St. George and the Dragon – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I am very patriotic and I’m proud to be an Englishman, so St. George’s Day for me is a day of annual celebration. So much so, that I think it should be an annual English bank holiday.St. George and the dragon by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon (blog)
So, with that in mind, when I was producing my Bear-a-thought calendar for 2007 I thought I would include St. George (in teddy bear format) as the illustration for the month of April. I chose one of my favourite bears, Augustus, to represent the patron saint of England and my friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson, dressed him appropriately with a helmet (with scarlet plume), a chainmail vest (emblazoned with St. George’s Cross) and a rather fiercesome looking wooden sword and shiny protective shield.

Once Augustus was ‘suited and booted’ I had to find a ferocious dragon for him to vanquish. I wanted to make the fierce dragon look as fierce as a baby with a marshmallow (not quite sure where that expression came from, but it was the first thing that came to mind), so found a rather cute and endearing green-and-yellow dragon on the Internet.

I set the picture up in my garden, using rocks from when I had the house renovated and created a dragon’s cave, set against the backdrop of a beech hedge. It was mid-April when I set this scene up, so I incorporated some of the flowers in the garden to create some ambience: daisies (the traditional flower of the month of April) and forget-me-nots which always flower in my garden at this time of year. The Forget-me-not is rather appropriate in this illustration in more ways than one, as there is a mediaeveal legend as to how the flower got its name. It goes that a strong and handsome knight, after returning from some war or crusade, was reunited with his fair maiden. On meeting her again, beside a riverbank, he stooped to pick some of the delicate blue flowers that grew on the riverbank. Unfortunately, the weight of his armour and his semi-recumbent position made him topple into the river and to his death. But before he succumbed to the swirling water, he threw the blue flowers to his distressed maiden, with his last words “forget me not!”.

The St. George and the Dragon illustration was popular in the calendar and also as a greeting card, with the original illustration being purchased by an English customer, living in Spain, who has a small and select collection of my teddy bear illustrations.

I hope this illustration stirs the heart of any Englishman and woman reading this post and I also hope that it sends a message out there to any unwanted and ferocious dragons that England is a country that is both proud and fearless. ;0)

Advertisements

Scarlett – Girl’s Birth Picture

A friend and former colleague, Jacqui, contacted me a few weeks ago, to ask if she could commission me to create a birth illustration for a new member of her family, who is called Scarlett. Jacqui’s cousin gave birth to the little girl last year and she is to be christened today (Easter Sunday) in a church in Durham city.
Scarlett (complete)byMichael Quinlyn-Nixonforblog
When Jacqui stated that her cousin, Steph, had requested an Easter theme for Scarlett, I wasn’t sure how pastel-coloured eggs, ducklings and rabbits were ‘going to go’ alongside a name like Scarlett, which evokes a bright vivid red to one’s mind. The name Scarlett originates from the colour scarlet and the name became well known during the 1940’s when Vivien Leigh played the part of the vain, self-centred and bewitching Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939). The name has also had a recent boost of interest, which is probably due to the popular and glamorous actress Scarlett Johansson.

After careful consideration of the colour scheme and layout and despite my initial forebodings about the pastel colours and the name ‘Scarlett’ I was pleased with the finished result. I had used a mid-pink for the lettering, adding in small scarlet-coloured dots to the edge of the letters, so that there was some scarlet included in the picture.

I hadn’t done an Easter birth illustration (though I was really looking forward to doing my first), so I was as happy as a sandboy when drawing the ducklings and the bunnies that are enjoying the spring sunshine amongst the Easter eggs. And of course, I had to include one of my favourite spring flowers too – the forget-me-not, which always flowers in my garden from mid-April.
Scarlett sketchby MichaelQuinlyn-NixonforblogThe sketch for the illustration

I hope the illustration is a success with Scarlett’s family and with Scarlett herself in years to come. My client, Jacqui, was so pleased with the illustration that she confessed to wanting to keep it herself, which I consider very high praise indeed…    Michael

Doris Day – A Portrait

Doris Day, Actress and Singer, b: 3 April 1924

I’ve always been a huge fan of old movies (particularly the black-and-white ones) and even at a young age knew a great many of the movie stars’ names. My parents were always clued-up to ‘who was who’ in the classic films, and I probably gained my interest from them.

Doris Day1 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog

The ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ produced some of the best actors and actresses, in my opinion and my most favourite, Doris Day. Actors and actresses at that time seemed to have style, poise and above-all mystique. Many of the modern-day stars parade every aspect of their life in the glare of the media: marriage breakdowns, personal and emotional problems etc. There is no mystery about most of them, sadly.

Quite a few years back, my Mother and younger sisters would constantly watch Doris Day movies and I would go and sulk in my room. As I grew a little older, I became a huge fan of Doris Day and in the early 1980’s I wrote a letter to this Hollywood legend, and sent it to her along with a portrait that I had done of her. To my utter delight and astonishment she wrote back! I don’t think there was anyone in that little terraced street that didn’t know my news by the end of the day.

My correspondence with Doris Day took off over the years, much to the delight of a lovely lady in Stanley Post Office, who was also a big fan. I remember her chatting to me, whilst sticking the stamps on Doris Day’s letters with pride.

The last letter I received from Miss Day was on 23 April 2012, when I had taken a day off work, to celebrate my patron saint’s day with an English ale in my English garden. After receiving this unexpected piece of mail, I could really say it was a ‘red-letter day’, as the sun was shining and all seemed well with the world.

During the last thirty years, I have done numerous drawings of Doris Day, one of which was shown in a large exhibition in Liverpool, but most of them have been for my own pleasure. Some of these have been coloured-pencil or pastel sketches, but the majority have been done with a technique, known as pointillism (if you look at some of my earlier posts on Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, you will see more examples of this technique).

I think my favourite movie of Doris Day’s has got to be ‘Pillow Talk’ (1959) in which she c0-starred, alongside her friend, Rock Hudson. The chemistry between the two characters, Brad and Jan, still amuses me to this day, along with Doris’ indignant expressions as she tries to reason about the best way of sharing a telephone party-line.  But I also have a special memory of playing at my friend, Kae McNeil’s house when I was just a young boy.  We were both heartily singing along to the Black The Hills Of Dakota, whilst her father, George, was trying to enjoy the movie ‘Calamity Jane’ (1953).

Doris Day has given me hours of laughs and I am grateful for the skill and talent that she has shared with the world. If you’re reading this Doris, I would like to applaud you and wish you a very Happy Birthday!    Michael