Digital Detox Series: Painting with Louise Mulgrew Designs

Keep reading to see how the team discovered their inner artist, got to grips with colour wheels and unleashed their creativity with the wonderful Louise Mulgrew.

In the final part of this month’s Digital Detox series, we’re swapping wifi for watercolours and picking up our paintbrushes with Brighton-based illustrator and card publisher, Louise Mulgrew.

Louise started painting animals for the first time after a trip to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi. She continued to grow her portfolio and develop her hand-drawn characterful style, selling her animal illustrations at local markets and fairs. In 2016, she showed her first collection of greeting cards at Spring Fair and five years on, her very first Furry Friends collection is still her best-selling range.

Now stocked in Waitrose, John Lewis, Waterstones, Fenwick and Paperchase, Louise Mulgrew Designs is an award-winning eco-friendly paper empire, supplying over 400 independent shops in the UK.

Keep reading to see how the team discovered their inner artist, got to grips with colour wheels and unleashed their creativity with the wonderful Louise Mulgrew.

To see more of Louise’s animal-loving work, you can find her over on Instagram at @louisemulgrew or visit her website here.

Lareese says…

After the questionable masterpiece I created with Sophie Tea Art earlier this year – it was meant to be a heart, looked suspiciously like a butternut squash – I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in myself, ha. Alas, true to form, I fluffed up my colour wheel approximately 0.4 seconds into Louise’s class by drawing one too many segments. We needed 12, I had 14. Where do I go from here if not downhill? Poor, poor Louise, trying to teach me must have been a real career-low for her. My technical ability (or lack thereof) aside, I love the sense of calm that ensues when you’re playing with paint and working on paper. It’s such a treat to be screen-free which is what this activity is all about, after all!

For this workshop, we were using gouache which is an opaque watercolour paint. Starting with the colour wheel, Louise taught us how the primary, secondary and tertiary colours work together. Once we’d cracked that, some of us better than others (woe is me), we had a go at
painting some leaves and flowers, experimenting with various brushwork techniques, creating a colour wash for backgrounds, using dry brushes to build texture, blotting and using extra water to push the colour around the page to create a mottled effect. At this point, I wish I could redeem myself and tell you that I smashed this part of the class but I think we all know that foliage requires significantly more skill than colouring in a wheel. Louise made it look truly effortless, even painting petals upside down like the pro that she is. I’m in awe.

To bring this self-deprecating tale to its close, I love painting, it just doesn’t love me back and I’m quite gutted about it because I would like nothing more than for this to be a reciprocal romance. I kept looking over at Holly’s beautifully neat berry branch creations and wishing I could have such control over the way my hands behave when holding a paintbrush. I have to say though, from a digital detox perspective, dipping into your watercolours is the ideal activity to drag you away from your phones and laptops, especially with Louise at the helm. I dread to think how much more damage I would have done if I had digital distractions to contend with as well, haha. I’m forever grateful she didn’t task us with hedgehogs or elephants for our first go. Big thank you to Louise for having the patience of a saint to teach us (read: me) and for sharing her expertise with us. What a babe!

Charlotte says…

I was a little apprehensive going into this workshop as my art skills certainly leave a lot to be desired, (quickly realised after our workshop with Sophie Tea earlier this year) but I was pleasantly surprised both by how smoothly Louise guided us through the session and my final leafy results! I’ve never worked with gouache before but follow a few illustrators and designers who do and so was super intrigued to be giving it a whirl as a newbie. To my delight, I found it far more workable than either watercolour or acrylic and it seemed to hit a happy medium of buildable and opaque when used dry and more glossy and with the ability to create a light wash when adding water. First, we created a colour wheel to learn the basics of colour theory and how to create a range of shades from the main primary colours, and although this whole experience was supposed to be relaxing I found myself oddly stressed about making my wheel ‘perfect’ or as neat as possible. I had to take a step back and remind myself that you cannot dictate the outcome of creative and mindful tasks and that the aim of these activities is the detox from our screens and do something different with our minds! I think once I was able to let go of expectations and just enjoy the process a bit more I eased into it and really appreciated the challenge of trying something new.

Louise is so knowledgeable and a fantastic teacher who was extremely patient given the fact I apparently cannot follow simple instructions and messed up my colour wheel approximately 200 times, and learning from her was a real privilege! Her work is so gorgeous and even picking up a few tips, tricks and techniques that she uses in her daily practice was so insightful and left me feeling far more confident about picking up a paintbrush in the future.

Although I initially found the workshop a bit overwhelming (perfectionist tendencies alert), the time totally flew by and I left feeling like my brain really had an opportunity to time out and totally focus on the task at hand. As much as I love yoga and find it can really chill out my brain, I find my mind can still wander, whereas the concentration required in learning something new and focusing on something tangible was a real tonic.

Danielle says…

I’m often left feeling a bit deflated post craft session as I’m simply terrible at most arty things but I really enjoy the actual doing part and taking my mind off the stresses of the world! The last time I painted was when we had Sophie Tea give us a tutorial for one of her infamous hearts and I was actually pretty proud of what I produced, so I went into this one with a bit more of an open mind!

Instead of just going straight into the deep end with attempting to paint a bunch of flowers Louise let us play with the paints and try making a colour wheel. This was such an interesting process as she really taught us how to make so many colours by just using primary red, blue, yellow and white. I know that probably sounds obvious and something we learnt at school but I really enjoyed learning about making so much with so little! The paints we used were Gouache and they felt like a combination between watercolour and acrylic, this meant if it started to ‘run out’ or dry up we could just add a bit of water and it would start flowing nicely again. There were so many effects you could use that looked so pretty when dry, I always think watercolours are really hard to get them where you want them whilst still keeping that lovely translucent effect but with Gouache you can manipulate them much more easily.

Painting is such a good DDD activity because you have something tangible to work on that you can see come to life is the best distraction to the digital world. Plus now I know I only need to buy 4 colours, it’s much cheaper than expected!

Darcey says…

It felt so good to be getting arty again as it’s something I did quite often in education as I did textiles at A-Level and then a fashion degree, and although I love art it’s one of those things I don’t make the time for (terrible I know). I’m no Picasso, but art is fun and it’s nice to create something with your own hands which is one of a kind!

Louise was so lovely and creates such beautiful artwork, so I was really excited to get such an intimate masterclass with her. We started off by creating a colour wheel, apparently not as easy as one would think. I was missing a segment (maths wasn’t my strong point), it started off looking like a real mess, not the best circle I’ve ever seen. This was such an interesting process though, I have never learnt almost the art of creating so many different colours and the science behind it. By the end my lopsided circle didn’t look too shabby, I was actually quite impressed with my colour wheel ha!

We used a paint throughout called Gouache, firstly does anyone else just love the sound of that? I have a feeling I like it so much because it sounds like ganache hahaha. This paint had such an interesting texture, it was gooey and thick, but add a touch of water and you have a watercolour, super cool and versatile! We practiced our leafy strokes and Louise taught us all these different techniques to create our own masterpieces. We all had a good go at making some floral designs and the whole team made lovely art. I really enjoyed this DDD activity, art is such a brilliant way to distract your mind and take you away from screens, even for 30 mins. I have felt so lucky to do this Digital Detox Series and absolutely will be implementing this into my daily life, I think taking time every weekend to step away from it all, even for an hour, is my goal moving forward!


Digital Detox Series: Self-Love & Breathwork Yoga Class with Hannah Fox

Hannah Fox’s self-love yoga class is a magic blend of breathwork, guided meditation, grounding techniques and mindfulness. Her sessions focus on loving the shit out of yourself (amen), even when your mind tries to convince you you’re not worthy of self-compassion.

When did you last hug yourself? Maybe you never have. It’s a modern-day horror story we’re all too familiar with.

If that’s you, we hope the first slice of our Digital Detox series inspires you to put down your phone and throw some kindness your way, especially on the days when putting yourself first feels like an uphill struggle.

Hannah Fox’s self-love yoga class is a magic blend of breathwork, guided meditation, grounding techniques and mindfulness. Her sessions focus on loving the shit out of yourself (amen), even when your mind tries to convince you you’re not worthy of self-compassion. You begin to see why we thought getting our cat-cow on with Hannah would be the perfect way to honour our month of Digital Detox, switch off from our screens and give our mental health a good ol’ cuddle.

From alternate nostril breathing to cultivating self-love on and off the mat and letting your heart guide your practice instead of your mind, keep reading to find out how the team got on with part one of our Digital Detox series.

You can follow Hannah and check out all her incredible in-person and online yoga work here.

Lareese says…

I’ve done one of Hannah’s self-love classes in Brighton before and felt like I was walking on a cloud afterwards, so I was so excited to join her for one of her legendary sessions with the team this time, as part of our Digital Detox series. In my experience, yoga can be quite intimidating when you’re thrown in with the flexible regulars. It’s probably all in my mind but with a posture like a candy cane and clicky knees, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb in a David Lloyd scenario but Han’s class is super accessible for newbies and yoga bunnies alike – embracing the wobbles and falling in and out of the poses is what it’s all about. Naturally, I feel much more at home in one of her classes since she’s not concerned about what you look like in your poses but how you feel. Amen to that.

As someone who’s usually glued to my digital devices, I savour any time I can get away from my screens. Having said that, unless I’m physically removed from them it ain’t happening, which is why doing something like this really works for me. I can’t unlock my phone and respond to an email quickly, I have to be fully present.

IMO, what makes Hannah’s class feel really special is that it isn’t so much about the yoga as it is about connecting with yourself and giving yourself the permission to let go of whatever’s holding you back from self-love. From the second you lie on that mat, you feel totally anchored in the moment, focusing entirely on yourself and your breath. In our overly digitalised world, that in itself feels like a radical act of self-love! The simplest of movements can feel transformative, whether it’s letting your arms hang heavy on the floor in a forward bend or sticking your tongue out for lion’s breath, the practice invites you to lose all inhibition and rediscover that child-like playfulness of looking a bit silly without a care in the world.

It felt incredible to be unreachable for a few hours in my own little oasis of peace and quiet, with the light pouring into the studio. I could have nodded off quite easily with Hannah’s dulcet tones. Since lockdown, I’ve realised that constant connectivity is one of my stress triggers. If I feel bombarded with notifications and digital noise, I quickly careen into overwhelm and crave solitude which is why committing to a digital detox and practising digital abstinence works wonders for my mental health. Usually, I’d take myself off for a walk in the woods or a swim in the sea whenever I need to hit the reset button but after doing Han’s class, I think I’ve discovered a new favourite way to ignore WhatsApp for a while.

If you can join Hannah online for one of her self-love classes or even better, come down to Brighton to experience one in real life, your mental health will l-o-v-e you for it!

Charlotte says…

I loved. this. class. so. MUCH. I am an avid believer in the power of breathwork and have a few techniques under my belt that I use regularly to manage my stress/trauma-induced chronic pain so I was super intrigued to learn more in giving this class a go! I was having a pretty bad pain flare at the time and had been rushing around that morning and honestly even just arriving in the studio and being in Hannah’s aura was the zen I needed- she has such a wonderful calming presence about her and it really feels like you can relax and sink into the class knowing she’s in control.

One of the things I found quite unique about Hannah’s class (despite having taken part in very gentle chronic pain classes before) was that we spent the majority of the session with our eyes closed, which I really felt helped focus on the breath and intensify the feelings of calm and connectedness I felt. You would think it would be difficult to mirror someone else’s movement and instructions without being able to see them but her instructions on the gentle movement were clear and intuitive and I just know this class would be perfect before bed because I really didn’t want to open up my eyes at the end!

One of the breathing techniques that we practised and I’ve also loved in the past is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing, which has an amazing way of calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety all over the body. I can always feel a noticeable and tangible difference after practising this and in a class setting, it was all the more powerful. Another highlight for me was the singing bowl used at the end of the class which produces sound and vibrations that also help to relax the body. I sometimes listen to sounds like this via meditation apps but this was my first time hearing it in real life and it was so powerful. I believe the F note was played which relates to the heart chakra, and it was such a beautiful ending to the class which had already completely transformed how I felt.

I loved the encouragement from Hannah and her use of positive and grounding affirmations that really made you feel like the world was on pause outside the four walls of the studio. I felt totally enveloped in the moment and found myself continually noting that I should practice stretching, breathing and positive self talk more regularly because of how amazing I felt even 10 minutes into the class- it stupidly felt such a novelty to speak to myself so kindly and understandingly but the reminder to do so was so welcome.

I’ve already told my housemates all about Hannah’s Instagram and classes (she practices just 5 minutes from our flat) and truly can’t wait to dive back into another dreamy hour of time purely for myself, uninterrupted. She is a superwoman!

Danielle says…

I actually had not done a yoga class in quite some time, so going into the self-love and breathwork class I had no idea what to expect. Hannah immediately brought such comforting energy and I felt myself relax around her without fear or judgement. I think sometimes you can do yoga and it feels like exercise and other times you can do it and it feels like self-care/meditation and Hannah’s class was definitely more like the latter.

As we lay down to begin Hannah had already started burning some incense which was wonderful, from there we started by simply laying on our backs with our eyes closed, concentrating on our breathing. My imagination is pretty suggestible so as soon as Hannah told us to imagine our bodies relaxing into the ground I really did feel a weight lift from within me. I’m the type of person that is always doing something/ listening to something / watching something, even when I’m in the bath I’m distracted, and when I go to sleep I listen to an app called rainrain. So it’s extremely rare for me to just be still and concentrating on my thoughts, which I found so soothing.

We then went on to move through the classic yoga positions, slowly, whilst still concentrating on breathing and keeping our eyes shut which is great for more of a novice like me. We stopped to work on different types of breathing, my two favourites were Nadi Shodana Pranayama breathing, which concentrated on alternating nostrils to breathe with one hand. I felt like my head and airways had a new lease of life as we carried on the class. My other fave (which I can’t remember the name of) had us stood up with arms outstretched to the sky on the inhale, and then bending down and throwing our arms through our legs on the exhale. If I was to try it now whilst sat at my desk I think I’d kill my back but after all the stretching and moving I felt so much more flexible and loose, it was magic!

The self-love elements came from thanking our bodies, telling them how grateful we are, removing any type of shame we had for certain areas. We gave ourselves a hug and were told to hug our bodies as if we were hugging someone else, and I found myself stroking my back with my thumb. You read a lot online about how you shouldn’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend which of course is easier said than done but this act of hugging yourself as you would another was a really intense physical embodiment of that sentiment.

By the end of the class, we had returned to once again lying on our backs which was such a lovely cool down. Hannah came around with some oil and had us inhale it as well as putting some pressure on certain parts of our face and head, which was divine and I almost cried, I’m not sure why, I think just felt extremely at one with myself. I can’t wait to go to one of Hannah’s classes again as it literally had me vibrating with lovely energy for the rest of the day. I’ll be using a few of Hannah’s digital classes on YouTube moving forward, and I suggest you do too! 

Darcey says…

I love practising yoga but it is definitely one of those things that I struggle to find the time to do/prioritise other things over it, which is terrible really because yoga is something that would really benefit me practised more often as I’m an anxious Allie. I was really looking forward to doing this class with Hannah as I hadn’t attended a yoga class since before covid and had only done online classes on YouTube. I also really liked the idea of a self-love yoga class, something that is definitely important to practice!

Hannah was such a lovely human and made me feel so comfortable just in her presence. We all laid on our mats with our eyes closed as incense burned and waves crashed through her speaker really setting the tone for the next hour and a half. If I’m honest I was so relaxed for the entirety of the class everything has kind of melted into one and my memory of it feels slightly blurred, which I think is a good thing!

I’ve done yoga before and so I knew all the basic yoga moves, but I think even if you had never set foot in any kind of class you’d be more than okay in Hannah’s as she talks through everything so well and you feel confident enough that any mistakes made don’t matter, moving your body is just enough. I loved focusing on my breath as this is something I definitely am bad at doing, anyone else get mid-through doing something and realise they are practically holding their breath? Cause same. We practised one technique called Nadi Shodana Pranayama which I think the girls have mentioned too which was incredible! I have awful sinuses and it really felt as if it cleared all the pressure from those and the tension in my head from stress.

At the end of the class we thanked our body for all that it did, hugging ourselves which was actually rather emotional, I felt teary-eyed and really appreciative of my body in that moment which was a nice feeling as, I’m sure like a lot of us, I can be quite critical of myself at times. We then returned to laying down and Hannah came round with oil that we inhaled and she pressed down on pressure points, which felt like a mini-massage which I could have had for HOURS, it felt so relaxing and releasing too.

I’ll absolutely be attending one of Hannah’s classes again in the future and actually, this has kickstarted my appreciation for yoga and meditation. Taking a few hours away from any distractions really reminds you about how important it is to take time away from screens and daily stresses are. I underestimate how even an hour away from everything can really clear your head and help with anxiety etc, so something I’ll be continuing to work on!

Follow @Yogawithhan on Instagram here!