Scarlet Battalions – Nature Illustration

The corn or field poppy (papaver rhoeas) has always been one of my favourite flowers. Despite my favourite colour being purple, the poppy’s vivid scarlet colour is pleasing to my eye. A sight that always gladdens my heart is a field of corn poppies in full bloom. A number of years ago, a ‘field of scarlet’ appeared in my home village in County Durham. My Mum, Dad and the family dog, whilst going for a ramble, couldn’t resist but venture into the outskirts of the field. There’s something about nature that appeals to our inner souls and my camera!
Scarlet Battalions for blogDuring the Millennium celebrations, when I was staying in a lovely part of Los Angeles, I began working on the coloured-pencil illustration – using photographs I had taken on the day of the family walk. It was pretty intense work colouring all of those stems and leaves and not forgetting my ‘signature tune’ ladybird (pardon the pun, but can you spot it?). After what seemed a lifetime of drawing petals and stalks I finished the illustration, which was presented to my friend and former colleague, Helene, as a wedding gift.

This particular illustration has been on my mind this month with the centenary of the First World War and the associated imagery of poppies that is often evoked with the mention of Flanders Field. The title ‘Scarlet Battalions’ is also linked to the soldiers who fought so bravely for their countries and freedom. The inspiration for the illustration came from the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’.

The portion of the song that inspired me:

Tell her to find me an acre of land
(On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Washes the grave with silvery tears)

Between the salt water and the sea strand
(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Michael Quinlyn-Nixon Scarlet Battalions photoforblog
Michael, with the camera, taking shots for the ‘Scarlet Battalions’ illustration

Greeting Cards – Waging War on Waste

For as long as I can remember, I have always been respectful to the planet – rescuing stranded worms on sunny pavements and feeding hard-working bees when they are exhausted. I even rescued a reluctant ladybird from a crowded, over-heated bus once. I also recycle everything I can, including bus tickets, envelopes and tea-bags.Image
So, when I discovered five empty envelopes (Basildon Bond, no less) and a piece of card that had seen better days, I decided to use up some dried-up poster paint left on a paint palette and make some greeting cards. I had a limited amount of colours and time, so I wasn’t planning on creating a work of art, just a few cheery cards to send to some friends. Sara loves bumblebees and Carole has a fondness for pandas, so I started with those pictures first. I quite enjoyed myself and it was nice having a bit of fun, rather than spending time working on a drawing for days.

They won’t win any art competitions, but they kept me out of mischief…and will bring a smile, I am sure, to the faces of the friends that receive them…

Joshua – Boy’s Birth Picture

Further to my last birth picture posting on 22 May (please see Phoebe post), I have had a couple of messages asking me how the colour is ‘built up’ to complete the illustrations.

On one of my latest commissions, I have tried to photograph the different stages (I was halfway through the commission when I thought of it), to show you how this is achieved. To be brief, the colour is built up in stages and because there (probably) isn’t a specialist coloured-pencil to match each and every colour required in the illustration, these pencils have to be blended to create the desired hue and shade.

STAGE 1 – CONCEPT AND SCAMP
Image  (Stage 1)
I usually play around with the name in my mind’s eye and try different variations before I begin to start putting blue pencil to paper. I wanted the dogs to be quite interactive in this illustration, so came up with the idea of the canines holding the letters of the little boy’s name. I had originally intended to do different coloured food bowls for the dogs, but changed my mind at a later date.

STAGE 2 – SKETCH (drawn in blue pencil)
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I produced a more detailed sketch of what I hoped the final illustration would look like. I have had a good idea from the clients what they are expecting and they (a family of dog lovers) have also let me know what breeds they would like to be included. From the list, I chose a West Highland Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Labrador, Dalmatian (one of my favourite breeds of dog), Basset Hound, Boxer and, finally, an Irish Red Setter. I chose various implements to surround them with (rather than the dog bowls I had previously decided upon), which represent their characters (often as they appear in the world of the media).

STAGE 3 & 4 – COLOUR THE ILLUSTRATION
From the sketch a final pencil drawing is created. This will be coloured to create the final piece of artwork. You can see the pencil drawing at the right-hand side of this picture, where the Boxer and Irish Red Setter are shown as feint outlines.
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I have started colouring the illustration, adding in a rather ‘fetching’ cushion, which shows the West Highland Terrier to good effect! I am now beginning work (you can see from the illustration) on the Basset Hound. Already I am blending different colours on the dog’s side (see under the letter ‘s’). I have also started adding in a second colour (this one is raw sienna) on the right-hand side of the dog’s head. I’ve also begun work on the maroon-coloured shoe (I won’t say the possible brand name), which sits in front of the Basset Hound.

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At this stage, the work is complete on the Basset Hound (I may touch it up later, but the majority of the work is complete on him). The maroon shoe is finished too. I have started work on the Boxer; this is at a more advanced stage than the Basset Hound was in the previous illustration. I have also started to put the first ‘coat’ or layer of colour on the boxing glove. The wooden box, which he is sitting in, is about halfway complete at this stage.

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The Boxer and his crimson glove are finished. I am now working on the letters ‘u’ and ‘a’, along with adding the first two layers of colour to the Irish Red Setter’s coat. Building up the colours can be quite time-consuming (having to look for different coloured pencils and blending them), but it all depends on the subject. The Setter is more or less different shades of the same ‘colour family’, so this will not take as long as the Boxer or the Basset Hound.

ImageThe final illustration will then be completed with the name and personal details relating to Joshua’s birth. I am pleased to say that the family were delighted with the picture and are going to come back to me when they have their next ‘new addition’ to the family.

I hope this was of some interest to you. Michael

Grace Kelly – A Portrait

Grace Kelly, Actress, b: 12 November 1929 – d: 14 September 1982

Grace Kelly is arguably one of the most iconic of movie stars and still retains a magical quality that matched her later life as a princess. There is so much beauty in her face, which strangely combines both strength and vulnerability. The movie ‘Grace of Monaco’, starring Nicole Kidman, is released today and reminded me of a portrait that I had done of Grace Kelly ‘many moons ago’.
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I drew this mono-pointillism (building the picture up by-hand with very small dots of ink) illustration in the early 1990’s, because I was amazed at the quality of this photograph of Grace. This illustration was framed along with several other portraits of movie stars, that I had drawn applying this drawing technique. They were exhibited on a rather grand staircase in Liverpool.  One of the viewers later told me that she thought I had, somehow, captured the essence of Grace’s haunting beauty in the picture and that she had been moved to tears when she saw it. It’s comments, such as these, that made all of those long hours, doing dot-after-dot, so very worthwhile…