Witch Hazel – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I’ve done many teddy bear illustrations over the years, but some of them I do forget, but this isn’t one of them.  Although I am not a great fan of Hallowe’en, I do love the colour and imagery that I had to capture in this drawing.
Witch Hazel by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
I was asked by a big company in America, to illustrate one of their many beautiful teddies and after looking through their glossy catalogue several times, I was ‘taken’ to this little witch bear, with her sequinned cape and starry hat.  I liked drawing this teddy bear ‘as she was’, which included her rather sad looking face.  A number of my customers used to say, “Can you draw that teddy bear smiling?” and I replied, “I draw the bears as they present themselves”.  Teddy bears have individual characters: some happy some sad – just like human beings.

I remember my youngest niece, Cora, was just a baby when I started this illustration and the small wizard or witch that was coming out of the jack-o-lantern resembled her a little bit (she will be cross with me for putting this on here!), so I had to include him/her in the illustration.  Many of my teddy bear illustrations have a soft pastel theme, but with this one I could use the strong colours of green, orange and purple without hesitation.  I loved doing the confectionery: lollipops, cupcakes and biscuits with the ghosts and black cat cake toppings.  It was a great deal of fun (I think I ate them ALL afterwards!).

Whatever you have done or are doing for Hallowe’en, I do hope that you get a lot more treats than tricks!  Enjoy yourself and be safe…

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Gary and Joanne’s ‘big day’…

Earlier this year, I was asked if I would do a watercolour or pencil illustration of a church in Spain that was to be the theme for some wedding stationery.  Joanne Rogan, the client and bride-to-be was brilliant in providing me with a range of church illustrations that she had seen and liked, so that I could get ‘the feel’ of what she was looking for.  A better start and brief could not be had, as most clients know what they want, but are not very good at explaining it, leaving the artist or designer ‘in the dark’.
Wedding stationery 1Wedding stationery 3Wedding stationery 2Wedding stationery 4The happy couple at sunset
Joanne also provided me with some photographs of El Salvador’s Church in Nerja, Spain where she was marrying her fiancé, Gary Cooper.  The photographs were beautiful, showing a white stately church against an azure sky.  There was a tree in the photographs that I had to ‘remove’ but that didn’t prove to be a problem.

It took me a couple of days (in the bleakness of early February) to produce the coloured pencil illustration of the church bedecked in sunshine, which was then sent for Joanne and Gary’s approval.  Thankfully, they loved it and it was then sent to the printers to be incorporated into their wedding stationery.  As you can see below, Joanne and Gary did a great job of it and the stationery looks unique and amazing!  Having said that, so do the happy couple in the photographs, as you can see.  I would like to offer my congratulations to Joanne and Gary for their marriage day and also for doing such sterling work on their wedding stationery! 

Every best wish to you both for many happy years to come…

Joanne and Gary were married on the 21st September 2018.
The photographs feature on this blog post with their approval and permission.  Thank you.

Milly and Harper – Pet Portraits

I am always delighted when a customer returns to me for another commission.  It is an endorsement and validation that they appreciate the style and quality of my work and are happy to commission you to do another piece of artwork for themselves or a loved one.

MillyandHarper by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon(forblog)
Last year, Mrs Angela Rose had commissioned me to create a birth illustration for a young relative, with a collection of dinosaurs.  On this more recent occasion, she requested me to create a portrait illustration of her daughter’s two West Highland Terriers: Milly and Harper.  I prefer to take photographs of pets myself, whenever possible, so I went around to do a photoshoot of the two canine characters.  Both of these two dogs were in a rather soporific mood on a hot July day that they needed to look their best for the camera.  They were both very well groomed, but their sleepy moments were interspersed with bouts of running, racing and jumping, as Mrs Rose’s daughter, Amy, and myself strived to keep them awake whilst I took numerous photographs. 

I have to say that both Milly and Harper were adorable in different ways, but I have a ‘soft-spot’ for Harper who gently raised her nose to touch mine whilst introductions were being made. 

The illustration took a number of days to complete and required a background of fawn and soft browns to make Milly and Harper stand out.  Whenever I am drawing ‘white’ dogs I am amazed to discover all of the different colours that go to make up the fur.  These colours can include a range of browns, creams and fawns to name a few.

I handed over the finished commission to Mrs Rose and her husband, Ian, and they commented that the illustration was “spot on” and that Amy would be delighted with her personal and unique commissioned illustration. 

I later heard that Amy was delighted and the commission will soon be displayed on her living-room wall.  Thank you to the Roses and my other clients who return to me time-and-time-again for illustrations – it is very much appreciated.

Zain – Boy’s Birth Picture

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 (you cannot see this on the photograph for security reasons).  His family should receive it in August or September when the family have a gathering in York.  Perhaps Zain will still appreciate and own this birth illustration long after I have also, like the dinosaurs, become extinct!

Dina – Dog Portrait

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…

Rafe – Boy’s Birth Picture

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…

Gizmo, Tyke, Ruby and Dexter – Pet Portraits

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.

Marsha's dogs final illustration (touchedup)forblog

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.”