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New Kids (Posters) on the Block

The story behind my new kids' posters: The Monochrome Menagerie series


I'm so excited about launching my new kids' posters this month! I am loving drawing this series, which launches with the black and white animals poster, the green animals poster and the red animals poster this May. I'm also currently drawing the blue animals poster - and plan to represent all of the colours of the rainbow. Here's the story behind the series.

What inspired my new kids posters?

So, here's the lowdown: my daughter has these little wooden toy animals that I absolutely love. She doesn't do much with them at the moment except throw them about (she's 18 months old), but one day she was playing with the zebra and a black and white cow. As I watched, I wondered what it would be like if a cow and zebra met. I thought they might be quite confused or surprised to see each other. A picture formed in my head . . .

A zebra stands facing a black and white cow, they both have surprised/quizzical expressions, with question marks above their heads
A zebra and a cow meet for the first time

Deciding on Drawing Style

In my head, they were quite cute and funny, so instead of my usual realism, I drew them with little dot eyes and a more whimsical, softer way of painting (usually my colours are very opaque blocks, whereas these have a bit more transparency to them). I loved the way they came out, they felt sort of free-ing - a departure from my usual tight style.

And then my brain went 'I wonder what would happen if they met a panda?'. You can see where this is going.

Whilst creating this series, I knew that I wanted to try to create a posters that were simple to match with any colour scheme. So, I thought sticking to one colour per poster would work really well: The Monochrome Menagerie was born.

Layout Inspiration

I also absolutely love all the old scientific posters, and illustrators like Kelzuki (, and Jessica Roux (, who have clearly used them for inspiration.

I have even tried to do something similar to those old style scientific posters before, but in my opinion, these were less successful because they didn't have a uniform style, and they lacked a little playfulness I think they could have done with.

*The posters above are currently on sale now!

So I knew, if I was going to start a new range of posters, that I wanted them to be uniform across the board, and that I wanted them to hang perfectly together. Cue a level of thoughtfulness previously untapped by my impatient self.

I had the added advantage this time of having created my own font. Previously, I hand lettered all of my posters; the font allowed me to maintain a uniform style.

I also knew, this time around, that I wanted to stay more true to the layout of vintage scientific posters. To do this, I examined one that's on my wall, and rearranged the names of the animals at the bottom to better reflect that example.

Creating the Product

When I was deciding on the style of my posters, it seemed to me that they'd really suit kids' rooms, so I leaned into that, and tried to get into the head of a parent. Not hard, because I am a parent, a pushed-for-time, sleep-deprived, emotionally-exhausted parent who wants nothing more than for everything to just be simple.

So: I decided I needed to offer this product framed, whilst still trying to keep everything eco friendly. I did loads of research, and it seemed the best way for me to offer this was through a print on demand company, who would fulfil and ship the order directly to the customer. This would mean no extra waste in the shipping - shipping to me and then me to you - and also no over-printing on my part. You can read my post on the pros and cons of this here.

So, I signed up with Gelato. This means I can now offer four different sizes of poster: A5, A4, A3 and A2, and I offer two different sizes framed: A4 and A3, which can be shipped directly to you, ready to go up on the wall. All you need to do is knock a nail in - super simple art for super busy parents and super curious animal loving kids.

What's still to come?

Well, you might guess where I'm going with the main bulk of this project . . . on to the next colours!

I have plans to draw: blue next, then also: orange, yellow, pink, indigo, violet and brown. All of the colours of the rainbow and then some. (Have a colour you think I should consider? Drop your suggestion in the comments!)

I also have a lot of plans for using the elements of the series to create new products. Take a look at my new 'party animals' greetings card range, featuring pretty animals and terrible puns.

Aaaand, I've made a couple of patterns out of the black and white menagerie (so far!). I think these could make excellent wrapping paper. What do you reckon?

A pattern of black and white animals wearing colourful party paraphernalia
Wrapping paper design full of party animals by Nicola Howell Hawley

From initial idea to deciding on design it all came from watching my daughter play with a couple of wooden toy animals. In fact, she also informed the way I wanted to offer the product: framed, so that a parent wouldn't have to think about it! And that has led to so many plans for greetings cards, more kids posters, wrapping papers . . . I guess Evie really is my inspiration.

If you want to choose your own frame, why not read my guide to framing your art at home? Click here!

And if you want to read a bit more about the inspiration behind my art, click here!

As always, thanks so much for reading!


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