Follow that Hare – combining the contemporary and traditional for The Mead Gallery.

Autumn has finally crept up on a long hot summer and with it, a lovely autumnal commission for The Mead Gallery at Warwick Arts Centre at The University of Warwick.  The gallery has recently acquired a new loan, ‘Acrobats’ by Barry Flanagan, an elongated bronze statue of two hares, precariously balancing on each other, standing tall in the beautifully landscaped grounds of the campus.
In celebration, the ‘Follow that Hare’ project was created. I was commissioned to create a new hand drawn map of the grounds guiding the visitor past the sculptures of the collection and taking in seasonal sights such as swallows’ nests and reddening oak trees. With it came an autumn field guide for children, full of nature facts and games;  something that could be used by small explorers as part of the specially designed backpacks (which also include pairs of handy binoculars!).
The map itself was an interesting piece to work on. I was told to base it on a wildlife map of Brighton, originally created for ONCA Gallery, using similar style and lettering. Unusually for me, this meant drawing in ink but colouring mainly with Photoshop which I’m really not used to – I figured that it would be useful chance to deepen my digital experience. Combining the hand drawn with such a recent creative tool made me think about how I could blend the traditional with the contemporary.

The map was entirely hand drawn with parts coloured by hand in ink and watercolour as you can see here. The rest was coloured using Photoshop.  Spot the spelling mistake.  Photoshop is also useful for making corrections.

The map came in at slightly under A2 and I had to use multiple maps as reference because of the size and complexity of the building layout. Architecturally, the University of Warwick is an interesting institution.  From above, buildings are blocky but with unexpected angles and shapes – complicated but great to utilise the strong geometrics as surface patterning.  Part of my love of urban maps is the negative spaces and rhythms found between buildings and how their shapes can appear almost like contemporary abstract art. For me, the flat pixels of digital colouring add to this contemporary feel.

The printed map and the folded version.

The autumn field guide is entirely hand drawn in black pen and ink without digital colouring but it echoes the map in it’s use of hand lettering.  Titles; contemporary sans serif capitals, sometimes with openers filled in, are in a style I developed myself and use often.  In contrast, the main body of the text – flowery, traditional and cursive – is based on Deutsche Normalschrift.  I wanted the booklet to be contemporary but have a feel of an old nature journal, perhaps written and illustrated by some tweed clad gentleman of the ’20s, slightly damp and crawling through bushes after a rare mallard.  As ever, I love drawing animals, plants and birds, so it was definitely a fun part of the commission.

A double page of birds from the Autumn Nature Guide and the back of the map showing more illustrations from the book.

A page of seeds from the Autumn Nature Guide showing the cursive style of the main body of the text.

I’ve just received the map and guide in the post this morning but it was published in time for Freshers’ fair last week. Future talk involves using some of the design for hoardings and an information booth.  Regardless, I think what’s important for me is that hopefully I managed to contrast the contemporary and traditional, the modern sculpture in steel and stone with the fading greens of the early autumn trees successfully.  And as a further aside, I have a secret fantasy that perhaps some hungover student might have dragged themselves out of bed and taken themselves on a walk of art and nature one misty Warwickshire morning.
Advertisements

The Spy Who Dumped me: my maps hit Hollywood…

It’s been a frustrating year of waiting for projects to be finally released so that I can talk about them.  My work for ‘The Spy who Dumped me’ is no different. In the June of 2017, I was commissioned to create an A2 hand painted ‘map mash-up’ of the city of Prague and Prague zoo (Zoopraha) as a prop for the film, screening this August (2018). It stars Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon and Gillian Anderson and is a Lionsgate production.  Proper Hollywood.

3DB27365-FFD4-4649-A7CF-027FF5135D0E.jpeg

The film involves two girls, one of whom has recently been dumped by her boyfriend. She discovers that, in reality, he was a spy and so they take on his badass work, of course chased by dark forces across a variety of European countries. My illustrations were turned into a tourist map the girls take with them to navigate Prague.

The map is based on the real life city but famous buildings are randomly attributed zoo animals and transformed into their associated animal houses. For example, the palace becomes the lion house, the station becomes the aviary and the Charles Bridge becomes the penguinarium: penguins taking the place of the iconic saintly statues standing over the river. Painting the animals was a particular pleasure of mine, reminding me of my background in children’s books. I was especially pleased with the cheeky giraffe on the map cover…

Zoopraha cover

The animals were all labelled so although I love lettering by hand, there was pressure to make sure the Czech words were correct. The internet’s not always reliable so I had no idea if they were right and wondered if angry letters complaining about Czech spelling would start pouring in…

0F24FD2E-BADA-411B-BA91-F0E1B251AB43

I’ve been commissioned several times before to create illustrations for tv/film props but have never made the final cut. Believe me, there have been fruitless hours sitting through costume dramas, sometimes scene by scene, straining to see my work…But this time it was different. The map actually appears as a key prop – a set up for a joke: (The Spy who Dumped Me is a comedy thriller).  It’s glimpsed for seconds but there nevertheless.

I hit the (very metaphorical) red carpet last night at the ‘glamorous’ Brighton Odeon multiplex. Regardless, I still drank a glass of slightly warm fizzy wine to my little map, glowing in the yellows of Prague, and the first illustration of mine that has actually made it to the screen.

Czech spelling mistakes or not, I knew I’d make it to Hollywood one day….

zoopraha compass

A Map of The Silver Screen Heritage of Brighton and Hove

I live in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove on the South Coast of England which has, for centuries, had a name for it’s creativity. So it really should be no surprise that it was once a centre for English film making in those black and white days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My latest map was commissioned by Carousel, an arts charity, as a special edition publication to promote ‘Modern Marvels’, a festival celebrating this cinematic heritage and new work by students with learning disabilities.

Early filmmakers, George Albert Smith and James Williamson lived in Hove, working on film between 1897 and 1905, a period when it developed as a new technology and a new form of entertainment. They both made important contributions to the art of editing and narrative.

Was sleepy Hove, the Hollywood of it’s day? – I don’t know(!?), but one of the first major film studios in Britain was based in St Anne’s Well Gardens there, a sedate park with tennis courts and a bowling green today. George Smith, a former stage hypnotist and psychic, created his ‘film factory’ in a glass house in the Gardens in 1897. Films were inspired by his experience of contemporary music hall, mesmerism and the magic lantern. They tell stories of steam trains, hapless housemaids and the wonders of X-rays using clever editing trickery.

George Smith at work.

One of James Williamson’s first films was a short, made on location at Brighton’s West Pier in the hot summer of the late 1890’s showing bustling crowds enjoying the holiday atmosphere. He then developed Smith’s techniques into longer multi-shot narratives. Action films and comedy capers followed, all shot around the city or in his own studio in Cambridge Grove, also in Hove.

James Williamson.

The handpainted map shows the sites of both studios but also the film locations with tiny vintage camera icons. I gave the lettering, compass rose and border a hint of Art Nouveau, the predominant style at the time, and the negative space (the space between the details) became a cinema-velvet-curtain red.

Carousel’s film festival, Modern Marvels, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, runs until November 2018. A travelling film booth shows the original black and white films alongside films made by students with learning disabilities, autism and additional needs. The project gave them an insight into film-making and visual story-telling, using green screen, making music and sound effects, working alongside experienced film-makers.

 

New hand drawn map workshop dates.

A short post to let you know I’m running two hand drawn mapping workshops at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, Sussex. Both workshops will have the same format so if you can’t make the August date, perhaps the September date might be better for you.

carousel compass rose

As part of the workshop, students will learn:

– how to research the territory with notes and sketches. (NB: there will be a short walk around Eastbourne).
– simple gridding up techniques.
– how to use negative space effectively with pattern, illustration or stories.
– how to create decorative compass roses and cartouches.
– how to design personalised feature icons and keys.
– easy to draw but simply elegant hand lettering.

Camp No-mans Land compass rose

These workshops are running in association with the Towner’s current Arts Council Collection National Partner exhibition, ‘At Altitude’, which is a ‘ selective look at the historical impact and the continuing appeal of the aerial image.’ I’ve been and it really is worth seeing.

river don compass

 

Inspired by sources ranging from the first air balloons to Google Earth, the show features work by luminaries such as Jananne Al–Ani, Michael Andrews, Ken Baird, Tacita Dean, Charles and Ray Eames, Simon Faithfull, Mishka Henner, Dan Holdsworth, Kabir Hussain, Peter Lanyon, Christopher R. W. Nevinson, Cornelia Parker, Carol Rhodes and Wolfgang Tillman. There’s also a new installation created by Timothy Prus of the Archive of Modern Conflict and a site-specific commission for Towners Collection by Annabel Howland.

zoopraha compass

 

Workshop dates:

Sunday 12th August. 10.30am – 4pm.

Saturday 15th September. 10.30am – 4pm.

Pay what you can. Suggested donation – £45.00 although no-one will be excluded on ability to pay. Book for one session only.

The workshop is for all creative abilities.  Please be aware that, weather dependent, there will be a short walk as part of the workshop so wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

Book here.

19BBE97F-D118-4621-A077-0A48CACF9529

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrating ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’: a Harry Potter baptism of fire.

Back at the end of last year, I was commissioned to provide some illustrations for a film tie-in book for Warner Brother’s ‘Harry Potter’ franchise. I’d read only a few of the novels by JK Rowling and seen a few of the early films so this project – ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ – became a complete Potter baptism of fire. In case you don’t know (where have you been?!), the original Marauders’ Map shows the secret passageways of Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards that Harry Potter attends. The iconic map was created as an prop, first appearing in the third of the films (and shown on the front cover of ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’.). The map’s a total tour-de-force and was drawn by Miraphora Mina of graphic design duo Mina.Lima. I guess my own connection with maps was the thinking behind the commission. Using the map as a base, ‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ takes you around the floorplan of the school with information, photographs, and drawings for each room. I provided the little drawn icons.

Flick through it and you’ll see some images which are looser and in pencil. These aren’t mine and come from the films’ ‘look book’ – a visual guide used by anyone involved in the films’ design to maintain consistency throughout.  It was interesting to work for a licensed film franchise for the first time and see how different it is to straight publishing. Obviously accuracy of the characters and icon elements was all important as there’s an established ‘world’ based on work created already. The internet was certainly an amazing tool because scene and character information was so easy to get hold of – I spent a long time browsing film and fan websites for accurate images.

And so within some fairly strict boundaries, I created the illustrations – tiny dragons, broomsticks, potion bottles and magical beasts- reflecting the style of the original artwork in tightly hatched ink. I certainly know a lot more about Harry Potter now than I did at the start.

All of the images were checked by Warner Brothers’ People and JK’s People. I can honestly say that I’ve never worked for people with ‘People’ before. It goes to show how large an enterprise it is and also how protective they are of everything involving Harry.

‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ is a fun and informative little book to bring some Potter magic to your world – it even comes with its own wand. If you have a burgeoning witch or wizard in your life and they know the right words, get them to wave the wand across the pages and watch the secret images appear.

I too had fun dipping into such an established creation that seems to have a life of its own and is still steadily evolving. It really is a great honour to be connected to this British icon of children’s literature.

‘The Marauders’ Guide to Hogwarts’ is written by Errin Pascal published by Scholastic/Warner Brothers and available across whichever universe (magical or otherwise) you currently occupy!

New map drawing workshop!

 

This is a short post to let you know that I’m running a short hand drawn map workshop at ONCA Gallery in Brighton alongside the exhibition ‘The Long View’ by somewhere-nowhere.

8th June, 10am – noon

£15 – tickets via Eventbrite

For adults of all levels of artistic experience.
By the end of this 2 hour workshop you will have all the skills to make a basic hand drawn map!

Participants will learn how to:
Walk the turf and make observations
Grid up and draw out
Create basic but elegant hand lettering
Draw decorative compass roses to complete your map

Please bring a notepad (or equivalent), a pencil, a ruler and clothing appropriate for taking a short walk outside.

Then stay and enjoy The Long View exhibition in the gallery.

Address:

ONCA Gallery
14 St George’s Place
Brighton
E Sussex
BN1 4GB

Telephone: 01273 607101

See you there!

 

 

 

Travelling to Mexico on the information highway.

It’s funny, as an illustrator, how many places I visit before I create a picture.  And by visit, I mean metaphorically travelling down a fast paced information highway, halting occasionally at random pitstops for a quick look around or perhaps, a longer stay. Throughout my career, I’ve visited many locations, hiking the snowy wastes of Greenland, schlepping through the deserts of the Middle East and wandering the streets of Beijing, all via a screen in my studio. This post is about approaching the internet with an explorer’s curiosity and how it can lead you to creative inspiration.

Back at the end of last year, I was commissioned to create the front cover and contents page of the May/June issue of Cricket Magazine, an illustrated publication for children in the States. The theme was ‘Hummingbirds’ and even for a small project like this, the journey was no different.

I have never seen a hummingbird in real life so I started the project with some rambling research, opening creaking digital doors and exploring little known cyber pathways. As usual, I was sucked down an internet vortex leading me to unfamiliar worlds. There were steamy jungles, brilliant blossoms and tiny hovering birds, far from the familiar wrens and robins of the English garden.
The lime greens of the feathers and the hot pink of the flowers reminded me very much of the colours found in folk embroidery, from Russia in the North to Latin America in the South. I set sail on more random research adventures and landed up on the warm shores of Mexico, home of an incredible textile culture.

Elvira Gomez. Photograph by Thelma Datter.

Mexican folk embroidery has been in existence from pre-hispanic days, developing centuries ago from its roots with the Mesoamerican Otami peoples into the form today known as Tenango. It features the flora and fauna of the region in unreal colours and geometric patterns. Broad flat stitches neatly cover the cloth and larger pieces can take years to complete.

Photograph by Thelma Datter.

Mexico is also the home of the white throated hummingbird.

It’s a beautiful thing when two paths converge. By exploring, allowing myself to travel without boundaries, I had found connections between two diverse subjects and a way to visualise and create something new.

White throated hummingbird by Dominic Sherony.

With Mexican embroidery as inspiration, my pages became filled with twirling blossoms, their distinct shapes, a useful foil for further patterned collage. The hummingbirds danced above them, drinking their nectar and making nests in their magenta petals. I wanted the whole image to become a riot of blooming decoration where botanics and birds took equal precedence in the pattern.

So it’s with the publication of this month’s Cricket Magazine that my short metaphorical stay in Mexico is done. I’ve come away with small souvenirs of understanding and a place to return should I ever need inspiration for beautiful bright birds and flowers. The internet is my ticket to travel. It allows me to reach places I have little knowledge of and, if fortune smiles, lets me leap across subjects and make creative connections. Despite all its faults, it’s a vital tool in the illustration suitcase.

 

As I look out on my very English garden today, relishing the May warmth, the sky is the palest of blues and the lilac tree, a delicate mauve. It’s certainly good-looking in a reserved, polite way but there’s a large part of me that would like to see the joyful pink of the hibiscus, the shocking blue of a hummingbird and the unapologetic azure of a Mexican sky, not just captured in pixels on a screen, but for real one day.

 

 

An Interview for Illustrator Saturday.

8A15FDE2-DCED-450D-AFFF-133795A0EEDFI was recently honoured to be interviewed by Kathy Teaman for Illustrator Saturday, a weekly post she promotes on her wordpress site http://www.kathtemean.wordpress.com.  Kathy was a regional advisor for SCBWI, the Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrators in the U.S. for many years and her very popular blog exists to help both published and unpublished authors and illustrators, with expert industry knowledge, technical tips and information from children’s book editors and agents.

You can read the interview here.

 

 

Spring flowers.

The sun has finally come out, the primroses and windflowers are scattering palely across the green and my cherry tree is blossoming flamboyantly in the back garden. Work always gets put into perspective when the spring flowers arrive.
It’s been a busy month with multiple small projects: from educational commissions, to an outsized image of a wolf for an outsize book cover, to a couple of self promotional map projects of Barcelona and Lapland, to creating sample illustrations for a proposed book in time for London Book Fair. Hardly time to feel the spring warmth kiss my face and smell the first cut grass of the year.

0122770a-639d-47ca-82e8-37b8ca205c7f.jpeg
I adore painting plants and the recent blooming extravaganza has made me think how often they’re included in my illustrations. Perhaps, as the daughter of a botanist and botanical artist, that’s not surprising. It’s a truism that there will always be flowers in my mother’s house.

I realised that I cut the flowers in my illustrations from many different metaphorical gardens. First there’s the straight watercolour, more of a realistic botanical approach. I generally look at photographic reference material and keep colours naturalistic. I know from watching my mum work that using photos isn’t ideal but access to the real thing isn’t always possible. The following image shows details from a logo I did recently for a florist. It’s not gone live yet so I can’t show you the illustration in its entirety.

228e902a-4305-4fa4-a2a9-eed9c46157c4.jpeg

Then there’s the more stylised approach. I often use designs from other times or cultures to inspire more graphic flowery renditions. The flowers in ‘Feathers for Peacock’, for example were informed by the punchy style of 1970’s patterns. They have a blocky feel and there are circle shapes and tear drops and squares with rounded corners. The clean spaces really lend themselves to using collage. I think we might have had something reminiscent on the old wallpaper in the kitchen as I was growing up…

AD22A417-F7AD-451C-92AE-AE3A1ECFC2CB

Here are some more details of stylised flowers, this time inspired by Mexican embroidery. I spent a lot of time researching Central American textiles and was blown away by the beautiful colours and compositions. These illustrations come from a cover of a forthcoming children’s magazine, due out in May.

EADDD762-6664-4BCE-BE29-F32EC191FCBE

Sometimes I take a real-life plant but subtly adapt it by simplifying shapes and colours so it has an air of reality but is stylised… In this illustration, I researched pondside plants, all flowering around the same time, and used them as a base for those in the picture. This is from ‘In my Garden’.

565ec2be-0683-4f25-9b8c-dbfba34c3d97.jpeg

And then there’s the combination of the two approaches. Nobody said you had to stick to one style, did they? Why not combine a more naturalistic look, based on genuine botany alongside a created imaginary plant world? Here’s an image commisioned for Cricket Media’s Ladybug Magazine published last year. The buttercups on the right are naturalistic in comparison to the collaged blue flowers in the centre that are entirely imaginary.

(N.B. I like drawing frogs as much as I like drawing flowers…).country mouse with textcleaned up

And in this endpaper, also from ‘In my Garden’, I used painted stylised flowers alongside collaged stylised flowers cut from origami paper alongside more naturalistic depictions of animals, birds and butterflies.

A6512844-B05E-47A7-8604-22F16C4E4161

I think drawing and painting flowers will always be a love of mine and just like real flowers, they will clamber and climb and push their faces to find the light in my illustrations regardless of whether I choose them to be there or not.

And just like my mother, I hope there will always be flowers in my house.

425af6ee-5874-48a1-8910-f87e5c50fda5.jpeg

Mapping Ditchling.

Ditchling is a pretty village, warm with half-timbered character, hugged by the Sussex Downs.  It has a long connection with the Arts and Crafts movement and was the home to printmaker Eric Gill in the early 20th century. I was very honoured to be asked to run a hand drawn mapping workshop at the award winning Ditchling Museum of  Art + Craft last weekend.

AEF238B2-A2BC-4D78-A209-23B43DC59225

As part of my workshop, I take my students outside to walk the territory of the location they are mapping (as far as is possible and weather permitting). How else can you understand where you are, unless you experience it personally? So, as preparation, I decided to walk the territory myself and hand draw my own map of Ditchling.

My initial sketches were rough. It’s hard to map on foot, especially in the rain. But what’s important is that the mapmaker marks the features he finds important, either by sketch, note or photograph. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Back at the studio I hit more formal references, comparing my rough sketches with other paper and digital maps of Ditchling, including both OS and Google Satellite maps.  It’s always interesting to see where my maps differ from the others, and indeed, how they differ between themselves. It just goes to show that there is no such thing as the Truth.

Using all of the references, including my own, the map was drawn up using a gridding technique. It’s always at this stage that I, as the mapmaker, decide what features should appear in the map. The map is a personal understanding of a place, after all.

554BA71D-9CA4-4DC4-BD78-2A8B37F57077

For me, it was the black and white cottages and the jolly post office at the crossroads, the flinty church dating back to Saxon times with its rows of solemn trees and dark ancient yews. It was the Anne of Cleves House, slightly dishevelled; a ghost peering forlornly through the diamond paned windows. (She likes to keep doors open apparently.) It was the Bull Inn squatting confidently next to the car park and the rival White Horse, blustering it out manfully up the road. It was the Old Meeting House sitting amongst the haphazard gravestones of Quakers waiting for redemption, silent from centuries of peaceful prayer. And it was the Georgian brick house on the high street, once belonging to Eric Gill.

Who knew what sad and terrible things happened there…

4E046C21-F2D8-44A0-B10C-B19D23DAB50B

The Museum of Art + Craft was created to house some of Gill’s work and we were based in the studio there.  Although there was certainly no sinister atmosphere at all in either museum or village, his work and name seemed to be everywhere and I felt his presence permeated the place.  I still appreciate the simple beauty of his lettering and can’t quite connect the clean honesty of his work with his crimes. I wanted to echo something of his style in my map, nevertheless, and chose to do it by making the road system dark and picking out the lettering in white, as I had seen in some of his prints. But there, the similarity ends.

Cut to the workshop and each student had a different experience of Ditchling as we walked it’s green dampness. One took notes of bus stops and telephone boxes, of the shapes of fences and boundary lines, whilst another marked the signs of spring in the clumps of snowdrops and wild daffodils. Each eventually made a map of the Ditchling they alone had understood, felt and seen. Each map was stamped with their own personality. Very far from the industrialised digital maps that the Arts and Craft Movement would have railed against if it had existed today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And so now, there exists 7 new maps of Ditchling, particular to an individual mapmaker and to a particular time. Although Eric Gill would have approved of a process founded on working by hand, I hope it was not his ghost who looked over us. I hope it was that other ghost, in the Anne of Cleves House,  perhaps slightly heartened that we had unlocked doors to get outside and walk the village. And heartened that we were firmly keeping the door open, not shut, on the craft of hand drawn mapmaking.