Brian

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This week I’m cat sitting Brian. We’ve hung out a few times now and it’s always a pleasure spending time with him. While I get on with my work in the day, he’s usually curled up tightly on the sofa. He’ll occasionally pop over to say hello, climb over my Macbook a few times and sit on my lap for a bit, kneading me with his claws.

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Like most cats, he goes a bit hyper in the evening before bed time. Launching himself into the air, skidding through rooms or climbing up my legs while I’m cooking. On this visit I’ve decided to try and sketch him during some of his quieter moments. He’s so dark and fuzzy that sometimes when his eyes are closed he just blends into one big fluff-ball and it’s tricky to pick out any features! It’s been good practice though, trying to quickly get his form down before he shifts position and nice for me to have some cat company.

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Shetland Adventure

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Last year my brother, father and I went on a road trip to the Shetland Islands. We’d all been keen to explore and to visit our friends who had moved there some years previously. They’d been tempting us with stories of epic scenery and wildlife. I packed my sketchbook, plenty of jumpers and warm clothes (it was May but I wasn’t taking any chances!) and booked us into a series of ‘Böds’ – buildings once used to house Fisherman’s equipment – now turned into basic accommodation for travellers.

We had such a brilliant adventure! I didn’t keep a journal at the time, so will share some highlights with you here, as well as sketches and photos made along the way…

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Dunnottar Castle
Before taking the ferry to Shetland we visited the ruined, Medieval fortress of Dunnottar Castle near Aberdeen. Perched on the headland, it has serious Game Of Thrones vibes to it! The many crumbling windows and arches gave incredible views of the sea and coastline and provided plenty of inspiration for drawing.

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Ferry Crossing
We then took the overnight ferry to Lerwick, the main port in Shetland. It made me realise that I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ for drawing modern fishing boats! Something about all the criss crossed lines of the ropes, the symmetry of their cranes and pulleys, the bold strips of colour and chunky iron fittings…Spending a night on the ferry was pretty exciting too. We had fantastic views of the choppy sea as we made our way north. And enjoyed several intense games of Canasta with beers and hot chocolates.

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Arrival in Shetland

It was snowing when the ferry pulled into Lerwick. We spent the next few days staying in a Bod near our friend’s house. They were wonderful tour guides and hosts and took us to some of their favourite spots. At Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (foghorn pictured below) we were blasted by icy winds and saw puffins. A stones throw from our friend’s home we saw the washed up spine of a whale and spotted otters but the big treat came when we visited the lunar-esque cliffs of Eshaness…

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Just as we were about to leave the cliffs, our friend bolted from the car and pointed out to sea. She had spotted a pod of Orcas! We were extremely lucky to have seen them on our first visit to Shetland and luckily had a pair of binoculars with us (nature nerds) but we could even see them with the naked eye; the tall dorsal fin of the male and a baby orca keeping up with the pack.

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Though I made some drawings I was very happy with during our trip, there were several occasions where I was thwarted by the weather and had to admit defeat. Snow one minute, torrential rain and howling winds then beautiful, warm sunshine the next, quite tricky to keep up with! But I was determined to finish my drawing of little coloured houses across the bay and these fluffy Shetland ponies (chalk pastel sketch at the very top of this post).

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Island Hopping
We moved on from the mainland to stay in Yell. This involved another ferry crossing, though this one was so quick there was barely time to finish a Mars bar. On Yell we stayed in a Bod next to a ruined, haunted house. There were a few eerie buildings during our stay which was exciting – until you turned off the lights and let the fires go out!

From here we made little expeditions around Yell to see ‘The White Wife’, the figurehead of a German ship that wrecked near the island, some secret beaches and to drink in the Northern-most pub in Shetland (or so claimed the pub). We also travelled to neighbouring Unst for a day trip.

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A grey day on Unst

Unst is one of Shetland’s North isles. We took another little ferry over to explore. It was a very grey and foggy day. On a quiet winding road, a Viking Longboat suddenly appeared from the mist! A complete replica perched next to a reconstruction of a turf covered Longhouse.

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Later we took a walk to the cliffs at Hermaness Nature Reserve. We stuck to the wooden path to avoid falling into the saturated ground – very reminiscent of Tolkein’s ‘Dead Marshes’ – until the path ran out and disappeared into the fog. Knowing this was pretty close to the cliff edge, we decided it would be a smart move to turn back!

At the Keen of Hamar nature reserve we hunted for Edmonston’s chickweed. A small, yellow flower that can only be found in this little stretch of protected land. On a chilly, seaweed covered beach we were eyeballed by a large male seal from the water. We posed in the decorated bus shelter, an attraction straight from Craggy Island and marvelled at one of the moss covered Standing Stones.

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Ferry Home
It was a calm sunny evening when we took the ferry back to the mainland. There was a beautiful pink sunset and the sea had a milky quality to it. We stood on the deck for quite some time watching Shetland shrink into the distance.

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There’s a lot more that we did and saw on this trip that i’ve missed out but these are some of my favourite memories. If you’re a nature lover that’s sturdy enough to withstand the constant weather changes and seeking somewhere untouched and remote to explore, then I highly recommend visiting Shetland. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Self Portrait

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I haven’t made a self portrait in years, probably since college which was…some time ago now 😉 I’m not a massive fan of drawing myself and luckily in day to day life it’s not really called for. However I recently had to face my demons in order to create my new profile picture for the Drawn Chorus Collective website!

It actually turned out to be a really good exercise for me. Not only did I need the image to look (at least a little bit) like me but I also wanted to create it in a style that tied in with the rest of my illustration work. So whilst some sketches looked like me, they didn’t necessarily have the sort of marks and expression that I try to get into my drawings.

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I found that I ended up looking way too serious if I drew from a mirror, whilst drawing from a photo presented challenges too. Choosing the right pose (where I didn’t look like a prat) and trying to get my own likeness was quite tricky. I narrowed it down to these two images and in the end chose the warmer close up of my eye drawn in bright Crayola felt tip as it felt more ‘me’. I won’t be embarking on any more self portraits for a while but I was glad to be pushed out of my comfort zone again!

Canadian Adventure

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After a busy Summer of work, play and preparation for the There & Back Again exhibition (more on that soon!) something rather exciting happened…I went to Canada for a month!

I love to travel and after my 2014 adventures in China & New Zealand, I was itching to get away again and explore a new country. I found my way to the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and with sketchbook in hand spent time exploring the epic scenery.

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Endless snow capped peaks, turquoise blue lakes, thick forests and majestic wildlife – it was simply magical. I won’t go into too much detail here as I kept up a visual travel log on my Instagram and Facebook pages while I was away (do check them out!) but I wanted to share a few of my favourite images from the trip here too!

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I feel very lucky to have been able to go and cannot recommend Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper National Parks enough. I travelled solo, staying in hostels and travelling by Greyhound bus – if you’re thinking of going alone but are feeling unsure GO FOR IT! Canada is a great place for this, travel was very easy and comfortable and everyone is so friendly and helpful  – just watch out for bears!

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Photo by Petr Bakus

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Photo by Petra Robinson

I’ll definitely need to go back! One month was just enough time to scratch the surface of Canada’s delights. Back home now and getting excited for my next projects!

 

 

 

Moving House

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So after a bit of a moving house hiatus, I’m finally getting back to normal! It was a hectic first month in our new home, furiously adult-ing and trying to get everything set up and organised. Whilst a month with no home internet is refreshing in some ways, it did make life a bit trickier in others. I think I’d really taken for granted how useful it is to be able to just Google ‘this’ or check out ‘that’.

I often find during such transitional periods in my life that creativity can take a bit of a back seat. So I was very happy to finally have my new desk space up and running with everything in its right place. And to have my second monitor back which I’d missed like hell!

Here’s a snap of my new work station and above is a celebratory sketch I made from our new kitchen the day our internet was connected. It’s good to be back!

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Research

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I love kicking off a new project and delving into the research phase! I’m starting to explore my ideas for The Drawn Chorus Summer show and things are taking a bit of an Arctic turn (there’s a bird pun there if you want it!).

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I’m still experimenting for now. I like to make lots of quick sketches and tests working from reference images and also read up on subjects and find inspiring magazines and internet articles. Next i’ll try to narrow my ideas down and think about composition.

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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