Icebergs

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Whilst working on the research phase for the upcoming ‘There & Back Again’ exhibition, I became completely absorbed by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Journal and the Endurance expedition of 1914.

As a result there has been much drawing of icebergs amongst other things! Here are a few sketches I made in oil pastels and pencil.

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Exhibition Time

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*Exciting news* I now have the pleasure of inviting you to ‘There & Back Again: an explorative illustration exhibition’! Curated by the wonderful Drawn Chorus Collective and featuring the work of 30 artists, this is going to be a really good one!!!

It’s running from the 29th of August to the 3rd of September at Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green with the private view taking place on the 31st. Do come along, bring your friends, kids and Victorian safari hat and give your eyeballs a treat!

Over the next few weeks i’ll be putting the finishing touches to my own work for the show, so watch this space for updates!

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.

Lettering

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I’ve started reading ‘Pen Lettering’ by calligrapher Ann Camp with a view to improving my understanding of letter forms and (hopefully) upping my skills when it comes to wielding them.

Through my various stints of creative education and now working as a freelance designer, I’ve picked up basic knowledge and skills for lettering and typography. I can comfortably choose typefaces and lay out text in a pleasing way, but often when I attempt to hand-draw letters, I can come unstuck. So I decide it was time for a booster.

The first few pages of Ann Camp’s 1958 introduction to lettering were illuminating. She explains concepts such as the spacing between letters, teaching that this should not be worked out mechanically because of their varying shapes. For example, letters made of upright strokes should have more spacing between them than letters made of curved strokes, which should sit closer together. The aim being to keep the white spacing between letters optically proportionate at all times.  Whilst I have always aimed for good spacing in my designs, I have never really learned about the theory or logic behind it.

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…After the first few pages, she introduces some exercises, and that’s when things got HARD! I had to re-read her task explanation at least 5 times and apply a tonne of brainpower before I could properly get to work. In steps reminiscent of the ‘How to Draw an Owl’ meme (see below), she asks you to essentially rule out lines and copy the skeleton alphabet.

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I’ve persevered. So far just practicing the lower case, the next step is upper case and then using both cases to form some words. The skeleton alphabet helps beginners to understand the basic form and characteristics of letters, before moving on to more complex stuff.

A sneaky peak ahead has shown me that the next exercise involves double bound pencils and what looks like first steps of calligraphy, so i’m keen to get there. I find it can be difficult to keep up self initiated challenges such as this one, where the results aren’t always instantaneous or glamorous. But I’ll stick with it for now and see where it takes me!

Rocket

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I recently had the pleasure of illustrating a poem called ‘Rocket’. Written by Joseph J Clark, it is one of 14 poems about drinking that together form his small batch poetry book ‘Drunk With A Pen’. Each poem, illustrated by a different local artist, is a story and explores the complex relationship with alcohol and drinking that many of us have. (The cover illustration shown below is by the talented Rosa Carbó-Mascarell)

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An entertaining and thought provoking companion to any tipple, look out for your copy in various pubs dotted around the city. All proceeds from the book are donated to local charities including The Clock Tower Sanctuary which supports young, homeless people in Brighton and Hove. Cheers!