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…

My first job in 1988…

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.

Thoughts On – Starting College

I remember this time of year back in 1985 when I was thinking of moving from my family home and little village to start my Higher National Diploma (HND) studies at Cumbria Institute of the Arts, in the city of Carlisle.

Cumbria Institute of the Arts logo

I had massive amounts of nervous energy, as I am not the most confident or outgoing person, and was worried about my studies and my digs (mostly worried about anything there was to worry about). Luckily, after my friend, Sandi, and I had struggled to find ‘digs’, we moved into Wigton Road and found ourselves in good company with two great lads from Yorkshire, Paul and Richard. Looking back at our student life gives me a laugh or two now. It was like living an episode of the ‘The Young Ones’ in reality, with exploding ovens, bonfires burning in the back garden and large slugs in the bathroom that would leave you speechless. Add two escaped pet white mice and you’ve got the recipes for a good comedy series!

After a year at Wigton Road, we all moved to Howard Place, which was much nicer digs, although I have mixed feelings about living there too. What with a resident ghost that stalked the staircase, and food that ‘disappeared’ out of cupboards at night, it was enough to send a chill down the spine. These were not nearly as scary as the amount of dirty crockery and cutlery that was amassed in the sink when you arrived home, tired and hungry, after a hard day studying.

I made some other good friends during those years, including: Linda, Cathy, Fiona, Rachel, Joy, Andy, Penny and Adrian, to name a few, most of which are still in my life via Facebook, alongside my original housemates, Paul, Richard and Sandi.

It all seems like a long time ago now, but my worrying nature is still with me (a leopard can’t change its spots) and I empathise with all of those that will be starting their studies next month. Nothing is quite as bad as you would imagine (and I have got a good imagination!). Just remember, some research at the University of Cincinnati found that eighty-five percent of what we worry about NEVER happens. It also discovered that 79% of us handle the remaining 15% that does happen in ways that surprise us with our ability to turn the situation around.

 Perhaps this quote from the author Mark Twain, sums it up most effectively:

 I have been through some terrible things in my life,
some of which actually happened. Mark Twain (1835-1910).