I have now finished the Coast & Clifftop book so am sending it around to various friends and family to read. InDesign has a spellcheck but I’m not using that, and the justification and hyphenation of the text boxes means I get some odd word splits, as well as the Latin needing the once over. I also seem to have this weird habit of alternating between singular and plural when I’m writing the info, even though this time I sat and spent a Sunday writing the copy so it was less incoherent than before; I figured that if I focussed on it I wouldn’t get such a variation in styles and it was an improvement but I still seemed incapable of holding on to my pronouns.

I also got myself in a right pickle with Photoshop trying to standardise the blue background on my white birds. When they are scanned they come up slightly differently which isn’t a problem for stickers or general use but does show up on the centre page spread in the book. I have found the InDesign tutorials and the associated YouTubers really helpful as I presume it’s mainly designers who use the software, whereas Photoshop is used by everyone so there are SO many options and everyone has a different way of doing things. I was getting so frustrated as replacing the background is probably the single most popular use for Photoshop and I was getting in such a muddle. I have a good friend, Sam, who is an artist and graphic designer and in the past I have always sent her my pics for cleaning and editing which she has always very kindly offered to do, and I repay the favour with eggs and honey! I really wanted to be able to do this myself as I have learned the other software and relying on others’ good grace when I may need to do something in a hurry is never a good position to be in.

I have another friend, Andy, who I met during my art course – he’s a photographer and he went through the process with me while I was on the phone and then sent me a screen grab video of the process. Instead of using masks, I now cut out the bird using the curvature tool and add a layer behind the bird, then colour that in using the brush tool with #d8eef6 so they all look the same. I then realised all my other photos were different sizes and resolutions, and although they are tiny in the book, I wanted to get them all to a level so yesterday was spent going through the other 40-odd scans setting them all to 300 px/in and 4000 px square, checking they were CYMK, and saving as a JPEG, and saved them to a separate folder and tagged them “Birdsforbooks”. Now I have that as a routine I can work at getting all my photos up to that if I have an hour or three to spare.

I am still working out flat plans for my next book, or rather books, as I am doing a main book but with two edits. This involves a lot of lists. I have a Self Planner from Best Self Co which is brilliant for me, and a selection of Blackwing pencils with a pack of extra erasers; I am a bit of a stationery fanatic and really miss browsing art and design shops in London I must say. I have a location rather than logic brain when it comes to remembering things so having stuff jotted down in different places isn’t a problem, even though I realise this is going to trigger those who need organisation! What can I say – it works for me…

Meanwhile, back at the art itself. I have painted a curlew and a black redstart. I got some new paper from Shepherds which is the smoothest paper I have ever come across (oh my word I love that shop, and it’s just round the corner from Victoria which is my station. Tempting. Very tempting). It’s not the easiest to use as bumpy/textured/not/cold press tends to absorb the earth pigments more evenly but this paper scans perfectly and it means I just need to be a little more focussed when I paint.

Here are my curlew and black redstart:

You can see that the burnt umber has not taken very well on the curlew, and the grey of the redstart is really patchy. I made the mistake of using a combo of my Daler Rowney paints and they are quite dried out and chalky (even for gouache) so I will stick to my Holbein from now on apart from the black and white as I have two large tubes that I bought recently.

I have lots of offcuts as the paper came in large sheets which I’ve cut to 29 x 29cm, and I’m going to use these to play around with some backdrops for my Urban books. I am doing Urban Garden & Parkland Birds but with two tweaks: Birds of Westminster and Birds of Notting Hill. These two will be more gift-oriented so I want to see if I can use some images as a background on the pages.

Meanwhile, I am waiting impatiently for my dummy book to arrive which is a blank version of my book but the correct paper stock, rounded edges, and laminated cover. I have small Moleskine notebooks which are the same size, but the cover and paper are different weights to the ones I’ll be using, plus they have a lot more sheets and it is so difficult to visualise. So, fingers crossed the postman will bring it today…

In other news, I have sold my kestrel – to a friend of mine which is always so lovely as I get quite protective of the originals and like them to go to a good home. I have put my originals back up on my webshop but I have so many I’ve not yet uploaded. I will focus on the books for now but if you want to purchase, please ask as I am not going to get round to photographing them for a while.

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