Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Shy Ted" - xmas present

I won't try and explain the meaning of this gift for my dad (I think you had to be there...) but nevertheless he asked for a pitiful greyhound called "Shy Ted" (and yes there is the other phonetic meaning that name... get it...? It's OK I didn't at first either...) winning a trophy at the dog track. Bit out of left field for my dad as he doesn't have any interest in greyhound racing (not the real reference for the pic), nor do I. Anyway, it was a good exercise in getting back to real media. As Ronald Searle was quoted as saying on matt jones excellent Ronald Searle blog:

"Forgive me if I take advantage of this exotic occasion to make a small plea as an infatuated pen & ink dipper. Please do not forget that the magical pen line still exists! Also, merely as an observer, I feel that some of you could switch off the automatic pilot and wing your way into wilder territory. Just a thought."

I know I do too much work relying on the digital safety net (or, as Searle says, automatic pilot). Photoshop really is a warm, fuzzy and predictable place to work, but sticking to the computer precludes (to some extent at any rate) the unexpected (or skillful hand where Ronald Searle is concerned...) improving the work. I adore working in watercolour, especially when something surprising, and not aimed for, occurs. There is also the personal touch (and commodity of a finished hands on piece) that natural media give you.

I never quite get there when I don't work on the computer (even on the computer I never quite get what I'm after...but at least I can tickle and retickle to get closer... apple Z and file "version2.psd" :) With this pic for my dad there are a handful of things I'm happy with and a flood of things I'm desperate to apple Z! I seldom ink my pencils but the painting was crying out for more contrast so I braved the dip pen on a finished watercolour without a safety net. aaaargh! Still, put anything in a mount in a frame and it looks more considered. Regardless of what I think I guess it's the thought that counts... and it doesn't hurt to leave my comfort zone. Onward with the never ending search to balance the real and the digital!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Happy Holidays Everyone! KEEP CALM AND CAROL ON

I normally like to draw something for my christmas cards but I've still got things on the drawing board begging to be finished off before the silly season propper so I took the graphic route and did a knock off of the KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON POSTER...y'know it...? I loved the sentiment when I first saw it, but perhaps the reference is wearing thin with over exposure...? I didn't let that didn't stop me though :) I've been very lax on the blog commenting front. Hopefully I'll get comments and best wishes to individual blogs before santa arrives but just in case

To all who have been kind enough to stop by the blog and say hi HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE! Here's to more blogging in the new year.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

There's a Lion in my Bathroom - sketches 15

And finally..."Chuck the Shark." Poor old Hammerhead Chuck is picked on by the callous shrimps and squid because of the shape of his head. Even Snorky the limping shrimp joins in, you think he'd know better than that about what it feels like to be an outsider. Still the bullies get their just desserts as along comes a trawler net and scoops them all up. Lucky for them Chuck has a forgiving nature (and sharp teeth) because he comes to the rescue and the shrimps and squid learn a valuable lesson.

This one took a little longer to complete than I expected. The look of Chuck came pretty quickly. In fact the shark design I used on sheet 2 was only my third scribble in the sketch book... normally I waste at least a couple of pages worth before I get a sniff of a direction to go in! Of course I then went around the houses trying out more geometric designs for the head (ala version 3) before I decided what I had originally would be OK. What really took the time was all the secondary characters. I originally thought I could interpret the text in such a way as to have a whole collection of interesting sea creatures to fill the net (see the last sheet). I did try the layout from version two, filling the net with lots of different characters, but it really didn't read clearly enough. Besides that I reread the text a few times and it dawned on me I really shouldn't be using any creatures other than the squid and shrimps. Next came many shrimp and squid sketches (both happy/evil and also sad. Luckily I'd got my shrimp sketch eye in previously with Snorky, and surprisingly, shrimp are quite relaxing to draw on mass. The squid tentacles can run away with you if you're not careful but they are a lot of fun too. On a related note, while gathering image reference for the squid I happened upon pictures of FLYING SQUID... who knew...?! Isn't natural history a constant marvel! Anyway, back to my waffle... I ended up with more squid and shrimp than I needed as, when it came down to populating the net and Chuck's surroundings I felt I should keep the bullies fairly large so they read clearly at size. Enough said! So that wraps it up for the initial sketch work on the book. Hopefully feedback will be positive and I'll start on the final illustrations come the new year.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

There's a Lion in my Bathroom - sketches 14

Here's the last but one set of sketches for the book. Saving the real villains of the piece till the end its time for the dastardly barbecue "Dragons" (BBQ Dragons... is that a good name for a band...?!). These nasty pieces of work barbecue chopped up children! Dragons are always fun to draw and I started sketching these wanting to incorporate aspects of some alligator sketches from my website into the mix. As I always seem to do when I have a mental image I just cannot quite get down on paper I ended up by sketching all the freshness out of my character designs. Two very quick ink doodles I scribbled down (sheets two and three left hand side black ink sketches) had something of the quirky, fun evil quality I just wasn't getting in my more labored sketches and, long story short, I used them enlarged on the light box as loose underdrawings. To my great surprise they held together and I managed to get out some what I was after from inside my addled brain (especially on my favourite on sheet 3). I was determined to steer clear of drawing conventional style flames in these (I wanted the flames more dragony) and, I hope, the afterthought addition of the 'looney tunes' post explosion soot blast helps to tie BBQ and chef together.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

There's a Lion in my Bathroom - sketches 13

Off to the surreal and happy place called "Beddy-byes Land" with these next sketches. In B.B.L many things have beards (including bees... and cleaning ladies), kites fly without a breeze in skies filled with cheese shaped clouds and the lovely ruler, king "Dandy Dan" has decreed no household chores. Not sure what the author was smoking when he wrote this one ;) My first thought (and my favourite approach I think) was to marry up two different themes from the poem. How can the kites fly without a breeze...? Because bearded bees carry them of course. There was a chance with this to develop an unused bee design from the "food" poem but in the end I simplified the bees to work at a smaller size on the page. Think I ended up with vaguely Bill Bailey like bees on sketch sheet 1 (not necessarily a bad thing I feel, hope some of his humour rubs off). On sketch sheet 2 I tried for more individuality in the face fur. Strictly speaking the mutton chop whiskers on the far left bee aren't a beard but mutton chops are funny, and that's reason enough to stray from the text ever so slightly. I don't know if it really works but I tried out a more surreal kite design in sketch two to attempt to visualise some of the quirkiness of this weird dreamlike place. Maybe the Miro like surreal shapes just amuse me while confusing things, not sure... I didn't know what to do with the royal reference in the poem but as I started sketching out the king (with every costumed 'dandy' frippery going) he just naturally held a pair of scissors (probably going to open a supermarket...). The vacuum cleaner, red carpet and cleaning lady followed on from there... and of course she has to have the suggestion of facial hair.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

There's a Lion in my Bathroom - sketches 12

Even if I do say so myself I'm pretty contented with these two variations for "Sid the Fly". Not to say that I didn't like the poem itself but on first reading the short rhyme about a daredevil fly who flew backwards for fun, until a chimney spout put pay to his play, I must admit to feeling a little underwhelmed with the possibilities for different illustration scenarios and character design. Once I got doodling however I think it's a case of limited options sometimes pushing you to come up with something interesting. I suppose illustration should never be limited options but always endless possibilities (although it's not always easy to think 'two faces in silhouette' instead of 'white candle stick'). For myself I cannot decide which version I prefer. I'm very happy with the multi-eyed close up on the fly and the approaching chimney spout but I also like the slapstick pacing of the dotted line double bounce off the chimney and the puzzled pigeon (for me it needs the second bounce...!) I did think of having the crows from "My Girlfriend" make a return appearance but it somehow seem more appropriate to have a pigeon on the TV aerial. I hope I'm not just amusing myself with this set of sketches... you start to wonder...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

There's a Lion in my Bathroom - sketches 11

Poem number 11 tells the tale of "The Girl With Springs For Feet." Ok, so I took liberties a little bit and gave her springs for legs, and I didn't stop there. Seems to me that the logical conclusion for a girl whose genes are in such a tangle that her DNA helix manifests itself as legs would also have springy hands and hair too! The text tells of the springy girls epic, medal winning jumps. We need this girl for olympics in 2012! The first leap reaches all the way to the north pole then she tops that by jumping to the moon. Both settings were great for me as I really enjoy drawing astronauts and polar bears. Maybe I should draw a polar bear in a space suit next...sounds like fun! Might be appropriate too. With the mess we are making of the arctic (and antarctic come to that) I reckon it won't be long till the polar bears make like the dolphins in "So long and thats for all the fish" and leave the human race to it and bugger off to a new planet! Anyway, I digress. The polar jump gave me an opportunity to revisit some old characters of mine from a children's story book I planned early last year about a mother bear and her cub. It felt very comfortable to be drawing them again. Onward, keep ticking them off the list. "Sid the Fly" next...