Blimey, where is the summer going? August is upon us already, but at least that means it’s time for Robin Hood Festival 2015! (3rd-9th August, Sherwood Forest Country Park – where else?) When I was a kid, I wasn’t bothered about Superman or Batman. Nope, Robin Hood was my tight-wearing hero of choice. Here’s a few character sketches I did for my own amusement a little while back. And herein lies a merry tale of the magical powers of Ye Olde Interweb. Read on…
Not long after posting these on my blog, I received an email from a nice lady in Nottingham, asking if she could use the characters on some Robin Hood souvenirs. They’re now available from robinhoodgifts.co.uk and Nottingham Castle no less! I’m delighted that Robin and the gang are having a life outside of my sketchbook. The wonders of the internet eh? And I thought it was just for amusing cat videos and angry teenagers…
You might have seen the #MeetTheArtist hashtag circulating on Twitter recently. There’s some lovely stuff out there by the talented artists of the Twitter-sphere. They all follow the same general format, with a central self portrait and lists of likes and dislikes on either side, plus the odd cheeky comment. Well worth having a look here.
Anyway, here’s my effort. Pleased to meet you! (Click the image to enlarge.)
The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox, published by Orion, is a brilliant debut by Irish author Nigel Quinlan.
(The cover art, above, is by the excellent Erwin Madrid.)
It was my great pleasure to provide the interior illustrations. I love working in black and white, and Nigel’s vivid characters and fantastic situations, infused with celtic magic, were wonderful to draw. You can see a few of them below. Click HERE to see the rest of the illustrations from the book.
Neil and Liz Maloney’s dad is a Weatherman – but not the normal kind. He’s the person who makes sure the seasons change every year. This year, though, the Autumn hasn’t arrived and the weather is spiralling out of control. Witchcraft is at work, but can Neil and Liz stop the chaos before it’s literally the end of the world?
Seems like a good excuse for some pictures of knights and dragons. Not that I ever need an excuse for pictures of knights and dragons…
Click on the image to see more from my illustration portfolio.
2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To celebrate this literary milestone Guernsey Post commissioned me to create a set of stamps and collectable products. Stamps? Alice in Wonderland? Suffice to say it was pretty much a dream project.
My central idea was, what would postage stamps from Wonderland look like? I referenced vintage stamps from around the time of the book’s publication, which typically feature a portrait with decorative frame and border. I used bright colours in carefully chosen combinations, to bring out the slightly psychedelic feeling of the book. The character portraits also had to be instantly recognisable out of context of the book, which meant connecting with a popular consciousness of Wonderland while bringing something fresh to the familiar characters. The illustrations were also designed with the final postage stamp size of reproduction in mind.
For the characters, I went to the sort of ‘central casting’ that I carry around in my head. I quite often approach characters in this way – try to think who I’d cast as them in a film. It usually ends up being an amalgam of several people – and not necessarily famous people. There might be elements of Friends, family or people I’ve sketched on the Tube.
I wanted Alice to be a modern little girl, so I updated her outfit, hairband and hairstyle. She’s about 90% based on my daughter actually. (Who just happens to have a pet flamingo. No, not really.)
The rabbit is sort of based on Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s army as he’s a pompous character, obsequious to his superiors and disdainful to his juniors.
I had the Beat Generation writer William Burroughs in mind for the caterpillar. He’s got that wonderful voice – that’s JUST how the caterpillar would speak!
And the Hatter is quite unashamedly Terry Thomas. By the way, you might notice his hat is a giant tea cup and the famous price tag on the hat is like one of those dunking tea bags on a string. (Incidentally the price is now 52 and a half pence, which I read somewhere is about the modern equivalent of the classic ‘In this style, 10/6’ on the original illustrations!)
Click on the image to see more of my Christmas misadventures…
A friend of mine was asking about a good paper to use for pen and ink work. I started rambling on at him and he suggested that I blog it. So I have.
If you want crisp smooth lines where the ink sits on the paper, Bristol board is good (It’s not really board, you can buy it in pads.) I like the Goldline brand. I find Daler and Rowney can bleed a bit.
For more absorbancy and a bit of ‘tooth’ then I go for a Hot Pressed (smooth) watercolour paper.
My favourite paper is Arches Aquarelle – though it’s pricey for mucking around on. Saunders Waterford is OK. Or just good cartridge paper for playing.
My all-round paper of choice is Arches Aquarelle NOT. It’s halfway between smooth hot pressed and rough watercolour, so it takes washes really well but also holds a line. And it just feels bloody gorgeous when you get it out of the pack. I buy packs of half imperial size (a bit bigger than A3) from Ken Bromley. You can also buy it in blocks, which have taped edges to prevent the paper from buckling when washes are applied. They also have cool art nouveau covers so that you can pretend you’re living in belle epoch France and drinking absinth with Toulouse-Lautrec in the evenings.
Ink-wise, for use with a dip-pen, good old windsor and newton is fine but it’s a bit cloggy. I like Dr Martin’s Bombay Black, and I’ve just discovered Speedball Super Black which is lush. I get it from Scribblers.
Ooh, one last tip – I really like those Rotring Artpens (with the ‘sketch’ nib rather than the calligraphy type), but you can’t put waterproof ink through them as it clogs the barrel. Which is annoying if you want to paint over your black line. So I’ve got an old one, (which I previously ruined… by putting waterproof ink through it.) and I use it as a dip pen. Bingo!
It’s all personal preference and experimenting really. And spending lots of time and money you haven’t got, sourcing arcane art supplies – which is of course, a lot easier than actually getting down to drawing.