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.
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.
I 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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
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).
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, actress, singer, comedienne and animal welfare activist, b: 3 April 1922 – d: 13 May 2019
I am always delighted when a customer returns to me for another commission. It is an endorsement and validation that they appreciate the style and quality of my work and are happy to commission you to do another piece of artwork for themselves or a loved one.
Last year, Mrs Angela Rose had commissioned me to create a birth illustration for a young relative, with a collection of dinosaurs. On this more recent occasion, she requested me to create a portrait illustration of her daughter’s two West Highland Terriers: Milly and Harper. I prefer to take photographs of pets myself, whenever possible, so I went around to do a photoshoot of the two canine characters. Both of these two dogs were in a rather soporific mood on a hot July day that they needed to look their best for the camera. They were both very well groomed, but their sleepy moments were interspersed with bouts of running, racing and jumping, as Mrs Rose’s daughter, Amy, and myself strived to keep them awake whilst I took numerous photographs.
I have to say that both Milly and Harper were adorable in different ways, but I have a ‘soft-spot’ for Harper who gently raised her nose to touch mine whilst introductions were being made.
The illustration took a number of days to complete and required a background of fawn and soft browns to make Milly and Harper stand out. Whenever I am drawing ‘white’ dogs I am amazed to discover all of the different colours that go to make up the fur. These colours can include a range of browns, creams and fawns to name a few.
I handed over the finished commission to Mrs Rose and her husband, Ian, and they commented that the illustration was “spot on” and that Amy would be delighted with her personal and unique commissioned illustration.
I later heard that Amy was delighted and the commission will soon be displayed on her living-room wall. Thank you to the Roses and my other clients who return to me time-and-time-again for illustrations – it is very much appreciated.
Ingrid Bergman, Actress, b: 29 August 1915 – d: 29 August 1982
I remember watching movies starring Ingrid Bergman from being a child. I recall seeing her afraid of her husband’s suspicious behaviour in one black-and-white movie and the suspense it created within me. In all of her movies she seemed to possess a striking complexion of an almost luminous quality. I think there were very few actresses that had ‘that look’.
I’ve seen Ingrid Bergman, mostly, in the film ‘Casablanca’ with Humphrey Bogart and her flawless features, along with the famous line…”Of all the gin joints, in all the towns…” is one of the most memorable aspects of the movie.
Of course, I’ve seen many more of her movies, including ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ (1945), with Bing Crosby; ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ (1964), with its all-star cast and her very memorable characterisation of a children’s missionary worker in Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (1974).
This portrait of Ingrid Bergman, created by using very small dots, was done by-hand and took many hours of patient and careful work. It was one of a number of movie star portraits that were featured in a small, private exhibition in Liverpool. The feedback of the portraits was very good, at a time when I was just trying new techniques. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I couldn’t quite bring myself to sell the majority of the pen-and-ink originals…
After I had typed all of the information, above, I looked up the name ‘Ingrid’ which is a Scandinavian name, derived from Old Norse. One of the interpretations of the name is ‘Beautiful and Fair’. With regard to Ingrid Bergman, it really couldn’t be more accurate…
Grace Kelly, Actress, b: 12 November 1929 – d: 14 September 1982
Grace Kelly is arguably one of the most iconic of movie stars and still retains a magical quality that matched her later life as a princess. There is so much beauty in her face, which strangely combines both strength and vulnerability. The movie ‘Grace of Monaco’, starring Nicole Kidman, is released today and reminded me of a portrait that I had done of Grace Kelly ‘many moons ago’.
I drew this mono-pointillism (building the picture up by-hand with very small dots of ink) illustration in the early 1990’s, because I was amazed at the quality of this photograph of Grace. This illustration was framed along with several other portraits of movie stars, that I had drawn applying this drawing technique. They were exhibited on a rather grand staircase in Liverpool. One of the viewers later told me that she thought I had, somehow, captured the essence of Grace’s haunting beauty in the picture and that she had been moved to tears when she saw it. It’s comments, such as these, that made all of those long hours, doing dot-after-dot, so very worthwhile…