Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Art tip of the week - paper and other things...

Bit of a mixed bag today… Sorry I didn’t blog yesterday, it was a Bank Holiday in the UK and I was out visiting my family!

Firstly paper and choosing the right paper for what you want to do. Let’s say you work in watercolours and your style is quite loose and you like lots of texture and the pigment to run to the edge of the water to get that interesting effect you can only really get with watercolours? Then you need a watercolour paper with quite a defined tooth on it - lots of texture. If you prefer to have a finer finish and maybe more control over detail (important if you are an illustrator), then you need a much smoother paper, and maybe one that is completely smooth. Fabriano make a range of completely smooth watercolour papers. It is hand-made in Italy and is beautiful to work with, but of course hugely expensive!

Likewise when you are looking at materials, not everyone wants that pigment edged effect to all their dabs of paint, but even colour may be required. The best way to get that is not to use watercolour paint at all, but inks. There are whole ranges of permanent inks out there in wonderful colours. Obviously it must be permanent ink, otherwise you’ll go to lay another colour down and your first will just ‘leak’ everywhere and you’ll soon have a mess. Inks can be diluted just like watercolours and so you can employ the same method. The advantage here is that because the colours are so intense to start with you only need use a tiny amount each time and so your stock of inks, if properly sealed each time and stored well should last a very long time indeed!

Next week I will post instructions on how to stretch your paper, prior to working on

Friday, 27 May 2011

Cute mice...

Today I have been playing around with some ideas for possible Christmas cards for later this year. One of you suggested mice and I thought what a nice idea!

I have been having great fun today coming up with five different ideas and here are three for you to look at. I didn't think there would be space to show all five!

These are thumbnail sketches and are no bigger than the new UK large stamp, which won't mean much to Americans or Europeans, but let's just say they are small - tiny even! You may need binoculars! By the way if your wondering why so small, I found quite oddly that it freed me up! 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wow - I haven’t blogged yet

What a made day! First I had to reduce a picture of Wayne Rooney to 35mm slide size, then photocopy it onto acetate, ready to mount in a 35mm frame. My nephew want’s his arty Auntie to paint Wayne Rooney in his bedroom wall, and so I’m going to project an outline of him onto the wall and then do the the rest myself.
Then I had a whole load of my French to catch up on. This week it was all about ‘je voudrais une tarte aux pomme,  s'il vous plaît?’ in other words how to go into a shop and ask for something in French. Quite good fun, we all took turns pretending to be shopkeepers! 
Anyway, art wise I was sorting through my plan chest the other day and came across some cartoon images of my nephew I did a while ago, with the intention of using them for a book idea I had. He pulls the most wonderful faces, which I’ve used here:

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Christmas designs already - ideas please!

I know it’s perversely early, but it is this time of year I think about Christmas cards designs, before my book work comes in. Every year I produce a set of illustrations for Christmas cards, which traditionally have gone out to clients, family and friends, but for the first time last year, I also sold sets of cards! Why? Because I was asked to sell them! So I have decided I am going to do the same again this year.
Last year my designs included a fairy winter scene, a dragon dressed up as Santa and some dog and cat designs. Now this year I would like some suggestions from YOU! Yes now I’m blogging I thought why not, let’s get some suggestions from my followers. What would you like me to try and draw this year? I dare you to come up with some fabulous ideas for me. I will of course blog the results right here!
Here is a selection of last year’s designs:

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life drawing - the human body

Another interest of mine that sadly I have been unable to do in recent years is life drawing: drawing and painting from the human body. It is by far one of the best ways to learn to draw and can be very absorbing. You just need a willing volunteer to strip off! One of my old art tutors used to say that the only way to shut me up was to stick a naked body in front of me! Charming! I particularly enjoyed working quite large and in an almost abstract way, as if the body were a landscape.

You can learn so much about perspective, measurement, tone, texture and movement from studying the human body.
Today I thought i would share some life drawings of my own with you, which I hope you will like. 

These are just rendered in soft pencil only.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Art tip of the week - colourless colours

Black is a negative colour. It is maximum darkness, but complete blackness is rare, because there is always light. White on the other hand is the opposite: white is maximum lightness and in theory reflects all light, but even the whitest white still absorbs a small amount of light. Grey is every shade in between and spans black, right through to white. 
Black, grey and white are heavily symbolic colours too. Black is always associated with badness, black looks are threatening, fear of the dark, black Monday, etc. White is seen as pure, light and good (if used a little tongue in cheek at times). The baddies in films are nearly always dressed in black, like Lord Blackwood in the latest Sherlock Holmes movie - even his name contains the word ‘black’. Grey is associated with intelligence: brain matter, the grey head of wisdom, our man-made environment around us if you start to think about it is very grey in colour. 
Why not try thinking about these associations the next time you work in monochrome, the results could be interesting. On a purely practical level, greys give perspective in a piece of artwork. The most straightforward example is a mountain range. As each mountain rising behind the one in front it is lighter in tone, heading more towards white, creating the illusion of space, perspective and distance. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bonsoir monsieur et madame

I’ve gone Française over the last vingt-quatre heures, practising un peu! My good friend @FrenchTweacher on twitter has been skyping with me today to help with one or two issues! You never know if I get good enough at it I may be able to work with a French publisher one day, which would be fun I’m sure! 
As I didn’t receive any comments yesterday I am assuming you’ve all chickened out of having a go at how to draw a Chinese dragon yesterday! 
So I thought today I would do this step by step thing from a different perspective. Maybe you would be interested to see some of the steps I go through from rough to finished artwork on a project?
So here are some of the steps I took with the Child in Time book - the other Bologna book fair project.
Step 1: You get a brief - sometimes very sketchy and so play around with some ideas:


Step 2: Sometimes you have to concentrate a little more on getting the character of the figure right and so work on a portrait sketch.

Step 3: One idea get’s chosen, but often needs much work on it to tweak it for the client

Step 4: Even at finish colour stage there maybe last minute changes that need to be made. It isn’t over to the fat lady sings!

Avoir un beau week-end! Au revoir!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Video Jug launch soon!

Just a quickie today to mention that the countdown for the Video Jug stuff I did last month is not long now and I will be able to share some aired videos with you right here!
Just as a taster, here is another step-by-step how to do I prepared for the day, which you may like to try out yourselves. Go on - have a go and let me know how you get on. Feedback is most welcome!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bologna book fair - the other project

Well it’s still early days, but the other project that went to Bologna has faired a little better and the company does have interest. They are currently in the process of negotiating the minimal print run they want ordered from several interested publishers. Hopefully if one bites, it’s all systems go! 
I feel with this news I am now in a position to share with you the artwork produced for this project. It is very different to the 3D fairy pop-up book, which was fictional and aimed at the gift book market. This one is most unusual, it is a pop-up book, but it is non-fiction. It consists, as far as I know of one main very impressive, pretty large pop-up of a child from a period in history. I had to do an Ancient Greek boy and a pencil sample of a Viking girl, to give clients a further overview of the project. 
I also had to do some small spot illustrations too, to accompany the dramatic pop-up. When I mean dramatic I mean it pops out of the book to height of around 160mm, which is high!
Here they are for you:

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Oh dear what can the matter be!

I'm afraid today it will be a short and rather personal post, because I am ill. Not to wallow in too much self-pity, but I am in the midst of a Multiple Sclerosis relapse, which is making me feel quite poorly. This time my eye-sight is going, as well as having rather bad vertigo - not good for an artist! I am on steroids (which are not working and making me worse). In attempt to carry on, here I am posting today's blog.

As you can imagine working on anything new at the moment is quite out of the question: I can't see too well at all! So here are a selection of pictures I did of boys for Buster Books. 

This one isn't a Buster Book one but is fun all the same!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Art tip of the week - odds and ends

Good afternoon everyone! The tips I want to give you today are all small but mighty and you'll see why. Some if them are ones I use when illustrating, but I think they can apply to other forms of art.

For instance in a piece of illustration when you have got quite a lot going on, but you wish to emphasis a particular gesture in the whole artwork there are some devices you can utilise. If you are working just in black and white, make sure the area you want everyone's eye drawn to is rendered is slightly higher contrast, using more darker shades. Likewise if you are working in colour think about the colour combinations that will work to draw the viewer in and hone them in on a particular spot of your artwork.

Another tip is directed at all those landscape enthusiasts out there - give yourself room. So many times over the years I have seen artists paint there scenes right up to the very edge of the paper. Now what are you going to do if you want to frame it? You are going to lose some of your artwork under a window mount! Always give yourself a good four inches all the way round. This way if you need to extend the artwork a little for whatever reason, you've given yourself the breathing space to do so!

Here's a piece of artwork that illustrates the use of high contrast in areas of the artwork - see if you can spot them!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday art...

Hello everyone

I'm sorry I haven't blogged so much this week - a combination of contrary reasons. Firstly my MS reared it's ugly head and has been playing havoc with my eyes, making any computer work a little hard for me. I am now on steroids, which I hope will help. Secondly I have had my head in a book I simply could not put down, The crimson petal and the white, by Michael Faber. A masterpiece if you ask me! Set during the 19th century the story follows the exploits of Sugar, an intelligent and intriguing prostitute determined to better her life any way she can. There are a whole host of wonderfully penned characters. You must read it.

Today I am going to be colouring-up two body-paint designs, ready for next Saturday's photo-shoot. Unfortunately the designs are top secret and so I'm under orders not to show them to anyone on 'pain of death'!

I will therefore share with you some other pieces of artwork that I didn't do for any particular project, but just for fun and are based on a cat and a dog owned by a friend of mine.

Have a lovely Sunday everyone!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Oxford University Press

Somehow I managed to completely forget to blog anything yesterday! I blame time. It must have speeded up while I was otherwise engaged until the day had gone. Actually no, it's all that Einstein's fault!
I haven’t posted much artwork this week and so thought I ought to today. Over the years I have done all sorts of weird and wonderful pictures for OUP - Oxford University Press. Some of the oddest include baby giants in nappies, sea monsters, the gunpowder plot, genies in bottles and a whole cartoon book about the great fire of London. All this was rendered using conventional methods: pencil, paint, ink and paper.
On one occasion however they wanted everything rendered digitally, even though strictly speaking I am not a digital artist. I am happy to rise to a challenge and ended up working on two books for the English Language department and I thought i would share some of the results with you today.

These two are taken from a set of twelve for months of the year

This one has a strange blank space to the bottom-right. 
That's where a speech bubble appeared in the book.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Please teacher can you read the bum bum book?

I would like to share with you today some funny things that have recently happened to me when working with children. 
Once a week I do a story time session at a local nursery. Most of the children are between the ages of three up to school age. One little boy Harry, who happens to be four has clearly discovered where I live. There I was on Sunday, busily decorating my living room, when there’s a tiny, wee knock at my front door. I open it to find little Harry standing there and the first words out of his mouth were “please teacher can you read the bum bum book to me?” I had to smile. He was referring to a lift the flap book, called ‘Bums’. I had to explain to him that I didn’t have it at home so I couldn’t! Then I thought alarmingly what on earth is he doing out and about on his own? Then his older sister appeared from around the corner!
I also happened to read another book to them called ‘More pants!’. I then asked them what kind of pants they would like if they could wish for them. Here are some of the more odd responses: cake pants, ice-creams pants you can lick, monster pants with spikes!, pants that can make you fly and my all time favourite, stinky pants!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Art tip of the week - getting over your nerves

You are thinking what on earth is she going to talk about today? For some an initial problem that is quite common is getting over the fear of putting tone down on a piece of paper - literally getting started! I used to teach life drawing a few long years ago now and I discovered one or two tricks for getting people started. 
The first is if you find facing that big expanse of white paper just too much, why not change it to another colour, something that is more a mid-tone, like a grey or maybe fawn colour. Then all your need to do is use the paper for all your mid tones and work with charcoal or very soft pencil for your dark tones and a white soft pencil or artist’s chalk for the light tones. I found it really freed people up and they felt less anxious about knowing where to start.
My second tip is a little more, well - surprising. If you find you tend to work very hesitantly and tightly with a pencil, here’s a trick one of my old art tutors taught me.  Her name was Avis and she has her work in the Tate Britain. Anyway her trick was to give us all a fine stick, yes I did say “stick”. Fill a plastic cup with water and black paint - don’t make it too watery though, nice and thick. Next you basically dip the stick in the paint and draw with it. At the very least, it is great fun and more importantly it will certainly make you less hesitant

Friday, 6 May 2011

Princess fairies

I promised to share with you some more pictures from the 3D book I did for Templar publishing and so here are some more pictures for you today. Unfortunately, as I mentioned a few days ago they will not be proceeding with this particular project.
I am still waiting to hear back from Hawcock Books about my other project that went to the book fairs. That’s a pop-up book too, but very different indeed, in fact it’s non-fiction!
These are some of the pop-up elements:

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Bromley Literary Festival

I have mentioned before that on the 29th June I am giving a talk at Beckenham Library on being an illustrator. Well now I have been asked to be a judge for their Write All Over Bromley competition. There is an art competition and it is that I will be judging! 
Here are some details: The theme is my fantasy library - it could be in a strange location e.g. in space, in a different time or have magical elements! I’ve got to choose the winner! Unfortunately the day they announce the winners at a special presentation, I am coming back from Hereford and so as soon as I get back to my station, I've got to jump in a cab and head over to the event - phew!
There will be a press release in the papers about it next week in which I’ll be mentioned! Could be fun this! Here’s a link that tells you more about it: CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO! 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The bitter taste of disappointment

I had some bad news yesterday. Apparently the dummy book I did for Templar Publishing (my favourite publisher) failed at the Bologna and London book fairs. They are trying to get feedback from the sales team at the moment, but it is thought that the format, story idea, novelty features and unfortunately the illustrations all combined did not have appeal. Bit of a blow really, but unfortunately this happens quite a lot. For every book that get’s published, there are probably two or three that fail to gain interest and are never seen!
My agent feels I did not get anywhere near enough art direction on the project, i.e. colour palette to use, type of content, detailing on little girl, etc., and feels that it isn’t entirely down to the artwork that the project failed. 
On a brighter note I can however now share the artwork for this book with you and you can  let me know what YOU think. So here is the first piece: 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Spring and summer designs

Well I spent yesterday working on some designs for the body-painting I will be doing later this month. So far we have a lovely, rather contemporary-looking Christmas design and a beautiful Spring design incorporating cherry blossom. But I am afraid I am not allowed to show you any of them! It is all top-secret stuff and they won’t be revealed until the photographs of them become official after submitting them to calendar organisers - the charity itself 
Eventually I will blog some of the photographs of women with my designs painted on them for you and hope to have a page of photographs on my website too.
So that you have something with a floral theme to view today, here is the ‘recto’ side of spread 2 (page 2) from my fairy book just recently published.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Art tip of the week - the ABC of colour

I am posting early today because later I am working with another artist and the photographer Sue Greetham on designs for our planned body painting of pregnant ladies! We hope to come up with lots of great designs today.
As it is Monday, it is time for me to post my art tip of the week, and continuing with the theme of colour I wanted to find a simple list that uses all the terminology to describe colour, and rather than re-invent the wheel I found a comprehensive list readily available on the Internet and so here it is below. Now if you find this of interest, copy and past it:

Achromatic--lacking colour, neutral; gray, white or black
Basic palette--based on red, yellow, blue or magenta, yellow cyan primaries
Colour scheme--a logical relationship of colours on the colour wheel
Dominance--having larger colour area or brighter colour for emphasis
Earth colour--low intensity colour created from natural earths or synthetic equivalents
Fugitive colour--colour that fades or changes over a short period of time
Granulation--sedimentary or settling characteristic of pigment
Hue--the name of a colour (red, yellow, blue, etc.)
Intensity--purity or brightness of a colour; sometimes called chroma or saturation
Juxtapose--place colours side by side for contrast
Key-- high key: light-to-middle values; low key: middle-to-dark values; full contrast: complete value range from light to dark
Local colour--actual colour of an object
Movement--direction: horizontal (serene), vertical (stable) or diagonal (energetic)
Neutral--gray, white or black
Opacity--covering power of pigment
Primary colours--colours that can't be mixed--red, yellow blue, magenta, cyan
Reflected colour--coloured light that bounces from a surface and falls on a surface nearby
Split Primaries--two of each primary colour used to create bright mixtures
Temperature--the warmth or coolness of a colour (red-orange is warmest, blue-green is coolest)
Unity--the purpose of design, when everything is working
Value--light to dark range of a colour
Wheel--circular arrangement of colours used in colour theory and selection