Monday, 23 February 2015

Oh Look - It's Me!


I had another of those nice packages arrive through the post... 

Turns out The Leverhulme Trust (the lovely guys who are giving me the money to do my residency with The Morgan Centre) has a magazine. It's called a 'newsletter', but it's very glossy. January's edition was forwarded to me by Professor Heath. It announced the list of residencies they were awarding - 20 in total. 

Lots are with various universities across the country There's a really wide range of study areas: Law, War Studies, Pharmacy, Geography, Medicine and more. Then there is an observatory in Armagh who is working with a musician, The National Waterways Museum who is working with a theatre writer / performer...

Apparently they selected from over 200 submissions, so we did really well to be selected, which feels great! I am delighted to discover that it is possible (at least in principle) to earn a crust from my sketching, as well as my picture book illustration. I am really enjoying the greater variety I have these days too.

Anyway, in December, Professor Heath wrote an article for the newsletter about our plans and, as you can see, it got a full page. Hurrah!


A big roll of watercolour paper also arrived last week, with a few book-binding bits, ready for me to make the concertina sketchbooks I am going to use throughout the 10 month residency. It's starting to feel real!


Thursday, 19 February 2015

SketchCrawl in Nottingham


Sorry it's been a week since I last looked in. I am working hard every day on my mural. I did get to escape the computer on Saturday though - everything stops for SketchCrawl day!

This month, Urban Sketchers Yorkshire met up with our counterparts in Nottingham, for a drawing day at Nottingham Castle. There were a few sketchers from the Manchester and Birmingham groups too, so it was really lovely to meet lots of new people.


The train from Sheffield arrived half an hour before the one from Manchester, so I did this quickie of the station front, while we waited. By the time I got underway, I only had 20 minutes, so I was really pleased with the results. I think, because of the silly amount of time, I had such low expectations that I was really relaxed. No time to think either, so I was working on instinct, by-passing my brain (often a good thing with my brain).


Fired up with this success, I decided to brave the cold at the castle and draw outside. Several people did the same as the views across Nottingham were spectacular. I avoided the really long views and drew the interesting aerial view down over the surrounding streets, continuing in my concertina sketchbook with the tinted paper, flowing on from the drawing I did on Castleford.

Nottingham Castle isn't a real castle - the real one was blown up hundreds of years ago. The new one is a museum and art gallery, so I headed inside and had a quick whizz round to warm up my fingers and toes. Then it was time for some lunch and chin-wagging with my new chums.


After lunch I was sufficiently thawed to try again outside. It was cold, but there was very little wind, so it was possible to stand it for about an hour. I did this view of the front entrance.


Once more chilled to the bone, it was wonderful to walk through the automatic doors and feel the wall of heat kick in! The gallery was a really lovely space, so I sat in there for my last sketch of the day, working with my Koh-i-Noor rainbow pencil and some white pastel:


This was a continuation in the concertina sketchbook and flowed on from the earlier drawing:


It also filled the very last section of the book - a rather satisfying end to the day - so it's now complete: 


You can't really see the drawings properly here but, if you are interested, you can enlarge it sufficiently for a good look on my Flickr page.

This lovely book was made for me as a present by one of my group (thanks again Lucie!), but I have also made concertina books for myself. They are very easy. If you want to have a go, this post shows you how.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Talking to the Henry Moore Foundation


Great news - Wakefield Library Service love the mural design, so it's full steam ahead. 

While I was away during the first half of this week, working with under-graduates at Bishop's Grosseteste Uni in Lincoln, John was helping out back home, scanning all the children's work again, this time at high res. It is extremely boring to have to scan everything twice, but I didn't know until now which images were going to be used and at what size; the original drawings have been re-sized a lot, to make them fit together within the design.


I also decided to try and fit a Henry Moore sculpture into the design, because of his Castleford history. It makes for a good discussion point for school groups coming into the library. As I mentioned previously, using someone else's photo would raise copyright issues. I have various sketches of Moore's sculptures, but the one above, from a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the only one in full colour. We still had to run it by the Henry Moore Foundation though, to get their blessing. Luckily, they love it and so have now been added to the invite list for the Grand Opening.


It was no mean feat trying to find a spot for Henry, but in the end I moved a bush-baby out of one of the trees (above), to create a space on a column between two bookshelves. I also popped a tiny owl (I think that's what it is) on top, which really helped to make the sculpture 'belong':


It's a bit surreal, but well, it's not as if the rest isn't! I did like the bush-baby though, so I rejigged things in another section, to make room for him in a new location. It's a nightmare though, because each thing you move has a knock-on effect. Spot the differences:


My next job is trying to find a way to work with the high res scans in Photoshop. I am working at 25% of the real size and divided the design into 6 sections, but the base layer of each section was still coming up at 470MB - still too big to be practical. So I am also having to work on just the upper part first, adding the below-bookshelf-height elements at the end.

It's still going to be a bit of an ordeal for the computer and I will have to 'flatten' the artwork as I introduce each new element, as floating layers make a file enormous and my poor computer is likely to throw in the towel if I am not extremely careful. 'Saving' really often seems like I good idea!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Designing My Children's Library Mural:


On Friday afternoon, I emailed my mural design to Wakefield Libraries - hurrah! It's looking really fun, as the children's drawings were even better this time around. This is a section from the middle:


The drawings weren't all finished and some were a bit wishy-washy, but I found it rather soothing, spending a whole day touching them up, colouring-in with my big tin of Derwent pencils. Then John helped me out by scanning everything (just low-res for now).

I abandoned my original plan of designing it in 3 sections: I needed to see the whole thing as one, with all 4 walls strung together into a long, thin template. I used the plans I drew a couple of weeks ago. 

With over 100 drawings, it was hard to know where to begin. I had calm, library-like details as well as crazy, tiger-infested ones. This gave me the idea for the layout: the tigers could be bursting in from one end, so the other end would still be normal, for contrast. This is the far left, the calm end (with just the odd hint of tiger-trouble): 


I established a horizon line early on, to stop things floating, and started to import the drawings, creating little groups and gradually building it up. It didn't look enough like a jungle though, so I introduced big fern-like shapes and tree-covered hills in the distance. Here are the first 2 stages:


I did my best to include everyone's work, though it got fuller and fuller! I did have to admit defeat before I fitted in every drawing, but I squeezed the vast majority in there. This is the tiger end, with my tiger from Open Wide, starting things off:


As with the first mural, in Wakefield Central Library, I was asked if I could pop some of my own characters in amongst the children's. There are quite a few dotted through this one. 

Here is the section which joins onto the one above, as the tigers work their way into the library. My little trio of bats-in-hats are from When You're Not Looking! of course. I love some of the detailed and surreal shelving systems the children devised:


I hope you are impressed at how I managed to shoe-horn the Romans in. This was a requirement, because Castleford is an important archaeological site. In the end, it was a fun addition to have them bursting from the history shelves:


It was such a massive job that I had to spend all week glued to the computer, working it all out, but it was good fun and John had to virtually drag me from my chair at about 7 o'clock each evening.

I haven't yet included Henry Moore (Castleford was his place of birth), for want of a copyright-free image, but my idea was to add a hill in the background, with one of his massive sculptures on it. If necessary, I have a couple of sketchbook paintings I have done at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Here's the whole thing. It should enlarge to a size you can see properly:


Cross-fingers that they like it, after all that work! I'll let you know.