Review: One Year Wiser by Mike Medaglia

One Year Wiser by Mike Medaglia “ Wise words, illustrated: From the Buddha to Anne Frank ”

In One Year Wiser, the wisdom of the world’s great thinkers is brought to life in the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of Huffington Post blogger and Zen Buddhist practitioner Mike Medaglia.

From Rumi to Roosevelt, the Buddha to Martin Luther King Jr., the illustrated meditations that fill this book will help you beat stress, be positive and appreciate the moment.

One Year Wiser is a book to fire your imagination, inspire change and guide you back to the here and now.

Taken from the publisher’s website.

One Year Wiser by Mike MedagliaHappy New Year! I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the perfect time to post this review; what better time than the New Year?

Now, if you’ve read my blog, you know that I mention Mike Medaglia a lot, not just because he is my friend and colleague but because he is also a wildly talented and inspiring individual – and now he has a book!

One Year Wiser is a beautiful collection of daily inspiration, delivered in the form of illustrated quotes from the likes of Rumi, Picasso, Thomas Jefferson and my personal favourite, Catherynne M. Valente (which can be found on September 13th). The illustrations are textured and really bring the quotes to life in beautiful muted tones (with the occasional splash of bright colour making them pop!). Using a mixture of traditional line work, digital colouring, and rich texture each illustration is the perfect way to start the day.

This wouldn’t be an Elou Carroll Review without mentioning the book’s production – it’s a beautiful little object with hand-drawn endpapers (naturally), a bit bigger than a postcard and wonderfully weighty (you can feel the wisdom in that weight!). The cover is textured, a nod to the use of texture in the illustrations in its interior, with spot varnish to finish. Its head an tail bands cleverly coloured to match the title, and a ribbon so you will never lose your place. It’s a lovely little book – perfect for gifting! As I’m a bit of a production nut, I love it, and I was beyond impressed when I saw it.

One Year Wiser by Mike Medaglia

If you’re looking for a daily dose of wisdom, a lovely design, beautiful illustrations and a lot of inspiration, One Year Wiser is the perfect little book for the task.

Illustration: The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia BascomHello, Elou. You know that time you illustrated a book and completely forgot to tell anyone about it? Yeah. We’re going to blog about that now. Finally.

We’re going to take a trip back in time, back to May of this year (2015). In May, a book was released. A book I created the artwork for…

And somehow completely forgot to blog about. Well done, Elou. Top form.

For those of you who don’t know, I work as a Production Designer for Jessica Kingsley Publishers and its imprint Singing Dragon. I spend my days making books look pretty, correcting books while they go from manuscript to finished product, printing books that are low in stock, taking photos of books for the work Instagram… – it’s a lot of books. Occasionally, when I’m lucky, I also get to illustrate them!

Once upon a time, lovely author Julia Bascom (before she was an author, I think) wrote a blog entry about what it’s like to have autism. This blog entry grew in momentum, being read and shared by autists and neuro-typicals alike until one day lovely commissioning editor Rachel Menzies decided to turn it into a fully-illustrated, 4-colour JKP book!

So in it came, and after any necessary editorial tinkerings, it was passed on to Production where it fell into the laps of two budding Production Designers, Francesca Sturiale (who is yet to have a website but informs me she will get around to making one at some point) and Emma Carroll (that’s me!) – at this point, it was Emma, as it was pre-illustration; Elou is the moniker I give my creative work but Emma is the name I go by at work-work and life outside of making pretty things – Fran on typography and page layout, and little ol’ me, after a series of meetings and discussions about what this book could look like (it was an important book and we wanted to get it right), on artworking!

Normally, when a book is commissioned at JKP, the commissioning editors tend to either already have an illustrator on board or have one in mind, or they write up a brief and offer it up in house. In this case, lovely commissioning editor Rachel had an idea. It wasn’t briefed as such, instead we were told it should be colourful, playful, abstract – and we ran with it.

This book threw me completely out of my comfort zone. If you’ve been following my Inktober posts, you know that my drawings are often whimsical and liney and very much not abstract but I love a good challenge. I put on my digital painting boots, grabbed my tablet and leapt into Photoshop – never to be seen again. And the rest, as they say, is history.

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)

Well, it’s not. I am going to elaborate a bit, firstly:

Tools and materials

The images were created in Photoshop using the following things.

  • Standard hard-edged round brush at 20% opacity, 30% flow
  • Standard hard-edged round eraser at 20% opacity, 30% flow
  • The custom warp option under the move tool
  • Textures including: rough paper, concrete, wallpaper and, at one point, a leaf
  • Wacom Intuos and Bamboo tablets

Pretty simple, but also pretty time-consuming due to using such low opacities. The low opacity, and the time it took to build up the colours, was worth it though, without it the images wouldn’t have such lovely soft lines and ‘fadey bits’ (a technical term) around the edges. Of course, I could have used a soft brush but the feel would have been very different (I did dabble when I was first doodling out ideas).

The style stayed pretty much the same from first drafts to end results; at first, the illustrations had more facial features and little arms but it was decided they needed to be a bit more abstract than that. The eyes and mouths were something I wanted to keep to make the figures more approachable.

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)


Throughout the artwork, there are only four colours: blue, orange, pink and a deep burgundyish (and white, if that counts as a colour, it’s up for debate), with small dabs of brown in one lone image. I loved the stark contrast between the warm tones and the blue, and having one stand-out colour is a good focal point on a page – the blue is indicative of some of the content, which carries through to the typography and simple backgrounds, as well as being integral to the illustration.

The colours were a learning curve, first drafts were all incredibly colourful – I took a USE ALL THE COLOURS approach, which was a little over the top. Don’t get me wrong, lots of colours can work for some projects but this was not one of them. After a little chit, a little chat and a fair amount of guidance from Art Editor Extraordinaire Mike Medaglia (potentially before he disembarked the good ship production and emigrated to editorial island, I forget), which I have stuck to ever since, I picked out my little pallet with the help of Fran and recoloured everything (layer masks saved my life). It was the best decision we could have made.

Prior to this I was just thinking ‘pretty’, when I should have been thinking of the implications of using every colour imaginable – in this case, it was confusing and made it difficult for the eye to work out where it should be looking. Like I said, learning curve.

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)

A spread from The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom, artwork by Elou Carroll (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015)

Several drafts and a few rounds of corrections later, the files whizzed off to our colour printers in China and the books were delivered to our warehouse, almost selling the entirety of our US stock pre-publication date!

If you want to see more, this book would make a pretty nifty Christmas present (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It can be purchased in both ebook and print formats via the JKP website, but also Waterstones, Amazon and bricks-and-mortar bookshops!

Inktober ’15: Week Five

I did it! I stuck to my schedules (almost, we can ignore the bit where I went on holiday – I stuck to my schedules after that), I completed a project and I am happy with most of the things I created during said project. I will definitely be doing this again next year!

Week five included more brush pen experimentation, the completion of a video game and therefore another piece dedicated to it, Halloween, and returning to my biro-ie roots.

Click to enlarge!

There will be one more Inktober-related post, once I have had time to reflect. Until then, you will find me behind a sketchbook. Still.

Inktober ’15: Week Four

It may be a week late but this afternoon, I proudly return to the blog to present to you the penultimate week of Inktober. During this week, I used brush pens for the first time, got very excited about coloured biros and drew many whales. Go me!

The final Inktober weekly roundup will appear tomorrow and some extras will appear on the blog after that. Hooray.

As ever, click the images to enlarge them.

Inktober ’15: Week Three

I can hardly believe it myself… but I have made it through Week Three. Well, two weeks plus not-really-a-Week One. Over halfway through, regardless. It’s impressive when we consider my knack for saying I will do things and then ending up horrendously busy. I have decided that Sundays are messy days.

So far, I’ve not really used my list very much. I will be trying to rectify that this week. But not today, today I might try some realism. Who knows, I’ve not started it yet. We shall see.

My moleskine is looking very healthy. As ever, click to enlarge.

Inktober ’15: Week Two

I love October. I love the way the leaves change colour, I love the way the sky lights up when the sun rises and sets, I love that there is a holiday based on everything weird and wonderful (with strong folklorey roots). October, possibly tied with September though I am not sure, is my favourite month.

Now that I’m on the 12th day of Inktober, I have another reason to love October: I get to create something every day. I could do this any month, of course, but having a deadline and a specific tool to slot into each piece means that I am actually doing it. At the end of Week Two, I am feeling driven, and a little bit smug. I like it.

This week, I expanded my Letraset collection by buying some blacks and a basic set of bright colours. I’ve only used colour in one image so far but am also planning on it for today’s. We shall see. Pretty much killed the two lighter grey markers that I only bought when the project started. I also got more likes on Instagram for a doodle, which I allowed myself only because of how big the day before’s piece was, than I have for my favourite Inktober illustration (I am feeling a little bitter about that, why did it have to be that one?) and almost every other come to mention it. Wonder of wonders, I ended up creating a non-Inktober related drawing as a gift, which I was very proud of.

My true triumph this week, however, was a really real background. That’s right! You read correctly! I actually drew a background, and I will be trying for another today. I really hope it wasn’t a one-time-only deal. Gulp.

As ever, click to enlarge. Enjoy!

Day six was created for a campaign currently being run by the publishing house I work for, using the hashtag #AnxiousMe! See twitter for details. You could win a comic, so you should totally check it out.

Day ten is a tribute to a beautiful game called Child of Light, which everyone should play and love, for it is incredible. Thank you to the male person for buying it for me! :)

Inktober ’15: Week One

Happy Monday! As of last night, I have made it through not-really-a-Week One of Inktober. I am proud of myself, and shocked by the amount I have fallen in love with my materials. Last Thursday, before beginning my jaunt into the realm of ink and glory, I skipped off to the London Graphic Centre to buy some markers, a white gel pen, some fine liners and a shiny new Moleskine. I came away with three teeny tiny Microns and a set of Ice Grey Letraset Promarkers, as well as the aforementioned Moleskine; I am in love.

I’d never used markers before, and I am still getting used to them, but they are now a firm favourite in my artistic arsenal. Excellent.

Anyway, without further ado (and before I descend into a love-rant), here are the first four of my Inktober images. Hooray! (click to enlarge)

See you next Monday for Week Two!

Inktober ’15

In true Elou fashion, I have decided to leap back into this creative-activity and blogging revival head first and challenge myself. Really challenge myself. I’ve previously mentioned my inability to stick to schedules in my personal creative and bloggy sphere, and, as such, have decided to give myself not one but two. Oh.

As of tomorrow, once I have skipped out of the office to buy a new sketchbook and hopefully some creative tools, I will be embarking on Inktober. For those who don’t know, Inktober is an art challenge in which you create a new piece every single day in October using some variation of ink (schedule number one); for me, this will probably mean a lot of biro but I am hoping to experiment. To my knowledge, there isn’t an existing list of things to draw, so I am creating my own. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

To avoid clogging my blog with a new post every day (cue schedule number two), I will be posting weekly round-ups on Mondays, including images from Monday to Sunday of the week before (Thursday to Sunday of this week!), and this entry will turn into a master post of sorts. Excellent.

If you want to follow my Inktober in real time, you can follow my Instagram or my (currently empty) snazzy, new Tumblr – I thought it was about time I made one specifically for my arty endeavours, rather than just using my junk tumblr. I will be intermittently posting older photography, doodles and other art-like things. Excuse its current emptiness.

If you’re also cannon-balling into Inktober, let me know in the comments so I can follow your progress! Happy doodling!