Highland Cow (an exercise in colour)…

oeIt was one of those days when you just feel inspired to draw something, but you don’t know what and then your eye rests upon something that sparks your creativity.  I was just returning from a shopping trip in Newcastle upon Tyne, when I spied some Highland cattle from the lofty heights of the double-decker bus I was travelling on.
The colour of the cattle, a rusty orange, captured my imagination and I sourced some images online on my return home.  I found an excellent picture of a Highland cow and decided to reproduce it using a limited colour palette of coloured pencils: French Grey, Indigo, Raw Sienna, Chocolate, Venetian Red and Terra Cotta.  I didn’t allow myself to use Black pencils.  As well as working with a limited palette, I only allowed myself three-hours to create the drawing and the colouring.  In hindsight it could have done with some extra work, but I was determined not to go over the time allocation I had set myself from the outset.  In many ways this colour and time exercise reminded me of when I was a student at Cumbria Institute of the Arts in Carlisle.

I have a friend who is very fond of Highland cattle and this illustration just might find its way to her some day in the, hopefully, not-too-distant future…

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Festive Foods (In a Jar)…

As part of my current weekly teaching role I have to find ideas and inspiration for session plans, which often come from friends and colleagues. One of my former colleagues suggested doing ‘reindeer noses in a jar’ and this set my creative mind aflame. The ‘reindeer noses in a jar’ I had seen in the past were just made up of a strip of brown felt around the outside of an empty jam jar, onto which were stuck goggle-eyes and a red furry nose.

reindeerheadsunfinishedby-michael-quinlyn-nixon   reindeerheadscompleteby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
The reindeer heads take shape and are temporarily stored on a lampshade.

Probably setting it as a challenge too far, I considered the possibility of creating a reindeer-shaped head out of felt and then attaching that to the jar (with a piece of ribbon) and then decorating it with facial features. So, getting out my recycled pieces of cardboard I started drawing reindeer heads onto pieces of brown and fawn coloured felt and getting busy with the scissors…

decoratedjarsby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
The jars are washed and decorated in various festive ribbons.

After cutting some heads out of felt (and attaching them to a lampshade so I didn’t lose them), I got busy cleaning jars and choosing ribbon (tartan was a nice choice, and another that looked like chocolate balls) to attach to the outside of the jars.

The rest, I am sure, is self-explanatory: adding in the facial features etc, but some of the ones in the class were given red fuzzy noses, which also gave them an extra 3D feel. You can see the results, below, which only took me a few hours. Hope they are popular with the buyers at the Christmas Fair… Watch this space…

 reindeernosesjarsby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
Finally, the jars are finished and filled with confectionery, with one chocolate ball covered in red foil, to represent Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Thank you to those who have followed my blog in the last year (or earlier), I hope you will continue to view my posts in 2017.  Happy New Year to you all 🙂

Snowbear – Bear-a-thought Illustration

The Snowbear illustration was one of the first illustrations that I drew when I started my Bear-a-thought calendars in 2002. Just looking at this illustration that I did 15-years ago on this date in 2001 (can’t believe it was that long!), I can still remember so much about my life then and what I had to do to create this illustration. I remember it had snowed hard in Durham that year and it was an ideal opportunity to get some snowy pictures. I stumbled out into the garden one morning, donned with gloves (fingerless ones, which are the only ones I can wear) and made my self a snowman, or more correctly a snowbear. I tried to make him teddy bear size (or just a bit bigger), so that he didn’t overpower the bear that I had in mind to draw with him.
Snowbear for blogAfter making my snowbear, which called on me to improvise with his features, using leaves for inside his ears and buttons, a cherry-chocolate covered in red foil paper for his nose and some well-known chocolate wrappers for his eyes, I draped a favourite scarf around his shoulders to create that casual, snowbear-around-town look. All that was left was to position my teddy bear, Augustus, in front of my cold creation. I think the addition of the spade was an inspiration and made it look like little Augustus had been hard at work at his snow sculpture.

This was the first illustration to be seen in my very-first calendar and was the first of many, as I had no idea at the time just how popular these illustrations would become or how many different parts of the world would get to see them.

Thoughts On – Easter Time

Easter is one of my very favourite times of the year. Not only is spring my favourite season, but I love the lighter days and the new bird song that it brings, along with the colourful bulbs and new growth in the garden. There’s something that makes me feel so alive and excited at this time of year, as Mother Nature prepares to share her bounty of greenery and floral wonders.Easter basket for blog
Every year, I prepare an Easter basket, filled chock-full of chocolate eggs, which are enjoyed by my family and friends when they visit. The selection varies, but the bountiful amount of confectionery doesn’t. I must admit that I am tempted to eat one or two (sometimes three!) of them myself, as there is nothing quite like breaking a family-sized Easter egg and cracking off pieces to enjoy…bit by bit. It’s the one treat of the year that I always allow myself and this year I am not breaking the tradition.
Weeping Fig with Easter egg decorationsDucklings under the weeping fig tree
Not only does the Easter basket get a yearly airing, but the weeping fig (Ficus Benjamina), that sits near the basket also gets a seasonal makeover and is covered in Easter chicks and eggs. There’s no reason why we should just decorate trees at Christmas, now is there? It could be that I’m a trendsetter…

There’s an old saying that when something fresh, bright and cheerful is on its way…that it’s like ‘April on the wing’…and that’s how I feel now that spring has arrived.

NB. The knitted chicks were made by my friend, Jennifer, and were sold to raise funds for cancer research. They each contain a Cadburys egg – so they are not just good on the outside :0)

Thoughts On – My Resolutions

This year, I have decided my New Year’s resolution will be not to have a New Year’s resolution. For the last few years I have always been full of good intentions: not to eat too much tapioca, try and do some exercise, wake up cheerfully to each and every new day…but this year, I am not going to set any goals that I know I will have failed at by the end of the month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve got no willpower, it’s more the fact that if something is important to me, I will make my mind up to ‘do it’ or ‘not to do it’ without an annual start date.  It’s easy to make resolutions, which will be forgotten by the end of the month, so this year, I am going to take a common sense approach to it and take each day as it comes: eat chocolate today, cut back on it tomorrow…Best wishes to you for 2015smaller
If there is one thing that I am going to set my mind to do this year, it’s to be more in-tune with myself to the best of my ability.  One aspect of New Year that affects me is the nostalgia that is created at this changing from one year to the next…thinking about people who are no longer in our lives, opportunities missed, times of pain and pleasure… One other thing, that is brought to mind, is that ‘time is fleeting’ and that one ‘new’ year very quickly becomes the ‘old’ one. It’s a stark reminder that time is not on our side and that the important things to us in our lives need to become our necessities not luxuries…