Earlier this year, I was asked if I would do a watercolour or pencil illustration of a church in Spain that was to be the theme for some wedding stationery. Joanne Rogan, the client and bride-to-be was brilliant in providing me with a range of church illustrations that she had seen and liked, so that I could get ‘the feel’ of what she was looking for. A better start and brief could not be had, as most clients know what they want, but are not very good at explaining it, leaving the artist or designer ‘in the dark’.
Joanne also provided me with some photographs of El Salvador’s Church in Nerja, Spain where she was marrying her fiancé, Gary Cooper. The photographs were beautiful, showing a white stately church against an azure sky. There was a tree in the photographs that I had to ‘remove’ but that didn’t prove to be a problem.
It took me a couple of days (in the bleakness of early February) to produce the coloured pencil illustration of the church bedecked in sunshine, which was then sent for Joanne and Gary’s approval. Thankfully, they loved it and it was then sent to the printers to be incorporated into their wedding stationery. As you can see below, Joanne and Gary did a great job of it and the stationery looks unique and amazing! Having said that, so do the happy couple in the photographs, as you can see. I would like to offer my congratulations to Joanne and Gary for their marriage day and also for doing such sterling work on their wedding stationery!
Every best wish to you both for many happy years to come…
Joanne and Gary were married on the 21st September 2018.
The photographs feature on this blog post with their approval and permission. Thank you.
It’s almost scary that I drew this pen and ink drawing (later to be coloured with watercolours) almost 21 years ago. I see that the completion date was ‘St. Ursula’s Day’ (which is the 21 October), so it’s almost ‘come of age’ this drawing in many ways than one. I have done a number of book illustrations like this one over the years, but most of them I’ve sadly forgotten, but not this one. This one takes me right back to the years when I was doing a lot of art, whilst also working hard in the world of newspapers…
The reference material was largely my own photographs, as I can remember photographing these scarlet poppies which were growing in my family village of Tanfield (for those of you who know that area, it’s one of the fields on the industrial estate – opposite the sign to Tanfield Railway). It was a gorgeous day and I was spending it with some of my family, Carole, Robert and Kirk.
This illustration took quite a long time to do, with the blurry effect behind the mice and the poppies in the foreground being the most time consuming. I really enjoyed putting the details on the faces of the mice as they climb upon and nibble the swaying wheat. When I actually spied some harvest mice I could not believe that they were so small; I also wanted to make sure that my trademark ladybird was not out of proportion with these tiny and elusive rodents.
I was rather taken aback by the popularity of this illustration and was delighted when it was reproduced as a greeting card and as one of the summer month illustrations in a rather classy calendar. The original piece of artwork was purchased by Mr Alistair Thompson, from Scotby in Carlisle, after he saw it displayed at an exhibition. I wonder if it’s still hung upon the living-room wall of his beautiful home to this present day…
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.
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.
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…
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
I have very vivid childhood memories of my mother, Carole, sitting with me dangling on her knee, drawing giraffe after giraffe for my amusement. If it wasn’t a giraffe being drawn, it was an elephant. Being a toddler at the time, I couldn’t pronounce these words properly and just made ‘raffs’ and ‘lints’ my simplified version of these words.
I find giraffes the most fascinating creatures, with their beautiful patterned skin, long elegant necks and fantastically long eyelashes, not to mention their furry ossicones. I hadn’t done any watercolour paintings for a long time and looked through a large pile of photographs to see if there was anything that inspired me. I found this picture of a giraffe mother and child and decided to paint that. Some artists take ages to do a watercolour, but I usually find that I do them fairly quickly. I can spend a large amount of time on one coloured-pencil illustration, but I do not seem to be able to produce them quickly, whereas with watercolours I can see a picture come together much more quickly.
The above illustration was submitted to the campaign for One Million Giraffes (www.onemilliongiraffes.com). I couldn’t possibly not have contributed to that, now could I? And, just in case you’re wondering what my Mum’s drawings looked like – here’s one I scanned earlier…
A friend and former colleague, Graeme Stobbart, asked me if I could produce a portrait of his two dogs, both of which were no longer with us. Unfortunately, Sam, the Jack Russell, had been passed for a good number of years and the photographs that Graeme and his family had of him were of a quality not best for producing a detailed illustration. However, after sourcing and selecting a number of photographs of Sam, from different angles, I was just able to work out his facial marking and colouration. It wasn’t the easiest of jobs I’ve ever had to do, but sometimes it’s worthwhile making the effort for a friend, especially one that would go the extra mile for you.
I was pleased to get this commission completed when I did, and was delighted to hear that Graeme’s parents, Derek and Diane, were delighted with the finished illustration. It made all of the effort spent at the drawing-board worthwhile. The hardest part for me was putting pencil to paper, not knowing whether the finished result was going to be what myself or my clients expected.
This illustration was also a first for me, as I have (very surprisingly) never drawn a West Highland Terrier before. I loved drawing the picture of Katie, who looks just like the kind of canine friend I would love to have had myself. I have always had a ‘soft-spot’ for Westies, to be honest.
I chose a silver-grey background paper to draw this illustration on, as white would not have been a good contrast to Katie’s light fur and too dark a colour wouldn’t have shown Sam in the best way either, (as both dogs are rather a tonal contrast). I had to resort to using a wide variety of mediums to produce this illustration: coloured pencil, watercolour paint and even chalk. I don’t often mix mediums, but this seemed to give the right feel for different parts of the picture.
I handed over the commission to Graeme on the 14th May (whilst we were having a catch-up and a coffee in Starbucks) with a certain amount of trepidation, as I had never met Sam and Katie and wasn’t sure that I had ‘captured them’ in the illustration. It always gives me a sigh of relief when I know that all of the chalk, sweat and paint have met the hopes and expectations of the person receiving the final piece of artwork. Phew!
Quote from Client ~
“As soon as I saw the portrait it was obvious that Michael had not only drawn (and painted) an amazing picture, but that he had captured the spark that made Sam and Katie so special to us. There is so much life in the portrait and it was no surprise that there were tears when Mam saw the portrait. Michael has worked wonders with the source material and has reflected the characters of two very different little dogs beautifully.”