Hugo – Cocker Spaniel Portrait

I have had an influx of dog portrait enquiries over the last month and because of my other commitments I have had to turn most of them down or put them on the ‘back-burner’ until next year.  There may be just enough time to illustrate a Labrador and a Border Collie before Christmas however…

My latest dog illustration was a commission from a friend and former colleague, Andrea, who I worked with many years ago.  Andrea has the most beautiful golden Cocker Spaniel, called Hugo, and she had been wanting an illustration of him for quite some time.  So, in August, we took him to a local beauty spot called The Derwent Walk where we took some photographs of him enjoying a run in the summer grass.  From the selection of photographs one was selected to create the illustration from…which you can see below…

hugobymichaelquinlyn-nixonforblog

I met Andrea and handed over the illustration and I am pleased to say that she and her husband, Tony, are both delighted with it and that ‘Hugo’ has now gone to the picture framers.  It’s very special to think that I have created an illustration of a beloved pet that will be enjoyed for many years to come.  I also hope that Hugo thinks I have done him justice – especially those gorgeous golden curly ears of his 🙂 

Poppin’ in to see Mary again…

P.L. Travers started writing about the fictional English nanny, Mary Poppins, back in 1933. Little did she realise, then, that this magical character would later inspire a Walt Disney animation movie and even later still…a hit theatrical musical by Cameron Macintosh. Strange to think that a story about a dysfunctional family, saved by the intervention of a helpful nanny, would prove to be so popular.

marypoppinsby-michael-quinlyn-nixon-for-blog

I was lucky enough to see the original London musical on the 5th March 2005, at the Prince Edward Theatre, but I have also been lucky enough to see it more recently, when I took my Mother to see it this month. It was an amazing show – so magical that it was almost like being part of the magic. It caught the spirit of my childhood, so-much-so, that I have decided to see it again this evening at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle. The show, starring Zizzi Strallen and a wonderful supporting cast, has received rave reviews and I am not the least bit surprised.

I also love the Walt Disney movie, starring the lovely Julie Andrews, that was released in British cinemas on the 23 December 1964. I wasn’t born then, but I do remember seeing it at the cinema with my parents. I loved the animation sequence with the penguins and the farmyard animals, which featured the amazing voice talents of Marnie Nixon.

When it came to choosing characters for my 2005 calendar (can it really be that long since I designed that calendar?), Mary Poppins was an outright choice for me. My good friend and teddy bear costumier, Jennifer Stephenson, created the marvellous outfit for one of my bears. I loved the work that she had put into the scarf and the cherries and flowers on her hat, bearing in mind the bear was rather small and fiddly to dress.

I featured one of my favourite scenes from the movie in my Bear-a-thought illustration; when Mary Poppins flies down towards her destination: No. 17, Cherry Tree Lane. I also wanted to give the impression of the smoky background of chimneys and part of a London skyline, which features so prominently in the movie.  It’s the part of the musical which features  classic songs such as ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ and ‘Step in Time’. I also had to feature The Little Old Bird Women in a later calendar, as ‘Feed the Birds’ is my favourite song in the whole film (I think it was also Walt Disney’s favourite song too, if I am not mistaken).  

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, I could write more but I really must fffffffllllllllyyyyyyyyyyy…

P. L. Travers (b: 9 August 1899 – d: 23 April 1996) was an Australian-born British novelist and journalist.

Creating a Fimo Nemo

I had heard from the children of my friends about this new Disney movie called ‘Finding Dory’. I listened to them and said, “Is it not called ‘Finding Nemo’”?  This seemed to silence them momentarily, until one of the children, piped up with ‘No, it isn’t, they’ve already found him!”. That shows you how much I know about movie trends.
Fimo Nemo by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
Seemingly the film ‘Finding Dory’ was released in America on June 8, 2016 and has subsequently been viewed in the United Kingdom too. I must admit I haven’t seen it, but I did enjoy the first film ‘Finding Nemo’ and with this in mind, I created some small Fimo characters based on the ocean, with one of them being a Fimo Nemo. These Fimo creations were created for a class I was teaching, with the students and the members of staff all taking part. I must admit that the work that they produced was second-to-none and I now have a fantastic purple and green turtle, made by Lucie, in my bathroom 🙂

I hadn’t used Fimo since I was a student (quite a few years ago now), so using this coloured clay-like material was rather like starting anew. I didn’t have a great deal of time to spend on these creations, but tried to do my best in what little time I had. I had very little Fimo too, so the finished objects are rather small and a trifle delicate. I even managed to produce a crab with a picture clip, which wasn’t difficult but was fun to do.
 Fimo ocean creations by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
I hope you like my Fimo Nemo (which is a good rhyming name) or clowfish, if you prefer, and the other creations.  Hopefully if I have time this month (what with teaching, gardening and general home improvements), I might just see if I can go ‘Finding Dory’ too.

Potty about Beatrix…

From being a young boy my Mother’s family, the Lakes, bought me copies of the charming animal stories by Beatrix Potter, so I am very familiar with them.  I am particularly fond of Jemima Puddle-duck, Squirrel Nutkin and Hunca Munca from ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’. Since early childhood, I have also gathered a number of friends who also love this lady’s work, including Sara, who has a particular fondness for Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.  150-years-ago today, Beatrix Potter was born in London and in this commemorative year her characters and illustrations are being featured on Royal Mail stamps and Royal Mint fifty-pence coins.  So, it would seem an appropriate moment to mention a ‘Beatrix Potter’ inspired illustration that I was commissioned to do, whilst working in Carlisle, in April 1997.
SquirrelNutkin by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

When I worked with Sara and many of my other friends, on such publications as Cumbria Life and the Cumbrian Gazette newspapers, I was often asked to produce illustrations for the advertisements or editorial features. On one occasion, I was asked if I could draw an illustration, which was to feature on an advertisement for a very prestigious and beautiful hotel in the Lake District – famous for the red squirrels that live in the grounds. The clients asked if I could do a red squirrel pencil or watercolour illustration on a Beatrix Potter theme. I was keen to try and immediately set to sketching some red squirrels in the delicate fashion of this famous lady that has inspired me for many years. I have in no way captured the beauty of her work (I had a very short deadline to do the illustration by, as it happens!) but at least I have tried to capture the essence of her unique style and flair.

After having seen her original watercolours work at the National Trust gallery in Hawkshead, Cumbria, I can only say that some of her work was so intricate and delicate that it left me speechless. I can only hope that Beatrix Potter would smile benignly on my ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ illustration, with a look that is both kind and favourable. I hope you like it too 🙂

Helen Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist • Born: 28 July 1866 – Died: 22 December 1943

 

NB. Please note that the picture (above) is framed and this image shows some slight distortion caused by reflections on the glass.

Christ Church, Silloth – Line Drawing

I recently visited one of my childhood holiday haunts – the town of Silloth on the West coast of Cumbria, not far from the city of  Carlisle. My family went there for many years to put up tents (and later caravans) at the Solway Lido. It brings back many memories of childhood days, with many of the shops looking much the same as they did in the days of my youth.

I have vivid memories of the church and the greens that are in front of Criffel Street and for some reason Silloth always makes me think of Scots Pine.

Christ Church, Silloth (sepiaforblog)
I was pleased to walk along the coast where I had often chased my siblings with a writhing crab or a wriggling worm or some such thing in my dirty mits.

Later, when I worked for the Cumbrian Newspapers, in Carlisle, I was asked if I would do a series of pen and ink illustrations of local churches, which were going to be used for tourism in the area. I remember doing many churches, for areas such as Buttermere, Maryport and Whitehaven, which have now become special places for me. When I revisited Silloth, it reminded me of the leaflet and I dug this line illustration out, which was looking rather battered and sorry for itself, having been crushed in a wallet file for twenty-years.

As well as the lovely childhood memories I got revisiting Silloth, I also got to visit the new ‘Mrs Wilson’s Café and Eaterie, where I was so impressed with the décor and the food. Named after the married name of the famous contralto Kathleen Ferrier (a great favourite of my good friend, Mary), the café features some amazing wall decorations showing photographs of this beautiful lady, who died in 1953, aged only 41. There are letters written by her and music sheets, which make the whole atmosphere delightful. I can recommend a visit, as well as the basil, cheese and tomato quiche… Yum!

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Kathleen Ferrier
 
English Contralto, born: 22 April 1912 – died: 8 October 1953

Penelope – Girl’s Birth Picture

I’ve done quite a few birth names now and have done a few varities of names too, but a new name often comes my way; one that I like and one that also makes me keen to get on with the illustration request.

The name Penelope is a nice Greek name and a friend I had called that told me that the name relates to a Greek story about a lady who was famed for weaving a never-ending tapestry whilst waiting for her love to return from a long voyage.

PenelopebyMichaelQuinlyn-Nixon(complete)web

The client, in this case, didn’t want a weaver but did want lots of dalmatians (I couldn’t fit on one-hundred-and-one), which happens to be my favourite breed of dog.

I started off with the pencil sketches and soon realised that no matter how I drew the young dalmatians they were going to look so like Walt Disney’s no matter how hard I tried. Walt Disney has rather cornered the market on Disney films, making both the cartoon and film version, which featured Glenn Close.

I wanted the Dalmatian pups to interact with the letters and tried each one in different positions before settling on the final version. The colour chosen for the letters was yellow and this was very complementary to the black and white of the dogs. Once the puppies were all drawn in I added a slipper, some balls of wool and a mouse. A woodpecker flew into my garden as I was working on the sketch, and seeing as the colour of it was so similar to the dogs I thought it would be nice to include it.

The client loved the final illustration and I hope you do too…

It’s all about the Bard…

There’s much ado…this April, about one of England’s most famous writers – William Shakespeare. I have heard that there are new stamps being issued by the Royal Mail, which feature famous lines from his plays and the Royal Mint are also issuing three £2 coins, which feature the three main themes of his plays: comedies, histories and tragedies. Being an avid stamp collector I must look out for those…and perhaps those new shiny coins too…

Until a few days ago, I had been unaware that 2016 is the 400th anniversary of this well-known man, who is the most published author and the most performed dramatist of all time…

The Shakespeare Pub, Durham (watercolour painting - 12 August 2015forblog

It cannot have been my subconscious, but for some reason whilst walking around Durham, quite recently, I felt most inclined to do a quick watercolour sketch of the Shakespeare public house. I don’t normally have a free hour or so to sit down and paint (particularly in a busy city, as I don’t like crowds or an audience), but that’s just what I did. I didn’t have that much time to paint anything more than the fascia, but I did enjoy just doing something because I wanted to do it and not for a specific reason or for a commission. It seems appropriate to put this watercolour painting, of this popular public house, on my blog, in recognition of Mr Shakespeare…

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” The Tempest
William Shakespeare, English poet, playwright and actor
Baptised: 26 April 1564 – Died: 23 April 1616