Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary, part 4: cows, worms, moles & other animals

The image at the top of this post is a happy accident which happened on Photoshop, as I was trying to clean up the picture of the bookshop that appears in the third page below. I like it better than the actual painting, so here it is as a header.

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here and part 3 is here. If you’d like to see the pages at a larger scale, click on the image and then click again.

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

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Totnes and Lyme Regis sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes and Lyme Regis sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Totnes & Lyme Regis holiday sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Episode 5 is here.

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What happens when your New Year’s resolution is “Draw More”?

Santiago sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

My new year’s resolution for 2014 was a fairly complex one, but in essence it boiled down to two words:

draw more.

…and it has felt like I’ve drawn a lot this year. Not as much as someone who doesn’t have a day-job and a child, of course, but a steady stream of stuff nonetheless.

Some of it I was pleased with. Some of it I was not – and I’ve learned to call that stuff part of the learning process, rather than a failure.

January

It was my husband’s birthday and I made him this card:

Dude birthday by Myfanwy Tristram

February

February first is Hourly Comics Day! I entered into the spirit of things, and tried not to care about putting out unpolished work – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

MyfanwyTristram_Hour3_2014

I’m quite looking forward to the next one already – and let’s face it, February is not usually a month to look forward to.

March

I made another collage in my series of birds’ eye views, this time featuring lots of very small roofs made of stamps:

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

April

In April, I really enjoyed doing some life drawing.

Life drawing by Myfanwy TristramThis was also the month that we went to Bath for our family holiday, and I made a holiday sketch diary. Of course, sketch diaries are another form where, if you share them, you have to put out the pages you’re pleased with as well as the ones that didn’t work out quite so well.

Tree by Myfanwy Tristram

May

Straight after we got back from Bath, work sent me to Santiago in Chile! I was working, so keeping up a sketch diary was a bit more of a challenge, and I finished a good bit of it after I got home.

Myfanwy Tristram Santiago sketch diary

July

It looks like I had a month off from drawing in June! In fact, I was starting work on my 4-page graphic short story for the Cape/Comica/Observer competition: you have to start early if your time is limited.

In July, though, I started a series of pictures of the plants that grow alongside Brighton beach, where I go running and also spend a lot of time with my daughter:

Seaplants by Myfanwy Tristram

There are more plant drawings here and here.

August

Those sunny days seem far away now – hard to believe I was sitting drawing on the Level (our local playground) while my daughter mucked about in the fountains.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

The weather turned, naturally, right before our week in Jersey – fortunately there was plenty to do there anyway. Not least,  drawing another sketch diary:

Toop and the telescope by Myfanwy Tristram

September

I shared my graphic short story competition entry:

Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page3I’d entered it, all the while knowing it wasn’t quite the right thing to get placed – not polished enough (but I was very pleased, later on, to discover that my friend Beth had been awarded runner-up prize).

October

Never mind, I waded straight into another comic strip, this time based on recent experiences with a community archaeological dig:

GreenLadyHill_by Myfanwy Tristram – and, at very short notice indeed, I threw together a collage for the Association of Illustrators competition:

Fly Across London by Myfanwy TristramThat was also the month I created the Hashtag Underdog strip. October must have been the peak of my productivity! I should scrutinise what the prevailing conditions were, and try to bottle them.

Underdog by Myfanwy TristramNovember

I didn’t do Clovember but I did paint my daughter in her lovely bright clothes – right at the prescient moment, it turns out, as she’s recently announced a desire to wear only black:

Tabs watercolour by Myfanwy Tristram

I also made a short comic strip about working from home:

Working from Home by Myfanwy TristramDecember

Close friends and family had one of my linocuts bestowed upon them:

IMG_0757

– and I moaned a bit about how long they had taken to make. I must say though, that everyone has been very nice about them, which is what every homemade card creator really wants – so it was all worth it. :D

Clearly, the effort of all that lino-printing has taken it out of me because, other than a couple of sketches of my daughter and husband, I have not drawn since.

Next year

I’m hoping that a similar resolution for 2015 will result in just as much artwork – but I need to do some careful thinking as well, about just what I want out of all this endeavour.

This year brought a couple of commissions. I find these quite stressful, and it made me wonder whether to refuse all commissions from now on (on the other hand, that means relying only on my own inspirations to drive me forward, a situation which, of course, many artists would be envious of, but which may well narrow my horizons).

This was also the first year that I’ve sold my prints online, as well as in Brighton’s Open Houses. While this was not stressful, it did bring home to me how narrow the margins are – at the scale I was operating, and with the time I have to dedicate, you can’t earn much. It can only really be done as an exercise in spreading your name about a bit.

And as for that – spreading my name about – well, I haven’t done as much as I hoped. Reader numbers on this blog are pretty low (though boosted greatly every time someone tweets or shares the link on Pinterest or Facebook, so thank you very much to everyone who did that).

In 2015, I think I will have an additional resolution to get some strips published in existing comics: that means that someone else is doing the distribution and the marketing, and probably doing so far better than I would have time to do myself.

Sounds like a plan…

Jersey holiday sketch diary

Toop and the telescope by Myfanwy Tristram

Two holidays in a year? That’s unusual for us, but we couldn’t turn down the chance of a good cheap break when some friends offered us the use of their house.

And you know what holidays mean – sketch diaries. It’s been a good year for them, what with our week in Bath and then my work trip to Chile. Now here is my Jersey diary.

After making, and then writing about the previous diaries, I thought a bit harder about this one. My initial plan was to try to draw more, and write less.

As you’ll see, it started off that way, and ended with plenty of writing. It turns out that there are some things you just can’t express in a drawing – like a fete that was so disappointing that you leave within ten minutes.

Anyway, for better or worse, here are the pages.

Jersey Diary page 1 by Myfanwy Tristram

Click to see any of the following images at a larger size.

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Another difference about this diary is that it is almost entirely in watercolour (including much of the lettering – some of which came out much neater than I would expect, and some, not). We packed very light, and I took a watercolour set which was about the size of a phone – I think it may actually belong to my daughter. It was quite nifty though – eight colours, and a telescopic brush.

Having such a limited choice of colours was really good for my mixing skills. There was no black, for example, so the darkest shade I could muster was a mix of blue or green, with dark brown.

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

As this was a family holiday, as usual, I didn’t have time to sit down and sketch from life. Almost every image was drawn with a phone photo as a reference.

Sometimes, I wonder what the value is in this approach – after all, I have the photos, why do I need to make a sketch?  But in the case of the zoo animal paintings, I found that working from blurry, unclear phone photos did something useful. It made me focus on light and shade much more than I usually do.

I mean, if I was trying to draw flamingo at home, I’d probably reject a blurry image and do a Google image search for something clearer. Without that option, I painted something differently than I normally would have. That’s a good thing in itself.

The hog at the top of the page is drawn with a pencil that has a multi-coloured lead  – you never know what colour is going to come next.

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

People who know my husband may be surprised to see the red hair peeking out of his knight’s headpiece here – he dyed it pillarbox red for the summer. If it’s a sign of a mid-life crisis, well, let’s just say there are worse things he could have done.

The picture of my daughter looking through the telescope is an example of an image drawn from a phone photo that I actually really like.

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Jersey sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

The last couple of pages were completed at home. They have the most writing of all, and they’re probably the spread that I’m most pleased with – so much for trying to break one’s habits.

More about sketch diaries – from Katriona Chapman

twitterheader

Since finishing my Chile sketch diary, I haven’t drawn a thing.

That’s partly because I am thinking through exactly what I am going to do for the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic story competition. For the first time, I am very consciously examining where my ideas come from, too – it’s hard work, creating a cartoon world out of nothing! No doubt I will write a bit more about that once my concept is a bit more fully-formed.

To make up for the lack of drawings, though, I am sharing a great post from someone else. I think I came across it via Twitter, and the correct phrase to use here would be relevant to my interests.

Katriona Chapman is a London illustrator who recently made a cartoon diary of a trip to the Scottish Isles with her mum. Not only that, but she published a post sharing her inspirations for the project, and thoughts about how she approached it.

Here it is – if you enjoyed my recent post on ‘everything I know about sketch diaries‘, you’ll love this.

Once you’ve read that post, be sure to go to the beginning of the Scotland comic and read it all. The photos are breath-taking too!

Scotland Comic b y Katriona ChapmanImage: Katriona Chapman

Lizzie Stewart travel diaries
Image: Lizzie Stewart

As an extra bonus, that original blog post also introduced me to the stunning travel diaries of Lizzie Stewart. Why, this holiday sketch-diary malarky is a whole movement! And a very inspiring one, too.

Crows flying over the island. In vibrant technicolour.

All things colour are killing me at the moment. This looks much more muted in real life, but on my monitor right now, it’s looking almost garish.

Oh well, I’m just trying to concentrate on those birds, and whether they distract too much from the landscape – which I’m still perfectly happy with… IN REAL LIFE. ;)

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

[As ever, click to see bigger – including teensy weensy boats made out of tickets and Green Shield stamps]

Work in progress – more aerial views

It’s such a funny thing.

Or perhaps I should call it a highly irritating, baffling thing. You can plug away for weeks on a picture, and not be sure that it’s working at all. Then one day, you can start a new one, and feel absolutely confident that it’s heading in the right direction from about five minutes in.

I feel good about this one: still work in progress, but I can just see it’s going to come out the way I want it to. Gullholmen aerial view - work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram

[Click to see it nice and big, and count how many versions of the Queen’s head you can see]

Which is a relief, because of course the side-effect of going down a few dead ends is that you start losing all belief in your abilities.

Hmmm. Does this mean I should ditch all work that I *don’t* feel good about right away?

Actually, I already know the answer to that, even though I seem to have trouble acting on it: it’s to experiment more before setting off down the route of a finished piece. I wonder how I can make myself stick to that way of working.

A few details: it’s a collage of stamps and tickets again, with inked additions, like my previous aerial views.

It’s loosely inspired by a real place: Google the name ‘Gullholmen‘ and you can see lots of pictures of it. It’s funny to spend all afternoon drawing somewhere, and only then look at images taken from other sides, or showing you the view from down amongst its little roads.

I think one of the most fun times you can have while drawing is to create little worlds that you’d like to visit yourself: this is something many of us do as kids, but perhaps not so much once we become adults.

I’m really confused now about whether I want to visit the real Gullholmen or my own version, although I suspect the real one would hold up to the weather better.

Stamps don’t really make great roofs in real life.

Time trials

Map sample by Myfanwy Tristram

tryouts by Myfanwy Tristram

Having my portfolio up on the Brighton Illustrators’ Group website has really been working for me recently, and I’ve had a couple of jobs from it in the last fortnight.

When a new commission comes in, there are lots of things to talk about with the client – scope of the project, the deadline, how they envisage it  looking – and then there’s cost.

In theory, it ought to be easy for me to set a price: I have a day rate, so I can charge by the hour… but the problem is, of course, at the beginning, you are never quite sure how many hours the job will take.

The part that I find hardest to quantify, and the part that is perhaps hardest to justify to a client, happens before you sit down and start on the finished piece. Above, you can see just a few of the many tests I did to find the right colour, medium and style for the work. All together, they added up to many hours.

Now, what do you do? Half of me thinks it’s right to include these in the cost. But I also have a nagging voice which says ‘If you were a better illustrator, you wouldn’t need to have this period of experimentation. You’d just sit down and make a start’.

In my heart, I know that won’t be true, unless every project you embark on is in the same style. Some illustrators do work very happily in their signature style for an entire career, and I guess that’s where this voice comes from: there’s a part of me that believes that I should be selling my accomplishment, not my experiments. There’s another part of me that thinks experiments are what make a work the best it can be.

It has taken me a long time to see this initial period, when you know what you’re striving for, but are not quite sure how you are going to get there, as a natural part of the creative process, and not a reason to panic because things don’t come out as you think they should, the very first time you put your brush to the paper.

Map sample by Myfanwy Tristram

Here is a small peek at the final style I decided on, after all that colour mixing, medium-swapping and style-hopping. And supressed panicking. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to skip the panic phase all together.That’d be nice.

Over egging the pudding, flogging a dead horse, etc

Sea collage WiP by Myfanwy Tristram

I haven’t shared any collages with you recently. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t that I haven’t been making any.

No, I’m kind of stuck on one theme that keeps going down dead ends. With my previous collages, the stamp paddyfields, forest and valley, I had an excited feeling almost right away – I just knew they were going to turn out well.

I’m floundering a lot more with this one. Half of me thinks, if you keep on flogging it and you’re still not sure, it’s time to set it aside. The other half thinks there’s a glimmer of something.

While modern technologies such as Photoshop have brought amazing benefits to artists, I have to say that they’re also our worst enemy sometimes. With Photoshop, I know I can take out one blue and substitute it for something darker, or excise whole sections that aren’t working. It gives me hope that there’s still something worth saving in the image, where in simpler times I’d perhaps have screwed it up and put it in the bin.

Of course, the trouble with collage is that it takes forever, as well, so the longer I keep forging on, the more incentive there is to see it to the end. Hmm. Grumble, mumble, snip, glue, snip.

Buy a Myfanwy Tristram print

As you’ll remember, I had a few giclee prints made up for Spitalfields Market. I now have a few extras for sale – very few, so please act fast if you’d like to buy one.

Here’s what I have available (if you’d like a close-up look at the images, click on each picture below – or see the original artwork here.):

Meusli Mountain, small size, by Myfanwy Tristram

Meusli Mountain, large size, by Myfanwy TristramMuesli Mountain, large size only (small is sold out) (above). This drawing is based on the Hanover area of Brighton, featuring its trademark grid of terraced houses and the Pepperpot at the top. Now sold out

Skittle Cat small size, by Myfanwy Tristram

Skittle cat (above) – small size only (large is sold out). Here you can see the cat that the sketch was originally based on :). Note, the cellophane wrapping is still on the prints in these pictures, but once it’s off, your print will not feature those pesky diagonal wrinkles, promise! Now sold out

Animal Tea small size, by Myfanwy Tristram

tea-large

Animal Tea, small size only – large now sold out (above). In this image, a variety of animals take their tea in suitable ways – the penguin likes his iced, while the camel, of course, likes his with two lumps. Mr Beaver, meanwhile, likes a cup of builder’s… you get the idea.

framed-tins

Tins (above) – small size only (large is sold out). This one looks lovely in the kitchen. Now sold out.

Sizes, etc

The prints come in two sizes:

SMALL: 21cm by 30cm, (A4)

LARGE: 30cm by 40cm (the same width as, but just a bit shorter than A3)

These are both standard sizes which will fit into the sort of frames you can find anywhere – for example, Ikea’s RIBBA frame (£6) would fit the smaller or the larger size, with or without the mount*.

All prints come unmounted/unframed, wrapped in clear cellophane. They are giclee prints, and archival quality which means they will last for many years without fading or discolouration. I have to say that they actually exceeded my expectations when I first unwrapped one and took a look at the depth of colour and print quality.

Prices

Small prints are £15.00

Large prints are £25.00

Postage and packing is £3.50 in the UK, for one or more prints. International shipping? Please mail me for a quote.

Every pound I make from this sale will go into funding the next batch.

How to buy

I accept payment by PayPal. Drop me an email and I’ll be back in touch to confirm your print is still available, and to give you my payment details. As soon as your payment has cleared, your print will be on its way to you, safely backed by cardboard and in a padded envelope.

As there are only a couple of each design, I’ll be operating strictly first come, first serve.

But don’t worry if you miss out, because…

What would you like to buy next?

As I say, this sale will be funding the next print run.

I’d like to get some other images printed up, and I would love to hear if there are any images you particularly like. Consider it market research, on a shoestring.

One of these, perhaps?

Stamps landscape by Myfanwy TristramStamp forest by Myfanwy Tristramred-roaster-in-shade

* Disclosure: I have’t actually tried it! I’m going by Ikea’s measurements. But what I’m saying is, you won’t have trouble fitting them to a frame, ok? Ok. :)

Stamp forest

Stamp forest by Myfanwy Tristram

This is another of my aerial view collages – click the image to see it bigger.

Birds fly over a forest at twilight, taking messages to a loved one. Between the trees are little houses and lakes; on some of the lakes are boats.

This one is almost entirely composed of stamps; the sea and the birds are tracing paper, put through my printer* and superimposed with wavy lines from postcodes. The beach is made from manilla envelopes.

Notice that each bird is now carrying a tiny little letter, too.

It accompanies others in the series: Green Shield stamps paddyfields and Stamp Valley (which I am eventually going to redraw now that my style has developed a bit on this project).

* Yay for the uncomplaining HP 5524 – you might change your IP address far more frequently than anyone would think necessary, but you aren’t afraid of a bit of non-approved paper stock going through your innards.

On the other hand, if Santa is listening and has any extra space in his sleigh, I think an A3 scanner is currently top of my wishlist. Sorry HP 5524, I still love you, I just hate aligning multiple scans of a single picture.

Green Shield stamps paddyfields

Stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

In the last few days, I’ve put the finishing touches to a complex collage of paddy fields. It’s made of tickets and postage stamps (many contributed by kind friends) and maps (including one I used to navigate around Japan, before the advent of smartphones in my life). These elements symbolise travelling over great distances.

I also used Green Shield stamps, which don’t symbolise anything, but which seemed so right for the landscape. Then there’s a bit of ink.

You might remember my first drawing of these steppes, which was a simple version in painted inks, from this post.

Paddyfields by Myfanwy Tristram

Then came this valley, also populated with random stamps.

stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

Now the two ideas come together in a new landscape. I’m really pleased with it: from a distance, I think the details of the stamps and maps make it look like an aerial photograph.

I’ve been fiddling around with placing birds over the top of it*, and then I went away for a while and had the idea of just showing their shadows.

Stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

This is all still work in progress, and I am going to have to get the original collage scanned professionally. As you’ll see if you click and view it larger, this is a composite of several scans. Why don’t they ever match up?!

* These are drop shadows, created from the airmail label bird I showed earlier. That took a bit of thinking through: once I decided I wanted the shadows, but not the birds themselves (because the background is so fussy, it’s really hard to make out any detailed birds, no matter what colour they are), I had to figure out how to do that. Make the bird layer invisible, and the shadow becomes invisible too.

In the end, I expanded the canvas, put the birds outside the main frame, pulled the drop shadows way out from their ‘parent’ shapes, then flattened all the layers and chopped off the margin with the actual birds in it.

I bet there’s a more conventional way to do this. As a self-taught Photoshop user, I am aware I often go all around the houses to do something that a pro would be able to do without thinking.

Landscape with stamps

Landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

I am having *SO MUCH FUN* drawing birds’ eye view landscapes and playing about with ideas. Above (click to see larger) is as far as I’ve got with the latest one, actually physically on paper.

The plan is to collage some stamps onto it – the insomniac eBay shopping I mentioned in my last post – but although I’ve done this digitally, I haven’t yet taken the plunge and stuck them on for good, because I really like how it looks now. Eep. I might stick them on a transparent layer and take it from there.

Landscape with stamps by Myfanwy Tristram

Here are a couple of blurry phone shots of the work in progress:

blurryphone-pic2

blurryphone-pic1

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s the ‘final’ piece – as it’s only an exploratory drawing it’s not exactly final as such, but it’s as far as I’ve taken it. I decided not to wimp out with a layer of acetate and stuck the stamps (ie stamp scans) down on the page. I experimented a bit with trying to bring out the perforations on the scanned stamp images: I tried a threadless sewing machine, and in the end settled for a not-very-realistic but symbolic frilled pair of scissors.

I dithered about that final piece of map leading off to the horizon, because I liked the image just as much without it, but in the end I liked the vision it gave of endless worlds to be explored.

I also cut round the various trees and bushes where the stamps overlap; perhaps I should have just painted them over for a neater finish.

I’m quite pleased.

stamps landscapefini