Our newest Wilderness range

It seems I’ve taken an extremely long sabbatical from posting on here and I really quite miss a bit of copywriting amidst the painting, angsting and general business-tumult!  What has felt like one deadline after another for the entire year has suddenly levelled out into a moment of comparable calm (on the design front anyway).  So I thought I’d talk a bit about my inspiration for our newest range WILDERNESS.

Wilderness is something a little different for Louise Mulgrew Designs.  I’ve enjoyed painting landscapes for years, but our cards have been very animal focussed up until now as I’ve been reluctant to shoe-horn this landscapey-style of painting (that I do for the love of it) into a commercial range of cards.  I was first inspired to paint a landscape (actually a cityscape) in my third year of uni, on an A1 piece of paper masking-taped to my uni-room wall.  I’ve delved deep into the archives for a photo of this calamitous disaster and a couple of similar efforts around that time haha: see below.

They did start to get a bit better over time but I think things really started to become comfortable once I kept up practising in my sketchbook when I found myself in a beautiful place.

Since getting back from New Zealand, where I felt I really refined my reportage style (see NZ post below for images), I decided the time was ripe for a wanderlust-y card range, which we launched this summer.  There are only 8 designs in the collection so far but I have lots of thoughts for new designs and think this will just be a range that grows as and when I’m inspired.

My favourite designs so far are the most personal.  The ‘Adventure Awaits’ camper van design, which was a New Zealand scene and my own dream lifestyle, the ‘Happy Retirement’ card, which is my favourite place on the planet, the view of the downs from our rainbow hammock, the lighthouse ‘thinking of you’, which just makes me feel peaceful and is how I imagine the lighthouse from the book ‘The Light Between Oceans’ to look, and finally the ‘Bon Voyage’ pile of vintage suitcases, which my boyfriend has many of in his music studio.

I’ve been blown away by the response to this style (maybe everyone’s just very relieved to have a break from my animals :o) and am excited to develop a range of prints from the collection as well!

From A Newbie To A 2 Year Old: Reflections On Being Self-Employed

Here is one of my newest articles for Aura Creative. I talk about what I’ve learned in the just over two years I’ve been in business:

I’ve just finished my third Spring Fair, which marks two official years of business. How??? All trade shows are a good opportunity to reflect on what’s working for you and what isn’t; take stock; be inspired; catch up with friends and remind yourself you aren’t the only person in the world trying to do this; get re-motivated if the fire in your belly has dwindled after months of solitary studio time. But Spring Fair is especially reflective. It’s long and huge and my business birthday. Here are some rambling, honest thoughts and observations after two-ish years of Louise Mulgrew Designs.

1. You can’t be new and different forever. Some friends have recently started their own card publishing business and their cards are EXCELLENT. They launched at Spring Fair, exactly two years after me and I knew they’d just kill it. I’ll admit I felt a twinge or jealousy for a moment. I’m only two years in and many moons off being “established”, but I’m also not quite the “new, fresh, different” that I was before. Most people in the world still haven’t seen our cards, but there are many more “ooh I’ve seen these somewhere” comments than there used to be. That’s so brilliant! But it just represents a subtle shift that I’m finding hard to explain: we’re just beginning to mature from newborn cardie babies to toddler terrible-two-hood and it’s a bit sad and a bit amazing.

See the rest of the article at:


New Zealand

I’ve just arrived home from a two-week road trip through the South Island of New Zealand and it was the most epic, spectacular adventure of my life and one I’ll never forget.  We flew on Boxing Day, arriving in Auckland on 28th where we stayed for four nights, including New Year’s Eve.

The view over Christchurch from Mt. Eden

We are massive foodies/coffee lovers so we pretty much spent the time here eating our way round the Asian food offerings, going to amazing breakfast spots and strategically timing our coffee stops so that we could have at least three a day at various trendy hipster establishments.  It was actually pretty quiet in Auckland as all the locals were taking time off over Christmas and New Year to travel south.  New Years eve was a bit of a flop – predictably.  We were so jet lagged still, but determined to go out and be interesting, instead of finishing the third series of Peaky Blinders in bed with take away sushi.  We started too early though, and after a hilarious three hours we ended up back in bed at 10pm.  Our hotel overlooked the Sky Tower that had the most spectacular firework display (I found out from my Mum the next morning who’d seen them online) – we were sound asleep through the entire thing.  We also got the ferry over to Waiheke Island whilst we were in Auckland, which was absolutely beautiful in door-to-door sunshine.

On 1st Jan we flew down to Queenstown to start our road-trip up through the South Island.  Queenstown was my favourite town/city that we saw.  We immediately collected the car and drove around Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy.  Again it was glorious sunshine and the views driving around the lake were like nothing I’ve seen in my life.  This was the first of many spectacular drives – my favourite being the one between Queenstown and Wanaka the next day.

Wanaka in the top row and the most amazing view during the drive between Queenstown and Wanaka

The scenary seemed to change every 5 minutes like different chapters in a book.  One minute the road was steep and winding with imposing mountains on either side and then suddenly it would open out and you could see for miles.  The colours of the trees and the mountains and the fields and lakes changed so much.  In Wanaka it felt very green and yellow where as Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki, the day after, were every shade of purple and navy.

Queenstown, Mount Cook, and a little peppermint flavoured caravan called Myrtle that we drove behind for a couple of hours

The hour we spent at Lake Pukaki was the best hour of the trip for me.  We had miles of lakeside to ourselves.  The water was so clear and cold and silent.

Lake Pukaki at 8am

On the 4th we arrived in Christchurch after a brief visit to the seaside town Akaroa.  This was our first cloudy weather and we had two night’s here so I spent it catching up on work and it was also the best vegan sushi of the trip.  New Zealand is the place to travel if you’re a fussy vegan like me!  Most places have brilliant vegan and veggie options and sometime even more than just one!

We then drove up to Kaikoura which was another absolute highlight! We expected it to be quite stuffy and touristy but it felt really relaxed and quirky and small.  Our first morning there we went dolphin watching where we saw hundreds of wild dusky dolphins and beautiful albatross.  Seasickness was a bit of a distraction for Mike but I had a great time haha!

The next day we went in search of seals.  We couldn’t find them where we expected them to be, but we did see them further along the coast.  At this point we were at the top of the cliff and they were on the rocks below.  Somehow I was persuaded to scale this cliff on my bum, clinging onto tufts of grass and swearing a lot.  It was worth it to be amongst these wild seals.  There were hundreds of them; so many families and babies.  Eventually we were chased off by an alpha male 🙂

A terrible attempt at photographing the seals top left (they’re camouflaged), and Mike and I before our traumatic decent to the seals

Unfortunately I’m the worst photographer in the world, second only to Mike, so we were never quite able to capture the magic of it all.  I wish I had more paintings to show for the trip as well – there were so many inspiring sights, but with so much driving and eating and walking and swimming to squeeze in, I didn’t get many more opportunities.  I loved the special moments I did spend drawing though, on hotel floors, beaches, ferries and forests.  My ‘travel kit’ is not very travel-freindly I must admit, but I’m refining it with each trip so that it is a bit more portable.  I use a water brush if I can’t get hold of a water pot, but these paintings are always more scruffy (like the trees in the painting below).  But otherwise I just bung all my gouache, watercolour and ink pots into a plastic tupaware and carry round a sketchpad of watercolour paper and disposable pallet sheets… although I often just use the side of the drawing as my pallet!

We’d planned to go from Kaikoura to Nelson after the seals but the East Coastal highway between Kaikoura and Nelson turned out to be closed because of a storm so we had a long drive ahead of us, travelling in-land instead.  This clearly was meant to be, because we stumbled across these incredible hot springs in Maruia when driving through the rainforest and ended up spending a night here.  It felt like something out of Jurassic Park! There weren’t any dinosaurs but we were eaten to pieces by sandflies!

Maruia Springs

When we reached our bnb in Nelson, the view was, yet again, incredible!  We had an amazing evening swim in the ocean and got the ferry across to Wellington the next day, where the rain really set in!  Wellington is coffee capital and sushi heaven so we ate and drank as much as we could justify before the big long horrific journey back to the UK!  Mike was alright – he only flew to Australia!  I’m still waking up at 3 each morning but NZ was just the best that there is on this planet and the absolute trip of a lifetime!