Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Favourite Illustrator and Pointillism Animals

One of my favourite illustrators

The weather has been dreadful this week. Wet, wet and wet again and then wet somemore, but we are approaching an English summer so what can we The advantage of the rain has been to make the spring greens even more green than ever and everything is fresh and lovely and springlike. I wish this season could last until the autumn - my two favourite seasons of the year.

I have been out photographing as expected and I am very into aliums at the moment. They are one of my favourite flowers, particularly the globe variety and have huge potential for artwork. I can definitely feel an alium picture coming on. I have a fancy to do a "cat with aliums" picture specifically. A delightful combination - I hope anyway.

I have been thinking about showing folk a few of my art and inspiration books and the first one is childrens' book Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden by the wonderful English illustrator Jane Ray. I have seen Jane's work in the flesh so to speak and it is truly vibrant and charming. Her style is a cross between folky and stylised but always very elegant and she has a masterly command of colours. I have included a couple of pages from the book to show her work off. She is immensely popular in English childrens' book illustration with a well deserved reputation. I just wish I could draw and paint like that. I have several childrens' books which I bought simply because I love the illustrations (and I usually read the stories too). I am not so keen on the books for the very young because they are a bit too basic but age group 10 - 14 is usually excellent and quite adult. I hope you admire her art as much as I do.

I have included a couple of very detailed pen and ink drawings which I did many years ago and which are now framed in my home. I wish I had had prints made of them when I had the chance but it is too late now unless I go to all the trouble of unframing them. The fox is totally pointillism and really took about six months to complete. The hares are pointillism although so dark that they look black but the rest is various inky styles. I love the hares image and have toyed with the idea of doing a painted or digital version.

The other picture is a montage of my painted artwork that I originally did for handmade cards but they never quite reached that stage. I like to keep these little painted pieces because I never know when I might fancy going back to them and redoing them as a complete painting. I will get around to everything "one day" I keep telling myself. I am sure everyone else is the same.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spring Muse and Inky Birds

Tree Doodles
Mute Swan Preening
Rooks In Winter
Grey Heron
Pink Tulips
Local lane

Spring is beautifully underway in England now and I am really enjoying the countryside and all the inspiration it provides. Everything seems so much fuller, fresher and more colourful in the spring after the starkness of winter. I have included a few spring photos to show you what I mean. We are lucky in England to be surrounded by so much rural beauty. We are having quite a wet spring this year and it is making everything quite green and fresh.

I was inspired to do a couple of new pen and ink pictures - one is the grey heron, a bird which is seen quite frequently in our locality, standing in shallow water and just waiting for some unsuspecting frog or fish to wander past. They look beautifully graceful flying with their long, long legs stretched out behind them. I drew the picture in the pointillist technique to show off the delicate grey feathers.

The other is a very decorative, four part, tree inking. Nothing special but I just liked the shapes and wanted to create different textures with the same motif. It was VERY vaguely supposed to resemble a palm tree but I don't think it ended up that way. At least unlike any palm I have ever seen.

Rooks are probably my favourite birds and always epitomise the English countryside for me. I love to hear their noisy cawing in spring, high up in the trees rearing their young and squabbling amongst themselves. My drawing is quite an old one of a rook in a winter setting and was one which I used for Christmas cards some years ago.

The last drawing is a swan inspired by one of my photographs. Swans are so beautiful that it is almost impossible to take a poor photograph of them. They always look so beautiful and graceful. I loved the way this one was ruffling his feathers and his beak was half hidden in the snowy down as he preened. I don't know why he is a he - just one of those things I suppose....LOL I need a bit of colour after all these monochrome pictures so I will have to get the paint box out again.

My linocut is still not ready to be revealed. I am having trouble with the inking process. Getting just the right amount of ink is very difficult: too much and it is blobby, too little and it is patchy. I am pleased with the actual linocut but that was the easy bit. Still, after a bit of trial and error I will have something worth showing hopefully.

PS The nicked and blistered fingers are just starting to recover now!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pen and Ink Illustrations and snagging a Treasury on Etsy

The second of my "tree guardians" - unfinished
Hens from my sketchbook
The Owl and the Pussycat illustration by John Vernon Lord
John Vernon Lord pen and ink illustrations

Well I tried my hand at a linocut and I was quite pleased with it until it reached the inking stage. I think I probably made the usual beginners error of over-inking and ended up with black ink in the bits which should have been white. I will have to sort it out tomorrow as I finished it quite late. I am happy with the actual linocut itself and will have to re-ink tomorrow with a fraction of the ink I used this time. I won't post the print until it is half way acceptable though. I also now have several cuts on the fingers of my left hand, a blister on my first finger right hand and skin worn off my right hand knuckles. Minor injuries probably quite familiar to those linocuters out there. Ah well, better luck tomorrow.

I found a lovely book in our local library about Edward Lear who was a well known English limerick and nonsense writer. I am sure you have heard of the owl and the pussycat. It is illustrated by John Vernon Lord and is cramed full of his wonderfully detailed pen and ink illustrations. I have seen his work before and I find it very charming. I have posted a couple of pictures of his work above. It is interesting for me, as a pen and ink artist, to check out his techniques and perhaps incorporate a few into my own illustrations.

The other picture is my sketch of a lovely little collection of hens busy doing what hens do best. I could draw hens and cockerels all day as I find them fascinating. I have used this little grouping in past artwork and I will almost certainly use them again. When I draw animals in sketches I often use them in different settings and media. The top drawing is my unfinished second Tree Guardian. It has taken ages to create the texture of the tree branches but it is very nearly finished now. I love drawing trees and leaves - probably my favourite things to draw in pen and ink. Hopefully I will be able to finish it tomorrow.

I finally achieved my aim on Etsy and managed to snag a Treasury. I was very pleased with it although the actual getting of it produced hyperventilation and severe anxiety. It is worse waiting for that little box to appear than it is waiting for the last few seconds of a bid on Ebay. My treasury is called "Subtle Greys and Pastels" and is a combination of greys, pinks and peaches. It is quite popular with the viewing public too. Now I want to do another one....and another one....!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stitchery And Yummy Colours

Leaves Needlepoint. You can tell I like leaves can't you?

Autumn Leaves Needlepoint

Needlepoint sample pieces

Embroidery silks or floss

Appleton's wools with sample cards

I have a passion for colours, any sorts and all sorts. I love textiles, silks, wools etc and I love using colours to create texture. I do this with cross stitch, embroidery and needlepoint mostly. I went through a phase a few years ago when everything had to be cross stitched but then I moved on to needlepoint. Now I use the technique called Victorian cross stitch which is basically cross stitch but used for needlepoint. What it really means is the stitch is crossed over which gives the canvas more stability and stops it loping off to one side and having to be realigned later.

My favourite threads are Appleton's 2 ply wool which is lovely because it can be used with two strands to provide more colour combinations. Much easier for shading. I also love embroidery silks but used for needlepoint. The colours are much more vivid than the wool shades. The first two photos above show my stash of Appleton's wool and also of my silks. I buy the Appleton's wool in huge hanks but find it much easier to deal with if I wind it onto cards and colour co-ordinate it in my plastic boxes. That is an enjoyable hobby all in itself...LOL

I have also posted a picture of some sample pieces that never really achieved reality but the wonderful thing is the potential is always there for them to do so. In fact these pieces have been put away for about a year and bringing them back into the light of day has inspired me to create something from them. I will have to put my needlepoint thinking cap on.

The other two illustrations are of needlepoints that did achieve reality. I am particularly proud of the leaves one which really did take me many months to complete. I had finished all the six leaves and then ran out of inspirational steam like you do. Suddenly it came to me to use diagonal lines of colours in the order of the spectrum and it worked.....well, for those who like full on, vivid colours. The other needlepoint is another tree and leaves one but with a much more muted palette.

Of course having access to Adobe Photoshop these days, makes it very easy to decide on each step of the way when creating artwork. At each stage it is simple to colour in the next bit digitally and see if it works. If it doesn't, scrap it and try again. I have done that quite often in my paintings when I have been stumped for a background.

I was going to make this a post about my latest efforts in the linocut technique but unfortunately I have lost my inking up roller so I will have to go to the art shop and get one tomorrow!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Khadi cards and colour sourcebooks

New bird cards on Khadi paper
My latest digital card design
Pattern and Palette Sourcebook 2 and inside page

Pattern and Palette Sourcebook 1 and inside page

I have finally managed to finish my "Waiting For The Dawn 2" digital artwork that I have been working on for some little time. You may remember I posted a sketch of it and also a work in progress picture. Well now it is finished and I am very pleased with it. The palette is not my usual but I thought I might try something a bit less traditional. I got the combination of colours from one of my wonderful Pattern and Palette sourcebooks. These were a wonderful discovery which I first read about in Print and Pattern Blog which is a fantastic read by the way.

There are books 1 and 2 and both are in similar format but have different themes, colourways and designs. They are brilliant if you are not sure what colours to put together. Each page shows a group of colours and shades and a series of different designs illustrating how those colours go together. Brilliant concept and very useful for artists and designers. So many of us are not sure which colours go together and often steer clear of certain combinations just in case they are wrong. With these books I don't worry about it anymore. (Do I sound like I am advertising them here......?) One of the photos above illustrates the palette I chose which is called Deco. I think I was attracted to it because it is very similar in colouration to my Etsy banner and avatar. I bought the first book myself but the second book was a Christmas gift and a very welcome one too. I may even decide to use this bird and tree design for a new avatar and banner......hmmmn now there is a thought....!!!! My top photo shows two of my latest bird designs on handmade Khadi paper which I mentioned in an earlier post. I love this paper which is quite rough with torn edges and some inclusions. It is stiff enough to make handmade cards with and takes ink and paint quite well in small areas. Unfortunately I don't have any handmade envelopes to go with it but I have used my super duper Artoz envelopes which I love to bits. They have a wonderful colour range and you absolutely have to have all the colours don't you? I may be a bit odd but if I had a choice between buying shoes and stationery I am afraid stationery would win hands down. I know I am in the minority here folks...!!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sketchbook Birds

I have been inspired recently to do even more bird sketches. Birds have always been an large part of my artwork but these days they seem to be even more important. I think browsing on Etsy and seeing the amazing talent of the artists and craftspeople is very inspirational and items with birds on are very popular. I found an old embroidery design book recently in a charity shop which features quite a number of stylised birds so I have adapted a few for my own use. You can see the results of my foray into avian matters above.

Yesterday I produced a couple of hand drawn and painted bird cards on handmade cotton rag Khadi paper. I bought the paper last year at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London and had not quite decided how to use it. It makes very nice cards because it is thick and stiff enough to stand up when folded and has a nice "rough" quality to it with torn edges etc. It also takes ink and paint very well. I posted the cards as a gift to a friend but I think I might produce a few for my Etsy shop. They are the sort of cards I would like to receive myself.

I was planning on starting my bird linocut today but it has been a busy day and time has run away from me. That will have to wait until tomorrow. Just time to write this blog post before "Criminal Minds" starts. Brilliant programme.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bluebells, Blossoms and Angel Ladies

These are my sketches of the animal angels

Isn't spring the most beautiful season of all? Every year when I see the gorgeous light greens of the trees and the beautiful spring blossoms I wish that it could last just a little bit longer. There is such a profusion of lovely flowers starting with the snowdrops and crocuses, daffodils and tulips, fruit tree blossoms and bluebells, magnolia and wisteria and then suddenly, they have all disappeared until next year. They are not around long enough to appreciate them properly. Don't get me wrong, I love the flowers of summer too, but spring flowers are special, and the trees and foliage never have that fabulous fresh, bright green shade again.

Today I visited my little bluebell dell. It is a tiny piece of woodland adjoining a local cemetery but to have the profusion of bluebells that it has it must be very ancient woodland. Bluebells are a particularly English phenomenon. Eighty percent of Europe's bluebells are found in England and we love each and every one of them. At least I do. There was quite a breeze this afternoon, and when I reached the spot, the fragrance of bluebells was overwhelming in a wonderful way. I took about a thousand pictures as I always do but I was particularly pleased about how two of them turned out and I have included these above. The sun was shining and that always improves my photography. See what you think of them anway.

I have also included a shot of blossom that I took last year. I think it is cherry but don't hold me to that. I think that it is such a lovely shade of pink. The flower picture is forget-me-not. A great favourite of the Victorians.

I also had a little doodle around with some animal and fish loving angel ladies. I love sketching angels for some reason. I just like the thought of beings with wings I think. As a child I always drew angels as female but when I think of "proper" angels, I think of them as being neither male nor female. Do you believe in them? I bet you do really but just don't want anyone to know. I will probably draw them as finished artworks one of these days. I will need to borrow the family hands though, as drawing hands in proportion is one of my artistic failures. It is so easy these days just to take a digital photo, upload to the computer, resize, print and then trace the finished hands in the exact position you require. Of course, if I was a proper artist I would simply draw them in real life but that is just asking for trouble. I hope you like them anyway.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Finally my stylised pen and ink rendering of oystercatchers in the estuary.

This is my oystercatcher wool needlepoint which I am quite proud of. It took an extremely long time to complete and has lots of shades of blue and green.

This is part of my original oystercatcher drawing. It has a striped border which isn't shown here.

My sketch and my present unfinished painting. Not too sure about it now that I have seen it again.

I think I may have mentioned before that I love birds and I love drawing and painting them, probably more than anything else except trees and leaves....oh and not forgetting angels of course.

Oystercatchers are some of my favourites because they are very pretty with their black and white plumage and orange legs and beaks. I have watched them in real life, if a good distance away, poking and prodding on the beach for cockles and mussels but probably not a lot of oysters. They are all being eaten in the posh restaurants.

I have drawn and painted and crafted a number of oystercatchers over the years and I never tire of them. I am in the process of painting another oystercatcher picture at the moment. It is still in the "not quite sure what to do with it" stage but I am hoping to have a bolt of inspiration sometime soon. The picture above is my sketch and the actual original which is incomplete. The oystercatchers are easy as I just copied them from another picture that I did four years ago but the background is stumping me a little. I have got as far as a few wavy lines so far.

I also produced a pen and ink stylised drawing of oystercatchers in the estuary some years ago which I really like. I love stylised work, almost more than completely naturalistic.

The other oystercatcher artwork I have included is a three panel wool needlepoint which took me forever to finish. It shows three different pictures of oystercatchers and if you look closely you will see my present oystercatchers reversed. When I create a nice image I often use it many time with different backgrounds and in different media. It is a bit like ringing the changes with the same outfit with different accessories. If you do it cleverly enough sometimes people don't even realise it is the same outfit.....!!! Hope you enjoy the artwork anyway.