Gingerbread Bears – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Of all of the Bear-a-thought illustrations that I have created over the years, ‘Gingerbread Bears’ reminds me of the most bizarre predicament that I found myself in.  Although I do enjoy the occasional cookery programme, I am not blessed with culinary skills.  So when I needed to create a very small portion of dough, I thought that it would be a ‘breeze’ – even for me!  This small piece of dough was going to be used to create some small gingerbread bear biscuits that Scruff (the bear in the illustration) was going to bake. 
Gingerbread bears by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
Off I went to my local Post Office; the postmistresses Enid and Angela soon provided me with my essential ingredients, butter, eggs, flour…  Back at home, I set to work with a hale-and-hearty approach to my task, but after mixing the ingredients for a while I suspected that something was not quite right.  My dough consistency was wrong!  I put that particular mixing bowl to one side and using what was left of the ingredients started again.  Culinary disasters don’t often strike twice in the same kitchen, but let me tell you they can.  The dough was too runny this time…  I put that bowl aside and went to the Post Office again to buy more essential ingredients.  This was beginning to be a costly exercise for one piece of pastry.  I started again (not quite as hale-and-hearty as before), mixing ingredients – checking the recipe – weighing things carefully.  But it still went wrong!  My fourth attempt was no more successful!

Then, a friend arrived – surveyed the culinary process at hand and exclaimed, “What are you doing?”  I explained and within minutes hands were washed and then plunged into the various bowls – the first ‘experiment’ had lacked enough butter, the second hadn’t enough flour.  Soon all the mixtures were perfect.

I now had enough dough to feed a family of forty.  After cutting out a wide assortment of animal shapes, including giraffes and rhinoceroses, out of the dough, we were ready for baking the collected menagerie.  The scene was somewhat reminiscent of a factory production line (at full tilt), as tray after tray of biscuits were placed and taken out of the oven…

Too many biscuits…  I couldn’t eat them all, so I packed them in clean white paper bags and distributed them to my astonished neighbours.  Thankfully no one was rushed to hospital with gastroenteritis, and even more thankfully I had remembered to salvage a small piece of pastry aside for my illustration. 

So, when people look at my teddy bear illustrations and see the bears, smile and say “How lovely!” they really have no idea what pains and lengths I have had to go to create that particular finished piece of artwork. 

After writing all of this copy, I think I need a refreshing cup of tea and a gingerbread bear…  Biscuit anyone?

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The art of saying ‘thank you’…

I have a small number of very close and special friends, who send me Christmas presents.  I am a very lucky man in that respect.  I am told ‘friendship works both ways’ – basically you reap what you sow.  I have always put a good deal of effort into my friendships and I am very blessed to know some truly terrific people.  This 25th December I received another beautifully wrapped bundle of gifts, which included a purple jumper, a carved giraffe figurine, giraffe stationery (I am fond of giraffes) and some beautifully scented candles, amongst other things.

Thank you cards 2 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
On Christmas Day (I like to be on the ball) I had my delicious luncheon made by my mother, Carole, and immediately after doing the washing-up, I started making the thank you cards to send to my friends and family.  I had some coloured card and started sketching out a few ideas that would not be too time consuming.  I only had about 2-hours to complete and write out fifteen cards!  I also tried to make sure that the cards could easily be personalised.  I did a few different designs, to keep me interested and also changed colours for a bit of variety.

Thank you cards 0 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon   Thank you cards 1 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
As soon as the Post Office was open, I darted down to buy some stamps and post my thank you cards…hoping that they would not get too caught-up in the late Christmas post.  I have already received some nice text messages saying thank you for the personalised cards.  This could start a contagious ‘wave of gratitude’ and don’t you think that would be simply wonderful? 

I will conclude this blog post by saying “thank you to you” for taking the time to read my posts this year…it is most appreciated…

Erin and James – Birth Pictures

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 😦 )

Michael – Boy’s Birth Picture, by Cora

I have been very lucky to receive some marvellous feedback about my work over the years and it’s lovely to feel that my illustrations have brought so much joy to the lives of others. I have kept a lot of the letters that I have received and they are like a little treasure trove of memories for me to reflect upon…

One of the younger people who appreciates my work, a very young lady called Cora, gave me this picture, which she drew especially for me.Michael cleaned up (forblog)
Cora mentioned that I am always drawing pictures of other people’s names, so she decided she would do me a birth illustration. Carefully researching what some of my favourite things are (from my leaflet and my blog), Cora drew me a giraffe, an owl, a ladybird, a butterfly and a nice little swarm of bees – a great combination of my favourite things. To add to this, my name is in purple, which is, of course, my very favourite colour. The M is for ‘monkey’ and ‘Michael’ and Cora has replicated some of my illustrations, which I thought was a very nice and flattering and thing to do.

Feeling very proud that I have inspired this young lady to do a drawing for me (which despite being very small and detailed only took her two-hours), I would like to publicly thank Cora for her kind gift. Thank you, Cora, it is much appreciated x

Giraffe – Mother and Baby Illustration

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.
Giraffes for blog
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…
Giraffe drawing by my Mum(cleaned up)

Elliot – Boy’s Birth Picture

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…
Elliot name(complete)forblogMy 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?

My Blog’s First Birthday!

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.  
1st-birthday
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).