Birds of a Feather – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Those of you who regularly read my blog posts will know that I have a little quirk about same double-digit numbers, such as 11, 33 and especially 88. This is very much an ‘88 blog post’, as this is in fact my 88th blog post on this WordPress site and the topic is one of my teddy bear illustrations, which happened to be my 88th teddy bear illustration. As if that wasn’t sufficient amount of 88’s, this (for you who are into dates) is the 88th day of the year. So, it’s 88.88.88!Birds of a feather by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog)This illustration, which is one of my very favourite illustrations that I created, was partly inspired by one of my friends and former work colleague, John W. Hall, who sadly passed away a number of years ago. John was a ‘pigeon man’ and loved his racing pigeons, one of which ‘Jeff’ is proudly displayed in the picture. I always remember he would ask me weeks in advance if the calendars were ready to purchase and he was ALWAYS the first person to buy several when they were available, closely followed by our friend Dawn Logan. John was very proud of my work and I remember that fact with a glowing pride. The very talented South African bear artist, Ingrid Els, kindly allowed me use of one of her furry creations to depict in the picture and he is ideally suited to the theme wearing his cloth cap and dungarees… The backdrop of the illustration was sketched in the gardens of the miners’ cottages at Beamish Museum, which is a living museum, based in Stanley, County Durham.

So, as you can see, the young bear in this picture is a local lad to the North East in more ways that one. With his pigeon cree and his flight of pigeons and his copy of The Evening Chronicle this teddy bear is set for a good day… The pigeon clock belonged to John and much to my surprise had been made almost to the day of my birth! That was such a surprising find, when I pondered over it whilst doing the sketches for the illustration. If you look closely you can see that his pigeon has even featured on the front page of the newspaper. And, if you look even more closely (as one of my readers noticed just recently), you can see that the number 88 is featured on the front page too!

People often ask me if I enjoyed colouring all the bricks, the honest answer is yes, as I like doing repetitive tasks, but this does not include drawing thousands of blades of grass! Oh, dear me, no…

BirdsofaFeatherprint(signed)byMQuinlynNixonforblog  The ‘Birds of a Feather’ illustration took a few weeks to complete and was finished on the 29th September 2007.  It is dedicated to John W. Hall. He was a good friend, a loving husband to his wife Jasmin, a loving father to his two daughters Debbie and Nicola and a loving grandfather to his grandchildren, of whom he was so proud. The original illustration now belongs to them…

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The pelican brief – sketches

It’s lovely when something inspires you to draw it, rather than being forced by financial hardships or monetary gain to draw something that you like, but might not necessarily want to spend hours and hours painting.
Pelicansketches by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon
On a recent weekend trip to the beautiful city of London, I had a wander around the Marylebone area and found myself traipsing (leisurely) through Regent’s Park. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and already the trees were showing signs of the coming spring. I was both amazed and delighted that there were so many people using the park – many of them dog owners giving their canines some exercise. There were a great many families too and a lot of young and youngish men walking with their children; single parents spending precious time with their son or daughter.

But the one thing I didn’t expect to see was a rather large pelican. I was standing on a little bridge looking at the spire of St. Mark’s Church across on the other side of the river (it reminded me of a church in Stanley, County Durham), when I turned to see a pelican in very close proximity to me. He (or she) looked friendly enough, but it is rather disconcerting to turn around and see a large bird with an enormous bill hovering behind you! Question: What did it want? Answer: I will never know as it soon wandered off on its travels. I expect it was just having a little lookout from its home at London Zoo. It was nice that that little scene on the bridge made people smile as they passed or jogged on by – I wonder if they thought we came as a pair!

So, that large and friendly feathery white fowl, inspired me to do some sketches of a pelican for a pelican brief I have acquired, (though nothing to do with the 1993 movie starring Julia Roberts). Although the final illustrations will not be ‘true to life’ (more cartoon or graphic forms of art), these studies are a good way of getting ‘familiar’ with a subject, which in-turn will assist with the consequent drawings to be done…

“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”
Poem by Dixon Lanier Merritt (b:1879–d:1972)

Doris Day – A Portrait

Doris Day, Actress and Singer, b: 3 April 1924

I’ve always been a huge fan of old movies (particularly the black-and-white ones) and even at a young age knew a great many of the movie stars’ names. My parents were always clued-up to ‘who was who’ in the classic films, and I probably gained my interest from them.

Doris Day1 by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog

The ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ produced some of the best actors and actresses, in my opinion and my most favourite, Doris Day. Actors and actresses at that time seemed to have style, poise and above-all mystique. Many of the modern-day stars parade every aspect of their life in the glare of the media: marriage breakdowns, personal and emotional problems etc. There is no mystery about most of them, sadly.

Quite a few years back, my Mother and younger sisters would constantly watch Doris Day movies and I would go and sulk in my room. As I grew a little older, I became a huge fan of Doris Day and in the early 1980’s I wrote a letter to this Hollywood legend, and sent it to her along with a portrait that I had done of her. To my utter delight and astonishment she wrote back! I don’t think there was anyone in that little terraced street that didn’t know my news by the end of the day.

My correspondence with Doris Day took off over the years, much to the delight of a lovely lady in Stanley Post Office, who was also a big fan. I remember her chatting to me, whilst sticking the stamps on Doris Day’s letters with pride.

The last letter I received from Miss Day was on 23 April 2012, when I had taken a day off work, to celebrate my patron saint’s day with an English ale in my English garden. After receiving this unexpected piece of mail, I could really say it was a ‘red-letter day’, as the sun was shining and all seemed well with the world.

During the last thirty years, I have done numerous drawings of Doris Day, one of which was shown in a large exhibition in Liverpool, but most of them have been for my own pleasure. Some of these have been coloured-pencil or pastel sketches, but the majority have been done with a technique, known as pointillism (if you look at some of my earlier posts on Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, you will see more examples of this technique).

I think my favourite movie of Doris Day’s has got to be ‘Pillow Talk’ (1959) in which she c0-starred, alongside her friend, Rock Hudson. The chemistry between the two characters, Brad and Jan, still amuses me to this day, along with Doris’ indignant expressions as she tries to reason about the best way of sharing a telephone party-line.  But I also have a special memory of playing at my friend, Kae McNeil’s house when I was just a young boy.  We were both heartily singing along to the Black The Hills Of Dakota, whilst her father, George, was trying to enjoy the movie ‘Calamity Jane’ (1953).

Doris Day has given me hours of laughs and I am grateful for the skill and talent that she has shared with the world. If you’re reading this Doris, I would like to applaud you and wish you a very Happy Birthday!    Michael