“Pitch Up, Eat Local” Official Book Launch – eek!

Pitch Up Eat Local sm

Heading down to Castle Cary for the official launch of Ali Ray’s new book “Pitch Up, Eat Local”

It looks like we’ve got a lovely drive in the sunshine down from Yorkshire to Somerset.

I’ve never been to a book launch before, not have I met Ali – so, an all round exciting day, then! I’ve been illustrating her articles for about three years and we’ve chatted via email and messenger, so it’s going to be fab to meet her in person.

And to watch her in action – whipping up some recipes.

Oh! I nearly forgot! I’ll get to meet her famous camper van, Custard, too. Maybe I’ll be able to sneak in a quick sketch of it too.



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“The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit smIt took me a while to pick up this book and read it; not because it’s got particularly long words in it, or anything, but it at 18cm x 23cm it’s a fairly large book – it somehow felt like a denser read – as if there were more words than normal.

It’s a wonderful book with loads of really sage advice for any creative.

1 – I walk into a white room – About being in the right frame of mind when approaching the  creative process

2 – Rituals of preparation – Being in the working state.

3 – Your creative DNA – How the way that you are hardwired is who you are and also how you approach projects.

4 – Harness your memory – Creation as a result of your previous experiences.

5 – Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box – About Twyla’s system of organisation of her ideas for dance choreography. This was a bit of watershed chapter for me – and has altered my approach to my own creative projects.

6 – Scratching – About the business of finding inspiration

7 – Accidents will happen – About the value of having a plan before you start and the equal value of happenstance coming along – in creative endeavours luck is a skill.

8 – Spine – About the main idea of a creative piece and why the resulting pice doesn’t necessarily require that spine flagged up and explained.

9 – Skill – About building and growing skills in different areas.

10 – Ruts and grooves – and how to shake things up and get out of them.

11 – An “A” in failure -Why failure and disasters are important in order to move your work forward.

12 – The long run – Mastering your creative process by pursuing your work over years.

I have to admit that in my relish at reading Twyla’s chapters- I didn’t always do all the exercises, which come at the end of each chapter. There are usually about three or four of these and they do seem very practical and useful.

I would say that this is probably one of my favourite books about being creative – one that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading from cover to cover – but also one that I know I will refer to again and again.


“Pitch Up, Eat Local” by Ali Ray

IMG_7590 copyWell, May the 1st is finally here!

And with it a book is now available to buy. A book with my drawings in it!

How cool is that!

Now, before you all rush out to buy yourselves a copy – you need to know that it’s a fairy hefty book at 380pages and my drawings are quite wee, little things. Well, in the book they are! I drew at about A5 size.

Basically it’s a gazetteer of England, Scotland and Wales. A gazetteer of the best bits of local produce. So there are sections on Cornish Clotted Cream and the Rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire.

It is divided up into 50 regions of the country

Then, each section focusses on a specific regional food

Local farm shops

and then a recipe or two.

All the recipes can be prepared on a BBQ, or on a portable gas stove.

IMG_7591 IMG_7593 IMG_7594It’s been a real roller-coaster of an experience, from my point of view, too.

From initial phone calls last summer, to meeting up with the lovely people at The AA, to receiving a list of fifty things to draw and then powering through them.

Fab, fab, fab.

If you have a major cookery book in the pipeline and you’d like a friendly illustrator to work on adding a little quirk to the drawings … erm … here I am.

“Art Before Breakfast” by Danny Gregory

Art Before Breakfast smDanny Gregory’s new book has more in common with “The Creative Licence”, one of his first books about creative freedom.

It isn’t really divided up into chapters or sections. Instead each page, or double-spread, offers of suggested drawing subject, or idea, to get your inspiration flowing.

It starts with a handful of very loose drawing lessons. Well, short drawing activities, really. Danny isn’t concerned with teaching the technicalities of drawing. But he is concerned with illustrating to you how easy it is to draw. How easy it is to find something to draw.

The rest of the book is a series of short prompts and thoughts on different subjects; from water-soluble pens to drawing unsuspecting people,  drawing what you eat (Yey!) to drawing top tens.

Untitled-1Untitled-2The cover reveals that this book is for busy people and it certainly is written for those too busy to pore over a long-winded art manual. Danny’s short prompts are brief and succinct, but  still powerful. his message is clear; draw little and often. No matter what skill level you feel you are at. That doesn’t really matter. Starting that daily habit of drawing, even for just ten minutes a day, can have a profound, positive effect – can lead to a richer, more fulfilling life.

This book would be a welcome addition to anyone who draws or who is thinking about drawing, at any level of proficiency. It is always welcome to be guided by skilled practitioners and to have so many bite-sized guides accompanied by Danny’s illustrations (demonstrating his economy of line and bravura colours) is a handy, pocket-sized guide.

159 pages

“The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Ronde

Journaling - The Sketchnote Handbook smA journalling book in all but name!

I bought Mike Rohde’s book  initially because I like the idea of making practical, illustrative notes in meetings. Once I sat and started to pour over Mike’s book, however, the more I realised that, essentially, this book is a guide to speedy .

Okay, it’s not exactly journalling. Mike’s sketch note idea is one of making very visual, and visually engaging, notes during meetings. Notes which can include character drawings, diagrams, bubble and 3D writing – radial paths and linear paths, modular like a comic strip or explosions of ideas like a spider-diagram. The book covers a wide range of ideas and many, many examples throughout of ways to make note-taking and enjoyable and rewarding experience.

For the casual note-taker this might seem like a radical change in note-taking direction.

To the sketcher and journal writer; I would say that this book offers a great many ideas for how your sketchbook or journal can be brought to further life through note-taking.

Untitled-11. What are sketchnotes? – In which Mike explains his frustration with traditional linear note-taking and some examples are given off sketchnotes ion practice.

2. Why sketchnote? – In which it is explained how one becomes totally focussed when creating visual notes (But us sketchers knew this already)

3. Listen up! – In which the secret keys to listening are revealed


Untitled-1m4. The sketchnoting process – In which we discover Mike’s seven steps in a sketch noting process.

5. Types of sketch notes – In which we are shown different patterns of layout for sketchnotes.

6. Sketchnoting approaches, hierarchy, and personalisation – In which we find out different ways to sketchnote, some ideas about structure and how to make it personal to you.

7. Sketch noting skills and techniques – In which we are shown ways to letter, ways to frame and a variety of sketching tips to quickly capture figures and objects.

205 pages


“Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon

Creativity - Show your work smAustin’s first book, “Steal Like an Artist”, looked at the fundamental How of being creative.

This book looks at the How of sharing that creativity and, perhaps, maybe, getting discovered (Like that rare lump of gold that you know you are!)

Once again, this is a book about being brave. If you’ve read Austin’s first book then you’re braved your inner voice to work on your own creativity. Now you can give that nagging inner voice something new to nag you about, by displaying your creative work to the wider, world-wide, audience.

Austin doesn’t give specific examples of which platforms to use. But, then, that’s not the point of the book. Austin’s not concerned whether you use Twitter or tumbr, hashtags or Myspace (and, yes, I did choose Myspace on purpose!) He’s more concerned with getting the reader into the right frame of mind. You want to share your creativity, properly share your work to world, then you’re going to have to face that inner voice again, this time on the world’s stage.

Untitled-1Untitled-2So, Austin’s next set of Ten Things;

1. You don’t have to be a genius – Instead; tap into the creative group

2. Think process. Not product – Share your creative process with others

3. Share something small every day – Sending out a daily dispatch

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities – Don’t hoard, share.

show-your-work-list-poster-760px-500x6655. Tell good stories – Don’t expect your work to speak for itself.

6. Teach what you know – Share your trade secrets.

7. Don’t turn into human spam – Don’t turn into a name to be traded up – you need to be involved in the communities you fly with

8. Learn to take a punch – Be ready to take the goo, the bad and the ugly comments once your work is out there in the world.

9. Sell out – Don’t starve to death because of pride or because of the Romantic notion of ‘the starving artist’

10. Stick around – There will be ups and downs – don’t desert your carnival stall, just because there are a few less customers at the moment.

(Now, I know some of my chapter explanations are a little bit wishy-washy, but I don’t want to give Austin’s whole book away. As I wrote about his previous book “Steal Like an Artist” Austin writes in such an easy going, matter of fact and downright down to Earth way that one cannot help but be bowled over by his logic)


“Manage Your Day-to-Day” edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

manage your day to day smSome of my favourite types of books about creativity are the ones which help foster the creative spirit. Books like Danny Gregory’s “The Creative License” for example. I’ve noticed that the life of a creative, especially a freelance one, can be quite a lonely and unforgiving one. With a work day in which one is locked away from the rest of the world, in which it is all too easy to become distracted by other things in life. It’s good to get advise about how to get into the creative mindset. Almost into a spiritual mindset about creating.

Manage Your Day-to-Day is written by a group of creatives who share their insights into a variety of modern problems which may beset you in your creative path.

Chapters are written by a variety of creative alumni; Seth Godin, Stefan Sagmeister, Tony Schwartz, Gretchen Rubin, Dan Ariely, Linda Stone, Steven Pressfield and others.

Each of these ‘Chapters’ is broken into five ‘sub-chapters’ written by a range of different creatives covering different elements of

IMG_6496– Building a rock solid routine – How to develop a structure to your working practice and how to build that into a regular rhythm. and driving with a purpose.

– Finding focus in a distracted world – How to focus your attention on work that matters, rather than being distracted by work that doesn’t really matter.

– Taming your tools – Taking control of new technologies, so that ease workflow and increase your well-being.

– Sharpening your creative mind – How to push through creative blocks and keep moments of creative spark … er … sparking.

– Coda: A call to action – On taking things to the next level; how pro are you willing to go?

IMG_6495Some books have so few ideas in them, maybe one or two good ideas. But this one bristles with ideas on every page. Fantastic, practical ideas for your creative life, written by those who have worked through to that next level. Who are passing on their received wisdom of the creative life.

253 pages

Pho – meatballs and stir-fry

Stop me if you’re heard this one before, but …. I could quite happily dine out on Vietnamese food every day of the week.

I treated myself to a meal out at Pho’s Vietnamese Street Food restaurant.

Pho smIt’s only recently there there’s been anything like a local Vietnamese restaurant or takeaway nearby. Up until now I’ve had to make do with cooking my own. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that,. but when it’s a cuisine that you’ve never actually tasted, other than your own cooking, it’s a bit difficult to judge whether the flavours are entirely authentic.

New Flavours smLuckily I think I’ve had a pretty good guide in Mai Pham’s excellent “New Flavours of the Vietnamese Table”

There’s one particular curry recipe for Chicken and Sweet Potato, that’s an absolute killer recipe. I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t like it. Spicy and fragrant.

One of the most attractive elements of Vietnamese cuisine is the match made in heaven of sugar and fish sauce. Quite how the discovery of the deliciousness of fermented fish came about is lost in the annals of time (along with the discovery of blue cheese as a delight)

With Vietnamese food you can have spicy, fragrant, sweet and sour and combinations of textures in the mix too. It can have a light touch to the tastebuds like Thai food, but with the added fish sauce/sugar combo to add a caramel sweetness.

“Hamburger Gourmet” by David Japy, Elodie Rambaud and Victor Garnier

15 - Hamburger Gourmet smI haven’t really written anything of cookery books here before, so please bear with me.

I am attracted to the idea of the burger. Not the franchised rubbish at the fast food outlets. I mean, that I like the idea they could be so much more than people generally take them credit for currently.

A burger is essentially a warm sandwich, and look where the humble sandwich has travelled and it’s many different forms and guises.

This book isn’t simple a re-hashing of The Burger as ‘The Great American Fast Food’. Instead it is reinventing the burger form into something more global. Not surprising that it is an internationally, rather than American, based restaurant, Blend (in Paris), which has developed recipes which somehow seem more international and, yes, gourmet.

This isn’t to say that ingredients have been gourmet-ed up. On the contrary, the ingredients are all accessible and down to Earth. It’s their execution that raises the bar of this particular recipe book.

The majority of the burger patty recipes are 100% meat and nothing else (excepting salt), which is a novel change, and go from the usual beef and pork to lamb, veal, salmon and cod (and the rest).

As I’ve said, sauces are simple and easily made. (The only spice I’d not heard of was ‘Ras el-hanout’, which sounds Middle-Eastern and can be very easily mixed; cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, black peppercorns, turmeric and saffron.