Wednesday, August 16, 2017

late at night, when the world is dreaming

No matter how much I try to change (and believe me, I've tried everything) I'll always be a night owl. I just love working at that time of night/morning. It seems that at any given time, I'll have a million and one ideas, never focusing on one and seeing it through, swimming through my head too. In last night's midnight creativity session I was playing around with the idea of making a pop-up sketchbook filled with upside-down portraits of women who have left their mark on this world and on me. I know, I know, it's just so predictable. Everyone, and their mother, is at the pop-up-sketchbook-of-upside-down-drawings-of-inspirational-creative-women thing, right?  Erm, oh, just me then?

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Monday, August 14, 2017

For the love of Tove

No. No. No cat. Not on my drawing of Tove Jansson.
Oh, you are.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

a new affair

Recently I've had this urge. An itch to scratch. I just cannot get enough of colour. Specifically watercolour. It coincided with the landscape stuff I've been doing (in my last couple of posts), and has pretty much taken over all of my work.
 I've always known that urge would come knocking on my door one day. My watercolour set has been patiently sat there, like a book that you're really excited to read, that's been in the pile of books by the side of your bed, just waiting for it's time to come.
 I'm not impatient about stuff like that. I totally believe that you shouldn't try something because it's the thing to do, or cos everyone else is doing it or because it's there. I wait.
 Until I really really want to do it. Until I have no choice in the matter.
 Now, you see, I LOVE ink. I am head over heels with it, but lets face it, ink is a pain in the ass. It's a pain to take out. It's high maintenance. I'm not talking about just taking out one colour, that's fine, but if you want a full palette it's just an impractical pain in the butt. And, believe me I tried to make it work.
 So, after a year of juggling dip pens and three or four bottles of ink on a street corner, or scrubbing the table at your regular café because you'd spilled the bulletproof black ink, again, the watercolour set caught my eye.
 Sure it isn't quite as dramatic as Mr Ink, he's more subtle, but, you know, more reliable. True, he's not as intense either, but, you get twelve colours in one set and he doesn't leak all over your bag. And, anyway, I'm kinda enjoying his subtle flatter tones. Plus, it doesn't show you up in your local café.
Yes, I have started falling for watercolours.
 I haven't got a clue what I'm doing yet, but I don't care. The fun bit is finding out where this new affair will go. And, if that turns out to be nowhere that's okay too. I'll have new stuff in my locker.
I've always loved monochrome drawings but it feels liberating to not be tied to that black line.

Prints of my new landscapes now in my Etsy shop
(sorry to be peddling my wares but I have bills to pay. Lots of bills).

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

how green is my valley

Okay, I'll stop with this soon, but I'm really enjoying this work right now. All of these recent landscape drawings were meant to include a signal box (you can see it in my last post). The white space, on the right hand side of this one, was left so that I could squeeze it in. Now I'm not even sure if I'll put it in at all. It's been a bit of an obsession for me that signal box. I think if anything could become my Monte Sainte-Victore (for those not in the know, Cezanne painted it over and over again, in every season) it would be that signal box. I love it and have done since I moved here. I've wanted to draw it for the longest time, but never got around to it. But the other day it was just calling me. I've been back each day since. So far, it's only made it into one drawing.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

that's where you'll find me

 I have this thirst for landscapes at the moment. I don't know where it has come from, I try not to question it.
 I adore the British landscape. It's so beautiful and green and lush.
 I've done quite a bit of travelling in the past, and been to some stunning places, but I think that the colours of the UK are my favourite. There has to be some pay off for all that rain. I always knew what an inspiration it was to me, even though I was drawing lots of man made stuff. I'd drive through these hills and imagine I was breathing in the beauty and that somehow, even though it wasn't obvious, it would come out in my work.
 I've a long way to go before I produce anything I'm really happy with as I'm playing around with a whole new medium in watercolour. My attempts are a bit dull and dirty looking, but that's because I'm a messy worker.
Anyway, I am just enjoying playing in the fields right now.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

the world of ideas is also changing

Recently I got to see (hear) author George Saunders, talk about his new book: Lincoln In The Bardo. I made this sketch whilst listening to him. It doesn't really look like him, but, oh well. I really enjoy this kind of work; capturing what people say and the whole combination of text and pictures thing. As part of my work as an illustrator I get to do this. I get to go into places where cameras may not be allowed (eg, prison) and capture what's going on, in sketches and words. It's hard to keep up with people talking so you end up with bits of the conversation. I like to think that the words I do catch are the important ones, but to be honest, I think that is a romantic view of it. More often than not, it's just picking up bits of prosaic conversation. But, I still like that. It's still significant, I guess.
Hmmm, still a romantic view? Look, just read this instead, it's more interesting than anything I can come up with. It's late and I should be in bed.

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

shiny happy people (drawing)

 Above is my favourite drawing related photo. Ever. I just love it. It was taken in a Korean restaurant in Manchester. I'd made the sketch, below, of the guys on the next table. They knew I was sketching them and were giggling throughout at the idea of being sketched. When I finished they asked the dreaded question; "can we see it?"
I say dreaded question, because when I speak to people who are just starting out drawing in public, and specifically drawing people, that's the number one question. Has anyone ever asked to see the drawing? And, the second question is WHAT if they don't like what you've drawn?
 And, you know, it's a totally valid question. One that I ask myself when I know I've been clocked drawing somebody. WHAT if they ask to see it? WHAT if they are offended? WHAT if they hate me for it? Because, lets face it, it is in a way a bit of an invasion of their privacy. They didn't ask to be sketched. I am always aware of that. If I wasn't in the illustration game, and somebody had made a sneaky sketch of me, how would I have liked it?
So, that's all the concern, paranoia and anxiety out there. It's real. Those thoughts exist. So how do you get over that? I don't have the answers, I'm afraid. I'm not sure there are answers. There may be times when people aren't exactly chuffed. Lily, below, didn't seem that impressed (but actually, she was just being a great model and sitting amazingly still for me). The guys below her haven't quite made their minds up. In fact, that was really great fun drawing them and even if their views and critiques were brutally honest, it didn't take away from it being too much fun to have missed out on.
 A week or so ago, I went into a café where I'd been drawing quite a lot recently. I'd put one of the drawings, that I'd made there, online. The girl in the drawing was there telling her work colleague about it. As I began a new drawing I was aware that they were talking about me and what I was doing. I spent the whole time being really paranoid. They probably hated the drawing I'd put online. They probably don't want to be in this one. More than likely they were going to come up to me and tell me to stop it or to get out. I spent the whole time a anxious wreck. When I went to pay the girls said "we love your drawings, they're really beautiful". Bugger. And I just spent that time listening to my thoughts and wasted the opportunity to create something else they'd have loved.
Thing is, for most, the reactions to my drawings of people have just been pure delight. The comment I hear most, from those who have been drawn, is "I've never been drawn before". And, "can I take a photo of it?" Oh, and, "is it okay to make it my Facebook profile picture?" These cheeky monkeys below brought all their neighbourhood kids out to get drawn.
Seriously, you'll be surprised how positive the response is. As always, the only way to get more confident about it, is to practice. But, whether people are happy to sit for you, or if they don't even know they're posing for you...
 ...if you don't do it you'll miss out on some of the greatest reactions to your drawings. My advise (not that you've asked for it, and I'm no expert) is that it's worth the risk. Be brave it's worth it. For me, the photos in this post are proof of that. It's the best feeling when you get that person to pose with their drawing. THAT, to me, is the money shot.
 And, I lied when I said the photo at the top was my all time favourite. This is...

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Friday, March 31, 2017

drawing a line under it all

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I wonder if you could help me out with some advise on a couple of things? For some time now I've been thinking about creating a book about drawing with ballpoint pens. There are a few reasons I want to do this. Firstly, it's what I'm always asked about and associated with; the ballpoint work. Secondly, I'm really done with drawing with ballpoints. I have been for some time, so it would be killing two birds with one stone. I get to answer all those questions, whilst drawing a line under it all for myself. It's not that I don't like the work, I really do, and when I see some of it, after a break, I feel proud of it. But, I just can't work in that way any more. I am more about getting the results quicker these days.
Another reason I've been considering a book is that a couple of zines, from my How To Draw (With a Ballpoint Pen) series, have sold out and are now out of print. I love that collection and I'd like to gather these together, along with a load of work that I produced for a fourth ballpoint zine that didn't get printed. All of that, plus a selection of my favourite ballpoint drawings, and some thoughts and techniques about using the pens, would make a pretty good book I reckon.
Now, I am in no position to fund this book. So, this is what I wanted to ask
a) does anyone have any experience of crowdfunding a project or book? How did you find it? Would you recommend a crowdfunding site (it would need to be one in the UK)? 
b) Do you think there would be a market for such a book?
Thanks, in advance, for your response.

How To Draw Like a Barmpot and is available HERE. As is my Converse print, the drawing at the top of this post, which is currently on sale.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Letters

I am brimming over with creative ideas right now. Here's another one that I'm bringing to life. I have no idea if it'll work but I'm going to give it a shot. 'Teddy' is the first in a series of letters, each one is a little piece of flash fiction. But, this is flash fiction graphic novel style. Yes, (I've just realised that) I've created a whole new genre. 
The thing that excites me about this idea is (hopefully) how it will unfold in front of me. Now, I am pretty sure that this is not the correct way to go about writing a story, but, I've been creating stories in this way for a couple of years in my Drink & Draw series. In these events, through models, poses and props, I tell a story for sketchers to draw. These stories always unfold, change and take unexpected twists as each model brings their own thing to it, plus poses may need to be cut, on the night, because of timing, that kind of thing. The changes then inform what happens in the next episode.
I recently read the Stephen King book 'On Writing', in which he described how a story should take you on the journey, rather than the other way around. I completely relate to that, it is actually the way I used to build my big drawings too. I'd let them tell me what to do next. I love the idea that a story has it's own life and you're just there to get it on paper. It would be a dull process if it wasn't that way, I think.
Now I'm not sure he'd recommend putting your first bit of the story out there before anything else has been written, but I'm experimenting here. During the time I was creating this letter all sorts of ideas about who the letter was from and who it was too came up. I think I always knew these characters but during this process I got to know them a lot better. And so, the next letter kind of wrote itself.
Anyway, enough talk. 'Teddy' is available HERE.
Thanks for calling by my blog.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

on double identities and stuff

Here's something I've been struggling with recently, well, struggling is probably too strong a word. Here's something I've thinking about. It's this kind of double identity I have going on. When it comes to my business, that is. I've just had some lush new art prints (above) created of my new drawings of buildings. Theyre quality art prints and cost a pretty penny to get made.
Now, I also have another set of products that I sell. This is my merchandise. This is part of my income. Quite a big chunk of my very small income to be honest. Basically, I need to sell this stuff. It includes my cards, badges and other cute little bits and bobs. The smaller cheaper items that people buy without thinking too much about cost.
I take a lot of time and pride over making these things. I don't ever want to put anything out there, whether it's lower or higher cost, that isn't a lovely product. I love these little things even though they're hugely time consuming and the return is small. But, as I said, they bring in a much needed wage.
(photo by Rob Whitrow)
But here's the thing I've been thinking about; do these products take away from my more serious (or, at least, the stuff I'm more serious about) work? Do they devalue the other work, eg, my buildings etc?
And, more to the point, should I separate the business? Should I have a shop for my merchandise and a shop for my other artwork? I have already started doing that in various places, for example on Instagram I have created a separate account as @northernquartersketcher and on Twitter @NQsketcher. And, actually, I feel especially on Instagram that is working for me.
Thing is, I can't totally separate these two sides of my work as they both are MY work. And, over the past decade or more, I have built up a following and lots of those people become regular customers (and I love and appreciate them), so if I were to separate the businesses then will I lose people along the way? Will it just be loads more work? Can you sell high quality high priced art prints alongside Thug Cats badge cards??? So many questions.
Hmmm, very interested to hear your thoughts, folks. Maybe you've been through this before|? In the meantime, I'll keep on creating.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Red Case

 In my last post I mentioned about my new obsession; creative writing. It's not really that new. Well, the writing bit may be, but my passion in life is story telling. It always has been. Over the last couple of years I've put a lot into that particular area of my creativity. Running workshops and events, for sketchers, that involve building stories.
One of those stories was called The Red Case.
 And, I've had this idea, born out of that story, for making a little case full of writing prompts (I just didn't know that they were called prompts back then. I do now, that I've been on a creative writing course) for a long long time.
 On Saturday I was at Sheffield Zine Fest peddling my wares. As always I need to have a deadline to make any of my ideas come to fruition. You know how it is, right? So I spent the days leading up to it building a production line of little red cases.
 And, after lots of drawing, cutting, printing, gluing and packing, here they are.
 Little handmade red cases, each containing eight handmade illustrated cards all with characters on the other side (I can't show you them as it'll make your stories less spontaneous), and a little handwritten letter.
 All ready to be mailed out with instructions and in a little gift box.
 The idea is to see how many different stories people can come up with from the same bunch of characters, a letter and a red case. WHAT is in there? Well, that's up to you.

The Red Case is now available in my Etsy shop right HERE.

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