I Commend to you The Society of Visual Storytelling

I need to gush effusively about a new resource I recently discovered, called “Society of Visual Storytelling”. I’ve found my interwebs soul-mate (that’s not a thing but maybe it should be).

If you want to skip the back-story scroll on down to The Society of Visual Storytelling heading. For the rest of you who enjoy a good ramble, this year I had an epiphany. I had an epiphany about where I want to take my art and I’ve been working towards it ever since. I decided that I want to be a picture book author-illustrator when I grow up. On a side note, I remember having this epiphany as a child when I decided to set up a publishing operation with a friend who was to write the stories which I would illustrate. I even loaned her my typewriter. Yes, a typewriter. I don’t know why she needed a typewriter to write stores but I guess it just seemed more professional that way. As an adult I shied away from this notion for a long time because of some prejudices I held about the type of art suited to children’s picture books. The first chink of light which penetrated this thinking was learning about picture books for adults – namely Shaun Tan’s (who I met a couple of weeks ago!). I became seduced by the possibility of creating picture books for adults. I still am but the more I learned about children’s picture books the more nuanced my understanding of them became.

Shaun Tan The Singing Bones Exhibition

Shaun Tan (and me!), The Singing Bones Exhibition

What I thought were my too-dark-for-children notions for picture book stories pale in comparison to Maurice Sendak’s “Outside Over There”, in which Ida’s baby brother is kidnapped by goblins and replaced with a horrifying ice replica, which begins to melt in a delightfully gruesome way. Incidentally, this story is recognised as inspiring my favourite movie of all time, “The Labyrinth”.

Outside over there Maurice Sendak 02

Maurice Sendak, Outside Over There

I also used to be under the impression that only bright, happy, primary colours were aloud when creating for children but then I discovered a huge amount of children’s books rendered in sophisticated muted colors, such as the work of Renata Liwska in “The Quiet Book”

Renata Liwska Color Scheme

Renata Liwska, The Quiet Book

What finally gave me the extra nudge to begin pursuing this newfound passion was when every other person at my open studio weekend last April asked me if I’d ever illustrated a children’s picture book. I took this as a sign that maybe, just maybe I could do this. So I took the advice of an editor of a local art-scene magazine and did a children’s book writing course. Then I decided to do an illustrating for children’s book course and now I’ve discovered the Society of Visual Storytelling!

Society of Visual Storytelling

The Society of Visual Storytelling, is a veritable treasure trove of tutorials, courses, and critiques for anyone who wants to weave a visual narrative. Not just for folks who want to illustrate picture books, it’s great for graphic novelists, comic book artists, and chapter book illustrators. There are two things that I’m especially excited about…

Subscription Based Courses

You can purchase individual courses but what I’m really excited about is the subscription option – starting at $12.50 per month you get access to all of their courses! Some of those courses are valued at $300! I cannot wait to have time to subscribe and get started. I know, I sound like an advertisement or something, but I’m really not getting paid for this. I’m just so happy. Some of the courses I’m especially interested in are:

Society of Visual Storytelling - painting techniques


The guys do this thing they call “3rd Thursday” where you can submit work which illustrates a prompt of their choosing and the top 5 get a critique and the top 3 win free courses. These critiques are incredibly in depth and super interesting to watch. Anyone can enter a piece of art to be critiqued – you don’t have to be a subscriber and anyone can watch the critiques as well. I’ve been binge watching them since I discovered them a couple of days ago.

That was disgustingly gushy for a service I haven’t even used yet. But seriously, you can’t not think this is the bee’s knees. Next post I’ll be sure to show you what I’m working on at the moment.

Got 5 Minutes? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Acrylics to Begin Your First Painting

You could begin painting your first ever acrylic painting without knowing anything of course, like I did. You may even prefer to go that route and, if that’s the case, then all power to you. In hindsight however, these are the three main tips for beginners that would have made my painting sessions go more smoothly, had I known them.

Beginner Acrylic Painting

  1. The viscosity of the paint straight out of the tube is probably not what you want to work with, unless you want your painting to be very structural (that is, thick and textured and holding of the brush strokes). When I was a complete noob, I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t get good coverage – the paint was so thick it would drag across the canvas only covering the raised parts of the weave leaving the recessed parts un-painted unless I really scrubbed with the brush. It seemed like I must have been doing something wrong, I just couldn’t work out what. How hard can it be? Paint comes out of tube, paint goes on canvas, right? I also couldn’t achieve a uniform, level coverage without brushstrokes and ridges, again because the paint was so thick.

    The solution? There are many but the simplest thing to do is dilute your acrylics with water – but by no more than 30% or it won’t bind effectively to your substrate. If you need it even thinner than this mix your acrylic with airbrush medium. You’ll probably notice in art supply shops that acrylic can come in a “fluid” variety. This is paint that has been pre-thinned for you. Some artists suggest you buy one of each of your colours in heavy-bodied and fluid form but it’s a lot more economical to just thin your own paints.

  2. Acrylic dries fast! If I wanted to blend and blend and blend till my heart’s content I would paint in oils. As it is I still have to take measures to prevent my acrylic drying before I’m ready. I mix in a little bit of acrylic glaze with my paints and put a dollop on top to prevent them skinning over. I use a wet palette, which is just a damp sponge with palette paper on top. This then sits in a plastic container with a lid that I close between sessions. I’m also careful to not work the paint on the canvas for too long or bad, horrible things happen (I’m not always successful in this endeavour). If you do need a bit more time once the paint is on the canvas you can spray it with a mister and continue working. This will obviously change the consistency of the paint though. Finally, this may go without saying but don’t have your palette sitting in direct sunlight on a hot day.

  3. You might not know this yet but brush choice is intimidating! If you don’t think about it too much and just grab a bunch you will survive the crippling analysis paralysis. I advocate this in the beginning. Eventually however you will begin to wonder and ask questions like “why do some brushes have long handles and others short, or “what’s a hog hair or bristle brush”, and then my friend, it’s the rabbit hole for you.

    The good news is that because acrylics can be used like watercolours or oils (or as themselves) you can use any of the vast array of brushes you see in the art store! You won’t know what type of brushes you need until you work out how you like to paint anyway so I’d recommend buying a set of soft bristled brushes and a set of stiff bristled brushes – just touch them to work out which is which. If I’d had a set of stiff bristled brushes around from the start I would have worked out that they were what I should be using a lot sooner. Don’t worry too much at this stage about anything else, just have a play.

Now get cracking! Any other burning questions? Just pop in a comment below.

The Greatest Pinterest Boards in All the Lands – Part 2


Pinterest Art

A prolific pinner, Jane Elliot is a staple in my Pinterest feed. Thanks to her Art board I discovered the work of Mr Finch.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Pinterest Cabinet  of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities had me at the “Insane Patients Masquerade Ball” pin. If this isn’t your brand of amusement, I can’t help you.

Garden Getaway

Pinterest Garden Getaway

Garden Getaway isn’t a Pinterest board, it’s cottage garden porn.

Interior Design

Pinterest Interior Design

My Interior Design board is the heart of Pinterest for me.


Pinterest Studios

The Studios Pinterest board tells me I’m not alone in my art supplies / other art-miscellany fetish, which is nice.

Arteest Envy

Pinterest Arteest Envy

Tracy MacLeod is another prolific pinner who’s Arteest Envy board is full of illustrative style art.

What are some of your favourite Pinterest boards?

Yellow + Brown = Green and Other Colour Mixing Nuggets of Wisdom

Remember when I mentioned that I bought a whole new set of acrylic colours, having left most of my paints in Europe whilst I galavant around in Australia? This of course meant me doing an enormous amount of research so I could buy the most optimal combination of colours. I hope you, my gentle readers, are as massive art geeks as myself and will enjoy these resources I found. Continue reading