Made By Mrs M

Day in the Life - Karen Murray - A Rose Cast

Day in the Life, Drawing, PaintingKate Marsden


Hi, I’m Karen, the illustrator and designer behind A Rose Cast. I create stationery, jewellery and art prints featuring my watercolour illustrations. Most of my pieces are focused around young women with unnaturally dyed hair, piercings and tattoos. I also have a line of products named Wild Sofa Beasts dedicated to my cats and other adorable animals. Here’s a little look at a typical day for me.

I get up at 7:30. I want to sleep later but, as one of my cats (we have three), Toby, literally jumps up and down on me until I get up every morning. First off is getting myself and the cats breakfast, and while I try to rouse my brain into working (thanks to coffee) I’ll have a quick little look around social media and see what’s up.

A little before 8:30 I start the work day by reviewing my plans. I always have a thousand things to do and remember, so I use a custom bullet journal to track everything. Yesterday I wrote down what I wanted to get done today, so I’ll have a quick look over and see what I want to tackle first. I go for one of two options that will make the rest of the day more manageable; something creative or I "eat the frog". By doing something creative and enjoyable first off, I find myself more productive and cheerful for the rest of the day. But some days there is a massive task (or loads of little ones) that just needs out of the way or it’ll hold itself over me, so I force myself to "eat the frog" and get it off my to-do list.

Thankfully today is a "something creative” day. These are always the best mornings. At the moment, I’m working on more greeting cards featuring my colourful ladies, so I look through my sketch notebook and find some rough little thumbnails illustrations I did last week that I want to turn into fully fleshed out products. Loading up Netflix on my laptop (this helps me focus and not get distracted by social media), I grab my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and start refining the ideas into proper sketches. I used to do this all on paper, but find sketching on the iPad helps cut out a few steps (re-sketching onto fresh paper if the original gets too tatty, scanning, doing edits in Photoshop until I’m happy …). I have a little break at 10:30 to get washed an dressed, but other than that, I sketch and refine my ideas for a few hours.

Once I’m happy with a sketch and feel it needs no more edits, I print it out at the size I need. But now it’s a little after noon and time for a nice lunch.

Now that I’m fed, I set up my lightbox and trace the printed sketch with clean lines onto a piece of watercolour paper.

Now I’m ready for painting. I usually work on at least two pieces at once, so that I can switch between them as one dries, building up layers of tone and colour. Sometimes I have a colour scheme planned out, other times it’s very spur of the moment. Today, I’m literally painting a bit and then figuring out the next colour to add, and it’s thankfully working out really well. Once I think I’ve got my painting the way I want it, I’ll take a break to feed the cats (it’s now 2:30 and they are giving me cuddles, which really means they are hungry) and let the paper dry as much as possible.

When I’m sure of this, I break out a few different types of pencils (I mostly used B to 5B) and put down some lines and shading. This helps really define the illustration and let’s it pop from the paper My thickest, darkest line is always around the figure I’ve drawn; I think this style of separating the figure from the background is something I picked up as a massive Mucha fan in high school (in general I’m a big Art Nouveau fan). Tomorrow I’ll scan them into the computer, clean them up a little (again, thanks to the iPad Pro and Pencil) and this new birthday card will be finished. She’ll be up on my Etsy store before long.

For the last little bit of the day I quickly queue a few social media posts (I’m not brilliant at self-promotion, so find scheduling it and doing them in quick bursts helps me loads). Then review my monthly and weekly plans/to-do lists and decide what tasks I have for tomorrow. I also have a few orders to pack, both for online customers and for Studio Souk store I sell through in my hometown of Belfast, so I package them up, ready to go tomorrow.

And that’s my working day done. Other than making dinner and a chore or two, the rest of the night is spent catching up on a TV show my partner and I are watching, and then a little reading before bed