Sunday, 16 August 2015

Two Day Tour

I'm back from two days of driving to see family and friends.  I've thrown an image together (and not coloured it for now) to sum it all up.

In the past few months I've got about in the car a great deal - often on a grander scale and further afield than East Anglia.  This trip, though, was a sharp and strange fling, leaving at 6.30 am on Friday and getting home around 8 pm on Saturday.

I've been everywhere!

I could tell you more stories but none of them are thrilling.  It was a trip of small experiences and you can guess at a few from the drawing!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Vegetable Challenge

Here's an update on the vegetable situation, after a lot of time spent mixing watercolours into shades of green.

Chomp your way through my vegetable array!

What you see here is the highlights from pages and pages of healthy produce - all the basic types that I could think of, including everyone's favourites and enemies.

Your task, dear reader, is to use them all in the kitchen.  Mind the truffle.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Sketchbook Pages From A British Tour

In the past week I took my little pot of dipping ink around the country, in a big figure of eight from southern England to southern Scotland and back (the crossing point was just outside Thirsk).  There were fells and fens, busy marketplaces, mighty frontages and romantic ruins.  A few took some finding; others were brief stops off the road.  Here are a few sketches.

Not in geographical order:  sketches from a tour of Great Britain

A row-by-row explanation:

Greyfriars, Worcester
All Saints Church, Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire
Kelso Abbey, Scottish Borders

The Bass Rock, the Isle of May and Tantallon Castle, Firth of Forth
The clouded summit of Cross Fell, Cumbria

Lichfield Cathedral shop garden, Staffordshire
Malmesbury market cross, Wiltshire
Aydon Castle, Northumberland

Buxton Pavilion, Derbyshire
Spofforth Castle, North Yorkshire

Ullswater, near Pooley Bridge, Cumbria
Peterborough Cathedral, Cambridgeshire
The iron bridge, Cragside, Northumberland

Oakham Buttercross, Rutland
Whittlesey Buttercross, Cambridgeshire

Glossop Market, Derbyshire
The gate house, Wallington, Northumberland

Melrose Abbey (seen from outside the wall of the close)
Malmesbury Abbey south door, Wiltshire
Penrith Castle, Cumbria

There I am, sitting on a grassy bank and squinting at the Bass Rock.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Quick Vegetable Sketches

Just a note to say that today I started a vegetable-drawing project.  There will be a few more pages like this before long - the purple, orange and yellow produce has yet to be represented.

Fun with acrylic inks.

These are not my vegetables, although my first potatoes have been harvested, the raspberries are fruiting happily and courgette flowers are turning into courgette courgettes.

Elsewhere in Southampton, the rose garden in Andrews Park is at its best and the Common has impressive pockets of elderflower.

Here is the ebullient introduction to the June chapter of Ambrose Heath's "Good Food" (of 1932 and recently reprinted in all its Edward Bawden illustrated glory):

June for jubilation!  For now Mother Earth almost embarrasses us with her riches, and the gastronomic year enters upon its most glorious stage.  With what profusion she flings out the plenitude of garden and field, and with what cunning she sets her offerings before us, so that every mood is suited:- and most of all her triumphs, tender peas and new potatoes, luscious lettuces, rosy cherries nodding on the bough, strawberries blushing on their fresh-strown bed, red and ivory spilth of raspberries sheltering under the dewy leaves.  It is easy to be lyrical about June. Let us emulate our greedy childhood days, and rob her orchards and kitchen-gardens for all we are worth.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Museums And Gallery

Visit Southampton!
The latest leaflet of Southampton's Museums and Gallery Activities is on the street now.

I had a lot of fun fitting as much as I could into an image for the cover.

The focus is a composite of the three attractions, Sea City Museum, the City Art Gallery and Tudor House & Garden, standing at the waterfront, with other sights of the city nestling among the abundant greenery that is one of Southampton's secret weapons.

As an aside, I miss the old tourism slogan, "Southamptons More".  I'm not sure how long it was in use but I remember it on leaflets and buses in the early 1990s, around the same time as the "Sir Buzz-A-Lot" character saying "Keep Southampton Tidy".

One of my favourite things to draw was a caricature of Burne-Jones' painting of Perseus battling the sea monster to free Andromeda.  The monster's serpentine body loops all around Perseus from all angles and it's fun to follow the lines from tail to roaring head.

There is a bonus feature to this cover.  That is to say that it holds literal 'Easter eggs'.  It's the springtime issue and there are some subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the season of bunnies, flowers and eggs.

Here is the full image.

My image comprising the three council attractions in Southampton.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day

Here is a nod to Saint Stephen's Day, Boxing Day, The Day After Christmas.  A few days into the holiday with my husband's family, I wanted to draw something.  Boxing Day has always had a mystery to it - a cosy mystery, filled with leftovers and sweets.  Is it about the little foil-covered boxes that my mother would give me with a last little gift?  Is it about letterboxing races in the countryside?  (Unlikely)  Is it pugilistic?  (I know it's not pugilistic)  I don't think I was aware until today that it's about opening up the alms boxes and giving to the poor.

I like a good oddly-shaped, badly-carved, rusty-hasped alms box in an old church.  Doling out a mite to a quivering pauper is very quaint but no match for the welfare state.  I wondered about indicating that, and I suppose I have, by adding St. Stephen's Tower on the Palace of Westminster *.

Anyway, I'm ahead of myself.  What could be easier than drawing a pile of boxes?  Well, I've thrown a few in but I've focused on the alms box, surrounded by pretty much everything else I could think of.  Here goes:  runners letterboxing; a Dartmoor letterbox; a stamped notebook (I've never gone letterboxing, so it's a bit of a guess); boxes big and small; Saint Stephen's cross; a pile of stones and a palm for his martyrdom; Saul (later Saint Paul) holding the coats (Acts 7:58); holly to balance the palm; King Wenceslas looking out; the horns for the Boxing Day hunt (controversial, I know, so I've made them into a call to alms); the boxing game from my father's 1980s Casio calculator...  and that's it, except for Saint Etienne in the bottom right-hand corner.

Boxing Day!

I haven't mentioned the sales.
I added shading but it has gone crinkly and I'm away from a scanner.
Happy Boxing Day and Merry Christmas!

* This is another thing learnt this morning - the tower with Big Ben, which was recently renamed the Elizabeth Tower, was not really called St. Stephen's Tower, as many people thought, but a smaller tower in the complex was and still is.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Postwar Education From The Dustjacket Labyrinth

Petersfield Bookshop:  a dolls'
house in the print room.
Every second hand bookshop is a temptation.  Old books, in piles and rows, are spreading along my shelves and everything else is balanced halfway over an edge.  I think I spend only as much time such places as is wise, to keep the process gentle.

Certain old series are always represented - Britain In Pictures, the King Penguins, the Discovering series - some needing more judicious inspection than others before you give in to their charms.  I've made some prize acquisitions in Penguin Modern Painters.  I'll take almost anything illustrated by Osbert Lancaster but I'm holding off from Fougasse.

This weekend I walked into the Petersfield Bookshop.  There's a lot of it:  an impressive rarities cabinet; a room full of prints, with plan chests, an index chest for postcards and a big dolls' house; frames lining the stairs; a glimpse of rolling stacks for storage.  I browsed Local History, Adventure Fiction and the vintage ends of Biography and Sports.  It was the London section that forced me into taking advantage of the shop's brief sale (29th November to 13th December!) for two books - although only one was in the right section.

London Explorer

Peter Jackson's cartoon strip in The London Evening News began in the late 40s as "London is Stranger than Fiction", full of extraordinary and characterful stories.  The second collected volume is the "London Explorer", strips dense with encyclopaedic information, to be pored over on public transport or cut out and given to a nephew or niece.

And Jackson was an encyclopaedia.  Years later, the Ephemera Society gave him their Samuel Pepys medal.  Read the society's history here if (like my friends Emma Butcher of Let It Be Printed and Adam Smith of The South Country) you have brimming boxes of printed matter.  Even in the early 50s, according to the Evening News editor's foreword, "Jackson's home contains one of the most comprehensive private collection of London lore including mellowed and yellowed books, magazines and newspapers, cuttings and scores of notebooks."

London Explorer:  "These houses are a sham"

In this book the strips are arranged into chapters ("The Charm of London's West End, "The Gates and Pumps and City Walls", etc.) with accompanying text by W Crawford Snowden and, of course, interspersed with adverts for department stores, watches, sherry, shaving foam and a new type of bathtub for infants.  There's a better explanation at Bear Alley Books (for the later collection of all the strips) and it's worth casting an eye over the obituaries for Peter Jackson, from 2003 (GuardianIndependent).

London Explorer:  "Horrid Murder"

World Wealth In Maps

World Wealth In Maps:
Map 11:  Central Russia.
"But the Ural region has one drawback.
It lack good coking coal..."
How could I resist such a monolithic title?  Here is another newspaper artist - the News Chronicle's Stanley Harrop.  His 31 entirely new full-colour maps show the principal raw materials of every part of the world and the lines of international transport.  From the dustjacket, "No modern school should deny its fascinating store of information to those who will one day grapple with the problems of the future."  The bright, colour-coded maps are glorious and it ends with a glossary of lesser-known products and commodities, from alfalfa, alpaca and ambergris to yam and yerba-mate.

The text about Central Russia mentions "The first factory in the world to produce "Polar sugar."  Russian scientists have discovered that from the lichen which covers vast tracts of this northern territory a crystalline glucose can be produced which differs only slightly from ordinary sugar."
What a great children's science story, which I guess came to nothing.  I found another mention in The Children's Newspaper, in 1944.  The increasing rubber production from kok-sagyz dandelions seems to have been a goer.

World Wealth In Maps:
Map 24.  Eastern United States.
"Pittsburgh stands for hardware ;
Massachusetts for woollen and cotton goods"
As for a date, research gives me 48, 53 and a school edition in 58.  The publisher, Percy Gawthorn / Raymond Fawcett (I'm not entirely sure of the relationship between the two forces), was responsible for The Empire Youth Annual from about 46 to 64.  I found 48 last year and other informative, outdated home textbooks, like Britain Past And Present or The Mastery Of Water, call to me from every crooked bookshop.

What is the appeal of these educational children's books from the end of Empire?  The noble aim, that of understanding the whole world and presenting it to the leaders of the future, seems quaint now:  was it really that simple in those days?  The patriotism is subtle (apart from the pink on the world map) but I think it is evident simply from the existence of the book - presenting proud Britain, proud London, essentially unchanged and undimmed by the Blitz, still the source of impartial knowledge gathered intrepidly, and the source of pride for every child.  But these books are not just boy's-own derring-do:  there's at once a very up-to-date scholarly rigour and a simplistic post-war optimism to the packaging of an exciting, burgeoning world for enquiring young minds.

Read about this time in The Open University's "Selling Empire: Epilogue – the slow death of heroism?"

Map key icons on the dustjacket
of World Wealth In Maps.

So, here are two attractive books that show exactly what I'm a sucker for:

  • Musty, foxed old books that look like they came from my parents' childhood,
  • Maps, labels and information laid out to understand,
  • Dense presentation to pore over cosily,
  • 1950s optimism, before the 60s and 70s made the future a bad thing,
  • London,
  • The book that was filed backwards on the shop shelf.