2017 – A Year of Art and Climbing Everest!!!

2017 has been a strange year and on more than one occasion I’ve heard myself saying “This can’t be reality?”, as if I’d slipped into some dream state without my knowing…I mean come on, apart from the dreadful and embarrassing debacle that is ‘Brexit’, we’re now living in an odd dystopian universe where an unhinged, dangerously narcissistic, orange, sexual offending, racist twat is the American President with his short fat fingers on the nuclear button!

Yeap, 2017 was a weird year. The saddest thing to hit early in the year was the loss of my hero David Bowie. Anyone with any inkling of creativity in them mourned his loss and feels it still.

But despite the sad loss of Bowie and wonderful actors like John Hurt, 2017 did bring up some revelatory surprises too. For me personally, this was undoubtedly the ‘Year of Art’.

I started the year committing myself to the 365 day Artmaniac Challenge (following in the footsteps of Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell), by creating a new piece of art EVERY DAY for a whole year! I started well, in fact for the first 3 months of the year I did create a brand new piece of art every day, firstly rough sketches and then portraits! It was exhilarating, I hadn’t done any portraits in 20 years and was thrilled that I could still do them!

I also began the year finishing a fantasy map art commission for the lovely fantasy author, Anna Smith-Spark, which became a commission for HarperCollins as they approached me to become one of their illustrators! I was amazed and flabbergasted! A second HarperCollins commission quickly followed for the equally lovely Anna Stephens for another fantasy map. The year continued like that, in a blur of deadlines and commissions. I’ve never been busier and considering I don’t advertise and still use a free weebly website for my illustration business, I was astounded at the interest I was getting.

Both fantasy maps for HarperCollins ended up being picked up and bought by other publishers around the world, Dutch, German, US publishers like Orbit and Random House – I was suddenly glimpsing through the keyhole of big league success – it really is a whole different story to the indie world I’ve lived in for so long!

The year flashed by and before I knew it the giddy pleasures of summer had come and gone in a haze of excitement, silk painting, BBQ’s (with my lovely Grimbold posse)¬†and writing.

It is true to say that 2017 was not a great year for my writing, in fact I haven’t written anything now in months following a crisis of confidence a few months back. I will eventually return to writing as I always have, but I don’t have that belief in my abilities anymore the way I used to, I’m hoping given time that I will find my voice again somewhere but for now I’m happy just to follow my art and get my creative fulfilment that way. BUT, 2017 was a great year for other writers, most notably my amazing publishers, Grimbold Books, who were not only nominated for Best Independent Press in the British Fantasy Society Awards (BFS Awards) … but actually WON IT!!!!!

YAY!!! Go Grimbold go!

The end of summer came (and my dreaded birthday) and I was neck deep in prep for October’s BristolCon where I’d be exhibiting my artwork – gulp, my first art exhibition for 20 years! I was nervous to say the least but it went amazingly well, better than I could have dreamed of in fact! ūüėÄ

A huge thank you to my Grimbold family and to awesome authors like Gareth L Powell who actually helped me put up some of my pictures (and who also very kindly told me about the V&A Illustrator’s Competition for illustrations published in 2017!) THANK YOU! ‚̧

After the wonderful BristolCon I was then approached by Penguin Random House for a commission for them! A few¬†weeks later I also¬†started my latest commission for the inspirational Dan Holloway and Oxford University – a massive commission for 50 unique images! I’m manically producing them as I type this last blog entry for the year! ūüėÄ

2017 has definitely been a peculiar year, a year of creative highs and depressive lows, of hopes and dreams and major steps forward for the future. Professionally – it’s been the best year of my life as an illustrator and I feel very blessed and lucky! Personally –¬†it’s been more of a rollercoaster ride. I’ve found myself in the grips and depths of depression a couple of times this year, which has been a struggle and heartbreakingly, another friend, the amazing Lisa Scullard suddenly and shockingly died while 38 weeks pregnant. She had so many hopes for this year and next and they were suddenly snatched away. ūüė¶

The only positive I can draw from such a cruel tragedy is that it really put a rocket up my arse – life is fucking short and precious folks, if you haven’t accomplished what you want, DO IT. If you doing something you don’t want to be – STOP and CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Life goes in a flash. So yes, I am following one dream in particular, a dream I’ve had for the last 14 years and I am doing everything I can to achieve it. Hopefully this time next year my life will be dramatically different…please keep all your fingers, toes and everything else crossed for me, I have an Everest to climb, the odds are against me, but still I’m pursuing this goal – 2018 will be make or break.

So, as the year closes, with only minutes to spare…I want to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a coming year of dreams and hopes.

Hold your heart in your hands and cradle those dreams, whatever they are, and never give up. Love to you all. ‚̧ xxxxx

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A month of dreams, dizzyness…and passing 13,000!

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While those¬†who know me best, know that I tend to roll my sleeves up and just ‘get on with it’. I must admit to having found myself incapacitated recently, a feeling I am NOT used to. No matter how rotten I may be feeling with colds, flu’s, even toothache, I tend to put a brave (often smiling)¬†face on it and just dig deep and carry on – it’s that whole daft ‘stiff upper lip’ mentally we British feel obliged to follow.

“Keep calm, carry on!”

I am if nothing else, a hard worker and a pragmatist who likes to make progress and achieve my goals,¬†even if it’s against the odds. So, imagine my frustration when something comes along that really stops me in my tracks…I speak of the curse of labyrinthitis.

Vestibular SystemSuddenly the simplest tasks that you take for granted become impossible, looking at the television, a mobile, or a computer screen, all incurs dizziness. All you can do is just¬†lie or sit still and hope that it passes. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

But as with all things in life…it’s relative. Just as I was feeling particularly poorly and sorry for myself, I got a sharp reminder that as conditions go, there are FAR worse so I shouldn’t complain. I’ve had dear friends touched by the insidious hand of cancer, who have struggled against that disease with such stern determination and grace, and others fighting type 1 diabetes who take each obstacle in their stride.

wild daffodilsSo, no moans and groans…I shall be thankful for the sunshine, the signs of spring bursting eagerly from beneath leaf mounds and mud, the streaks of blue sky between the cloud, the wild ducks that fly in and argue loudly on the lawn and the fact that my lonely moorhen has found himself a new wife after the cruelty of a harsh winter and hunting mink. SAM_2277

Forget sickness, forget¬†feeling rather low and tearful, life is a wondrous marvel and even if I can’t do very much at the moment, I shall breathe deep and drink in every moment of it and be thankful for small miracles.

Here are just three marvellous moments that have happened in the last few weeks.

file000267804564 (2)Firstly and for no apparent reason at all, other than the strange whimsical nature of the web, my lovely little blog had an amazing few days! From attracting nearly 900 visitors on one day, it then attracted 2,386 the next!!!! Pushing my little blog past 13,000 visitors!

Wow, wow and wow!!!

Then my short story, ‘The Wishing Tree’ was¬†selected by ReadWave¬†http://www.readwave.com/ to be part of their Staff Picks, for tnew photos 236 (2)he very¬† best¬†stories.

Check it out guys, oh and please ‘LIKE’! ¬†http://www.readwave.com/the-wishing-tree-_s2532

I’ve also been featured twice¬†by¬†fellow author, the wonderful Lisa Scullard for her new¬†Hard Ink Cafe blog http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/¬†as ‘Author of the Day’ http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/author-of-the-day-sophie-e-tallis/¬†and again¬†http://hardinkcafe.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/author-essentials-keep-only-the-best-company/

Oh…and it’s featured in The Bedlam Media Daily too in the leisure section! http://paper.li/bedlam_media/1315567686#!leisure

So before my dizziness returns, I just want to say a heartfelt and massive THANK YOU to you all!!!!! You really are the BEST!!!

Here’s a little something to make you all smile…The Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’…rock it boys!!!!

http://youtu.be/Cqh54rSzheg

ūüėÄ xxxx