Tove Jansson & the Creative Process

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As a long time fan of Tove Jansson’s illustrations, seeing the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery before it closed was a big treat. Though the Moomins took centre stage, there was an excellent variety of her work on display.

Watercolours and drawings from Tove’s illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit. Large oil-painted self portraits and abstracts. Also a selection of her political cartoons and magazine covers, some of which were created during the Second World War. There was even a series of models, like this one of Snufkin (below) that I took the opportunity to sketch!

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However, what I enjoyed most about this exhibition was the touch of insight it gave me into Tove’s creative process. Evidence of pencil lines not quite rubbed out underneath delicate ink work. Some barely perceptible tippex-like corrections on typography. Roughs and layout sketches shown next to final versions. I noticed that a few of the watercolours had sections which appear to have been carefully cut out, perhaps by scalpel, and removed or replaced with a new layer of card fixed precisely in place over the top.

tove jansson_alice in wonderland_via pinterest

It was very heartening to see these little human touches and imagine that even my illustration heroes made/make changes and tweaks to improve their work. That things don’t always come out perfectly first time and that there are many different ways to create. It’s all part of the process and one that we don’t always get to see – especially in today’s slick, Photoshop world.

I love it when illustrators share what goes on behind the scenes and how they make their work. I’ll be sure to share more of my creative process this year too!

The above Tove Jansson Illustration from Alice In Wonderland is used here without permission via Pinterest. 

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In case you missed it…

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For anyone that couldn’t make it along to ‘There & Back Again’ the exploration themed exhibition I took part in this Summer – you can now see my illustrations and listen to the audio installation on my website.

I so enjoyed taking part in the show and got completely obsessed researching my chosen subject matter! I created four illustrations that explored key points of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Endurance expedition. From the ship becoming stuck in the Antarctic ice pack, to the men marching across the floes in attempt to reach safety.

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As I was reading Shackleton’s journal ‘South’, I became so struck with how eloquently he described their perilous journey and incredible surroundings that I wanted to find a way to share his words.

With the help of my brilliant actor friend, Pip Donaghy and talented composer brother, Mikey Parsons, we created an audio installation that allowed visitors to the gallery to hear parts of Shackleton’s adventure whilst viewing the illustrations (these can be found by scrolling down the project page on my website).

exhibition photo

I learned a lot in preparing for this exhibition and there are a few things I will definitely do differently next time, namely:

Order my frames well in advance of the show in case they are all smashed up when they arrive and I freak out and have to make a last minute trip to a nearby glazier to replace the glass.

But I picked up things that were really helpful too, such as not being afraid to ask your printer for advice and that creating geeky mockups of how your pictures will look when hung on the gallery wall is actually pretty handy!

All in all, I’m really chuffed with how this exhibition turned out and had great fun taking part alongside such talented and lovely artists. I still have a few prints available from the show, so do get in touch if you see something you like or have any questions. Massive thanks if you made it along and i’ll look forward to seeing you at the next one!

 

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!

Paul Nash, Monster Field

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‘There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed.’ —Paul Nash, Outline, 1949

I went to see the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Britain. It was an overwhelming show. A huge collection of his works including watercolours, engravings, large oil paintings, collages, illustrations and poetry from his varied career. I wasn’t overly familiar with his work before attending, though I’d perhaps seen a few of his more famous surrealist paintings.

I didn’t know that he was a war artist in both World Wars. That he began his career as an illustrator. That he took a major role in organising the International Surrealist Exhibition in London 1936. I’m very keen to get my hands on his autobiography and learn more about him, but for now I wanted to share a couple of the pieces from the show that chimed with me.

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Nash felt a strong connection to certain places. In 1938 he discovered ‘Monster Field’ a place where large fallen trees seemed to him to resemble beast-like creatures. He enjoyed returning there, though in a letter from the time he wrote that he had trouble remembering exactly how to find it. It seems to me he enjoyed the atmosphere of this field and those tree-creatures. They inspired him and he documented them in photos and a series of paintings. The branches reach out like tentacles and jagged shards of bark look like teeth.

I can relate to Nash’s Monster Field, some places have something very evocative about them. I have my own spots that can make me feel blissfully happy and serene, others that creep me up or that I feel strangely tied to though I can’t always explain why.

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The other piece I particularly enjoyed ‘Swanage’ (1936) is a collage composed of photographs from Nash’s collection of found objects. Along with his fellow artist and friend Eileen Agar, they would place unusual objects together to create new and surreal encounters between them. Which they would then photograph, draw and paint. I love the muted colours in this piece. The shapes and forms, shadows and details that create an alien landscape.

Swanage c.1936 by Paul Nash 1889-1946
The Paul Nash exhibition is running at the Tate Britain from 26th October – 5th March
Tickets approx £15

Little Look Back

L is for Lepidoptera_Owlstation

It’s January and the start of a shiny new year already, it hardly seems possible! Before I get stuck into my new year drawlutions (drawing – resolutions, anyone? Oh dear..) I wanted to have a quick look back at December and 2015. The ‘Easy As’ show was a lot of fun. Seeing everyone’s beautiful alphabet artwork displayed together was brilliant. With a real mix of styles, colour and approach from each artist.

Meeting and collaborating with the talented Drawn Chorus Collective was a great experience. On a personal level it was lovely to be exhibiting again and creating a piece that would have a physical life. Whilst I love working on games and apps, it feels great to see my work printed and framed up every so often. In case you missed it, here is my illustration ‘L for Lepidoptera’ and some photos from the private view.

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I was lucky to work on some fantastic digital projects in 2015 such as Silverpoint. I got down to lots of sketching; including my Devon holiday and recent trip to Edinburgh (more on that soon!).

Moving from Brighton to London was a big change for me. It wasn’t until the tail end of the year that I really started to feel settled and get a feel for my own place in what can sometimes seem a daunting and isolating city. I now feel i’ve found my feet and am thrilled to be in such a happening space, with so many gigs, exhibitions and heaps of culture, plus meeting lovely people to boot. 2016 here we go!

Exhibition Time

I’m very happy to be able to invite you to the ‘Easy As’ book launch! Thanks to the lovely backers of our kickstarter campaign, this illustrative alphabet extravaganza (try saying that after a mulled wine or two) is being printed. I collaborated with the wonderful Drawn Chorus Collective for this project and was tasked with creating the letter ‘L’.

Easy As Exhibition

Featuring the work of 27 international illustrators, a popup shop stocked full of cards, prints and other goodies, plus the ‘Easy As’ book itself, this is shaping up to be a corker of an event. The show will be up from the 10th – 16th at Light Eye Mind gallery, London. I’ll be at the private view on the 11th so do come along and say hello!