About me

Hello, I’m Cal (short for Caroline) I make illustrations to explain things, to tell stories and to share the beauty of the world around me. I’m a qualified veterinary nurse so a lot of my work is veterinary subjects, but I’m fascinated by how illustrations and stories can aid learning and understanding. 

When I’m not working I draw to celebrate, to record, to relax and to understand what I see. 

If you would like to work with me you can contact me using the form below:

The book

The story didn’t feel complete without a physical book. I wanted to play more thoroughly with the wool running from frame to frame and the multicoloured wool was perfect for that. I chose a concertina format to facilitate the flow of the yarn and made my pages 15cm square which is big enough to get some visual information in but not too big to be difficult to work with. 

I mocked it up in my notebook but drew the figures in ink directly onto the pages to keep the images fresh.

I’m not sure if the hedge is too bold in this frame, its a major character in the story but maybe should have been thinner at this stage.

This was my opportunity to respond to the suggestions of my viewers. –

So now we have bed socks and a woolly mammoth. 

I made the mammoth by winding wool around card, sewing the top and then cutting the wool at the bottom. I then stuck it to the drawing. 

I wanted to keep the spy in but I felt that he/she needed updating. I tried a knitted/collaged version but I think that the angle is a bit wrong.

After lots of unsatisfactory drawings I put on a big coat and hat and took a selfie to use as reference.

They could probably do with more contrast but that isn’t in keeping with the rest of the images so I just added a bit of shading. The coloured wool is a lanyard for the binoculars, I asked a friend if that made sense to her and she thought that it was ok but I don’t trust my friends to give me an honest opinion.

For the hedge I knitted an extra page of wool which turns to reveal the window with and without the wool

The text was tricky, I experimented with the font Daydreaming Outloud, overlaying it on a multicoloured background and erasing the lettering to reveal the colour.

It’s a fun effect but it doesn’t sit well with a handmade book.

I’ve played with modern calligraphy before but I’m not very experienced. I like the way that the letters flow into each other like the wool. 

The ink bled very slightly into the card which has added to the wool effect.

I chose thought bubbles to tell most of the story, cutting them out and glueing them on which allowed me to do lots of practice versions, but also made them stand out.

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For the hedge scenes I ran the lettering across the bottom of the page, my first attempt was terrible so I glued strips of card with better lettering on over it. This wouldn’t work for a proper published book but in that situation I would redraw the scenes and photocopy them then add the wool. Photocopying doesn’t work with the wool because it sits too proud, the lines of the drawing are blurred because the copier focusses on the wool. I guess it would be possible to get round this with a good quality camera (I only have phone) I’ve found some thinner multicoloured wool and some embroidery thread so if I did an updated version I would use that.

For the final page, after some lettering experiments I decided to plait all the colours into a big question mark. Plaiting has the advantage of sitting relatively flat once it’s sewed in.

For the front page I added the title in contrasting green wool. 

The mock up looked great but the finished lettering doesn’t stand out and is difficult to read so I unpicked it and experimented with different media.

I tried flooding the paper with water then dropping in colour and allowing it to blend. It was enormous fun, but messy. I managed to knock the paper and spill colour outside the lettering. Masking fluid or some sort of wax resist might help but in the time available I elected to paint it in watercolour as it was more controllable. It’s straying away from the wool theme, but close enough I think.

Here is a video so that you can get the feel of it as a physical entity;

Promotional material

I started with teaser posts on social media:

Each post was followed by the promotional flyer for the festival so that viewers could see when and where to go.

At the exhibition I handed out zines with my contact details on the back.

These served as business cards, but I hoped would be more attractive and encourage passers by to pick them up.

Preparation for the exhibition was a bit rushed so there wasn’t time to send out my own press releases, I relied on the festival organisers, but if there had been time this is what I would have sent:

Or more enigmatically:

(I would put event and contact details on the back of the tag)

The exhibition wasn’t as well signposted as the participants would have liked, we did get plenty of visitors but many passers by wouldn’t have known that we were there.

I would have attached a ball of wool and a luggage tag to surrounding street furniture ideally as a sort of treasure hunt that leads to the Vintry garden.

I would have added some more wool decoration to the garden entrance. (and a sign if it was a solo exhibition)

Analysis

I had hoped for more engagement with my Instagram release. I didn’t manage to reach a significant number of new people, almost all of the activity was current followers and I think that they were confused. Most of my posts are images of animals or Urbansketches and I think that I confused my followers by offering something different. 

That said, I did have a good amount of activity which I graphed:

I’ve made several attempts to take advantage of Instagram adverts but they get stuck at the review stage.

To increase my chances of feedback I posted the link to OCA Critiques and the Herts Visual Arts Forum Facebook group. Comments were lovely and encouraging but not particularly useful in moving the project on.

I love the simple drawing style in conjunction to the use of yarn” 

“I love this! Such a fun idea”

 Hi Cal, I found your work inspiring. I hadn’t though of using wool in illustrations before. A lot of illustrators are beginning their careers by posting a series of illustrations on Instagram now. This is a good way of getting your work out there and experimenting. I hope things work out for you. I think it’s a lovely idea.”

“I’ve had a look Carol. I thinks it’s a creative quirky idea and adds texture too. Best of luck with the project.”

Suggestions were limited:

There has to be something that you can do with a woolly mammoth”

“Bedsocks”

The wool is tying up the plants

“A treasure hunt” (?)

I also had a reply from a Herts Visual Arts Member who was also exhibiting in the Vintry Gardens.

I like the idea of the story, the double meaning of yarn, the way you displayed it in Vintry gardens made people want to know more. It’s a shame you haven’t had more engagement on your IG posts. I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied by the lack of ending.”

I still don’t have an ending….

The online element

After the exhibition I focussed on modifying the elements of the story to post on social media as I had originally planned. 

I had decided on a less distinctive house for this stage, both to protect the privacy of the knitter, and because the story has evolved for me, to be also about the extraordinary within the ordinary. Maybe extraordinary is the wrong word to use here but I want to get people to look with curiosity at their immediate surroundings and to challenge the prejudices that people who live in suburbia are boring.

Using the terraced houses from my earlier post I struggled to get the greenery right.

In this version it really looks bolted on. Returning to the theme of the wool I printed the drawing onto light card and sewed the hedge.

This is much more in keeping with the rest of the project, and I’m much happier with it. 

I considered redrawing the figure with the dog but it was becoming stiff and losing fluidity so I used Procreate to paste some versions over this base.

When I laid them out I realised that the wool I’d added didn’t meet when it crossed the frames so I moved it for publication. The first three images have the background cleaned up but I used the original version to make the rainy scene.

I tried various methods to make the rain, still not sure that it’s absolutely right.

Is it really necessary to have this element to the story? I used it to set the scene and to explain why I walk through the streets looking in windows, but it’s not an essential part of the tale. My followers on social media are predominately veterinary friends and people who like my animal drawings so for the Instagram release it will attract their attention, but for a wider audience of people who aren’t bothered about dogs it might not be as useful.

How to generate interest in the windows within a small square frame?

Pictures without the distraction of the figure. 

Or zooming in on the window:

Maybe I’ll zoom in on these? They’re brighter and clearer than the whole house, I think that they’re more attractive. I decided to release the first two images of the whole house as a teaser on stories in the morning and the windows by themselves later in the day.

I experimented with different ways to increase the size of the windows and focus the viewers eye.

I think that the whole windows work better, the fragments are confusing. Most viewers use Instagram on a phone which was the platform it was designed for, so although incrementally increasing the size of the windows looks good here…

….the smallest window will be hard to see. I am therefore, going to post the windows sequentially in the same  post and keep them all the same size

For a long time I have wanted to animate the hedge growing up and being cut back. I redid my knitting so that I could reveal the new house and videoed it on my phone. It’s impossible to unwind wool smoothly so I exported the video into iMovie and cut out the pauses. The resulting video is fine for the hedge being cut but it needed reversing for it to look like it was growing. iMovie for iPad doesn’t have a reverse button and my mac is so old that I can’t run the program any more. My original plan was to get one of my kids to reverse the movie although its a big file.

I also wanted there to be wool in the window when the hedge grows up so I explored the video editing capabilities of Procreate, first by adding a blob of colour. 

This was reasonably successful but I’d failed to appreciate that when I rubbed out any mistakes although the individual frame looked fine when I ran the movie there were white flashes.

I redid the balls of wool being careful not to use the rubber facility. When I ran the movie wool looked like it  was pulsing because the individual frames were hand drawn. I’m sure that there is a way to create a brush or something so that a consistently sized ball of wool appears in each frame but my time to learn about the program is limited. The pulsing does draw attention to the ball of wool, I had it moving around the window in my first version but it just looks odd to me so I edited it to stay still. Whilst playing with Procreate I found the ping pong feature which made the hedge grow up and recede. This laid out the frames back to front which was brilliant, I sent the movie back to iMovie and cut the receding hedge part so I had just the growing bit.

The flashing ball of wool was irritating me so I sewed some real wool into my picture

Again  I experimented with colouring the ball of wool to represent the change but it’s not professional enough for this project. 

With the set up I have (my phone and a swan neck holder) I don’t have the option to switch the coloured wool without moving everything. I’ve edited it so the hedge starts to grow up close to the start so hopefully it won’t look too out of place

The Issuu publication

Working my way through possible outlets I turned to Issuu thinking that it wouldn’t be too difficult to upload my Instagram story. It actually took more work than I had expected and revealed how different a book would be. 

Early attempts were a bit crowded:

It’s frustrating that I would need to pay £29/month to add my video, and that Issuu doesn’t recognise the font that I chose

Although it is difficult to read its perfect for a wool based story.

Below is a screen capture of a scroll through the ebook as you need to visit ISSUU to see the original:

And this is the original:

This is the finished ISSUU publication

The exhibition

An opportunity arose to be part of the St Albans Arts Festival in a walled garden in the town

I made some modified storyboards to see if I could adapt to the space.

The idea was to run the window frames into a bush and have them come out empty, with some of the ideas for what the wool is for in the bush. 

This is my space (it was too wide for a single photo so I stitched 2 together)

The storyboard

The story had to be simplified for exhibition so I left out the multiple images of the dog walker (which maybe didn’t need to be in there in the first place?) and used a single figure with the original detached house as I don’t have time or space to create a terrace of houses.

It’s been a while since I used acrylic paints but I felt that the canvas gave a good solid waterproof base to start the story. I made windows with thick card and acetate and knitted a long rope to hang them from.

For the possible uses of the wool I made larger cardboard cutouts of my earlier drawings. 

I used coloured pencil to try to look like knitting, sadly there isn’t time to make a knitted bear.

A trio of spies, I’m going to use the middle one which was drawn with a sharpie – I think that he might withstand light rain….

I did have time to knit an oversized jumper for a child

but the dog is using an old scarf as a blanket, I hope that I might have time to knit a blanket in one of the bright wools from the windows. (She does look very regal in her scarf though!)

The exhibition is to generate other ideas of what the wool is for so it may be counterproductive to be showing so many of my own ideas but if I don’t show any it will look pretty boring.

Below is my mock up:

Mock up in my garden

The labels still need fixing and the spy needs something to hide the bottle that I’m going to use to keep him upright. The bushes in the park that I can use are a bit different so I’ll need to adapt the layout on the day.

The whole thing fits into a suitcase, plus a bag for the paintings of the house which is handy when the car park is half a mile away. I had only been able to view the site when I booked my space so I was worried that the mock up in my garden wouldn’t translate to the bushes that I had booked. I was also terrified that I’d leave one of the elements at home, as it was a bank holiday there was no one available to drive home to fetch anything extra. I packed wool, string, scissors, glue, sticky tape, gaffer tape, pegs, pens and scissors hoping to be able to fix anything, and hoped for a day that wasn’t wet or too windy. Although I tried to make my elements as robust as possible they wouldn’t stand bad weather. I also bought a length of clear plastic tablecloth which I hoped might protect everything from a light drizzle.

Fortunately the weather was great and everything fitted into my space (which incidentally had a fabulous view).

After I took this photo I moved the teddy away from the sign

The sign says “What did the knitter do?”

I found the photography hard, I draw because I have a better control of my images. Theses photos were taken first thing, just after I had set up and I was still feeling a bit stressed about the whole exercise. When I reviewed the photos in the afternoon the sun had moved and the image quality wasn’t as good.
Because it was spread over a long area it wasn’t possible to cover the whole thing with one photo and there were more bushes in front of it so I couldn’t step back far..

The video is on my title page

Feedback
The story wasn’t to everyone’s taste but a significant number of people liked it, comments included:
Unique
Pretty cool
Thank you for brightening my day

What I hadn’t appreciated when I planned and set it up was that the flow of people ran primarily right to left along the path because one of the gates to the garden was closed. The story was designed to be read left to right. Although this confused a lot of the passers by it gave me a good opportunity to engage with them as I explained that they needed to read it the other way round. I was also slightly hidden from the other stalls so I probably missed a few potential viewers, although conversely I gained a few who were really looking to exit through the locked gate!

The red arrow shows the flow of most of the visitors

A lot of people struggled to categorise it and because they couldn’t find a convenient label, I think that made them a bit uncomfortable and they dismissed the project. It was the only exhibit in the garden that didn’t want money, which I think also confused people, but I found this surprisingly liberating, I had only to talk about it, and my story with no ulterior motive. I’m not used to talking about my art but the project made it easy.
A large number of the viewers thought that it was for children which wasn’t my aim, although I have no problem with children’s illustration, I didn’t think that my style is in keeping with current fashion. This opinion may have been influenced by me not selling anything, but I got the impression that a lot of them thought that stories are for children, particularly if they are short and illustrated. It may not have helped that I had a box of pencils for my viewers to fill in the zines if they wanted to do it immediately. It seems very sad that adults cut themselves off in this way and I wonder how I could alter their view.
If I could have carried it, I should have had a table for the zines and my feedback sheet, I like to sit on the floor, and I forget that a lot of adults can’t get down to ground level. No one wrote on the feedback sheet themselves, though I noted their comments, and wrote them down myself, I’m sorry if that was because they couldn’t reach…..
No one had any novel ideas of the purpose of the wool or the ultimate destination of the knitter. Had I made too many suggestions of my own, or did they not have the time or the inclination to think? A satisfying number of people were as intrigued by the story as I am but couldn’t come up with any ideas. Hardly any adults speculated, have they lost a sense of imagination, or do they like their stories to be fed to them without having to do any work themselves?

Above is me in action, snapped by one of the other artists.

I offered the zines to anyone who seemed interested. Some of the children viewed it as a sort of exam where they needed to get a right answer which I found a little bit worrying and three of them gave me back their completed zines (to mark?). Many children unfolded the zines to see how they were made and then couldn’t reassemble them, did they see them as a puzzle? Although the design was easy to produce at home I wouldn’t use it again for children, I think that the assembly/deconstruction seized their interest instead of the story.

Answers:

“What is the wool for?”
It’s being used on a loom for weaving
A bonnet for a dog
A rabbit/pig
The colour indicates the weather
The colour indicates the day of the week
It is for mummy
A sick child who craved knitting (sic)

“What became of the knitter?”
They eloped with the spy
Beetles ate the wool
They ran out of wool and went to The Range to get more
The wool went away in a different season (this from the little girl who thought the wool might be a sort of weather vane)
A wolf stole the wool
The knitter was so good at knitting that she was asked to knit for the queen (another little girl who already thinks that knitting is a female occupation)
Then 2 that I don’t understand
His howes was shown and peepl coob brod’n.(sic)
The plants because they grew the wool

What would I do differently?

The picture that starts the story could be bigger. This would mean that the hanging windows started higher and didn’t drag in the dirt.

I would also conceal a pole in the bush or chose a bigger bush/small tree so that I could tie the other end higher and have it more stable. The windows could get bigger as they progress away from the house. A designer who looked at the project before it went live thought that taller thinner windows would look more elegant so I would play with the shape and see what makes a bigger impact. Distortion might help here. The balls of wool worked but construction would be easier if they had been thinner. The knitted objects got a bit lost in the leaves, although the dog was at child height and very popular, I could spread them, and the signs, out on a bigger bush. I would make the knitting more prominent on the bear, either real knitting or photocopied.

(This was just the dog’s blanket photographed behind the cutout with a bit of digital manipulation using Procreate, the tricky bit would be to get a good quality print of him)
The spy would be more stable lying down, like a commando. Also not 100% sure that the ladder at the end was right, too colourful? Originally it was going to be white, a ladder to heaven, but I wasn’t sure that would be suitable with children around. Would the signs be better if they were handwritten? I didn’t have time to play with fonts so I went for Helvetica for its clarity and to be as bland as possible. I would make everything waterproof, except maybe the wool, light plastic or with a coat of varnish,

Overall it was interesting and useful to display the work live, but I don’t feel that it has found its audience as a physical exhibition. This may be due to the available venue, visitors were looking at framed pictures for sale with a few prints and postcards, they weren’t expecting to find an end of degree show, although an end of degree show wouldn’t reach such a diverse audience. I intend to prepare the images for sequential release on Instagram as I had originally planned, taking into account what I have learned from editing the story for the exhibition and zine.

The story

When I walk my dog I often walk past an old house where there was a ball of wool in the window. Every time a different colour. It became a highlight to spot. I speculated that the house belonged to a keen knitter.

What were they making?

A jumper for a grandchild? a knitted toy? squares for blankets? for people? for dogs?

Or was it a secret signal? Red = danger, Green = come and visit, Pink = our secret is out. Were they being held prisoner?

Slowly the garden outside grew up and the window was obscured. Knitting itself around the knitter?

Solace? or a knitted prison?

One day they came to cut down the bushes, to unravel the knitting. When the garden was empty there was no wool in the window. The knitter had gone, unravelled with the garden. Maybe they escaped by knitting a ladder to the skies?