For those of you who have followed my work for a while now, you will know that my ‘signature tune’ in most of my drawings is a ladybird. I am not totally sure as to how and when I decided to put these little scarlet beetles into my drawings, but I do know why I am so particularly fond of them. When I was a little boy my Grandfather Lake was keen on growing roses and he and I would go to the site of the old swamp in Tanfield Lea and gather as many ladybirds as we could find to put on his roses. They were very hardworking gardening allies and kept all the pests at bay; my Grandfather’s roses flourished year-after-year. Through the years, the ladybirds became more and more prominent in my work and it now reminds me of dear friends, such as Mildred from Carlisle and Dorothy from Whitehaven.
So, whilst having lunch at Hexham Fish Bar with my friends from Carlisle, Mary and Peter Lupton, Mary turned to me and said, “Darling, what are you going to do for your next blog post?” I wasn’t sure and later when we were talking to Stella, the young lady that works in the fish bar, Mary suggested I give her one of my business cards. Stella’s family are from Cyprus and she pointed out the ladybird on my logo. I asked her what the insects are called in Cyprus and she said she would check with her father. He said that they are called Babavura or Paparouna, which relates to ladybirds bearing the same colours as the field poppy – scarlet and black. Quite appropriate! Whatever your nationality it would seem that ladybirds are lucky or beneficial insects in most countries or cultures with pet names such as ‘God’s Cow’ and ‘Mary’s/Our Lady’s Beetle’ -relating to the Virgin Mary, who was often depicted in early mediaeval paintings wearing scarlet and black robes, instead of the traditional white and blue that people are now familiar with.
So, on this very sunny and warm Good Friday, I decided to sit down and do a very quick coloured pencil sketch of ladybirds on one of my favourite flowers, forget-me-nots. I allowed myself a very strict time limit to do this illustration and I just managed to meet the deadline. I felt a little bit silly for sitting in drawing on such a glorious April day, but with the window open and the sun pouring through it was like being outside inside. I enjoyed doing the illustration and it was interesting to see just how many colours were used to create the final piece of artwork!
A friend and former colleague, Jacqui, contacted me a few weeks ago, to ask if she could commission me to create a birth illustration for a new member of her family, who is called Scarlett. Jacqui’s cousin gave birth to the little girl last year and she is to be christened today (Easter Sunday) in a church in Durham city.
When Jacqui stated that her cousin, Steph, had requested an Easter theme for Scarlett, I wasn’t sure how pastel-coloured eggs, ducklings and rabbits were ‘going to go’ alongside a name like Scarlett, which evokes a bright vivid red to one’s mind. The name Scarlett originates from the colour scarlet and the name became well known during the 1940’s when Vivien Leigh played the part of the vain, self-centred and bewitching Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939). The name has also had a recent boost of interest, which is probably due to the popular and glamorous actress Scarlett Johansson.
After careful consideration of the colour scheme and layout and despite my initial forebodings about the pastel colours and the name ‘Scarlett’ I was pleased with the finished result. I had used a mid-pink for the lettering, adding in small scarlet-coloured dots to the edge of the letters, so that there was some scarlet included in the picture.
I hadn’t done an Easter birth illustration (though I was really looking forward to doing my first), so I was as happy as a sandboy when drawing the ducklings and the bunnies that are enjoying the spring sunshine amongst the Easter eggs. And of course, I had to include one of my favourite spring flowers too – the forget-me-not, which always flowers in my garden from mid-April.
The sketch for the illustration
I hope the illustration is a success with Scarlett’s family and with Scarlett herself in years to come. My client, Jacqui, was so pleased with the illustration that she confessed to wanting to keep it herself, which I consider very high praise indeed… Michael
The number eight, for as long as I can remember, has always been my favourite number. I am not sure why it was, but if I were to think about it…it would probably be to do with the fact that it’s pleasing to the eye. It’s really two circles placed on top of one another. Eight has no hard edges and is a friendly, warm shape. A friend of mine, who was involved in analysing handwriting for large companies and police bureaux, told me that people who favoured the number 8 were generally very kind and approachable people; the kind of people you would want to hug.
Eighty-eight in Gill Sans font
I have always loved handwriting, but many of my friends have noticed that when I write a number 8, I don’t do it it as one continuous movement. I have always drawn one circle and then the other below (rather like the duckling diagram). I have only ever met one other person who has done this and she was a graphic designer, called Kylie. Another friend, Jennifer, told me that this form of writing out the number 8 is often used by technicians or draughtsmen, so perhaps I am in the wrong job!
Eighty-eight in Times font
Now, if you’ve read my earlier posts, you will know that I also love same-digit double-numbers, so it’s no surprise that the number 88 should find favour with me. You may also be aware that today is the 88th day of the year! So, today I printed out some 88s and had a little play with them, doodling and colouring them. Today my friend, Marie, has just given me some rather nice Easter gifts and this probably led to the fact that two of the doodles are ducklings and rabbits. The third doodle is of girls with rather 1950’s looking beehive hairdos and make-up.
Eighty-eight in Giddy-Up font
Everyone will no doubt know that in bingo-calling terms that the number 88 is often referred to as ‘two-fat-ladies’, but here are eight rather interesting facts about the number 8 that you may be interested to read and may not have known…
- 8 is a composite number and it is also the first number which is neither prime or semi-prime.
- 8 is the base of the octal number system, which is mostly used with computers and digital media.
- The ‘figure-of-eight’ is often used in sporting terms, such as skating, but can also relate to the way that bees fly and communicate messages.
- 8 is symbolic of new life, the final Resurrection and the anticipated resurrection that comes from baptism. The number 8 in the Bible represents a new beginning, meaning a new order or creation, and man’s true ‘born again’ event when he is resurrected from the dead into eternal life.
- There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, “88”, and 囍, the “shuang xi” (“double joy”), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (“xĭ” meaning “joy” or “happiness”).
- Infinity is shown as a figure 8 on it’s side and symbolises a never ending cycle, as there is no start or end to the shape.
- 8 is an auspicious number in many Asian and Chinese countries and is the number associated with wealth and abundance.
- The summer olympics in Bejing commenced at 8-seconds and 8-minutes past 8pm on 8 August 2008 (08.08.08).
Perhaps I should issue this blog post on the eighty-eighth day of the year, at 08:08pm and watch the money and abundance come rolling in! Watch this space…