Friday, November 30, 2012

The Story of Britain is shortlisted for the ALCS award

I was delighted to hear that The Story of Britain, by Patrick Dillon with illustrations by me has been shortlisted for the The Society of Authors ALCS award.
Obviously the shortlisting is primarily due to Patrick's wonderful prose, but I am hoping I might tag along next month to the prize giving event which is at the Houses of Parliament in London.
Our publisher, Walker Books, has another title among the four short-listed, so the chances of a celebration are good.
Above is the cover of the paperback version of The Story of Britain which is due out next year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Niamh Sharkey at Hodges Figgis

This time last year I was camped in the window of Hodges Figgis bookstore painting a seven foot canvas of the Ghost of Christmas Present. 
This year it is Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey's turn.
I popped round to lend her a hand, but I think Niamh's lovely painting is nearly finished already.

It is derived from her most seasonal book, Santasaurous


Monday, November 26, 2012

Illustrating Peake

Here's one of those articles I was talking about.
I was delighted to be chosen to illustrate "Boy in Darkness" by Mervyn Peake when this lost fragment from Gormenghast was rediscovered a number of years ago. When the book was published Books for Keeps magazine asked me to write about the process.

And here's another of my sketches from the book.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rediscovering Willow Charcoal

I hope to do some more detailed blog entries on all the teaching I have been doing lately.
I must say I really enjoy the process and I have certainly been getting a lot out of the sessions in quite unexpected ways.
One thing is that I have become re-enamoured with the whole process of drawing with charcoal. That is largely thanks to the various attendees at my RHA workshop last week.
I had decided to myself that charcoal was just too messy and hard to control for my liking and I had taken up children's chubby crayons as my preferred sketching medium.
Some students never get to like the chubbies which is fine but last week when we were drawing our models in costume. I was persuaded that willow charcoal was absolutely right  for the job.
I gave it a go for the first time in years and loved it.
Erasing the rubbed in charcoal is the perfect way to define folds in drapery without too much fuss.

Here are a few older charcoal sketches too.
I can't wait to do some more.
By way of contrast , the portrait head below was done with the chubbies.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Life Drawing Workshop

Here are a few images from the workshop I did last week at the RHA in Dublin.
I was lucky to have a lovely bunch of attendees, and everyone agreed that our models were outstanding. 
We had a lot of fun with the lighting and costumes and a great deal of hard work was done too.
Altogether it was a hugely enjoyable experience.

Monday, November 12, 2012

“Jack and the Baked Beanstalk” by Colin Stimpson

I occasionally write reviews and articles on illustration and children's books generally, and I was delighted to be asked recently by CBI to review the latest book by Colin Stimpson.
I have admired Colin's work for many years and, as I am also now attempting to write my own stories, I was very impressed by his first effort as author as well as illustrator.
Below is my review as it appears on the CBI website.
I will post various other articles soon.

I first encountered Colin Stimpson’s work when he pipped me in an illustration competition we had both entered just after leaving Art College. He had a real talent back then, and I always thought he would be a great book illustrator. However his career path led him to become an art director and production designer for Disney. Happily, he has started to illustrate books in recent years and in this instance he has also written the story.
In Stimpson’s re-imagining of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, Jack and his mother are running a café from a quaint old van on the edge of a vast 1930’s metropolis. Their café is about to be swallowed up by the development of a huge flyover when Jack gets hold of some magic baked beans.

Just like in the fairy tale, Jack’s mum throws the beans out the window and intrepid Jack climbs the enormous beanstalk which grows up overnight. Living in the castle above the clouds we find a lonely and lovable giant who would prefer to cook nice meals for Jack rather than grinding his bones to make his bread.

Here Stimpson’s story departs from the fairy tale model and it finally leads us to a satisfying and heart-warming ending.

The greatest strength of this book of course lies in Stimpson’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations. The artist’s experience in designing movies shows in some stunningly dramatic compositions and in his expert use of lighting and control of colour.

His pictures all have a lovely Art Deco flavour, and, although they seem to be finished digitally, he manages to retain a nice organic hand-drawn feel. A delicate scratchy patination gives a sense of timelessness to the whole book. An impressive first effort for Colin Stimpson as author and illustrator, and don’t be surprised if this one ends up as an animated movie.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Experience the Magic, at Your NLI

Thanks to Honora Faul of the Department of Prints & Drawings at the National Library of Ireland for letting me know that the NLI have chosen one of my images that they have in their collection to be part of their new front hall display.
It consists of a series of banners which are part of an exciting project called “Your NLI”.

The picture above is from "East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon" and I chose not to use it in the final book, going for a more dynamic diagonally oriented composition. I can't believe I spent so much time on a painting before deciding against using it. Now I see a lot of good things in the more formal, profile view of the Lassie on the White Bear, but the bear in the final painting is much stronger.

I added a layer of falling snow to the picture in the book.
Both originals are in the NLI collection.
Nikki Ralston, who put the project together, has done an entry on it in the NLI's own blog with a link to a very interesting slideshow of the pictures featured in the display.