Awaiting a transformation

chrysallis

Just found this little guy while clearing out the shed and he’s kindly been modelling for me. I absolutely hate caterpillars, I’ve had one or two horrible horror-movie experiences, including a 5-inch hawkmoth caterpillar dive-bombing me from a tree and a swarm of tortoiseshell caterpillars swarming up my legs without my noticing while I was fishing. These instances have left me with a phobia that I can’t seem to shake off. To be fair I feel stupid writing this, I’ve never met anyone else with a caterpillar phobia and I can’t even find the proper name for it but they terrify me.

I’ve been trying to shake the phobia off for a couple of years now. Each summer I find a caterpillar and keep it in a jar in my room and look after it like a pet. Yes I know that sounds slightly insane but it is all in an attempt to tell the irrational part of my brain to grow up. It hasn’t worked so far but I seem to have developed a bizarre empathy towards them so much so that, when I found this chrysalis in the shed, I couldn’t just get rid of it. So he is now my bizarre little lodger, currently employed as my subject for drawing! I did actually manage to pluck up the courage to touch the chrysalis earlier, so I’m hoping that’s a small step towards getting rid of this, frankly stupid fear. Haha, I sound like a right coward.

I’m just glad I’m not arachnophobia as well!

(Illustration created with fineliners, tinted brown using Photoshop).

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Game of Thrones: House Baa

gotsheep

I’m sure other avid watchers of ‘Game of Thrones’ or avid readers of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ have considered the question I’ve been pondering recently… which noble house would I belong to? And in all honesty I can reply, none of them. I wouldn’t last five minutes and in all fairness I quite like having my head positioned above my shoulders. So I figured that I’d be from a nice, boring place, with lots of sheep. The place would be known for it’s woollen wears but it’s chances of having a claim to the throne would be regarded as frankly laughable. Oh, and of course it would be run by the questionably-Noble House of Baa, with it’s own sheep sigil and everything…

Sheep sigil created using fineliners and yes, it is just a completely non-fearsome version of House Stark’s direwolf!

Botanatomical snapdragons 3: Not quite so botanatomical anymore…

Snap dragon concept

This clearly shows that my brain cannot focus on a task for more than a few days. My original intention of this week has been to start a sketchbook of plants that I can use as reference material for future illustrations. However, after four days and only a few pages of snap dragon sketches I’ve ended up with this handsome monstrosity.

I enjoy creating character designs and concept art, even if it’s for nothing in particular and, to be fair, the snap dragon is just crying out for a mythical interpretation. I’ve loved these funny plants ever since I was a child so this illustration is probably long overdue. So here is my ‘snap dragon’, as accurate to the flower version as I can make him.

I think I’ll call him Ned.

'Mouth'headfront

Snap dragons from the front, the threatening maw!

Flower cross sectionheadside

The less scary, more grumpy side view.

Right, let’s see what other plants I can warp…

Botanatomical snap dragons 2: A flower-fairy graveyard?

Snapdragon seed pods

This is a follow up to my snapdragon illustrations the other day. A couple of days ago I found an article saying that the seed pods of snap dragons look like miniature skulls and since a few plants in my garden have gone to seed I thought I’d better see if it was true. And it is!

When seen the right way up, the stem of the snapdragon just appears to be covered in dried seed pods but if you pluck a pod off and turn it upside down, the shape of the seed pod and openings form an uncanny replica of an elongated skull.

Flower fairy skull?

It seems very appropriate that a plant with such a fearsome name as ‘snap dragon’ should have seed pods that look so morbid… they’re probably the skulls of flower fairies that the plant has unsuspectingly  gobbled up during the day!

It gets earlier every year…

Grinch sketches

That’s right… Christmas is coming and this year I am going to ask Santa for an A3 scanner, (you can see why). Yes, it seems that I’m going to have to start thinking about Christmas a bit earlier this year. Following my work for the Melton Bookshop where I decorated their windows with colourful sea creatures (see here), they have now recruited me to help out on their planned Christmas display.

The local church holds a Christmas tree festival each year where businesses big and small from around the borough enter their own uniquely decorated Christmas trees to raise money for the church’s upkeep (and get a bit of advertising for themselves as well). Only, the Melton Bookshop hasn’t just got a tree, it’s got the church’s biggest window to decorate! And what handsome chap is going to be the focus of this window? It’s Dr. Seuss’ Grinch of course!

Grinch design

My job will be to create a 6ft illustration of the Grinch himself on MDF board, and the rest of the scene will be built up around him. The Grinch will be painted to mimic the illustration style in the book so I am limited to the colours red, white and black. I was worried that this might separate him from the otherwise realistic scene so I have planned to have the actual Christmas tree threaded under his arm, meaning that the illustration will have to be built up over a number of layers. (I don’t make things easy for myself).

Grinch model

Well, I’ve had a go at a small scale with mountboard today and it seems to have somewhat worked. He’s a bit wobbly but the real version will be attached to the bars of the church window for extra support so hopefully it’ll work out. Will be going down to pencil out the design on the wood ready to cut next week so fingers-crossed.

Botanatomical snap dragons

 

Didn’t actually know ‘botanatomy’ was actually a real word until I looked it up so I’ve learnt something new today. With the weather in England being as hot as it is at the moment, I am being nagged at constantly to go out and draw stuff in the garden while it’s ‘nice and sunny’. The problem is that I’m ginger and literally burn at the same rate as a vampire so I stay away from ‘outside’ as much as I can help it until a more agreeable thunderstorm comes along. However, I did manage a few botanical illustrations today focusing on my favourite garden flower, the snap dragon.

 

I suppose it’s my favourite because if you squeeze the flower’s ‘neck’, the petals move apart like a mouth opening. When you look directly into the flower you can readily imagine you are gazing into some bizarre creature’s maw (as seen above). I love learning about the natural world but while photography has revolutionised visual communication and our understanding over the last century or so, I think that it has also taken away the charm that old anatomical illustrations of plants and animals captured. Personally I’d like to see illustration-based reference books make a comeback!

 

(Note: To any biology people out there, please forgive me if any of my jottings are incorrect. I only did GCSE Biology so some of the plant’s parts may be incorrectly labelled. It’s been a while since GCSE and my brain gets rusty!)

 

 

Ok, it’s not strictly illustration… but look at the rhino!

Basil

Yes I know, I’m an illustrator and I should be drawing stuff but I’m still in a post-uni-get-drawing-away-from-me slump. So, until inspiration comes back, I’m concentrating on working more hours in the shop where I currently find myself employed (or enslaved, take your pick. Honestly, it’s 40C and we have no air-con! It’s that muggy that the air is practically drinkable). And to keep the creative juices flowing, in my spare time I am improving my crochet skills and this neon rhino is my latest finished project.

The pattern is by designer Heidi Bears and is called Thandi the African Flower Rhino. Rhinos are one of my most favourite animals along with cows, sharks and nudibranchs (weird selection, I know) but are unfortunately fast becoming extinct. The Western Black rhino was announced to have been ‘wiped out’ in 2013 and the Northern White Rhino is on the very brink. So I was glad that a small amount of the proceeds from buying this pattern went towards the Kariega Foundation, dedicated to preserving rhinos.

Needless to say I am very happy with my rhino, who has been named Basil, I don’t know why, he just looks like a Basil. He looks lonely though so I think I might have to make him a friend, who will probably end up being called Sybil…

Basil and Lily

My cat Lily, using herself most generously to show the scale of the rhino.

I am now a Ba(a)

Ba(a)

Yes I have now graduated from University with a first class honours degree in Graphic Design and Illustration! I am now officially a fully-fledged Bachelor of Arts and can have ‘Ba’ after my name. Unfortunately someone told me that you have to pay for the privilege of putting letters after your name, (why???). So I had a think and considered that my second biggest interest in life (after everything and anything to do with illustrating) is wool. Crochet and knitting keeps me amused in my spare time so to honour the Woolly Workforce of sheep who fuel my hobby, I have decided to become a ‘baa’ or Ba(a). Thus is the way my mind works, not sure the money-collectors would go for that reasoning but I’ll give it a shot.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Waiting for the tide

Well I’m back from my holiday to the Yorkshire coast, now back in the Midlands as far from the sea as is possible to get in Britain, so needless to say I am currently in a grump. Didn’t get much time to sit sketching but here are the three little doodles I managed to get done while waiting for the tide to go out in Robin Hood’s Bay. These three were created using black fineliners and white gel pen on brown A5 paper. I would’ve liked to have spent the whole day sketching but alas, the fossil shops were calling to me to spend my hard-earned money. Needless to say, East Yorkshire’s economy has been greatly boosted by my visit! I’m now off to work to try and revive my floundering bank account…

Robin Hood's Bay (High Tide)

Robin Hood’s Bay at high tide.

Robin Hood's Bay from Patricia Ann Taylor's bench

Robin Hood’s bay as seen from the top of the cliff.