In August, I entered a Greeting Card Association (GCA), Ohh Deer and Sainsbury’s design competition on Instagram. The GCA teamed up with Sainsbury’s to provide a very exciting opportunity for designers like myself to have our greeting cards stocked in 107 stores across the UK throughout the month of October (and beyond) in celebration of Black History Month.
The GCA said that they had 999 entries and could only choose 26 designs, and I am very proud to say that one of my submitted designs was selected!
My winning design
I entered several designs for this competition. Each design celebrated the diversity of people from African diaspora and were taken from my existing Royalty Collection.
My designs use bright colouring, unique portrait illustration and empowering messaging, which I believe are perfect ways to celebrate not only Black History Month, but every occasion.
The winning design features the wording ‘You Are a Queen‘ and a stunning portrait of a joyful black woman with short hair. With no specific occasion, it can be sent to your recipient on their birthday, wedding day or during any special time during which they need a positive affirmation. You could even keep it for yourself and frame it!
The story behind the design
This design originates from my Crown & Story collection. I first created it to celebrate women with short hair after my mum lost her hair to chemotherapy over 2 years ago. I hope it helps women with short hair (by choice or circumstance) feel beautiful and represented as it’s rare to see on greeting cards and in general media.
Halifax Hamilton Hampden Park Hankridge Farm Harrogate Hayes Haywards Heath Hazel Grove Heaton Newcastle Heaton Park Hempstead Valley Heyford Hill High Wycombe Irvine Kempshott Kidderminster Kiln Lane Kings Lynn Hardwick Leamington Leicester North Leigh Lincoln Livingston London Colney Longbridge Longwater Low Hall Mansfield Milton Keynes Monks Cross Newbury Newport North Cheam Oldham Osmaston Park
Penzance Pepper Hill Pound Lane Preston Prestwick Purley Way Romford Rugby Rustington Salford Scarborough Sedgefield Sevenoaks Shorehead Springfield Sprucefield Stanway Stirling St Clares Sunderland Sunderland North Swadlincote Sydenham Tamworth Thetford Upton Wakefield Marsh Way Wandsworth Warren Heath Washington Watchmoor Park Wednesfield Weedon Rd West Belfast White Rose Wigan
So, please visit the store, buy a card and take photos! You can tag me on Instagram (@leanne_creative), Twitter (@leannecreative), Facebook (@leannecreative) and TikTok (@leannecreative). Buying a card (and hopefully selling out) may lead to more orders from major stores such as Sainsbury’s and would be a huge achievement for me as a small business and us as a nation in celebrating and representing diversity.
We should all be proud of who we are, right? But sometimes, straight people take the fact that we can celebrate who we are and who we love freely for granted. For the LGBTQ+ community, it isn’t always that easy with some places in the world still deeming homosexuality and being transgender illegal! Even in the UK, we rarely see this community represented in art and design (specifically the greeting card/stationary industry) in an open and loving way.
In this blog, I will be talking to two people from the LGBTQ+ community about the way they feel they are represented (or not) in creative industries, as well sharing my greeting card deigns that celebrate Black Pride with you all.
Meet the speakers
I’m really excited to be interviewing Nena, a therapeutic counsellor and founder of Crown Mi Ltd from South London and Ashley Conrad, a broadcaster also from South London for this blog. Swipe across to get to know them a bit better…
Nena: “I’m a qualified therapeutic counsellor and am passionate about the wellbeing of those who are often ostracised in society. I’m the founder of the Mental Health initiative Crown Mi Ltd. Crown Mi Ltd is dedicated to creating platforms geared toward the empowerment of Queer Black Womxn who require support with their Mental Health in a safe space free from the stigmatic gaze.”
Ashley: “I am a broadcaster and typically specialise in light entertainment. I host a radio show for Gaydio; one of the UK’s biggest LGBT platforms and am on London radio station, Maritime Radio. I also work as an online reporter and presenter. I create entertainment news bulletins for an an online platform and, before the world broke, I attended many events as a video reporter.”
Let’s get to know Nena and Ashley’s thoughts on the representation of the LGBTQ+ community. They’ve had different experiences growing up which shows that there has been some progress but there is still work to do…
What have been your experiences within the black or asian community surrounding your sexuality?
Nena: I came out quite late in the game. I spent a large part of my dating life as a heterosexual woman but not from fear of what people would say; I genuinely was only interested in men and wasn’t exposed to Queer relationships. I started to work on loving myself which allowed me to love someone’s energy regardless of gender (and haven’t looked back btw).
The older I get, the more I find that acceptance isn’t alway a given. Family/friends from my (Black) community whom I thought saw past my sexuality, showed their true colours. Their acceptance comes with heteronormative beliefs, therefore, it’s important for me to surround myself with humans that love who I am in front of me and behind my back without restrictions.
Ashley: When I was younger, before I was in the media, my sexuality was quietly accepted… maybe even ignored. No one said anything openly negative or nasty to my face. Later, when I started working in media or attending fashion shows for work, I think it was almost encouraged. Everyone loves and needs positive representation in whatever form that comes in.
Which industries do you feel represent the LGBTQ+ the most/least and why?
Nena: If I had to choose I would say the community has had a huge impact on the Fashion industry. However, I find that true or genuine ally-ship is questionable nowadays as Pride and “Queerness” have quickly become pawns for capitalist exploitation in the mainstream.
Ashley: The most – definitely fashion and music and for the least; sport – the stereotypical industries!
Have you seen your sexuality and/or skin tone represented on greeting cards before? If so, in what way?
Nena: There was a black-owned business in Catford that used to sell many black greeting cards (sadly they have closed down during the pandemic), which I spent many times purchasing greeting cards and bookmarks – anything Black really. However, seeing black cards that celebrate same sex couples or celebrate my love is a very new thing and greatly appreciated.
Ashley: Growing up, definitely. When we would go shopping in certain areas as a child, I’d see black people on greetings cards and it was always something of amazement and it felt incredibly special to receive one.
What do you think of the Pride cards designed by Leanne Creative?
Nena: I think the Pride Cards designed by Leanne Creative are amazing. It was lovely receiving the ‘My Queen’ card as a Valentine’s card from my fiancée last year. I felt like our love was important and celebrated.
Ashley: I adore them! It’s about time. Looking at LGBT media, it’s still very very white ,so seeing a card that represents me is amazing. I feel included.
Is there any imagery/wording you’d like to see more on greeting cards?
Nena: Would love to see wording around fiancé/fiancée birthday/Christmas/anniversary. Congratulations to the happy couple wedding cards.
Have you supported or heard of UK Black Pride UK and Stonewall UK?
Nena: Yes, I’ve heard of both UK Black Pride and Stonewall UK. I’ve had the pleasure of attending many events that have been delivered by both organisations.
Ashley: Yes to both!
Tell us about your proudest moment!
Nena: There have been many, but to name a couple, I will say when I arrived at a place of complete acceptance around being gay and letting my mum know was one of them. Also, sharing a written piece at a Queer event regarding my personal experience with Mental Health and having others identify is another.
Ashley: I don’t believe that has come yet; there’s still so much more I want to do!
Last year, I released two greeting cards featuring illustrated portraits of same-sex couples. It was an initiative inspired by ParliREACH and ParliOUT. ParliREACH is a Workplace Equality Network (WEN) established to increase awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament. It aims to provide a platform where under-represented groups can find support and where equality objectives can be progressed. ParliOUT is another WEN in support of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Parliament, with the goal of making LGBT role models more visible and accessible.
£1 from the sale of each of these cards goes to the UK Black Pride charity – Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQI+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern-descent. UK Black Pride is a safe space to celebrate diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions and backgrounds and they foster, represent and celebrate Black LGBTQI+ and QTIPOC culture through education, the arts, cultural events and advocacy.
A further 50p from each sale goes to Stonewall UK – a charity aims to let all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, in the UK and abroad, know they’re not alone. Stonewall UK believes we’re stronger united, so partner with organisations that help create change for the better.
As a designer who prides myself with creating representative greeting cards and gifts, I am committed to expanding my range and shedding light on representation issues. As it’s Pride month coming up (June), please share this post, buy some cards, follow my guest’s Instagram pages and let’s make it the most prideful month ever!
As Chris Tucker said in Rush Hour… “Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?” I hope so but as creatives with technical minds, designers are sometimes guilty of throwing in ‘jargon’ (or buzzwords) when we speak to our clients. We don’t mean it – honest – but these words help us gain clarity from a brief and will also help make sure the designs are fit for purpose.
In this blog, I will be breaking down some of the ‘buzzwords’ that often come up when I’m speaking to clients. It should help you understand us better and you can even impress us by throwing in a few words yourself! Feel free to bookmark this page and use it as a ‘glossary of terms’ to refer back to at a later date.
20 design & illustration buzzwords
Knowing these words will help you to communicate your design requirements accurately, resulting in a quicker turnaround and better fulfilled brief. They may also help you understand why we make certain design decisions… so really, it’s a win for both of us!
Animation A moving drawing or computer generated image. Animation is a method in which figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. An animation if typically created by an animator.
Body copy ‘Copy‘ is another word for the text used in a document or book. ‘Body copy’ therefore refers to the main chunk of text in said document, so everything other than headings, titles or captions. Your designer might say: “What font would you like your body copy to be in?“
Brand Identity The visible elements of a brand. This included the colour palette, fonts, shapes and logo design. Each element helps consumers identify your brand and distinguish from others. Have a look at the brand identities I have developed for clients here.
Carousel In the context of social media, carousels are posts that have multiple images that viewers can swipe through. These are great for conveying multiple ideas or sharing large chunks of information without over-crowding a single image.
Case Most people know about upper- and lowercases, but there is also sentence case and title case. Sentence case refers to lines of text starting with a capital letter (a grammatically correct sentence) and ending with a full-stop. Title case refers to a formal way of writing a title where each word starts with a capital letter (a part from joining words) for example,The Magical City of Mumbai.
Colour code The ink or light colour combination required to produce a specific colour. In print, every colour is made up of a certain percentage of 4 primary ink colours known as CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). In web, every colour is made up of 3 light colours known as RGB: Red, Green and Blue (For web, the code may also be called Hex). Knowing the code of your desired colour will ensure consistency across your brand. Your designer might ask: “What is the colour code for your brand’s dark blue?”
Contrast How much colours look different from each other. High colour contrasts work best for legibility of text, for example, black text on a white background. Your designer might say: “Those colours won’t work because there isn’t enough contrast”
Crop marks Lines in the corners of your page to show the printer where to trim the paper. Also known as trim marks, they are usually required by commercial/professional printers and will not show on the final printed document. Your designer might ask: “Does your printer require crop marks?”
EPS A very high quality vector file. An EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file is considered the best format for high resolution printing of illustrations or logos. It can be resized from a postage stamp size to a billboard size and would not lose quality!
Flat illustration A minimalistic approach to illustration. “Flat” design focusses on simplicity and tends to feature plenty of open space, crisp edges and bright colours. See more examples of my flat illustrations here.
Flat plan A diagram used to plan where the illustrations, images or text will go in a multi-page document like a magazine or book. It is useful when working out the page count and how your content will flow across the pages.
Illustration A static drawing or computer generated image. A visual interpretation of a story, concept or process usually integrated into printed media such as flyers, magazines, books and teaching materials. An illustration is typically created by an illustrator like me!
Open/design files Files that can be manipulated/edited using professional design programmes such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Having these precious files will allow you to take your designer’s creation and give it to someone else to change, essentially compromising their original work, so they will often come at an additional cost. Your designer might ask: “Would you like to purchase the open files?”
Resolution The quality of an image. Resolution is measured in either dpi (dots per inch – for print) or ppi (pixels per inch – for web design). The higher the resolution, the better the quality. Screens typically require a minimum of 72ppi, whereas print requires at least 300dpi, which is why it’s so important to tell your designer what the image or design is to be used for.
Reverse A white or light coloured illustration or logo designed to be placed on black or dark backgrounds. It would usually be the same as the original, coloured version, but edited in a way that will stand out if having a dark background is unavoidable. Your designer might ask: “Would you like your logo in reverse as well?”
Stock Another name for paper. There are many types of paper and card to choose from, so it’s important to choose one fit for purpose. You need to consider its colour, thickness/weight (gsm), finish (silk, matte etc), lamination and more! Your designer and/or printer should be able to advise you on this for different purposes.
Typography The study or production of different fonts. It can also refer to the manipulation of existing fonts or putting complimentary fonts together in a design.
Self-publishing When an author writes, produces and sells their own book without the use of a publishing house. This route is typically good if you are a new author, want full control over its distribution and design and/or plan on producing small quantities initially (under 2000 copies).
Orphans Leaving one word one its own on the last line of a paragraph in printed documents. As designers we try our best to avoid these as it’s seen as bad practice and doesn’t look great. Your designer might say: “I’ve pushed that word down to the next line to avoid having any orphans.”
White space Space around an image or group of text on a page (not necessarily white). This is needed to stop the page looking to busy and helps readers digest the information easily. Your designer might say: “I’ve left some white space to avoid over-crowding”
I hope this glossary of terms helps you on your way to creating a killer brief, engaging in slick communication with you designer and impressing friends and family with your new lingo! Of course, if you have any questions or would like to work together on a self-published illustrated book with interesting typography and plenty of white space but no orphans… just get in touch!
So, here we are in 2021 (sorry for the late start with the blogging – it’s been a crazy year already)! We’ve made it through lockdown and finally things are slowly going back to normal. Shops are opening up, businesses are resuming normal practice and you may be feeling inspired to start a new project like selling your art, learning to swim or… publishing a children’s book (wink wink)!
In this blog, I’ll be talking to budding authors who have finished writing and are now in search of an illustrator to make their stories come to life! It can be a daunting stage of the process as it’s where a lot of time (and money) is spent, so I want to give you a little breakdown of what book illustrators like me DO and DON’T DO. These points should help you prepare for this exciting commissioning stage and make the right decisions for you and your book.
What illustrators DO…
Illustrators are a creative bunch! We take care of the look and feel of your book by using our skills to develop scenes, characters, page layout and more, to attract your audience as they browse the bookshelves. We bring the story to life and ultimately tell your story visually. Click through the slide to find out more…
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What illustrators DON’T DO…
There are some tasks that aren’t for your illustrator, but should rather be completed or initiated by your publisher (if you have one), your proof-reader/editor or yourself. Click through to find out how to delegate certain tasks and what you shouldn’t expect your illustrator to do for you…
What illustrators Dont Do
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Of course, all freelance illustrators have their own ways of working but these slides contain common practices amongst many. I pride myself in being as transparent and helpful as possible to all of my clients, so if you have any further queries about what I do and don’t do as an illustrator, please get in touch. I work with new authors, as well as experiences ones, on books targeted at early-readers all the way up to early teens.
The year 2020 has been ‘interesting’, to say the least! A rollercoaster of events and emotions plagued our entry into the new decade, making it one of the toughest years in a very long time!
2020 has been a struggle for so many people, not only financially but also emotionally, mentally and physically. Our lockdowns have wreaked havoc with our businesses and incomes (especially small businesses like mine), social unrest and racist rhetoric has made us question our places in society and the unprecedented effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has left us feeling more fragile than ever…what a year! But to avoid complete despair, I’ve made sure to focus on the positive things that have happened in-between the craziness!
This blog is a breakdown of all the positives I can take away from this year and the events I am most proud of. I sincerely pray that 2021 has more of this positivity for me, you and everyone who’s been struggling to stay afloat!
BBC Radio London interview The year started with an amazing opportunity which sparked my desire to hop, skip and jump my way out of my comfort-zone. On my birthday, 13th January, I was invited to speak about my business on BBC Radio London’s The Scene with comedian, Aurie Styla. I was so nervous but it helped me find the confidence to speak to my audiences directly and I then went on to creating a YouTube channel!
Leanne Creative joins Jamii Jamii is an online discovery platform, that makes buying from black-owned business easier. There are over 50 different brands and I was proud to join this platform this year. Shoppers with a Jamii discount card also get 10% off my greeting cards and coaster designs! So why not sign up?
Representation Matters campaign (part 2) It was great to find even more people who felt represented by my greeting cards and gift illustrations – it’s why I do what I do! Thank you to everyone who sent in photos of themselves.
Healthcare greeting cardrelease With the pandemic in full swing, I decided to create an illustration to say thank you to the healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep us safe and as well as possible. I designed this purely for an Instagram post but the response was so great that I decided to turn it into a greeting card!
1k Instagram followers I hit my target of 1,000 followers sooner than I had thought! Thank you so much for your interest in my products, services and tips. I’ve enjoyed engaging with my followers and meeting many inspirational people along the way and I am now at over 2.5k followers! Follow me here.
LGBTQ+ greeting card design launch June is the month of many Pride celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. I was approached by ParliREACH and ParliOUT to help them promote their initiative of better representation and equality, so they asked me to design greeting cards that had illustrations of same-sex couples.
Response has been very positive and I’m pleased to have been able to create greeting cards that Black gay and lesbian couples can relate to. Shop here.
Thank you to everyone who donated and please continue to support these great charities.
Black Pound Day I was very pleased to be able to meet the founder of Black Pound Day himself! Swiss is so dedicated and passionate about his initiative to promote and shop from black-owned businesses like mine, so it was amazing to hear him speak about it and his plans for the future.
This event, at BOXPARK Wembly, was the most successful event for my greeting card and gift sales, so a huge thank you to Carib and Co Brunch for organising it. When we all pull together to support each other, great things can happen!
World Afro Day Founded by Michelle De Leon, World Afro Day is a day to celebrate afro textured hair. Our hair is unique and beautiful but often faces judgement and discrimination in workplaces and in the media, so this day aims to combat these problems. I celebrated by sharing my original illustration of a black woman rocking her ‘fro with confidence and style!
Debut book release I was so excited to release my very own children’s book! MY WORLD – Mackilli & Seeva’s Switcheroo is a fantasy story with real-world themes of self-love, teaching children to love their differences and the unique features of others. I wrote and illustrated this magical book during lockdown and I am very proud of it. The support has been amazing so far and I hope to grow this series of books next year!
Ebony Her collaboration I teamed up with Ebony Her – a holistic digital marketing agency with a focus of unlocking brand validity – to offer those who sign up to the marketing packages FREE bookmarks that I have designed (while stock lasts). I understand the importance of great marketing strategy, so wanted to partner with a great company like this!
Stylist Magazine Feature I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited to see that my classic bauble Christmas card design had be listed as Stylist Magazine‘s Best for Subtle Sparkle! To have my work recognised and awarded felt amazing after such an uncertain year. Were you able to grab a copy (Issue 533) and buy this card?
Roll on 2021! With so much happening this year, we have to count our blessings to still be here in the first place, so I am very grateful to be healthy, working and thriving amongst the chaos. What have you been grateful for?
Please stay posted, for my 2021 blogs, new items and books by signing up to my newsletter and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year!
At the beginning of 2020, I started my Crown & Story campaign after my mum was diagnosed with leukaemia and lost her hair during chemotherapy treatment. Many people with leukaemia rely on blood donations (for new stem cells), as do people with sickle cell disorder to stay as healthy as possible, so I have teamed up with the Sickle Cell Society and their Give Blood, Spread Love campaign to bring you this new blog post…and there’s an extra incentive to register as a donor at the end!
Donating blood can save lives
The Sickle Cell Society (SCS) is the only national charity in the UK that supports and represents people affected by sickle cell disorder. Sickle cell disorder mostly, but not exclusively, affects people from African and Caribbean backgrounds. Approximately 15,000 people in the UK have this disorder and the Sickle Cell Society works alongside health care professionals, parents, and people living with it to raise awareness and empowers them to achieve their full potential.
Sickle cell disorder affects the haemoglobin in the red blood cells. Haemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body and people with sickle cell disorder struggle with complications during this process. It can only be inherited from both parents each having passed on the gene for this particular disease.
1 in 76 babies born in the UK carry sickle cell trait.
The red blood cells of people with sickle cell disorder change shape after oxygen has been released, causing them to stick together. This can lead to blockages in small blood vessels which causes painful episodes referred to as sickle cell crisis. Another common symptom of sickle cell disorder is anaemia.
How does sickle cell anaemia affect people’s lives?
Sickle cell anaemia can cause a lot of pain. This can be a chronic or constant and/or spikes of sudden debilitating pain leading to fatigue. The pain is often treated with strong painkillers such as morphine.
People living with severe sickle cell will often spend a lot of time in hospital and over time they can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, heart and lungs and are at risk of complications such as strokes.
Living with sickle cell disorder can also have a negative impact on the mental health of patients and may lead to depression and anxiety.
How does giving blood help?
A single blood donation can save or improve up to three lives.
People suffering with severe sickle cell disorder, often need regular blood transfusions which can help prevent crisis and treat anaemia and other severe symptoms.
Currently, only 1% of blood donors in the UK are of black heritage.
We need more donors of black heritage because we want to ensure more blood-type matches. Closely matched blood makes it less likely to be rejected by people having frequent blood transfusions.
Ro sub-type The Ro sub-type of blood is 10 times more common in black people than in white, so in order to increase the chance of finding matches for people with this sub-type we need more donors from black heritages.
Does giving blood hurt?
Following needle insertion, you should be comfortable during your donation. It will pinch for the second it takes to insert the needle, and then it will feel like a dull ache at worst. Most likely you will stop noticing it within a few minutes.
Giving blood is quick, safe and easy. A full blood donation is 470ml and will usually take between 5 and 10 minutes.
The whole donation process from start to finish takes only about an hour.
Are there any reasons why people couldn’t or shouldn’t give blood?
Most people can give blood if they are generally fit and healthy.
You need to:
Be aged between 17 and 66
Weigh between 7 stone 12lbs and 25 stone
Not have had a blood transfusion since 1 January 1980
Not be pregnant and
Not have sickle cell disorder. People with the sickle cell trait are still able to donate blood.
If I can’t give blood, how else can I help the cause?
Ask others If you can’t give blood, you can still help by encouraging your friends, families and colleagues to donate.
Volunteer The Sickle Cell Society’s blood donation projects; South London Gives and Give Blood, Spread Love work with organisations, community groups and individuals to raise awareness of the need for more black-heritage people to give blood.
We have a growing community of volunteers and social media users, ‘The Give Blood Squad’, who represent and share our message, with the aim to eradicate negative perceptions around giving blood. The squad is predominately made up of blood donors and people living with sickle cell disorder.
Educate yourself and others If you aren’t able to donate, you can still educate your networks around the urgent need for black-heritage blood donors.
I’m so excited to announce that my debut children’s book is now on sale! Growing up, I’ve always loved writing fantasy stories and poems, so this was an opportunity for me to delve into my imagination again and create a story for children and families to enjoy…
Written in prose and poetry, My World – Mackilli & Seeva’s Switcheroo is a magical story about two young aliens from opposite worlds; Mimpal and Stiplop. Mimpal is calm and dark with rolling hills but not much to do, whereas Stiplop is bright and busy with tall buildings and angular shapes.
One day, Mackilli, who lives in Mimpal, stumbles across an unusual rock on his way to school, which turns out to be an amazing portal into Stiplop. In the portal, he discovers an intriguing alien called Seeva and they are envious of each other’s world, so they wish as hard as they can to switch places.
Overnight, they magically switch worlds and, although it is a very strange experience for them, they each have a sense of belonging because they both have something a little different about them.
Mackilli and Seeva each have something about them that makes them stand out from the other aliens in their own worlds and they’ve hidden it all their lives. After experiencing opposite worlds, they find the courage to be proud of their differences and agree to show them off from now on.
This book helps children (approx. aged 5 – 9 years), who may feel a little different from their peers understand that their differences are what makes them special and with 36 pages of vivid illustrations, I aim to entertain, inspire and boost confidence!
We all may feel a little alien sometimes, but that’s OK. As Seeva says “my differences are what makes me, me!”
Meet the characters…
Mackilli is a brave and inquistive character who has a cute gap in his teeth. He is grey with patterns all over his body, including his special mopspots.
Does your child have something unique about their skin or know someone who does?
Seeva is an intelligent, chatty and independent alien with big green eyes, two noses and four ears! She wraps her hair because she feels self-conscious about her grey afro which she calls her ‘grey-tness’.
Does you child have hair that is different from their peers?
This is a massive step for me and I’m very proud to have been able to self-publish my own book after illustrating many other author’s books. Please support and let me know what you think by leaving a review.
I plan to write more in this series and potentially some merchandise to accompany the story, so please do stay posted by joining my mailing list or following the dedicated Instagram page: @mackillaandseeva.
If you would like to buy wholesale copies, would like me to read the story at an event or want a signed copy, please do get in touch.
As a self-taught illustrator, I’ve really enjoyed working on a variety of children’s books by new and established authors. Being able to dive into their stories is always a great experience and I love getting to know the authors’ visions.
In this blog, I will be interviewing three of the authors I have worked with to share the stories behind their books and a little more about them personally.
Barbara Adu-Darko Author of The Magic Bubble Wand
Hi, I’m Barbara; a South London based children’s picture book author. Before I got into my full-time role as an account manager, I had applied for an internship at ITN which was a great experience that propelled my interest in publishing. I wanted to write but I wasn’t sure about which genre to focus on. I started with a fictional book (which is still in the works) but was then inspired to write my first children’s book, The Magic Bubble Wand which is about my nieces!
Izzie Kpobie-Mensah Author of Adjoa’s Paddling Pool and Adjoa Goes to Nursery
Hi, my name is Izzie and I would class myself as multifaceted. I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandma, niece and aunt. I am an equality, diversity and inclusion specialist, an author, jewellery maker and love all things that involve creativity and community. Professionally, I have spent most of my career working in administrative and people engagement related roles in healthcare and education.Adjoa’s Paddling Pool is my second book!
Hello, I’m Richmond; husband of one amazing and supportive wife and father of three intelligent, beautiful and energetic daughters. Oh yes, I’m also the author of a children’s book, Dylan’s Dilemma. After nearly 15 years of being caught in the proverbial rat race, I’ve finally reached a stage in my life where I feel as though I’m exercising the treasures that have been buried deep inside of me. This phase of my life is an exciting time!
Dylan’s Dilemma is available on Amazon and if you’d like some special signed copies, check out Pop Up United.
Thank you to Barbara, Izzie and Richmond for sharing your journeys and thoughts with me. It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for your books.
If you are an author looking for an illustrator, please do have a look at my work here and get in touch to start your journey with me!
If you’re familiar with the mission behind my greeting cards and gifts, you will know that positive and diverse representation is something I’m very passionate about. And what better way to represent and celebrate a friend or loved one, than a personalised illustration.
As well as my Royalty collection of items, I offer a bespoke service to those who want an extra special portrait illustration. I can create these illustrations using one of two different styles – a poly-vector technique or a flat vector technique.
How it works…
Send me the photo of the person you’d like illustrated as well as any wording you’d like featured and any colour preferences you have for the background.
Please send an image that is as high quality as possible.
I will then illustrate the image in your chosen style and send you the high-quality image for you to print on anything you’d like! (Or, I can send off to print for you at an extra cost).
This style of illustration takes the longest to complete, so please allow up to 5 working days before you need it (longer if you require it to be sent to print).
This technique is best suited for completely front-facing or side-facing close up portraits.
It gives quite a realistic finished product and is my product’s signature style! Watch a video about this style here.
Although my cards and gifts feature a wide range of hairstyles, ages and skin tones, I will probably never build a collection that represents every single beautiful person in the African diaspora (but I’m trying!), so bespoke illustrations are a great option to get that illustration looking just like the recipient!
PLEASE NOTE: As every illustration is unique and won’t be used anywhere else, prices are more expensive than my existing collection of cards (from £35).
In the Black community in particular, our hair is a huge part of our identity – it is our crown – so the way we choose to wear it often comes with connotations, which can make us feel judged. For example, the Afro was deemed militant and the weave was (and still is) considered by some a signifier of self-hate!
Personally, I have tried it all; I’ve had relaxed hair, weave and extensions. I’ve even had blue highlights at school to match my blue braces – I know, what I was thinking!? Now, I wear my hair in locs and, for me, it’s been the best decision, not only for the health of my hair but also my self-confidence and current idea of beauty, but I was fully aware that I may be judged for it – we all know what that news anchor said about Zendaya!
Don’t touch or judge
Afro hair is indeed beautiful and magical but strangers should know by now, that touching it (and just people in general) without permission is a big no-no! There are many songs, books and hashtags that have warned the world about touching but in an image-conscious world, unfortunately some of us are still being silently (or not so silently) judged.
In this article, I will be exploring how and why this happens through an interview with Cristina – a mother of a young boy with long hair. In the Western world, it is deemed ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ for boys to have short hair, so I wanted to find out if there are any challenges he and his mum face for having a crown that’s outside the ‘norm’.
Meet Cristina & Joylen
Cristina is a mother of two, journalist and documentary filmmaker, originally from Cape Verde Islands. Her hobbies include reading, watching documentaries, baking, and spending time doing fun activities with her children.
Her son, Joylen, is four years old and he enjoys playing football, dancing to African music, baking delicious cookies, watching cartoons, drawing and playing with his older sister in the garden. Joylen’s favourite superhero is Black Panther, and when he grows up, he wants to be a football player and a famous super hero to save the world!
Tell us about Joylen’s hair story. Has he always had long hair?
Joylen’s hair story started, when he was two years old. He had short hair at the time but after seeing his sister as a character in the book I‘ve Got My Hair, he was inspired and asked “Mummy, can boys have long hair too?”. From that moment, I promised him that I would not cut his hair and explained that Kings can have long hair.
How does he feel most confident wearing his hair and why?
Joylen loves his hair and he became more confident and happy when he realised that he can do a lot of different hairstyles; from ponytails to braids. When I am doing his sister’s hair, he always asks me to do his hair too. Sometimes I ask him if he wants to cut it and he always says no. He truly believes that his hair is beautiful and gives him super hero powers!
Have you or he ever felt judged (positively or negatively) by the way he wears his hair?
Yes, I receive both positive and negative comments. Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative stereotypes and assumptions made about boys who wear their hair long. When Joylen wears a ponytail some people would say “What a cute little girl?” or ask me why I don’t cut his hair. Others may say that he has a beautiful hair, so it depends.
Do you think black boys and girls are judged more based on their hair?
Definitely. Brown boys and girls are judged based on their hair because it is much more than a style; it’s political. There is more flexibility in accepting girls with long hair than boys, because in society’s eyes, the norm is that boys should have short hair.
What does Joylen say about his hair?
Joylen always says that he wants long hair because he wants to look like mummy and his sister. Furthermore, Joylen loves football and after watching some footballers with long hair, he is much more confident. Sometimes when I am combing his hair and it hurts, I ask him if I can cut it and he starts to cry, saying “No I don’t want to cut my hair!”
Would you cut his hair if he asked?
It depends on the intention. If he wanted to cut his hair because he was tired of it, or for any positive and natural reason, I would cut it. But if he asked to cut his hair because he was being bullied, I would not cut it but teach him that he should be proud of his hair and explain that it is more precious than a crown.
Do you let people you don’t know touch yours or your Joylen’s hair? Why/why not? Why do you think people want to touch afro hair so much?
No, I don’t let people touch mine or my son’s hair because some people look at our children as museum pieces. When they see a mixed-raced child, one of their focusses is the hair and making comparisons between the white and black side. I think people like to touch afro hair so much because they consider it exotic or a trend.
What do you think about the Western social standard of boys having short hair and girls having long hair?
Unfortunately, the Western social standards of beauty doesn’t reflect us (black people). I feel as thought they want to transform people into “ginger bread men”; copying and pasting standards but we should all have the chance to choose our hairstyles. Hair also represents culture, religion and power relations. For example, in certain groups wearing their hair bald is celebrated and in others having long hair is a sense of pride, like in the Rastafarian religion.
Do you see Joylen’s hair texture or length represented in the media?
The media tends to represent a stereotypical image that boys are less sensitive and their short hair is symbol of strength and masculinity. Joylen’s hair is fine and is closer European hair types, so I can see Joylen’s hair texture represented but the length is not.
What do you think of Leanne’s Crown & Story campaign?
I think that Leanne’s Crown & Story campaign is phenomenal because it raises awareness of an important conversation; the need for representation of different hair types and lengths. It is absolutely inspiring to watch the combination of digital art and hair politics and this art is a crucial tool to fight against discrimination.
If you are interesting in my Crown & Story campaign, please read other interview here. I sell a range of greeting cards and gifts featuring men, women and children with different hairstyle and textures, so let’s celebrate them all. Visit my online shop here.
Written by Leanne Armstrong Interveiw with Cristina (@thecriolamum)
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