Thursday, December 31, 2015

paper doll

Tired of Christmas? Bored of all your new presents and technology? Fancy doing a little creative project, a bit of colouring and cutting out?
 Well, it's funny you should say that, because I've got just the thing for you.
Check out my new downloadable (so, no waiting around for them to arrive) colour in, cut out and assemble paper dolls.
Get out your scissors, pens and pencils and get creative!
Find them HERE.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

the upside down sketchbook project

 I don't understand how people get bored. It's a complete mystery to me. How is it even possible when there are so many things you can do to amuse yourself? I have a million and one projects on the go that I can dip into when I have nothing else to do. My problem is those projects too often get shelved because I never have nothing else to do.
Here's one of them. I started this a little while back when my friend, designer Emily Pickle, bought me a couple of Chagall and Renoir sticker books. At the same time I'd bought a couple of cheap little sketchbooks that were on a buy one get one free offer. So I dedicated one to copying the stickers. But, copying them upside down
Now, I'd heard about this technique a long time ago, when I first started drawing. I'm sure it was through Danny Gregory but I can't be certain. I didn't really give it much of a go back then. I was too caught up in making everything look perfect, and hadn't really learnt to trust my own judgement. Anyway, I only really started playing around with the technique, properly, a few years ago. Now, I really love it and use it often. Especially with portraits.
So how does it work? Well, it's really quite simple. I'm sure many of you already know, but for those who don't (and being self taught and not having that art school background, I had never come across these techniques before hanging out with illustrators online), here's a quick demo.
As I said, I was given these little sticker books of paintings from a series by the great painters. I'm not really a Renoir fan, but that really doesn't matter at all. And, as for Chagall, well, although I knew his work I hadn't studied it until now. And now I really am a big fan. I stuck all the stickers on the left hand pages of the sketchbook. You don't need stickers though. You can use absolutely anything as subject matter.
Then what you do is you turn the book upside down. See below.
All I have used is a fine pen and then a thicker pen; like a brush pen, a calligraphy pen or anything with a thicker nib. A marker pen will work just as well although they often bleed through the paper.
I started by making a line drawing. This exercise is all about looking. Really looking. Starting in the top left hand corner and trying to copy, as best you can, the photo or image you're working from. Stop wondering if you're getting it 'right' and just keep looking. Resist the urge to turn it the right way up until you've drawn the whole image in.
THEN you can turn it around. It's never really going to be 'perfect'. There'll always be a quirkiness about your drawing, but I think that's the joy of doing this. I always find I make the eyes huge.
 When I'd completed the line drawing, and turned the book around, I shade the drawing with the thicker pen. There's no reason you can't do all that while the image is still upside down. I just like brining it together like this at the end.
I've since found some more stickers of Japanese art which should complete the sketchbook (after I've shared them out with Emily Pickle, that is).
I should add that your first attempts may look absolutely nothing like the image you are copying. Mine certainly didn't. I've done a huge amount of this stuff since getting into it. But it's amazing how quickly I got better at it and how confident the drawings became. But, I guess that's the same of anything you do.
This one above, is one of my favourites.
One warning; if you do decide to dedicate a whole book to this technique, no matter how much you try, this will at some point happen...

Friday, December 18, 2015

these cafe days

Tampopo, Manchester
I saw a friend recently, who said "what have you been up to? Just going from café to café?" And, you know, from my drawings, it could look like that is all I do.
I do enjoy drawings in cafes though. They seem to combine all my favourite things; people, food and stuff, whilst being (mostly) warm and dry.
It's particularly useful, too, should you have forgotten to take your sketchbook out with you, if the café has paper place mats. I commend Tampopo for this. I managed to dig out an orange felt tip pen from the bottom of my bag for this one. I believe all cafés should use paper placemats. When I'm Prime Minister I will make it law.
The Plaza, Stockport
 One of my all time favourite cafes is the Plaza in Stockport. This place is an absolute hidden gem in a grey concrete city.
 It was built in 1932 and the café has pretty much stayed unchanged since then. It's like being on set of a Poirot film. Really very beautiful.
Plus, whoever was in charge of casting, has done a great job with the staff. Perfectly drawable café in every way.
Village Green , Eyam
 Then, the other day, we found a new café. I love it when that happens - when you find a new good café. Because, yes, I like a drawable café but the food is just as important.
And this one in Eyam 'plague village' ticked both boxes. I'll be returning. Next time, I'll sit in a different place, for a different view to draw.
Oil Can Café, Hepworth
 And so to today. The last café before Christmas.
But just to prove that I'm not always just sat around a table eating and drawing here's a something I did at work...
Merry Christmas folks.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

if you go down to the woods

I have some lovely new posters in my shop, folks. Professionally printed wall art for great prices. Check them out HERE.
Thanks for stopping by. More inspiration soon.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

confessions of an obsessive sketchbooker

It started with a girl on a train. I had to start it somewhere, so it started there.
Then I got into work and it grew (I still have to pinch myself that I go into work to draw).
I was trying to cover up the mess of the marker pens that had bled through the previous and following pages. I love marker pens, they are my new favourite thing. But they do not like sketchbooks. They do make a right old mess. Although I kind of like that. I like the challenge and, actually, you could look at it in a totally different way; the stains/mess give you something to work with.
Yeah. Plus, it really suits the way I like to create my sketchbook drawings these days. You see, this chaos and mess expresses much more about what goes on inside my head than any of my earlier 'perfect', serene, calm sketchbook drawings did. Sure, I get that I was looking for that at the time - a kind of peace - and that's what I was hoping to achieve from drawing, but, for along time I denied the mess. Not any more.
There are no rules to this kind of drawing. Nor rules or restrictions to making these kind of spreads. They're just a sprawling stream of things that are happening multiplied by a stream of consciousness. That, at this present moment in time, is my favourite way to create my sketchbooks. And, is the most interesting way too.
Okay, there's just one rule. Spotted it?
Yeah, never leave one millimetre of paper untouched!
There is still a little time to order from my shop for Christmas. Inspire someone you know, to draw their lives, with my zines or books. Or treat yourself. You can find my goodies, all created with love, HERE.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

a bit about making art commissions

 I thought I'd just share a bit about the making of an art commission as I've been working on a few of them recently. I also thought I'd post about it because perhaps, just maybe, sometimes, some folk don't quite realise what goes into these things.
So, I was commissioned to draw this beloved Land Rover in front of this beloved house.
 Now, I'm not really one for drawing from photos, things would have been a damn sight easier if I were, but I like to really get a feel for the place I'm drawing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with photos and I took a few as visual prompts/reminders, but I started with sketching from life. Which, living in the UK, and specifically the north, means one thing; standing/drawing in the rain.
So I got a load of en location sketches together; some of the Land Rover, some of the house, some of the Land Rover and the house. I made them on various papers and various sizes with various materials. Then, when I was chilled to the bone, I went home to work on the finished drawing.
...into the wee small hours of the night. Well, morning.
Then with some sleep between us I started again. I'd been building up to adding the colour, and putting the red door in. I say building up, but I mean dreading. I knew that bit of colour was make or break for the picture.
Then I totally panicked that I'd made the picture to feminine. So, I spend more time worrying over the colour and making it more red than pink. Then I spent a bit more time worrying that they'd hate the it and be really disappointed. This is an obligatory stage in the whole commission making process, I find.
So, that's just a little insight into what goes into making commissioned artwork for somebody else. To be honest, it doesn't even scratch the surface. I haven't even mentioned the blood, sweat, tears, anxiety, deadlines, avoiding deadlines, procrastinating, deadlines and avoidance. Next time.
 Oh, I needn't have worried so much, he loved it. But, I know I'll go through it all next time too.
I currently have FREE shipping worldwide on all of my original drawings (including a Land Rover Defender) in my Etsy shop HERE. I truly appreciate, more than I can say in words, being supported in this way. It keeps the wolf from my door.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Happy Birthday to Joni

Made this little sketch to celebrate the birthday of Joni Mitchell. My idol. My hero. My inspiration. I've pinched - I mean, been inspired by - her lyrics more than any other artist, to use in my work, as blog post titles, as life coaching. Happy Birthday Joni (her birthday was actually yesterday, but I did draw this late last night so it was kind of in time, although as my family and friends will tell you my birthday cards, presents and wishes are always, without fail, late).
A young Joni in, my new drug of choice, the Pentel brush pen.

Friday, November 06, 2015

two week sketchbook challenge

 The good thing about not blogging regularly for a period, is that you build up lots of work to post when you finally get back on it. Here's a project I completed earlier in the year.
So, I saw this post on the rather excellent Doodlers Anonymous where somebody completed a sketchbook in two hours. TWO. HOURS. I loved the idea.
 And, I had a couple of new cheap sketchbooks that I'd got in some sale. It gave me an idea of what to do with them. I should say that they were quite big sketchbooks (over 70 double page spreads) and so I set another goal; TWO WEEKS.
Which would pretty much mean taking the sketchbook wherever I went (including Ikea) and drawing even more obsessively than normal.
I started the sketchbook at a life drawing session that I used to attend weekly. It was a good place to start as that week we were focusing on drawing body parts, which meant I could fill up quite a few pages of feet and hands and, well, other bits.
And whilst I was totally pissed off that my washing machine was playing up, I did get a few drawings done waiting around at the laundrette.
I drew my friend's dog and I drew photos of my friends on my window sill.
The thing you have to do while speed drawing in this way is to ditch the fine liner pens. I pretty much used thick pens for the most of it.
I was also going to say you need to forget the detail, but I seemed to capture quite lot at my friend's gorgeous canal boat home - in both the one above and below.
Now it comes to something when you get home from another trip to Ikea, drop your bags on the floor and draw that, but I was determined to get that book finished.
The cat was not impressed.
Obviously these are just a tiny selection of the drawings I made. And they'll never be my best. But that wasn't the point.
It was a challenge, and I wasn't going to give up. I kept on pedalling.
In some places I had a field day.
Like at the antiques auction.
Where there was no shortage of things to draw. I was even sketching whilst bidding.
And I did it. And one of the things that pleased me most about finishing the book was that I finished it exactly two weeks to the day, at life drawing. And with the same model that was posing when I started.
So, if you're ever stuck for something to do, start yourself a two week sketchbook. Give it a go. And yeah, sometime in the near future I'll be giving the two hour sketchbook a bash.