Although my art is quite intricate I actually strive for simplicity. The bravery and beauty of making a few gestural lines to shapes to convey a subject for me is an incredible achievement. It’s building up to becoming an obsession of mine, as this September moodboard illustrates.
While my desire for simplicity is a long held one, it was compounded this summer by Dr James Fox’s documentary series The Art of Japanese Life where Fox featured Sesshu’s ‘splashed-ink’ landscape (see below), dating back, unbelievably, to 1495. Let me say that again, 1495!
I think this is a glorious painting. I see so much energy in it and I find it exquisite in composition and atmosphere. I’m also drawn to the simple black and white colour scheme (I would be though wouldn’t I?).
It’s also coincided with me getting some brush pens (which I used to create my new header btw), so I’ve been playing around with them try to make simple, gestural images. I find minimalism and knowing when to stop more difficult than adding clever little details and additional descriptive strokes – it’s a real challenge for me. I’m using the work of Toko Shinoda as further inspiration as well as ancient Japanese brush painting of bamboo, birds and butterflies.
What do you think of this style of painting? Do you like those simple strokes? The black and white? Or do you need a little more colour and detail? I’d love to know.
More National Stationery Week (#natstatweek) joy from me today. I thought I’d share my love of postcards.
This passion for postcards has been going on for some time. I bought my first set (Vincent Van Gough’s Sunflowers, Picasso’s Fruit Dish, Bottle and Violin, Henry Rousseau’s Surprised and Monet’s Water-lily pond if you’re interested) when I went to the National Gallery with my dad when I was about nine.
I’ve been collecting postcards in earnest ever since I was a teenager when I used to gather loads from the Tate (it was just the one in London then) and the National galleries when doing my art project research. I obsessively collected and displayed black and white portrait postcards of pop stars, movie icons and various writers, artist and bohemians through history in my bedroom at home. Then I used postcards, gig flyers and magazine pages to decorate every student flat I lived in (and some that I didn’t). Even when Dr B and I had our first tiny studio flat, we went up-market and put them in those ubiquitous Ikea wooden frames.
Because I’m such a massive fan of these wonderful mini art objects I now make a lot myself. The one above and the four pictured below are ones I’ve created to promote our small publishing company Dunlin Press. A free handwritten postcard gets sent out with every book order. This was inspired by the amount of lovely handwritten postcards we’ve found over the years hidden in the pages of hundreds (and I really do mean hundreds) of second-hand books we’ve bought. Some are really charming and tell stories in themselves. I’m also very, very fond of sending out postcard with my print and stationery orders to say thank you and I’m a bit partial to sending little motivational messages such as the ones from the Calm Gallerybelow to friends. I now sell illustrated postcards. In the spirit of those portraits that adorned my adolescent bedroom I’ve done them in the style of hand-drawn bird portraits. You can buy a set of nine here. I’m astonished that the obsessions of my younger years come to inspire me even now, there are times I feel closer to my early teenage self than to the woman in my twenties or thirties.
This week’s drawing of the week is of a Red Admiral butterfly.
With the snazzy latin name of Venessa Atalanta (I think I may employ this as a pseudonym at some point), this beautiful creature is coming to a garden or woodland near you! (That’s if you live in the British Isles of course).
This beauty will be part of my every growing illustrated butterfly guide, I’ve got quite a collection of watercolour and ink butterflies now, I’m just trying to decide on which illustrations make the final cut. I’ll show you the finished piece soon.
Well it was only a matter of time before I treated you a Monday Moodboard of birds.
As you know an awful lot of my drawing practice centres around birds. So much of my time is spent trawling and taking images of birds to study and illustrate. This is absolutely no hardship for me. I could honestly spend all my time looking at my feathered friends.
Recently I have been focussing on heads and shoulders to create bird portraits for my show at the Over The Sofa Gallery at Wivenhoe Bookshop. It’s a small space and I wanted to do it as a site specific piece, the show is called Family Portraits so it has a kind of homely feel. It consists of nine A6 watercolour and ink drawings and four A6 pieces.
The show is on until April 30.
Wanna know what each bird is? Well here they are…
Top row from left: Puffin, Long Eared Owl, Starling
Middle row from left: Lapwing, Peacock, Pigeon
Bottom row from left: Cormorant, Robin, Crested Grebe
On shelf: Black Redstart, Budgie, Goldfinch, Dartford Warbler.
This is essentially a sneak peek into some of the bird portraits I’ll be exhibiting in my local book indie bookshop, Wivenhoe Books. It’s an intimate little space and is perfect for giving some of my smaller illustrations a gentle showcase. The size of this piece is A5 so it will work well in a more compact hanging area.
Peacocks are becoming my new favourite thing to draw. I’ve been doing lots of sketches of peacock feathers but I thought for the show I’d give a ‘head and shoulders’ watercolour and ink portrait a go. I’m rather pleased with the result and am particularly taken with the plumage.
To state the blindingly obvious, the peacock is the male bird; the female is known as a peahen and she doesn’t have the snazzy tail. The reason I say this is that I once (this is a while back mind) searched for hours for female peacock and obviously came up with zilch.
I’m very excited to announce the launch of my new personalised wedding stationery collections on Not On The High Street. Inspired by botanical and avian vintage illustration, I hope my collections offer something special for every couple wanting to make their celebration sing.
The intricately drawn illustrations in these collections are created with vibrant washes of watercolour and ink. All are printed in the UK on high-quality FSC-certificated textured gesso card. Every piece of stationery can be personalised to the client’s specification.
Pink Flamingo Collection
Bold, bright and beautiful, this pair of cheeky, loved-up pink flamingos are sure to put a smile on people’s faces. The Flamingo range is perfect for fun loving couples and those who are aiming to bring a tropical flavour to their day.
Elegant and soft, my graceful watercolour eucalyptus motif gives this range a timeless, tasteful quality. It is the ideal collection for those looking to create a gentle, relaxed feel to their nuptials.
Fresh and delicate, the Fern collection hopes to recall the style of vintage botanical illustrations while still giving the stationery a contemporary twist. Great for the pair who want a strong, yet simple theme for their big event.
For those who want something really romantic and trad, here’s my Swan range. Swans mate for life so this is ideal…
In honour of this week’s Crufts 2017, my drawing of the week is of an American Cocker Spaniel.
This quick little doggie sketch was created in watercolour and brown ink. It didn’t take very long to do but I am quite pleased with the illustration. I think this animal has a certain stoic, noble quality.
I will not lie to you, I love a Cocker Spaniel – they could be my favourite breed. I love the character of a spaniel – so friendly, energetic and full of life.
I am a massive fan of all shaggy haired dogs generally. This my friends is because I was/am an indie kid of the early nineties variety and have a great affection for long-haired, scruffy herberts.
Just look my dog’s refined face. It takes me back to 1993 when Richard Ashcroft was not Richard Ashcroft as he is now but was instead known as “Mad Richard” and The Verve was known as just Verve. Ah those heady days of youth… long haired boys in terrible jeans – it was a tremendous amount of fun.
I have new products on my Not On The High Street shop; a unicorn card, a hare greeting and a beautiful eucalyptus art print. All are taken from my original watercolour and ink drawings. My hare and unicorn prints have been incredibly popular at various art fairs with many people asking if I was going to produce co-ordinated greetings – well nobody can say I don’t listen! The new Eucalyptus botanical print is a bit of an indulgence to be honest – I simply wanted one for myself.
This week’s drawing of the week is of a bright pink flamingo head.
I must admit it has taken me a little while to warm to the flamingo bird, although really fun to paint and draw (you can really go to town with pink watercolour here), it was a bird that never really got under my skin like a puffin, lapwing or curlew. I suppose I was put off because they have been so popular as a motif in homewares and stationery design.
Perhaps I also thought they were show-offs of the avian world – to me they were just a bit too lairy with their pink plumage. Maybe I was jealous – no one could accuse me of being leggy and it’s rare that I splash out with colour in a sartorial sense (I leave that for my illustration).
Of course I was wrong. I mean these birds are magnificent creatures and when you find our about these birds they really are fascinating. Here are some fun flamingo facts…
Flamingos beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat. The bills are uniquely used upside-down. Don’t know what I mean? Take a look here…
In the pink Their distinctive pigment comes from carotenoids they eat in animal and plant plankton which are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes.
Flam Fam Flamingos are very social birds. Their colonies can be thousands strong. This protects them from predators and enables them to nest more efficiently.
What a pair
The birds perform synchronised ritual displays in colonies. The members of a group stand together and display to each other by stretching their necks upwards, making calls while head-flagging, then flapping their wings. Flamingos form strong partnerships although in larger colonies flamingos sometimes change mates (well we’re all allowed to change our minds). Both the male and the female play a part in building and defending the nest. Occasional same-sex pairs have been reported, which makes me happy.
My drawing of the week is a young eucalyptus plant.
I was at a friend’s house last weekend and she had gorgeous bunch of eucalyptus in her lounge. They also looked so elegant placed on their own in the vase, unadorned, unfettered by other blooms. Inspired by these I had to source some of my own sprigs to draw.
It has kick-started me trying out some more botanical illustrations. I’ve already done some further eucalyptus sketches and some more watercolour and ink drawings of ferns.