Free A4 Easter colouring in.

Right, so you’ve done your rainbow for the window, got your ‘I Love the NHS’ picture up, stuck for ideas? What you need is some Easter colouring in! Both are designed to be coloured in, cut out and stuck in your window, on a card or on a plant stick in the garden ready for an egg hunt! Lets cheer ourselves up with some colour!

Love seeing other peoples rainbows in the windows? Think how it will cheer people up to see an easter display! I hope you enjoy them. more colouring coming soon..

Free A4 Monster colouring in!

I was trying to think of what I could do to help people during this stay at home time and drawing is the thing I do best. So if you want to cheer yourself up by colouring in, please download these monsters. Feel free to share, and lets spread some cheerfulness! Keep well everyone x

Click here to download the image as an A4 PDF

If you like this and would like BIGGER colouring in, I have some A2 colouring in posters (with 6 mini pencils) available in my etsy shop here.


Facts about…

One day I had a thought, how do sports people carry about a javelin? Could they take it on a bus? Would it fit in a car? this led me to thinking of other sports equipment that could cause difficulties for the people that use them. As a personal project I started researching some of them, and produced a series of three that interested me the most- archery, javelin and pole vault.

I imagined them being in a Children’s non fiction book, and set myself the challenge of having some colour in the background, but trying to make it in to a graphic shape. I liked being able to work the lettering around the image, and tried to make the lettering quite interesting to look at. I picked facts that I found interesting and found ways to split these up e.g the arrows below.

I have more that I am planning on looking at..

3 pigs and one wolf.

I thought I’d include some portfolio pieces I did last year. These were based on the characters from the three little pigs and feature the big bad wolf in my header. The first illustration is obviously the first little piggie, building his house from straw.

The second illustration shows the pig having a little doze..

And builder pig, the smartest of them all. All the illustrations were made using collaged printed paper, ink, watercolour and pencil. The biggest challenge was working out what to paint first and what to print first, particularly because the stamp pad I was using would rewet when I painted next to it.  The scaffolding was made as a stencil and using stamp pads, I enjoyed the slight unpredictableness of this method, almost using it like a monoprint. The lettering was done using little alphabet stamps.

I have a newsletter!

So, I have started a newsletter. I was a little hesitant at first, thinking would anyone be interested in what I have to say, but it is nice to record what I am working on and what I have been looking at.

The newsletter is mostly fortnightly, it is quite short, and contains three images and three sections of writing, something from my sketchbook, something from my Etsy shop and something that has inspired me.

Here are some examples of past newsletters, if you are interested in signing up, go to the contact and newsletter section of my website. You won’t be bombarded, its mainly pictures and I won’t be passing on any of your personal information- plus you can unsubscribe at anytime. Go on, give it a go!

Newsletter number six – Colin the bear, Heart Houses and Happy News

Newsletter Number Four: Houses on hills, Monster Colouring-in and Eyvind Earle

Newsletter Number Three: More Movember Moustaches, Snoring Bears and an inspiration podcast.


Ooh, Dioramas!

I have recently been using more collage work in my illustrations and this led me to making a couple of dioramas.

The first was this fox in the woods one, made as a gift, and it was quite a steep learning curve. I never did quite figure out how I could put little lights in the back, something I’d still like to do.

This second box (not the best of photographs) contains a little hedgehog and again was a gift. Made using printed textures on cardboard and drawn into, the layers are built up to make a little scene.

I’m hoping to make some more of these to sell at craft fairs, in my Etsy shop and at Brighton artists open houses that I will be taking part in this May (more details of this to come soon). If you have any suggestions of scenes you’d like to see in the boxes, or of any animals, I’d love to know what you think!

Holly Swain Store is now open on Etsy!

I have been very negligent of my blog of late, something I am aiming to change. First up is the news, somewhat slow in arriving, that as of late last year I opened a store on Etsy, selling products with my illustrations on and some little hand painted houses. You can view the products using the STORE link in the navigation above. There’s a selection of the products below – if you click on an image it will take you through to my store on Etsy.

I have been very pleased with the response to my store and I have had some lovely comments, thank you!

‘Tales from the farm’

Somewhat belatedly, here is a post from an event I did at Millets Farm, part of a festival called ‘Tales from the Farm’.

Here I am about to start with all my cut outs actually standing up (for about 5 mins!!)

There were some splendid Mr Toads being drawn

and we made some great finger puppets. Here’s my finger puppets being expertly modelled (to make them, go to the activities section of this website).

Thanks to everyone who came along and to Aleida and the Blackwells team for top organising!

‘Toad in Troubled Waters’

Yes you’ve guessed it, it’s the third book in the series ‘The New adventures of Mr Toad‘ by Tom Moorhouse. This book sees Mr Toad take to the water and it’s no surprise to learn that he causes no end of damage to everyone else who lives on and uses the water! This was quite a challenge for me, never having painted water before, but I enjoyed trying out many different ways of using the water around the page.

Once I had done some research into the many different types of boats in the story, looked at what a bank vole was, drew trucks, cranes, otters and a rubber chicken, let alone the usual characters, I was ready to begin looking at compositions.

I struggled at first with imagining Toads boat from many different angles and so I bought a model boat to use as reference.

I tried out many ways of drawing waves..

I was also able to add in a few jokes here and there, like a ‘Titanic’ moment, with Chief Weasel and Mr Ripton.

Making a book is very much a team effort and so I grabbed the opportunity to add in Tom, the author,( in a boat), Sarah Darby, brilliant designer and photographer, (sitting on a jetty with her camera) and fantastic editor Helen Mortimer, (sitting under a tree with a book).  Thank you to everyone at OUP for everything you have done and are doing!

Heres a couple more of my favourite spreads..

I hope you enjoy this third instalment, I had a lot of fun working on it!


The New adventures of Mr Toad. Toad Hall in Lockdown.

I’m not sure where the time has gone, but already book two is out and there was so much I meant to do about book 1! But I have been working flat out on this series, so I shall just get on with telling you all about it.

To begin with I start very roughly, putting something down for every illustration in the book. It then becomes clear which areas need more research- in this case, how to draw a bike, lorries, safes, grilles, various gadgets and an egg throwing machine, to name a few.

I then redraw, still in small rough sketches something for each illustration. I look more at the composition and once I am happy with these, I work them up into a bigger rough, checking there is room for the type.

My roughs are normally fairly detailed, working the way I do, its hard to change things once it’s painted, so I try to work as much out as I can in the drawing. They’re usually just a line drawing, with the occasional shadows included. From initial sketch to final rough, some illustrations stay the same whilst others change completely.

With my limited palette of green and black, my extra colour was purple and I was allowed a bit of yellow for the eggs..


Book 2 was much easier to work on, in that I knew all the characters and their world. I had great fun drawing all the weasels and enjoyed drawing not so many cars!