Thursday, 16 September 2010

An illustrated life...

Being outrageously short of blogging time in recent weeks, I have at least been taking lots of photos. So here it is... the last 3 weeks in images (and a little text!)

The one day watercolour skies course at Gainsborough’s House goes well; we start looking at simple plain skies, move on to clouds.
After lunch we attempt to find that ever-elusive beast, the perfect watercolour sunset. First I demonstrate a couple:

Then the class have a go:

A new student and ex-gallery owner from Cambridge had a moment of epiphany; “I simply haven’t been using enough paint!” Proof that there is nothing like a demo to really make sure the techniques are understood.

The Saturday classes being suspended until the new term in September, I assume the class are enjoying a well deserved break from art... until I start hearing rumours of impromptu meetings, picnics, and even alcohol! Forced to investigate I head off with my camera; it’s true! The art class have escaped and are roaming around Long Melford, I find them near the churchyard, squeals of laughter helping me locate their position. 

Thanks for the free lunch guys!

Work on the studio continues. The decking is finished, along with railway sleeper steps...

 Lights get fitted, spotlights at the rear where my computer will go, and two hanging lights at the front where I will paint...

A worktop is installed and the cupboards started...

And my favourite thing so far, a small but perfectly formed hanging system on the left hand wall, to display the artwork I might one day find time to start making again.

Back in the house, the littlest bedroom continues its transformation into sewing/computer room with worktops and cupboards.
The corner cupboard separating my sewing area from boyfriends computer area was a genius idea if I say so myself. I am obsessively neat, and he is well, male. This gives me a barrier. It would have been like Israel and Palestine all over again, but with sarcastic post-it notes... Now it’s more like the Berlin wall, prior to all that overrated re-integration business.

 The teen returns from her travels, with laundry in tow. Yes, these used to be socks. I thought about washing them, but decided to have them humanely destroyed. Must explain to daughter – SHOES go in between mud and socks.

I had vowed to only keep up with urgent work, and teaching, the big clear-out and box packing taking up all my time. But then, with great serendipity, and appalling timing, an illustration commission lands in my lap! Unlike just about every other professional, amateur or just plain hopeful artist I have ever met I have never wanted to ‘illustrate a children’s book’; realising that the number of children’s books published per year is probably in the hundreds, whereas the enthusiastic would-be illustrators of these books seems to number several billion. I have done a little illustrating in the past, however, and would like to do more.

Illustrating being so hard to get into, and never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I consider the offer, decide I really don’t have time, and say yes anyway. I make a workspace by dumping everything on the floor, and taking over the table. I get the commission late Monday, and the company want it by Friday morning, so no pressure.

The illustration is an exploded view of Big Ben, to be printed on a cut and stick type kid’s 3D cardboard model. 

Also I have to paint four London figures including a punk rocker and Churchill! It must have fun touches and not be too stuffy. The company bring me a to-scale model, an example of another illustrator’s work and plans to work to.

 The scale is tiny and the measurements have to be scaled up. It takes a couple of hours before the random geometric shapes start to make sense and I actually understand what is required of me.  I am suddenly grateful for that year I unenthusiastically studied Technical Drawing at school. 
Part of the side panel (the main body of the building below the clock face).

Most amusing of all is the request that I should portray Boris Johnson on a bicycle. The teen finds this hysterical and for days is wandering around saying “Boris Johnson On A Bicycle!” in a loud voice before cracking up laughing.

I get the commission finished and await collection, the deadlines being too tight for postal submission. The company seem pleased, and tell me it may lead to more work. But whatever happens,  it was fun and great experience, not to mention more than a little out of my comfort zone, which is not a bad thing at all I think. The second my work is out the door, it is back to the packing cases! The house move deadline is seeming shockingly close.

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