It’s December, Christmas is jingling fairly insistently now on the far (snow laden?) hills and you have finally got round to thinking you should buy some Christmas presents…. How about one of my prints from the new Onca Gallery print collection, launched at the gallery in Brighton on the 14th at a truly spectacular Christmas Ecoextravaganza?! As it’s the Season, I’m going to sprinkle this with a good ole cliche and say that there’s something to suit all pockets….
A cute present for adults and kids alike, pick out a print from my children’s book illustration portfolio. ‘Birds live in Nests’ is small but perfectly affordably formed and is taken from the work in progress called ‘In My Garden’. The original was painted in watercolour and gouache and includes elements of collage from my vast collection of patterned papers. Like all the prints available at Onca, it’s printed on quality heavyweight paper in archival inks so won’t fade in sunlight.
Or before the publication of my book about maps in 2017 (Thames and Hudson) secure a map of the moon print for the astronomical geek in the family? It’s covered in fascinating lunar fact and fiction notes – for example, did you know that Ting Fang of China first recognised the moon was spherical as early as the first century BC or that English tradition declares that the man in the moon drinks claret (presumably along with the cheese he eats…)? An elegant giclee print of the original drawing in white ink on a slate grey with a black background, it looks great with a black mount and a boxy black frame.
Or there’s my best selling map of Brighton print, ideal for someone who lives in or has a connection with the city. Or indeed has a fascination with town planning…. First shown at the ‘Tracks’ show at Onca, like the moon map, it’s covered in handwritten notes. A previous customer recently told me that she has it in her kitchen and still finds new things whenever she looks at it which is lovely to hear. As a suggestion, I framed the original in a white mount and boxy white frame contrasting the classic Victorian inspired cartographical elements with contemporary minimalism.
There’s also the chance to buy a triptych of prints of ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’ – An unusual present for sailors and lovers of the sea. Dotted with painstakingly detailed illustrations of boats, marine creatures and fabulous sea monsters, the map charts the stories heard on a journey across the North Atlantic searching for whales. It’s an ideal size to fill a feature wall or chimney breast. First shown at Onca in ‘The Whale Road’ show, it definitely would make an eye catching statement piece in any room with a maritime flavour.
I’m honoured to be sharing a place in the collection with the work of Peter Driver, Fiver Locker, Kate Walters, Hannah Alice, Kittie Jones, Sarah Gittins, Gary Parselle (The Private Press) and Dopple Press.
It will be launched on Wednesday 14th December 2016 at the Onca Gallery Christmas extravaganza from 5pm. Mulled wine, mince pies and cheesy Christmas music are promised alongside stalls showcasing work by Onca members and supporters such as the very cool Ernest Journal and What You Sow. The famous Onca Christmas window display is being created by internationally renowned performance artist Clare Whistler and designer Tamsin Currey. Eco friendly gift wrapping will be available, and if you’re feeling creative there’s a chance to design and make your own – sounds like a good way to have fun and make your gifts properly personal….
Hopefully see you there but if you can’t make it, the work will be available to buy at the gallery till the 23rd December and then as part of a planned online gallery shop at a later date.
Oh – and last but not least, have a very happy Christmas!
Christmas extravaganza: 14th December. 5pm onwards.
Address: ONCA, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4GB, UK
Telephone: 01273 607101
As a children’s book illustrator, there are many ways I can be commissioned and not always strictly for books. Earlier in the year, I was asked to illustrate a couple of poems for children’s magazines and I thought I’d share the process of working on these single pieces from start to finish.
Obviously each publisher and even each designer has their own way of doing things but there are a couple of hoops that an illustrator would usually need to jump through.
First, the brief arrives. Sometimes the designer has a very clear idea about how the illustration should look and is prescriptive in the details. Here is the brief from Highlights Magazine explaining how the designer envisages the illustration for the poem, ‘Hippos Hippos’.
Having read the brief, I interpreted it as you can see below. All my drawings are in pencil and easy enough to change and adapt.
Once the designer had discussed it with her team, she replied with the following. It’s clear from her response that she wanted a more photographic and less stylised illustration with details based in reality.
So – Round 2! Although I don’t like getting changes (!), it’s good to remember that I am working for a client who knows their market and hopefully has a clear idea about what they want. As an illustrator, it can be more difficult to work with a designer who has very little idea about what they want from the finished piece and therefore, isn’t able to communicate the brief well. Often, this leads to more changes and confusion- further hard work in the long run….
The spread was then given the go-ahead, completed and sent. At this point, it is usually possible for the designer to return the work again – perhaps suggesting a few tweaks here and there. As my work is created by hand this becomes more problematic than if it was digital but it’s possible to change things using collage or more opaque paint.
The final painting was adjusted slightly by in filling the white area above the title and making the grass clumps less contrasty – and then the project was complete!
It’s been a while since I last posted – but that’s not to say I haven’t been busy… There’ve been several further books that I’ve been unable to shout about until they were finished (The Call of the Wild – Miles Kelly Publishing) or published (Feathers for Peacock – Wisdom Tales – to be on bookshelves April 2016).
Miles Kelly have graciously let me post about ‘The Call of the Wild’ – an 8 month project that finished finally this Monday. The classic American novel by Jack London tells the story of Buck, forced to work as a sled dog in the harsh but beautiful snowy wastes of 1890’s Yukon during the gold rush. He eventually hears the call of the wild and escapes to recognise it in his own heart…
Jack London himself travelled to the Yukon, living in tents and working with dog teams. The novel is full of details of the brutality both men and dogs tolerated and it’s clear much was based on real life experience.
I find it strange that I am attracted to tales set in cold places, of snow and ice, of dogs and sleds. This will be the fifth book – the others being the ‘Inuk Quartet’ and ‘Fireside Tales’ (Barefoot Books). The author of the Inuk Quartet, Jorn Riel, also lived and studied in the snow but with the Inuits of Greenland. I too, had my own dog sled adventure above the Arctic Circle a few years ago, mushing my team of three through the dim starlit midwinter days in the awesome silence of the snow. Perhaps that is the seed of my fascination.
Working on ‘The Call of the Wild’ was pretty challenging. Many of the images depicted dogs fighting, being starved or beaten which meant researching some difficult subjects. I use photographic material researched online to help inform my drawing and there were images I found that I wish I hadn’t had to see. Drawing requires intense observation and I had to stay with those photographs for many hours.
Obviously, the photographs or pictures are reference material; to be adapted and used to create something new. I would never simply copy them – they help me understand for example, how muscles work or which direction dog hair lies.
Of course I loved the historical research, however. Like the ‘Inuk Quartet’, ‘Call of the Wild’ took me to places and times I hadn’t known about and I learnt a lot. Details of clothes, of canvas tents, of harnesses and sleds became my world for a good part of the year.
Fittingly, the project ended in the dark days of the British winter – somehow it has felt like one of the gloomiest winters in years. I had been working some long hours and began yearning for some blue skied wilderness of my own – perhaps that was the sound of the call of the wild itself. But days spent hunched over a table with a light box, battling bronchitis and listening to the rain blowing off the sea are over now and an early Spring is on its way.
I’ll look forward to seeing the published book out around August when the cold days will be long gone… And perhaps it will inspire others to listen for the call of the wild themselves.
From hating hat feathers to seeking a change in values, ‘Bird Pine Tree’ makes an appearance illustrating an article in The Ecologist and Resurgence Magazine as part of an interview with Mike Clarke, the head of the Royal Society of the Preservation of Birds in the UK.
The Ecologist and Resurgence magazine has been a pioneer in the environmental movement for over 40 years -‘ bringing critical issues to the mainstream through cutting edge environmental journalism’. I am honoured to be part of it!
It’s great to feel that my children’s illustration can be adaptable and used in many different ways! And in this case, used to promote some important messages that will effect all our children in the future.
My maps are finally ready to print!
In the Summer of last year, I took part in an artist’s residency across 1300 miles of the North Atlantic in a sailing boat mapping whales for an international maritime conservation database.
The resulting work was the triptych, ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’ which was shown in the exhibition ‘The Whale Road’ alongside work by the three other artists on board. You can read more about this huge adventure on my fine art website, about the journey itself, my work process shortly afterwards, and the final pieces and exhibition… There are tales of drownings, hurricanes, smuggling, ghost ships and the hunt for some very elusive sea monsters and finally about the inspiration behind ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’…
I am very excited to get the prints back from the printers so please feel free to contact me on here if you would like to know more.