Post boxes (in a manner of thinking)…

If there are two things I love and cherish from my childhood it’s writing/posting letters and buying the stamps at the Post Office. My mum encouraged me with this (and it’s all her fault that I have no money because I am addicted to buying vast quantities of stamps!) and it has carried on into my adult life. Subsequently, I enjoy all of the new stamp issues released by the Royal Mail, as well as the range of definitive stamps (the different coloured ones, bearing the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II).

I still write letters frequently to my friends and even once a fortnight to one friend in Carlisle, who writes back the following week. This has continued for over twenty-years. Quite an accomplishment really, in these modern times of computers and e-mail, for those that think that writing letters is ‘a dying art’.

Demo man
It just so happened that my Dad, Robert, who is a carpenter and joiner, was making several wooden boxes for gifts and asked me if I could do some ‘art’ on them. One required a silhouette of a digger – with the legend ‘Demo Man’ on it and the others required postage stamps. I bought myself some sepia ink, which is guaranteed to be waterproof) to create the images on the wooden surfaces.

Well, I enjoyed doing the digger one, which was well received by Bob – the recipient, but I totally enjoyed doing the ones with the postage stamps depicted on them. I must admit it was a challenge painting Her Majesty’s portrait, as she is one person that I have admired throughout my life – as she is, in my opinion, a marvellous diplomat and head of state. I hope she likes my version of her portrait too. If so, I might even get a Royal commission one day.

I tried to make one of the portraits look like a silhouette done in marquetry (inlaid work made from small pieces of coloured wood or other materials, used for the decoration of furniture), whilst the other stamp portrait I did in the style of the Machin definitive stamps. The grain of the wood slightly changes the look of the images as it runs through them, but this makes it look so much more genuine.  However, doing the copperplate-style scrolls in the corners I have to say wasn’t quite ‘a barrel of laughs‘.

I have dated them as it’s a nice way of remembering the year they were given and it makes these unique storage boxes much more collectable for future generations to enjoy…

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The art of saying ‘thank you’…

I have a small number of very close and special friends, who send me Christmas presents.  I am a very lucky man in that respect.  I am told ‘friendship works both ways’ – basically you reap what you sow.  I have always put a good deal of effort into my friendships and I am very blessed to know some truly terrific people.  This 25th December I received another beautifully wrapped bundle of gifts, which included a purple jumper, a carved giraffe figurine, giraffe stationery (I am fond of giraffes) and some beautifully scented candles, amongst other things.

Thank you cards 2 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
On Christmas Day (I like to be on the ball) I had my delicious luncheon made by my mother, Carole, and immediately after doing the washing-up, I started making the thank you cards to send to my friends and family.  I had some coloured card and started sketching out a few ideas that would not be too time consuming.  I only had about 2-hours to complete and write out fifteen cards!  I also tried to make sure that the cards could easily be personalised.  I did a few different designs, to keep me interested and also changed colours for a bit of variety.

Thank you cards 0 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon   Thank you cards 1 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
As soon as the Post Office was open, I darted down to buy some stamps and post my thank you cards…hoping that they would not get too caught-up in the late Christmas post.  I have already received some nice text messages saying thank you for the personalised cards.  This could start a contagious ‘wave of gratitude’ and don’t you think that would be simply wonderful? 

I will conclude this blog post by saying “thank you to you” for taking the time to read my posts this year…it is most appreciated…

Potty about Beatrix…

From being a young boy my Mother’s family, the Lakes, bought me copies of the charming animal stories by Beatrix Potter, so I am very familiar with them.  I am particularly fond of Jemima Puddle-duck, Squirrel Nutkin and Hunca Munca from ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’. Since early childhood, I have also gathered a number of friends who also love this lady’s work, including Sara, who has a particular fondness for Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.  150-years-ago today, Beatrix Potter was born in London and in this commemorative year her characters and illustrations are being featured on Royal Mail stamps and Royal Mint fifty-pence coins.  So, it would seem an appropriate moment to mention a ‘Beatrix Potter’ inspired illustration that I was commissioned to do, whilst working in Carlisle, in April 1997.
SquirrelNutkin by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon

When I worked with Sara and many of my other friends, on such publications as Cumbria Life and the Cumbrian Gazette newspapers, I was often asked to produce illustrations for the advertisements or editorial features. On one occasion, I was asked if I could draw an illustration, which was to feature on an advertisement for a very prestigious and beautiful hotel in the Lake District – famous for the red squirrels that live in the grounds. The clients asked if I could do a red squirrel pencil or watercolour illustration on a Beatrix Potter theme. I was keen to try and immediately set to sketching some red squirrels in the delicate fashion of this famous lady that has inspired me for many years. I have in no way captured the beauty of her work (I had a very short deadline to do the illustration by, as it happens!) but at least I have tried to capture the essence of her unique style and flair.

After having seen her original watercolours work at the National Trust gallery in Hawkshead, Cumbria, I can only say that some of her work was so intricate and delicate that it left me speechless. I can only hope that Beatrix Potter would smile benignly on my ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ illustration, with a look that is both kind and favourable. I hope you like it too 🙂

Helen Beatrix Potter, English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist • Born: 28 July 1866 – Died: 22 December 1943

 

NB. Please note that the picture (above) is framed and this image shows some slight distortion caused by reflections on the glass.

It’s all about the Bard…

There’s much ado…this April, about one of England’s most famous writers – William Shakespeare. I have heard that there are new stamps being issued by the Royal Mail, which feature famous lines from his plays and the Royal Mint are also issuing three £2 coins, which feature the three main themes of his plays: comedies, histories and tragedies. Being an avid stamp collector I must look out for those…and perhaps those new shiny coins too…

Until a few days ago, I had been unaware that 2016 is the 400th anniversary of this well-known man, who is the most published author and the most performed dramatist of all time…

The Shakespeare Pub, Durham (watercolour painting - 12 August 2015forblog

It cannot have been my subconscious, but for some reason whilst walking around Durham, quite recently, I felt most inclined to do a quick watercolour sketch of the Shakespeare public house. I don’t normally have a free hour or so to sit down and paint (particularly in a busy city, as I don’t like crowds or an audience), but that’s just what I did. I didn’t have that much time to paint anything more than the fascia, but I did enjoy just doing something because I wanted to do it and not for a specific reason or for a commission. It seems appropriate to put this watercolour painting, of this popular public house, on my blog, in recognition of Mr Shakespeare…

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” The Tempest
William Shakespeare, English poet, playwright and actor
Baptised: 26 April 1564 – Died: 23 April 1616