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.

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Huey – Boy’s Birth Picture

I have had quite a few commissions for children’s nurseries over the last two months, but I have particularly enjoyed working on the illustrations that contain the jungle animals theme. One such illustration was for a little boy called Huey, whose Grandmother, Linda, had commissioned me to produce. Huey is an adorable little boy and is already (despite his young age) keen on a game of football, so jungle animals playing football was the theme of the illustration. Hueyillustrationinprogressforblog(smaller)
I chose a range of animals that Huey would know and recognise, a bear, lion, hippopotamus, monkey etc and dressed them in football kits. I sketched the illustration out in half a morning and worked out what colours I was going to use. One of the stipulations of the illustration was to keep the colour green to a minimum, so that had to be held in mind when choosing the animal characters.

During the final colouring stage, I was just colouring in the baby hippopotamus, when my good friend, Mary, rang me to see how I was doing.

“What are you doing today, darling?”, she asked.

“Well, at this very moment in time, I happen to be painting a hippopotamus’s bottom” I replied.

“Oooh” said Mary, “that sounds like a big job!”

Fortunately, my drawings are not life size or on this occasion she would have been right.

It’s nice getting the occasional phone call from family, friends and colleagues…whilst I am working, as they can add an extra bit of information to my picture, or in the case of my latest birth illustration add in some of the elements, such as a panda, a kookaburra(!), a rabbit and a tiger…
Huey illustration(complete)lighterforblog
Linda was delighted with the Huey illustration, which was presented to Huey’s proud parents on Christmas Day. I do hope that these illustrations will prove to be family heirlooms in years to come, a happy memory of family love and affection…

Felicity & Matilda – Birth Pictures

I was approached from Judith, a former work colleague and friend, to do three illustrations for her adorable grandchildren: Eleanor, Felicity and Matilda. Felicity and Matilda are twins, so I tried to use similar colours for their birth names, but gave them totally different themes.Felicity(complete) forblog

Matilda(complete)forblog
Judith thoughtfully and wisely provided me with a list of ‘favourite things’ that the girls liked and enjoyed doing. With Felicity and Matilda she also provided me with the first two words that the girls could utter. Felicity’s was the rather advanced word ‘teapot’ and Matilda’s word was rather cute – ‘goggly’. I decided to use these two key words to provide the basis and theme of the illustrations. Felicity is making her friends a cup of tea, from the aforementioned teapot, whilst Matilda is hanging out her washing (another one of her favourite things) with a t-shirt with rather goggly eyes.

I was delighted to do this trio of illustrations (I will post a picture of Eleanor’s illustration at a later date), and was equally delighted that the illustrations received full approval from Judith, whose comment is shown below. I do hope that the girls will treasure these illustrations as they go through life and that they will always give them some delightful childhood memories, as well as remind them of a special love, given to them by a grandmother, that commissioned these illustrations especially for them…

Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures!  Lots of love from Judith xxx  We will cherish them!

To see the process of how I create these bespoke, hand-drawn illustrations, please take a look at the posts in May (Phoebe) and June (Joshua).