Birds of a Feather – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Those of you who regularly read my blog posts will know that I have a little quirk about same double-digit numbers, such as 11, 33 and especially 88. This is very much an ‘88 blog post’, as this is in fact my 88th blog post on this WordPress site and the topic is one of my teddy bear illustrations, which happened to be my 88th teddy bear illustration. As if that wasn’t sufficient amount of 88’s, this (for you who are into dates) is the 88th day of the year. So, it’s 88.88.88!Birds of a feather by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog)This illustration, which is one of my very favourite illustrations that I created, was partly inspired by one of my friends and former work colleague, John W. Hall, who sadly passed away a number of years ago. John was a ‘pigeon man’ and loved his racing pigeons, one of which ‘Jeff’ is proudly displayed in the picture. I always remember he would ask me weeks in advance if the calendars were ready to purchase and he was ALWAYS the first person to buy several when they were available, closely followed by our friend Dawn Logan. John was very proud of my work and I remember that fact with a glowing pride. The very talented South African bear artist, Ingrid Els, kindly allowed me use of one of her furry creations to depict in the picture and he is ideally suited to the theme wearing his cloth cap and dungarees… The backdrop of the illustration was sketched in the gardens of the miners’ cottages at Beamish Museum, which is a living museum, based in Stanley, County Durham.

So, as you can see, the young bear in this picture is a local lad to the North East in more ways that one. With his pigeon cree and his flight of pigeons and his copy of The Evening Chronicle this teddy bear is set for a good day… The pigeon clock belonged to John and much to my surprise had been made almost to the day of my birth! That was such a surprising find, when I pondered over it whilst doing the sketches for the illustration. If you look closely you can see that his pigeon has even featured on the front page of the newspaper. And, if you look even more closely (as one of my readers noticed just recently), you can see that the number 88 is featured on the front page too!

People often ask me if I enjoyed colouring all the bricks, the honest answer is yes, as I like doing repetitive tasks, but this does not include drawing thousands of blades of grass! Oh, dear me, no…

BirdsofaFeatherprint(signed)byMQuinlynNixonforblog  The ‘Birds of a Feather’ illustration took a few weeks to complete and was finished on the 29th September 2007.  It is dedicated to John W. Hall. He was a good friend, a loving husband to his wife Jasmin, a loving father to his two daughters Debbie and Nicola and a loving grandfather to his grandchildren, of whom he was so proud. The original illustration now belongs to them…

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Stan & Ollie – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I am excited about going to see the ‘Stan and Ollie’ film released in the United Kingdom today, which is based on the lives of the actors and comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  It stars actors Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in the respective roles.  It reminded me of a teddy bear illustration that I did of the famous black-and-white comedy duo many years ago…
stan & ollie by michael quinlyn-nixon for blogb
Whilst working on one of my teddy bear calendar themes, in 2003, I came up with the idea of famous bears and made a list of the many characters that I like, that are very recognisable by their costume or attire.  The list was very long, but some suggestions had to be scrapped and a smaller list compiled.  One of the suggestions on the list that appealed to me was Laurel and Hardy.  I had a discussion with Jennifer A. Stephenson, my friend who kindly made the outfits and other paraphernalia for the teddy bears, and she was also drawn to the idea of Laurel and Hardy too.  

In deference to the comedy duo’s fine slapstick humour, we decided to dress them in dungarees (rather than their formal black suit and ties), but, of course, we had to include the bowler hats and their distinctive neckties.  To go along with the dungarees, we created a decorating scenario with ladders, wallpaper and paint (my father, Robert, kindly made the ladders and toolbox).  Luckily one of Jennifer’s friends, the late Pat Holmes (nee Boustead – a well-known singer in the County Durham area) was decorating her home at this time, so this proved to be the ideal place in which to create our ‘Hollywood film set’. 

As it happened, shortly after the photographs were taken and the sketches were drawn, we disassembled the scene and I slipped and spilled the whole pot of banana custard coloured paint all over the floorboards.  Pat wasn’t too annoyed, as she was planning on a carpet anyway, but she could have easily used Oliver Hardy’s famous quote and stated, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”.

I remember watching Laurel and Hardy when I was young and they always made me laugh with their funny and inoffensive humour.  Stan Laurel (b: 1890 – d:1965) was my favourite, as I loved the way he scratched his head when perplexed, but Oliver Hardy (b: 1892 – d:1957) had the most amazing face, which was full of disbelief one minute and wreathed in wonderful smiles the next.

When I was a little boy, I remember my Grandfather Lake telling me that Stan Laurel had lived in County Durham for a while, but that he had been born in Cumbria.  Both of these English counties have tributes to these two wonderful men who brought so much joy to so many people’s lives.

The illustration ‘Stan & Ollie’ was started on 18 April and completed on the 5 May 2003.