Elliott Smith Illustration

Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith

I picked up a new sketchbook recently, a rather expensive one and have been wanting to see how much of a difference it makes to my illustration work. I’ve been allowing myself to get fully immersed into my favourite music as of late, this includes Peter Broderick, Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse, Gravenhurst, Nick Drake and so on. I can’t deny that a lot of this music expresses low moods or has connotations to serious addictions/problems but equally, there’s something very comforting about their music also. I’ve been left feeling inspired to work on a series of illustrations of my favourite musicians to have around my room, they may also help motivate me to keep pushing forward with my own music as these are people I aspire to be like, even if most of them committed suicide. I previously illustrated Nick Talbot aka Gravenhurst the night he passed away as I was left feeling devastated, even though he was a person I had never met. I personally feel like music can tell you a lot about a person’s personality, especially if its their own creation. I was very in love with Nick Talbot’s melodies and lyrics thus in complete awe of him as a person, I share this feeling with other musicians such as the ones I’ve mentioned. You can see the illustration I made of him here: Gravenhurst illustration.

I guess the other artists I’ll be illustrating are also people that make me feel the same way whilst listening to their music. They’re people I wish I could hang out with, discuss thoughts on certain topics with and accompany in pubs or for long walks. I feel so connected to their music, as if I really need it in my life right now.

Since illustrating Nick Talbot, I have now made a piece on Elliott Smith. I’ve played his music 409 times in the past few days according to my lastfm, just to display how in need of his music I am at the moment. I produced this piece using just inks, rather than my Nick Talbot piece which was a combination of inks and watercolours. I find inks much harder to control, but found this more of a challenge as a result. I wish I could have captured more of Elliott Smith’s personality in this piece though, but it will have to suffice for now.

Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith

I plan to work on another illustration in the next few days, probably of Sparklehorse.

I’ve Been Making Music

Hello all :)

I hope you’re well. Today I’m excited to write a post about something which really excites me in life. I think I’ve mentioned briefly in other posts I’ve had issues dealing with existentialism. On top of that, I worry about death a lot and as a result it leaves me feeling like life has no meaning and I get frustrated when I lose so many hours of my week to work or other things which for me personally don’t give me a sense of fulfillment or achievement in life.

The three things I want to achieve before my life ends are publishing a book/graphic novel, make a game and make music. There’s something wonderful about creating something from your mind and sharing it with the world in your own way. I feel like I have a lot of things I want to say, about welfare, society, attitudes, love, life in general.

Music has always been very important to me, since before I can remember. Music has helped me write stories, it keeps me company when I’m alone, it engages with my feelings, it has even connected me with other people. I’ve made seven pieces so far. I’m going to share them here, because I am proud of most of them, I will begin with my most recent pieces as they to me are superiour to the first piece.

I make music under the name Nzo. It is in reference to Enzo Matrix who is a character from my favourite animated TV Show: Reboot.

1. Up In Clouds:

So I actually finished making this piece today. Initially I was looking to create a piece of music in the style of Nils Frahm but instead it seemed to take its own direction and end up as something which sounds nothing like what I intended. This seems to happen every time I make music but it’s working out for me I guess. Once I started to create the right melodies and sounds, I thought a lot about the night sky. It reminded me of an online friend I had back when I was 14, when we used to go to bed we’d take a photo or draw an image of which constellation of stars we were looking at and send it to one another so that we didn’t feel so far apart as he basically lived the other end of the country to me. It also reminded me of a recent visit to a friend’s where we sat in the woods at night. Once I had the initial sounds I tried to place a focus around watching stars with someone and embracing the night sky.

2. Moments Lost

This was my first piece of music using my grandad’s guitar from the 70s. I’m not going to lie, I don’t really have a clue how to play guitar, I just played a combination of strings until I found something I liked and for the type of minimal, ambient music I make I think it works well. I was looking to make a sad piece, which initially would be in relation to the sentimental value of the guitar. I lost three of my grandparents by the age of thirteen, my grandad was the last to go when I was aged 22, but he developed dementia when I was fifteen so it felt like I lost him much earlier. I guess I feel somewhat at loss about my childhood because I didn’t get to spend as much time with my family as I would have liked at all and now I am no longer a child I missed my chance.This piece goes through three main stages, the first stage was to represent illness and decay of life. The second part to reflect on the past, being a child watching balloons with my grandad or going with him to his favourite pubs and me being naive and ignorant towards mortality, followed by the end, trying to convey, he’s gone now, the moment has passed. As I was making it and upon finishing it I thought how it just captured a lot of feelings towards “I guess I’ll never know” or “what if”. I feel like this piece of music can be applied to so many other aspects of my life such as heartbreak or regrets, or simply remembering good times which are now gone. The overall point now is to create a sense of wishing, missing, loss and the feelings of never knowing what you could have had. Hopefully other people who listen will feel a similar connection with this piece.

3. Prince St

Now for some trip-hop chilled sounds. As a child I loved listening to DJ Shadow and Massive Attack, later in life I discovered Arms and Sleepers and they are still today one of my favourite artists. I really enjoyed making this piece as I feel whilst it still sounds nothing like Arms and Sleepers who are my main inspiration for making music, it has set me up with some new techniques to try to understand their style of working more. Perhaps my most recent piece, Up In Clouds, reflects the progress I’ve made from this track in that direction. As I was making this piece I again thought about morning walks in Bristol with my mum and dad, we used to come into town and wander down Welsh Back Road, across Queens Square, Prince Street, the harbourfront and then around by the Thekla. So that’s where the song title came from.

4. At Amalia’s

This piece was merely just a bit of fun, I wanted to make something in the style of DJ Shadow and once again, my music ended up sounding very different to my original intention. I can’t really talk about this piece on an emotional level as I don’t feel anything other than good vibes with this. But I’m really happy with how professional it sounds. The title is a reference to Kafka’s The Castle.

5. Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight Cover

I’m not particularly happy with this piece, it was all refined to the correct standards but it just isn’t how I heard it in my head and I felt like I wasted too much time on this piece. It sounds quite different to the original track, again I tried to give it a sadder more ambient feel.

6. Lapse

Not really sure how this turned out the way it did. Initially I was firmly set on making a piece inspired by Tim Heckers ‘Black Refraction’ but this really couldn’t have turned out anymore different. Listening to it now I’m unsure of how to feel, simply because I feel like I’ve been making more interesting pieces since however, this was only my second attempt at making music and in that respect I think it’s pretty good. The overall point with this piece was to create a sense of sadness at the beginning either through loss, failure or inability to achieve, at around 3:20 the music changes direction to create the mood of contemplation or pause, which later develops into hope for a second chance. I try to uplift the mood of the piece to create a sense of possibility and the end goal being in reach and at the end of the track I slow the piece back down, skip notes occasionally to represent deterioration and recreate the mood of failing, overall having a piece which shows a mistake or false hope.

7. Cyka

Again no meaning behind this. This was literally a piece made to go “what does this knob do?” “what happens if I press this?” and the outcome was this piece. I placed a focus on trying to recreate the style of Mr Oizo because I was pretty obsessed with his latest album for a while. It’s not to anywhere near as high a standard as my other work, but I still find it fun to listen to.

 

And that’s it so far on my music adventure. Hopefully this post wasn’t painfully boring to read but I just wanted to share my work with you guys as it does matter to me. Hopefully you found something you liked in there. Please let me know your thoughts and if you have a Soundcloud account I’d appreciate the follow!

Have a good day. :)

 

 

Nils Frahm at The Colston Hall Bristol

Nils Frahm Live

Nils Frahm Live

I was recently lucky enough to grab myself a front row seat to see Nils Frahm perform in Bristol’s The Colston Hall. I saw Nils Frahm in London last summer as part of Jabberwocky Fallout but was much further back in the audience and unable to see how he plays or admire his instruments. I love Nils Frahm’s work, it ranges from intimate and emotional piano music to progressive dance, which are my two favourite genres. I just wanted to share photos I had taken at Nils Frahm’s performance, I’ve just arrived home from it now and am still buzzing with inspiration from the show.

Nils Frahm Live

Nils Frahm Live

Urban Outfitters Grey Shorts

Urban Outfitters Grey Shorts

Urban Outfitters Grey Shorts

Cool, so I’m finally writing another fashion related blog post. These will start appearing more again as my room is finally better set up for taking photos. I really love minimal and plain clothing at the moment, it shows in this outfit. I picked up the scarf and shorts in a sale at Urban Outfitters and they’ve easily become two of the nicest items hanging on my clothes rail.

Topshop Beige Jumper

Topshop Beige Jumper

Urban Outfitters Scarf

Urban Outfitters Scarf

Urban Outfitters Scarf

Urban Outfitters Scarf

Blonde Hair

Oh Hey Look, A Serious Face.

Outfit: Beige Jumper – Topshop, Grey Shorts, Floral Scarf – Urban Outfitters.

I’m also not wearing any make-up in these photos, I might look hideous but I’m much preferring life without cosmetics for the time being. My skin isn’t in great condition in these photos though, I have got a Lush skincare post coming up in the future which I’m really excited to write. I’m placing more of a focus now on healthy lifestyle, staying hydrated and skincare products to give myself the best chance at healthy skin so I hopefully won’t feel the need to wear make-up ever again.

Love,

Nicola

Vegan Food Shopping

Vegan Food

Vegan Food

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts about how I am aspiring to live a vegan lifestyle. I am working towards a vegan diet primarily for health reasons and it will take a long time to achieve a full vegan lifestyle, if ever.

One thing however, which has surprised me is not only how fun shopping for vegan alternatives can be but also how delicious vegan alternatives are. Shopping for and eating vegan alternatives has made me realise that a vegan diet isn’t as much effort as perceived. I’m writing this post to share my current favourite vegan friendly foods with you, hopefully any fellow aspiring vegans reading  will find this blog post helpful.

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of vegan alternatives for milk. Unfortunately I’m worried about drinking soya milk as I’ve read a lot about potential links to increased risk in cancer, although I know this is unproven I am choosing to stay clear of soya milk until more information is released. However, I am finding almond milk and coconut milk to be delicious alternatives. Previously I was drinking skimmed milk, so I have probably found it to be an easy transition.

Nakd

Nakd

These Nakd bars, nibbles and raisins are probably the nicest sweet snacks I’ve ever eaten in my lifetime. They’re both gluten free and vegan and made of just natural ingredients. The strawberries & cream Nakd nibbles were the first I tried, initially I found the texture unexpected and a little odd, I was expecting crunchy bites but instead they were soft, however the taste was so great I soon adjusted to the texture. Now I can’t get enough of these snacks, the lime flavoured raisins remind me of jelly tots and I find the Nakd berry delight bars full of flavour and really filling. The fact that these count towards one of your 5 a day is another bonus. Continue reading “Vegan Food Shopping” »

Witch Doctor Statue – Dota 2

Witch Doctor Statue Dota 2

Witch Doctor Statue Dota 2

Hello all,

I have been saying I want to share more of my “creative activities” on my blog. This was my first attempt at clay modelling and what better place to start than by trying to make a hero from Dota 2. I made this statue of the Witch Doctor from Dota 2 as a present for my best friend Sion for his birthday, I was pretty happy with how the Witch Doctor turned out so I thought I’d share him here.

I made this Witch Doctor statue with air hardening clay and watercolour paints simply because it was all I had on me at the time. This Witch Doctor statue took me about three days to make, I’m tempted to make some of the other heroes and sell them on Etsy but I’ll have to see how I do for time in the future with my current working hours. Seeing as Dota 2 is probably my favourite game, I will probably make another hero, I’m quite tempted by Mirana for my next attempt. Continue reading “Witch Doctor Statue – Dota 2” »

5 Centimetres Per Second Review.

5 Centimetres Per Second

5 Centimetres Per Second


Hello all,

I feel like it has been a while since I reviewed a book or had even read one for that matter. Within the past week I finally read 5 Centimetres Per Second by Makoto Shinkai and Yukiko Seike. A while ago I had been in search of new anime films to check out as I was struggling to get back into anime after taking a long break from it all. I remember making a note of the film 5 Centimetres Per Second however, I never got around to watching it. So when I had an opportunity to read the manga adaptation instead last week I took the chance. I’ve now watched the film too and can quite comfortably say I much prefer the manga. I rarely care about the differences between the books and TV/Movie adaptations (Or in this case vice versa.) as I try to see them as separate creations however, whilst the movie of 5 Centimetres Per Second has stunning visuals and a perfectly good English dub, it felt very rushed in its narrative. Even though the manga adaptation is a standalone book, I feel you are able to get inside the characters’ heads in greater depth and also enjoy a much slower pace allowing you to care much more for each character in the manga juxtaposed to the film.

My biggest criticism with the film is the ending, in ways it ends the same as the manga but again misses almost an entire chunk of storyline which you can read in the manga adaptation. Instead of having more detailed explanations and witnessing the storyline involving another female and also revisiting some earlier characters you are just presented with a sweet montage of clips to some music. Fortunately having read the book first I could understand that these clips were summarising a series of events applying to separate characters over a period of time however, I think this would have been very confusing for any viewer who had not read the manga beforehand.

In summary I recommend reading the manga of 5 Centimetres Per Second before watching the film and on that note, I want to share my thoughts on this beautiful piece of work.

One of the saddest mangas I’ve read in a long while, 5 Centimetres Per Second follows the life of Takaki Tono and his close childhood friendship with a girl, Akari Shinohara. In the early stages of the manga, you are made to feel as though not only is there a strong connection of interests, philosophies and personality traits between the two characters but that over time their closeness will cause them to develop feelings for one another. At their young ages, it seems unnecessary to act on these feelings as they are already reassured by their close friendship until Akari is informed that she will be moving locations to a new school. When the same fate also strikes Takaki they are at too far a distance to spend time with one another in real life and in a time before the internet or mobile phones they must rely solely on letter writing and the power of their care for one another. As time passes, the two characters find their lives begin to hinder their ability to remain regular contact with one another and in turn don’t get the opportunity in their teens to express their true feelings to eachother.

The manga continues to follow Takaki through different stages of his life, showing his longing to be reunited with Akari and his inability to let go of his love for her whilst being unaware of where Akari is in life or if she is also waiting for him.

This beautifully illustrated manga adaptation of 5 Centimetres Per Second really will pull at your heart strings, not for being an action packed, intense manga, far from it. Instead it will leave you emotional for its simplicity and slow pace which in turn makes it incredibly realistic and allows you to fully engage with each character.

The rhythm of the panels greatly assists in tugging at your emotions through building up suspense or framing expressionistic shots. The layout of each page really couldn’t have been any more perfect.

Aforementioned, you do receive more narrative from the manga adaptation than you do the movie and for me personally, the manga did leave me feeling much more upset upon finishing.

If you’re not into manga or looking to revisit manga after losing interest for a while I highly recommend starting with this, it is not as heavy as the classics such as Akira, Ghost In The Shell, Perfect Blue etc but it does give you the serious side of manga which does not live up to the negative stereotype.

5 Centimetres Per Second

5 Centimetres Per Second

5 Centimetres Per Second

5 Centimetres Per Second

Love,
Nicola x

RIP Gravenhurst

Gravenhurst Painting

Gravenhurst Painting

Gravenhurst Painting

Gravenhurst Painting

This feels quite late to be writing a blog post about the death of Nick Talbot but I was keen to share a small painting/illustration I made of him the night he passed. I remember being on a train returning home from visiting friends in Cardiff, due to watch Gravenhurst perform live in Bristol in a few days to be scrolling through my phone and read an announcement of his passing. I felt very connected to Gravenhurst’s music and this was the first death of a person I had never met which really affected me. Once arriving home I played his music on repeat and just felt lost for words. This was the night I also decided to teach myself to finger pick on my guitar and after still not be able to sleep worked on this small water colour illustration. The Ghost In Daylight was probably my favourite album of his, with Fitzrovia being one of my favourite guitar pieces ever.

Deliciously Ella

Deliciously Ella

Deliciously Ella

Hello all,
So in a previous blog post I mentioned wanting to strive towards a healthier lifestyle/diet due to gastric pain I frequently experience.

I stumbled across this book recently which really caught my eye. The writer, Ella Woodward describes a rare illness she was diagnosed with which caused her a variety of health problems. Whilst I know I do not have the condition Ella speaks of, she did mention suffering from severe stomach pain which (As I’ve mentioned.) I frequently experience. After four years of pushing for a diagnosis I am still yet to receive one. Ella talks about how she had to wait a long time and undergo a lot of tests before receiving her diagnosis and encountered many people who just dismissed her illness or failed to understand the impact it was having on her life and general health whilst frequently being told it was all psychological.

Deliciously Ella is a vegan and gluten free cookbook containing her own personal recipes and dishes which she claims completely changed her life. I know that I’m not going to be completely vegan because it can be difficult to constantly obtain vegan food especially at points when I can be working between fourty-five and sixty hours a week and also when in social situations I don’t want to be an inconvenience to my friends about where we eat. However, all I can think is to aim to be vegan whenever I have an opportunity to be. With this cookery book also addressing a gluten free diet, I can’t help but feel this is a great place to start.

Ella begins this book talking about how she used to have a sugar filled diet and detested fruit and vegetables, but once needing to address her lifestyle she experimented with ways to cook food she thought she disliked and found fruit and vegetables would soon become her favourite. She later continues to write how this food has healed her body.

The next area of the book lists her kitchen essentials, which is a pretty handy list including coconut oil, gluten free flour, pulses, seeds, sweeteners etc. This list seems to contain the most frequently used ingredients in each dish she shows you. She continues on to write a list of her favourite equipment.

Next you have the recipes, this includes butters, breads, full meals, smoothies and desserts.

This book also feels really nice to hold, the recipes are simple and clear, some accompanied with beautiful photography. Of course I haven’t attempted to make anything from this book as of yet but I do hope to blog about anything I make from this book to let you all know if it too can convert me to enjoying fruit and vegetables a lot more than I currently do.

Love,
Nicola x

Some Animal Cruelty Free Products

Animal Cruelty Free Beauty Products

Animal Cruelty Free Beauty Products

Hello all!

In my last blog post I mentioned a few changes I hoped to make to my blogging, one of which was to put time into researching which products are animal cruelty free and avoid purchasing any which fall under the list of those which do allow testing on animals.

I like to hope I’m not alone in saying when you decide to actively put this effort in, you may get slightly worried about how many products you own which have caused the suffering of animals. I spent most of today sorting through all my cosmetic products, ranging from shampoos, hair colour, make-up, skin lotion, you name it! I had prepared myself to find most of what I owned to have inflicted some cruelty on animals, however, I was pleasantly surprised to realise I didn’t own as much as I thought. The photo above shows a small collection of brands that do not test on animals. I do own some Body Shop products which claim to not test on animals but they are also owned by L’Oreal who do, so I haven’t included them. Aside from probably the more famous of the brands for being against animal cruelty (Lush) I was very surprised by some of my discoveries as especially with some products, they haven’t made the effort to highlight on the packaging that their products are animal cruelty free.

The products in my image are from the following brands which do not test on animals: Ted Baker, Bleach London, Benefit, Topshop, Hollister and Lush.

The Addison perfume by Hollister is probably my favourite fragrance and Bleach London enable me to have pink/lilac hair, so I am very relieved to know I will not have to part way with these products. Another brand which is not included in this picture is MUA, if you are after a budget cosmetic which does not test on animals. Their products can range from as little as £1 and are available in Superdrug stores. So there is at least one cheap alternative out there still!

Unfortunately, I did however find the only two foundation products I use, L’Oreal and MAC, do test on animals. Fortunately I’m about to run out of both so it is time for me to purchase a new foundation, I will take this as an opportunity to find one which has not been tested on animals. I may end up reviewing several different products as I imagine I’m going to struggle finding another foundation which matches my pale skin as easily.

On this note I also discovered a really cool looking website: The Vegan Kind which looks to me a competitor of Glossy Box, but with a focus on ensuring no products contained have been tested on animals. They have two different options, one purely beauty, another which contains food. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am not vegan however, I do want to ensure any products I use are not tested on animals from now on and part of me would like to attempt a vegan lifestyle as I’ve read countless blog posts about how people are mislead to think a vegan lifestyle is difficult. It would probably be a long process if I were to turn vegan as most of my diet consists of milk and chicken but I am tempted to subscribe to both of these boxes, to discover new products which are not tested on animals and maybe vegan alternatives to current food I am eating.

Hope you found this post helpful! I may write another post listing all the products I owned which I found do test on animals as a visual reference for anyone else looking to avoid making the same mistake!

Much love,

Nicola x

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