Tia – Dog Portrait

I went to visit my friend, Mary Redshaw, this month and catch up with her over a few pots of tea and a fish and chip lunch. I always enjoy this social time with this lady, who proudly displays all of the commission work that I have done for her (all beautifully framed and presented in her living-room). I always enjoy seeing her two ‘new’ dogs: one a Greyhound named Rio and the other a whippet named Tina.

One of my favourite dog portraits I illustrated for Mary was the picture of her brown Doberman Pinscher – Tia, who was such a character. She certainly was a dog that knew her own mind and no amount of persuasion or commands could change her mind if she thought contrary to the request.TiabyMichaelQuinlyn-Nixonforblog(col)
I remember doing a mono illustration of Tia, as well as the colour…because I wasn’t sure which one I liked best… Which one would you choose?

It’s my last posting of the year next month; I am so grateful that there are so many people reading this blog now.  I am told by WordPress that my stats are booming, so thank you to all of the people who are reading my posts regularly…

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Gingerbread Bears – Bear-a-thought Illustration

Of all of the Bear-a-thought illustrations that I have created over the years, ‘Gingerbread Bears’ reminds me of the most bizarre predicament that I found myself in.  Although I do enjoy the occasional cookery programme, I am not blessed with culinary skills.  So when I needed to create a very small portion of dough, I thought that it would be a ‘breeze’ – even for me!  This small piece of dough was going to be used to create some small gingerbread bear biscuits that Scruff (the bear in the illustration) was going to bake. 
Gingerbread bears by Michael Quinlyn-Nixon for blog
Off I went to my local Post Office; the postmistresses Enid and Angela soon provided me with my essential ingredients, butter, eggs, flour…  Back at home, I set to work with a hale-and-hearty approach to my task, but after mixing the ingredients for a while I suspected that something was not quite right.  My dough consistency was wrong!  I put that particular mixing bowl to one side and using what was left of the ingredients started again.  Culinary disasters don’t often strike twice in the same kitchen, but let me tell you they can.  The dough was too runny this time…  I put that bowl aside and went to the Post Office again to buy more essential ingredients.  This was beginning to be a costly exercise for one piece of pastry.  I started again (not quite as hale-and-hearty as before), mixing ingredients – checking the recipe – weighing things carefully.  But it still went wrong!  My fourth attempt was no more successful!

Then, a friend arrived – surveyed the culinary process at hand and exclaimed, “What are you doing?”  I explained and within minutes hands were washed and then plunged into the various bowls – the first ‘experiment’ had lacked enough butter, the second hadn’t enough flour.  Soon all the mixtures were perfect.

I now had enough dough to feed a family of forty.  After cutting out a wide assortment of animal shapes, including giraffes and rhinoceroses, out of the dough, we were ready for baking the collected menagerie.  The scene was somewhat reminiscent of a factory production line (at full tilt), as tray after tray of biscuits were placed and taken out of the oven…

Too many biscuits…  I couldn’t eat them all, so I packed them in clean white paper bags and distributed them to my astonished neighbours.  Thankfully no one was rushed to hospital with gastroenteritis, and even more thankfully I had remembered to salvage a small piece of pastry aside for my illustration. 

So, when people look at my teddy bear illustrations and see the bears, smile and say “How lovely!” they really have no idea what pains and lengths I have had to go to create that particular finished piece of artwork. 

After writing all of this copy, I think I need a refreshing cup of tea and a gingerbread bear…  Biscuit anyone?

This picture now resides in the home of two of my dearest friends, Mary and Peter Lupton in Carlisle.  You will see that the bag of flour in the picture bears the name of ‘Lupton’.  I have had many people say that they can’t get this flour in the shops and where did I get it from?  Well it’s not available in any leading supermarkets, as it was done in special recognition of my friends.

Teddy Bears’ Picnic – Bear-a-thought Illustration

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…

I think the majority of us will be familiar enough to sing along to the tune of this light classical tune, composed in 1907 by American composer, John W. Bratton.

Over the last fourteen-years, I have produced over a hundred teddy bear illustrations, which have been seen by customers all around the world in the form of greeting cards and calendars. Some of these illustrations bring back lovely memories.
Teddy Bears' Picnic for blog
My illustration of ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ – probably the archetypal picture of bears together – reminds me of a former next-door-neighbour, who was always peering out of the window when I was in the garden setting up teddy bear scenes to sketch and photograph. She never knew it was, at that time, my part-time career to draw teddy bears, so I can only guess at what she thought I was up to. I can imagine the conversations she would have with friends, about her ‘eccentric neighbour’.

Whilst setting up this picnic scene, she plucked up courage to venture into the garden and peer over the fence and say, in a querulous voice, “Oh, they are having a picnic today are they?” I replied in the affirmative and making small talk, about how they liked cakes more than sandwiches, got on with the task at hand, watched unashamedly by my neighbour…

In the illustration, the bears are enjoying Victoria Sponge (it wouldn’t be a proper picnic without it), Battenberg cake (which my friend, Sara, knows I dislike very much), muffins and Jammie Dodger biscuits – always a favourite! These sumptuous treats will be enjoyed with a hot pot of tea.

The background shows the flower – the Rose of Sharon, which blooms in my garden at this time of year and the bushes are currently covered in flowers.   The bear wearing the purple, gold and green coat belongs to my friend Mildred and is, I believe, quite collectable. A number of my friends and customers are keen arctophiles have some marvellous collections of teddy bears. One of these collectors is Peter Masscharis, who has a marvellous collection of teddy bears, which is affectionately known as a ‘hug’.

It’s little wonder that teddy bears have remained so popular – they are wonderful to cuddle, never complain and always listen to your cares and worries. Perhaps, their ‘Picnic Day’ is the only day’s holiday they get and that’s why it’s probably best to leave the woods well alone and let them have some much needed peace and quiet!

Note:
The song by John W. Bratton was composed in 1907 and released in March 1908. The ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ lyrics were written by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932. Many well-known artists, including Rosemary Clooney and lesser-known recordings, such as that by the comedian John Inman, have been released over the years.