Circus Strongman

Recently, I completed a Curtis Brown Creative illustration course on Children’s picture books. The course was online, with weekly videos and tasks from illustrator Sarah McIntyre. It was very fast paced with a big emphasis on getting stuff done and finished. We were a small group and the forum was a nice place to share work.

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West’s Bestiary

Over on Twitter, Colin West has been posting a new little rhyme every few days, featuring an animal for each letter of the alphabet. He’s then been inviting anyone who’s interested to create an illustration to go with the poem. I’ve been following along and here are my sketches. To keep up with the fast pace, and to keep it lively and fun, I’ve not tried to stick to a single style and I’ve created mashups of a few of the letters.

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Sea Life Animal Alphabet

Each Monday, over on Twitter, people share their drawings, sketches and paintings of a specific animal that was announced the week before. Starting at A, each week is a different animal starting with the next letter of the alphabet on a specific theme. It takes six months to get through the whole alphabet (26 weeks!) so the theme changes twice a year. I’ve been taking part in the sea life theme since January and here they all are!

Sea life animal alphabet illustration
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Wet in wet

Much more like watercolour now! Less is definitely more with this digital watercolour stuff. So difficult to resist fiddling with it though – very much like learning to use real watercolours except when it all turns to mud on the iPad, you can undo :)

We are moving in the right direction and this is definitely something I’m going to continue playing around with.

Limerick

This is an illustration for a limerick for an illustration course I’m taking. I didn’t get to choose the poem and The requirements were that the words needed to be presented along with the illustration and it should be in only black and white.

I struggled for a long time to come up with an idea and am super happy with the end result.

Ballet

This is a little illustration for the prompt angler fish + ballet set by @studioteabreak over on Twitter. See the trouble I had drawing her shoulders and head in the speed paint below!

I’d also be super interested to know what you think of the framing with my details. I’ve become much more sensitive to copyright and image sharing issues since I started working digitally a large proportion of the time – when there’s no physical original the image on the screen is all you’ve got to show and keep for your efforts.

I’ve been resisting anything that distracts from full enjoyment of images such as posting in low resolution or adding watermarks but I know some people do that and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all.

Farmer’s market

I spent this morning with the Reading urban sketchers at the Thames Valley Farmer’s Market, which takes over the Reading cattle market, on the outskirts of the town centre every third Saturday of the month. I came away with a few sketch, some cheese, butter and coffee beans :)

I’d planned on some ink and watercolour sketching but couldn’t find the bag I’d left my sketchbook in so ended up working on the iPad.

My favourite things were all the different patterned plastic tablecloths.

MerMay the 4th be with you

It’s the 4th of May and I’m still not bored with this mermaid thing so here’s Yoda as a fish-tailed curiosity. My first thought was a Darth Vader merman but then Yoda seemed like he’d be more fun. It’s also free comic day today. I’ve never read any comics, except the Beano as a kid, so I’m going to go check out my local comic shop and see what sort of art appeals to me.

MerMay

So it seems this MerMay hashtag thing is all month and people will be showing different mermaid sketches each day. I can’t promise that, but I did have to create this one – particularly on my mind I think with the local elections yesterday. I can’t be the first person to have thought of this but also I haven’t actually seen any other illustrations of Theresa with a tail. I was going to leave her with just a plain black tail to represent her leather trousers (plus the leopard “shoes” obvs) but then remembered that it’s Friday so incorporated the colour collective colour for this week (celadon) into the background and texture of her tail. I’m not 100% on the background but the texture is great.

Crocomay

Been seeing lots of mermaid paintings, drawings and illustrations for the hashtag #mermay

I thought I’d join in with this crocodile headed version. I think, before I started, I had a vague notion that it would be a dark and mildly disturbing image 😂 turns out super cute instead! I love him and his cheeky, toothy grin.

Cheese fest

Today, for the first time, I took my iPad out to try digital urban sketching. It was a nice day and the annual cheese festival was on in the park in town so I found a bench and sketched away. It was good but a few differences to note compared to regular sketching:

In the sun the screen can be difficult to see – sometimes this was just colours not looking right but sometimes I couldn’t see much at all

The iPad is *heavy*. I did think about this when I decided to buy the large version and it is too heavy to hold out and sketch for a long time but I don’t regret getting the bigger version in the slightest.

The ability to undo and redo layers and endlessly tweak means that I took far longer over this one sketch than I usually would any regular pencil and watercolour urban sketch.

I’ll have another go sometime but I’m secretly glad that the paper is not being put out of business just yet :)

Double bass

A little sketch for the mythical mashup prompt of flamingo + double bass. Also, today is draw a bird day so two birds with one, um, bird…

I also drew a Napoleon Snake fish for this week’s animal alphabet and it’s another freaky one – burrows into the sand with just it’s head sticking out. Thankfully only found in tropical waters so no danger here in the UK. Tiny silver lining of English weather…

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018

The Sunday Times Watercolour competition 2018 exhibition ended its run in Basingstoke last week and I went along to have a look!

There were about 70 watercolour, gouache, acrylic and mixed media pieces in total across a whole range of subjects and styles. The three winning paintings were all huge! but that’s about all they had in common.

First prize The Prodigal Son by Sophie Charalamgous:

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Second prize was Growth of the Soil by Michael Chance:

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Third prize was Diving Boards, Crystal Palace by Richard Elliot:

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My favourite painting that I could just fall into and stare at for ages was Rear Window by Adrian Coleman:

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A few others that caught my eye and I liked very much:

 

and then there were some that I’d have been really interested to know the judges thinking behind selecting them over others:

 

Cemetery Junction

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Cemetery Junction is a crossroads just outside Reading City centre, made famous by the film of the same name by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

I spent Sunday morning drawing in the walled cemetery with the Reading Urban Sketchers. It was a gloriously sunny day and lots of people turned up to soak in the atmosphere and be creative.

I focused on watercolour sketching some of the various statues and then, with 10 minutes until we were due to meet up, I quickly drew the entrance scene above in coloured pencil.

The throw down photo at the end of this post is just a small section of the sketches produced – several people had to leave early and then the wind picked up so we had to snap and move on before our sketchbooks blew away.

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orchestra

Today I joined the Reading Urban Sketchers at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading to draw and paint the musicians during a rehearsal of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was an amazing experience and a great privilege.

We spread ourselves out around the balcony and settled down to a solid hour and a half of sketching where we couldn’t move position in case we disturbed the rehearsal.

Since there’s a lot of moving around on stage and the light level was too low to be caught up in details my approach was to concentrate on the rhythm and feel of the room. I created many quick sketches, far more than shown here. At times I found myself drawing with the pace of the music – faster and faster!

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we then had a little congregation and comparison of what we’d been up to. I was very impressed with all the watercolour people had managed in the gloom we were working in.

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Then we headed back in and settled down in different positions for another round. This time I dug out my brush pen filled with black ink (plus shimmery gold stuff) but it was disappointingly blocked. Not to be beaten, I unscrewed the brush bit and blobbed ink onto the page to then draw and paint with starting from a block. This worked really well and the gold shimmer broke up the slab of black nicely. The second half of the rehearsal was really short – only maybe 20 minutes – so we all managed just a quick sketch or two before it was time to go. These were my favourite of the day though – I was in the swing of things now.

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This was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon and a wonderful opportunity to sketch people. Everyone seemed to leave in an uplifted frame of mind. There was mention of possible similar days in the future and I’m looking forward to them already :)

Thank you to The Hexagon, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Reading Sketchers for arranging it.

Serenity

A quick sketch is a nice way to wind down after work on a Friday evening. This was prompted by the colour “serenity” which, it turns out, is this pale blue. I first was trying to think of blue animals that I could draw but none came to mind that sparked my imagination so I moved on to grey animals since you can draw these in blue tones and have them accepted as appropriate. I’m sure I must have drawn an elephant in the past but not in recent memory so an elephant it should be! I looked up a few reference photos and decided standing in water would be a nice setting. In fact the blue can be the water and I’d just use regular grey for the elephant. Ah ha, a baby elephant would be close enough to the surface to have a nice reflection. And there you go, the idea for the image was born, I looked up some images of elephants in the correct posture to get the proportions right, made up the water and there you go. A little insight into my thought process.

immortal jellyfish

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I is for immortal jellyfish.

This jellyfish can revert back to it’s immature polyp stage and then become mature again over and over whenever it gets old or sick.

This was fun to paint and I think I may prefer some of the early stages of the painting over the finished piece. Less is more!

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battery human

I recently started an online illustration course. The first assignment is to illustrate three song lyics. This is my first. The song is Battery Human by Stornaway. Below are my initial ideas, thought process and sketches. I also made quite a few paper snow flakes but they didn’t scan in very well.

 

Jade city

A reimagining of the emerald city in jade for the colour collective challenge this Friday. I’ve been playing Wizard of Oz Fluxx this week so it was in the back of my mind.

A lesson learned on Procreate with this – don’t be too trigger happy with merging layers. My first version of this had a door in the wall arch. Once I thought it was done I decided it would be a better composition if the road was allowed to flow through the page, also the gate gave a slight feeling of a hurdle Dorothy would soon have to face. Instead I wanted the viewer to be feeling the same wonder as Dorothy at seeing the city for the first time and for their eye to flow to the emerald building and find joy in its shine.

It wasn’t too much hassle to change but would have been far easier if I hadn’t merged all the layers half way through.

Valentine

A little sketch for Valentine’s Day. Walking past the local charity shop last weekend I saw they had red helium balloons decorating the window spelling out “love”

I snapped a photo as the range of colours from dark maroon to pink and white caught my eye. A useful reference for this sketch but I thought I’d keep it simple with just a single heart shape. This was done on Procreate, just using the coloured pencil brush. I copied the brush they supply you with and tweaked it a few times so I now have a fat round one for colouring in and a smooth one for writing. Their default is good for outline drawing.

only hope holds my heart

This is a plate from the Wallace Museum with an inscription of ‘Only hope holds my heart’. It shows a profile bust of a woman and was made by an unknown artist in Deruta, Italy, some time between 1515-1540. It was maybe made to mark a betrothal.

While drawing this I rediscovered the joy of drawing wavy banners. I loved drawing these as a kid! I think it was one of my first realisations that you could easily make flexible things look ultra 3D in just a line drawing. It was good for banners and flags and ribbons and that was about it so I drew those things a lot :)

Also I only noticed the secret hidden face in this plate as I was drawing it! pretty freaky. can you spot it? It’s in her giant pendant. Is it a photo of the guy who holds her heart? Is it a mirror and so a self portrait of the plate artist? I guess we’ll never know…

The drawing is all in coloured pencil – brown, orange and blue. Below you can see just the line drawing. Then the blocks of colour are watercolour -pretty much just ultramarine and yellow ochre.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’re having a great day so far and get chance to relax with the things you like doing most.

For me it’s been a bit more digital sketching:

A shiny red disco bauble with a pearl string and lights in the tree for Christmas day. Branching out (ha ha) from the “pencil” and “fineliner” brushes I’ve been keeping to until now, here I tried various types of paint, spiky texture for the fir needles and a very exciting and effective glow brush for the fairy lights.

Astro shooter

Digital sketching on Christmas eve. This is my view from the sofa – a pile of presents in the corner surrounded by old toys from the attic to keep little people happy until tomorrow. The astro shooter is brilliant – a proper mini electromechanical pinball table from the 80s. The bits of stuff in the foreground are various half transformed transformers. The yellow ball is a metal blob geode transforming thing. It’s cool.

Pigeons

Because of decorating I was moving furniture around and found 10 full watercolour sheets under the bed! A present from the me of Christmas past :) I vague remember stashing them there to keep them flat.

I thought I’d take advantage of the psychology of them being a bonus to freely scribble away on a whole sheet without the stress of worrying about ruining expensive supplies.

This is an enlargement of a little pigeon sketch I did a long time ago. Lots of splashing ink and paint to evoke the flustering of feathers in a crowded urban square.

I think I still prefer the spontaneity, colour and blooms of the original little scribble but it was still fun to work so big for a change. One disadvantage of painting big is that it doesn’t fit in the scanner and photos of watercolour never quite capture the colour and detail properly. You can see in the scanned sketch below the granulating watermarks and texture of the paper.