The kuaka series

This quote started my journey with the kuaka:

 “ — the migratory godwits, which are our souls in flight between the two hemispheres and our hearts’ two homes.”
All Visitors Ashore, by C.K. Stead

Māori distinguish three varieties of the kuaka/godwit based on their plumage and age.


Karoro is the term applied while their plumage is lighter, during the feeding season in Aotearoa New Zealand.

For the first time in years I am feeling comfortable and at home in New Zealand. The karoro is a perfect way for me to express this.



Kura is the term applied when the plumage turns red immediately prior to the migration to the northern hemisphere.

We lived for a number of years in the UK, and it is my heart's other home. I have a sense I will return to there one day, and the kura reminds me that there will be a season for there.


The third distinction of the kuaka/godwit is the kakao, an older, darker grey bird. Humans share this trait with the kakao.

Information on the kuaka was found on the hekuaka website.

Poster illustration for uSwitch contact centre

The uSwitch contact centre felt the need to brighten up their space a little, so asked the design team to make some posters using words and values that were found in a recent customer satisfaction survey.

My posters
My posters

We were allocated 3 words each, and I chose knowledgeable, professional and patient. I used a little bird character along with objects to reflect the word. I didn't want to draw on the computer so did these with ink on paper: grid paper for knowledgable, business note paper for professional and watercolor paper for patient.

The poster wall
The poster wall

Illustration inspiration

Photos are great, but illustration can be better for specific purposes.

I love illustration of plants and vegetables, especially the old school botanical drawings and also this 70s inspired style of illustration. One of my most treasured books is a children's Gardening Book by John Seymour (1978) because of the beautiful illustrations. One of the real benefits of these illustrations is showing the different stages of plant development in one picture. Aspects can be emphasised, even if they are not a reality. For example, the pea pods are open here which doesn't happen, but it shows you where to find the peas.

One of my plans is to make some education plates for the plants in the community garden, along with illustrations of the plant in different stages of development so that people know what's what and how it grows. Often people aren't sure if the plant is a root vegetable, or if it will grow from a flower, or when it's ready to harvest. Illustration showing the different stages is perfect for this sort of situation!

Images by Irina Vinnik

Sites I love

Some more very cool illustration design sites that I've found and love: hip.young.thing. This website profiles art, design, fashion, etc. and is updated really often. There is such a huge variety of really cool things on there.

Ghostco illustration with skeleton and skin layerghostco I really love this guys illustration - he is very amazing. I find his skeletal work especially interesting, as one of the papers I did at uni was just focussed on skeletons, muscle structure, then skin/outer layer. I love the way he makes each layer see through, so the structure is visible.

Emil Kozak This guy is awesome - he's a designer and artist and he's done artwork for skateboards, etc. etc. I love his stuff :-)

Drawing tablets are fun!

Today I *finally* got my wacom tablet. Courier Post had it for almost a week, didn't deliver it correctly, were rude to me on the phone and so much for next day delivery aye! But that's another story - just don't use Courier Post if you want to get your stuff delivered professionally!! :-P Aside from that - the tablet is awesome it is so nice to use. (For anyone not so techy - it's a sensitive square and a special pen that allows you to write into your computer and also has pressure sensitivity.) I just got a basic wacom graphire, the cheapest on the market at $160.

By far the best is Photoshops understanding of it, the paint brushes are so much easier to use with the pressure sensitivity and it is so much faster to cut photos out of their backgrounds. I did this little photo cut-out and drawing this afternoon.

I have to say that this also made me discover something that I like about Vista - the built in tablet stuff is really useful. You can write in any application. To start with it couldn't understand my handwriting so well, but in the short time that I did it either I was learning or the computer was! it is still a much slower method than typing tho and too easy to make mistakes. One thing did dash my hopes tho - you can set customisation for an item and so i was hoping to set the right-click method to be Ctrl-click cause that's what I'm used to on a Mac and found I was doing it by habit on Windows. But no, the customisation in Windows seems to be limited to a couple of pre-setup options :-(

On the mac, the input is brought even another level cause the mac understands the pressure sensitivity as well as the handwriting. it is much easier to do the handwriting on a mac, not sure why but it comes out less scribbled. But unfortunately the character recognition is really bad, it could only understand one in every few words I wrote. But then I do have an older version of Mac OSX - I'll be excited to see if there has been development on this.

It will definitely be something that I'll use day to day instead of a mouse and for painting/drawing. :-D The writing thing is cool but typing is just faster and more accurate for me.

More Illustration

Recently I found the web designer wall site, and like many others instantly fell in love with the illustration in the header there. I was *so* happy when I found the tutorial on the technique. But after all, it's just pen tool tracing!! So I made my own, using the water colour painting I did for our wedding invites.

Illustration of an art deco flower pattern

Good practice anyway. The pen tool is my trusted friend! :-D

So then I checked out Veerle's blog and followed her tutorial on making badges in Illustrator.

Badges done in Illustrator

This was really good because a lot of the stuff like clipping masks I've learnt in the night course, but the use of layers in both of these tutorials and the depth effect in the badge one were new and very useful tips.

Oh and yes, I've been enjoying illustration so much that I've created a new category for it.

Illustrator night class - week 2

We covered some new stuff this week and I came out with some things I think are pretty cool :-) Two stuffed olives, drawn in IllustratorGradient Meshes are an automated way of taking an object like an eclipse and giving it some points to play with 3D type fills. The end result looks quite airbrushed. You could get very detailed if you wanted to, but I just started with some basic points and fills and came up with some stuffed olives!

Drawing of a toy rabbitThen we moved onto brushes which was cool. I'd heard great things about Illustrator brushes, and you can indeed come up with some very cool techniques. I ended up drawing a toy rabbit that had been left behind in the snow and gotten dirty (playing with the splatter brushes!). It was all drawn freehand with a mouse which is rather tricky...

Next week we're drawing a glass of red wine - exciting!

Illustrator night class

After using Freehand for so long, Illustrator is really frustrating to use! So I'd come up with a list of things that were bugging me, and enrolled for a night class at Natcoll. Page with curling corner drawn in IllustratorI felt so sorry for the tutor Claire, as she thought that she was teaching an Introduction to Illustrator, but everyone that is on the course are either full time designers or Mac operators! So she was a bit thrown and ditched her lesson plan for a quick overview of the tools in Illustrator. She did such a good job of it that all of my questions that I'd saved up were answered in one night!!

As expected, there were not the most beautiful results after the first night, but everything we did was really valuable. And one little personal victory - I drew a (purple) page with a curl *yay!*

A quick wee post with a cute wallpaper

Sorry everyone - I have HEAPS of entries to make on here, but haven't got around to it yet *so slack* But in the meantime, here is something for everyone! I have made a wallpaper of Cookie looking through a goldfish bowl. This is exactly what she does to our goldfish tank - very cute!Illustration of a cute cat watching a goldfish

I did the illustration in Adobe Illustrator. I found a tutorial for doing glass bowls, and it kind of followed on from there. I am used to using Freehand, but have started teaching myself Illustrator - and am completely loving it so far!

If anyone else is keen to do something with the tutorial, I'd be very keen to see what you come up with :)