The Sugar Plum Fairy

I don’t have all that much experience doing narrative illustration, although it’s something I’d like to get better at. So when I saw the competition to win a free spot on the Make Art that Sells Illustrating Children’s Book course I thought it would be good practise. We were supposed to design the cover of an imaginary children’s book called “The adventures of the sugar plum fairy” which we were free to interpret however we’d like.

Almost instantly after reading the prompt, a story to go a long with it started to spring into my mind and although I had other things to do that morning I had to take a break to write it down before I lost it. It was only after I wrote down a whole story that I started to work on the cover design. (And I changed the title a bit to go a long with the story I wrote)

I went through more than one version, and asked for some opinions in facebook groups before I settled on my final design. Below is the first two versions and the final, and if you scroll down past them, You’ll find the story I wrote to go along with it!

first two versions:

final version:

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THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY AND THE DISAPPEARING MOON

On a lovely autumn evening as the sun was setting, the sugar plum fairy took a stroll through the enchanted forest. She began to feel tired and decided to climb a tall tree and find a place to sleep awhile. Inside a large hole in the trunk she settled down on what  felt like a comfortable pile of leaves and drifted off.

She awoke suddenly as everything started to move as if in an earthquake and she reached out in the dark to grab the first thing she found, squeezing her eyes shut in fright.

But when she opened her eyes, still holding on with all her might, she was in the air, with the ground far below her. She realised she was on the back of an owl who must have been sleeping in the same tree all along, dragging her out along with him as he took flight!  All the fairy could do was hold on and wait for the owl to land again, because fairies are like butterflies- their wings are made for fluttering near flowers, not soaring above the tree tops.

After some time and much distance the owl set down in another tree on the edge of a small clearing. The fairy was frightened, as she discovered she was now in a part of the forest she had never been in before and everything was strange and new and very, very dark.

Climbing down from the big tree the fairy saw she was surrounded by dozens of mushrooms, just barely illuminated by the stars. Wandering through them, she accidentally bumped up against one.

“Ouuf!” it cried out. Startled, the fairy whirled around to see the mushroom tip back his funny red top and a sweet little face looked up at her as if startled from sleep. The sugar plum fairy had never seen a talking mushroom before.

His noise awakened some of the others. All the mushrooms were alive! The fairy introduced herself and soon made friends. But she noticed that her new friends seemed a little sad. What could be the matter?

“We eat moon beams,” one of the tiniest mushrooms explained. “Every night the moon reaches the crest of the hill just beyond the entrance to our clearing and shines directly down on us for awhile before rising higher in the sky where the tops of the trees hide its’ rays from us. But the moon has disappeared! It’s been 3 days since we’ve seen it…3 days since we’ve eaten…”

“We’re afraid it will never come back! what will we eat then?” asked another.

The fairy was very sad for her new friends. “Well,” she said, “Since none of you have any legs and can’t go find the moon yourselves, I will go!” And making her goodbyes the fairy hurried off to find the moon.

Fluttering through the trees on the edge of the little clearing, she came upon Mrs Mim, a hedgehog and her 4 little children. They were peaking out of their home under the roots of a nearby tree.

The fairy asked her if she knew why the moon was dark. But Mrs. Mim did not. She wished it would come back though, as the dark frightened her little ones.

Further on she found another animal to ask. Fast Jack, a beautiful grey rabbit, was also concerned about the missing moon, as it made him trip and stumble as he tried to run through the trees. But he didn’t know either. “You should ask Mr. Amble,” said Jack. “He’s the oldest and wisest of all of us. He lives just there in that old hollow log.”

So the fairy walked on towards the log and knocked lightly on the wood near the entrance.

Mr. Amble, an old tortoise, ambled out, his old wrinkled face looking questioningly up at her. She was very afraid he wouldn’t know where the moon had gone either, but she asked him anyway. Mr Amble took a long time to answer, but finally he said, “I am old and can’t walk all the way up the hill on the north side of the clearing, but you are young and fast. There is something there that was not there before. Go there and I think you will solve the mystery.”

Excited to finally have a clue, the sugar plum fairy raced north as the ground started to slope up beneath her. Finally she reached what seemed to be a massive wall of rock: a giant shape looming above her, taller and wider than a whole thicket of trees. Above it and around it she could see the faintest glimmering of light. “The Moon!” She thought excitedly.

Half climbing, half flying, the sugar plum fairy rushed to reach the top of this strange wall- surely the moon was just past it! The surface felt like rock, but it was warm somehow and not entirely hard.

She was almost near the top when the wall started to shake. Oh no! Had she caused an avalanche? Suddenly a booming voice called out from her right. “Who’s tickling me?! stop it!” And then laughter, deep and loud, as if from a giant. Two eyes, unbelievably large, appeared in the darkness.

The fairy was afraid. This was no wall, no great rock, this was a monster of some kind!

“h-hello?” The fairy stammered out.

More deep laughter echoed in the night. “don’t be afraid! I’m Lala, the dragon. who are you, little creature?”

“I’m the sugar Plum fairy! I’ve come to find the moon.”

“The moon?” asked the dragon in surprise. “Why it’s just there!” She said, suddenly lifting her big long neck from the ground and gesturing with it over her shoulder, in the opposite direction of the clearing. “I’ve been sleeping here for three nights and the moon has been here all along!”

So the fairy told the dragon about the mushroom people and explained that for the last three nights the dragon must have been blocking the light of the moon from entering into the clearing just down the hill where the mushroom people lived.

“Oh no!” said Lala, “I never realised! from now on, I’ll sleep somewhere else, and I’ll be sure to ask if there are any mushroom people nearby!”

The fairy thanked the kind hearted dragon and watched as the massive form of her new friend rose up and up until she was on her  feet and walking off into the deeper woods, each footfall shaking the ground. The moon, now clear of obstacles, shone brightly on her surroundings and illuminated the path down the hill and into the opening of the clearing.

When she got back to the mushroom people they were all humming and had delighted little smiles of pleasure on their faces. They were drinking up the moon beams! “thank you sugar plum fairy!” they called. “However did you find the moon?”

The fairy was very happy she could help, she said, and began to tell them the whole tale.

That night she played in the moonlight with the sweet little mushroom people until it was almost dawn and she was very tired. Then she climbed back up the tree to find the owl that had brought her there and to ask him if he would mind taking her back.

When she was safely home and finally in her own familiar, comfortable bed, the sugar plum fairy fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of all the creatures she had met during her great adventure.

Christmas designs and a free printable!

I have some free printables for anyone who wants them! These are to make a cute little christmas bunting. Just print (you can pick red or blue or combine the two!) and cut out around the grey outline, then punch holes at the top of each shape and thread the ribbon through. Easy! I recommend good quality cardstock or photopaper because they can tend to curl up over time on cheap computer paper and the color doesn’t print as nice. click on the links below the images to download as a pdf.

The blue version: michellelobeliachristmasbuntingblue

The red version: michellelobeliachristmasbuntingred

These were made out of the icons I drew for these christmas patterns:

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And if you like this pattern, consider buying it on a cushion  or another item I have available on redbubble here.

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MATS A week 1

I have been wanting to take the Make Art That Sells course by Lilla Rogers since it first started. I’m finally taking it! I cleared my schedule as much as possible so that I could focus and get as much out of the course as I could. I’ve just finished the first assignment and I want to describe my experience and process as much for myself as for any curious on lookers.

Although I have a beautiful studio, I decided to work on the table in the living room because it’s right beside the furnace and therefore much warmer. So I loaded up a big tray with my favourite art supplies and grabbed a bunch of paper. I use regular printer paper for dry media because it’s inexpensive and fits nicely into the scanner. sketchbooks are much harder to make flat on the scanner bed and sometimes make me work in a less psychologically free way because I don’t want crappy pages in there forever. Here’s a photo of the little drawings I did during the mini. I played around with a few materials and I wanted to challenge myself to include a medium I don’t usually use. That turned out to be charcoal pencils. I like how gritty they are and how it forced me to draw simpler shapes.

After doing the mini I scanned in all my drawings and put my art supplies tray back in my studio and took out the graphics tablet to get to work on the assignment. I watched the reviews from the other sessions during breaks so that I would have all of Lilla’s good advice floating around my brain while I worked. When I was completely done, I watched one of the reviews again and I took notes on my work. I  thought about what I had done well and what I thought I needed to work on. I made a list of things I wanted to change or try. Then I went back to my piece and worked on it for another day. I wanted to push myself and make it better than ok. The first image is the before and the second is the after: collectionsheet2

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In my revision I added texture to the background, more patterns to the pyrex, moved icons around, added the text, worked on the coordinates some more, added a little icon on the bottom and cleaned up the little colour dots, and quite a bit more. Lots of little changes that added more interest and variety and slightly improved the piece.

While I was doing the mini and drawing pasta, I started to think about my mother in law- an Italian and an excellent maker of pasta. I had scenes of dinner at her house in my head, with the sunflower tablecloth, espresso after dinner, and the earthy tones that decorate her kitchen. I decided to follow that story as the concept for my little collection. I actually have enough artwork that I could do another few co ordinates. maybe I will! Because it suited the narrative and because I wanted to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone, I decided to use reds yellows and beiges instead of my usual cool colour preferences (although I popped some blue in there because blue is the best!)

All in all, I’m pleased with my effort and I think I learned a lot. There are still a lot of things I need to improve on however (I made a list!) and since the assignments from past years are included in the course material, I’m planning on circling back when I have gone through the course completely and trying out the assignment again with another classes theme!

an update

Since my last post, a lot of stuff has been going on. I got married (yay!) went on a little trip, worked on the ongoing project which is my delightful little house where I live with my now hubby and out adorable dog Zuzu, I reached my goal of making healthy lifestyle changes and losing 30 pounds, had a couple professional projects going on, and of course, I made some art!

I don’t have any pictures of the wedding yet, but I do have the little portrait of me and my other half that I made for the seating chart display.

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Here are some photos from our trip to Matera. We stayed in the old part of the city called i sassi, the stones, where traditionally the homes were carved out of the stone. The more modern homes look like normal houses on the inside but in the older buildings the further you go in the more like a natural or dug out cave they become. All the facades of the building have this wonderful texture and the stone and wood have been eaten away by time and nature. I got a lot of photos of little details and textures for later inspiration. Here are a few of my favourites.

second summer school creative brief

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Here’s my second and last submission for the make it in design summer school. The one I ended up submitting was hope, but for awhile I was very undecided. I got it in just under the wire, right before leaving for a big party for my fiance’s grandmothers 80th birthday party (it was a pretty cool day). I’m pleased with how they turned out and I think my hand lettering is really improving.

For anyone thinking about doing the summer school next year, I would recommend it. It’s pretty cool just to have the facebook group and be able to get other designers’ opinions and see how different people interpret the briefs. Here’s the course’s website if you’re interested: https://makeitindesign.com/summer-school/ You can also see the galleries with all the participants submissions.

Summer School first assignment

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At the last minute I decided to join the make it in design summer school. The first brief for the intermediate track was based on the trend “eco decay”. It’s a trend that I find really cool and I would have loved to interpret for my textile design work, however I signed up to the course wanting to create something for my art licensing/illustration portfolio. Since the types of products the two different bodies of work end up on are different (my textile design work ends up on apparel and my art licensing work ends up on stationery, home products, childrens’ publishing, gifts, etc.) the way I interpret the trends are different. I would have gone even more textural with stronger, darker colours and left out the mushroom icons if  I were designing for apparel, interpreting the trend more literally, but I went in a lighter “cuter”, more illustrative approach instead, since I wanted to create a print that would look good on different types of products. I think I stuck a good balance. I also came up with a couple of quick co ordinate prints to go along.

Here’s how it would look on a tote bag:

totebagmockupOverall, it was a good experience and I enjoy design challenges. I think I found a way to be informed by the trend but still maintain my own style. I can’t wait for the next brief!

About Starting

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After finishing my bachelor of fine arts I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a fine artist/gallery artist as my main income. Without going on a big rant, let’s just say I didn’t like “the scene”. I taught ESL for awhile in Italy (I’ve lived her for the majority of the time since my third year of university) and art was always a part of my life, perhaps the biggest part, but a private one. I had started to become interested in art licensing and surface pattern design however and taught myself how to make repeating patterns. After I had made a few I decided to start working on a portfolio while continuing to teach esl and do more research about this new world I had discovered (that was never mentioned except in passing disdain while in art school). I steadily worked away on it, improving and learning, improving and learning but never really “going for it”. I never felt ready. Fast forward about three and a half years. I’ve started selling textile designs for apparel and I am still working on my portfolio for licensing and illustration and still learning. Thanks to the push that came when my fiance and I moved out to the southern Italian country side where I can’t work as esl teacher, I am extra motivated to actually start putting myself out there and showing my portfolio and finding more work for myself.
I am really so thankful for all the wonderful resources over the years on different blogs and interviews. I’ll have to compile a list one day soon of all the people I have to send thank you emails to because even though I couldn’t afford to take courses, over the past few years I’ve had so much reading material and interviews to watch and amazing artists to look up to.
My goals for this year is to start showing my work to more people and to find community with other artists. I want to take courses and push my work harder than I ever have before. There are no short cuts to getting good that do not include hours and hours of hard work and no one will see the fruits of that labour if you never show them!