Sophie in Snowdrops – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I always love this time of year, when you know spring is ‘just around the corner’. The days start to lengthen and the mornings are much lighter (so not quite as difficult to get out of bed at 7 o’clock) and one’s heart is gladdened.
sophie-in-snowdrops-by-michael-quinlyn-nixon-for-blog

It’s at this time of year, that I always notice a large clump of snowdrops, which grow on a bank in Burnopfield, not far from my parents’ home. They have cheered my heart on many a winter day.

My longtime friend and former colleague, Mildred, has a great love of snowdrops and they have a very special meaning for her. I think she was the inspiration behind this drawing, which also featured a beautiful white bear. My friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson created a beautiful jade-green cape or cloak, for the bear, which I named ‘Sophie’.

I photographed the bear in situ but was very careful not to crush the delicate white blooms on the drooping flowers. As usual, I waited until the road was quiet of traffic and set up the scene. Then, as usual, a fleet of buses or a group of cyclists go by and all stop and stare at me, as I do some sketching and take some hasty photographs. The same thing happened on this occasion, which is always very embarrassing for me. I wouldn’t put myself through these torturous ordeals if it is not for the fact that I want to get the effects of shadow and light correct on the bear etc.

This illustration, like many of them, was time consuming, as the amount of snowdrops could not be rushed. I felt I was well on my way to breaking the record of how many snowdrops could be drawn in the one picture.

‘Sophie in Snowdrops’ appeared in my 2006 Bear-a-thought calendar and the finishing touches on this illustration were completed whilst I was watching a repeat of the original ‘Dad’s Army’ movie on television. It’s strange the memories of doing these illustrations recall…

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Thoughts On – Thomas Lake

On my Facebook profile, I include a quote at the beginning of every week.  This week’s quote was inspired by a war quotation that I saw in Waterstones’ bookshop window in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The window had an array of books and items to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.  The quote struck me by it’s simple but profound message.  It was so thought-provoking that I scribbled it down in my notebook.  The writer’s wisdom speaks for itself in that, we, as humankind, need to remember our mistakes so we don’t repeat them.  It made me think that we have all been living on planet Earth for over two-thousand-years and there are still wars raging, people dying, orphans crying…
Remembrance week quote 11 - 16 November
The quote also made me think of one of my own brave relatives, Thomas Lake, who gave his life in the fight for freedom in the First World War.  I discovered this unknown relative when my friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson, began my Family Tree. As time wound on, I delved into the initial research that she had uncovered.  One of the strangest ‘finds’ Jennifer discovered was that our relatives had fought cheek-by-cheek on the blood-drenched battlefields of Ypres.  Both perished on the fields, where the poppies prospered, with Thomas being pronounced dead on the 2nd of December 1917.  His name is recorded at the Tyne Cot Memorial (Panel 108 to 111) and closer to home on the Burnopfield War Memorial in Tyne and Wear.  I was lucky to receive a photograph of Thomas from some Lake relatives, whom I had contacted whilst researching my family history.  There was also another photograph of Thomas standing with his widowed mother, Harriet, holding a British Star medal for bravery.  Unfortunately, someone has cut Thomas’ head off the photograph (possibly for a locket or a smaller picture frame), so the image was not worthy of being shown.

I am very proud of Thomas and his heroism and feel that he, and the men that fought alongside him, are very worthy of all of the recognition that they can be given.

It would be nice to think, that sometime in the future, that Edward Burke’s wise words were adopted and adhered to by all the people who inhabit and live upon this planet we share…
Thomas Lake for blogBurnopfield War Memorial December 2009for blogTLakenameonmemorialforblogThomas Lake medals received sheet
Picture 1: Lance Corporal Thomas Lake, with fellow soldiers.  Thomas is on the back row, in the centre.
Picture 2: The War Memorial at Burnopfield, Tyne and Wear.
Picture 3: Detail of Thomas Lake’s name on the memorial.
Picture 4: Details of the medals Thomas Lake received.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day…                Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

I would like to thank Jennifer A. Stephenson and Marie L. Smyth, for supplying me with the above information on my relative, Thomas Lake.