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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
*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!
‘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.
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.
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.
The Paul Nash exhibition is running at the Tate Britain from 26th October – 5th March
Tickets approx £15
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.
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!
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’.
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!
I went to see the ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ exhibition at the Barbican. This is a series of rooms filled with the collections of 14 artists living and dead. On the quest as ever for something unusual to draw, I was pleased to find plenty of curious and odd objects to satisfy that need, but perusing the collections of each artist in turn got me thinking about the act of ‘collecting’ itself.
What does it mean to collect something? Is it the grouping together of near identical objects? Or It might be the differences of objects which allows you to bring them together; you like the way this jug looks when placed next to these silver handcuffs and this cactus. Or maybe you’re more categorical, bringing together stuffed animals like Damien Hirst, or grouping flora and fauna in a more general way.
The Victorians were big on collecting, and having a Cabinet of Curiosities (also known as a Kunstkammer, or Wonder Room) was quite a big status symbol, something to show your power and worldliness. Apparently even earlier in 1587, Christian the 1st of Saxony was advised that one needed 3 types of item in order to have a proper Kunstkammer:
1. Sculptures and paintings
2. Curious items from home and abroad
3. Antlers, horns, claws, feathers and other things belonging to strange and curious animals
For Andy Warhol and his collection of gaudy cookie jars the satisfaction may have come from the act of obtaining the jars rather than displaying or admiring them. It is said that after purchasing a jar, it could end up sitting unwrapped and unobserved in his studio. Not put out on display or organised in any pleasing fashion as they have been at the Barbican. It’s more about the buzz, the thrill of suddenly spotting that unusual object you crave, almost obscured beneath a pile of junk in a dingy back room at a flea market. Knowing that you had to have it and make it yours.
Not all collections have to be beautiful and pleasing. You might choose to collect something that disgusts or provokes. Peter Blake’s collection of creepy dolls and outlandish masks definitely give a different vibe than that of the beautiful intricate ‘Netsuke’
collected by British ceramic artist Edmuund De Waal. Netsuke being carved, button like toggles worn on Japanese Kimonos. He has tiny carved mice, hares and turtles sometimes made from ivory (eek) and sometimes bamboo amongst other outlandish materials.
The line between ‘STUFF’ and ‘A Collection’ is quite thin I feel. In one of the larger rooms at The Barbican’s exhib, German artist Hanne Darboven’s objects are on show.
A life size plastic horse, a miniature theatre, a lamp in the shape of a cobra, to me this definitely falls more into the STUFF pile. If you collect stuff, is it a collection? Or just a group of things that you like? Are you just a hoarder rather than an intrepid devoted collector? Not that it matters.
I wondered if my higgledy piggeldy ‘house decorations’ qualify as a collection? These are things that I like to have around me, usually on a shelf in whichever place i’m renting, because they are pleasing and inspiring to my eye. I have dried roses from a friend’s funeral, vintage teacups, kitsch shiny angels, half a barbie that has been painted as a Mexican day of the dead Katrina (A small selection pictured below). I suppose the common element here is that I have lots of owls, ceramic owls, wooden owls, metal owls, big ones, small ones, cute ones, serious ones. Some are ugly, but that no longer matters when they are brought into the parliament with the others because their oddness makes them interesting.
Are creative people more likely to cultivate a collection? As it is something which may feed back into their work and inspire it or even become an extension of their work. Barbican featured American artist Pae White describes her collection of textiles as a visual library that she can refer to when working. My visual library is now largely online thanks to the internet and apps like pinterest which allow you to have a HUGE collection, without any of the financial commitment or risk of alienating loved ones by filling every available space and surface with seashells.
I suppose it really comes down to an individual’s personality and what sparks their interest as to whether or not they will have a collection. If they do have a collection, what do you think it says about them?
‘Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as a Collector’
Is at The Barbican until the 25th of May, £12
‘You should always use your wildest Imagination’
Sound advice from the surrealist Czech animator Jan Svankmajer whose exhibition ‘The Inner Life of Objects’ is open to the public (and completely free) in Brighton this November. Amongst grungy props from his peculiar films, taxidermy sculptures, stacked aardvarks and fantastical anatomical etchings are clips from his wonderful animations such as Historia Naturae.
Photo by Cine-City, reblogged without permission.
In Historia, Jan works his way through the different groups of nature, creating patterns with his editing. Quick cuts between birds eyes, stop motion animated skeletons, the leering faces of monkeys depicted in Victorian illustrations. The exhibition runs until the 2nd of December at the University of Brighton in the Steine. I’ve been 3 times already! Field sketch of aardvarks below.