Monday, 2 May 2016

Beijing Here I Come!!!!

Ages and ages ago, I was chatting via email with author Julia Jarman. We talked about this and that, then she mentioned that she had been invited to Beijing, to visit an International School, but she wasn't very keen to go. She thought it might be a little scary in China on her own, so she was thinking of turning them down. Purely as a joke, I quipped that she should ask the school if they wanted an illustrator too, then we could go together. Which is how it began.

Over a year later, Julia and I have visits booked at 6 different Beijing schools - 9 day's work - and we will be there for two and a half weeks. Quite an adventure. I imagine that it will be very hard work, a bit like World Book Day week with knobs on, but I do like new and interesting experiences, plus we will get weekends to explore. Of course, I'm hoping I'll have enough energy left over to sketch a bit too.

I have been to China before, but a very long time ago. In 1988, I back-packed around the north of China for 6 weeks, with a friend. It is probably the single most challenging, but also exciting thing I have ever done. That's when these sketches were done.

Apart from sights like The Forbidden City, I can't imagine that there will be much that is recognisable about Beijing now. Things were still very traditional at that time and there were certainly no gleaming, glass structures. It will certainly be fascinating to see the changes for myself.

We are due to fly out mid September, which I fully expect to be here before I know it. Yeehah!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Students, students, students...

The end of April marks the end of the teaching period at the University of Manchester, so each of the academics I have been shadowing for my residency has been doing final lectures in their modules, preparing their students for end of year exams. As this also means that my chance to sit in on lectures has therefore come to an end, I wanted to make sure I sketched what was left.

So, both last Tuesday and Wednesday, I sketched a 2-hour session, filling up another book. I have had so much practise now at speed-painting people, I have got more and more confident at just diving in. Most of the work I am doing at the moment involves 'drawing' with paint, only using line-tools after some watercolour is down, to pull things into focus and define details where necessary.

My added confidence proved very handy on Wednesday as, to add an extra frisson of pressure to the lecture, I also had a professional film-maker there, recording me in action. Earlier this year, we put in a bid to the university, asking for some money to make a film about the project, both to show at the July exhibition and at various subsequent academic presentations. We just found out a couple of weeks ago that we got all the money (hurrah!), but of course, we now have a very short time to get all the necessary filming done, not to mention all the time it will take to edit things together.

Anyway, we have now made a start. And luckily nothing went embarrassingly wrong with the sketches from the session!

As well as footage of me in action, we are going to be filming interviews with lots of the other academics who have been involved, getting the sociological perspective on the value and interest of the work. We began though, with a quick interview with me after the Wednesday morning lecture had finished, talking about how I choose what to include in the sketches, how I decide where to place things on the page, the degree to which I incorporate the verbal content of the lecture etc.

Here's how the sketchbook looks as one continuous piece:

Friday, 22 April 2016

Painting Live Music

We are so lucky to have the excellent Cafe#9 just 5 minutes walk away from our house. It's only small but it has such a lovely atmosphere. Very bohemian, very relaxed, very friendly.

Any regular readers will know though, that what makes it even more perfect, is the music. I have been spending more and more evenings there, sketching the performances, and recently was invited to take part in a couple of recording sessions.

This was of course, rather exciting. Jonny, the owner of the cafĂ©, thought it would be fun to record albums for up and coming bands he is impressed with. Having watched me paint and draw my way through so many gigs, he commissioned me to sit in on the recording sessions with my sketchbook.

The idea was for me to just do what I normally do, but the extra challenge was for me to create a piece of artwork which could be used as an album cover. I might once have found this a little daunting but, having sketched so many events during my residency, knowing with each that the results would need to work, being part of a larger piece of artwork, I felt pretty brave about the idea.

All these sketches are from those sessions. The first session was with singer / songwriter Liam Walker, with session musicians making up the band. The second one was recording Gregory S. Davies, painted above. He was also performing with the local session musicians: the person below on the piano, Finn, is also on a guitar at the top, the glockenspiel at the bottom and playing the red double-base. Talented fella!

We haven't actually had any finished CDs out the other end yet. The illustrations are with the designer. I'll show you when they're done.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Knitting Sheep and Throwing Muck!

Here is the latest piece of artwork from Class One Farmyard Fun!, hot off the press:

I am gradually creeping forwards, though it's taking longer than I would like. So many fiddly bits! I am rather pleased with the effect of the muck heap though. My favourite bit on this one is the knitting sheep though. And I really like how the cockerel colours contrast so well against the background:

This is spread 3, coming directly after the artwork I showed you last. You can see Julia's text on the rough which, as usual, was tacked to my drawing board directly above the artwork as I worked, to allow me to keep checking the details of what I was creating, because of course, when you use pastels, a lot of that detail from the pencil drawing gets obliterated:

It's useful, taking a photo of the artwork once it's done. I hadn't realised this before but, seeing it reduced like this really helps me to spot things I've missed. A book like this is a bit of a nightmare, making sure I have coloured every tiny shoe, not missed out any hands, left off any freckles etc. I can see, looking at this artwork, I have forgotten the eyebrows on the lad throwing the muck at his classmate, so he doesn't look quite naughty enough. I'll just go and fix that...