Studying for an MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art....a wonderful place with lovely people!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tone and composition

I have been trying to pay more attention to darks and lights this week and also to composition.Went back into the shed and sat right at the back. Much happier with this picture than the one I did last week.

Uni tomorrow...have a 'crit' ; will be talking about my work and also seeing how everyone else is getting on with their projects.

Drawing in the dark again!

Had another go at sketching outside again...took a torch this time which I propped up in the hedge beside me (I am the big shadow on the left with my sketchbook!)...and was able to complete more of the drawing outside.


Came back from the pub (hadn't been drinking....) and there was a full moon. Very cold but still ...had the urge to draw outside! Sat and sketched, but couldn't see the marks I was making on the paper. Indicated where the lights and darks were and tried to remember the scene, then went indoors and finished it off!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Good news!

Had a wonderful presentation from our tutor Pam Smy today. She brought in some of her sketchbooks (in a backpack!) which put us all to shame and showed us all what hard work really is.

Pam has a really refreshing approach to her illustrations, scanning images straight out of her animated sketchbooks to print. Every time we see work from other illustrators it is both inspiring and demoralising!

Her latest book 'Lob' has just been published and is based on sketchbook observational and imaginitive work. Really enjoyed looking through the many sketchbooks and asking questions.

The good news is that she looked at my work and was really encouraging is good to know I am making progress. Helpful suggestions from both Pam and Jane so I have bought some darker drawing materials and will concentrate on making stronger tonal contrasts and better composition.

Fabian Negrin

Fabian Negrin gave a sumptuous presentation of his work yesterday. It was such a shame that there was not time to go on longer. Winner of the Bologna International Award for illustration, for an adaptation of Red Riding Hood, his work is innovative, colourful and unconventional. There were so many ideas for making illustrated books so exciting both from a design and an illustrative point of view, and he appears to break all the rules to amazing effect...I was amazed to see how he combines illustration styles in the same book ...and it works!

Being brave

Made some more sketches round the farm ...getting braver with my mark making and allowing myself to make mistakes. Think I need to get more darks into the images.

Catching up!

Have been feeling a bit poorly this week so it has been hard going with drawing but surprisingly have done quite a few bits of work so am falling behind with my blog! Won't scan everything in or people reading this will lose the will to live....just the interesting bits!

Spent a couple of evenings drawing Beth and Chris ...and Bronte. Really enjoyed it but took about three hours altogether.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Farmyard watercolour

Janet had asked me to paint a picture of her house and the farm a while ago.
Rainy and cold so had time to do it today. A bit whimsical as I popped all of her favourite creatures in the front garden, but she seemed pleased with it. Fun to do a watercolour even if it is a bit of a digression from my project.

Fellow students

We had a lot of free studio time in between lectures. I have had a re-think about going to life drawing classes and realised that this won't give me the practice I need.
Drawing the people in the market last week was much better practice...getting a likeness down on paper of a moving person is difficult but more interesting.
We all passed the day sketching each other...perfect!

David Jury

We also had a lecture today from David Jury. I know a little about typography and letterpress from my graphic design course, but it was interesting to hear that there is still a market for handpressed books.

John Lawrence

Yesterday we had a tutorial with a super chap called John Lawrence. He was so humble but so talented...
He works in a very traditional way, engraving on wood , and has illustrated for some famous names, including Philip Pullman for the Folio Society.
John's work is truly beautiful and he was very generous with his time explaining his craft. It was wonderful to see his sketchbooks. Everytime I look at illustrators' sketchbooks I get more and more inspired (although sometimes it can be quite demoralising !)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Drawing's hard work!

Two more of the farm...trying to let the drawings gradually walk round so that it becomes a real place in the images. Realised I have just been picking out the nice things to draw and leaving out everything else so nothing fitted together on the page. Also trying to work in a less constrained style.

On Sunday I stood in front of the farmhouse ....unseasonably scorching day! But still hard work standing for an hour and a half...makes me wonder how I'll get on when it is really cold!

Yesterday I walked further round to the yard and sketched everything I could see. Was very windy so I had to stick the pages down with masking tape! But sun was out and still warm Couldn't resist drawing the washing.........

Found myself getting bogged down in the detail again...must watch out for that creeping back in!

Studio time tomorrow, so hopefully will get back with lots more ideas and enthusiasm!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

What is Hardwick Farm?

Today I decided that I have been doing it all wrong. I felt quite emotional when I got home yesterday but am so grateful to Pam for taking the time to help me understand what is required. We talked about Hardwick Farm. She pointed out that in the drawings I had made so far she had no sense of where or what Hardwick Farm was. She explained that each image I had created was like a finished piece without context. I have decide to start a new larger sketchbook and work in a more relaxed style, not aiming to produce finished pieces, but a coherent body of work which really describes the subject. I sat and sketched at the bottom of the driveway looking up towards the farm:

The penny drops!

Had a fantastic but exhausting day yesterday. Went to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge for a drawing day with two of our tutors, Pam Smy and Jane Human. It was a wonderful place to go and draw...but we all were a bit overwhelmed! Did one quick sketch in pen....was concentrating so hard I had drawn half of Emma before I recognised her!
Edding fine liner
Jane and Pam were so helpful. It is the first time that someone has actually taken a pencil and shown me how to draw! Something I have wanted whenever I have been studying and which until now people have always been reluctant to do. Pam took a soft pencil and told me to ignore lines and lay down tones. Watching her draw, the penny dropped and I couldn't wait to try.

Found a spot at the top of a staircase and had a go. Pam had said that the aim is to convey a sense of time and place and to 'contextualise'. Also try to give a sense of scale. This is what I came up with :
Although exhausted, the sun had started to come out so we all marched down to the market and sat and sketched there. I tried the same method, creating the setting and then adding the figures as they came and went. Such an exciting and liberating way to draw!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Poor old Tia

Tia the cob has been ill for a few weeks now...she has laminitis and has to be kept in until she feels better. She also can't have any treats as her diet is being limited and she is wearing a harness over her mouth to restrict how much she eats. Have really missed her coming to the fence for apples and felt very guilty that I couldn't give her a treat...she must think everyone is being really mean!

Made a few five minute sketches and then a more detailed picture of about 20 minutes
Pencil and watercolour

Low flying crows

Well I have finally caught up and am writing about things I added to my sketchbook today. Bumped into Janet the farmer and she told me off for including her washing on the line in the 'Come on Girls' picture, so I left it out today :"Good job my smalls weren't on there!" she said...

There were a few crows diving over my head...hard to draw as they were flying so fast, but remembered what Alexis said about creating a hybrid of bits of animal and managed to draw one.

Also sketched Janet's favourite 'Jacob sheep' but I have a feeling my drawings look more like cows.....
Faber-Castell artist pen, colored pencil and watercolour

Come on Girls!

Drawing the animals in the yard again...the geese were so comical today! The gander was in charge telling everone else what to do. I arrived and he led the rest of the geese out of the sun to the other side of the yard. Then after I had been standing drawing for about half an hour he seemed to tell them the coast was clear and they marched back in a line to bask in the sunshine.
Edding fine liner, watercolour pencil and sunflower oil glaze.

Studio visitor

This butterfly had been in the studio for a few weeks..suddenly came to life and started to flutter round the studio. Good timing as it was pouring down outside! Made some quick five minute studies, then did a colour version once it settled.
Pencil and watercolour pencils


My dog Bronte, a chocolate cocker spaniel who is always a willing subject when I feel like drawing.
Pencil and watercolour

Counting sheep

A rainy day so I sat in my studio and drew the view from the window. Rain didn't seem to bother the sheep and the rain created a lovely misty atmosphere.
Pencil and watercolour

If you go down to the woods today....

Went for a long walk and found myself a spot in the middle of the woods. Disappointed that the deer ran away before I had a chance to get my sketchbook out...will take a small one to keep in my hands as I walk next time just in case! If you look closely there are a couple of squirrels in the trees.
An unusual picture for me....a bit out of my comfort zone. Think I overworked it but it was a good experiment.
Edding fine liner, watercolour pencil and sunflower oil glaze

Life drawing

To supplement the lack of human figures in my subject, I will be attending life drawing classes. Went to the class at uni last Monday. Poor effort I think! Wooden and lifeless which is not the aim! Going to try a life drawing class in Stamford which will be more convenient.

We are lucky enough to have Alexis Deacon as one of our tutors. Was very inspired by looking at Alexis's sketchbooks...his life drawings almost have a Renaissance qualty to them...small, delicate and animated...full of character. Can't wait to have another go!
Pencil and watercolour

Five minute sketches

Lots of geese on the farm and they are so full of character.
Edding fine liner and watercolour

Chick chick chicken.....

This is the first drawing in my sketchbook. It should have been very relaxing sitting in the yard but the dogs barked at me for the whole hour!...hazzard of my subject.

Turned round to find the chickens staring at me so sketched them too!
Edding fine liner, pencil and watercolour

Sunday, 3 October 2010


John Vernon Lord has just completed a special edition of Alice in Wonderland. Some of the illustrations have some bright colour added so I had a go with mine on a scanned copy and some coloured pencils. Think I prefer the black and white version but will try watercolour when I have time .
Photocopy and coloured pencil

John Vernon Lord

We had our first lecture on Wednesday. It was a wonderful insight into the world of John Vernon Lord, (Author and illustrator of The Giant Jam Sandwich) a prolific and highly regarded illustrator. The title was Storytelling in pictures...the lecture didn't offer any magic solutions but rather many questions an author illustrator should ask themselves when creating.

I had looked at John Vernon Lord's work before the lecture and find it fascinating...what I first thought were meticulously engraved images are in fact created with a Rotring pen...and lots of patience!

I felt so inspired I had to come home and try for myself. I worked up some of my sketches from the farm and really liked the result. Not nearly as delicate as the Professor's beautiful work but not bad for a first go:
Edding fine liner