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In the quiet of the early morning

On Your Desk: Michelle Barnett

Michelle Barnett 1

Today's workspace photos come from Michelle Barnett, a very talented young illustrator and animator in the English Midlands. She says:

"I was born in Norfolk, England, but currently live in Leicestershire where I rent a room from a friend. We just moved in a month ago and I love it. I'm ten seconds from a park (which you can see out my window), ten minutes walk from a canal, and ten minutes drive from a lot of big empty fields. I'm told that an aspiring illustrator should go to London to find work, but I refute that idea rather strongly. If I don't have my daily fix of green growing stuff I get very cranky. Illustration by Michelle Barnett

"I'm an Illustrator Dabbling, which is to say that at the moment I have a day job and will take whatever comes my way to do in the evenings and weekends (all experience is useful experience and beggars can't be choosers). So I've done storybook drawings, logos and branding, birthday cards, worksheets and painted canvases, but what I like most are narrative illustrations. I love the editing options digital art gives me, but I've always found I think best when I'm doing things manually. Something about the feel of a pencil under your fingers, the pressure on the page, the inevitable mess I make when I do anything practical, helps me get to grips with my subject.  Basically I make a tangle with my hands, then use my computer to tuck in the stray threads.

Michelle Barnett 2

"At the moment I'm finishing off a personal project, upcycling a garishly purple bookshelf into something a bit more to my taste.  I've been chipping away at it in the evenings, painting on dancing bears, wasp salesmen, frog people and accordion players. You can see part of it here on my desk, ready to have ruddy-coloured oak leaves hand-printed onto it, then be varnished and finally assembled into a bookshelf again.  I can’t blu-tak pictures up on the window, but the small frame on the top left is a print of Rima Staines' Atching Tan, which I picked up when I had the privilege of meeting her this summer.  How awestruck I was!  I have another print by her, and some by others, hiding somewhere in a pile but as yet nowhere to put them.

"These pictures show my desk mid-bookshelf project.  This is a reasonable level of tidiness for my desk.  I like to keep things organised...until I start work, at which point I need mess.  Unpacking the art materials helps me unpack my ideas as well, spreading the contents of my brain out so I can see them.  I've become very good at stacking objects into increasingly precarious pyramids as my desk becomes more and more cluttered while I work, and then packing it all away again when I finish for the day.

Michelle Barnett 3

Above is a close-up of my reading corner, which I was determined to have in my new room.  The cushions were upcycled from some battered old ones by Amy Allwright.  This is just my 'core' selection of books, the vital ones that travel with me and get switched (with the rest still at my parents house in Norfolk) whenever I go home.  As well as my grown-up books you'll notice that at least a third of them are written for young folk.  I think they often get the better stories, so I steal them.  The current cycle includes Rosemary Sutcliffe, Neil Gaiman, and Dianne Wynne Jones.  Also up here are other knick-knacks; a spoon hand-carved for me by a friend (I'm still trying to bring myself to use it to eat.  It's too beautiful!), a big sappy pine-cone from the Weird and Wonderful Wood festival that still smells fantastic, a collection of robots.... Everything to keep an active mind happy. "

Below is Michelle's video documenting the process of creating her charming and wonderful "Folklore Bookshelf" -- but be warned! You're going to want one too! (I know I sure do.)

To see more of Michelle's magical artwork, please visit her blog: Out There.

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