Lets talk about lighting

I’m very happy today because I’ve just assembled some new lighting! (I was quite proud of myself, but the instructions where very easy to follow) The only thing I would say is that the rods to secure the canopy in place where a bit difficult to attach as you needed to bend them quite a lot. The lights I purchased where the PhotoSel Soft box studio lighting from Amazon. I’ve been doing some research into lighting for a few months, as I wanted to get some professional lighting rather than trying to use a mixture of everyday lamps. I’m no longer at University so I can’t use there amazing photography studio, with all the pretty and expensive lights now 😦 The lights I purchased where £85.00 with free delivery in the U.K, I think this kit is a good started kit for a beginner because its overall not too expensive (a good price for someone who has just finished uni.)

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The lights are easy to assemble and I’ve found that there not too large to keep set up, which is good if your working on a project for a few days. The measurements for these ones are 40 x 60 cm. They also come with two pure white daylight bulbs at 85W, which for me will be perfect for creating my illustration sets. For me the two main types of lights I was looking into where: continuous lighting kits with soft boxes and LED photography light panels. With the LED lights they usually have dials where you can control and adjust the lighting where soft boxes have an even light. When I was looking at these options myself I think the LED light panels where just a bit out of my price range but if your looking to invest in some lighting and have a good budget I would look into these. Two LED lights I found where: Emgreat Aputure Led Video Light Panel Studio Lighting Kit this kit was £258 (they look really professional). Another LED light I found was the Manfrotto LED Panel priced at £520 in the product description it details that it provides a beautiful soft light. I think these two lights would be my dream lights to own, who knows maybe in the future! In terms of bulbs the ones included in my kit I bought, where continuos daylight bulbs. These are perfect for photography. They also sell these on Amazon for £12.00 for an 85W bulb.

Let me know what type of lighting you use in your own work.

Greeting Cards Obsessions!

I have to admit I do have a bit of an obsession with greeting cards. Theres nothing better than knowing its someones birthday coming up and spending hours in Clintons choosing the perfect card! Thats just the right fit for the person in mind. Funny ones, girly ones and ones with singing hamsters (yes they really do exist haha!) I always think that cards are such a lovely thing to keep too, there not too big that they end up taking over your bedroom and there always nice to look back at.

My floral keep sake boxes

My floral keep sake boxes

A few cards

A few cards

A small section of my card collection (I kid not)

A small section of my card collection (I kid not)

I’ve been keeping all my cards since I was 15, I’m now 22 so theres quite a pile. I wish I’d started earlier though and kept every single one that I had ever received. Now that would be an achievement! I keep all my greeting cards in little floral boxes so there neatly stored away and it also keeps them all together, like a keep-sake box. I have christmas cards, birthday cards, thank you cards and good luck ones from when I went to Uni. Looking through them is almost like looking through all the important little memories from your whole life. (below is a pic of a few of my card collections, trust me there where many many more!)    So anyway, I really like cards! and if you give me a card I promise I will most definitely keep hold of it for a very long time. But the reason I was inspired to write this post is I’m currently working on using my own illustrations to create some greeting cards, which is super exciting, especially for a greeting cards obsessor like myself. I’m using the pattern designs mentioned in one of my earlier blog post.

Williamson's Park pattern

Williamson’s Park pattern

Make-up pattern

Make-up pattern

Flower pattern

Flower pattern

Garden pattern

Garden pattern

Bottles of perfume

Bottles of perfume

Let me know which ones are your favourite, also if your a fellow card obsessor like myself please post a pic of your card collections! So I don’t feel as weird haha. Once I have all the cards made and ready I will post some pictures for my next blog post.

Thanks for reading!

My year so far!

So for a new blog post I though I would write about my year so far, which might seem a bit strange in September. But I think its nice to reflect on what you have achieved so far! Being 22 and graduating University can be a bit of a weird time, you feel like you need to figure out your life and what you want to do as soon as you graduate. I think this can be exciting but a bit stressful at the same time. Theres so many options and how do you know which ones are right for you? I think in my head I’m just sticking with the phrases that Rome wasn’t built in a day or what will be will be (haha! as corny as it sounds) I don’t have to have everything figured out. So on a positive note I think that its nice to look at what you have achieved already. I would encourage other people who read this to do the same, we often get a bit sidetracked with worrying about whats to come in the future. So heres to celebrating whats already happened.


One big thing I did this year would be the fact that I graduated from my Illustration course. My course was three years and I was happy with my portfolio of work, at the end. I felt like I managed to find a way of working that I was happy with. Which reflected me as a person (what I was interested in and also the method of working). I  discovered so much more about the illustration world, that I didn’t know when I started. I think I only had a vague idea on what Illustration was. I think it definitely fuelled my passion for the subject.

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Getting my work stocked in a shop 


Another big thing that happened this year was the fact that I got my work stocked in a shop! This was a really positive thing for me and very exciting. The shop that stocks my work is called Life’s Little Larks and is in Preston. Check out their Facebook page to see all the lovely things they stock in their shop. Its really an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful arts/crafts items.

I gave my website a make-over 

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I finally feel as though I have my website looking how I want it to. Its taken a while! I’ve gone through three re-design already. But I feel like I’m happy with it now. I like the fact that its not too busy as I think my other designs where. I think this website displays my work nicely as you can flick through the images easily. Take a peek if you like.


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I feel as though I’ve really gotten into blogging this year too. I’ve been blogging with Illustration friday for over a year and more recently Fashion Philosophy. There both amazing spaces to share inspirations and write about who I admire. I really love to write about illustration as its something I’m passionate about and to be able to share my work and favourite designers with everyone is great!

Work/Art/ Play course 

This year I decide to enrol in the online course that Amy Ng from the website Pikaland runs. I felt after University I’d burned out a lot of my energy but still wanted to learn as much as I could on the subject of Illustration. I didn’t really know which direction was the right one to take as I mentioned at the start of this post. This course really helped with pin-pointing which steps to take next, it helped me to create a to-do list, such as creating a newsletter, tips on blogging and how to market myself. I’m so glad that I took this course as I feel as though it freshened my mind and made me realise that things can be achievable if you take things one step at a time. If your a budding freelance artist I would definitely recommend checking this class out. The next one would be next year, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the results.

Projects featured on a website

For my last year project at University I decided to create an A-Z alphabet book on British Quirks. It was a project I really enjoyed making, I think its also the biggest project I have undertaken. I enjoy looking at the funny little things we all do and observational humour. So to combine two of my interests was exciting. I put this up online on my Behance and website and it then got featured on quite a few blogs such as Creative Boom and Design Taxi. This was the first time I had seen my work featured anywhere online, so it was such a confidence boost!

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More recently, I have also been volunteering with The FIG Tree in Lancaster. I’m really glad that I decided to do some volunteering. As trying to become a freelance illustrator can be a bit lonely, your indoors quite lot working on illustrations and trying to promote yourself. So its quite nice to get out of the house haha! I think volunteering in itself is rewarding as its always nice to help people. I’m also getting to do some design work for them so its really fun to do! I’m also beginning to learn how to use one of those confusing coffee machines with all the buttons.

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This was a bit of a longer blog post then I usually do! But thanks for reading this if you have. I would love to know what have been the stand-out moments of this year for you! Let me know in the comments below or even share a link to your own blog post of stand-out moments.




Bean to Bar


I’ve recently been working on a flyer for The FIG tree cafe and Fair-trade centre in Lancaster, to help them promote their Bean to Bear Workshop. I was inspired by the farmers from New Koforidua whose stories you get to hear about at the event. I wanted to keep the colour scheme neutral and have the text stand out by using different shades and bright colours. The flyer was to appeal to an older age range, rather than children. So it was important to make it appeal to them.

Read more about fair-trade from their blog 

Illustrated Photo books

One of my favourite things to do is something I like to call create Illustrated Photo books. At the moment I’ve only created two, but they are really fun to make. One was an A-Z Alphabet book of British Quirks and the other one was based around Alice in Wonderland. I think as an illustrator  its nice to be able to flick through a book of my own making. One thing I would love to learn more on is how to create and print different types of books. This is definitely on my to-do list!

A-Z book

A-Z of British Quirks

For my A-Z Alphabet I used an accordion style book,  I liked how it folded out so you could look at the illustrations in different ways. The size of the book meant it took a while to piece together, but once it was fully complete it was worth it. To create this book I used a series of collages and 3D sets. I then edited them on photo-shop to get them to pop. After this, my final step was to piece everything together in InDesign and make sure the type was correct. My vision for the book was to be quintessentially British. I love those little quirks that you might notice and think no one else must do this, but really everyone can relate to it. I’ve grown up in a very working class northern family so I think it also reflects funny things I noticed that my family did e.g the curtain twitching!

Section of the folding

Section of the folding

For the style of the book I wanted it to look really colourful and eye-catching. I tired to do this with making the typography bold and bright, the font I used is called oranienbaum. This is one of my favourite fonts, I feel like it always works with a lot of designs I do. I placed the text in similar places through-out, keeping the type the same.

Alice in Wonderland 


Through the door to Wonderland

My other photo book was the one based on Alice in Wonderland, which has always been one of my favourites. I was inspired by a park in Lancaster (Williamsons Park) which was always a little bit like a Wonderland to me. My aim was to create a book with a  whimsical feel, that would be fitting to the original book by Lewis Carroll. On this one I used mainly 3D sets, which I think gave the whole look a hand-made/vintage feel. This project was my first ever photo book so I learnt quite a few new skills by doing this but also that I’m not very good at stapling!

Sitting in wonderland

Sitting in Wonderland

shrinking down

Shrinking down

I would really love to hear if anyone has made there own photo books! Leave me a comment below.

Where I create

Trying to keep my desk nice and organised at the moment.


My desk area

I really love looking at what designers and illustrators desk areas look like (I’m a bit nosy and plus it gives me tips for my own) and what tools they use to create their work. I thought I would do my own little feature on this for my blog. This is my desk area at the moment, after I’ve recently given it a bit of a spruce. I love busy patterns and anything thats a bit girly, as you can probably tell from the photograph. I’m also very happy with my recent purchase the cup you can see in this picture was only £1! When I’m working I always make sure I have plenty of cup of tea breaks so I can use all of my favourite mugs. I always have a box of tissues on my desk too as I always seem to have a runny nose!


The journals I’ve purchased recently


A bargain from Wilkinsons

inside journal

The inside back cover has a space for keep sakes

I’ve recently purchased some new journals to help me be a bit more organised. I love the colour of the pink journal above, the one below it I got from Wilkinson’s for £1.50, a bargain. It has a days of the week planner, an area for notes, shopping lists, to do lists and an area at the back for receipts and keep-sakes. I think it will be a nice addition to my desk, I’m also looking forward to planning my work in my organiser, so I know what I’m doing on each day, rather than having it spread around on bits of paper that I can never find.


My favourite go to books.


Good magazines for inspiration


Mollie Makes and oh comely

My favourite magazines always offer lots of inspiration, I keep a stack of them in the shelves of my desk. I love to read oh comely when I’m having a break from doing my work, its full of really great articles and I always find myself becoming peaceful whenever I read it. Its a great stress-reliver. I think its great how each issue also has a different theme, they also have great illustrations in each issue often with many interviews as well. I also love to read Mollie Makes as it always offers a lot of inspiration and crafting ideas. Computer Arts is a very interesting read, it offers interviews, tutorials and self-help articles. Its great when they do issues such as the self-promotion one. Also on my shelves are my favourite go to books; Becoming a successful illustrator, Collage (illustration cut and paste) and The fundamentals of illustration. These provide helpful tips on how you should create your own process for working, how to generate ideas and everything else you might need to know on how to be an illustrator. The collage book is a really interesting book to look at too, collage is one of my favourite forms of illustrations and one that I use a lot myself, so this book is very handy.


My box of cut-outs

Also stacked in the shelves of my desk are my box of paper-cut outs. This box has all the images that I have ever used in my set design illustrations. Including a pair of roller-skating legs … This is a box that I can come back to when-ever I need a certain image, for example some trees or a photograph of a bag. I would eventually like to expand this collection into different storage boxes with different labels for each thing Ive collected. But I think thats a big project for the future, for now I’m happy with my box.

I would love to see what your desks look like and what inspires you, leave me a comment below with a link to your work areas!

Lots of Patterns

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At the moment I’ve been creating lots of patterns for the Fashion Philosophy blog, for backgrounds for articles. I’ve been creating these using perfume bottles, gem stones and little crystals and my favourite make-up. I love how girly these patterns are, they where really fun to make and hopefully that comes across when you look at them too.

I made these patterns using Photo-shop, I photographed all my perfume bottles and make-up and then cut them out on Photo-shop and arranged them into patterns. I had fun changing the colours to see what different effects I could achieve. I think with doing this with the make-up patterns, they turned out quite vintage looking, which I liked.

Vintage Birds

quirky birds

So for my first “proper” blog post on my new WordPress blog I thought I would write about one of my favourite pieces of work, that I’ve created up to now. This was for a project I did at University, for an Alice in Wonderland photo book. This actual piece happened by accident. I was playing around with all of the images that I had cut out and I had a collection of birds that I thought I would string together and take some pictures of. I think it was the first time that I had used a coloured background on one of my set/collages. I really liked how the light interacted with the pink to create different hues. I think that’s one of the main reasons I like this piece because of the colours. I think as well it captured the whole whimsical vibe that I wanted to create for the Alice in Wonderland Photo book. It Also showed me, that you can unintentionally create pieces that you really like, by just having a play around with things rather than creating something which is more planned and storyboarded out.

Here are some images of the photo book I created for this project.

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You can also see more from this project on my Behance.

My new blog!

Hello and welcome to my new blog, I recently changed from having a blogger account to using WordPress for my blog. In doing this I’m hoping to use my blog a lot more frequently and post a lot more about my own work and processes. So I think I should introduce myself. My name is Jessica Holden and I’m an illustrator based in Lancaster, I recently graduated from the University of Cumbria in Carlisle. I love vintage/ antique shops the ones where there’s just lots of stuff scattered everywhere, so you never know what you’re going to find. I think places like this are always good for finding inspiration for my illustrations. I’m also a big fan of nature and animals so taking a walk in the park armed with my camera is something I always enjoy. When I’m not finding inspiration for my work I love nothing more than having a cup of tea and reading a good book. My favourite author at the moment is Kate Morton, I love how her books flick from the past to the present and have a good mystery about them. My favourite quote that I’ve come across is;

Creativity is easier with a cup of tea and a biscuit

Thats definitely something I always do! In my illustrations I work with collage, 3D sets and photoshop, I’m inspired by vintage designs and anything with an aged feel to it. I think my favourite types of illustrations are editorials as I like to summarise the tone of an article within one piece. I’ve also recently enjoyed making photo books, which I will have to do a blog post about later. I’ve created these for two of my University projects. An illustrated alphabet book and one based around Alice in wonderland.

To find out more about me visit my about page on my blog.

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’m going to talk about my favourite piece of work I’ve created up to now.