I know a lot of artists are knee deep in Inktober right about now, I have been enjoying sharing illustrations of my own Susies Bunny on Instagram too but deep down I am really just waiting in anticipation for Gnomevember. Every day throughout the month of November each year, the gnomes come out to play and 2021 is no different.
No matter wether you decide to use paint, pencils, clay or paper mâché everyone can join in with Gnomevember, you don’t need to be very good, you aren’t being judged and there are no winners or losers. Gnomevember is purely for fun and there is absolutely zero pressure! Here are this years prompts that I have devised to help give you some ideas and get your creative juices flowing. If you don’t like them then their are potentially more prompt lists available on instagram by different artists.
This is my third year of participating in Gnomevember, the first year I painted in watercolours and mixed the prompts with huevember too. the second year I decided to create all of my gnomes digitally so that I could practice digital art.
In 2021 I want to take my Gnomevember designs in a different direction and have decided to create a character to go on adventures throughout the month of November. His name is Noah Sunshine and he is a very young gnome with a very adventurous streak in him. I have done a few practice sketches and decided to create my own little life size Noah Sunshine so that I can sketch him from all different angles more effectively although sadly the polymer clay is not posable once baked. Isn’t he adorable? I am so happy with him and cannot wait for his adventures to begin. Noah Sunshine will be painted in watercolours and may be available afterwards as a zine if people are interested.
If you would like to follow Noah’s adventures then keep an eye on my instagram throughout November and if you would like to join in that would be amazing, tag me in your insta posts so that I can see them!
Written by Tazkia Dokrat and illustrated by Kerry Green, Peaty Pencil Learns To Help is a lovely little book about a pencil who is great at academics and not so great at sports (I can instantly relate!)
Peaty Pencil has to learn that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and that helping each other really helps everyone. It is a very cute book and the pencils have so much personality. I am a massive stationary addict (Hoarder?) and seeing these little pencils chatting and running is just charming. It is a really cute idea. It isn’t easy to give emotion and movement to inanimate objects and Kerry Green does it really well.
The font selection is a little strange as random words throughout the text are given extra emphasis with decorative fonts, it does add to the interest on the text only pages. It is only a short story but is one of a series of Pencil Case Pals and we would be really interested to see the rest too.
We were curious on pages where Peaty Pencil and friends were sat writing with little pencils, did those little pencils have personalities too? That would be super cute but could go on forever.
This book was sent to us for review by the publisher Stour Valley Publishing and our opinions are our own.
If you have ever sat and watched a baby play you can see that their minds are working constantly, figuring out the world around them. In Munchkin’s Adventures you get a glimpse into what Alice (Munchkin) is daydreaming about and her imagination is running wild while she is spending her day with her family doing very ordinary activities.
Written by Karen Farrell and illustrated by Grandma Robyn, this story is enchanting and so are the illustrations. The imaginary adventures are varied and fun, from a rocket ship to a mermaid lagoon just like on the cover. Harry thought that he could imagine his baby cousins going on all of these fantastic adventures to all of these magical places. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they could really tell us about them all?
The text is simple to follow and it is laid out really nicely, you can see what Alice is really doing and what she is imagining easily which allows the illustrations to shine. They are really delicate and soft watercolours that are perfect for the tone of the gentle story.
The cover initially seems very girly, we don’t buy based on gender stereotypes in our home, we just read what we like. Hopefully the pink doesn’t put anyone off though because the story really is great for anyone, boys and girls can daydream of being merpeople and astronauts alike. Harry really enjoyed it and thought that the baby was very sweet.
Munchkin’s Adventures is available now on Shookbop.
The publisher sent us this copy for review and the opinion are all our own.
Written and illustrated by Jenny Neal, Stick It Brit is a children’s book that helps to encourage children to learn in their own unique ways.
Stick It Brit was not at all what I was expecting from the title, both Harrison and I thought wrongly that the book would be about Brit giving up or telling someone to leave them alone, perhaps it is a regional dialect thing but saying ‘stick it’ is not the positive message that we soon found this book to be. It was made very clear very fast that the stick which was being referred to was actually sticky notes!
Stick It Brit is the story of a little girl who is struggling to learn spelling and vocabulary and uses sticky notes to help often with hilarious results (have you tried to pop a sticky note on a cat? Brit did!). It was great to see Brit not only recognise her own struggles but to find a way to work through them too. A story of perseverance even when it isn’t easy and that practice will make your tasks easier.
It is a great story that shows not everyone will learn in the same way and that you need to find the way to suit you best.
The illustrations are bright, bold and colourful. I really like the energetic backgrounds on every page, there is not a single page that lets down that energy which carries the enthusiasm throughout the book. It is educational without losing track of the story and would be a great motivator to a child who is struggling to find their own way of learning.
Harry really enjoyed the story too and thought that the idea was brilliant, he suggested that each book should come with a pack of sticky notes to get you started.
Stick It Brit also raises money for Twinkling Stars, Stillbirth Bereavement Services which just makes it even more special.
Published by Stour Valley Publishing and available now from Shookbop.
This book was sent to us for review and these opinions are our own.
I really love Scrawlrbox but I don’t have a subscription myself. I know that the boxes are well worth the money however a lot of the products they include would go to waste if I were to subscribe, markers for example I just wouldn’t use often enough. However I really enjoy watching artists unboxing videos on Youtube and then if my interest if piqued I have the option to purchase a box from their range of previous boxes which works out much more affordable for me despite the extra couple of pounds you pay for knowing what is in the box.
When I watched numerous content creators open the July box I was absolutely mesmerised by the contents. Alcohol inks and a yupo pad. I had never seen these items used in this way and I knew within a few mins that I had to give this medium a go. I purchased the box as soon as it was available in the online shop (around mid to late August). As always it arrived quickly and was really well packaged, just enough to protect the contents without going overboard and wasting loads.
The box included two coloured inks, one blender ink and a magical shimmer ink, a yupo pad, paintbrush, pipette, paper straw, scrawlrzine, sticker and art work by amazing artist Jess Kirkman. There was also a chewy bar but Mr Webb had eaten that before I could take the photograph! He says it was delicious.
The Yupo pad is tree-free synthetic paper and feels plastic but is 100% recyclable and it is essential for working with alcohol inks. The inks had to be pierced at the top and as expected I made a mess within seconds of sitting down to give this medium a try. You should probably wear gloves but at this point most people are used to me being covered in some art material or another and a blue and pink hand is nothing unusual. It took a day or two to come off but I could of used nail polish remover if I had needed to.
I have never used anything similar to these alcohol inks, they act in a way that is so unpredictable and it is hard to have any control over it. That made it incredibly fun! I found the whole process mesmerising because every drop changed the entire piece. They included really good colours because they blend really beautifully into purple hues without muddying. The shimmer is a nice touch that is incredibly hard to photograph. The smell was really strong but since Lilly Webbling is constantly practicing her nail art I think I have developed a slight immunity to the fumes. Once they are dry they don’t really smell but I wouldn’t recommend sniffing it, make sure you have a ventilated room when you are pouring them.
The blender is colour free and it pushes the other colours as far as they can go which adds a lot more pattern and depth. I was having a great time simply just watching them combine and move. They felt like they had a mind of their own. I tried the pipette and the straw but honestly wasn’t finding that I had any more control than just pouring straight from the bottle really.
The freedom of just letting the inks do their own thing was really fun, I could not control them. They were good at not leaving the edge of the paper unless I blew too hard with the straw or tipped the paper. The inks do pool at the edges so I tried not to put too much ink close to the edges.
I wanted to try a picture that had no white and to add more shimmer, the image above is what I ended up with. The shimmer is beautiful but the photographs do not do it justice at all. The more ink you add the more you get the thick lines that you can see on the image. They take a long time to dry and can be sticky. I have found that the images I have left on top of one another (after 24 hours drying time) are sticking to each other a little. The thinner ink dries really quickly though and dry ink can be reactivated with blender or fresh inks so you can work on it over more than one day.
I decided to try a sea scape with mainly blue and just a tiny bit of pink to add the darker blue hues. I then used the paintbrush dipped into the tiniest bit of blender to add some little bubbles to the image. I think I should have been braver and added more but I was happy with the effect. It is great that you can use the blender to take away some of the ink although you would need a lot to get the paper whiter. I think that the blender will run out a long time before the colours. However, these inks are only small and I thought that I would probably get through the bottles in one session but I have done quite a few pieces and barely used a quarter of each bottle, it goes a long way.
Being an illustrator I couldn’t help to try and create illustrations from the inks. It wasn’t fully successful but hopefully you can recognise a seahorse amongst them. It was recommended in the Scrawlrzine to add permanent marker once the image is dry. I tried it on a few and really liked the outcome. It is almost like trying to spot shapes in clouds. I think that with practice you could possibly create abstract patterns with the finished designs in mind. I used sharpie and silver Pitt pen to create interest to the images below.
I really love to mix mediums and thought that the texture and depth in the illustrations would make fantastic backgrounds. I really love how they came out. I used the seascape to create the two illustrations below.
I really love these colours but wanted to try more. Since it was late there was nowhere open to go any buy more. It occurred to me that since I have hoarded alcohol markers over the years (see, hoarded but not really used!) that I might be able to use them to create some interesting images using the blender and the shimmer.
I tried Promarkers and honestly it just made a mess, it was awful. The ink was sticky and only spread a tiny bit after staining the paper. It actually looks better in the photo than it does in real life. It was muddy and sticky and just not fun at all. But it wasn’t a complete waste because I managed to use the ruined art piece in some little collage, cut paper art.
Honestly they are my favourite images that I managed to create with the alcohol ink, it combines the fun of the magical alcohol ink textures with my love of collage and cut paper pictures. I really love how they add extra interest to the illustration. I just added some simple watercolours and coloured pencils.
I would recommend anyone who doesn’t mind getting a bit messy to give these a go. The Scrawlrbox is a bargain while it is available because they include everything to get started. it is magical and mesmerising just to watch even if you don’t like the final image you will enjoy the process which is really just as important if not more so when you are creating art.
I will definitely be using more of this technique in my art, it is too much fun not to, so please do follow my social medias if you would like to see more.
First Song is the story of a little girl who has her life turned upside down by a her new baby brother who just will not stop crying. Mum, Pops, Nana and Grandpops all try hard to soothe the baby but are unsuccessful, can his big sister find the way to help him sleep?
Dedicated to my own daughter who has always been the best big sister anyone could wish for even if she does argue like crazy with her little brother, no one else is allowed to treat him badly, she is his protector. My Webblings are my inspiration and that has never been more obvious than in this new book.
I have written the story and illustrated it digitally, I have been growing and improving, trying to get as much texture and life into digital art as I do with watercolours. It is a process that I have really enjoyed and I hope that it shows with First Song. I know that I still have a lot to learn about story writing and illustration but I am really proud to share this story with the world.
First Song was released yesterday and has had a great reception so far, I can’t thank my family and friends enough for the encouragement and support that they have given me throughout the whole process.
Sid The Snail Has Lost His Trail is written by Chloe Helene Harding and illustrated by Marife Gonzales, a picture book written in rhyme that aims to teach children perseverance. Sid gets separated from his mummy in bad weather and has to find his way home alone but it is not an easy journey.
Harrison and I really enjoyed Sid’s story, it is simple to follow and is full of heart. Sid meets lots of friends on the way and listens to their advice not to give up. I think that children will really relate to Sid, even now I can remember that fear when I was lost as a child (only for a few moments luckily) and the fear of being alone is real. It also shows that Mummy and the whole family never gave up looking for Sid either which I think is a really important part of the story too. The main theme is perseverance and that is exactly what Sid will learn by the end of his journey.
The illustrations by Marife Gonzales are absolutely beautiful. A mix of digital and collage with lots of texture. They are bright and impactful and match the tone of the story from page to page. My favourites were the trees, leaves and flowers whereas Harry really loved the characters especially Len the louse. It has a very cheerful overall feel to the story despite some of the darker parts when Sid is scared and lonely.
Sid The Snail Has Lost His Trail made a great bedtime story all snuggled up and ready to sleep. We were very glad that there was a happy ending, a really warm and fuzzy happy ending to Sid’s journey. We would highly recommend this story for your bedtime routine, it was heartwarming and wholesome.
The author, Chloe Helene harding is an advocate of Growth Mindset especially in children and the book includes a great explanation about how helping a child to develop a growth mindset will help them in the future to nurture themselves and the world around them. I believe that this is incredibly important and something that is too often overlooked. Seeing it in the back of the book can be really enlightening to parents and carers, it is in my opinion a great addition. It is a great lesson for adults too and we all need a reminder sometimes.
Stour Valley Publishing are the publishers behind the story and they sent it to us for review and we are very glad that they did, we have really enjoyed getting to know Sid and the world that the author and illustrator have created together. Hopefully it is the first of many.
Harrison has awarded this book 5 out of 5 webs and has asked if he can read it again soon. I think he will probably enjoy it even more when he isn’t so sleepy too.
I had a little birthday money (Thanks Grampy you are the best!) and a huge addiction to paint pallets! When I saw this giant pallet in a shop I was very intrigued, I have around 20 sets of watercolour pans but I have never seen gouache paints in pans before. My gouache sets are all liquid and although they do firm up and can be activated with water they are not as firm as actual watercolours so I had to try these paints!
The tin is also my first ever red tin and I love it. It is just over three times the size of my twelve half pan watercolour tins.
There are 14 coloured pans and a tube of white. I am not sure why the white is a tube as opposed to a pan but I am assuming that it keeps its vibrancy more to use as highlights. It comes with a brush too which is always a bonus. The pans are just slightly bigger than a full watercolour pan. The perfectionist in me was annoyed with that little smudge of blue on the lid but luckily it is water activated so it came straight off (phew!).
I sprayed the paints with water in the same way that I do with watercolour pans before I start painting with them to activate them and wow that blue sprayed a lot! It activates really easily so be careful if like me, you like to mist your paints before use.
I appreciate when a pallet comes with a swatch card but it is always worth swatching on the paper you use most often. I also swatch into my swatch catalogue so that I have all my swatches together, this makes it a lot easier to choose the right colours my paintings.
The paints are beautifully vibrant. They activated with the water very very easily, they didn’t break apart and were a dream to swatch with. Swatching is one of my absolute favourite parts of getting a new set and this one did not disappoint. They are very rich in colour and they seem opaque too. Perhaps not quite as opaque as the Himi gouache jelly paints but these are a lot more convenient to use than the jelly gouache set up.
Frustratingly the swatch card that came with the paints and had the names of the paints on did not have the colours in the same order as the paints were placed in the pallet. However the pans are printed on the side with the number of each colour and the pigment used which helped me find out which colour was which. It will also helps if I want to order just one pan to replace it.
The colour selection in the pallet is pretty basic and has everything you need. I had a bit of a play mixing colours like the skin tone above and they mix really well. I used them very much like watercolour and they were really bright with the smallest amount of water. They are very smooth to paint with and not chalky at all. They dried completely matte and were easy to pencil over. My initial sketch was in red pencil and the colours concealed it brilliantly which is great if you like to do your outlines last, if you prefer to do your outlines first then you will want a more transparent paint. If you like to do a lifeless finish then I think these would work really well too but perhaps use less water than I have.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed using these paints, I think I will reach for them often, especially when working on my children books because they are so easy to get a really bright finish. I didn’t end up using the white in the end but I am sure I will too and if it dries on the pallet I can just activate it with water again.
These paints are perfect if you like the vibrancy of gouache but the convenience of watercolour, they are a bit too big to stick in my handbag when I go out though, so if they ever do a pocket version I would definitely be getting that one for on the go too.
Thank you for reading my ramblings, I hope they have been helpful!
Introducing Sherman is a picture book written and illustrated by children’s author Ruth Drury. As the title suggests, the story introduces Sherman, a character who has a very unique job, he is responsible for the anxious feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we feel ashamed of something we have done or are about to do. Poor Sherman has had enough of his job and wants to retire.
The story is a teaching aid to help children recognise why they might feel ashamed and ways that they might find helpful to stop them feeling bad. Showing that shame is a natural and normal emotion that doesn’t have to linger for long.
Sherman is a complex character that Harrison and I enjoyed discussing. The concept of emotions is a difficult one to portray as a character and Sherman is a good example of it done well. I am not sure that either of my children would of really grasped the concepts that Introducing Sherman was describing when they were 4-7 years (which is the target age for the book) but at 9 years old it started some really deep conversations. I think that if you have a child who is struggling with feelings of self doubt and anxiety then this book could help them to recognise their emotions.
I get the impression from the cover that Sherman is only one of ‘The Shenanigans’ and that we will possibly see more in the future although it doesn’t make it clear in the book so I cannot be sure.
The illustrations are bright and eye catching with a collage feel to them. The character of Sherman is definitely the star of the book and stands out despite being surrounded by an array of other characters, his little red pants are just brilliant. It is a unique style of illustration and I really enjoyed the full pages with lots and lots of detail. There are a few pages where the characters inexplicably have no faces despite all of the other characters having faces which was a little off putting because they didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the illustrations throughout the book. If you are looking for a book absolutely jam packed full of colour then you will enjoy Introducing Sherman and I don’t think it is a style that I have come across before.
Of course Harrys favourite part was always going to be when a granny shouts ‘BUM!’ It sort of comes out of nowhere and although I didn’t really understand why the granny was shouting or who she was shouting at, Harry didn’t care in the least, he thought it was hilarious and that Sherman should perhaps just make everyone shout ‘BUM!’ all the time and he might not want to retire anymore.
Introducing Sherman is a bright colourful book that will help you start a conversation with your child about the emotion of shame and how to overcome that feeling so that it doesn’t stop them from doing things they enjoy. The vibrant palette and all of the small details in the illustrations elevate the story to make it more fun.
Harry has awarded Introducing Sherman 3 out of 5 webs, he did struggle to understand the concept without us talking it through but he really liked Sherman and all of the illustrations. It is not a book that we would read a lot but it is one that will be great to come back to when we need to discuss emotions and we both hope that Sherman is just the first of The Shenanigans.
You can learn more about Introducing Sherman and Ruth Drury’s books on Ruth’s website. Or grab your own copy of Introducing Sherman now from Shookbop.
Thank you so much for reading our review,
Samantha and Harrison x
Please note that this book was sent to us for review, this is not a paid review and is completely our own views.