It seems many, many years ago that I was working on this ‘When autumn leaves start to fall’ illustration. All of the Bear-a-thought illustrations take me right back to the time I was drawing them. This was an illustration that appeared in my 2006 calendar and was inspired by a famous song performed by the immortal Nat King Cole.
I was chatting to a good friend recently who mentioned the song and I thought that this illustration would make a very good blog post this month. I have to be honest and say that I have a bit of a ‘downer’ about November and it’s my least favourite month, as I dislike being plunged into the dark days of autumn at the end of October.
In this illustration, I have tried to show November at it’s best with golden leaves and azure blue skies. I chose one of my new teddy bears, named Raymond, for the illustration as I just thought he was so appealing in his blue duffle coat and I loved illustrating the cord buttons on his coat that are keeping him warm from the autumn chills. I also really enjoyed drawing the golden-leafed oak tree in the background and I do remember putting some shapes in amongst the foliage. I think there was a heart, a gingerbread man and a goldfish to name a few, though looking at the illustration now I can’t see them.
The leaves that our lovely little bear is bouncing on were quite difficult and rather monotonous to draw, but I wanted to give them the appearance of looking dry, brittle and ‘crackly’; the kind of bone-dry leaves you cannot resist running through and then watch them being whisked-off by the cool autumn breezes…
Autumn leaves of red, orange and brown, to the ground come fluttering down.
Raymond jumps to catch them as they fall, from the trees above – so big and tall.
It’s almost scary that I drew this pen and ink drawing (later to be coloured with watercolours) almost 21 years ago. I see that the completion date was ‘St. Ursula’s Day’ (which is the 21 October), so it’s almost ‘come of age’ this drawing in many ways than one. I have done a number of book illustrations like this one over the years, but most of them I’ve sadly forgotten, but not this one. This one takes me right back to the years when I was doing a lot of art, whilst also working hard in the world of newspapers…
The reference material was largely my own photographs, as I can remember photographing these scarlet poppies which were growing in my family village of Tanfield (for those of you who know that area, it’s one of the fields on the industrial estate – opposite the sign to Tanfield Railway). It was a gorgeous day and I was spending it with some of my family, Carole, Robert and Kirk.
This illustration took quite a long time to do, with the blurry effect behind the mice and the poppies in the foreground being the most time consuming. I really enjoyed putting the details on the faces of the mice as they climb upon and nibble the swaying wheat. When I actually spied some harvest mice I could not believe that they were so small; I also wanted to make sure that my trademark ladybird was not out of proportion with these tiny and elusive rodents.
I was rather taken aback by the popularity of this illustration and was delighted when it was reproduced as a greeting card and as one of the summer month illustrations in a rather classy calendar. The original piece of artwork was purchased by Mr Alistair Thompson, from Scotby in Carlisle, after he saw it displayed at an exhibition. I wonder if it’s still hung upon the living-room wall of his beautiful home to this present day…
This post is about things that go ‘bump in the night’. No, it’s not really. It’s about an illustration that I produced from some photographs and sketches that I did in the garden. I spied this wizard bear (which I thought was rather like an ursine version of Harry Potter) in a local shop. I named him ‘Hector’ and could tell that he would make a cute illustration for the calendars and cards I was producing. Selecting an autumnal part of the garden (luckily it was autumn), and with the addition of some specially selected branches and leaves – of gold and vermilion – I set the scene.
This drawing was quite difficult, as after drawing nine blades of grass in minute detail I start to go a bit stir-crazy. I have even seen me go to the kitchen sink and wash a pile of dishes, rather than draw and shade one more blade of grass… The wizard’s gown and hat were quite an ordeal too, as the gold dot, moon and star pattern kept getting tarnished by the ultramarine and indigo blues surrounding them.
I loved the jack-o’-lantern and pumpkin that I used in the picture. I ordered them especially for this illustration from a up-and-coming teddy bear company in America. In fact, I liked them that much that I purchased several of them to get the very one I wanted. I realise a lot of people look at my illustrations, some with disinterest (you can’t please everyone), but others say ‘That’s nice’, without realising the amount of hours – setting the scene – dressing the bear – finding the props – and then the laborious hours spent at the drawing board. However, during the time I was creating the teddy bear illustrations there were a number of customers, who would point out certain details, saying ‘The details here is marvellous, do you incorporate photography into your illustrations?’ Comments like that made all of the hours spent drawing a lawn, or whatever, seem SO worthwhile.
I dedicated this picture to my friend, Tracey A. Dixon, who greatly appreciated it, so much so, that I believe she owns the original illustration and Hector too!
May this night the ghosts be seen,
On the feast of Hallowe’en.
Don’t be worried if they’re there,
Remember you’re a big brave bear!