Redefining What Education Means to Me

Whether you have seen my work through social media or taken my Skillshare classes, you might be curious about how I actually built my creative career. No, it did not just happen overnight, but has spanned 25 years, taking may forms throughout. From an early age I struggled with traditional forms of education. At the age of 5, I immigrated from Burma (now Myanamar) to the UK. In today's English school system, I would have been class as having 'special educational needs' because my English reading, as well as writing and comprehension were poor well into secondary school. Although I was interested in leaning, I was never a confident student.

It was a sheer luck I had two immensely supportive and wise history teachers. They could see that I loved the subject and was very enthusiastic (I'm still a huge Tudor and 16th Century geek to this day) yet my grades did not reflect this at all. I can still remember their quiet gritty determination as they coached me through those two tough years. I still have a copy of my history certificate pasted to the inside of my kitchen cupboard as a reminder that my hard work and determination really does pay off.

Reconnecting With My Mentors

A few weeks ago I attended D&AD New Blood design graduate show where I bumped into my former advertising lecturer. I had originally started a degree in Advertising and Design and Bruce ( pictured above with me) was my first year tutor who taught everything from typography, art direction, copywriting and graphics. Bruce told me he knew from the first project I completed, which was a 3D pop up book of Hitchcock films, of the potential I had to succeed. Through this encounter I was able to thank him personally for the early encouragement and support I received from him.

Last month I was fortunate enough to meet up with another mentor who very shaped my early career. I had not seen Heather for 16 years since I worked as an in-house designer at TigerPrint, which is now Hallmark ( Heather and myself at New Designers, London) I always felt Heather was very trusting of my abilities to handle tight deadlines and artwork for Marks and Spencer cards, given I was a new graduate when I started in her Events Department. To this day I am thankful for the opportunities she presented mer and the experience and rewards that was offered.

Playing it Forward With Skillshare

Now that I am teacher, it feels like I've come full circle. Although I will always be a student, I am now in a position to give back. I can see a common thread that runs through all my teachers and mentors. They were very patient and encouraged to to reach further as they beloved in my capabilities. They were able to see past where I may have been at the time, to a future where I was highly creative and using my skills to carve out a good living. I'd really like to think I am supportive and trusting that all my students on my various courses can and be better in all their endeavours. It hasn't been a smooth p by any stretch of the imagination, but being able to put forward and share some of the skills and knowledge I've learnt has been hugely rewarding .

You can access all of my Skillshare classes HERE.

Are you ready to teach? If you are considering becoming a Skillshare teacher please join their September  teacher challenge- a 30 day Teach Challenge program for support throughout. 

Packaging Illustrations for Tine Foods (Norway)

Last year I was approached by Design House, a design agency based in Oslo, who were commissioning illustrations for new products Tine, a dairy producer. They felt my illustration style would suit the concept well.

As always I produced several sketches of each food icon as I find it often saves time in the long run if they are given several options they can pick and choose from.




After they had chosen which of the sketches they felt had potential, it was taken to a rough colour art stage. Again I give them several options so they can see the different routes I’m considering. After feedback I worked on the chosen icon some more, adding details like shading and highlights. It was a wonderful project to work on and I really like how the illustrations look on the product. 

Here's what one of the project leaders said...

'We wanted illustrations for this project to create a natural expression with lots of flavor. We found (ohn Mar's) work on Pinterest, and her illustration style suited the look and concept we wanted. We`re really pleased with the process and collaboration, and the final result.

Illustrations for Trident Foods Noodle packaging

Most of the clients I work with are in the US ( and I'm in the UK if you hadn't realised) - so thats a time difference of 5-8 hours. That means I could potentially keep working till 10 pm / midnight UK time....and yes sometimes I have (but thankfully not too often these days) However working with a client in New Zealand with its 11 hours ahead of GMT is highly challenging.

In May of last year I was contacted by the Creative Director of Tried and True Design based in Auckland.  I believe they saw my work originally on Pinterest. To put it in context I was in full scale show prep for Surtex at the time.  I did very much deliberate if it was such a good idea to take on a project of this nature. Illustrating for packaging projects in general require several revisions and meetings between the design agency and client before feedback is given to the illustrator, and thus it takes a fair chunk of time.

However I decided in the end, as I'd left the week before Surtex 'free' to recover from artworking collections and pack, that there was sufficient time. And the brief was for Asian noodles, something I had not tackled before. As I recall I had several Skype meetings at 7am GMT ( so it was the end of their work day in NZ). Needless to say I did not switch on the video function at that time in the morning.

There would be 4 flavours of Asian rice noodles, beef and chicken pho, curry laksa and tom yum. They presented me with a brief outline of what was required, which would include a bowl, flat rice noodles slipping over the edge and the individual ingredients surrounding it. As well as a pair of chopsticks with noodles dangling off them 

If you've read other blog posts you'll know I tend to give my clients several versions of a certain icon, and they can choose which one to take to the artwork stage. And as with all my food illustrations I refer to a lot of reference and I take full advantage of my ability to sketch quickly.

But I have to be honest with this project, despite working as swiftly as I was able, the time difference was a major player. Looking back on it, although I was very grateful for this opportunity and I'm pleased with how it turned out, the timeline was C-R-A-Z-Y. As expected there were several rounds of revisions and I eventually sent all the artworks the day before my New York flight !!!!

So if you are in New Zealand or Australia please look out for these instant rice noodles! And send me a pic if you get a chance.



Providing 100+ food & kitchen illustrations for SugarDetoxMe Book

I am delighted to announce the launch of a great healthy eating cook book by Summer Rayne Oakes titled SugarDetoxMe printed by Sterling Publishing.

Below Summer has kindly provided a basic outline of the process for sourcing illustration for her book, some of her requirements, and concepts: 

Initially I was looking to use food illustrations in a specific kind of way for the SUGARDETOXME book, but when planning a book, there is always a back-and-forth with the publisher. My publisher loved the idea of illustrations, but we ultimately used them differently than my original idea. However, the style of what I was looking for was fairly specific and need to fit in with my style of photography and also my house, which is where I did all of the recipe photos for the book.

I had done my initial search on Pinterest and Behance, and really narrowed it down to only a few people. Actually, I was surprised I didn’t find more illustrators with the “style” I was looking for. To be more specific, I was looking for illustrations that had a touch of whimsy and that had a “textured” feel, like something that felt like it was done with a watercolor, paint-stroke, or paper texture. There wouldn’t be any shading, so the graphics would be flat and wouldn’t feel 3D. The edges didn’t need to be perfect—as a matter of fact—the imperfect edge felt right, so having a brushed edge. I have an old charming home and my kitchen itself is unfinished, a myriad of houseplants wend their way in and around the stove, so quite frankly anything “too perfect” would feel out of place.

As far as colors go, I was looking for them to be a bit more saturated—but not too saturated. I wanted it to feel natural, nothing too bright or poppy, but still colorful. Again, my home, my food has color—but given that my book is about clean, sugar-free eating, there wasn’t going to be any unnatural hues coming into the illustrations!

Additionally, I knew we would be mixing and matching ingredients, firstly because they’d be added to the Meal Maps in the book, and how I use them in the Meal Maps online, so all the ingredients have to look good next to one another, so uniformity to a certain degree was integral.


This was an absolute dream job and an marvellous opportunity to really stretch myself creatively. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, including illustrating all the kitchen equipment and pantry products, as I haven't illustrated many of those before. Summer very kindly provided me with reference for every ingredient she required as we had such a small window before she presented them to her publishers. This was a huge help as there are many varieties of kale! 

As mentioned in Summers quote the 'texture' of the food icons were carefully considered from the outset and we went through several rounds to explore the perfect balance. In the end many of the PS brushes were a mixture from and ones I had created previously, that followed to contour of many of the foods to give them more depth.

Summer's book can be purchased from HERE

It's Pancake Day and 'Flipping Good' book launch

Soon after I worked on the Healthy Hedonist cover ( see my last post) I was again approached by Kyle Books  to illustrate another front cover. This time it was for a book about pancakes written by Sudi Pigott , and illustrations would also be needed for chapter openers. These would appear at the beginning of each chapter to introduce breakfast & brunch, snacks and nibbles, main meals, teatime and desserts recipes of each section.

I did set out to illustrate and hand letter the title for the front cover which went through several revisions. What I provided was taken to the Frankfurt Book Fair. However the overwhelming feedback was the cover would work better with photography. These things happen and it was time to move on to the chapter openers. I just want to add the editor very graciously and swiftly negotiated a cancellation/ kill fee as the illustrated cover route was not chosen. 

After several concepts it was decided to use simple linework to explore each chapter theme, and it would not detract from the photography ( provided by Maja Smend ) that appears throughout the book.

Here are a few words from the editor of this book, about book design and illustration...

'Every book is different – sometimes the author asks for illustration, sometimes it is something the editor is keen to include, sometimes it is the book designer who suggests it.  However the decision is arrived at, the choice of illustrator is always something we discuss with the author. Their name goes on the book, so it needs to reflect their vision for the book as well as ours. Some authors like to be closely involved, others are happy for the illustrator to be given a free rein. Illustration has come much more back into fashion recently and offers another dimension to photography.  It can give a book a distinct identity, which may be nostalgic, retro, modern, romantic, humorous, etc – and help to target a specific market.'

This book was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about illustrations for publishing. And of course I'm thrilled to see my linework appear in a cook book too.

The Healthy Hedonist book cover

Last summer I had the pleasure of working on a book cover for Kyle Books. The book was titled 'The Healthy Hedonist' and had the strap line of 'cocktail shake your way to 5 a day...take a refreshing approach to cocktail making using delicious combinations and superfoods...' The author Nicole Herft is a food stylist and chef, and has worked behind the scenes with many a celebrity chef including Tom Kerridge, Gordon Ramsay, Atul Kochar, John Whaite and The Hairy Bikers amongst others.

The majority of the book had already been complied from the photography of each cocktail recipe to the layout. I was contacted by the Senior Editor who felt the front cover would benefit from an illustrated version, as they wanted to approach Urban Outfitters, Oliver Bonas and Anthropologie, along with other major book retailers, with this title.

Time was of the essence, the deadline was incredibly tight for this brief. The author, Nicole tells her story about finding an illustrator:

'When I was told my publisher wanted to go with an illustrative version of y front cover I immediately started searching for food and drink Illustrators on Instagram. Myself and two other friends were searching simultaneously! My friend showed me Ohn Mar's work and I immediately loved it. It had a great detail, a softness and a layering that the others lacked. I forward her details to my publisher so they could find out if she was free. Lucky for me she was!'

I am so so thankful that I ALWAYS hashtag my food images on Instagram! It really paid off this time. At the launch party Nicole explained that she was able to view my Instagram feed as a informal portfolio, before heading to my website.

I was able to make several initial sketches using the photographs they provided as reference. Eventually it was settled that the cover would feature a Pea Cooler (vodka based) and a Blood Orange and Carrot Negroni, placed with a cocktail shaker and mixing spoon.I was asked to leave the top third free for the title, and much of the back cover too, although it features a carrot and a few orange slices.

I also asked the editor I worked with at Kyle Books for a few words about her approach to finding an illustrator :

'When looking for an illustrator for a book, we want the illustrations to fit with the identity of the book. We work closely with our authors and want them to have a connection with the illustrations. However, we also don't like being too prescriptive, so we like someone that can take a brief and interpret it and put their own stamp on it. And, obviously, originality! We like the illustrations in our books to feel fresh and new and exciting!

And I was thrilled to spot The Healthy Hedonist in the Regent Street branch of Anthropologie last week! I must say it did fit in rather well with the rest of the early Spring range they had on display.



New Year NEW CHALLENGE - Map a Month for they Draw and Travel

My youngest is still quite young but I'm hoping as she gets older I'll be able to take both my kids much father failed than western day Sri Lanka, Thailand, and eventually New Zealand (I have to see Hobbiton aka Matamata ) I travelled a lot before my kids and right now I have a map of the world that came free with my National Geographic subscription. Travel features a lot in my future goals.

I have submitted maps to THEY DRAW AND TRAVEL on several occasions but if I'm being honest they were very self indulgent. The reality is there will be very few art directors looking for maps of the fictional places in Pride and Prejudice, or a small corner of the British Isle that have serve Star gaze pie . I felt I had issues with making the map balanced and appealing. And I tended to add an awful lot of details to my buildings which was very time consuming. There always seemed to be other jobs or life just got in the way but I felt I hadn't given myself enough space to really pursue map illustration. However I very much wanted to attract map work.

Nate from TDAT kindly suggested I do a few maps of well known cites that everyone knew so a potential client could see my approach. So I have decided that EVERY month this year I shall be submitting a map to TDAT. In January I completed the first map in this challenge, London town. As mentioned I tend to overwork on the details so I decided on a different approach. I'm blessed with good drawing ability so I decided to make that the framework and the colour work secondary. This did help speed things up a little as I didn't pour over too many details, as long as it was in the initial brush pen drawing. 

I'm hoping over the course of the year I can add 12 new maps to my portfolio and website. I'm trusting the process that the more often I put a map together the more confident and quicker I will be. And by putting them out there someone will trust me to illustrate a map for their publication.



Branding for Marlene's Market and Deli

Last summer I was contacted by Seattle based design agency Modern Species about a rebranding project for a organic market in Tacoma. They had seen my foodie illustrations on Pinterest and felt that my approach would be perfect for their client. Marlenes Market and Deli is a natural food store that offers organic, sustainably produced foods, beauty care and household products that was established in 1976, with two stores.

We started with a Skype call to discuss the specific requirements and applications of the illustrations they needed. Much of it would be for in store promotions and signage, that could be changed seasonally. They already had a list of icons they wanted based on seasonal produce. They referred to my images that they'd found on Pinterest ( I'm going to say it again folks - Pinterest is the No 1 go to resource for commissioning art directors) and felt I was well grounded in food illustration. 

So for Spring they considered asparagus, kale, cherries, peas and rainbow chard. Summer was grapes, scallion, strawberry and watermelon. And other associated icons for Autumn and winter, along with hand lettering and a seasonal flower/ foliage.

Branding is a long process as at each stage the client needs to view and make make decisions before moving on. Starting with initial sketches, and I always like to give them a choice of say 3 versions of an acorn, the client gives feedback, I make amendments, move onto several colour versions and wait for feedback again. Often if the client is very specific in what they're wanting to see I have to factor that into my timeframe.

Modern Species were able to take my single icons and create what you see below. They wanted the ability to construct their owns patterns, by mixing and matching the various fruit, vegetable, flowers and hand lettering that I had supplied. So Marlene's promotional materials could be swapped around easily picking food icons from Spring and Fall for example.

I'm thrilled to see my art applied like this and love seeing the considered seasonal approach that this delivers. Although the branding has not been rolled across their stores I cannot wait to see a few pics of their in-store signage when they do.

4 Tips from a New Skillshare Teacher

Last month I launched my first ever Skillshare class entitled 'Food Illustration: Design your Favourite Fruity Recipe' I will admit it sure was a challenge and a long journey, before I hit that final 'publish' button. Here is the intro video to this class.

You can access the class HERE

These are my points to remember if you are considering becoming a Skillshare teacher


Do follow the step by step approach laid out by the Skillshare team. Their advice is plentiful, far reaching and sound - they really want you to succeed !!! If in doubt just email them and they are happy to help.


Think in terms of producing a project that would be EASY for you e.g. watercolour whatever  and turn it around, so you look at it from the eyes of a relative novice student. You may want to ask yourself:

-what materials or programs would they need

-how can I make the class videos as short and to the point as possible without leaving out important content

- what technique(s) will they learn

- what prior knowledge would they need for successful completion of the project ( e.g. basic Photoshop?)

Ohn Mar Skillshare drawing fruit.jpg


Make friends with the Modify>split clip> delete step in iMovie to rid videos of all there 'errs' and awkward pauses. I soon realised it was much better simply repeat the sentence again if I fluffed it than to record a whole new screencast ( where you record the screen of the Mac) When it came to editing it was much smoother.


Skillshare point out that it is vital to have 25 student enrolments in the first two weeks to show in their trending classes.  Here are some of the methods I used to bring awareness to my class:

- a week before the launch I linked my intro video (on Vimeo) to the profile of my IG to direct followers to it

- there were free class enrolment giveaways

-  I created short animation which played on a loop in IG using the food icons created for this class

-  I have reposted illustrated recipes created by students on IG to remind folks of my class 

-  had a giveaway of a set of my foodie postcards for the 1000th student to sign up


As mentioned right at the beginning it has only been a month since this first class launched however I feel that its been a worthwhile undertaking. Such has been the overwhelming positive response I felt compelled to work on another one with more guidance from Skillshare.

Again I chose a particular strength of mine which is drawing, and tried to condense it into a challenge with pen, paper and a timer. It is not a new concept but as creative sometimes we overthink and get in the way of ourselves. Committing to just drawing in three minutes can help with gaining fluency and confidence with drawing, and impact in other areas of your art life. You can watch the intro video to 3 Minute Drawing Challenge below.

And you can access this drawing challenge class HERE

One image - 2 jobs - licensing and packaging illustration

Last week I was proud to announce the launch of a cutting board set by gift manufacturer Demdaco.

demdaco BOARD2.jpg

This particular root vegetable illustration had been found on Pinterest and rearranged to fit this product artwork.

In fact this image has been referenced again and again when a new brief comes through from clients for commissioned work. Today I am pleased to announce another project has come to fruition ( pardon the pun) which again is a result of these root vegetables, first uploaded as an illustrated recipe to They Draw and Cook pinned to Pinterest.

I worked alongside Swedish branding design firm Identity Works who gave a detailed brief of what their client was requiring. The large dairy firm Arla was looking to develop packaging for a new fruit and vegetable based smoothie. As always I sketched out multiple versions of the fruit or vegetable required (carrot, mango, beetroot, grapes and orange)

From these sketches they decided which shape best suited the layout and we proceeded to the next stage for various colour and texture treatments. These in turn where developed further to give a more 3D appearance.

The separate fruit where then placed together within the glass outline (which I provided artwork for) and the smoothie (hi res photo provided by the client) Various options were considered to give the best contrast between the two fruit within each glass. And also to give the impression they were actually sitting within the liquid smoothie.

I also provided the textural elements that feature at the top of each pack and can also be seen in the background of these product shots.

As you can imagine I am absolutely delighted that a sketch initiated almost two years ago after finding a beetroot in my weekly vegetable box could ultimately lead to these projects. I'm very grateful to have been provided with two such wonderful and unique opportunities. It's taken a while but it sure has been worth every step!


Toronto Waterfront Artisan Market

I really need to ask a really big favour for folks who are in Toronto area. I worked with The Toronto Market Company again for another foodie based event. Artwork was needed for promotional material and banners for an artisan market that would be held along Toronto's waterfront.

The booths would be a mixture of food, crafts, jewelry and plant stalls. And the opening of the the event would coincide with the launch of a new cycle route along the waterfront. The concept was a bike laden with goodies ( although most are falling out) after visiting the market.

As you know I am based in the UK and I'd be eternally grateful for anyone who could take some nice photos of the banners when the market runs one weekend in June/July/August/September. Please email any snaps to

Many many thanks in advance.

Image by indie88toronto

Image by indie88toronto

Tiny steps to 'They Draw and Cook' book

As soon as Nate sent me a link to 'The Most Gorgeous Cookbook Ever' on Amazon I ordered several copies and waited eagerly for their delivery. And they did not disappoint, I was overwhelmingly excited and proud to see my work in print. It had been a long time in coming.

Lets take a look at my first submission though from March 2014...

As you can see I hadn't quite found my style and I was still working out the finer details of PS. If you followed my self imposed TDAC challenge I set myself at the beginning of last year to have 30 recipes submitted by the end of 2015 you'll remember my IG feed being full of food! One of the marvelous outcomes of drawing so much food was I became very quick at it, flitting between dip pens and brush pens, which in turn made me swifter in PS and that in turn gave me further confidence to explore and refine my style.

To reach that magic 30 took over EIGHTEEN MONTHS - the same amount of time I was pregnant my two kids. It was a true labour of love because I knew the goal was worthwhile. Each time I sat down to dip that pen in the ink for the sketching or hand lettering, played about with page layouts was a tiny step towards this book. Goals take time, in some cases some longer than others.

The most important thing is to KEEP taking those steps, however small, to make that dream happen!

I was prepared to be consistent, keeping my eye on the prize, despite the many detours, leading up to that major goal. You can use this approach in most areas of you life. If you allow yourself to take small steps, one day at a time, you are least likely to overwhelm yourself. Planning also plays an important part, plan for progress not perfection!

I don't suppose the returns from selling this book on Amazon will be huge. But I plan to send a copy to many, many art directors in the future so they can reference my style and approach, and fingers crossed send briefs my way.

You can order copies of this book from US

Or Amazon UK

Considerations for Tall Pins and (one) Easy Way to create them

Since folks found the last post about tall pins useful I've added a few more details you may want to be mindful of...

1 - Try to keep the essence of the original illustration/ pattern

This was for the Feast aspect of They Draw and Cook - the normal layout spread....but now rearranged first to this....

...but also this to make best use of viewing in different social media platforms and devices...

2) Create in 'squarish' and 'tallish' formats

3) Make it 'decorative' and appealing

4) Don't forgot your watermark logo

5) Pin all versions for better chance in searches

6) Don't forget to add a brief description to describe your work with key words when you pin

Depending on how I feel about the layout I often place PS artwork into Ai which makes it easier for me to move aspects around....especially when it comes to re-formatting image options for my website and pinning...

....I take a SCREEN SHOT of the group on the left...

....the screen shot comes out at almost 72dpi. You can leave it as it is or reduce the dimensions slightly .....

Screen shot 2015-11-22 at 19.55.58.png

....arrange the cupcakes into a tallish format and take a screen shot....

I'm sure there are other ways to set up images for portfolio websites but this method works for me. So I have just uploaded these images onto my website and pinned directly from there onto my Love Food Illustration and Food Pattern boards on Pinterest.

Screen shot 2015-11-22 at 20.00.50.png

Useful Pinterest advice for designers and illustrators

A few days ago I made a short video on Periscope about Pinterest, tall pins and foodie illustrations. As these videos are only around for 24 hours I've decided to blog about the main points I mentioned, as many folks found it very useful.

I'd like to point out one important aspect of Pinterest:  approx 80% of pins on Pinterest are repins, so the image has kind of been 'recycled' over and over which is great as that's how your work is spread, and found in searches. So only 20% of pins are 'new' - they have been DIRECTLY uploaded onto Pinterest from a website or blog or shop. I do not have any marketing background -  this blog post is just based from my own experience...and I'm not saying this is the correct way or the only way.

First of all I'd like to point out that 8.5k followers is really not that many, there are other creatives with 50k+ followers. I feel my boards are representative of my major interests as a illustrator, and the sort of work I'm wanting to attract as well. I have my own illustrations on a board first then Love Food Illustrations, Pattern and Print, Creative Cards...etc based on how many pins I have on each board.

This is my Love Food Illustrations board with its 2.2k followers -I really am a small fish. However I believe its one of the larger food illustrations boards on Pinterest.

I've circled this pin as I want to point out the TDAC layout ( and you know I have a loads of recipes on TDAC) is not the most advantageous format for Pinterest. Which leads me onto this other interesting fact. It's thought that 50 - 80% of Pinterest users use their mobile device - so that's why I think its best to maximize your artwork for different devices and social media platforms. I have blogged about 'tall pins' previously and they are still play an important part - they take up far more space on a feed so viewers would most likely linger on it (create at 72dpi approx 500px wide by approx 1500px high)

Another example of an artist reformatting their TDAC piece into a tall pin is Rachael Schafer

OMW pin15.jpg

...which ended up on this board...with over 13k followers

OMW pin16.jpg

Here we have Harriet Mellor's Infused Waters tall pin (again refomatted from a TDAC recipe layout)....

Clicking on the image will bring up this window that shows its been re-pinned 18 times (from my Love Food board) and gives the option of visiting Harriet's website. Clicking on the '18' will bring up this ....

These are the 18 boards and pinners who have pinned the Infused Waters. Note Sara Piersanti's Drinks Illustration has over 57k followers!!

Moving onto my Pattern and Print board with just 1k followers...and Nic Squirrell's tall pin of watercolour birds...

It was repinned onto this board which has 17k followers...

And as we scroll down my Pattern and Print board more of Harriet's tall pins which are proving popular...

....and scrolling down further is Victoria Johnson's Butterflies tall pin which has been re-pinned 23 times...

OMW pin11.jpg

Here are the boards it was repinned of which has over 14k followers

Now moving onto my Food Kitchen Pattern board which was created as I felt there was too much overlap with the Love Food board and I create many patterns with food myself.

As you can see Tracey English's art is very popular and was repinned onto a board with 5.7k followers

I'm not claiming that creating tall pins and having pins picked up by much bigger pinners is a guarantee of success. However because of the way Pinterest's algorithm is set up, art that has been pinned the most and most recently will come higher up in searches! That's something to bare in mind when seen from the viewpoint of a potential commissioning editor or art director.

A little bit of effort on your part could pay dividends as getting seen by the right people is surely a wonderful thing. Please be assured it does happen. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I am not a big player in the Pinterest stakes BUT as I have a food illustration niche, bigger players follow the Love Food Illustration board in particular. So if you feel inclined to create a tall pin on a foodie or pattern theme please send them my way and I will gladly pin!


Making it to 30 ILLUSTRATED RECIPES and WHY do I draw so much food?

I've just submitted my 30th illustrated recipe for They Draw and Cook, so they can consider publishing them in a book. It's been a true labour of love and far trickier than I anticipated. The trade off is I've received much work from clients seeing my ideas, and I hope they continue to check in on the TDAC site. Here are the last two recipes, for easy baguettes and Christmas gingerbread....

I think this is also a good opportunity to explore the background of my food mania. A while back Wendy Brightbill  asked what was the story behind my food illustrations, why am I attracted food more than anything else? I'm no psychologist, although this is the most probable reason and still valid even 35 years later.

If you read the 'about me' section of my website I mention immigrating from Burma to the UK when I was 5. I'd like to put Burma or Myanmar in context as its important to understand.  This is a overview from World Vision's website ( I used to sponsor a young Burmese boy via their charity)

Whichever way you look at it, Burma is very, very, poor country and that's why my parents decided to leave. My father immigrated to the UK to work as a junior doctor half a year before my sister, my mother and myself. I believe there was a period when money was extremely tight during the intervening months. I distinctly remember my mum's mum (my grandmother) turning up at the gates of our house quite unexpectedly one day and her and my mum just hugged and cried for the longest time. It turns out my mum had pretty much run out of money and all we had was a bag of rice. My grandmother had traveled 3 days from northern Burma by ferry, train and bus to feed us and hand over some of her savings. We were incredibly lucky.

So for me food is a way of showing love, kindness, support and accepting it with much gratitude. I really love to cook, sometimes simple suppers or elaborate biryani's and invite friends to share in this. And I do feel this great fondness for food on the plate and food illustration stems from that day watching my grandmother and mum at the gates. As a family we were so fortunate that my father had skills needed in the UK, so we could grew up never going hungry, with good healthcare and education. But I am always mindful of the millions of children in Burma who are not so lucky.

On November 8th, Burma goes to the polls in an election...of sorts (I will not get into politics here) but I wish for a good outcome overall for the country of my birth. Although I expect it may take many more decades to bring Burma up to the sort of democracy we may understand. Ultimately in 10-20 years time I would like to be in a position where I can help feed, nurture and educate just some of the children in Burma, so they have brighter futures. I have no idea at this present time how this will happen but it's a goal I'd like to aim for anyhow.

'FEAST' - They Draw and Cook's NEW feature

It was with great delight I welcomed the news that They Draw and Cook were now accepting ANY foodie related images to their site. Yes for 'Feast' images can be submitted without a recipe!! Some of you may have seen snippets on IG of my work in progress based on food over the last year. I do have entire food themed collections in the Surface design part of my website now.

However with 'Feast' I felt it was a great chance to pull out a elements and arrange them in the TDAC layout to showcase further the range of work I can produce. And I think a lot of designers agree as there has been a wonderful variety of kitchen and foodie art that has been recently uploaded. And of course with the added bonus of TDAC huge social media following its win/win all round. Check it out HERE

It really is so much fun rearranging cakes!! Also I am very very close to completing the They Draw and Cook Challenge I set myself earlier this year, so I can be considered for a TDAC book. Although its taken far longer than I expected, in some ways has been a good thing - I will explain further in my next blog post.

Playing with 'Creative Playgrounds'

Some of you know I take part in daily arty challenges. Last August it started with month of hand lettering daily, then a month of food, then desserts and biscuits. There was no major thought process behind them, it was to keep up with my drawing skills without engaging my brain as to its final use, if any.

I am still taking part in daily doodles #365doodleswithjohannafritz if I can, and sometimes mashing it up a daily watercolour in my moleskin and even further mashed with #alittleart that Victoria Johnson started (tiny art in any medium no bigger than 2.5") Indulge me I'm getting to the point...

It wasn't until last month when I took part in Build a Freelance Illustration Business that I realized this kind of approach has a name...'creative playgrounds' . I am simply 'playing', its done freestyle, its quick, maybe messy but I'm always having fun. I never realized that also submitting to the Spoonflower and Tigerprint competitions even taking part in Inktober and #the100day project was this 'creative playground. Submitting to They Draw and Cook...some of you know I submit to them a lot... is also a 'creative playground'  

I made a commitment to myself to just spend 10-30mins each day to explore or try something new. You simply don't know until you try how its going to turn out...that new PS brush, shifting the images to 'colour burn' or drawing with a toothpick. And the super outcome is connecting with others who are joining in too, supporting their art and vice versa.

So I said I drew without thinking too much...well I want to show you some outcomes..why its good to play.

First up are these donuts I drew at the suggestion of picture book illustrator Claire Lordon during 'dessert a day' month (November 2014)... these donuts ended up in at a foodie event banner in Toronto, each about 3 ft wide!

Next these very British biscuits were designer Harriet Mellor's request during food doodle month (October 2014)...

...which ended up in a UK adult colouring in publication earlier this year.

And just this week I started on Este MacLeod 'Explore Colour' painting course. The first assignment much to my delight was simply to draw swiftly the structure of fruits and vegetables, sections, slices, every angle. The butternut squash sketch ended up in this weeks They Draw and Cook submission.

And finally this is one of my very first doodles during hand lettering month last year (on vacation in Cornwall in a old sketchbook)....which will be appear in a publication later this year....

I feel its been truly beneficial to put ward work like this, letting go of the need to always know how the end result will pan out. Some of my doodles take days to a year to be worked into something that can be placed in my portfolio. If you would like to know more about the value of creative playgrounds watch Salli and Nate HERE

Instagram for illustrators - 10 basic tips for gaining great followers

There's a theory that goes if you perform a certain task every day for 30 days, new pathways are formed in your brain, so it becomes a habit. This can be applied advantageously to many areas of your life. I also feel this is a great approach for gaining great follows on Instagram. Today I have just over 4,600 follows...granted it's not quite as much as August Wren, but a girl has to start somewhere. I have received many enquiries via IG for commissions, some of which have transpired. There are a surprising number of art directors and editors on Instagram who may not state they are art directors and use personal accounts to follow your work !!

Instagram for illustrators

This is not a definitive guide for gaining follows - it’s based on my own personal experience since I started in September 2014. Please do not be tempted to 'buy' follows or likes - a few clicks in the profile link will reveal if someone has 200 FB follows and 10K on IG...something doesn't add up! Here are 10 quite simple tips...

1) Make art everyday. Start a habit of putting aside 10-30 mins each day to create art & post. Just a doodle, hand lettering, sketch or collage. Set yourself a monthly task perhaps - I started with pen and ink sketches of fruit and veg. I've also done 'dessert a day' for a month. Join in with #artdaily2015 or use #sketchaday#painteveryday. I've been making a quick watercolour sketch (almost) everyday for about 7 months.

2) Aim to post 2-3 times a day roughly 4/5 hours apart so followers see fresh images throughout the day on your feed.

3) Content. Folks who follow artists primarily want to see their art, but you can include things like your work materials or studio space ( as well as shoes or your coffee) Keep your feed well curated & relevant.

Instagram for illustrators 2

4) Post a mixture of old, new, & work in progress. By 'old' I mean from your website portfolio. Also any features on other blogs can be put on your profile link.

5) Caption your work - tell folks what inspired you or how it was made.

Instagram for illustrators 3

6) Like & comment other artists work, especially those who may be using the same hashtag eg surfacepattern. A comment really bouys me up even if it’s 3 hearts. Try to thank or reply to all comments.

7) Hashtag your work appropriately - the most popular ones are...#art #artist #painting #illustration #drawing #draw #sketch #sketchbook#artoftheday #instaart #instaartist #wip #artistsoninstagram #sketchbook #watercolours (or whatever medium you've used) #yourname #illustration

8) Uploading your work - send screenshots or jpegs to your phone email or Dropbox for easy uploads. If you take photos of your work use natural light.

9) Watermark your work (install iWatermark app) use the adjust/ vignette/ tilt shift function if you are worried about unscrupulous use of your art.

10) Be professional & use a positive tone. Avoid complaining or bad mouthing anyone.

Do not underestimate the power of Instagram!!  I find it very satisfying following fellow creatives and seeing everyones amazing work, which inspires me even further. Please be mindful that gaining followers takes time, be patient, keep posting good content and support other artists. If this is sustained like a good habit, the momentum will start & it will be most worthwhile.

Front Street Foods Banner - Toronto Union Station

Today will be the opening day of a 8 week long foodie event outside Toronto's Union Station. Run by the Toronto Market Company, the Front Street Foods @Union Summer will feature over 28 food and drink vendors. It will showcase some of Toronto's best chefs, restaurants, bakers, and food entrepreneurs showcasing their delectable fresh food & drink items.

I'm very excited to say I am involved with this summer venture. I illustrated the 80ft x 9ft banner that wraps around some of the food booths. When FRS first approached me we talked through some of the options for the layout of this banner - how best to maximize the dimensions. In the end it was decided that arrangement of food icons in a pattern of sorts would be best to fulfill the need to incorporate as many different foods and beverages.

One of the major considerations was the resolution of all the different images used - potentially a donut could be enlarged to over 2ft across while a raspberry popsicle could be 3 ft high !! The FSF logo also had to be incorporated at various points along the banner together with larger than life gourmet burger, tacos etc and hand lettering. Being mindful of these considerations I randomly repeated over 40 different food icons across the length of the 80ft.

As I am based in the UK I would be most grateful if anyone who lives or will be visiting Toronto between now and August 30th ( maybe during the PanAm Games?) to please email, or post any pics of this banner, and enjoying themselves at this foodie pop up.

Instagram @torontomarketco . Tag me in @ohn_mar_win 

#frontstfoods #frontstreetfoods #unionstation

Email any pics to

MANY MANY THANKS in advance !!!

Practicing watercolours with #The100DayProject

At the beginning of this year whilst making plans, I wished to take a Skillshare class on fashion illustration which would use watercolour as a medium. I had virtually no experience of watercolour, or even attempted to try it for any length of time even in my college days.

I bought myself a small watercolour Moleskine in February and decided to try a little sketch everyday. The following images are set chronologically. At first I used a small Winsor and Newton brush with their pan set. I became frustrated that pencil lines made my painting 'tight'  and overworked for some reason.

I found a happy place with a fine black Pitt artist pen - a basic outline to provide a frame gave me confidence to be looser and freer with the paint. I received a kind response from Instagram as I posted each daily sketch. It soon fell into a little routine, and I alternated between flowers, packaging and a decorative item. It's just what I have around to house, and I was just keen to explore.

My friend Stephanie Corfee suggested I might try a Pentel watercolour brush pen as the washes dry quicker and saves a lot of time. It worked a treat and I very much preferred it to the sable brush. It's also very handy to pack when you are away for weekends and want to continue with a watercolours.


Making this part of a daily routine  (usually just after I've picked up the kids & during the time they are having a snack) is something I have come to look forward to. It also shows up more clearly what I am attracted to most for subject matter- with packaging I like a slight vintage or retro vibe.

As Spring continued I was very much inspired by the seasonal flowers. Florals rarely appear in my pattern or illustration work but after drawing a few each week I have a better understanding of what specifically attracts me, and perhaps I can incorporate them in the future.

I feel studying an object in this manner everyday I can judge contrasts better, both in shapes,  colours, and tone.

When I started my daily watercolour challenge I had just under 500 followers on Instagram. But as the months have passed they have grown steadily, I know much of this is down to these watercolours. Due to the number of comments and questions I received I started using Iconosquare to keep track of everything. This is a great platform to view statistics about your content, follower growth and even when the most optimal time to post for interactions with followers (mine is apparently 2pm on a Monday or 10pm on a Thursday!!)

The above is the amount of 'likes' for my IG images (you can choose to see this grid based on amount of 'comments' too) As you can see 16 out of the top 20 are my little watercolour sketches. I still consider myself as a learner. I have not attempted to paint anything outside of the little Moleskine. I've just passed half way mark, 50 out of the 100 days. There was no prior motive other than to have fun and enjoy a quiet 20mins each day. The practice everyday also helps me to step away from my computer, its almost like having a break to recharge.

So I shall fill you in again in another 50 days and see where that takes me