Emma Block Illustration


The creative life of an illustrator living in London

2017 in Review


It’s that time again, the year in review blog post! I’m terrible at remembering what I’ve done in a year, and tend to think I haven’t done much of anything, which is why I’ve got my diary out so I can go through the year month by month and remind myself of all the exciting stuff that’s happened. My hopes for 2017 were to grow my business in bold new directions (hello book deal!) but also to achieve more work-life balance and spend more social time with my husband and friends. I’m very happy to say I think I’ve done it!

emma block year in review


My year started off with some pretty exciting work as I traveled to Berlin in January to live illustrate for SisterMAG. In January I started hosting my own watercolour and brush lettering workshops at West Elm. Until then I had been running workshops for soemmmebody else, and taking sole responsibility for teaching, promoting and running workshops was a little bit scary. I kept having dreams that I hadn't sold any tickets or that I turned up without any materials. I’m happy to say neither of those things happen and I have now taught a whole year of sell-out workshops at West Elm. I’m very excited to be adding some new workshops to my repertoire next year, including my gouache workshop which has already been very popular. I worked on a couple of book covers in January and provided illustrations for the Mollie Makes Creativity magazine. My husband and I also booked tickets to Peru!

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This was the month but I got my book deal! At the end of 2016 my amazing agent sent out my book proposal to a few different publishers, and by February I had an offer! I read the email on my phone walking back from a Pilates class and when I met my husband for coffee I started crying out of shock and happiness. This month I taught a couple of brush lettering workshops with Etsy, which was really exciting as I wanted to work with them for a long time. I also did some illustrations for the Betty Collective website.

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In March I went up to the north Norfolk coast to visit my aunt and uncle. One of my goals for 2017 was to take more time off, and visiting family who happened to live in a beautiful part of the country was a great way of doing that. That month I also did some live illustration with Dermalogica in Selfridge’s, and Viktorija and I hosted a second London Drawing Club event at the beautiful Barbican conservatory. I also illustrated some very popular postcards for Mollie Makes and illustrated a lovely article for Stylist Magazine.

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In April we celebrated my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary, and the day afterwards my own wedding was featured on Love My Dress. I had a super busy month of workshops, trying to squeeze in as many as possible before my trip to Peru. I also did some live illustration with Reiss at Brent Cross shopping Centre. I also made time to see the amazing Hockney exhibition with Viktorija.

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I spent most of May travelling.  I had a quick trip back to Suffolk to see my parents at the beginning of the month, and then I was home for one night before heading off with Nancy to a trip to Somerset with Joules, and then three days later I was heading off to Peru. Our time in Peru was absolutely amazing, and you can read more about it here. It was such an incredible trip and a great way to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

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In June I taught a really lovely watercolour workshop for Pinterest as part of their interior design awards, at the beautiful Bourne and Hollingsworth Building. I also taught a very special watercolour workshop with Oasis that took place in London Zoo. I got to chat to the zoo keepers and feed two pygmy hippos, which made it one of my top workshops ever. June was also the month that I initiated my Monday afternoon dates with my husband. He is a jazz musician so mostly works evenings and weekends, which means we need to be organised about spending quality time together and not just working all the time. He rarely works on Monday, so we decided that was the best day to take an afternoon off and do something fun together. In the last year our Monday afternoon dates have included trips to the cinema, exhibitions, lunches out, walks in national parks, vintage shopping and we've explored lots of new neighbourhoods in North London.

June is the month that I really started writing my book properly. The last few months I had been waiting to get the contract sorted, and I didn’t want to start actually writing it until everything was signed, although I had been researching and planning it in my head. It was so exciting to actually sit down and start writing my book! For me the challenge was finishing up all my other projects and saying no to new work to give myself the time I needed to do it.

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I spent most of this month writing my book and enjoying the heat wave in London; going to barbecues, street fairs and summer parties. I also had the chance to go to a really lovely bloggers event in Somerset, which was such a lovely break away from the city and work. I had to hand in the first half of my manuscript on the first of August, which meant the last few weeks of July were very busy getting things finished and organising hundreds of images and pages and pages of writing.



August was all about writing my book, and I only taught one workshop all month to make sure I had plenty of time to focus on it. People always say how difficult it is to write a book but I actually really loved it. It was so nice to just work on one creative project continuously for three months, and not have to deal with contracts, negotiations invoices and everything else that comes with being freelancer. I also managed to enjoy the sunshine in London a bit and visited Columbia Road flower market with friends. I also worked on some content with Pink Lady Apples.



In September I had to hand in the second half of my book. This time I was much more organised, having named all the files correctly as I went along and kept the manuscript in better order. It turns out writing a book in order from start to finish makes life a lot easier than writing it in any old order you feel like! In September I also taught my first ever Instagram workshop which completely sold out and was a big success. I’m teaching another one in February.

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In October my husband and I headed off to Lisbon as a post-book writing treat. Whilst I might have finished writing the manuscript and painting all the illustrations, there was still edits and changes to make, which I worked on during October. Fortunately the edits to the book were very light and not much needed to be changed. In this month I also personalised notebooks with brush lettering for Papier at Brides the Show, and did some live illustration at Harrods. I also had an interview and photoshoot with Moo in my flat, which was really exciting as Moo were one of my very first clients, read the interview here. I also worked with my friend Kathryn on the branding for her new company Wander for a While. I also developed some new products for my shop including note books and new Christmas designs.

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November was a bit of a funny month. I had so many hospital appointments and social engagements that I felt a bit all over the place. The hospital appointments were for my wrist (for my ongoing RSI) and for my troublesome tooth. Fortunately both seem to have settled down for the moment. I also spent a lot of time preparing for an onslaught of festive workshops in December and sent out lots of Christmas Etsy orders. I also worked on some lovely magazine illustrations that I can't show you yet and some branding for The Market Beautiful. I also got to attend Weekend:IN again, this time in East London.

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In December I taught lots of Christmas bauble painting and lettering workshops with clients including Topshop, Battersea Power Station and Seven dials. I also finalised the cover of my book with my publishers and got to see a first proof copy of my book. It was so exciting to see all those months of work come together into 250 beautifully designed pages.

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So that was my year. I achieved my main goal of getting a book deal and writing a book, I also managed to travel and spend lots of time with friends. I think there’s a bit of a myth that as a creative freelancer you have to be badly paid, working constantly with no social life, and definitely no exercise routine, and it’s just not true. This year has been all about saying yes to exciting opportunities, no to the projects that aren’t right for me and learning to look after myself.

I’ve got some pretty big goals for next year, which include travelling more and hopefully writing more books. I’m so excited to see my first book come out this August, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Thank you so much to everyone who has come to my workshops, bought something from my shop or just followed me on Instagram, Your support means so much to me.

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