundations for Inclusion' course. I learnt a ton of information on inclusion of all kinds and met some really interesting people working in a variety of roles in creating children's books. Highly recommend!
1st December 2020
I have been awarded a grant from the Society of Authors to help me complete my next picture book project, The Welcome Blanket. Due to the childcare disruptions of the pandemic, and the extensive amount of research needed for this book, it has been taking me much longer than planned to complete. This grant will give me some much needed financial security to have the time needed to complete the book.
14th July 2020
Feature in Digital Arts Magazine on my AOI World Illustration Awards shortlisted project: https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/features/illustration/aoi-nominated-phoebe-swan-depicts-diverse-london/
12th July 2020
Fantastic news! King Leonard's Teddy is of the shortlist for the Little Rebels Award 2020! www.littlerebels.org Previous nominees include some of my all time picture book heroes, so I am completely honoured and flattered that King Leonard’s Teddy has been chosen for this year’s shortlist. It was always my intention to make a book that was both fun and relatable for young children and also had a strong environmental and anti-consumerist message so I am really happy that the message of King Leonard’s Teddy has spoken to the radical ethos of the Little Rebels Awards.
You can hear me talk about how I came up with the idea, how I made the artwork and give a taster reading here:
“King Leonard is so rich that he can buy whatever he wants. Anything old or broken is thrown onto the growing pile of trash outside his castle. But one day something breaks that can’t be easily replaced. And what’s worse, King Leonard can’t find anyone who knows how to fix it…”
The story of King Leonard’s Teddy is one which is both an enjoyable and relatable story for young children and their parents of a child’s attachment to an irreplaceable and much loved toy. But it also carries an environmental message about the impact of over-consumption and waste. In this sense I believe it can be enjoyed by anyone, on different levels.
Young children will enjoy the story, and looking at all the detail in the pictures. Older children and parents will be able to appreciate the environmental message. There is also a page of activities at the back designed to act as a conversation starter for parents and teachers to help children take the message into their everyday lives.
The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is a prize for radical fiction aimed at children aged 0-12. Now in its 8th year, the Little Rebels Award is designed to recognise the rich tradition of radical publishing for children in the UK.
Letterbox Library is a not-for-profit, children’s booksellers and social enterprise. They specialise in children’s books which celebrate diversity, equality and inclusion. www.letterboxlibrary.com
Housmans Bookshop is one of London’s longest surviving and last remaining radical bookshops and stocks a wide range of radical books and magazines, including children’s and young adult books www.housmans.com.
23rd June 2020
Bloomsbury Market has been Shortlisted for the Association of Illustrator's World Illustration Awards!
2nd May 2020
I’m over the moon to discover that my illustration of Bloomsbury Farmers Market has been long-listed for the Association of Illustrators World Illustration Awards. It is one of a series of three London crowd scenes I made for the consumer research company Decision Technology. Looking at them again now is making me nostalgic for London in a less socially distanced time, when public spaces bustled with the sounds, smells and colours of city life.
I was commissioned by the company to make three artworks for their new office on Tottenham Court Road. As they handle statistics from cross-sections of the population, the theme was ‘diverse groups of people’. I also wanted the artwork to reflect the area local to the office and to make images that would be meaningful to the employees. They had seen an image I made a few years ago, Borough Market and wanted something similar.
After consultation with employees, I picked three areas of local interest for inspiration. Many staff members take lunch at Bloomsbury Market, which also attracts people of all different backgrounds such as students and tourists, so it was an obvious choice for the project. I spent time drawing and taking photographs in each location before composing the final designs using a mixture of printmaking and digital editing.
In making this series, I was inspired by the iconic lino prints by the great Edward Bawden. My London scenes, like his, depict public spaces like markets, train stations and parks. I enjoy contrasting the large architectural forms with the patterns created by people going about their lives below. I also like to create little narratives with the characters which I hope give viewers something interesting to discover each time they look at the image.
This commission was really important to me because it was the first project I completed since my son was born at the end of 2018. Snatching time during my maternity leave to go out and do the research drawing, alone, was glorious. I took out my folding stool and giant pencil case stuffed with equipment (although I almost always just use a 4B pencil) that I’d used for observational drawing while on my MA at Cambridge School of Art. With no baby in tow, I felt light, and more importantly was able to get into a creative flow uninterrupted.
Later in the year, when my partner took over the main child-caring role for a while and I went back to work full time I sat down with all my sketches to create my compositions. I used a similar layout to the Borough Market image, but I wanted to use a three-quarter viewpoint for all the images. So I had to take my sketches and reimagine them as if I had been sitting three feet in the air above where I had really been sitting.
Previously I made a lot of my work with lino print but recently I have made the move to fully digital and to help me in this transition I booked some tutorials with Orange Beak Studio. The wonderful book designer Ness Wood made the suggestion that I drop some of the heavy outlining that I had been using and work with flat blocks of colour instead, allowing the edges of objects to be created by the edges of the shapes. You can see how I overlay colours to build up the images in this animation of my photoshop layers.
I am really happy about how these images came together in the end and I’m now working on a new picture book which will feature more of these kind of scenes of city life. I hope that by the time that book comes out we will once again be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of mingling with others in public. Until then, stay safe!
King Leonard's Teddy Book Launch, Dalston Curve Garden