Painted Lady – Nature Illustration

Butterflies are, to me, flying works of art. The beautiful colours and patterns of their wings are an amazing example of nature’s beauty. Their amazing metamorphosis is also a complex example of change.

Painted Lady butterfly for blog(feathered)

The image of a butterfly has often represented freedom and they were drawn on the walls of where prisoners of war were confined during the war. The image of a butterfly has also been thought by many civilisations to represent the soul, and butterflies in the home are thought by some to be the souls of dear-departed relatives, letting them know that they are still with us.

I painted the above illustration of a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui, one of the Cynthia group of colourful butterflies) for a friend’s wedding present. It was produced using watercolour paints, inks and other paint mediums that I had to hand. I particularly enjoyed doing the quick wash background and painting the centre of the Echinacea flower. The name Echinacea is a derivative of the Greek word for ‘sea urchin’ and looking at the picture it’s quite clear to see why. My friend’s very young daughter commented that the centre of the flower looks like a sleeping baby hedgehog nestled amongst the petals. The whole creative process took a couple of hours from sketch to final painting. I had the final artwork mounted and gift-wrapped to present to Lynne and Ronnie on their ‘big day’.

I wasn’t entirely sure after writing this text if this was going to be the last post for this month. Then, minutes later, my friend, Judith, in Carlisle, sent me a text to say that she had had a red butterfly in her house. Knowing nothing about my intended blog post, she just thought that I would be interested. She saw it as a good omen and a sign that a loved-one had called upon her. I went to my study to e-mail her and say “that was a coincidence”, as I had just written the above blog post only hours earlier. Imagine then my surprise – when I went to my study to find that a reddish-orange butterfly was fluttering around the computer screen… It brought to mind a quote from Albert Einstein, stating ‘Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous’. It does make you think…

Della – Doberman Pinscher Pet Portrait

When I first saw the photographs of Mary Redshaw’s dogs, I had no idea what breed they were. I had never seen a brown Doberman Pinscher before; only being familiar with the Anubis-like Doberman Pinschers (with the pointed ears and black-and-tan colouring), that I had seen on TV programmes, like ‘Magnum P.I.’ with Tom Selleck.

Della by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

After having watched Magnum P.I. Mary’s interest in the breed was kindled. She has owned a good number of Doberman Pinschers over the years – male and female, both black-and-tan and brown-and-tan varieties. Her first Doberman Pinscher puppies were Tara in 1987, followed by Elsa in 1989 and Ziggy in 1993. She is an excellent pet-owner and takes marvellous care of her dogs; she currently has one brown Doberman Pinscher, called Dina (pronounced Dinah) and a blue-fawn-brindle-and-white Whippet called, Tina.

I’ve drawn a number of Mary’s dogs, including Gina and Tia over the last two years. Drawing peoples’ beloved pets, (when the pet is no longer with us) from their photographs takes time and selecting the right photograph with enough ‘drawable’* quality is paramount to the success of the end result.

We chose a lovely photograph of Della, who Mary had owned from 2005 to 2012.  The photograph showed Della’s gentle doe-like features and loving nature. The drawing process can take many hours, as each ‘coat’ of colour builds up the fur of the dog. Mary was delighted with the result of this illustration and I have agreed to go for a long-promised walk with her and ‘the two girls’ before this month is out!

“I am thrilled to bits with the illustrations that Michael did for me. They are excellent! Just looking at the portraits is like looking at my dogs, because they seem to look back at me. They are so life-like and much better quality than the photographs he had to work from. They have been really well admired by everyone that has seen them.”  Mary Redshaw

*Note: “In addition to simple drawing, ‘Drawable’ provides a number of generic mechanisms for its client to interact with what is being drawn”. I thought I had made this word up, as I had never heard it before. But after typing it into a popular search engine, this explanation appeared (as if by magic!).

Teddy Bears’ Picnic – Bear-a-thought Illustration

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…

I think the majority of us will be familiar enough to sing along to the tune of this light classical tune, composed in 1907 by American composer, John W. Bratton.

Over the last fourteen-years, I have produced over a hundred teddy bear illustrations, which have been seen by customers all around the world in the form of greeting cards and calendars. Some of these illustrations bring back lovely memories.
Teddy Bears' Picnic for blog
My illustration of ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ – probably the archetypal picture of bears together – reminds me of a former next-door-neighbour, who was always peering out of the window when I was in the garden setting up teddy bear scenes to sketch and photograph. She never knew it was, at that time, my part-time career to draw teddy bears, so I can only guess at what she thought I was up to. I can imagine the conversations she would have with friends, about her ‘eccentric neighbour’.

Whilst setting up this picnic scene, she plucked up courage to venture into the garden and peer over the fence and say, in a querulous voice, “Oh, they are having a picnic today are they?” I replied in the affirmative and making small talk, about how they liked cakes more than sandwiches, got on with the task at hand, watched unashamedly by my neighbour…

In the illustration, the bears are enjoying Victoria Sponge (it wouldn’t be a proper picnic without it), Battenberg cake (which my friend, Sara, knows I dislike very much), muffins and Jammie Dodger biscuits – always a favourite! These sumptuous treats will be enjoyed with a hot pot of tea.

The background shows the flower – the Rose of Sharon, which blooms in my garden at this time of year and the bushes are currently covered in flowers.   The bear wearing the purple, gold and green coat belongs to my friend Mildred and is, I believe, quite collectable. A number of my friends and customers are keen arctophiles have some marvellous collections of teddy bears. One of these collectors is Peter Masscharis, who has a marvellous collection of teddy bears, which is affectionately known as a ‘hug’.

It’s little wonder that teddy bears have remained so popular – they are wonderful to cuddle, never complain and always listen to your cares and worries. Perhaps, their ‘Picnic Day’ is the only day’s holiday they get and that’s why it’s probably best to leave the woods well alone and let them have some much needed peace and quiet!

The song by John W. Bratton was composed in 1907 and released in March 1908. The ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ lyrics were written by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932. Many well-known artists, including Rosemary Clooney and lesser-known recordings, such as that by the comedian John Inman, have been released over the years.