The Tea Dragon Is Coming!

First of all I would like to wish each and everyone of you a wonderful National Storytelling Week. As an author and illustrator stories are at the heart of everything that I do and are a real passion of mine. I am so happy that the preorder of my new story has fallen on national storytelling week.

The poster above shows some of the characters from my own stories including Bun and Bear (top right) and Hiccup (centre) from my brand new book, brownie points if anyone can name where all of the characters are from.

Artist rendering of the book.

And so the day has come to start my preorder!!! I will be doing a short run to begin with and hope to create something cute to send out for anyone who orders too, maybe stickers? The only place to preorder is through my Folksy shop or face to face if you are lucky enough to spot me away from my desk!!!

I genuinely cannot wait to share this book, my twelfth, with you all, I am incredibly proud of it and I really want you to love the baby dragon as much as Bun, Bear and I do!

Here is the link you need to order … PREORDER TODAY!

Thank you all so much for reading my blog, for all of your support, it means more than you know.

Samantha.

Designing My Cover! The Tea Dragon Cover Reveal

It is true that in the past some of my book covers have not been the greatest, I know that it is a weak point and in one case (Tales of the Enchanted Christmas Cornlings) really let the interior of the book down. The cover is in many respects the most important part of a book because it is the first chance that you get to capture the attention of the readers. It is not something to be taken lightly and I think that in the past I have shy’d away from making them more elaborate. I do believe that I am slowly learning and improving and that each of my cover designs has continued to get better.

I have studied other children’s book covers, standing in a library or bookshop and taking a note of which books immediately made me want to pick them up and why. I have looked at old movie posters, movie posters are a form of artwork all of their own that I could look at endlessly. I was also gifted a book for Christmas, Adventure Time Title Cards, a compilation of artwork from the cartoon which I have only seen a little of but the title cards are really intriguing and again are very much an art form of their very own.

After studying other books I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I can relate this information to my own stories. There have been many drafts, here are a few of them. I always start with pencil and paper.

I narrowed it down to a design that I was happiest with and then moved things around to make a more appealing composition.

You can see from each iteration how the final design is coming together. I photographed the final design (above right) and transferred it onto my iPad to complete in Procreate like the rest of the book.

I didn’t have to spend too long on choosing the colours because I wanted them to closely resemble the illustrations inside the book. I wanted the dragon to be the focal point and the text clear and concise. I still wasn’t sure if The Tea Dragon would be my final title but it just stuck and I couldn’t imagine a better title now.

At this point my cover was nearly complete, the highlights and shadows were in place but it needed just a few extra touches, I wonder if you can tell what changes I made between this version and the final one below?

And here it is! My final cover design for The Tea Dragon by Samantha Webb (that’s me!). I have worked really hard on it and I am so proud of it. It hopefully is intriguing enough for readers to want to pick up the book and want to know what is happening! It will be published on 26th February 2023 and will be available to preorder from 31st January 2023. I really cannot wait to share my story with you all.

Thank you so much for reading my blog.

Samantha Webb.

Artist Trading Cards and Why I Love Them

Many years ago, long before I started my art career, I really loved crafts like scrapbooking and card making, they were a gateway into art for me. I loved to go to the craft shops and see all the papers, stickers and ribbons, and I had quite the stash until a relatively recent clear out. Those shops also had art materials which would slowly entice me over but that was slow progress.

In the meantime I joined lots of crafty groups but on an old fashioned thing that I don’t think exists now, Yahoo Groups. Did you belong to a group? Well I started looking at craft items for sale to begin with, looking for interesting bits that I couldn’t get close to home. We did have some wonderful craft shops in Plymouth back then (around 15 years ago) that have sadly all closed now. I stumbled across the world of ATCs and I stumbled in the way Alice stumbles down that rabbit hole, head first and all the way down!

ATC is an acronym for Artist Trading Cards, the name sums it up pretty well. They are trading cards created by artists, most commonly using materials that every scrapbooker and card maker would have to hand although they can be made of absolutely anything, the only rule is that you keep to the size 3.5in x 2.5in, standard trading card size for things like Pokemon or football cards, many playing cards stick to this size.

It’s a great size for creating mini masterpieces because they often do not take too long, at least not compared to a 12×12 inch scrapbook page. I found a group of artists and crafters who exchanged cards every month, UKATC and it soon became my favourite place on the internet.

The idea was that you sent your cards and a self addressed, stamped envelope to the host. The host would distribute the cards and you would get your envelope back full of cards by other artists. When all you usually get through the post is bills this is a very addictive hobby. Back then stamps were a lot cheaper too so it wasn’t an expensive addiction either.

I joined more groups and had an absolute wonderful time creating, sending and receiving cards. I made some wonderful friends who loved to craft too all around the country.

The hype rubbed off on my daughter Lilly Webbling, my mother in law and sister in law both got involved too and my wonderful husband created his own niche trading cards (that are some of my favourites) when he started PATCs, Photographers Artist Trading Cards, swapping trading card size photographs with amateur and professional photographers.

When Jamie (that awesome husband of mine) and I took a leap of faith to go self employed in our own artistic careers ATCs fell by the wayside slowly but surely. However I still have my binders full of amazing ATCs created by a huge number of artists and I absolutely cherish my collection. They remind me of happy times covered in glitter and glue, times when I was playing with different materials and learning what I like and don’t like in my own creations, I am a big believer in learning through play and that’s exactly what ATCs were for me. I don’t think that I would of been inclined to try watercolour painting had I not been trying to create the perfect backgrounds for my cards and it is now one of my biggest passions, you never know where play will lead. We should all play more.

I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane and some of the ATC cards I’ve shown you. There is an amazing ATC community on social media, just use the search bar and jump in, I don’t think you will regret it!

Thank you for reading,

Samantha.

Happy New Year, Happy New Book

A very Happy New Year to one and all. We have closed the final chapter of 2022 and we are just beginning the next volume, 2023. We are only a few days into the year but I am back at work feeling more fired up and raring to go than ever after a long Christmas break. Luckily for me I love my job which means that having time off of client work means time to work on my own projects and I have been working on my latest book which is currently titled ‘The Tea Dragon’, this is a working title and the whole thing is a work in progress but I wanted to share it with you as it is now, it could all still change.

‘The Tea Dragon’ is a the story of a little dragon egg that gets the hiccups which leads it on a grand adventure. It will be illustrated digitally but like all of my illustrations it started life in the pages of my sketchbook, here are a few examples of some rough sketches.

I quite often have baby dragons in my sketchbook. I even made one into a vinyl sticker a little while ago. This dragon is an extension of those baby dragons only this one absolutely loves being in hot water, especially if that hot water has some lovely tea leaves in it. He has some friends too, twins who want to help him find his home.

He is a very cute dragon but he is growing quickly and would certainly not be an ideal pet.

The Tea Dragon is still a work in progress, I am working on both the story and the illustrations right now, even the title isn’t locked down yet. I have a lot of work to do on the cover illustration, I want it to be striking and intriguing in even measure and covers are one part of my books that I feel have been weak in the past so I am taking my time over it and not heading straight first into the first idea that I draw.

I feel that I am always at my happiest when I am working on a book, they can be stressful and I am not great at marketing them, did you know this will be my 12th book? You can find the others here! I feel like having a goal in mind helps me to focus and the excitement of seeing a finished book will never get old. I am hoping to publish The Tea Dragon in February 2023 all being well.

This is my title page, of course it will have to change if I change the title but for now I am really proud of how this project is coming together so far. If like me, you are a big fan of dragons and will do almost anything for a decent brew then keep an eye out because with a little luck and a lot of work, this book will be out before we know it!

Happy New Year again, I hope 2023 is the year for you!

Thank you for reading my blog,

Samantha x

2022 My Year Of Art

Personally 2022 has been challenging and there have been some really tough times to get through and as always art has been an outlet for me. I have worked on projects for other people and for myself, I have filled three sketchbooks and many other loose sheets of paper. It has been a prolific year of art and these are just some of my highlights and memorable moments of 2022. Please excuse the self indulgent post but looking back at the year is a great way to see where I am heading in 2023.

I have been experimenting with drawing varieties of people (and fairies) I love to see more body types in artwork and I think it is important to show representation in illustration. It is something that I haven’t been doing previously and something that I will be looking into more in my artwork. This fairy in a teacup is one of my favourite examples in my artwork this year.

My blog has been a real work of passion throughout 2022, I have experimented with art products, reviewed books and tried different challenges. I have loved giving my blog some real time this year and growing it, I hope that I have improved and that my own voice is starting to come through more in my writing. I look forward to writing more next year.

I was gifted a few Domestika classes and I feel like I am learning a lot from artists who are far more knowledgeable than I am. I am so proud of this little tiger that I created from the class by Julie Mellan.

I have always loved to create in collage, I have been trying to merge digital and traditional more this year. I prefer to work in traditional but I know that digital makes it crisp and can help me complete my artwork to a higher level. Digital is something that I need a lot more practice with but I am enjoying merging the two, they are different and yet have a lot in common. I must admit though I have started trying to zoom in on real paper which is slightly embarrassing.

Chubster is an illustration based on a photograph that I took on Dartmoor, I have been getting a lot more confident with drawing and painting outside and in public. I have been enjoying going to cafes, restaurants and even sat in waiting rooms with my little sketchbook. I still get shy when people ask to look in it but I am getting better and it has helped me to draw a lot more this year than I have before. They aren’t all masterpieces but practice makes perfect. Being self employed and working from home can get lonely so the more I get out and about the better it is for my mental health.

One of my biggest accomplishments this year was the publication of my 11th book ‘When Georgie Grows Up‘, it is an imaginative book and I filled it full of all of the things I love to draw. It came out so beautifully and full of colour. I am so proud of it and I hope that it continues to entertain children in the future.

Despite still being a work in progress ‘Rock Monsters Of Dartmoor’ have already been popular online with the most of my interaction on social media being about these guys and I even attended an arts and crafts event where they were the main characters and the children loved them. There will be a lot more of the Rock Monsters to see in the new year.

I was delighted to have been invited for an interview with British Red Cross at my local book store as part of their Author Around The Corner spotlight. It pushed my anxiety to it’s limits but was a wonderful experience. I was also invited to do a number of readings, my first since the world began to resemble some kind of normalcy again. I was quite honestly terrified but I absolutely loved them all and hope that I can gather some more courage to get out and about sharing my stories in 2023.

One of my ambitions has always been to start a YouTube channel dedicated to my artwork. In October I took part in Inktober and as part of that I videoed every painting and uploaded ASMR style videos to the platform. I am very proud of the videos and I hope to add more but with a bit of colour very soon. The videos are still there now if you would like to watch them and relax.

I have rephotographed everything in my Folksy shop and really want to try and make a success of selling my products and more original artwork. I have been making more original art and making it available to buy. I am hoping that it will work well with building my YouTube channel and I will be able to film my paintings and make them available for viewers to watch.

One of the highlights of my year was receiving my artist copies of Mincemeat and a Train Called Zayn by Lois Davis, I worked on the illustrations for the book and the enchanting story really captured my imagination, I am happy to say that 2023 will see the amazing sequel to this wonderful story too.

So that was a glimpse of my year as an artist, I have enjoyed the development of my own style, I can see that my artwork is certainly getting brighter, bolder and braver. I am excited for where the future is heading and for the people who I will get to work with in 2023. I have one book almost ready to start promoting and I have ambitions to start work on another very soon too.

Thank you for reading my blog,

I wish you all an incredible new year,

Samantha.

Merry Christmas On Fernmoor

It is almost Christmas and it wouldn’t be Christmas if I hadn’t painted my characters in their Christmas finery. I love to paint Bobbi the bear, Danni the mouse, TJ the mole, Spencer the hedgehog and Susie bunny but most especially at Christmas. They are incredibly special to me and what better way to celebrate that than to paint them for Christmas.

I would love to develop the Fernmoor Friends into a story one day but for now they grace the pages of my sketchbooks, all of my sketchbooks. I know these characters inside and out, I know that they are just waiting on a grand adventure!

Susie Bunny loves to dress up, she is dancing around as a yummy, scrummy gingerbread man, those gumdrop buttons are ginormous!

Bobbi bear loves the idea of being Santa’s helper, they even have the ears to match!

Spencer is a fun loving hedgehog oops sorry I mean treehog! Isn’t he just the cutest little Christmas tree you have ever seen? x

TJ is a sugarplum fairy dancing through children’s heads on the night before Christmas, what a beautiful little Christmas fairy complete with magic wand of course!

Of course Danni is straight to bed nice and early on Christmas Eve, ‘not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!’ I hope Father Christmas brings her lots of treats.

These characters have not seen nearly enough airtime in 2022 but 2023 they might just be able to shine a little brighter.

Until then, here is a collection of the illustrations that I have created in Christmas past of the Fernmoor Friends. I wish every single one of you a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and a wonderful end of 2023 for one and all!

Thank you for reading my Christmas blog,

Samantha Webb

Illustrating Someone Else’s World

As an illustrator it is always a huge honour to be selected from the many artists to work on an authors stories. They welcome you into their worlds and trust you with something that is really important and special to them. I try to keep this in mind as I am illustrating for other people, I know that my own books are incredibly special to me and I only trust a select few people to see them in progress.

When Lois Davis first approached me about her books I was actually unsure wether I wanted to take on any more clients because the task of creating someone else’s vision is not an easy one. I had been shortlisted and lost out on a few jobs and was feeling a little dejected. In fact when Lois messaged I originally thought that she was asking for a review of her book and not enquiring about illustration work which was a little embarrassing on my part.

Mincemeat can often be found in his kitchen.

Lois sent me the manuscript for Mincemeat and a Train Called Zayn and I can honestly say that I instantly fell in love with the Mincemeat’s World Of Adventures. It felt reminiscent of the books I adored as a child, Mrs Tiggywinkle and Brambly Hedge. Lois Davis doesn’t write picture books, she writes story books and I fell head first into the story.

Authors have an idea in their minds about what the characters look like and how they hold themselves which isn’t always apparent in the manuscript. As daunting as this can seem it can be very freeing to have room to interpret it yourself but you need to find a balance between what the author imagines and your own interpretation of the text. The Wonderful World Of Mincemeat is very character driven and all of the characters are wonderfully unique.

Great Grandma always has an adorable bird in her hair.

I sent off some rough design ideas of the main characters Mincemeat the giant ginger cat and her faithful companion Great Grandma, then I held my breath to find out if Lois would like my designs. As you can probably tell where this blog post is going … Lois loved them.

Working with Lois over the last 6 months has been magical, we have discussed the characters inside and out until I really know them and I think that I have been able to bring her vision across into the illustrations. There are many more stories to come in Mincemeat’s World Of Adventure and the genuinely do get better and better. As I am working on one story I am getting ideas for the next one (it is going to be amazing!).

Last week I received the final book (although by final I mean first), I cried happy tears of joy at the final book. Many months of work on my part and much more than that for Lois, all came together into a book that both of us are incredibly proud of. It is an enchanting storybook and a great introduction to the world that Lois has created.

Christmas Has Come Early.

I am now working on the second book, Mincemeat and the Magical Igloo which is going to be even more magical. Lois has become a good friend through this process and has encouraged me along the way, truly helping me to reduce my imposter syndrome and create more illustrations that I love.

It is never an easy job to step into someone else’s world where they have created every last detail and even less easy to expand that world whilst keeping it true to the authors vision but when the fates align and it all comes together it really feels like a little magic has occurred. I am incredibly grateful that Lois showed faith in my artwork and let me run free in Mincemeat’s World Of Adventures. I think we make a pretty good team.

Mincmeat and a Train Called Zayn blurb.

You can find out so much more about Mincemeat right here on his very own blog!

I look forward to sharing more of Mincemeat’s world with you in the future.

Thank you for reading,

Samantha Webb.

Happy St Nicholas Day

Today is the 6th December, Saint Nicholas Day in the Christian calendar and a day that we look forward to each year.

St Nicholas was a fourth century greek bishop who was known for his generosity, he would sell his own possessions to help the poor and would often leave gold coins in peoples boots which is where the tradition of stockings comes from and also why Santa Claus is sometimes referred to as Saint Nicholas.

When I was in primary school we had a teacher who was german and she shared the traditions of her own childhood with us, this one stuck with me more than any other and I decided that when I had children we would celebrate St Nicholas Day with the tradition that is prevalent in Germany, The Netherlands and other European countries. On the eve of St Nicholas Day you put your shoes by the door and if you have behaved throughout the year (or tried at least!) then St Nicholas will magically fill the boots with sweets and small toys.

Can you spot one of my characters?

When my daughter was younger she wondered why we were the only family to do this. Until the release of what would become her favourite movie for years to come, Disney’s Santa Paws in which Santa visits true believers around the world on St Nicholas Day to help them spread the joy of Christmas to everyone else. From then on both of the Webblings knew that as long as the truly believed in the magic of Christmas then they would find treats in their shoes on the morning of December 6th each year.

It is a beautiful tradition that I look forward to each year, (I usually get Sherbet Fountains which definitely help!) and I know that the Webblings do too. I am down to one believer in Santa Claus sadly but as a family we all believe in the joy of Christmas, in time spent together and in lighting up the darkness of the long winter months so even when the inevitable happens and our youngest Webbling is grown, we will keep these traditions alive!

Happy St Nicholas Day everyone, no matter your religion, wether you believe or not I hope we all get a little extra light to help us find our way through the darkness this winter.

Samantha x

These are a few of our favourite treats!

I Tried Disney Store Paint Set

I am an unashamed massive fan of Disney and have spent and unhealthy amount of money over the years on various products which I have um’d and ah’d over before purchasing but when I saw The Aristocats Watercolour Paints I checked out my basket quicker than Winnie The Pooh eats honey. I had to have the matching sketchbook of course because I have a problem with art supplies, I simply cannot help myself.

They both have The Aristocats theme which is such a beautiful Disney Classic film and were designed by artist Ann Shen who I must admit I had not heard of before but am now a fan of. If such an incredible artist put their name to the paints then they must be good, for the price however I wasn’t expecting more than a student grade paint. I paid £15.00 but prices change all the time.

Ignore my scrappy drawing board, I was too excited to wait and photograph them on a pretty background. The gold details on the sketchbook is super shiny. My favourite part is little Toulouse painting on the front of the tin.

The colours were not individually sealed, they were plastic wrapped in the tin and the paintbrush was just placed on top. This paint brush is awful and you won’t see it again in this blog. It is almost useless unless you really had no other option. These photographs do not do the colours justice but it is British winter and it is grey constantly! I couldn’t wait for the sun to shine to try out the paints.

I always swatch my colours on a variety of papers, this is in my reference book, it is card stock and not watercolour paper. My initial thoughts are that these paints are not watercolour paints, I went back to the listing and they are listed as watercolour paints but do not be fooled. These are more like a poster paint or a gouache, they have a creamy consistency and adding more water tends to separate the pigment rather than dilute it.

The colours are vivid though and there is a lovely selection, I am glad that they didn’t add a white and although in a watercolour set a black would usually be redundant, in this set it may actually come in handy for details and possibly even outlines if you use a fine enough brush. The paints dry chalky and leave a lot of brush marks too. They remind me of the old paint pans we had in primary school that came in big blocks like hockey pucks.

I wanted to try an illustration and I must thank Harry Webbling for giving me this idea. I painted the fox in the matching sketchbook. It is card stock with no texture and it didn’t particularly like to have water on it so I could not layer the paints very much. Adding more water doesn’t spread the paint but rather moves it about the page like you can see on her tummy.

The colours were rather muted in the sketchbook and that isn’t just my shoddy photography skills I promise. I wanted to try them on some actual watercolour paper to see if they worked any better and to see if they would act more like traditional watercolour paints.

They were better on the watercolour paper but only mildly, they didn’t blend or mix well, they don’t bleed into one another without becoming muddy and they sadly still sit on top of the paper. They are at least a little more vibrant.

I wanted so badly to love these paints, you have to work so hard to get the smallest amount of colour. With an artist like Ann Shen putting her signature on them I would of expected them to be a better quality but I doubt that Ann Shen has ever used these colours herself. They wont be the paints that I reach for often if ever. Student grade brands of Winsor and Newton are far superior at the same price.

However the tin is adorable, I can swap the paints out for some higher quality ones so that I can use the gorgeous illustration of Tolouse. I will keep the sketchbook for coloured pencils and rough ideas. They won’t go to waste, I will use them with younger family members when they want to paint because they are better than the offerings of children’s brands like crayola. If nothing else, I found a new illustrator to admire in Ann Shen, her work is beautiful!

I can’t help it, if Disney do a whole range I am probably going to want them because I am a sucker for packaging and how amazing would it be to get more characters on art supplies, perhaps next time Disney can just get better quality supplies? (PLEASE!)

What character would you like to see on an art product?

Thank you for reading my blog,

Samantha.