Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Everything is a Drawing Opportunity...

Yesterday, John and I had to drive out into Derbyshire, to the village of Rowsley, to visit a lovely art gallery called Gallery Top. We were looking for a 50th birthday present for a friend. We weren't after a painting, but a piece of nice and unusual jewellery. The gallery in Rowsley has both paintings and jewellery, as well as glassware and ceramics. It was a feast for the eyes and we got what we needed (which I would show you, except I can't be 100% certain that my friend won't be looking in!).

Anyway, I took a sketchbook with me, because I felt in the mood for a bit of drawing. It was such a lovely drive, I decided to rise to the challenge of sketching out of the car window as we were going along. I've done this many times before. It is always quite hard-going and fairly frustrating, because the roads twist and turn. Which means that, as well as everything rushing past the windows at a crazy rate, the perspective of the road in front is constantly changing.

I did my best though. These are the most successful of the half a dozen I ended up with. The trick is to keep building up the image with bits stolen from the new views which enter the windscreen. And of course to draw like the clappers! One things for certain - the concentration it takes makes the journey disappear, so you are home in the blink of an eye.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Look What's Arrived!

In these days of email and texting, I don't tend to get that much ordinary, through-the-letterbox mail. Still the odd bill. No letters though, which is a shame, as I used to love writing and receiving old-fashioned, pen-and-paper letters. Hey ho. What I do receive now and then though, is a parcel. Lovely! Especially when it's a ring-the-doorbell, postman-on-the-doorstep kind of parcel. 

Don't you just love opening parcels?

I had a pretty good idea what was inside this one as soon as I saw the Hachette logo on the label. Which made it even more exciting, because, inside was two copies of my brand new book with Julia Jarman:

Class One Farmyard Fun is a sequel to Class Two at the Zoo and Class Three all at Sea. All very funny, about school trips which go horribly wrong.

A short while before any book hits the shops, the author and illustrator are sent 'advance' copies. There are two because one is the hardback and one is the paperback.

The hardback comes out first. That is published on May 18th - less than 2 weeks! Then the paperback follows, on August 10th.

So folks, get your orders in!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

New Website Launch!

I have redesigned my children's book website! Well, when I say 'I'...

I've had the website for over 15 years, the very first version of which I did create myself. It was redone and much improved in 2009, but then last year, I got someone to help me create a brand new urban sketching website, because my work has shifted in recent times: these days, I make my living more from my reportage work than from my children's books.

My web-designer also took a look at my faithful old illustration website, which I thought was fine. Wrong! He explained that it urgently needed upgrading, because the behind-the-scenes stuff was no longer working so well. The main problem was that the world has changed since 2009. My site didn't have any facility to cope with people looking on mobiles or tablets: modern websites resize themselves and do all sorts of clever automated stuff to make them more usable on small screens.

The whole website had to be dismantled and rebuilt, bit by bit. I took the opportunity to update the content of course, adding new photos everywhere, with my up-to-date hair, instead of the old spiky look:

We totally redesigned the homepage, as you can see at the top, and I now have a completely new 'Availability' calendar, which is much easier to use and read:

I also slimmed the whole site down a little. It is now a leaner, fitter beastie! I've added a few newish bits too. There's a Hot Tips section, to take people to a few key posts from my blog (the content was there before, but a bit buried):

Plus videos taken of me in action by teachers and librarians, which have always been on my YouTube channel, but I figure it's good to have them up-front, for schools to see.

Take a look and see what you think. I'll be interested to hear of anything which doesn't work properly or doesn't look as good as it should on certain devices. I have been through it with a fine toothcomb and it all looks good on my computer and mobile now. But any anomalies, let me know.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Stitch Series

I am spending at least one day a week on my textile work at the moment. I enjoyed creating the paired pieces recently. It gave things a slightly different emphasis, to have to consider two connected elements, pieces which worked individually, but also related to one another. With that in mind, I decided to go one further and create a series of 4 small panels.

To prevent myself from cheating, I once again sewed the 4 pieces side by side on the same strip of cotton. This focused my mind, because they had to stay the same way up and in the same order.

Once again, I used the mark-making samples as inspiration. I have found this helps a lot when working on these purely abstracted pieces. I am released from thinking about representational elements, but I find it difficult to work entirely without subject matter. Once again, it was the randomness of the original marks, combined with my selectiveness at this stage, which particularly appealed to me.

I built up depth of tone, using a combination of tread-ends and my coloured organzas, layering them with different stitched textures. I enjoyed finding ways to get the stitching to ape the drawn and painted marks.

This is how the piece has turned out. I stopped when I thought it was probably finished, but it is a slightly arbitrary decision; I could probably continue. I think my best bet is to leave it now and come back to it in a few weeks, when I will be able to tell for certain.

I feel that this work is building in subtlety and my touch is getting lighter. It's very hard to evaluate when you're working in a vacuum though, so I am just going to soldier on and see where it takes me.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Want to Learn to Sketch Outdoors?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will already know how passionate I am about drawing out on location and will have seen loads of examples of the different kinds of sketching I am interested in. Hopefully this has inspired some of you to take up a pencil or brush and to try a few new things. I am convinced that drawing is something everybody can do (even those who swear they can't even draw stickmen - yes, I've heard that a lot).

Sometimes though, what you need is a little tuition to get you started, or to get you out of a groove and introduce you to new possibilities. There are lots of drawing and painting classes around, but not that many urban sketching ones. This summer though, is a unique opportunity, as Urban Sketchers have set up workshops around the globe, to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Check out where your nearest workshops are.

There are still some places left on the ones I am teaching,  on June 24th and August 12th, in Sheffield, in partnership with Simone Ridyard and Len Grant, who will be teaching their sessions in Manchester, on other dates this summer. This is a rare opportunity to sign up for an urban sketching workshop with me. Although I do a lot of illustration workshops in schools and have taught urban sketching all over the world, I don't generally run open, urban sketching workshops here at home.

On June 24th, I will be sharing techniques for capturing the moment. The morning's class - 'Stop, Look, Listen' - will explore ways of recording different things in our sketchbooks, really observing what's around us, in a super-concentrated, multi-sensory way. The afternoon's class - 'Let it Flow' - will give you a chance to play with a concertina sketchbook. I will show how the format can be used in different ways, to capture the flow of time and link elements together.

The morning of August 12th - 'Taming the Beast' - will concentrate on sketching architecture. I will be helping you find ways of simplifying scary buildings, to make them manageable and fun. Finally, the afternoon's class - 'People at Play' - will be about techniques for doing very quick sketches of people, capturing poses in a few moments, before they move away. There is only 1 place left for this one!

The price per half-day workshop ranges from £18 - £30, depending on how many you book and whether you get concessions. Full details of costs are here. If you are interested in any of my half days classes, or in any of the Manchester workshops with Simone or Len, get it touch with Simone, who is administrating our workshops.