Horror Hogs and The Dressing Up Box

Wow! This year is going so fast. Here we are in August and it is only (checks calendar…) 7 weeks until I start my MA at Aberystwyth University. My funding has been approved, and I can see the building from the study window.

I have been preparing for this by drawing daily, and creating a series of quick daily doodles of my guinea pigs in dressing up situations, from film, music and TV series. I could spend weeks on one drawing, but I know that I lose interest quickly that way and I want to develop the style that I am currently working with. I am aware that my future tutors may not like it, but with their advice I can make it work.

My other half, Ashley, has also been teaching me the ropes with Instagram so that I can manage my own page, and try to get more interest in my drawings. My business cards also arrived, and the shop is now fully functioning on Facebook (sorry WordPress… you charge WAY too much for now).

How have you been? Its cooler and all the pigs are well. Swsi, however, has been having her morning zoomies and discovered she can do a ‘wall of death’ up the haybag and almost escape. She would if she didnt sit at the top in mid air and think ‘how did I get here?’

Anyway, here are some images I have been working on. Can you spot the reference? As always, thank your for your support and interest in my work. I have had a few enquiries about commissions which is fantastic and many of which have a horror theme. THANK YOU.

Swsi and the ‘Finished’ Five Freedoms

Hello! I hope all readers are enjoying the sunshine or have found somewhere to hide during this heatwave. Derek is struggling (much like his Mom) and I have a few updates!

Firstly, we have been joined by the wonderful Swsi (Susie, but a punkier spelling to suit her hair and attitude!). She is only a baby, but Derek and Thelma were (I think) missing a third companion. We tried to rescue but there weren’t any female guinea pigs available in Wales, and Midlands based rescues were (understandably) reluctant to allow an almost 3 hour car journey. They have so far bonded well, and seem to be enjoying life together. The heat and Swsi’s endless popcorning has been a bit much though for Thelma and Derek.

Secondly, I have been involved in a really great project recently. As you may remember, I am a previously qualified Registered Veterinary Nurse. Although I left the profession, it is still very close to my heart and I have been keen to find a way of still having a voice for animals.

I was approached by a member of the BVNA council about working together on an educational project for schools, and I was delighted to be asked. It has given me an opportunity to combine my interersts in drawing and animal welfare, and has been fun too!

The projects aim was to illustrate The Five Freedoms through animals that are commonly kept as classroom pets. For those who do not know, the Five Freedoms are the standard of care that should be given to all animals for their welfare.

These freedoms are;

  1. Freedom from fear and distress
  2. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  3. Freedom to express normal behaviour
  4. Freedom from pain, inury and disease
  5. Freedom from discomfort

The Five Freedoms, prismacolour pencils, Hollie Smith 2022

Chicks, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and tortoises are commonly kept in the classroom. Whilst it would be difficult to ban this practice, it is important to know that all animals are getting the best care, and that people understand that not all animals have the same care requirements.

I wanted the images to be recognisable and understandable for both younger and older primary school children, and appeal to the adults too. I used my own style and my trusted prismacolour pencils for the illustrations, and tried to encapsulate the content of each freedom.

I hope that you like them, and remember to stay safe in this weather.

Derek, Thelma and the Jubilee

GoFundMe

Wow! Firstly I would like to say how grateful we are and suprised by the donations we have so far recieved for our GoFundMe campaign. Its a HUGE help and means we are almost at the 10% target with £70 of donations. HOORAH!

For every £50 we get, Derek has volunteered to let you see a part of his body up close. So far, we have seen his nose. Thelma will get involved too, and has promised chin rubs for everyone!! FYI, I am also saving my pennies and will top up the £1000 target to make sure we get those copies printed!

We have also discussed UK printing which I think is important. I would prefer to support printers in the UK than outsource, even though I do understand why that is often done in the publishing industry. This would make the turnaround quicker too.

Facebook

I have now set up a Hollie Smith Illustration facebook page so that you can see my drawing updates, and what we are up too in the artistic world. I am coming away from personal use of facebook as much as I can, but I would like to push the artwork, the pigs and the book as much as possible.

Facebook: Hollie Smith Illustration

Derek, Thelma and the Jubilee

Whilst we arent royalists, the guinea pigs either are or they simply want to keep up to date with the social calendar. Here they are getting into the spirit of things. Thelma is also reminding Derek he is NOT the boss.

Enjoy your bank holiday celebrations, and come back soon for more updates!

Dont forget to visit the GoFundMe site too, and please donate or share.

GoFundMe

Online Sales and GoFundMe

Today, we recieved the online sales for the eBook of The Great Guinea Pig Adventures.

The LONG awaited online sales (eBook) information was dissapointing to say the least. The guinea pigs and I are obviously disheartened, especially Derek who is saddened to learn he wont be having his own yacht anytime soon.

Firstly (and most importantly), we would like to thank anyone who took the time and money to buy a book, in whatever format. We hope you enjoyed it, of course.

This does prove, however, that people still want to read a paperback copy to a child, despite the advice of the professionals. I want to read a paperback copy and keep it on a shelf, not find the digital device with a tiny screen that needs charging, or updating (if thats how it even works these days!). Paperback copies are also more inkeeping with the traditional illustration techniques that I used.

Our original plan was to use any money from the sales of the eBook to partially fund a run of paperback copies. This is not going to be possible anymore, so I am (tentatively) suggesting a GoFundMe page to raise the money. So…

Please Go Fund Me!

I know our cause is not as worthwhile as others, and I wouldn’t normally do this. However, we have had SO many requests for paperback books and so much support for more, that now is the time to act.

As we all know, money is sacred these days. If you can donate, you will recieve your signed copy of the book once it is available, and Derek says you can stroke him… for a second or two. Thelma will accept a chin rub.

Importantly, the books would take several months to be printed as larger print runs are not done in the UK (a sad fact, I know). We will all have to be as patient as we have been so far, and know that we are forever grateful for your support, and for helping to spread the word that guinea pigs are awesome.

“No Thelma. All the money we raise on GoFundMe is for the book, not pampering!”

Faberystwyth and the Five Freedoms

Hello and bore da from wonderful Wales!

Its Hollie here and I am updating you from the coastal town of Aberystwyth in Wales. We finally found somewhere to live, and have now unpacked and started settling into our new life. We have both started our new jobs, we finally got the internet and today I am sitting down to draw!

I have been asked to help illustrate a document for The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, as part of a campaign in schools. I think this is a fantastic idea, and I am really pleased to be involved as I get to bring my love of animals and previous job as a Veterinary Nurse together with my desire to be an illusrator.

Today, I have been working on some thumbnails (which will remain a secret for now!) and I have been using the resident guinea pigs as inspiration.

The guinea pigs seem to be very happy here by the way, and are getting used to Nigel the resident seagull, and his early wake up calls. They have also learnt that the fridge is near their house, and they have started having more meals. How dare we rattle a plastic bag and not give them something to eat!?

Update you soon with some approved images!

Vanity Publishing

Hello readers!

We are still looking for a home in Wales after a few set backs, and applying for jobs and transfers in the local area. I have not been drawing much because we have all been a bit stressed, but I am feeling more inspired now to create.

In the meantime, I would like to discuss Vanity Publishing with you, as I have been asked if my book is a form of this.

What is Vanity Publishing?

Vanity Publishing is a term used to describe books that are published at the owners expense. The work becomes property of the publishing house, and there is no selection criteria.

I submitted my initial drawings and manuscript to several publishing houses; some were more vigorous than others! I loved the style of Little Steps though, and I was thrilled when they agreed to work with me. I worked with various members of their team to refine the manuscript, style and design for the final book and the audience, but continue to own 100% of the rights to my work. The Great Guinea Pig Adventures, therefore, is NOT a form of vanity publishing.

Little Steps have provided the following statement;

Vanity publishers and self-publishing firms do not have any kind of selection criteria when it comes to the books they publish. All of our submissions are reviewed by our publisher and editorial team, to see whether they fit into our list before being accepted. We pursue books that we will be proud of and that have potential to become successful. We are proud of the Little Steps name and will never ever publish a title that does not meet our standards”.

Yes, I admit there are fees that needed to be paid when signing a contract for the publishing process to be completed. And yes, I am lucky that I have a partner who wanted to support my dreams, both emotionally and financially. Without him, none of this would have ever been a reality.

Why not just pay for paperbacks?

An eBook is a cheaper outlay, and less of a risk for a first time author and illustrator. That’s why we chose this route, and because I had no idea if anyone would want to read about my guinea pigs, or if children even read books anymore! I would always prefer to read a paperback copy of a book to a child, but that requires more money (of which I do not have). There is money to be made in the career, but as Little Steps said at the start of this journey, you won’t be on a yacht with Elton John anytime soon.

Little Steps have, however, helped me to get the best out of my product. If I sell my books through me, I retain 100% of the profit and can eventually pay back the initial outlay. If I sell through Little Steps, I get 80% of the royalties. We are waiting for the biannual sales figures before we make any further decisions about a large print run. It would have to be printed outside of the UK, and it would take a long time to be received.

If you want to know anymore about the behind the scenes process, please feel free to contact me. I am immensely proud of the product I created with Little Steps, and if it never sells another copy again, I know it did what I set out to do…. to pay tribute to the guinea pigs I have loved and lost over the years, and to tell the world just how AMAZING guinea pigs are.

Masters and 100 Miles in March

March 2022

We have BIG NEWS!

Hollie has been accepted to study an MA in Fine Art (Illustration) at Aberystwyth University in summer 2022. We are all really excited – we (the guinea pigs) are packing our suitcases and getting ready for the beach (which we assume will be like Miami) with beach bodies at the ready!

What?! What do you mean it will be raining? Where the hell is Wales? Oh… bloody hell Mom!!

Mom is hoping that postgraduate funding is as smooth as our fur when we have been brushed and bathed, and that it all works out well. Dad, or Ashley, will be moving with us and so they will both be transfering jobs or starting new ones. We have heard that Aberystwyth is a lot of fun, but Mom wont be partying like the old days with pub golf and freshers events. She will be sitting down in the evening with her slippers on, and a nice cup of tea. And hopefully visiting her friend, Ingrid, who she saw recently after 10 years and marvelled at how it felt like no time had passed at all. We cant wait to meet her either – lets just hope she has some greens for us!

Moms job at Tescos have been really supportive and encouraging, so the next step is to find our new crib with panoramic views and an all you can eat buffet every day, and get moving! We are NOT looking forward to the car journey. Bewdley to Kidderminster was enough of a shock for us, so 2.5hours is going to be tough guys!

In other news, Mom just started her 100 miles for WWF in March. So far, she has raised £65 towards this thanks to generous and kind people, and hopes to raise £100. They will be doing most of the walking in Iceland, which they leave for on Friday.

Here is me, Derek, helping Mom start her journey. Lots of love guys, and thank you for all the photos of your little ones reading the book. We heard that someone wanted to go as us to World Book Day and (I mean, Mom blubbed at that idea) we want to say that it is super cool to be a guinea pig, and more people need to know how awesome we are. So thank you. From the bottom of our furry feet.

The Great Guinea Pig Adventures Inspiration

In November 2021, we were featured on the Little Steps Publishing website with an article about the inspiration for The Great Guinea Pig Adventures. Have a read by clicking the link below, and thank you for stopping by.

https://www.littlestepspublishing.co.uk/blog/inside-the-inspiration-for-the-great-guinea-pig-adventures-with-hollie-smith

Louise

December 2021

Hello readers! I have some news to share with you; both good and sad. I’ll start with the good news…

The Great Guinea Pig Adventures has started to get its first reviews in, and I’ve managed to sell 48 of 50 physical copies from a limited print run!! A huge thank you to those who have brought the book in whatever capacity, and to those who have shared a review with me.

“The book has very good illustrations and good word choice. It has ambitious vocabulary, and lots of people would enjoy reading this wonderful book. I like the fact that Louise, Derek and Thelma go out and do all of the things they haven’t been able to do for ages. The fact that on the last page there is a cliffhanger makes the book very exciting. It also makes you want to read another book in the series and find out more. I recommend this book to lots of people over the world because it is very exciting and it is perfect for guinea pig lovers.” Erin, 8 years old.

“I think the book is amazing, and it will sell like kaboom!” Jessica, daughter of the wonderful vet who looks after the stars of the book.

“Brilliant book and beautifully illustrated. Lovely story of the three Guinea Pigs coming out of lockdown and what they get up to!” Netty, future mother in law and Grandparent to the Guinea pigs.

Sadly, with this wonderful news, comes some very sad and tragic news. On 2nd December 2021, Louise (our little one eyed pirate) sadly passed away. She became unwell the day before, and despite ours and her best efforts, we agreed it was kinder to say goodbye to our little girl. Anyone who has had Guinea pigs will know they deteriorate rapidly. They are natural prey animals, so maintain a healthy composure until, sadly, it is too late. Derek and Thelma are coping ok, and are being given extra love and cuddles.

Louise came to me as a rescue, with her sister, Thelma. Originally called Elsa, Louise became the protector of the group and kept Derek firmly under control. Despite her unknown start, she grew to love a cuddle and understood that we did not pose any threat to her or her friends. Her daily patrols of the cage allowed her to be in prime position for food, often greeting us at the pig-nic bench with her paws on the seat.

We will all miss her dearly, but I am so pleased she got to feature as a main character in a book- not bad for a rescue pig. I hope she continues to have adventures at rainbow bridge, and that my other Guinea pigs look after her.

Now for some of her best bits…