I have always had a love of swans, but Mute Swans in particular. They are known as birds that are legally protected in Britain by HM Queen Elizabeth II. I rather think they match being a royal bird as the regal way they bow and raise their heads is grace personified. I also admire the way that they glide serenely on a lake, whilst their legs are frantically going like the paddle wheels of a riverboat steamer beneath the almost unrippled surface!
I do know swans have gained, with some people, rather an aggressive reputation, but I think their protective ways are much needed in a world where irresponsible dog owners let their dogs run after and threaten (and on occasions kill) cygnets. I have also seen children throwing stones and bricks at these beautiful birds, so is it any wonder that many of them are very protective especially to their young? I can see the swan’s point of view and have to say that with all of my many up-close-encounters with swans have all been tranquil and placid.
I found a nice photograph of a mute swan preening its feathers in the shallow waters of a lake and decided that I would draw it in soft pastels. I was rather pushed for time, but I was also needing to use up some creativity that was bubbling to the surface that day. With this in mind, I did the drawing on a very small scale and on a very textured paper. This wasn’t the best of ideas, as the texture was perhaps a trifle strong for a drawing that small, so much so, I put the illustration aside for a while after only doing a small part of the background. Later, with a little bit of persuasion from a friend, I was encouraged to persevere with it, which I did rather begrudgingly (time always being a much prized and scarce commodity with me).
After half-an-hour of sustained colouring with my pastels, I started to enjoy the drawing for the act of drawing and being creative, rather than trying to complete something that was ‘pleasing’ to me… As it happens, it pleases a friend of mine very much, who has kindly requested it for his brother – an ardent nature lover.
I finished the mute swan today and have learned a few lessons from it, firstly that textured paper and small drawings have a conflict of interest and secondly that enjoying doing something is sometimes more important than the finished result…
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…
After I graduated from Cumbria Institute of the Arts in 1987, I had to find employment to put my graphic design and art history training to work. Back then, rather like now, jobs were rather ‘thin on the ground’ and I had to do a period of voluntary work with the Citizens Advice Bureau, whilst pursuing my first step on the elusive career ladder. I had some temporary work for Busways in Newcastle upon Tyne, but was still looking for permanent work when my former teacher at the Institute, George Thompson, rang me and told me about a job for a graphic designer in the Scottish border town of Langholm.
ABOVE: Me, with my thinking cap on, at my desk at Ashley Bank House (you can see some of the logo designs).
I applied for the job at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and got an interview. They must have been fairly impressed with my presentation and my graphic work, as I started receiving some freelance work from them; this was probably to see what my work ethic and creativity were like. The fast-and-furious deadlines were enough to give me veritable nightmares, especially as there were no such things as e-mails and sending pdfs (not that I knew of anyway). Everything had to be hand drawn and coloured to the best of my ability and within the set timescales. When the work was complete it was a mad dash to the Post Office in order to post the work to them in time to meet the deadline.
After a number of months doing this home-design work, I was very grateful to be given a contract in early April 1988 and started working at Ashley Bank House (a former hotel), which was part of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s base in Langholm. I later went to work at Waverley Mills, where I did a lot of the design work for the marketing department. My time was spent creating logos for the company and P.O.S (point-of-sale) material, which was a large bulk of my work during the two-years that I worked there.
I will write some more about my first job on another blog post at a later date and include some more of the work that I did for this forward-thinking knitwear company.
This month – the merry month of May – sees my blog being one-year-old. As most blogging parents, I feel proud of my fledgling blog. I’ve enjoyed writing about my work, my interests and my life and I have enjoyed getting the lovely feedback from my friends – some of which are from my childhood and working life and others from people who have stumbled on to this blog and wanted to leave a comment.
I didn’t realise when I started this blog, that it would take so much time and commitment, as well as enthusiasm and creativity, but it has been extremely enjoyable and that makes it so worthwhile. So, here’s to the next year of blogging…
To everyone who has left a message on this blog over the last year, thank you for your lovely comments, thoughts and feedback. It’s much appreciated (x).