Monday, 6 August 2018

A Day in the Life of an Architect

So what do architects do all day? To be honest, I wasn't really sure.

I know they design buildings and spaces, probably more on a computer than at a drawing board these days, but that's where my knowledge stops. Or stopped. Last week, as it happens, I got the opportunity to find out, first hand, and I took along my sketchbook, naturally.

I had been commissioned to create an illustration for a final project report, by researchers at York University. The project analyses and discusses how care homes are designed and built, and why. The researcher who contacted me said she would like an image which gave some insight into what an architect did during a typical day. 

I wasn't that happy about doing it though, because I didn't want to draw it from imagination, since I had no clear idea what they do, or what their environment might look like. I said the drawings would have much more of an authentic and natural feel if I was able to see and draw an architect actually at work. So the researcher paid me to spent a day at an architect's practice near Selby. Perfect.

They were tucked away in the grounds of a stately home turned hotel, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was quite a journey to get there. I arrived just as people were preparing for a big meeting. My job was to shadow one particular architect, April, and sketch her activities through the day.

The meeting was really interesting, with about a dozen people around a big table, discussing a project which was obviously in the early stages of development. 

It was very animated, with lots of back and forth, pointing at drawings and making changes to plans because of various problems. It was much more tricky to capture than all those meetings at the Morgan Centre, where people mostly sat and listened, but I did my best. 

After lunch, April went back to her desk to work on a drawing for a different project. She showed me a print-out of a long building which the client wanted to appear like a terrace of buildings. 

Her designing was indeed mostly done on the computer, but she did also do some hand-drawing, working things out. She felt that the shapes of the ends of the building needed altering, to make the overall effect more attractive, but this had knock-on effects to the footprint of the rooms and the roof-line. So she sat and sketched for a few minutes:

One of the surprises for me, was how much collaboration went on. The office was a large, open-plan space. But although individuals had their own, quite spacious work areas, people often got up and went to chat things through with each other.

So it was a far more sociable job than I might have anticipated. It seemed like fairly high pressure though. 

I was pleased that I managed to capture quite a few different elements of the work. What I have to do next is find a way of putting together a selection of the sketches, to create a montage. 

The final illustration is to be a double spread, so two A4 sheets. The York researchers are going to have a meeting tomorrow, to chose their favourite images from everything I created and to let me know if there is any additional text they want to incorporate, then I have another day to fiddle around in Photoshop and bring things together. What an interesting project it has turned into.

You can see many more similar reportage projects on my website here. If you want to discuss a future project, contact me here.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

An Envelope Full of Lovely Things!

This week, a fat, A4 envelope dropped onto the mat. On the front was a dragon, (looking very like the one in Dragon's Dinner...) bearing down upon my house. Yikes. 

The envelope was addressed to Lynne Chapman, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Well! When I turned it over, a great big bear pulled a rather rude face at me:

The envelope was bursting with lovely, enthusiastic letters from the Otters Class at St Patrick's primary school in Barnsley, where I visited about 6 weeks ago and read stories to the children.

We did lots of drawing together too. The teacher's covering letter said that many of the children had cited their 'drawing aliens' workshop with me as their 'Best Activity of the Year'. She also said that, since my visit, she had noticed lots of the children reading my books to one another in their free time. Isn't that lovely? It's so good to get this kind of feedback. It makes you realise how worthwhile the school visits are. Getting kids fired up about reading and creativity at that age is invaluable stuff. 

Many of the letters had drawings on them, so I could tell which books I had read. I'm pretty sure the one above must be the itchy gorilla from An Itch to Scratch (though he has grown a tail and evolved into a monkey). Hayden's letter, below, had three different characters: the Bears on the Stairs little bear, in his stripy shorts, the Class Two at the Zoo anaconda, now with added sting, and I recognised the monster from Rocky and the Lamb too, leaping out of his magic box:

Class Two at the Zoo was clearly the favourite though. That book has always been a winner (a HUGE thanks to Julia Jarman for that one, and many of my other favourites, come to that). I love this illustration of the anaconda baby in his spotty bib. the punk hairdo is definitely a winner too!

Thanks too to Miss/Mrs Phillips, for organising the letters, and of course to all the children in Otters (some of whom had very impressive handwriting), who are by now running around in the sunshine, enjoying their summer holidays.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

A Tree for the Trees!

It's been a bit of a nail-biting week...

Followers who live in Sheffield (and even some who don't) will know about the tree campaign that's raging here. We have been fighting the council for 5 years now, trying to prevent them from cutting down our street trees (many of them over 100 years old), simply to make it cheaper to maintain our roads and pavements. They have ravaged the city already and cut down 5,500 street trees, but campaigners have finally managed to bring it to a halt, for the moment. There have been injunctions, arrests and court cases, even though protesters have been peaceful, many of them pensioners, just standing under trees to hamper the felling. 

All of this has meant a lot of legal costs for people who don't have that kind of money. So we are continually fundraising. Which is where I come in, with my tree paintings.  

I have helped organise sketching events to get the message out there and, when I can, I go to street protests and stand under trees, often with my sketchbook, paints and my Inktense watercolour pencils. I have painted several beautiful trees, many of which we have saved from the chop (but which they still intend to come back for).

On Meersbrooke Park Road, there are a whole line of mature trees due to be chain-sawed out of existence. I put this watercolour of them up for auction last week, in aid of the tree campaign's legal fees.

It started off very slowly and for ages it looked like we would only get £70, which was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Despite spending ages posting it all over Facebook, things were deadly quiet for days. I grew despondent. Then suddenly, a couple of days before the deadline, two people got involved who bid against each other until we got to £200. Fantastic - that's more like it!

Thank you so much to F. J. for his generosity. It turns out that his mum and dad used to live on Meersbrook Park Road between 1965 and 1969. His dad was a minister at the local church and his mum taught in the local school. Guess who is getting a rather unusual wedding anniversary present on Saturday? 

If you want to help us little-people to fight our fight, by contributing to the campaign, we are currently crowdfunding and any donations at all would be very welcome.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Rebranding Myself on my 10 Year Anniversary

Those who have been following me for a long time, will have watched the unfolding of quite a few changes in my work. When I first started this blog, almost exactly 10 years ago, I was working as a full-time picture book illustrator. I had just finished the artwork for Dragon's Dinner. I was at the peak of my time in children's publishing, winning awards and performing at major festivals like Hay and Edinburgh. I had no plans for things to change and could not have imagined what the coming years would bring.

It was during that year, I was invited to join Urban Sketchers and become a correspondent. Again, I could not have known how important that invitation would be for my future adventures. It almost immediately took me to Lisbon, for my first Urban Sketchers Symposium then, the following year, I was invited to run a workshop in Santa Domingo

I had always found the isolation of studio work frustrating - I am a people person - so the international travels which urban sketching brought, really opened out my life. I got extraordinary opportunities to work alongside artists from all around the globe. Who would have thought I could wind up sketching on the Sugarloaf mountain in Brazil!

10 years on, I find myself in an entirely new place. Okay, I am still based in my lovely attic studio in Sheffield, but I no longer illustrate picture books. My new creative life has two very different facets. The urban sketching has evolved into my research-sketching work, which still occasionally takes me off on adventures overseas. Anyone who has been looking in lately will know all about my research work in Australia.

One of the key things which I absolutely love about this work is the fact that it is not studio-based. Every day is different, because I am working with different people in different places, learning new things. I have just begun work on a couple of new projects with York University and it gives me a huge buzz to be around such clever and interesting people, sucking up knowledge as I paint.

The other new development has been my textiles work, which came absolutely out of the blue. Actually, the seed was planted by a chat with researchers at York University a couple of years ago. We were putting in a bid for a sketching project and they asked me to think about how I might create a single piece of artwork, which could illustrate key elements from my research sketchbooks. I didn't like the idea of re-drawing my sketches as illustrations (even though that would seem the obvious thing to do, given my illustration background). I got the idea that changing medium, stitching the artwork rather than drawing, would be more fun and a more creative experience for me. 

Unfortunately, we didn't get the funding for that project, but that little seed had already grown roots and I couldn't shift it. I decided to explore the idea anyway and, my goodness, what an exciting plant it is developing into! The early textiles pieces were based on specific sketches, with me trying out the new language of stitch and exploring different ways of using it. When I was funded for a 2-month residency at Orchard Square, I felt for the first time that this was more than just play, that it was a legitimate path of work for me.

It is ironic that I began my artistic journey with a degree in Printed Textiles at Middlesex University, way back in the 1980s. I never worked as a textile designer then: the textiles industry in Britain was on its knees when I graduated and my path was already bending towards illustration. It's funny how things work out. 

The textiles work has now evolved away from the sketches and, on my 10-year blog anniversary, I am enjoying two thoroughly rewarding, but very different avenues of work. It might seem odd to be following two such disparate paths at once, but it feels good, and the shift back and forth keeps both things fresh. I suppose it's similar to the way I used to shift back and forth between my book illustrations and my sketchbooks. They were very different too and I needed the contrast to keep my creativity from going stale. Does that make sense?

The more observant amongst you might have noticed a subtle difference in the blog today. Ten years on, I have realised that the label 'illustrator' is no longer the best way to describe myself. So I have re-named the blog An Artist's Life for Me! I feel that better encompasses the new and exciting things I am doing. 

What a journey. Thank you so much for coming along on the ride. I hope it has been interesting for you, Gentle Reader, and continues to be so. I wonder what the next 10 years hold in store? 

Monday, 16 July 2018

A New (Sort-of) Website for my Textiles

Hello! I am so sorry that I have been a wee bit 'off-air' of late. There has been so much going on that I have been a bit preoccupied. 

One thing which has been happening, is that I have been applying for funding for projects to do with my textiles work. Doing this is a bit boring - there's lots of sitting at a computer filling in forms - but it does help focus your mind on what you are doing and want to do. Anyway, I immediately realised that I needed a website which showcased the work, and my existing websites, for the children's books and the research-sketching, just confuse matters, when it comes to promoting my textiles.

But, I simply don't have the time to create another full-blown website right now, so I thought the easiest way to get it together quickly and without having to fork out cash, was to create myself a new Facebook pageFor the very first time, there is now a body of my textiles work available for people to look at, all together. 

I have uploaded all the lovely new photos I had taken (thanks Matthew), as well as several zoomed-in details from the work, like these, to help you see the stitching more clearly. There's a bit of background info with each piece too, so you can get more of an idea what I was going for. 

Do take a look and let me know what you think. Pretty much everything I have created is there, since that very first experimental interpretation of a sketch on a train, back in 2016. 

That piece really started something for me!