The Harvesters…

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 Harvesters by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
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…

Newsletter No: 3 – January 2015

Welcome to a few thoughts and some items of my work in this newsletter for January; I hope you enjoy it…  I’ve been doing some work at my previous workplace, so I have been splitting my time between there and my base at home.  It’s been great being back with some of my special friends and colleagues, but a bit awkward at times balancing work priorities on occasions.  I’m sure I’ll cope {sigh}.

I’ve also had a very interesting and fun-filled time at a local school on the 14th of January.  I was asked to go and talk about ‘my life as an artist’.  The teachers and the children were a pleasure to speak to, as they asked me all sorts of questions about my life and work.  I then showed them some work in my portfolio case and also did a live demonstration, sketching and colouring a ladybird with coloured-pencils.  I was amazed when the children went to draw their ladybird pictures; they had really listened and studied the techniques that I had shown them.  It was a very special morning and I enjoyed both their company and their enthusiasm.  Their parents must be extremely proud of them, I know I would be…QNA Newsletter(2)September2014

Thoughts On – Thomas Lake

On my Facebook profile, I include a quote at the beginning of every week.  This week’s quote was inspired by a war quotation that I saw in Waterstones’ bookshop window in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The window had an array of books and items to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.  The quote struck me by it’s simple but profound message.  It was so thought-provoking that I scribbled it down in my notebook.  The writer’s wisdom speaks for itself in that, we, as humankind, need to remember our mistakes so we don’t repeat them.  It made me think that we have all been living on planet Earth for over two-thousand-years and there are still wars raging, people dying, orphans crying…
Remembrance week quote 11 - 16 November
The quote also made me think of one of my own brave relatives, Thomas Lake, who gave his life in the fight for freedom in the First World War.  I discovered this unknown relative when my friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson, began my Family Tree. As time wound on, I delved into the initial research that she had uncovered.  One of the strangest ‘finds’ Jennifer discovered was that our relatives had fought cheek-by-cheek on the blood-drenched battlefields of Ypres.  Both perished on the fields, where the poppies prospered, with Thomas being pronounced dead on the 2nd of December 1917.  His name is recorded at the Tyne Cot Memorial (Panel 108 to 111) and closer to home on the Burnopfield War Memorial in Tyne and Wear.  I was lucky to receive a photograph of Thomas from some Lake relatives, whom I had contacted whilst researching my family history.  There was also another photograph of Thomas standing with his widowed mother, Harriet, holding a British Star medal for bravery.  Unfortunately, someone has cut Thomas’ head off the photograph (possibly for a locket or a smaller picture frame), so the image was not worthy of being shown.

I am very proud of Thomas and his heroism and feel that he, and the men that fought alongside him, are very worthy of all of the recognition that they can be given.

It would be nice to think, that sometime in the future, that Edward Burke’s wise words were adopted and adhered to by all the people who inhabit and live upon this planet we share…
Thomas Lake for blogBurnopfield War Memorial December 2009for blogTLakenameonmemorialforblogThomas Lake medals received sheet
Picture 1: Lance Corporal Thomas Lake, with fellow soldiers.  Thomas is on the back row, in the centre.
Picture 2: The War Memorial at Burnopfield, Tyne and Wear.
Picture 3: Detail of Thomas Lake’s name on the memorial.
Picture 4: Details of the medals Thomas Lake received.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day…                Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

I would like to thank Jennifer A. Stephenson and Marie L. Smyth, for supplying me with the above information on my relative, Thomas Lake.

Scarlet Battalions – Nature Illustration

The corn or field poppy (papaver rhoeas) has always been one of my favourite flowers. Despite my favourite colour being purple, the poppy’s vivid scarlet colour is pleasing to my eye. A sight that always gladdens my heart is a field of corn poppies in full bloom. A number of years ago, a ‘field of scarlet’ appeared in my home village in County Durham. My Mum, Dad and the family dog, whilst going for a ramble, couldn’t resist but venture into the outskirts of the field. There’s something about nature that appeals to our inner souls and my camera!
Scarlet Battalions for blogDuring the Millennium celebrations, when I was staying in a lovely part of Los Angeles, I began working on the coloured-pencil illustration – using photographs I had taken on the day of the family walk. It was pretty intense work colouring all of those stems and leaves and not forgetting my ‘signature tune’ ladybird (pardon the pun, but can you spot it?). After what seemed a lifetime of drawing petals and stalks I finished the illustration, which was presented to my friend and former colleague, Helene, as a wedding gift.

This particular illustration has been on my mind this month with the centenary of the First World War and the associated imagery of poppies that is often evoked with the mention of Flanders Field. The title ‘Scarlet Battalions’ is also linked to the soldiers who fought so bravely for their countries and freedom. The inspiration for the illustration came from the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’.

The portion of the song that inspired me:

Tell her to find me an acre of land
(On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Washes the grave with silvery tears)

Between the salt water and the sea strand
(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Michael Quinlyn-Nixon Scarlet Battalions photoforblog
Michael, with the camera, taking shots for the ‘Scarlet Battalions’ illustration