Hunkering down

Apparently today was Van Gogh’s birthday. I love the fact that, according to, before he became an artist he had many unsuccessful jobs, including working as ‘a preacher… where he was dismissed for overzealousness’. Hehe, you can feel that in his paintings, right?

Been pretty strange, everyone adjusting to a new way of living. Hard to be indoors when everything is just about blooming outside. I haven’t done a huge amount of work to be honest, but accepting that I need time to adjust too. Some good news this week – Faber & Faber extended their BAME Children’s prize deadline to June, so more time to hunker down on that!

I’m loving that people are virtual partying and learning and sharing. And there’s plenty of focus on the smaller pleasures in life too.

[A couple of illustrations from ‘First French/Spanish Dictionary’ by HarperCollins, which come out later this week.]

This week

Another Friday, another week… I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough one, right? Society and culture crashing to a halt, unimaginable futures ahead. So much to fear, and things changing so quickly. Been some positives though, a lot of people coming together in wonderful ways, and positive action taking place all the time. We can but hope.

I’m still working in black and white, and getting better with the ink pen.
Been pushing on with a project I’ve returned to from way back, but approaching it with a digital pen and paint, will share soon.

Here’s a few ink pen drawings of faces from this week, trying to create some East Asian characters. Not my intention, but they invariably remind me of family members past and present.

Learning from the Masters

As an exercise this week I set myself the challenge of copying illustrations from some exceptional illustrators, to see what I could learn. It’s a really interesting thing to do – in copying you kind of ‘feel’ the way it’s drawn and understand better what the artist is trying to do with their materials. I’ve tried this in the past with Tove Jansson.

This is my attempt at copying an EH Shepard illustration from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame. 

I really enjoyed it, it was almost like doing a meditation, and I learnt so much in the 40 minutes it took. Here are some of the things I learnt: Every single mark is considered. He draws with a very light hand (I’m realising more and more how heavy handed I tend to naturally draw). The pen skips and dances and is always moving, never in the same direction for long. It really feels as if he is drawing from life. Shepard is a genius.

This is my attempt at Tony Ross, copied from ‘Hurry Secret Seven, Hurry’, by Enid Blyton. Here’s what I learnt from him: Shoes don’t matter too much (I often agonise over how convincing my drawings of shoes are). He uses a really varied line, very thick at times, really energetic and free. He often uses paint to describe things, rather than line. Frames feel really good (when I added the frame it seemed to bring the whole thing to life). Ross is fabulous.

A couple of firsts and falls

Today I tried working a digital illustration onto a photo, the first time I’ve done that. Starting from a photo taken on a walk to a local waterfall, and I’m pretty happy with the result. (It’s actually a little video, but I haven’t quite got my head around how to animate those parts together yet.)

Another first, I also fell off a bike for the first time today too! I’ve only been learning a few weeks, and went for a little practice at the reccy ground, still muddy from the recent weather. But don’t worry, it really wasn’t as dramatic as I’ve drawn it!

Let’s see what happens

I’m taking some time over the next few weeks to create some authorial work. Work that comes from me – no brief, no budget, no direction from a commissioner, just stuff that I want to make. Let’s see what happens! 


[Image: Nothing visual to share on this yet, so here’s an illustration I did as sample for a previous commission that didn’t get used.]