Birds of a Feather – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Those of you who regularly read my blog posts will know that I have a little quirk about same double-digit numbers, such as 11, 33 and especially 88. This is very much an ‘88 blog post’, as this is in fact my 88th blog post on this WordPress site and the topic is one of my teddy bear illustrations, which happened to be my 88th teddy bear illustration. As if that wasn’t sufficient amount of 88’s, this (for you who are into dates) is the 88th day of the year. So, it’s 88.88.88!Birds of a feather by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog)This illustration, which is one of my very favourite illustrations that I created, was partly inspired by one of my friends and former work colleague, John W. Hall, who sadly passed away a number of years ago. John was a ‘pigeon man’ and loved his racing pigeons, one of which ‘Jeff’ is proudly displayed in the picture. I always remember he would ask me weeks in advance if the calendars were ready to purchase and he was ALWAYS the first person to buy several when they were available, closely followed by our friend Dawn Logan. John was very proud of my work and I remember that fact with a glowing pride. The very talented South African bear artist, Ingrid Els, kindly allowed me use of one of her furry creations to depict in the picture and he is ideally suited to the theme wearing his cloth cap and dungarees… The backdrop of the illustration was sketched in the gardens of the miners’ cottages at Beamish Museum, which is a living museum, based in Stanley, County Durham.

So, as you can see, the young bear in this picture is a local lad to the North East in more ways that one. With his pigeon cree and his flight of pigeons and his copy of The Evening Chronicle this teddy bear is set for a good day… The pigeon clock belonged to John and much to my surprise had been made almost to the day of my birth! That was such a surprising find, when I pondered over it whilst doing the sketches for the illustration. If you look closely you can see that his pigeon has even featured on the front page of the newspaper. And, if you look even more closely (as one of my readers noticed just recently), you can see that the number 88 is featured on the front page too!

People often ask me if I enjoyed colouring all the bricks, the honest answer is yes, as I like doing repetitive tasks, but this does not include drawing thousands of blades of grass! Oh, dear me, no…

BirdsofaFeatherprint(signed)byMQuinlynNixonforblog  The ‘Birds of a Feather’ illustration took a few weeks to complete and was finished on the 29th September 2007.  It is dedicated to John W. Hall. He was a good friend, a loving husband to his wife Jasmin, a loving father to his two daughters Debbie and Nicola and a loving grandfather to his grandchildren, of whom he was so proud. The original illustration now belongs to them…

The pelican brief – sketches

It’s lovely when something inspires you to draw it, rather than being forced by financial hardships or monetary gain to draw something that you like, but might not necessarily want to spend hours and hours painting.
Pelicansketches by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
On a recent weekend trip to the beautiful city of London, I had a wander around the Marylebone area and found myself traipsing (leisurely) through Regent’s Park. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and already the trees were showing signs of the coming spring. I was both amazed and delighted that there were so many people using the park – many of them dog owners giving their canines some exercise. There were a great many families too and a lot of young and youngish men walking with their children; single parents spending precious time with their son or daughter.

But the one thing I didn’t expect to see was a rather large pelican. I was standing on a little bridge looking at the spire of St. Mark’s Church across on the other side of the river (it reminded me of a church in Stanley, County Durham), when I turned to see a pelican in very close proximity to me. He (or she) looked friendly enough, but it is rather disconcerting to turn around and see a large bird with an enormous bill hovering behind you! Question: What did it want? Answer: I will never know as it soon wandered off on its travels. I expect it was just having a little lookout from its home at London Zoo. It was nice that that little scene on the bridge made people smile as they passed or jogged on by – I wonder if they thought we came as a pair!

So, that large and friendly feathery white fowl, inspired me to do some sketches of a pelican for a pelican brief I have acquired, (though nothing to do with the 1993 movie starring Julia Roberts). Although the final illustrations will not be ‘true to life’ (more cartoon or graphic forms of art), these studies are a good way of getting ‘familiar’ with a subject, which in-turn will assist with the consequent drawings to be done…

“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”
Poem by Dixon Lanier Merritt (b:1879–d:1972)

Stan & Ollie – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I am excited about going to see the ‘Stan and Ollie’ film released in the United Kingdom today, which is based on the lives of the actors and comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  It stars actors Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in the respective roles.  It reminded me of a teddy bear illustration that I did of the famous black-and-white comedy duo many years ago…
stan & ollie by michael quinlyn-nixon for blogb
Whilst working on one of my teddy bear calendar themes, in 2003, I came up with the idea of famous bears and made a list of the many characters that I like, that are very recognisable by their costume or attire.  The list was very long, but some suggestions had to be scrapped and a smaller list compiled.  One of the suggestions on the list that appealed to me was Laurel and Hardy.  I had a discussion with Jennifer A. Stephenson, my friend who kindly made the outfits and other paraphernalia for the teddy bears, and she was also drawn to the idea of Laurel and Hardy too.  

In deference to the comedy duo’s fine slapstick humour, we decided to dress them in dungarees (rather than their formal black suit and ties), but, of course, we had to include the bowler hats and their distinctive neckties.  To go along with the dungarees, we created a decorating scenario with ladders, wallpaper and paint (my father, Robert, kindly made the ladders and toolbox).  Luckily one of Jennifer’s friends, the late Pat Holmes (nee Boustead – a well-known singer in the County Durham area) was decorating her home at this time, so this proved to be the ideal place in which to create our ‘Hollywood film set’. 

As it happened, shortly after the photographs were taken and the sketches were drawn, we disassembled the scene and I slipped and spilled the whole pot of banana custard coloured paint all over the floorboards.  Pat wasn’t too annoyed, as she was planning on a carpet anyway, but she could have easily used Oliver Hardy’s famous quote and stated, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”.

I remember watching Laurel and Hardy when I was young and they always made me laugh with their funny and inoffensive humour.  Stan Laurel (b: 1890 – d:1965) was my favourite, as I loved the way he scratched his head when perplexed, but Oliver Hardy (b: 1892 – d:1957) had the most amazing face, which was full of disbelief one minute and wreathed in wonderful smiles the next.

When I was a little boy, I remember my Grandfather Lake telling me that Stan Laurel had lived in County Durham for a while, but that he had been born in Cumbria.  Both of these English counties have tributes to these two wonderful men who brought so much joy to so many people’s lives.

The illustration ‘Stan & Ollie’ was started on 18 April and completed on the 5 May 2003.

Christmas Card 2018

Whilst sitting on a bus in the summer, I got an idea for a Christmas card.  I am not sure why such an unseasonal image would ‘pop’ into my mind on one of the hottest days of the year, but I wonder if it’s because I was secretly wishing for cooler weather.  I am definitely not a hot-house orchid, I am much more akin to a polar bear.

I imagined doing a Christmas card on the theme of the number 18, which I could personalise and send out to my closest friends (unless they are called Peter Masscharis, who actually got a polar bear card 😉 )18 names and cards
18 Christmas cards
18 scampI scribbled a quick scamp into a little drawing pad that my good friend, Cherry Balme, had lovingly made me in 2013 and pondered on the idea until an opportunity came to create it on the computer.  I managed to do a good few of these cards (maybe about a dozen), before I realised that it wasn’t possible to do many more, being busy at work and planning on returning to teaching in the autumn.  There’s only so much a graphic designer/illustrator/teacher can do…

I received some lovely comments on the Christmas card and I think people are expecting me now to do it every year…  Well, I am not so sure about that…but who knows…watch this space.

I would like to wish all my readers all over the world and here at home (in Great Britain) a very Merry Christmas and every best wish for 2019 x

Tia – Dog Portrait

I went to visit my friend, Mary Redshaw, this month and catch up with her over a few pots of tea and a fish and chip lunch. I always enjoy this social time with this lady, who proudly displays all of the commission work that I have done for her (all beautifully framed and presented in her living-room). I always enjoy seeing her two ‘new’ dogs: one a Greyhound named Rio and the other a whippet named Tina.

One of my favourite dog portraits I illustrated for Mary was the picture of her brown Doberman Pinscher – Tia, who was such a character. She certainly was a dog that knew her own mind and no amount of persuasion or commands could change her mind if she thought contrary to the request.TiabyMichaelQuinlyn-Nixonforblog(col)
I remember doing a mono illustration of Tia, as well as the colour…because I wasn’t sure which one I liked best… Which one would you choose?

It’s my last posting of the year next month; I am so grateful that there are so many people reading this blog now.  I am told by WordPress that my stats are booming, so thank you to all of the people who are reading my posts regularly…

Witch Hazel – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I’ve done many teddy bear illustrations over the years, but some of them I do forget, but this isn’t one of them.  Although I am not a great fan of Hallowe’en, I do love the colour and imagery that I had to capture in this drawing.
Witch Hazel by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
I was asked by a big company in America, to illustrate one of their many beautiful teddies and after looking through their glossy catalogue several times, I was ‘taken’ to this little witch bear, with her sequinned cape and starry hat.  I liked drawing this teddy bear ‘as she was’, which included her rather sad looking face.  A number of my customers used to say, “Can you draw that teddy bear smiling?” and I replied, “I draw the bears as they present themselves”.  Teddy bears have individual characters: some happy some sad – just like human beings.

I remember my youngest niece, Cora, was just a baby when I started this illustration and the small wizard or witch that was coming out of the jack-o-lantern resembled her a little bit (she will be cross with me for putting this on here!), so I had to include him/her in the illustration.  Many of my teddy bear illustrations have a soft pastel theme, but with this one I could use the strong colours of green, orange and purple without hesitation.  I loved doing the confectionery: lollipops, cupcakes and biscuits with the ghosts and black cat cake toppings.  It was a great deal of fun (I think I ate them ALL afterwards!).

Whatever you have done or are doing for Hallowe’en, I do hope that you get a lot more treats than tricks!  Enjoy yourself and be safe…