Dina, pronounced ‘Dinah’, is my fourth Doberman Pinscher illustration for Mary Redshaw. I have known Mary from my time working at a tertiary college and she has always had a love of dogs, particularly Doberman Pinschers, and during the last five-years I have drawn a succession of Mary’s beautiful dogs: Gina, Tia, Della and now Dina.
For some reason, I always had a soft spot for Dina and despite the fact that she could be as mischievous as her sister, Della, I never wanted Dina to get the blame. I never got to meet Mary’s ‘girls’ apart from once, when I met Dina and took her and Mary’s whippet, Tina, for a walk. Dina was, by now, quite an ‘old girl’ and was having difficulty with her breathing and her walking was impaired, but despite all of this she had a beautiful nature and was a perfect companion for Mary and the spritely young whippet.
I drew this commission after having looked at hundreds of photographs that Mary had taken of Dina; together we chose the one that we liked the best and that reflected her gentle nature. Using coloured pencils, chalk and a small amount of watercolour paint the illustration was completed in just over two-days. Mary asked if it would be possible to include my ‘motif’ of a ladybird, so that was included near my signature and is the first time I have done this for a pet illustration.
I handed over the commission to Mary today and she was very ‘moved’ and said that I had captured Dina’s expression and character very well. It’s always nice to be able to see the expression in people’s faces when I hand over my work to them. One of Mary’s friends came to her house later in the afternoon and recognised Dina.
Mary is soon to get Dina framed and hung on the wall with her other canine friends, a collection of illustrations and photographs and memories that mean so much to her in more ways than one…
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 always love this time of year, when you know spring is ‘just around the corner’. The days start to lengthen and the mornings are much lighter (so not quite as difficult to get out of bed at 7 o’clock) and one’s heart is gladdened.
It’s at this time of year, that I always notice a large clump of snowdrops, which grow on a bank in Burnopfield, not far from my parents’ home. They have cheered my heart on many a winter day.
My longtime friend and former colleague, Mildred, has a great love of snowdrops and they have a very special meaning for her. I think she was the inspiration behind this drawing, which also featured a beautiful white bear. My friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson created a beautiful jade-green cape or cloak, for the bear, which I named ‘Sophie’.
I photographed the bear in situ but was very careful not to crush the delicate white blooms on the drooping flowers. As usual, I waited until the road was quiet of traffic and set up the scene. Then, as usual, a fleet of buses or a group of cyclists go by and all stop and stare at me, as I do some sketching and take some hasty photographs. The same thing happened on this occasion, which is always very embarrassing for me. I wouldn’t put myself through these torturous ordeals if it is not for the fact that I want to get the effects of shadow and light correct on the bear etc.
This illustration, like many of them, was time consuming, as the amount of snowdrops could not be rushed. I felt I was well on my way to breaking the record of how many snowdrops could be drawn in the one picture.
‘Sophie in Snowdrops’ appeared in my 2006 Bear-a-thought calendar and the finishing touches on this illustration were completed whilst I was watching a repeat of the original ‘Dad’s Army’ movie on television. It’s strange the memories of doing these illustrations recall…
I have had an influx of dog portrait enquiries over the last month and because of my other commitments I have had to turn most of them down or put them on the ‘back-burner’ until next year. There may be just enough time to illustrate a Labrador and a Border Collie before Christmas however…
My latest dog illustration was a commission from a friend and former colleague, Andrea, who I worked with many years ago. Andrea has the most beautiful golden Cocker Spaniel, called Hugo, and she had been wanting an illustration of him for quite some time. So, in August, we took him to a local beauty spot called The Derwent Walk where we took some photographs of him enjoying a run in the summer grass. From the selection of photographs one was selected to create the illustration from…which you can see below…
I met Andrea and handed over the illustration and I am pleased to say that she and her husband, Tony, are both delighted with it and that ‘Hugo’ has now gone to the picture framers. It’s very special to think that I have created an illustration of a beloved pet that will be enjoyed for many years to come. I also hope that Hugo thinks I have done him justice – especially those gorgeous golden curly ears of his 🙂
I’ve done quite a few birth names now and have done a few varities of names too, but a new name often comes my way; one that I like and one that also makes me keen to get on with the illustration request.
The name Penelope is a nice Greek name and a friend I had called that told me that the name relates to a Greek story about a lady who was famed for weaving a never-ending tapestry whilst waiting for her love to return from a long voyage.
The client, in this case, didn’t want a weaver but did want lots of dalmatians (I couldn’t fit on one-hundred-and-one), which happens to be my favourite breed of dog.
I started off with the pencil sketches and soon realised that no matter how I drew the young dalmatians they were going to look so like Walt Disney’s no matter how hard I tried. Walt Disney has rather cornered the market on Disney films, making both the cartoon and film version, which featured Glenn Close.
I wanted the Dalmatian pups to interact with the letters and tried each one in different positions before settling on the final version. The colour chosen for the letters was yellow and this was very complementary to the black and white of the dogs. Once the puppies were all drawn in I added a slipper, some balls of wool and a mouse. A woodpecker flew into my garden as I was working on the sketch, and seeing as the colour of it was so similar to the dogs I thought it would be nice to include it.
The client loved the final illustration and I hope you do too…
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.
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
I’ve drawn many teddy bears over the last twenty-years (I think the actual number was way over a hundred), but some of them mean so much more to me than others. It’s not just to do with the finished illustration, more often it’s the memories created from setting up the drawing, or something significant that happened when working on the final piece of artwork.
‘On the Beach’, which was completed on 20 August 2002, is one of my very favourite illustrations from the 2004 Bear-a-thought calendar. I love the bear, which was drawn in the illustration; he is called Augustus. I ‘discovered’ him in a frosted window of a local shop, as I rushed home on a cold winter’s evening after a long day at work. He stopped me in my tracks, to be honest and even though I was cold and tired I had to go and buy him. He has since become one of my most popular teddy bear models, to the point where many customers of my cards and calendars know him by name!
This illustration was created from drawings, photographs and sketches done on a beach at South Shields. The weather was lovely and I walked a long way along the beach to find somewhere secluded and private to set up my tableau of bear, deckchair, bucket and spade etc. It never fails to amaze me that no matter how private I try to be when setting up these ‘scenes’, that people seem to come from nowhere and find me. Such was the case on this day; no sooner had I got the little scene arranged, I could see people heading towards me across the dunes, looking a little bit like ants in the distance. Some people skirt around and take an inquisitive glance at what I am doing, whereas other people will come up and say ‘what’s going on with this bear then?’. The latter happened on this occasion, and I met a lovely couple with twin babies, who asked if they could have their photograph taken with the little scene that I had created. They turned out to be customers of mine, which saved a great deal of explanation about what I was doing. Others followed in their wake, and by the time I was ready to do my sketches the tide was nearly upon me! I had to move the whole scene for fear of it being washed away to sea.
This drawing also makes me smile because of the special memories and the fact that Augustus is wearing one of the first pair of shorts worn by my niece, Alishia. I also must confess to cheating with the ice cream too, which was in fact a dollop of mashed potato. The seagulls were very interested in that and I had to defend my little scene from being flapped apart by the sound of rampaging wings. So, as you see – being a teddy bear artist is definitely not for the shy or faint-hearted.
‘On the Beach’ is dedicated to the late and great Yootha Joyce, who I had a great admiration for. I later found out that she loved teddy bears (I hadn’t known that at the time), so I hope she would approve of my dedication.