Monday, 28 February 2011

Happy Monday!

OK. So it doesn't feel like Monday to me. I've been working all weekend, which I don't normally do. I like to keep proper office hours for working - 9 til 6, Monday to Friday - or I think I would go crazy. I can't tell you exactly what I've been working on yet, but here's a sneaky peek of something I drew yesterday. Doesn't look like it from this picture but, ironically, I've been drawing car parts :-)!

Hope you had a lovely weekend!

Friday, 25 February 2011

The serious artist

Client: Ikea

I'm in a bit of a maudlin mood about work at the moment. I'm returning to a topic that preoccupies me to an unhealthy degree - what it is to be a true artist. I know that a lot of people who stop by my blog are illustrators themselves, so maybe you will understand what I mean when I say that I wonder sometimes if I'm an artist at all.

Client: Tesco

Client: Fiat

You see, I draw a lot of animals and car parts, and I animate run cycles and dog silhouettes, all on demand and for clients, not myself. It's what I have to do to make a living and a lot of the time it's quite fun. A lot of time is is soul-sapping. When the work isn't coming in thick and fast I have the chance to work on personal projects. And that's when I come unstuck.

I have impulsively signed myself up for the open studios event in North Wales, Helfa Gelf, with the intention of building up a body of my own, what I call 'proper', work before September. It's not that I have to be a painter or sculptor to take part - being an illustrator is just as valid, but I have yearnings to paint and to make more things with my hands and this is a good opportunity to push myself. To this end, I have started to think about what I really want to do, but right now I'm frozen with terror. It's that blank canvas feeling, you know?

It's been a long time since I've seriously sat down and thought about doing something entirely self-directed. What do I want to do? Who am I? What do I want to say? I used to use my sketchbooks at uni as a kind of repository for my 'streams of consciousness' ranting and self-loathing. I wrote much more than I drew in those sketchbooks. It was a way of procrastinating about producing any artwork at all; I was 'thinking'. I'm procrastinating right now by blogging my insecurities rather than addressing them practically.

I look at other artists' work and am preoccupied by a few questions. What is it that compels artists to do what they do; to choose to paint humans or landscapes or whatever? How do they make choices and decisions about where to make a mark, which colour to use, how big a canvas to paint on? How do they know if what they have done is any good? Or is it the case that whatever you do, you have to believe that it's good enough or no-one else will either. Where on earth do I start?

What I do know about myself is that I am obsessed by dead, stuffed, pickled animals, deformities, notions of conservation and preservation, education and display. I like reading about sideshows and freak shows, the circus and the zoo. I am not a serious person and I should value my ability to make people laugh. It's not easy when most 'real' artists seem to take themselves so seriously - am I too flippant to ever be an artist?

I wonder if any of you also feel like this, and what you do to inspire your own work, to give yourself a kick start when the inspiration and self-belief are running a bit low? How do you know if what you are doing is any good, or does that not matter? Please share your thoughts!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Drawn - First dates 04

The aggressive paranoid. I imagine that I would behave in just this way on a first date, pointing out my deficiencies (including facial hair) and then forcing them to tell me they dislike them...

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Pheasant pattern

Here's a new pattern I designed today, with a pair of pheasants in a repeat that took far too long to work out. It's not yet available for sale on Spoonflower, because I haven't approved the test swatch yet, but here's the link to it, and some colour variations too. The toile from before is now available to purchase, though.

I think, depending on how my swatches turn out, I would like to use the pheasant print for some clothes - maybe a dress or something. I lack pattern in my wardrobe, and wearing my own would be fun!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Happy Monday!

How was your weekend? I ate a LOT of food - at my parents' house for a belated Chinese New Year dinner with some family friends. There was lobster with noodles, amongst about nine different dishes... yum yum. (Photo by my friend, Wai Lo).

Friday, 18 February 2011

a few things for Friday

I really should stop shopping for a house that I STILL do not own. Grrrr... I can't help it, I'm sorry. It's driving me nuts, but I can't stop looking for lighting and sofas and chairs for my imaginary new home.

So today I thought I should share a couple of non-housey things instead.

Firstly, I took part in a Secret Valentine exchange, organised by the very sweet Alicia of Alicia Rose (website, blog, Etsy, Twitter). We were each given the address of another participant, and had to send something handmade to them for Valentine's Day. I received my gift from Alicia herself, and I was stunned by her generosity and the loveliness of her gifts. She is a talented embroiderer who makes images using her sewing machine (a technique I have never been able to master) and turns them into art for your walls, cushions, tote bags and all sorts of other goodies. I received some note cards, a lovely lavender sachet and two of her art pieces. Now I definitely want a nice house where I can display these!

In Karen's sewing world, this rabbit, temporarily named Konstantin, came into being as a birthday gift for the husband last weekend. I added the silly Russian hat because his head looked a little bare without anything, and the heart because he lacked colour. All very silly. He only speaks Russian and likes to eat borscht and dumplings.

Have a great weekend, all. I'll try to be a better bunny and do some drawing for the blog next week.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

currently obsessing over

(via desire to inspire)

Bare light bulb fittings, with enormous globe-shaped filament bulbs. Easy to find over in the US. A bit tougher here in the UK, I'm finding. Here are a few sources I've found:

Muuto E27 light at Made in Design for £59 each.

This bulb in this fitting at Lighting Styles. Maybe swap the black braided flex out for something coloured from here.

Mind you, the husband has a penchant for breaking light fittings by swinging his unwieldy arms too high, so I'd have to install these somewhere out of the way. Hmm.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

portraits from the museum

Just a few of the ladies and gentlemen I met last Thursday.

Sorry, I've not been particularly inspired to draw anything yet this week.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Manchester Museum and other stuff

Yesterday I decided to take a trip into Manchester for a bit of drawing fun, and to get out of the house. I've been working pretty hard for the last week or so, so it was a day off, if you could call drawing for nearly five hours in a museum a 'day off'. I visited the Manchester Museum to draw the stuffed animals and skeletons - one of my favourite subjects.

What fascinates me about them is not so much the animals themselves, but the way in which they are displayed, and the ideas of preservation, education and human curiosity that they represent. A lot of these animals were killed and collected for personal or scientific interest a very long time ago. To shoot some of these species just for your collection is now absolutely unthinkable, when so many are coming close to extinction. Similar ideas interest me about zoos - I have drawn many times in zoos but, whilst their ostensible purpose is to conserve and protect species, sometimes they make me acutely uncomfortable. These thoughts pervade some of my more formal work and I'm hoping that in the coming few months before Helfa Gelf that I will create a body of work that relates to it.

On more frivolous days, I imagine them having conversations with each other:
"So, how was last night?"
"Pretty wild, actually."

For lunch, I met up with the husband to check out the veggie cafe at the Eighth Day health food shop. We shared dhal and a Sri Lankan cashew nut curry, both with brown rice. Absolutely wonderful. They also have a delicious looking take-away at the main shop counter with all sorts of wraps and pies that made my mouth water even after we'd stuffed ourselves full of lunch. If you ever happen to be hanging around the universities in Manchester, this is the place to go (as long as you like high-fibre food!). They even have their own recipe section full of yummy looking dishes.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

New work

A sneaky peek at a still from the animation I've been working on for the last couple of weeks. Flying giraffes? Oh yes.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sofa watching again

I have been distracted for the last week with thoughts about sofas, and how I so rarely come across ones that I both like and can afford. Even vintage models are out of my reach a lot of the time once you factor in re-upholstery, but it's that retro, classic look that I seem to be hankering after lately. I know, I know, I've written about some of my sofa favourites before, but I have a few more to add to the list today.

In particular, I seem to have fallen a little bit in love with Ernest Race's unusual, dramatically swooping DA1 chairs, especially the tall armchair (above). What do I like about it? It's kind of tongue in cheek, referencing classic features such as the button back and the wing chair, but with those exaggerated curves and playfulness with scale. These rare chairs and sofas now sell for an arm and a leg on eBay and other online sites. Buy some here, for example.

Ernest Race DA1 sofa from Twenty Twenty One.

Here's one that has a similar tidy, designer feel. This one is a 1920s design, the Round Samsas sofa by Carl Malmsten. It costs just about the same as a second-hand car, though!

Get the straight version for a little less (although perhaps not in the pink!)...

Oh dear.

Drawn - First dates 03

When you're so nervous that you just blurt out anything that comes into your head. It often turns out to be something that makes you sound like a lunatic.

This one was inspired by one of my best friends, Kat. Anyone got any more suggestions?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Happy Friday

Sorry it's been a poor week here. I've been animating giraffes, watching too many things on eBay and eating too many biscuits to have had any bright ideas. Have a lovely weekend.