Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Kangaroos and Koalas at the Window!


I have been out of the studio doing illustration workshops most of this week, because it's half term and libraries like to put on family events. 

On Monday I did something a little different to my usual format: Castleford Museum wanted me to decorate a window. It was a tricky project to work out, logistically - I had only 5 hours, I had to work with 2 separate groups of children and the window had to be finished by the end of the day.



I used storytelling to create content and the local area as the theme. I got each group to design a hero or villain (with me drawing at the flipchart) then we spun a story around them. The children illustrated their story as a communal drawing on two huge squares of paper, then I gave them sheets of acetate and coloured permanent markers and they traced the various elements they'd drawn. I then sellotaped all the different bits of the story onto the window, trying to arrange them so that they fitted together, at least vaguely!).

The image above is the first group's story, featuring a poor kangaroo who, because he was really good at doing back-flips, got kidnapped by a travelling circus and brought to Castleford. Luckily his sister came to rescue him. I love the turning circle at the circus (always very handy when you get big animal deliveries!)


The second story, above, revolved around an evil koala, with a plan to blow up all the local banks. I love the detail of Castleford's shops. Can you spot the koala, climbing a tree to mark the position of the banks on a map? The rockets are people fleeing Castleford to take refuge on the moon until the trouble is over.

I was a bit unsure of how it would go, but in the end everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and it was good fun for me to do something a bit different. The children's illustrations are going to stay up on the window in the museum for a several weeks, which is lovely.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Urban Sketching Badges



During our recent sketch-day in the museum, I was given a pressie: a big bag a badges to distribute to all my Urban Sketchers Yorkshire members! They are cut from acetate and are very smart:


Those of you who are not close followers of Urban Sketchers are probably a bit confused. Actually, quite a few of my group didn't recognise the Urban Sketchers logo! I must admit, I have no idea what the relevance of the design is (I must ask the Powers That Be), but trying to work it out gave us something to think about over our lunch in the museum's cafe.

Thanks so much to Mike, who is actually part of the Manchester Urban Sketchers group, but who is also having a bit of a fling-on-the-side with us Yorkshire folk. A mate of his, who has a bit of sheet-cutting machinery, made the badges with a big lump of left-over acetate and so both the Manchester and Yorkshire groups are now properly labelled!

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Penguin Who Didn't Like Snow


A nice surprise package arrived this afternoon. I was trying to work out what it could be, as I wasn't expecting anything big and flat. I had completely forgotten about the American editorial commission I took on at the beginning of the summer, via my US agent:


I haven't worked in editorial for years, though it was where I learnt my trade, back in the late '80s. On publication day, they always send you at least one copy of the magazine, for your portfolio. So here it is! 

The spread was for Spider - a subscription magazine for children, mainly full of stories and poetry, with some activities to try. This fabulous front cover illustration was done by Dom Mansell:


If you are interested to see how the artwork was created, I blogged the process in three different stages and you can see them all here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Ghostly Presence amongst the Fire Engines..?



On Sunday, we had another Urban Sketchers Yorkshire day out. This time we spent it in a slightly spooky building which was once Sheffield's Victorian Police and Fire Station, although these days it's the National Emergency Services Museum


Apparently it's the largest volunteer-run museum in the UK. Fancy that. I also didn't realise that it has several resident ghosts. 



I'm not surprised, to be honest: those Victorian police cells in particular really looked the part. While I was sitting sketching, I kept waiting for a ghostly tap on the shoulder, but the spirits in question are obviously not art-lovers.



The upstairs rooms of the museum are stuffed with all sorts of paraphernalia, big and small, but I found myself mostly drawn to the vintage vehicles downstairs. I don't know why: I am rubbish at drawing cars. I had two cracks at the American fire engine below, but got a bit frustrated with my inability to judge the various wheel ellipses. My problem is that I don't like to do pencil prelims - I just want to go for it. I think it's the challenge of that which excites me.  Except, there are some things which are totally unforgiving of errors - tyres amongst them!


During the first couple of hours at the museum, sketchers arrived from different places in dribs and drabs, until we were about 20. The only drawback to that is that, as each person arrived, they came to say hello, so I ended up doing a lot more talking than sketching before lunch. It was very sociable though. 


I was most pleased with my last sketch of the day: the one at the top. I squeezed it in, right at the end of the afternoon. I went out into the yard and decided that was the cutest of the old fire-engines. I just finished it off in time and had to hold my sketchbook open all the way to the pub, to wait for the paint to dry off.




As usual, it was fun looking through the sketchbooks. Not everyone made it to the pub, but we still had to pull two tables together to fit us all round. Then I stood on a chair to attempt a panorama shot, to fit all the books in. Not 100% successful to coordinate, but the source of much amusement.

Gold star to Andrea Joseph, for being the only person STILL sketching: