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:

 

Colour Studies

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Here are a couple of little colour studies I’ve made as part of my research kick off for my next project with The Drawn Chorus. Super excited to be collaborating with them again! I call these colour studies…though I’m not sure if that is the technical term for them. The idea was to quickly and freely get down a range of colours and compositions to help me loosen up and get inspired around their exhibition theme. The first is a still from a Tomb Raider game, the second a campfire on a snowy mountain. More on that in the coming months!

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Secret 7

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I took part in this year’s Secret 7. A nice, inspiring project which invites creatives from all over the world to interpret designs for 7” record sleeves based on one of 7 songs chosen each year. The designs are not allowed to feature the artist name or track title (hence the secret bit!). Whilst my entry wasn’t selected for the charity exhibition I was really glad I took part. I chose to create a piece for the Tame Impala track ‘The Less I know The Better’ a melancholy song with hints of unrequited love, lust and longing.

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I wanted to push my conceptual thinking but found it tricky to choose an idea. Finding a way to reflect the themes of the song without feeling too obvious or being influenced by existing media attached to it. Eventually it was the electronic sounds that inspired me the most. I felt they had an underwater-like quality to them conjuring imagery of ripples and watery light. I also enjoyed the lyric ‘Wait ten years we’ll be together’.

I imagined that the lover in the song was banished to an isolated underwater lair and forced to wait, striking off each year on a seaweed covered rock until they could return to their love. Something like that. I’m pretty pleased how the final piece turned out. It uses a mixture of watercolour, oil pastel and pencil. It helped me to explore use of composition and layers texture.

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Year Walk

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I’ve played some really great games on my phone recently. I haven’t had a Playstation of my own for some years but I’m finding that puzzle and adventure apps are just right for enjoying on a smaller device. In the same way that you can’t put a good book down, I find myself sneaking in a breakfast gaming session, tapping away on the tube and trying (and failing) not to play in bed.

A recent stand out for me is Simogo’s Year Walk ; an atmospheric game set in the snowy Swedish woods.  In times of old, man would walk deep into the woods in the hope of catching a glimpse of his future. It was a perilous activity and many who ventured never returned. As the story unravels, you encounter strange, dark beasts of the forest taken straight from Swedish folklore. You must solve the puzzles they set out for you, searching for clues and performing clever interactions to impress them.

 

The art style is beautiful. It somehow manages to be both cute and creepy at the same time. It is Illustratively rich, the textures adding just the right amount of detail. The gentle shift of focus and blurring/sharpening of foreground and background objects seem to add to the feeling of unease.

The interface is super minimal, which seems to me to be a mark of a well designed experience. I would rather focus on story and game art than an ugly button or unnecessary menus. If you do download it, be sure to grab the companion app which has a few secrets of its own!

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