Take a letter…or seven…

I have lovely childhood winter memories of sitting around a roaring open fire playing Scrabble with my mother, father and siblings when I was a little boy.  I am sure my selection of words was very limited, but it was such a good game to learn about new words and how to spell them.  It wasn’t until I was older that I played with the Triple Letter/Word Score and learned how to use the letters Q and Z (the letters with the highest score points) to my advantage.  From once being very reluctant to get these letters, I do love to get them now as they are a great challenge and can often help win the game ‘hands down’.

Scrabble box26forblog by Michael Quinlyn-NixonSorting out some of my clutter last year, in my never ending quest to get a tidy study, I noticed that my old Scrabble boxes were looking very careworn, fragile and shabby, but luckily my Dad came to my rescue (being a carpenter and joiner) and created two new wooden boxes to store my cherished games.

Of course, I needed to add my own input to these fine wooden boxes, and rather like the storage boxes last year, I decided to decorate the two boxes with my own designs.  So, after thinking long and hard, I did a different design for each box, with a little theme for each.  I chose some of my favourite things to decorate the boxes and decided to paint one with maroon figures and letters and the other brown (one of my Scrabble games has maroon letter tiles and the other has wooden).  As I play the game with younger relatives I kept the words on the box shorter, knowing things like ‘kaleidoscope’ and ‘telecommunications’ would take a frightful lot of space!

Included images on the box are things that I love, such as a quill, pocket-watch, stamp, giraffe, squirrel, owls, swan, and a deer… (oh, and my trademark ladybird!).

I am sure the eagle-eyed readers amongst you will be able to see some kind of pattern or theme to the maroon box, but if you can’t, I suggest you ‘start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’…  Have you worked it out yet?

Thank you for reading my blog...

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?

Getting the right identity…

As well as doing a great deal of illustration work throughout the year, I also do a fair share of graphic design work in the form of logotypes, corporate identity and stationery.

Over the years I have enjoyed doing some special projects for amazing people who are taking that ‘quantum leap’ and setting up a new business enterprise. I have also enjoyed the creative aspect of coming up with ideas and solutions for people and meeting their design criteria for their new venture.

Below are some examples of corporate identity work that I have done, which include a ‘Cloudburst’ logo and stationery for a special lady and former colleague, Jan Cook who was setting up a business as a virtual assistant.Cloudburst stationery by Michael Quinlyn-Nixonhttps://www.facebook.com/jancookwillsandtrusts/?eid=ARB8DIuMEtrh53z1V4Yllk4rEgHqZebDCbWAfR4vGd05zOTqfFHQAWuuuimMONo_4IzuAc7UkUFhQd_M&timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=100001141355701&fref=tag

Another example, for a very different enterprise, was for ‘Bark ‘n’ Groom’, a dog grooming company owned by another friend and former colleague, Lucie Dixon.
Bark 'n' Groom graphics by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
https://www.facebook.com/barkngroom.doggrooming.stanley/https://www.facebook.com/barkngroom.doggrooming.stanley/

And even more recently I have done a logotype and corporate stationery theme for a lady called Helen Thompson, who has set up a new company called ‘Health & Quality’, which resulted in some special pearlescent business cards. This was a very interesting project, as both a name and a ‘look’ was required by the client, as well as a subsequent illustration of a hummingbird, which I researched and illustrated.
Health & Quality graphics by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blogHummingbird colour by Michael Quinlyn-NixonHummingbird mono by Michael Quinlyn-Nixonhttps://www.facebook.com/hummingbirdHT/

Getting the right identity for your business is crucial…and it is so important to give yourself enough time to get it right.  A number of clients ask me, ‘how long does it take to get a logo?’ and my answer is always ‘it can be as long as a ball of string’…

Easter cards – made with love…

This is my 101st blog post, so by rights it should include some dalmatians, but it doesn’t. It’s more about rabbits.

When I get that rare luxury called ‘free time’ I love to read, but if I have more free time than time to just read, I do like to make handmade cards, but this is quite rare these days with more commissions and so many other concerns and worries that the world seems to be throwing at us all at the moment!Eastercardsby Michael Quinlyn-NixonforblogHowever, putting the world issues to one side, I recently found these handmade cards that my youngest niece, Cora and myself made a few years ago, before my middle sister and her family moved to California. Most Saturdays my sister and my two nieces would come over for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and Cora and I would either play Cluedo (my very favourite board game) or make cards.

Cora has a natural talent for card making and crafts and together we fashioned some cardboard templates and found some nice gingham paper backgrounds and things that would be suitable for Easter cards and we got to work. Quite quickly we could produce a good few cards and then put on the wording and the features of the rabbits’ and chicks’ faces.

Easter is my favourite time of year and although this Easter has been anything but usual or expected, I have still found time to enjoy this special time of year and the odd one or two pieces of chocolate eggs.

There’s nothing like an Easter egg, unless of course you can have two…

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…

Poinsettias – Bear-a-thought Illustration

This Bear-a-thought illustration was produced for my 2003 calendar, which featured a hug of delightful bears amongst the nationally recognised flowers of the month. With it being December, I was left to choose either Britain’s native holly or Mexico’s flame-like poinsettia. So, because I didn’t want the bear in question, that was sitting next to the plant, to be prickled I wisely chose the poinsettia.

Poinsettias by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

The white bear, named Michael (a rather charming name, if I say so myself) is getting ready for Christmas and enjoying the colour and brightness of the Poinsettia, with a candle in the form of a duck. I remember drawing this illustration very vividly and enjoying drawing the patterned material that the bear is sitting on (which also has a bit of holly in the pattern).

I have chosen this drawing especially for this December blog post, as December is the birth month of two friends, Dawn, a former work colleague and Peter, who is a very avid collector of some of the world’s most beautiful bears. So as well wishing a Merry Christmas to all my readers, I would like to wish a very special birthday to these two very special people…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all…

Dormice – Nature Illustration

November is not my favourite month of the year; being plunged into an hour’s extra darkness at the end of October makes me miss the sunlit days of spring and summer (well the ones that actually are sunlit).

On dark, dismal and dank November days, I very much envy the dormice who snuggle themselves away in the comparative warmth of nests, freshly lined with straw, soft grass, moss and downy bird feathers. I feel to sleep away the darker months would be a jolly good reason to become a dormouse, IF I had the chance that is.Dormice by Michael Quinlyn-NixonforblogThe line illustration, above, was drawn by me as a very young student at Cumbria Institute of the Arts, in Carlisle, for a book that someone was producing. They required a small picture of a dormouse or dormice for a nature book and they required it very quickly. I was very pleased to be the one that was chosen to illustrate it. Although the book and the client are now long forgotten in my memory, I do remember drawing the dormice amidst the bramble leaves and dead oak leaves that create the roof of their straw nest. I’m not quite sure why one of the dormice is cosy and warm in the nest – snuggled in the leaves – whilst the other seems to be fiddling around with a nut, but maybe he is bringing the other one a gift after a quarrel.

I suppose if I were to hibernate for the winter, I would not be awake for Christmas and for the usual hustle and bustle of one of the busiest times of the year; I WOULD miss the queues and the crowds and my bank balance would stay healthy. Oh, the more I think of it, the more I WANT to be a dormouse – the lucky wee things 🙂 .

Cary Grant – a portrait in stippling

I have to say that this has been a very busy month for me, with commissions and college work and so much more… However, on a rare moment of relaxation, I sat down with my movie retro magazine and delved into the pages. I have always been a classical movie buff and one of the pictures featured a young and very debonair Cary Grant with his friend, Randolph Scott in their shared home in Santa Monica. I do like some movies with Cary Grant starring in them, one being ‘That Touch of Mink’ with Doris Day and also ‘Charade’ with Audrey Hepburn, but one of the best by far is ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ with Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.
Cary Grant for blog by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
The film features the quirky (to say the least) Brewster family, which has a lineage of insanity. The young freshly-married Mortimer, played by Grant, returns home to announce his betrothal to his two maiden aunts.   Far from being the ‘sweet faded roses’ that the two aunts appear to be, they are in fact taking it upon themselves of ‘ridding’ the town of sad, old men with little to live for – in fact killing them with kindness. Mortimer finds one of their most recent ‘mercy killings’ hidden in the house and tries to keep it all from the notice of his new and pretty wife, who probably wouldn’t understand.

Into the midst of this family chaos, Mortimer’s shady brother, Jonathan, comes to the house with the equally dubious Doctor Herman Einstein, as they flee capture for their foul deeds…and mayhem ensues throughout the rest of the movie…

The film is a black comedy, but has enough mirth and slapstick humour to keep the ghoulish acts of the aunts and brother Jonathan to a minimum, so even the most squeamish of souls can enjoy the humour…  And when it comes to squeamish, believe me, I am the worst!

Cary Grant, actor, b: 18 January 1904 – d: 29 November 1986

Many, many years ago, whilst living in Carlisle, I did a series of movie star illustrations, all done in the form of stippling. Cary Grant was one of the movie stars I illustrated. I chose a very familiar ‘Cary pose’ – a most debonair, suited gentleman.