Stan & Ollie – Bear-a-thought Illustration

I am excited about going to see the ‘Stan and Ollie’ film released in the United Kingdom today, which is based on the lives of the actors and comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  It stars actors Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in the respective roles.  It reminded me of a teddy bear illustration that I did of the famous black-and-white comedy duo many years ago…
stan & ollie by michael quinlyn-nixon for blogb
Whilst working on one of my teddy bear calendar themes, in 2003, I came up with the idea of famous bears and made a list of the many characters that I like, that are very recognisable by their costume or attire.  The list was very long, but some suggestions had to be scrapped and a smaller list compiled.  One of the suggestions on the list that appealed to me was Laurel and Hardy.  I had a discussion with Jennifer A. Stephenson, my friend who kindly made the outfits and other paraphernalia for the teddy bears, and she was also drawn to the idea of Laurel and Hardy too.  

In deference to the comedy duo’s fine slapstick humour, we decided to dress them in dungarees (rather than their formal black suit and ties), but, of course, we had to include the bowler hats and their distinctive neckties.  To go along with the dungarees, we created a decorating scenario with ladders, wallpaper and paint (my father, Robert, kindly made the ladders and toolbox).  Luckily one of Jennifer’s friends, the late Pat Holmes (nee Boustead – a well-known singer in the County Durham area) was decorating her home at this time, so this proved to be the ideal place in which to create our ‘Hollywood film set’. 

As it happened, shortly after the photographs were taken and the sketches were drawn, we disassembled the scene and I slipped and spilled the whole pot of banana custard coloured paint all over the floorboards.  Pat wasn’t too annoyed, as she was planning on a carpet anyway, but she could have easily used Oliver Hardy’s famous quote and stated, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”.

I remember watching Laurel and Hardy when I was young and they always made me laugh with their funny and inoffensive humour.  Stan Laurel (b: 1890 – d:1965) was my favourite, as I loved the way he scratched his head when perplexed, but Oliver Hardy (b: 1892 – d:1957) had the most amazing face, which was full of disbelief one minute and wreathed in wonderful smiles the next.

When I was a little boy, I remember my Grandfather Lake telling me that Stan Laurel had lived in County Durham for a while, but that he had been born in Cumbria.  Both of these English counties have tributes to these two wonderful men who brought so much joy to so many people’s lives.

The illustration ‘Stan & Ollie’ was started on 18 April and completed on the 5 May 2003.

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Festive Foods (In a Jar)…

As part of my current weekly teaching role I have to find ideas and inspiration for session plans, which often come from friends and colleagues. One of my former colleagues suggested doing ‘reindeer noses in a jar’ and this set my creative mind aflame. The ‘reindeer noses in a jar’ I had seen in the past were just made up of a strip of brown felt around the outside of an empty jam jar, onto which were stuck goggle-eyes and a red furry nose.

reindeerheadsunfinishedby-michael-quinlyn-nixon   reindeerheadscompleteby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
The reindeer heads take shape and are temporarily stored on a lampshade.

Probably setting it as a challenge too far, I considered the possibility of creating a reindeer-shaped head out of felt and then attaching that to the jar (with a piece of ribbon) and then decorating it with facial features. So, getting out my recycled pieces of cardboard I started drawing reindeer heads onto pieces of brown and fawn coloured felt and getting busy with the scissors…

decoratedjarsby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
The jars are washed and decorated in various festive ribbons.

After cutting some heads out of felt (and attaching them to a lampshade so I didn’t lose them), I got busy cleaning jars and choosing ribbon (tartan was a nice choice, and another that looked like chocolate balls) to attach to the outside of the jars.

The rest, I am sure, is self-explanatory: adding in the facial features etc, but some of the ones in the class were given red fuzzy noses, which also gave them an extra 3D feel. You can see the results, below, which only took me a few hours. Hope they are popular with the buyers at the Christmas Fair… Watch this space…

 reindeernosesjarsby-michael-quinlyn-nixon
Finally, the jars are finished and filled with confectionery, with one chocolate ball covered in red foil, to represent Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Thank you to those who have followed my blog in the last year (or earlier), I hope you will continue to view my posts in 2017.  Happy New Year to you all 🙂