Coaster Love

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I’ve realised I’ve started to develop something of a coaster habit. A current count put me at 15 which I reckon qualifies as the start of a collection. When I see a good design, I can’t help myself! I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you…

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I think the recent rise in illustrated beer and ale packaging is partly responsible for the increase of quality coasters bearing the same designs. Such as Beavertown Brewery’s eyeball popping artwork.

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I love my Adventure Time coaster pack, a Christmas present from my Brother. As you can see from the photo at the top – the Ice King in particular has seen a lot of use.

Paper and card coasters have a wonderful tactility to them. The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club coaster has a nice vintage feel to it and the pastel colours of the Brockwell Lido Cafe coaster are very pleasing.

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The owls were a charity shop gift from a friend and ‘Pivovar Trautenberk’ travelled back from the Czech Republic with me after a holiday beverage. If you see any good ones this Summer, please do grab a spare for me!

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Stylish Beings #2

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I’m continuing my exercise of drawing every pin on my Pinterest board ‘Stylish Beings’. This is a place where I collect images of icons, celebrities and well dressed folk that I think are especially cool! I did lose momentum recently as life got a little busy, but i’m getting back into the flow of it now.

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I’m enjoying working my way through the board, remembering the people and outfits that I had pinned and getting excited about how I could draw them. It’s pleasing when I discover that a particular medium fits a celebrity well. For example scratchy, black ink is perfect for rendering Alison Mosshart’s mussy bed hair!

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Each pin provides its own little challenge, with some that I expected to be easy turning out to be very complicated and vice versa. *Spoilers* upcoming pins on my radar include rocker Brody Dalle, actress Winona Rider and the iconic Elizabeth Taylor.

Blossom Trees

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There are so many blossom trees in Clapham. I think nearly every street has at least one but most boast an impressive collection. There’s a variety of sizes, shapes and colours and for the next few weeks of Spring we’ll be able to enjoy them all. Soft pinks, vanillas, whites and creams with little specks of green leaves. They contrast against their dark branches and light up when viewed against a bright Spring sky. At night, they loom out of the dark like Christmas decorations that haven’t been taken down yet.

Sometimes I find that painting or drawing things that are naturally very pretty to begin with, such as flowers, can produce results that are a bit twee and boring. I made a quick Google search to see if I could find some blossom inspired artwork that managed to avoid this.

Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Almond Blossom’ (1890, shown below) are beautiful but still have a wildness to them. The branches are crooked and spiky. The flowers are delicate but they belong in nature, not to be put in a vase on a mantelpiece.

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I’m not overly familiar with the work of husband-and-wife illustration team Kozyndan but their bunny themed work is super popular and hard to miss. In Bunny Blossoms (2005, shown below), instead of flowers, tiny pink rabbits bloom from the branches. Apart from the fact that they are HELLA cute, they bring something unexpected and humorous to the piece which references traditional Japanese blossom artwork.

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Hanami, which translates as ‘flower viewing’, is the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers (thanks Wikipedia!). From March to May the Sakura trees blossom all over Japan and people celebrate with outdoor parties, sometimes decorating the trees with paper lanterns.

‘Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami’ by Toyohara Chikanobu translates as ‘Cherry Blossoms Party at the Chiyoda Palace’ (1894, shown below). I love the elaborate clothes and bright splashes of red. You really get the sense that the people are enjoying playing underneath the blossom.

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I made some experiments myself working from photos I took of the Clapham Hanami. I’m quite pleased with the results. I think it was a useful exercise, choosing to sketch something that I was unsure of and finding ways to tackle it to create drawings I was happy with. Wherever you are, I hope that you get to enjoy some blossom trees this Spring too!

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Bunny Blossoms by Kozyndan used in appreciation without permission
Almond Blossom by Vincent Van Gogh provided by the Van Gogh Museum
Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami by Toyohara Chikanobu via Wikipedia
All other photographs and sketches are my own.

Kraken Rum

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Rum is my favourite party drink and I was very happy to receive a bottle of Kraken as a Christmas present. Apart from being a fantastic companion to chilly nights and bad TV, I’ve been getting so much from just looking at the bottle design.

A ‘Kraken’ is of course a legendary sea beast, a giant squid famous for terrorising pirate ships. Catching them in its tangle of tentacles before pulling them down to the murky depths.


It is captured on my bottle doing just that. The illustration style is reminiscent of Victorian etchings. Inky cross-hatching that sinks into the parchment label. The etched look seems to be consistently popular today, with talented artists like Dan Hillier updating it to create weird and wonderful works (see below). There’s something so pleasing about this style of illustration that seems to instantly fire up the imagination and hint at the curious.

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The shape of the bottle is unusual and according to the Kraken wikipedia page, is styled after traditional Victorian rum bottles. These featured two, hoop handles allowing the bottles to be hung and help prevent breakages.

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The colour palette is simple and bold. The velvety black of the illustration contrasts against the cream of the label and both flatter the rich brown of the spirit. Little accents of silver around the logo mark add shine. A tiny, etched, silver kraken guards the bottle top, sealing the doom of any sailor (or casual drinker) that dares to try a measure.

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Dan Hillier Illustration shown without permission of the artist. All other photographs are my own, Kraken video borrowed from Youtube.

Stylish Beings

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I set myself an exercise to draw every pin on my Pinterest board ‘Stylish Beings’. This is a board where I’ve been pinning people I think are particularly cool, glam or fascinating. So far it has about 200 pins and I thought it would be good drawing practice to have a crack at sketching each and every one.

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I’m forcing myself not to get too precious about it…so far I’ve drawn 39 and it’s safe to say that a good number of those will never see the light of day, but the more I draw the more i’m creating drawings that i’m really happy with and enjoying playing about with media and style. If I do a bad one, I drop it and move on to the next.

Capturing the likenesses is something I want to work on too, but hopefully by the time I get to pin #200 that will start to improve! Here’s a little selection of some of my faves so far: