Don’t We Belong Here?

I’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with ink in the last few weeks, so I thought I’d use that medium on a couple of pieces I’m exhibiting next week at an event by the Oxford Migration Studies Society. The event is called ‘Don’t We Belong Here?’ and looks to be an interesting mix of art and performance.

Canada On My MindArtwork for the Oxford Migration Studies Society

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Big Font, Little Font, Cardboard Books!

Last weekend I went up to Huddersfield for a weekend at the lovely West Yorkshire Print Workshop, learning the skills of bookbinding and letterpress. I started off working with the big, flatbed letterpress. This was very exciting (bright, sticky inks; huge type!) and pretty simple to use, but ultimately I think I would need longer to play around with my designs to get the best out of it. In the end, I went for a strong, simple statement, which I think makes quite a nice personal poster. Or a very large memo.

Here are some photos of the flatbed press and the fruits of my labour:

flat-bed press  large type hanging out to dry  poster

In the afternoon, I tried out the Adana press, small letterpress and notebookwhich works with much smaller type and uses rollers to ink the plates. I typeset a short quote from Virginia Woolf’s Streethaunting (right), and loved the process of picking out the right letters from the huge case of type, trying to order them correctly (mirror-writing style), and sorting out the right leading (with real lead). It was all a lot more fiddly than working on InDesign, but also far more satisfying.

bookbinding processOn the Sunday we learned the first steps in the art of bookbinding, and it was fantastic to see the polished results that could be achieved with just some paper, card, needle and thread, and a very sharp craft knife.  I’ve just ordered myself swathes of buckram bookcloth (seen on the spines of the notebooks in the photo below), so I better get started making some more books while I still remember everything the good folk at the workshop taught me!

finished notebooks

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My first postcards have arrived

They’re here, they’re here! My first test batch of dinosaur postcards have arrived, looking all shiny and lovely, and I’m dipping my toe in the Etsy waters with these as the first item in my Draw Something, Laura! shop.

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postcards 003

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Picture This!

DSC_0832Last Friday, I got down to London just in time to catch the penultimate day of a wonderful little exhibition on children’s illustration at the British Library. Picture This displayed 10 classic illustrated children’s books, with the emphasis on how different illustrators have interpreted the same stories over time. Although I’d have liked to have seen a few more illustrations on display, it was very interesting to watch the video clips of illustrators discussing their inspirations and methods. One of these was Michael Foreman, who illustrated the 1985 edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (before Quentin Blake became the iconic visual counterpart to Dahl’s opus). Foreman described how he had wanted to depict Willy Wonka as rather rotund from nibbling on all of his own chocolate, but that Roald Dahl insisted that Wonka should be slim. I guess that knowing when one must bend to the author’s will is part of the job that any illustrator must get used to!

Another video featured Lauren Child discussing her illustration of The Secret Garden, and how she was influenced by the TV adaptation she herself watched as a child. I love the delicate and playful style of Child’s collage work, and it is interesting to see how she straddles audience age groups.

All-in-all it was a very inspiring exhibition, which had me thinking about which children’s books I would most like to illustrate (Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, perhaps, or maybe A Necklace of Raindrops?), and which books I would have included in the exhibition if I had been its curator.

If anyone’s reading this, what is your favourite illustrated children’s book?

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Dinosaurs Like Fashion, Too!

After the meticulous realism I strived for during the LARA painting course, I thought it would be refreshing to focus my attention on some more whimsical and imaginative artworks. I’ve been working on a few different projects that I plan to turn into postcards and greetings cards, the first set of which is now ready to show you.

Those of you who know me might be aware that I have a soft spot for dinosaurs and other things prehistoric. But, if dinosaurs could walk the Earth today, don’t you think they’d want to preserve their modesty with a fashionable outfit that reflected their dazzling personality? Of course they would! Based on entirely unscientific social-media research, here are four fabulous dinosaurs just waiting to get dressed up. There’s a dapper Iguanodon with a pocket watch, a flapper Velociraptor with a flair for feathers, a casual Triceratops at home in a onesie, and a Brontosaurus who can’t wait to get her skates on. Suggestions for further species and outfits welcome!

dinosaur postcards

You can find the individual cards in my illustration gallery.

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Paint and Patience at the LARA Christmas School

In December I attended the Christmas School at the London Atelier of Representational Art. Two full weeks of oil painting: exhilarating, but also hard work. I was pleased with the paintings I produced (I did have visions of turning up and realising how completely incompetent I really am), but being surrounded by so many truly talented and dedicated artists also made me realise how much I still have to learn.

For three hours every morning, each student worked on their own cast drawing or painting. I chose to paint Beethoven’s death mask which, in hindsight, was probably biting off more than I could chew in the 30 hours I had to complete the work. There were times when I stared blankly at the canvas, feeling devoid of any technical ability. However, the great thing about attending the course was that it forced me to push my boundaries and continue with the painting even when I would really rather have gone off in a sulk like a small child who isn’t allowed any pudding until she finishes her vegetables. If I’d had longer to work on this painting, I would have liked to have refined it further, but I feel that the exercise of cast painting has really helped to solidify the techniques of oil painting. This series of photos shows the progression of my painting over the fortnight. The cast itself is on the far left:

cast_painting_progression

During the afternoons, the students worked on a drawing or oil painting of a life model. Before attending LARA, I had only drawn poses lasting a few hours, so to work from one sustained for the full fortnight was very rewarding, allowing me to work with more attention to detail and to attain a more realistic representation of the subject. Luckily for the model, he was allowed frequent breaks and was not locked in the studio overnight. Here is how my oil painting progressed:

figure_painting_progression

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Moore Bacon, Anyone?

As I attempt to refine my own artistic output, I often feel a sense of guilt at not focusing all my attention on a single style or medium. On Saturday, a stroll around the Bacon/Moore exhibition at the Ashmolean helped to remind me that it is always useful to stay open to different creative possibilities. To me, Henry Moore is epitomised by his massive, bone-like female forms cast in metal, but the exhibited artwork that most captured my interest were his delicate sketches of women sleeping in the Underground during the Blitz. Likewise, Bacon has always conjured up raw, brutal images in my mind, soaked in dense colour and with rough, prominent brushstrokes; it had never occurred to me that he might have entreated Moore to teach him the secrets of sculpture. It was fascinating to see the two artists placed alongside each other, and I came away from the gallery feeling inspired by how, at times in his career, each artist had attempted to break out of the confines of their primary medium.

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