I was delighted to hear the news that my friends, Keith and Anne, were to become proud grandparents, as their daughter, Sarah and son-in-law, Mark, were expecting twins in the early months of 2017.
Having done a number of illustrations for Keith and Anne in the past (of a canine nature) it was nice to be asked to do some birth illustrations for their two grandchildren. The grandchildren are beautiful and the parents have named them Erin and James. Congratulations to all the family.
Erin was very traditional in being ‘ladies first’, with her ‘little’ brother arriving only a minute behind her. The proud grandparents wanted some animal illustrations to feature on the birth pictures, but each of them were to have a different theme, so I suggested African/Safari animals for James and British wildlife for Erin. I was inspired by all of the Beatrix Potter merchandise last year, so it’s not surprising that Erin has a red squirrel, rabbit and a hedgehog in her illustration. This illustration is also the first to feature a mole, an animal that I can’t remember ever drawing before. James, on the other hand, features animals that boy’s tend to like – particularly crocodiles, lions, monkeys and elephants. It also has my favourite animal, a giraffe in it too.
I heard from Keith that the new parents, Sarah and Mark, are delighted with their children’s birth illustrations, which makes it all the more enjoyable for me, as I truly enjoyed drawing them. I hope that when they are older Erin and James will enjoy them and that they will be a wonderful memory for them in later years.
I must make an apology for the quality of the images on this blog post. I took a picture of these commissions with my mobile phone and not my camera (which wasn’t working at the time 😦 )
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…
I have very vivid childhood memories of my mother, Carole, sitting with me dangling on her knee, drawing giraffe after giraffe for my amusement. If it wasn’t a giraffe being drawn, it was an elephant. Being a toddler at the time, I couldn’t pronounce these words properly and just made ‘raffs’ and ‘lints’ my simplified version of these words.
I find giraffes the most fascinating creatures, with their beautiful patterned skin, long elegant necks and fantastically long eyelashes, not to mention their furry ossicones. I hadn’t done any watercolour paintings for a long time and looked through a large pile of photographs to see if there was anything that inspired me. I found this picture of a giraffe mother and child and decided to paint that. Some artists take ages to do a watercolour, but I usually find that I do them fairly quickly. I can spend a large amount of time on one coloured-pencil illustration, but I do not seem to be able to produce them quickly, whereas with watercolours I can see a picture come together much more quickly.
The above illustration was submitted to the campaign for One Million Giraffes (www.onemilliongiraffes.com). I couldn’t possibly not have contributed to that, now could I? And, just in case you’re wondering what my Mum’s drawings looked like – here’s one I scanned earlier…
I am still loving every one of the birth illustrations that I am being asked to do. I have done numerous themes, ranging from dragons, mermaids and jungle animals. Although, I really like all of the themes, I must admit that I do like the animal themes, especially the new ones, that incorporate an animal suitable to each letter of the child’s name i.e. AMELIA: A for anelope, M for monkey, E for elephant…
My latest illustration, for a little boy called Elliot, was one that I have enjoyed doing. The first letter E was given an elephant, as I find that this is one of the animals most requested by parents (giraffes and hippopotamuses are popular too) and was consequently followed by a menagerie of creatures, including a leopard, llama, insects, owls (I love owls!), and a tiger. I also added a toucan in the picture, as it has become an image that I have used frequently in my illustrations and on my corporate and promotional literature.
I have found that matching the colours of the illustration to the theme of the nursery, is also a nice touch and parents like the fact that you are taking a genuine interest in where the final commission is going to ‘live’ or ‘hang’.
Here’s to many more birth illustrations that I will enjoy doing, what will it be next, walruses, pelicans, turtles or flamingos?