Monday 21 March 2016

NEW Pop-up Shop at The Gardeners' Nursery

I love the Gardeners' Nursery, just outside of Uffculme. It's wonderful, relaxed and inviting atmosphere is created by the delightful and welcoming Tina, whose sunny nature makes her the perfect person to develop this ever-growing nursery. As well adding the the tearoom and produce shop, and running seasonal craft fairs, Tina is now launching an exciting new initiative this Spring. Tina will be hosting Saturday pop-up shops on a weekly basis, allowing local craftspeople to come and set up a temporary selling space within one of their cute and cosy sheds. 

I will be running my first pop-up shop on Saturday 9th April, all day, and will have lots of new cards to show you all.

Do come along and have a browse, or ask me about commissioning a bespoke picture for you. Get thinking ahead for Father's day or any upcoming birthdays. And sit with a cuppa and some cake, or tasty lunch, peruse the flowers and enjoy the lovely surroundings. 

If you know any other crafters looking for a place to sell, please do spread the word and let them know. They can reach Tina at 01884 840980 or through the nursery's facebook page  and read more about it on this page of their website.

Friday 15 January 2016

Devon Libraries "Meet the Author" Interview

It was a great honour to answer some illustraty questions for Max the Dog, from Devon Libraries. Here's a link to read it online, but I've copied it below as well:

Meet the Author

Susie Tyler
Illustrator Susie Tyler
It’s time for a very big “hooray” as our featured illustrator is Susie Tyler who works in one of our libraries when she is not drawing beautiful pictures. She has been working on a new book with Devon author Coralie Sparkles: if you re-arrange the letters you get her other name, Amy Sparkes (well, nearly), one of my perviously featured authors. You must check out “Estella and the Falling Star” if you have a chance. Over to you, Susie…

M@xHave you always been an illustrator?
SusieI have always loved drawing and knew that I wanted to be able to do it as a job. When I started work in a book shop after college, I fell in love with the illustrations in all the children’s books and something clicked. I realised that was the job I wanted above all else, and started researching lots of different illustrators, and looking closely at many different books.  Gradually I got better at it, and as time passed, people started asking me to do drawings for them. Slowly, it became a real job!
M@xWhere do you get your ideas from for your illustrations?
SusieFrom real life, usually, or memories, or sometimes from dreams I’ve had. I might see something beautiful or funny out and about, and that might trigger a story or a picture, or both.
M@xWhat is a typical day for you?
SusieIt always starts with a big cup of tea, and many more cups of tea throughout the day! And there are always my two cats trying to get on my lap or lie on my work! I try to do as much drawing as possible before getting on with other jobs like emails or scanning images, or all the little bits and bobs I have to do to get my work ready to sell in shops and at craft fairs. If I get tired or stiff, I go for a short walk or go and run some errands, or hang up some laundry. I also work part-time in a library, so my days are quite split up sometimes.
M@xDo you have a favourite place where you work on your illustrations?
SusieYes, I have several favourite places, depending on the weather and what I’m doing. Generally, I sit up in our attic room at a big round table under a skylight, or in our “nook”, a deep window seat with piles of cushions, or in the garden under a big brolley. Sometimes when it’s really chilly I sit on the sofa in the lounge under our snuggliest blanket that my Mum knitted.
M@xWhich of your own books/characters do you like best and why?
SusieI really love a character called Gideon, a young boy who sits in a tree in one of my favourite drawings. He is kind of carefree and loves nature. I love finding wonderful trees to sit in. I also love a fat little robin that I drew for a Christmas card. He is very dumpy and kind of cool, whistling away with earmuffs on.
M@xWho was your favourite author when you were a child?
SusieOh, so many! I loved all of Shirley Hughes books, and Janet and Alan Ahlberg. Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum, Dogger, these were all dearly loved in my home. I also adored all the Brambly Hedge stories as they were so homely and full of delicious little details to pore over while Mum and Dad read aloud at bedtimes. Later I loved Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit, and quite a few horsey stories I must admit. I liked old fashioned adventure stories.
M@xAre you working on any new material now?
SusieYes, I have several ideas on the go. I hope to illustrate another book in the Mermaid Legends series by Amy Sparkes (writing as Coralie Sparkles.) And I have some of my own picture book stories to illustrate.
M@xDo you have any advice for would-be illustrators?
SusieAll I can really say, is to keep going. If you love drawing, just keep practicing. Don’t be disheartened, and be prepared to make mistakes or to be disappointed sometimes. That’s not the end picture! Look at other artists’ work and form you own opinions and tastes. Look at different styles and different materials. Draw things you enjoy drawing, but also draw things that challenge you.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

New Beginnings. Quitting the Day Job!

It's happening! Illustration is taking over!

Things are going to be a bit different round here. I'm finally going to be able to govern my entire week, and put energy, time and focus into my illustration, full time. I've got heaps to be getting on with, and it's a good mixture of stuff. There are bookish ideas in the pipeline, and in the meantime, I have a list of commissions to do. I also want to develop my card range; add new designs and find new stockists.

For me, the Golden Age of Cullompton Library,
working with Matt and finding him to be a friend for life.
This is a drawing a made for a poster advertising our
Storytimes for little people.
I'm going to miss all the lovely people I've met at the library, but I'm able to keep in touch with many of them. Some of my bestest friends have come into my life via the library, so for that I will be eternally grateful. It's been brilliant in lots of ways, but the best of it has been and gone, and so much of the job has changed beyond recognition, into something I have no interest in. The time has come to move on and chase this dream of mine.

I'll be working from our attic studio, while Andy works from home in his new job too, on the next level down in our spare room. We've just turned the guest bedroom into a sumptuous office. I'll be able to spend lunch breaks with my best pal!

So, with just under 3 weeks to go of employment, I am getting extremely excited to get going on lots of projects. It's amazing that this is really happening! Thank you God for all your blessings and provision.

The Sticker Card I drew about 7 years ago,
to reward our regular visitors to Storytime.

This is Matt following his own dream - making music as a
living; teaching Ukulele. It was an honour to draw this for
him as he pursues music. Things have changed!

Thursday 29 October 2015

A Mermaid Legends How-to: Style your hair just like Shelley's.

Inventing and drawing the hairstyles for Coralie Sparkles' mermaids in Estella and the Falling Star was just about the most fun I've had with pencils and paper.

I love Pippa's short brown bob, and Merina's free-flowing, long-as-her-tail, shiny black tresses. I also love Estella's crinkly golden curls, with her simple little plait dangling down beside one ear.

But it was really fun creating a more intricate hair-do for the mermaid with attitude, Shelley. She is after all, the Guardian's daughter. Her jewellery hints at her status, and so her hair had to measure up. I could imagine Shelly being used to being pampered, and perhaps having a loyal servant to arrange her hair in exciting ways each morning. I pictured her with a dressing table full of ribbons, shell decorations, jewels and beautiful silver bangles and pendants.

Darcie with Shelley's hair-do.

With two slim plaits that start at her temples and link up at the back into one high pony-tail, a ribbon is tied in and weaved down through the rest of Shelley's hair, plaited for a section, tied off, and tied again at short intervals to create a series of bulbous bobbles, before trailing off in a nice long tassle at the end. 

My friend Darcie (otherwise know as Shellanna Shimmerfin - to check out your own mermaid name, click HERE.) has been growing her hair for some time and was happy to try out Shelley's stylish plaits. We took photos at every point to make it really easy for you to follow the steps and try it for yourself. 

1. Brush hair thoroughly and part in the middle. Take a section from the front, from the parting to above the ear. Plait it until its long enough to reach past the middle of the back of the head. Put a tie around it while you do the other side.

2. Hold the two plaits out of the way while you brush the rest of the hair up into a neat, high pony-tail and secure well. Then bring the plaits round and add into the pony-tail by securing with a separate tie. This just makes it easier so you're not trying to hold onto too much while securing the pony-tail. I can tell you it was easier drawing this hairstyle than doing it with real hair that wanted to slide all over the place!

3. Take a long piece of ribbon, of whatever colour you choose. Shelley had turquoise in the story, but imagine a coral pink or a starfish gold or silver, or seaweedy green!

Secure it round the hair-bands that are holding the pony-tail.

4. Then wrap the long part around the ponytail to hide the knot and the bands, then loop through itself to stop it unravelling.

5. Now you can start your big plait, weaving in the ribbon with one of the three strands. You can keep the plaited section as short or long as you like. Then fasten with a hairband.

6. Then wrap the ribbon round the hair-band again and thread it through itself or the hairband to keep it in place. Then lead the ribbon down through the next section of hair and secure with a hairband again. I pulled the hair gently so that it spread out into a nice bulging bobble.

Repeat this stage again to create another bobble of hair, and keep going if you have ultra long hair, or just do one if you are running out of length. This is why the plait section may vary a lot too. 

7. After each section is tied off with a hairband and wrapped around with the ribbon, you can tie a wider ribbon at the bottom to finish it off in a nice bow. Leave a nice big tassel if you can.

Then you can enjoy swishing and flicking your plait behind you. 

If you have a go at Shelley's hair-do, please send us a photo of how it turned out. Or you might like to experiment and find your own way to tie up long hair.

If you have short hair, there are still lots of ways you can play with plaits and pony-tails, buns, twists and clips. Maybe you could find a way to slide in a shell or two, or some beads or stars! We'd love to see all your mermaidy hair-dos. Email them to:

and we will post them up in the gallery on the Mermaid Legends website.

A Mermaid Legends How-To: Make Nana's Seaweed Buns

 As some of you will know, I recently spent a year blogging about the making the yummy food within classic children's stories.

Now, a brand new story for children has been published, with my illustrations in. Estella and the Falling Star. And I couldn't resist trying to make the seaweed buns that young mermaid Merina enjoys eating at her Nana's house. 

The book describes them as seaweed buns, and I had to draw Nana carrying a plateful of them. I pictured them as a bit like scones. A nice soft doughy bun that I could imagine Nana patting out roughly, rather than rolling the dough and using a cutter.

For the dough, I use my favourite scone recipe, shared with me by a friend whose scones I  have admired and enjoyed at many lovely teatimes. I've added seaweed, cheese, herbs and spcies. Feel free to use your own scone recipe and tweak the extras if you like. 


8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder 
1 1/2 oz soft butter
1/4 pint milk (you may not use all of this)
pepper (to your taste)
pinch salt
pinch or two or paprika
pinch of cayenne papper
big handful or two grated cheese (I used Parmesan, but cheddar will be fine.)
a generous sprinkling of dried oregano
a pinch of dried thyme
A big handful of seaweed (Make sure it's edible. I bought a packet of dried seaweed on ebay, because my supermarket was out of stock. Put it in a bowl of water for a few minutes until soft. Then squeeze out the water and use scissors to snip into little pieces.)

Place flour and baking powder in bowl.
Add butter and rub in to make a breadcrumb texture. Then add all the extras - salt and pepper, oregano, thyme, cheese and seaweed. Gradually add milk to make soft dough.

Squidge into a ball, without squeezing it too tight or handling it too long. Chuck onto lightly floured surface. Pull off evenly sized lumps, about the size of a plum, lightly roll in your palm to make a ball, place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and press down to give it a flat top and bottom.

If you want to give it an extra Mermaid Legends feel, you could press the back of a ribbed shell into the top, before brushing them all with milk.
Bake at 220C for ten to twelve minutes.

Eat while just still warm if possible. They're really yummy with tomato chutney.

Thursday 22 October 2015

The Magic of Mermaids

Do you think there might be some way we can work together? said the amazing Amy Sparkes, one day, to the amazed Susie Tyler. 

Said the Susie Tyler, "You name it."

And this little unknowing mermaid was the trigger that set in motion an exciting cascade of suggestions, realisations, conversations and illustrations. 

All I knew at first was that Amy was keen on something fantastical. I started filling a sketchbook with dragons and fairies, and this one little mermaid. I always wanted to be a mermaid. At the swimming pool, my friends and I would slip into mermaid identities as our skin hit the water. Invisible dolphin friends would surround us and we would twirl happily through the water imagining oceanic surroundings and adventures.
Whilst drinking gallons of Lady Grey tea and drawing away, I took a snap of this mermaid and emailed it over to Amy to see if I was on the right track. It was at this point that Amy decided the world was ready to greet her cast of mermaids who inhabit Sapphire Seas. It was time for a new story to be launched. 

Estella and the Falling Star was ready and waiting for its illustrations, and now that it's really here, printed, and in my hands and on my bookshelf, I look back on the last few months as a happy, dreamy blur. Full of many many shells and tails and a LOT of hair!

I have adored finding the visual identity of Merina, Estella, Pippa, Shelley and Nana. I had to start by exploring lots of hairstyles. Although colour is very important for the front covers, we couldn't rely on the mermaids' colour differences to set them instantly apart from one another inside the book.
Being black and white, they needed to be complete individuals, with very differing hairstyles and clothing. Amy and I had a lot of fun (and a lot of tea - it just so happens we share a love of Lady Grey teas as well as mermaids) deciding what hair worked best for each character. Pippa has cropped hair which we felt echoed her cheeky nature and sharp wit. And it was nice to break with the tradition of long hair for one of the mermaids. 

Once they were all designed, I was delighted to re-read the latest draft of the story and find that Amy had slipped in a few extra adjectives to mention their lovely locks. The fun of hearing an author describe a character that you have visualised is almost too much!

Gradually the finished illustrations built up and we were able to go full steam ahead with the publication. And here it is. It is a book.