Akaihane // Designer & Illustrator

Artist Spotlight // Rifle Paper Co.

Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.

FFlorida-based stationery company Rifle Paper Co. began in 2009 after freelance illustrator Anna Bond discovered that her quirky and unique personal style was a perfect fit for stationary. After promoting a few wedding sets online, almost immediately her immense talent was recognised by bloggers and editors, leading to the creation of Rifle Paper Co. within a year. It is now an international brand employing over 90 people.

Rifle Paper Co. is one of the biggest inspirations for me as a self-employed illustrator and designer. It is the perfect example of how, with some hard work and a truly personal style, you can really create something special for yourself; a job that is not only a true passion, but one that pays the bills as well. Being new to this world (it’s only been in the past month or two that I’ve started taking on clients), watching this brand prosper encourages me and gives me confidence to continue.

It also energises me artistically. They are one of the few brands out there where I get giddy seeing their new work, especially if I run into it in the real world, with shelves in some of my favourite stores full of their carefully collated and always instantly recognisable products. Their pieces have a cute and quirky aesthetic, but still appeal to a broad audience, from fellow designers and illustrators to a random person looking for a great birthday card for their gran.

Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.

Not only do have partnerships with some amazing brands, such as Anthropologie, they’ve now started to expand beyond stationery with ranges of wallpaper, fabric and even temporary tattoos. To be able to build something remotely similar would, I think, be a dream for any designer / illustrator.

To see more of Rifle Paper Co.’s work, please visit their online store »

Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.Illustration by Rifle Paper Co.

Loved Links // July 2014

A Fifth Element Art book on Kickstarter“Beautiful“LittleHarmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, James McNeill Whistler's masterpiece“FourChance Greeting Flat shoes from Modcloth

Just a few little things that have caught my interest on the net this month.

  1. So glad to see that this Fifth Element Art book on Kickstarter has been fully funded! One of my all time favourite movies, and there are a great number of talented artists taking part.
  2. Beautiful vintage-inspired illustration jewellery by Esty seller, mamaslittlebabies. I would love to be able to create pieces like this with my illustration work. If only I could get my printer to work with Shrinky dink plastic.
  3. Little White Lies has written this feature on designer Annie Atkins awe-inspiring work on The Grand Budapest Hotel. I just received the Blu-Ray of the film and can’t wait to rewatch.
  4. I don’t know how I’m only discovering The Peacock Room, James McNeill Whistler’s masterpiece, now. Amazing does not begin to describe it.
  5. Adorable cat badges by eleland. There’s always room for more cat-themed accessories, no?
  6. These shoes make me wish I lived in the US. I know I can still buy from Modcloth even though I’m UK-based, but the worry of getting the wrong size and custom fees makes me worry!

My Work // Macro Photography

Testing out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography technique

I’m still very much at an intermediate stage with SLR photography, but I love playing about with new techniques. I’ve been planning to try out some macro photography for a while now after seeing a number of people talking about the technique, but it had fallen to the back of my mind (with so many other things I want to try out) until I read this post on Wit & Whistle.

So, before I could forget again, I grabbed my camera, removed my 50mm lens, and set it back over the front opening but this time reversed. It took me a moment to figure out how to focus my shots (getting in nice and closely to an object and then moving backward and forward until things became clear), but then everything came together.

Testing out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography technique

I really like the way they turned out, especially as they were very much taken in a momentary whim to test out the technique. Everything really does have a very dream-like feel, and the colours came out really soft. Some others didn’t fair so well, especially those taken in brighter rooms, as I think too much light was leaking in through the gap between the camera and lens (as I was manually holding the lens onto the camera). But if I want to continue to play about with this technique, all I have to do is buy a macro reverse ring to hook things together properly.

Anyone else try out this little technique? It does really well at picking up cat hair!

Testing out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography techniqueTesting out the marco photography technique

Moodboard // Culture Night Belfast Plans

Example of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque style

This year I’m taking part in Culture Night Belfast. My plans are to create a large scale illustration, inspired by the city of Belfast and the festival’s 2014 theme of growth. The attendees can pose and take a photo, and share those snaps online using a hashtag.

That’s it in a nutshell, anyway.

In terms of a more in-depth plan, the illustration will be of Maia, a Greek and Roman Goddess who embodied the concept of growth, and was the eldest of the seven Pleiades. Her portrait will be heavily influenced by the Edwardian Baroque architecture present all throughout Belfast, especially in respect to the human stone figures on many of the city’s buildings. (I think the correct term is “grotesques”, sculptures consisting of the interweaving of human and animal forms with flowers and foliage.) I would also like to use the Pleiades constellation in some form.

Example of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque styleExample of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque style

I actually hit upon this idea after going through photographs I had just taken while on a walk through Belfast (a few of which are used in this post). I have always loved architecture (I nearly became an architect, but, even through I was good at maths, didn’t want a career that so heavily employed its use), and the various styles popular between 1880 and 1920 have always been a favourite of mine. Looking through my photos, I had found myself subconsciously focusing on the city’s Edwardian Baroque buildings; they far outnumbered any other subject matter I had captured. And within these photos, the ornamentation was so often floral, organic life that told of Belfast city’s past (such as the prominence of the linen trade at the time). And the stone faces were always just amazing. The first row of photographs above are just three of at least five faces present on what was seed warehouses near the old docks (now the Malmaison Hotel), and the faces represent people from all over the world.

So my plan is to look at all the photos I have taken and see how the floral elements have been drawn. Maia will then be surrounded by ornamentation inspired by these pieces, therefore creating an illustration representing both growth and Belfast city itself. It will be drawn in a similar style to other recent illustrations I have created, notably like my girl Beryl.

Example of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque styleCulture Night Belfast

As a way to promote the piece, I will encourage attendees to the festival to take photos of themselves with Maia, and to post these on different social media platforms using a specific hashtag. I’ll also create a simple website that will gather these snaps together. In order to entice people to post, I think I’ll have Maia looking down at them from above (just as stone figures on buildings do), and have a space below where they can stand without hiding her.

The funny thing is, this idea feeds back directly into the examples of inspiration that have been on the mood board I created for my rebrand a while back. I’m finding myself attracted to similar things in my strive to create a style of my own, which delights me. Now if I could just find a name I want to use for the business going forward, things would be going so much better!

Example of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque styleExample of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque styleExample of a grotesque face on a Belfast hotel built in the Edwardian Baroque style

New York, Here I Come!

Pinterest map of where I hope to visit in New York

As this post comes online, I should (hopefully) be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on the way to New York City! Other than a trip to Paris late 2012, two trips down to Ireland (both largely for business and for only a few hours), and a few jaunts over to see family in London, I haven’t been on a proper holiday in 15 years.

For so long, being a student or a fresh graduate, lack of finances made holidays impossible, and then when money wasn’t as limiting a factor, working too much running my own business meant little time for holiday leave. Then after planning a lifelong dream trip to Japan last spring, we had to call things off when I ended up with vertigo for several months (though that plan is back on for March 2015).

So, finally, I’m jetting off to see a new part of the world. I only have a few days, so I’ll mostly be focusing on typical tourist stuff, with maybe a bit of shopping. You can see some of the things I’m interested in visiting on my New York board over on Pinterest. I’ll be staying in a hotel in Lower Manhattan, so hopefully being so wonderfully based will help me get around to as many places as possible.

So for the next week, I won’t be about. There will be a scheduled post on Thursday, but other than that, my Etsy shop is on hiatus, and I’m not sure how much I’ll be about on Twitter or Instagram. Emails certainly won’t be answered! So don’t worry if you try to get in contact with me, but can’t. I’ll be spending as much time as I can exploring New York with my camera (and probably going crazy over architecture that is so different to what I’m used to) and as little time as possible online.

But if there are any recommendations for good eats and affordable but unique items and clothing in New York that could fit in a small suitcase, please do comment away!

Snapshot

Whole big run of prints ready for when my #Etsy store opens again when I get back from New York. Can’t wait to add more pieces to this collection of six.

Whole big run of prints ready for when my #Etsy store opens again when I get back from New York. Can’t wait to add more pieces to this collection of six.

Watch, Read // June 2014 Edition

DollhouseA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Watching // Dollhouse

I’ve been on a quest to watch everything created / written / directed by Joss Whedon for the past little while, and finally got the chance to sit down and watch Dollhouse on Netflix. For some reason I didn’t get around to it when it was originally on TV a few years back, and beforeI knew it, it had been cancelled.

I actually enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I’d heard a few negative reports about the show, but I think the only negative things I would have to say about it would be in regards to things they obviously had to do in light of it’s cancellation. The second season is definitely a little rushed, with a few times where we skip ahead in time, being told what has occurred over the missing period rather than being shown. But I can see that being a product of having great ideas and not wanting to waste them, even with limited time to devote.

I do think if I had known more about the format of the show, I would have waited to watch the final episode of season 1 (“Epitaph One”, which was not originally shown on TV) with its continuation episode at the end of the second season. There were a few twists that I feel didn’t have as strong an impact (such as DeWitt’s allegiances) as they maybe would have if you weren’t shown some of the events 10 years in the future.

All in all, it’s a great show, and well worth the time investment (there are only two seasons with 13 episodes each). And it’s always great to see Buffy / Angel / Firefly alumni pop up. Just a pity it didn’t get the length it truly deserved.

Reading // A Monster Calls

I’d heard the name Patrick Ness quiet a often from some of the books blogs I follow, largely due to his Chaos Walking trilogy, and I’d always been intrigued due to the praise awarded to him. So while I was skimming the shelves of a local book charity shop with my sister-in-law (I was just keeping her company as I already had far too many books to read … ), I came across this title for a lowly £2. I loved the cover, and as it wasn’t a thick book and aimed at the young adult market, I thought that I would have no trouble squeezing it into my to-read list.

Well, I’ve now bought another of Ness’ books, More Than This, off the back of reading this one, and will be looking into the Chaos Walking trilogy in the near future.

It’s a truly wonderful book. Other than a brief read of the synopsis on the back of the book, I didn’t really know what to expect, only to be presented by something I absolutely love; a modern fairy tale. I’ve been reading a number of books lately that follow the same line, a story with some of the expected fairy tale troupes, but which are not aimed at the children’s market and have a more contemporary setting (I mean, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, a fairy tale set in revolutionary Russia?! Amazing!), and I have always absolutely loved them.

This book has that wonderful fairy tale theme, not only with a yew tree coming to life, but this monster telling tales that could be right out of a book by the Grimm brothers. And on top of this is woven the painful life of a teenage boy dealing with his mother’s illness and what his life is becoming. It is an absolute pleasure to read, and incredibly emotionally rewarding.

Don’t you just love it when you buy a book on a whim and find something so special? An now it’s set to become a movie!

PaperGirl Belfast Exhibition

PaperGirl Belfast

This Friday, the PaperGirl Belfast exhibition will start in the PS² (Paragon Studios / project space) gallery. It then runs until 5th July. It will be the first time my artwork will be shown in an exhibition! Can’t tell you how excited I am. I’ll be there for the opening.

I love the concept of the PaperGirl movement. It originated in Berlin in 2006, and is now held in numerous cities throughout the world, including my home city of Belfast. Art is submitted and then exhibited in a local gallery, before being rolled up and distributed by bicycle to random passers-by. It’s such an innovative way of making art accessible to all.

It’s a project I’m really excited about and I hope I can bring a little light to someone’s home when they received one of my prints. I wonder who will get one! If you do, please do tell me!

My Work // Mademoiselle Dupont

Mademoiselle Dupont Branding, illustration and flyer design by Karen Murray

A few weeks back I showcased a mood board I had created for a client who was in the process of setting up a French Club for children and needed a brand and a flyer. Now I can show you the final designs.

My client, Melissa, wanted to stand out from the crowd. She needed something a little more sophisticated than a standard flyer when she started her French language clubs for children, but with a small budget, she also needed something affordable. We got together and very quickly came up with a simple but striking concept for her flyer, something that would appeal to kids as well as their parents and teachers; Mademoiselle Dupont herself flying over a simplified Parisian cityscape with balloons, with her pupils watching from below. The style was to be cartoony, but not overly childish.

Mademoiselle Dupont Branding, illustration and flyer design by Karen MurrayMademoiselle Dupont Branding, illustration and flyer design by Karen Murray

The graphics were created in Adobe Illustrator, with custom textures and the calligraphic logo hand-created with watercolours to soften the hard vector graphics, and give the piece more of a French romantic feel. To add something a little quirkier, each child was give a cute animal hat.

I am really delighted with this project, even though I’m venturing away from computer-created graphics to full hand-drawn illustrations. If this is my last piece of illustration created in Adobe Illustrator, I think it’s a nice project to finish that skill off with.

Mademoiselle Dupont Branding, illustration and flyer design by Karen Murray

Loved Links // June 2014

Beautiful glass trinkets and jewellery from here&nowThe Pippit by Oh! Joy and Love TazaDog illustration by London-based illustrator Laura McKendry of Bird and BeastFaux wood cat accessories by SAYSCULPTURESCat with a flower crown by Allison of Young Eyes IgniteKeiko Lynn wearing an & Other Stories dress

Just a few little things that have caught my interest over the past month.

  1. Loving these beautiful, unique glass trinkets and jewellery from here&now.
  2. I’m not sure about adding another app to my arsenal, but Pippit by Oh! Joy and Love Taza does look mighty interesting.
  3. I really want to be a little more free with my work, so illustrator Laura McKendry’s work is really inspiring to me. So loose and full of character. And who can resist drawings of animals.
  4. I’m always looking for new cool cat products, and these faux wood cat accessories are awesome.
  5. I don’t think either of my cats would allow me to do this
  6. I really want to add some kind of lacey dress to my collection, and this dress by & Other Stories worn by the ever lovely Keiko Lynn is gorgeous
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