I was asked a few month’s ago to create a birth illustration for a new arrival in Hull, called Zain, who was born this February. Having done a birth illustration for his older brother, Lucas, it was great to be asked if I could do one for ‘Son Number 2’.
I had done a birth illustration on a dinosaur theme a number of years ago and the client asked if Zain’s design could be similar (I never do exactly the same designs). So, I sketched out a few dinosaurs, the great ponderous Brontosaurus ‘the thunder lizard’ no doubt referring to the sound its great feet made it as it slowly pounded the earth, as well as Stegosaurus ‘roof/covered lizard’ with its kite-shaped bone plates on its back and Rhamphorhynchus – a flying bird dinosaur, rather like the Pterodactyl. It’s always interesting to work from ‘real’ dinosaurs even if they don’t look exactly like their prehistoric creations. I even included the ‘tyrant king lizard’ Tyrannosaurus Rex, with a much-softened and more friendly persona, as anything like the real thing would surely produce nightmares in one viewing it at a tender age!
I am hoping that Zain will like his birth illustration (which includes all his personal birth details upon it), when he receives it next month. Perhaps he will still appreciate and own it long after I have also, like the dinosaurs, become extinct!
Dina, pronounced ‘Dinah’, is my fourth Doberman Pinscher illustration for Mary Redshaw. I have known Mary from my time working at a tertiary college and she has always had a love of dogs, particularly Doberman Pinschers, and during the last five-years I have drawn a succession of Mary’s beautiful dogs: Gina, Tia, Della and now Dina.
For some reason, I always had a soft spot for Dina and despite the fact that she could be as mischievous as her sister, Della, I never wanted Dina to get the blame. I never got to meet Mary’s ‘girls’ apart from once, when I met Dina and took her and Mary’s whippet, Tina, for a walk. Dina was, by now, quite an ‘old girl’ and was having difficulty with her breathing and her walking was impaired, but despite all of this she had a beautiful nature and was a perfect companion for Mary and the spritely young whippet.
I drew this commission after having looked at hundreds of photographs that Mary had taken of Dina; together we chose the one that we liked the best and that reflected her gentle nature. Using coloured pencils, chalk and a small amount of watercolour paint the illustration was completed in just over two-days. Mary asked if it would be possible to include my ‘motif’ of a ladybird, so that was included near my signature and is the first time I have done this for a pet illustration.
I handed over the commission to Mary today and she was very ‘moved’ and said that I had captured Dina’s expression and character very well. It’s always nice to be able to see the expression in people’s faces when I hand over my work to them. One of Mary’s friends came to her house later in the afternoon and recognised Dina.
Mary is soon to get Dina framed and hung on the wall with her other canine friends, a collection of illustrations and photographs and memories that mean so much to her in more ways than one…
I had done a birth illustration for a baby boy called Joshua back in April 2015 and his proud Grandmother, Angela, contacted me, a few months ago, to say that Joshua had recently received a baby brother, Rafe (the original spelling for the name Ralph) and that she would like to commission me to do a birth illustration for the newest member of her family.
After doing a spot of ‘homework’ about the name Rafe, I discovered that it is an old Norse/English word, which means ‘wolf counsellor’. Angela then asked me to come up with a theme for the birth illustration. I thought ‘Peter and the Wolf’ would be a nice theme for the commission and did some research about this ‘symphonic fairy tale for children’: which is a musical composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936.
On his travels, young Peter (after leaving the safety of his grandfather’s house), encounters a small bird, a cat and a duck, which journey with him on his search for his adventure. Peter and the animals are all depicted by a particular instrument i.e. the cat is set to the clarinet, the duck to the oboe and Peter’s character is set to the string section of an orchestra. As the music unfolds, the different characters can be heard throughout the piece.
I wanted to create a different look for each of the characters and did a small scamp (Scamp – a first rough or mockup) before working on a more detailed sketch with characters in place. This is probably the hardest part of the whole process for me, as it’s drawing it all out and is fairly time-consuming. However, I love the process of creating the finished illustration, as all of the hours spent scamping and sketching finally start to take on a new dimension in colour, shape and texture before one’s eyes.
I was requested to keep the main character of Peter similar to the Disney cartoon, but I did suggest that we alter his hair and the colour of his clothes, as I never like to reproduce anything exactly. The small elephant on Peter’s clothes, relates to the motif on the birth announcement card that Angela received to inform her of his birth.
I am not sure when Angela is going to present her daughter with the new picture for the new arrival, but I do hope that they will like it and the thought and effort that has gone in to it from both the client and the artist…
I’ve drawn a number of different breeds of dogs over the years, but never once a Jackhuahua. So, when a friend and ex-colleague, Marsha Lally, asked me if I would draw her Mum’s four dogs, I didn’t realise that I would be drawing not just one Jackhuahua, but two, as well as two Staffordshire Pit Bull Terriers. They say things come in threes, but these dog breeds came in twos.
I tend to be quite selective about the photographs I use in my illustrations, but because of the distance and limitations on how far I can travel, I asked Marsha if she could supply me with a range of different images to choose from. Images were supplied and I tried to choose four that would make a successful canine montage. One should not have favourites, I know, but I have to admit that Gizmo (the black-and-tan Jackhuahua on the left-hand-side of the picture) was my favourite dog of the four, although I did enjoy drawing Ruby (the third dog along) the most.
As the commissioned illustration was a surprise birthday present for Joanne (it was belated because the amount of work I had on at the time), it was all kept rather hush-hush. I was told that the picture, when presented to Joanne was a great success, so all of the planning and secret preparation was not in vain.
Kindly, Marsha and Joanne, gave me some of their thoughts, which they said I could use on my blog. Thank you ladies…
Quote from Marsha Lally: “I knew Michael was a great artist when I asked him to draw our dogs for my Mam’s birthday, but he has totally exceeded my expectations. It’s a wonderful picture that will be cherished forever.”
Quote from Joanne Telford: “The picture has really captured the essence of each of our dogs, it’s incredible.”
A friend and former colleague, Graeme Stobbart, asked me if I could produce a portrait of his two dogs, both of which were no longer with us. Unfortunately, Sam, the Jack Russell, had been passed for a good number of years and the photographs that Graeme and his family had of him were of a quality not best for producing a detailed illustration. However, after sourcing and selecting a number of photographs of Sam, from different angles, I was just able to work out his facial marking and colouration. It wasn’t the easiest of jobs I’ve ever had to do, but sometimes it’s worthwhile making the effort for a friend, especially one that would go the extra mile for you.
I was pleased to get this commission completed when I did, and was delighted to hear that Graeme’s parents, Derek and Diane, were delighted with the finished illustration. It made all of the effort spent at the drawing-board worthwhile. The hardest part for me was putting pencil to paper, not knowing whether the finished result was going to be what myself or my clients expected.
This illustration was also a first for me, as I have (very surprisingly) never drawn a West Highland Terrier before. I loved drawing the picture of Katie, who looks just like the kind of canine friend I would love to have had myself. I have always had a ‘soft-spot’ for Westies, to be honest.
I chose a silver-grey background paper to draw this illustration on, as white would not have been a good contrast to Katie’s light fur and too dark a colour wouldn’t have shown Sam in the best way either, (as both dogs are rather a tonal contrast). I had to resort to using a wide variety of mediums to produce this illustration: coloured pencil, watercolour paint and even chalk. I don’t often mix mediums, but this seemed to give the right feel for different parts of the picture.
I handed over the commission to Graeme on the 14th May (whilst we were having a catch-up and a coffee in Starbucks) with a certain amount of trepidation, as I had never met Sam and Katie and wasn’t sure that I had ‘captured them’ in the illustration. It always gives me a sigh of relief when I know that all of the chalk, sweat and paint have met the hopes and expectations of the person receiving the final piece of artwork. Phew!
Quote from Client ~
“As soon as I saw the portrait it was obvious that Michael had not only drawn (and painted) an amazing picture, but that he had captured the spark that made Sam and Katie so special to us. There is so much life in the portrait and it was no surprise that there were tears when Mam saw the portrait. Michael has worked wonders with the source material and has reflected the characters of two very different little dogs beautifully.”
I am still loving every one of the birth illustrations that I am being asked to do. I have done numerous themes, ranging from dragons, mermaids and jungle animals. Although, I really like all of the themes, I must admit that I do like the animal themes, especially the new ones, that incorporate an animal suitable to each letter of the child’s name i.e. AMELIA: A for anelope, M for monkey, E for elephant…
My latest illustration, for a little boy called Elliot, was one that I have enjoyed doing. The first letter E was given an elephant, as I find that this is one of the animals most requested by parents (giraffes and hippopotamuses are popular too) and was consequently followed by a menagerie of creatures, including a leopard, llama, insects, owls (I love owls!), and a tiger. I also added a toucan in the picture, as it has become an image that I have used frequently in my illustrations and on my corporate and promotional literature.
I have found that matching the colours of the illustration to the theme of the nursery, is also a nice touch and parents like the fact that you are taking a genuine interest in where the final commission is going to ‘live’ or ‘hang’.
Here’s to many more birth illustrations that I will enjoy doing, what will it be next, walruses, pelicans, turtles or flamingos?
Of all of the breeds of dogs that I have drawn in my lifetime, spaniels must be the most frequent, followed close on the heels (or should I saw paws?) by Border Collies.
A couple of weeks before Christmas I was contacted by a very friendly gentleman, named Keith, who asked me if I could draw his daughter’s fiance’s dog. Within a few days I was being collected by Keith and taken to his home to photograph the dog, who turned out to be a highly intelligent and very active Springer Spaniel, by the name of Alfie. I love it when people arrange to have special and totally unique illustrations done for friends and relatives. There is usually so much thought behind these actions and it always speak volumes of how highly regarded the recipients are to those that commission the illustration.
It’s always lovely to draw people’s pets, but when you have met the pet and made their acquaintance it does make the illustration all the more special for me. Alfie had a lot of white fur, which was complemented by his dark chocolate fur and the amber tone of his eyes. He is a very handsome dog indeed and one that would be a lovely companion to a dog lover.
The illustration took a few days to complete and because of the large area of white on Alfie’s chest, I put in a suffused raw sienna tone behind him, to highlight the profile of his fur.
The commission was done in secret and collected by Keith, who was very pleased with the result… I heard later, that the illustration had been a big hit with the young gentleman, Marc, who had received the illustration on Christmas Day.
So, that is another spaniel to add to my collection…and he is soon to be followed by a Jack Russell and a West Highland Terrier. They do say that ‘variety is the spice of life’…