Michael – my birth illustration…

My earliest and happiest childhood memories are of watching children’s television programmes, such as Sooty, Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.  But my all-time favourite was The Herbs…  Written by Michael Bond (the creator of Paddington Bear), the programme was also directed by the equally talented Ivor Wood.  The wonderful series of thirteen programmes featured a range of characters, each of which was the personification of a particular herb.  Originally released in the late 1960’s The Herbs, became very popular with little minds and still holds a ‘soft spot’ with many people now that they are a ‘wee bit older’.

You are probably wondering why I am taking you on a ramble of the Herb Garden, well it’s because with creating so many children’s birth illustrations that one of the younger admirers of my art said “Why don’t you do a birth picture for yourself?”  So, in a quiet moment I delved into my childhood past and plucked some Herbs from my memory to put in a personal drawing for myself…

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The illustration I created for myself, produced with coloured-pencils and watercolour paints.

The first herb I had to include was the rather grumpy, vexatious and rotund owl – Sage, who was by far my favourite of the characters, having loved owls from being a very small boy.  Secondly, I had to include the rather haute Lady Rosemary, who despite her rather frosty exterior has a heart of pure gold.  The main character from the programme Parsley, the very shy Lion, had to head the start of my name with his mane (there’s a bit of a word thing going on there, did you spot it?).  Then came the rather daft, tail-chasing Dill the Dog and the ‘overworked’ Gardener – Bayleaf.  Throw my ‘signature tune’ ladybird into the mix, along with a rare butterfly, a couple of bumblebees, a caterpillar and the magic word of “Herbidacious!” (to open the door to the herb garden) and the picture was complete…

You will notice that I have omitted the usual birthday details: day, year etc.  After all, who needs to know that I was born in 1988? 😉

George and Mildred – Bear-a-thought Illustration

As most of my good friends (and some of my clients) know I am a BIG fan of the British seventies sitcom ‘George and Mildred’ (1976-1979), starring the excellent pairing of Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy.  From being a small child, I would delight in watching this programme; obviously enjoying the slapstick comedy of it, as most of the innuendo would have gone straight over my head.  The one thing I do remember is Yootha’s facial expressions – her look of disdain was classic!

After watching this series for most of my life – I have got a real affection for the two actors who play the main characters and in particular Yootha.  I have even done a fair amount of research about her and have an autograph or two, as well.This teddy bear illustration, was created in July 2003 for my Bear-a-thought 2004 calendar.  I decided to feature this illustration on my blog this month as, unbelievably, it is the 40th anniversary of Yootha Joyce’s death this year.  On a happier note, August was also her birth month, so a doubly-good reason to feature my tribute to these characters.

My friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson created the wonderful outfits that ‘George’ and ‘Mildred’ are wearing in this picture.  We wanted to cover George in an almost Victorian style bathing suit, which belies his prudishness.  On the other hand, Mildred, is looking much more modern and slightly garish compared to her conservative husband.  I know Jennifer enjoyed dressing these two bears and we had fun working out what earrings to give Mildred (what to choose…sea anemones, giant daisies?).  We also had to throw in a bit of fake leopard print fabric for Mildred, as well as put her in a yellow top, which happened to be Yootha’s favourite colour.

Eagled-eyed readers may have noticed that I have set this picture in Whitby, which is one of my very favourite haunts.  I thought Blackpool was more ‘George and Mildred’, but in the end chose the Yorkshire coast.  I set up these characters on a quiet part of the beach to do the initial sketches, but as usual got a crowd of interested spectators around me, wanting to have their photograph taken with the bears.  Perhaps they thought that the message on the beach towel was an invitation 🙂

 Yootha Joyce, b: 20 August 1927 – d: 24 August 1980
Yootha was an animal lover and had many rescue dogs and cats in her home. 
I also know that she loved teddy bears too, so I do hope she would have liked this illustration.

Alfie-James – Boy’s 1st birthday illustration

I was very pleased when my friend, Marie, requested me to do a commission for her little boy. Alfie-James, who was celebrating his first birthday.  Marie and Alfie’s dad, Mark, wanted a dinosaur illustration to mark the occasion. I can hardly believe it’s been over a year since this adorable little chap was born, but time does have a habit of flying…(but only when you are having fun, I am reliably told).
Alfie-James illustration by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blogI always enjoy drawing the dinosaur characters, as these prehistoric creatures fascinated me when I was a child. I have recently become familiar with the parasaurolophus (I couldn’t spell that without checking it first in my dictionary!), which has a bone-shaped extension on the back of its head. It appealed to me and it was a herbivore too, so not one of them flesh-eating terrifying ones that chase all the humans in Jurassic Park!

I always like to include a stegosaurus and a triceratops, as I do have a ‘soft-spot’ for these two four-legged dinosaurs…  They always are the ones that seem to go about, minding their own business, when a hungry tyrannosaurus rex just happens to espy them!

Marie and Mark were delighted with the commission and it was a good opportunity to have a catch up with Marie when I handed the commission over to her; we enjoyed a cup of tea and a jolly good natter! What more could you ask for?

Rio – Dog Portrait

I can hardly believe this is my 100th blog post, how time flies!

It’s been a busy start to the year, which has seen me being fully occupied almost every minute. This is a good thing, in many ways, as the news is full of concerning headlines and it would have been more difficult for me if I hadn’t had things to keep me fully occupied.
Rio by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blogLast year, my friend, Mary Redshaw, requested me to do an illustration of her late pet – a beautiful greyhound, named ‘Rio’, whom she had obtained from a rescue centre.   Having re-homed Rio later in the dog’s life, Mary didn’t have a great deal of time to spend with her new greyhound, but that time was very enjoyable and special and Mary’s whippet,Tina, also loved her new companion.

They had some great times at Cullercoats beach and Mary has some stunning seascape photographs of the wonderful times they spent up there visiting Mary’s sister.

Illustrating black dogs can be a bit ‘tricky’ as very often there’s no shape or texture to the illustration; so to convey the beauty and the gentleness of the dog, as well as her texture, I made the drawing slightly more pastel, so the detail and expression can be seen. Mary is delighted with the pet portrait, which is now framed and displayed on the wall with all of Mary’s other beloved canine friends.

I always say the love of a dog is so unconditional; they don’t care what you look like or what you do for a living – they just show their belief and trust in you.

I think this is a very difficult time for all of us in our history and it is time now to have a belief and trust in each other at a time when it’s most needed.

Are you being rendered?

I don’t get a great deal of time to relax (not sure if many freelance artists do), but last week I sat down with a big mug of Ringtons’ tea and turned on the television set. Quite by chance, one of my favourite comedies was just coming on, ‘Are you being served?’, which was a popular programme airing between 1972 to 1985. I have always loved this comedy created by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, which featured a range of bizarre and quirky characters working in a department store by the name of Grace Bros.
Mollie Sugden by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
My favourite character was the multi-coloured hairdo owner, Mrs Slocombe – played by the wonderful comedy actress, Mollie Sugden (b:1922-d: 2009). Her facial expressions, ranging from scorn, disbelief to polite arrogance still amazes me and makes me laugh.

This programme is quite poignant to me, as I had drawn some quick pen and ink illustrations of three of the main characters for an advertising campaign, when I was working at the Cumbrian Gazette in Carlisle. I thoroughly enjoyed drawing Mrs Slocombe, “I’m FREE!” Mr Humphries (played by John Inman) and Captain Peacock (played by Frank Thornton). The publicity campaign went well…thankfully.

AreyoubeingservedbyMichael Quinlyn-Nixon forblog

But, years later I was to become personally acquainted with Mollie Sudgen, when I began my Bear-a-thought calendars in 2002. Can you imagine my delight when she confessed that she was a ‘fan’ of my teddy bears? I still have a cheque from Mollie Sugden, which I couldn’t cash in of course, because it was such a souvenir! Becoming a regular customer of my teddy bear-themed calendars over the years, Mollie ordered many for her family, but on one occasion she sent far too much money on the cheque.

Seeing her error and wanting to rectify it as quickly as possible, I rang her on her home telephone number in Surrey. Despite it being an atrociously bad connection, I had the most marvellous conversation with this very charming lady, who happened to be ‘smack bang’ in the middle of cooking preparations for her 80th birthday! I did not want the meals she was making to be ruined, so just had a quick call, but it was something that I will always remember with fondness. She later wrote me a letter, informing me that the meals were not ruined and she had not expected so many guests (her birthday being in July and people having arranged holidays), but to her great surprise a great many of the cast of ‘Are you being served?’ along with some of the cast of ‘The Liver Birds’ had attended.

Looking back, I do think Andy Warhol whilst doing those marvellous screen prints of movie icons Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor missed a golden opportunity with the character of Mollie’s Mrs Slocombe. Just look at this quick screen-print I have done – with all of those coloured coiffures. Mollie Sugden screenprints by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
Keep the lilac, Mrs Slocombe, I think it looks great…

Buster – Dog Portrait

The last couple of months of 2019 were extremely busy for me, as so many clients required commission work done at the latter part of the year. Luckily for me, most of my customers were quite happy to wait until the turn of the new year to get commission work done. I never rush an illustration and could not sell anything that hasn’t had the right amount of work that is required to complete it.

One of the commissions I managed to get done just in time for Christmas was a pet portrait of a beautiful spaniel, which had been called ‘Buster’. His owner, Wendy, from Consett, County Durham, had commissioned me to do a picture of their late beloved pet as a present for her husband, Rob.Buster for blog by MichaelQuinlyn-Nixon
It may sound quite strange, but I got the impression, when I was drawing Buster, that he was ‘speaking’ to me, as he had the most beautiful expressive eyes to draw! Quite honestly it was very easy to imagine he was communicating with me. He was a wonderful canine to illustrate, despite the complexity of working from photographs where the colour was not correct and having to employ computer techniques to alter the coloured photographs before the illustration could be started. Not the easiest task, but I was pleased that Wendy was pleased with the finished result.

Buster 2 for blog by MichaelQuinlyn-NixonI heard that Rob was also thoroughly delighted with his wife’s very thoughtful Christmas gift, and hearing that news was also a nice Christmas surprise for me.

I would like to wish all my clients and Blog readers a very happy 2020…

Gary and Oliver – Father and Son portrait

One of my friends, Mary Redshaw, has commissioned a great many illustrations from me, but this time it was her niece, Laura Stewart, who approached me to do an illustration for her husband as a Father’s Day gift. Gary and Laura became proud parents of Oliver last year and this picture shows the pride that Gary has in his wonderful son.

GaryandOliver by Michael Quinlyn-Nixonforblog(mono)

I have done numerous portraits in my time, but very few, if any, has given me as much joy to do as this one. I think the fascination for me is that the image has captured a special moment, as Oliver goes to greet his father who has lifted him up. The joy on Oliver’s face and his cute smile were wonderful to create.

As the photograph I was given to work from was black-and-white or mono, the best medium to use, for me, was graphite pencils. I chose a harder pencil, primarily 2H, as I didn’t want any part of the picture to be too dark or black. The picture is tender and emotional and I felt the pencils used to create this should reflect that. So, all the B pencils were banned from this commission!

GaryandOliver(sepia)by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog  Thank you, Laura, for allowing me to the share this special moment and to produce it in illustration form. I am very pleased to hear that Gary appreciated his Father’s Day gift and I hope Oliver was suitably impressed with it too 🙂 

Taffy – Dog Portrait

Taffy is a mischievous Welsh terrier who lives in Rhyl, Wales with Joyce and William. They are relations of my close friends Mary and Peter Lupton who commissioned me to do the drawing in honour of Joyce’s birthday.

Taffy who likes to be out for walks along the promenade – in all weathers – was, I have to admit a total delight to draw. Being the first Welsh terrier that I have ever drawn I was soon ‘under his spell’ as I worked away at him on my drawing board. So much so, that I was rather loathe to part with him when the time came.

I was very pleased to hear that Joyce was delighted with the present. saying, “It’s the best present I have ever had”.

  Mary scribbled on an envelope “I love the illustration, darling”, so that was a very satisfactory outcome as I had enjoyed every minute of creating Taffy on paper.

Doris Day – a portrait in stippling

This is going to be a bit of a heartfelt blog post, so you have been warned (in the nicest possible way)… I was very sad to hear the news of Doris Day’s passing just a couple of weeks ago on Monday, 13th May 2019. She has been my childhood and adult movie icon and the news of her death was a day that I really was not looking forward to. She lived to a good age and gave many people a lot of joy and laughter. She said she wanted her legacy to be her movies and for millions of people that is what they will remember.

Personally, I would like to thank Doris Day for all the letters I have received from her over the years (please see my earlier blog post for more details on that, as I don’t want to repeat myself to those who have already read it). I will treasure the letters and photographs that are in my possession and the wonderful memories that go with them. I was very touched by the amount of my friends who contacted me to ask how I was when the news of her death was announced. Thank you to all you who did that (you know who you are are).
Doris Day by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blogv2
My friend and colleague, Ashleigh Thompson, who is also a big fan of Miss Day’s movies and songs, asked me how I started writing to the Hollywood icon and I told her that I sent her some drawings back in the early 1980’s when I was little more than a child. When I got a reply from Doris Day, many weeks later, it was like winning the Lottery. She told me that she had auctioned off some of the portraits I had done for her (I can only imagine what they looked like way back then!) and that one of the buyers had been Frank Sinatra! I later thought he might have hung it in the garden shed, as my work was very ‘in its first flourish’ at the tender age of those very early portraits. The money raised from my drawings went, in her own words, to her ‘critters’ – the dogs and many other animals she took care of.

The illustration of Doris Day, above, was one of several movie star illustrations that I did for an exhibition (some of the other illustrations, such as Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly etc. have appeared on this blog on earlier postings). They were painstakingly done all in dots, which took many, many days to do, as ‘stippling by hand’ is not the quickest way to produce art. I gave the original illustration to one of my customers, Mr. Paul H. Spencer, who had been a lifelong fan of Doris Day. I knew it would be appreciated and cherished by him and it certainly is… There’s no better accolade for all the time and hours that have gone into a piece of art.

Doris Day by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blogv2  Doris Day, actress, singer, comedienne and animal welfare activist, b: 3 April 1922 – d: 13 May 2019