Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Valentines cards, made with love


Nora and George.

I drew Nora maybe three years ago. George is much more recent. I always wanted a companion for Nora and a couple of weeks ago I brought George to life. Both were based on two well known fascinating characters in the history of tattoo art. Nora Hildebrandt was considered the first tattooed lady and toured with the Barnum & Bailey circus whilst George Burchett had an equally amazing life and went on to become a world famous tattoo artist who even tattooed royalty.
It's been just over a year now, since I went full time as an illustrator and I won't lie, it's been tough. Great, and the best decision I've ever made, but it's been really tough financially speaking. So if 2015 was the year of transition, then 2016 has to be the year where I try to turn my illustration into a business. But that's really hard, right? Thinking of your art in those terms. But I need to eat and I need to pay bills and I need to keep a roof over my head. And, I'll do anything that means that I can draw for a living. Well, not quite anything...
I made both of these drawings with the upside down technique. Nora took me a while and quite a few attempts to get 'right' (or how I wanted her). I got George first time - but then I have had a LOT of practice with this technique as you can see in this sketchbook project. So Nora had a companion at last. I love both of these drawings. George and Nora are actually very dear to me.
I never ever saw myself making Valentines cards. I've never really done anything for a particular market or an occasion. Recently my sales in my Etsy shop have plummeted. I'm part of a local Etsy team and this seems to be something of a trend and not exclusive to me. There has been a huge amount of discussion on forums as to why this is but that's a whole blog post of it's own. I've spoken to people who have weathered that storm and asked them what they've been doing to keep afloat. A lot of those people have a good range of products at different price ranges. They also take holidays and markets seriously.
I couldn't though. I couldn't make something for a market. Not me. But Valentines day was coming up. Could I? Could I really? Surely it would be selling out. Surely it would mean I'd have to dilute my work and make something with hearts and roses and oh no. It was already making me cringe. But also, in another part of my brain, it became a kind of challenge. And then it made sense. I didn't have to do anything I felt uncomfortable about. I had the perfect pair for my Valentines cards. So George and Nora went to print.
I printed them on both white and cream card. I also made a sheet of different messages (see above), based on vintage tattoo designs, to put inside the cards and printed those off too. Then I hand cut them all out (this is where my great ideas always become very complicated and end up taking ridiculous amounts of time to create). Yes, I decided I wanted them to have almost a pop-up feel to them, so I cut around George and Nora and all the tattoos.
Then I bought some smart white and cream blank greetings cards and envelopes and hand stuck, with a little of that sticky foam, the romantic pair onto either side of the card and stuck the message on the inside. Finished them off with some cellophane bags and handmade labels and, hey presto, I had Valentines cards. Just like that.
And they went on sale. In my Etsy shop and at local galleries and art cafes. So, it is possible to make things for a specific occasion or market without compromising your art. When it comes to the amount of money I laid out and time put into each one I probably won't make my fortune on this range but I made something I'm proud of.
And, on another note, this is the kind of attention to detail and care that you buy into when you make a purchase from an independent maker. Products made with love and passion, where every single sale is appreciated. Now, I'm off to come up with my next money making world domination art project.
George and Nora. Made with love.
Available HERE.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 17, 2016

and now for something completely different

As is standard with me, as soon as I say I'm going to be on top form, posting on my blog daily, I post nothing for weeks. I should just not say anything. Plus, I promised a month of inspirational drawing ideas. Well, I do kind of have one of those for you. Quite unintentionally really.
So, this was yesterday. A small group of us had planned to meet for our friend Karrie Brown's birthday in what was being called a 'Doodle and Afternoon Tea'. A sort of mini sketchcrawl.
After the first destination we had arranged to meet at was closed for 'emergency maintenance' our plans had to change, so we ended up at Staircase House - the oldest town house in Stockport - and while we didn't draw in there we (some of us) raided their dressing up box.
The kind people of the museum even let us take the costumes out on the town. Or specifically to the market. So with three of the group dressed up, in costumes that spanned the ages and messed with history, the rest of us got to draw them in various parts of the market.
It struck us that this is a great idea. Some of us already do urban sketching, and sketchcrawls, and we also do alternative life-drawing - with clothed models - but this brought those two things together.
So, just like above, getting models to pose in-situ was really good fun. And, at moments, also quite surreal.
So, that's my suggestion/idea. Give it a go. If you know anyone nuts enough to walk around in costume, in public places, rope them in. Otherwise hire someone! We intend to do more of this in the future.
I love it when things work out like that. Serendipity, I guess they call it.
Then it was back to afternoon tea and more drawing.
Oh, and here's another idea. Something I try to do lately. I always try to take some different pens and tools out with me on these little jaunts. Whether its a sketchcrawl or life drawing. I take things that I wouldn't normally draw with.
It forces you to use something else apart from your old favourites. Cos if you ain't got it with you you cant use it.
Like yesterday, not a fine liner in sight. I took marker pens (Letraset Aqua-Markers to be specific) and a brush pen. So, I know it's a real old cliché, but my idea for today is to get out of your comfort zone. I did and I'm pretty chuffed with the results.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

how to draw a show revisited

Here's a post from the archives. It's from July 2010. The first thing that goes through my head is how things have changed! I would never use this method these days. My drawing is so much more instinctual now, but back then I was learning. I was teaching myself to draw. And, for me, that makes it a valid exercise, but then any sort of drawing that you do is valid. It's all about practice, and no matter how much we'd love magic pens the fact is that if you want to get to a place where you're confident enough to become instinctual you need to put the learning in first. And, what I have found also is that drawing is all about looking, seeing, and that is something else I was teaching myself to do here. Look. See.
 
 The other thing that has changed is an obsession with drawing shoes - where did that come from??!Anyway, here's
How To Draw a Shoe by Andrea Joseph 2010
Over the past few years I have worked through many different processes, when drawing from still life, to get to the one that I am happy with. As I'm self taught it's been a process of elimination to find the ways that work best for me. I have narrowed it down to a couple of methods actually. I'll show you both in the next two posts, and demonstrate with my favourite subject matter; shoes.
 
Above are the tools I have used. They are; a cartridge paper sketch book; tracing paper; pencil; rubber (I believe that means something different in the US?!); three blue ballpoints; one red ballpoint. I want to stress at this point, because I'm asked so frequently, I use ANY kind of ballpoint pen. No special makes or brands. Any. As long as they aren't blotchy I'll use them.
Step 1. I am pretty obsessive about getting the shape 'right', so if I'm sketching something, for eaxmple an Adidas trainer, I will do the sketching stage on tracing paper. I realised, a while back, that I do not have any 'sketchy' books as such. I only ever produce finished drawings. I do, however, have huge amounts of roughs on tracing paper. Doing things this way means I can work on the shape I want to achieve and then transfer it easily to paper. It also means that, if I should want to, I can reproduce the same image (in different mediums). Which is something I do quite often.
Step 2. When I've got shape I want I transfer it to paper. In the image above you can see the ballpoint outline. I would obviously start with a pencil outline, but the scan I did for that was rubbish - you couldn't see anything. So when the pencil outline is put down on the paper, I go over it faintly with a ballpoint.
Step 3. I have started to add some shading (values?) to some areas. I work out where this shading should be by observing the shoe and where the shadows and light fall. Excuse me if all this sounds really patronising, it's not meant to. It's just how I have learnt to draw. Step by step.
Step 4. Here comes the cross hatching. This is the part where I feel I can really get into the zone with this drawing. I love this bit. The shoe is starting to come alive, and more texture is being added through the hatching.
Step 5. A continuation of the last step. More building, more hatching, more texture. Also at this point I'm starting to add the detail. That's another bit I love doing.
Step 6. The finishing touches. My most favourite bit. Details, a bit of extra hatching and a splash of red. In this drawing the final finishing touch was to outline the shoe with a bolder line, using a ballpoint that has a bigger nib.

And that's it!
That's how I did things back then. Actually, this is the way I'd work these days for an editorial or book illustration job or for something that needed planning and page layout. So, I learnt quite a lot from that period. Mostly, I learned about seeing. And, funnily enough, I went on to teach a Sketchbook Skool course of that very name ('Seeing') five or so years later.
More demonstrations and things from the archives all month, here, on my blog.
But for now, that's all folks!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 04, 2016

dream a little dream

The Red Case - continued
(Part 1 HERE)
'The Shooting of Hector Littleton'
 
Well, laid up in bed with a chest infection, coughing my lungs up, wasn't how I'd envisaged the start to my New Year. I'd wanted to start all guns a'blazing, but the Universe had other ideas.
Poor vain Hector,
 
 I love New Year. It is, without a doubt, my favourite of all the holidays and birthdays put together. I love all the possibilities and opportunities a new start begins. There's nothing I like better than a new chapter or even a brand new (sketch) book.
his untimely death...
(drawing by Kate Yorke)

 But lying here, gives me some time for reflection - which is yet another good thing about a New Year.
...meant he had no time to enjoy his ill-gotten inheritance.
 
2015 saw so many changes for me. Big changes. And one of those big changes, perhaps the biggest, was that I gave up my job to become a full time illustrator.
Somebody wanted that case and would go to any lengths to get it off him.
(Drawings by Karrie Brown)
 
This was not a decision I took lightly. I'd battled with it for years. And years. Making every excuse in the book not to do it. But I'd just got so bored of hearing myself talk about it.
On a train station on the other side of town a brief encounter was about to happen
(Photo by Karrie Brown)
 
Then, on New Year's Day last year, I just woke up and I took the leap. I made the decision. I wasn't going back to work. Job done.
But would she turn up?
(Drawing by Lynne McPeake)
 
I was now a full time illustrator. Yay!!!! Argh!! Shit! YAY!!!
He waited. And waited.
(Drawing by me)
 
I had no back up plan, hell, I had no plan. And, I had no money behind me, I had nothing. Not a bean to my name. All I had was this faith that somehow it would work out and this overwhelming belief that it was the right thing to do.
Then she came
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
And sometimes that's the best place to start. There's something quite beautiful about being in that place.
But had she brought what he wanted?
(Drawing by Kate Yorke)
 
But it hasn't been easy. Far from it.
But when is anything? Anything that means anything?
There was no sign of the red case
(Drawing by me)
 
I was prepared for that.
And I was prepared to be poor. I'd been practicing at that for quite a while.
They moved into the café
(Drawing by Becky Field)
 
 But even though the stress about having no money continued (and still continues) everything else became better. Since making that decision everything improved. Finally I was doing what I wanted to do. What I was meant to be doing.
They'd go unnoticed there
(Drawing by Karrie Brown)

And, it's required me to be more, much more, creative. Not just as an artist, but how I live my life. I have to be creative in the way I spend my money and in how I make my money. And the latter has been a revelation.
He had the money but did she have the red case?
 
It was no longer feasible to just draw, and to hope that I might get some sales or commissions. I had to look at other things - things I'd learnt and how I could utilise them to bring in an income.
She came up with the goods
(Drawing by me)
 
I started using my creativity in ways I'd never have dreamt of. Bringing all of the things I'd learnt, all the things I was skilled at, and was good at, together. With some extraordinary results.

And there it was
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
My favourite of which has to be this crazy idea I had for a series of alternative, costumed, life-drawing sessions, which had a narrative (that I'd written - in my head) running through them...
The red case inside the green case
Drawing by Liz Ackerley 
 
...passed on from model to model by via a little red case, and that included a lot of people getting shot or hit over the head with candlesticks and Prime Minsters getting involved with showgirls and...and...well, yeah, oh....
And whilst all of this was going on
(Drawing by Kate Yorke)

...and not to mention spies falling in love with each other.
This pair were falling in love
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
I mean, who could have predicted all of that?
But can two spies truly fall in love?
(Drawing by me)
 
So you see, the craziest things can happen in just a year...
How could they ever truly trust each other?
(Photo by Rod Walton)

...when you take the leap of faith.
 And 2016? Well, I intend to make even more crazy things happen. Lots more.
Oh, and it would be nice to make a bob (buck) or two along the way too. That's the aim.
 And then there was Edna
(Photo by Rod Walton)
 
I must say a HUGE thanks to all of the sketchers and amazing models who have made this project an absolute joy and one of my proudest achievements.
  I CANNOT wait for the new series set in a swanky New York apartment block in the 1970s to start in Feb. Let your creativity have no limits and it'll take you to amazing places too!
 
Hector Littleton played by Mike Cross
Michael Mann played by Christopher Freeman
Eliza Day played by Kayleigh Amos
Edna played by Kristina Parkin

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.