Pisces – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I illustrated my Bear-a-thought teddy bear calendars for twelve-years and was due to start work on my thirteenth calendar, before I realised that I had neither the time or energy to complete another twelve illustrations.  Due to the amount of other projects and my commitments to a full-time job I was left with a dilemma of whether to carry on with the illustrations or concentrate on other types of illustration…
Pisces forblog(thisone)
I decided not to go ahead with the calendar; there would have been an enormous amount of pressure to have done so.  I informed my customers, scattered all around the world, of my decision and was amazed to receive many letters and e-mails saying how disappointed they were to hear the news.  They understood the reasons, of course, but it was nice for me to know that my calendars had been looked forward to with so much delight and that they had made a difference in people’s lives.  I have kept the letters and they are a lovely reminder of how people appreciated the work that I had done over a dozen years.

The last Bear-a-thought illustration that I produced was to be for my thirteenth calendar and was planned to feature bears on a theme of the 12-months of the zodiac.  I chose Pisces, (the birth sign for those born, on average, between February 19 and March 20) as my first piece of artwork, as I had a pet goldfish, called Monica, that I adored.  She had been a companion for many years and was the most affectionate goldfish that I had known (I have known a lot).  When the other fish in the tank were ill she would take food from the top of the water and take it down for them and encourage them to eat.  She was a very intelligent fish and was like a nurse with fins :0)  I would dangle my fingers in the water and she would come and swim around them and receive a delicate stroke.  Some of her scales shone with the most beautiful gold – yes gold, not orange – sheen.  All good things must come to pass, and my friend with fins died in August 2007.  The illustration was created after Monica’s passing, as I wanted to include her in one of my illustrations.

I also included two of my most popular teddy bears, Augustus and Scruff.  I love Augustus’s sleepy eyes and the disheveled look that Scruff had about him.  I still have these two bears, as I became very attached to them (and they to me, of course) and they reside in a big Victorian perambulator that my grandmother left me (she said it is an antique, but that has yet to be proved).  They look quite keen to pose for me again, if the need ever arises.

So, my 132nd Bear-a-thought illustration looks like it is to be the last, but I did promise my customers to never say never to launching the calendars again in the future…

PS. I love double numbers, so it was rather fitting to finish the illustration on 11 November 2011 (11.11.11).

Christmas Eve – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Christmas Eve has got to be one of the most exciting days in the calendar year, as so much work and effort has gone in to the festive preparations. Excited children await to see what Father Christmas has brought them and eager parents await the joy they hope to see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning.

I have for many years enjoyed the expectation that arrives with Christmas Eve and to enjoy this much more than the actual day of Christmas. There’s something exciting about the promise of Christmas Day that I find rather magical.Christmas Eve (for blog)
The ‘Christmas Eve’ bear-a-thought illustration was one of the first illustrations that I created for my first-ever calendar which was produced in 2002 (the centenary year of the teddy bear). I had just decorated the tree when I did the preliminary sketches and took some photographs to work from. This was the first teddy bear I was ever given, and was presented to me by my Grandmother and Grandfather Lake, so was the ideal choice for my first teddy bear Christmas illustration. Along with the teddy, is the hand-painted angel decoration from Cologne market (mentioned in my previous post) and a homemade fir cone decoration. I tried to create the warmth of Christmas in this illustration with a slight fireside glow to the image. I loved drawing all of the patterned wrapping paper, but got the needle (pardon the pun) whilst drawing all of those prickly branches…

Looking back at this illustration, which I produced over twelve years ago, it takes me back to my childhood – with real Christmas trees (that shed needles everywhere) and real open fires which warmed us on cold and frosty mornings. It brings back memories of waking up tired parents at ‘silly o’clock’ in the morning, because I couldn’t wait to see what presents lay ‘nestled’ under the tree for me and my siblings.

I am sure that the exciting spirit of Christmas Eve continues to glow brightly in those that are young…and those that are not so young…and will do for many generations to come….

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading my posts throughout 2014.
Michael

October Frights – Bear-a-thought Illustration

This post is about things that go ‘bump in the night’. No, it’s not really. It’s about an illustration that I produced from some photographs and sketches that I did in the garden. I spied this wizard bear (which I thought was rather like an ursine version of Harry Potter) in a local shop. I named him ‘Hector’ and could tell that he would make a cute illustration for the calendars and cards I was producing. Selecting an autumnal part of the garden (luckily it was autumn), and with the addition of some specially selected branches and leaves – of gold and vermilion – I set the scene.
October Frightsmini
This drawing was quite difficult, as after drawing nine blades of grass in minute detail I start to go a bit stir-crazy. I have even seen me go to the kitchen sink and wash a pile of  dishes, rather than draw and shade one more blade of grass… The wizard’s gown and hat were quite an ordeal too, as the gold dot, moon and star pattern kept getting tarnished by the ultramarine and indigo blues surrounding them.

I loved the jack-o’-lantern and pumpkin that I used in the picture. I ordered them especially for this illustration from a up-and-coming teddy bear company in America. In fact, I liked them that much that I purchased several of them to get the very one I wanted. I realise a lot of people look at my illustrations, some with disinterest (you can’t please everyone), but others say ‘That’s nice’, without realising the amount of hours – setting the scene – dressing the bear – finding the props – and then the laborious hours spent at the drawing board. However, during the time I was creating the teddy bear illustrations there were a number of customers, who would point out certain details, saying ‘The details here is marvellous, do you incorporate photography into your illustrations?’ Comments like that made all of the hours spent drawing a lawn, or whatever, seem SO worthwhile.

I dedicated this picture to my friend, Tracey A. Dixon, who greatly appreciated it, so much so, that I believe she owns the original illustration and Hector too!

May this night the ghosts be seen,
On the feast of Hallowe’en.
Don’t be worried if they’re there,
Remember you’re a big brave bear!
October Frightswhitebackground

A Well-Earned Rest – Bear-a-thought Illustration

This little teddy bear and myself have got something in common; we both deserve a well-earned rest. I’m having a day or two away from the drawing-board. Perhaps I’ll manage to tackle my jungle of a garden…(or not).A well earned rest (original scan)withladybirdforblog
This was my first-ever teddy bear illustration, which was completed on 9th July 1999. I began working on it when my friend, Cherry, came to stay with me for a couple of days in the summer of that year. I didn’t know it then, but it was to be the first of over a hundred teddy bears that I would draw over the next fourteen-years. It was a special illustration in many ways, as it incorporated the first-ever teddy bear that I was given by my grandparents, Georgina and Henry Lake on my first-ever Christmas Day. The teddy bear, originally and rather unimaginatively, named ‘Ted’ has weathered the years well and still has a very faint growl when he’s turned upside down (which is rather a cruel thing to do to a teddy bear). My grandparents were keen gardeners, so I included some gardening tools and plants in the picture: a wild geranium, a periwinkle and a sweet violet. I can see masses of my Grandmother’s pink Japanese anemones flowering in my garden, as I write this post.

‘Ted’ – who sits by my bedside – is particularly special to me at this point in time, as it brings back so many wonderful memories of special grandparents. Some people who come into our lives are completely irreplaceable and no one can fill that particular gap that they leave when they are gone. The important thing is to treasure these special people while we can…

Henry and Georgina Lake (original wedding photograph)
My grandparents, Henry and Georgina Lake in their wedding finery.
They were married on 5 September 1942.  This photograph was taken fourteen-days later, as gale-force winds had ruined the official wedding day photographs.

Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day,
Unseen, unheard – but always near,
So loved, so missed, so very dear.