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]

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.

Airmail bird

Airmail bird by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s a little collage bird I made while I was at my illustration class last night. Next week is the last session. We’re going to the pub, so I guess my learning  has come to an end.

At least, the kind of learning you do in a class. One of the tutor’s maxims was that we should keep on looking, and learning, and finding stuff out about oneself, and I hope I can carry on in that spirit.

I recommend the tutor: if you’re local to Brighton, you might be interested in his upcoming course. And in fact, the Phoenix always has loads of exciting and inspiring courses going on. A Xmas present for the one you love, perhaps? Even better if you are the one you love…

Trying things out

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram

Here is a small bird I made from some Brighton bus tickets.

We’re all switching to pre-loaded cards and mobile phone tickets these days, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to get hold of paper bus tickets. It’s funny to think that  maybe in a couple of years’ time, this picture will look really dated.

In any case, I need to make more of an effort to collect tickets while they’re still around. Our daughter still requires a 30p one for each journey, at least, so I can nab all the ones she hasn’t folded into paper boats.

bus ticket bird by Myfanwy Tristram

He stands pretty well on his own – I could see this image working for a simple Christmas card. But I have bigger fish to fry. I’m getting towards the point where I want to do some full pages for my children’s picture book.

Now, what follows is all still at the ‘trying things out’ stage; it’s not finished work, but it’s getting nearer to it. And nearer to saying ‘this is the style I’m happy with’. You’ve already seen a phone snap of the below:

Work in progress by Myfanwy TristramI’m enjoying the collage, but it’s flippin’ time-consuming.

Other things I am enjoying include:

– Ink (especially *on top of* the collaged paper – see how it seeps into the tissue, but misses out the gold birds?);

– Deciding the girl’s hair is pink because she’s *just that wild*;

– Loosely basing the dad on a Nick Cave type of figure, for all the mums who might appreciate that as much as I do (though a friend told me he looked more Frank Zappa-esque).

Oh, and although you can’t see it that well here, the girl’s top is collaged from this beautiful old shoebox I found. Triangles – they are very now, you know. I’m trying not to use it too fast, or maybe I just need to scan it so I can always sample from it. Or – here’s an idea – I could just buy more shoes. That’s always a good solution to most problems.

On top of that, lovely friends have been sending me tickets and stamps to cut up and glue and generally muck around with.

I got to the stage where I didn’t feel like I could go much further without having a text to work to, even if it’s not the final one. I’ve mocked up the dummy book, and that did help a lot in knowing where the double page image spreads should go, and where there will just be small vignettes, etc. So the next thing I did was to put together one of those spreads.

Bear in mind that this is very much just trying stuff out. Also forgive the scanner lines – it’s a big picture, my scanner is small, life is short, etc etc.

birds-carry[Click to see bigger]

There’s a lot I like about this picture, but for my money it isn’t doing its job.

To start with the positives:

– I like the window acting as a frame within a frame, and I like the extra 3D-ness the collage gives that effect.

– I rather like the colours, especilly the curtain rail being such an impertinent pink.

– And the curtains, despite being overly gothy (perhaps suitable for our Cave/Zappa dad?) are looking rather lush.

But what’s not working is the scene beyond the window. That little red ticket bird that was so clear in the first picture of this post just gets lost in all the detail behind. Faring even worse are his smaller pals on the telephone wires (which incidentally seem to be emanating from Dad’s mouth – layout fail). The idea is that birds will all be composed of tickets, but at this scale, they just can’t be read clearly. This page is a big reveal – birds! – so they really need to be much more prominent.

It all comes down to the background. I must say, I was having a lot of fun doing all those rooves and chimneys and smoke (tracing paper collaged on), but this isn’t the place for it. It doesn’t matter – it’s all a learning process, and perhaps I can use those ideas somewhere else.

I thought I’d try Photoshopping in some previous birds, and then cloning my little ticket bird, but I can’t say anything’s perfect just yet. Trying quick fixes like this rarely works – I reckon I’ll be better off taking everything I like about the picture, and using it to inform the next version.

Birds at the window by Myfanwy Tristram

Birds at the window by Myfanwy Tristram

In summary: it’s not perfect, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all good learning. And blinkin’ heck, inks are lovely.

sketch by Myfanwy Tristram

Birds

After the first week of the course, I went away and started thinking and drawing and thinking some more. I’ve had this one idea for a children’s picture book for ages (along with many others), and now seems like a really good time to explore it.

It’s a funny thing: the course itself? It’s just three of us in the room with the tutor (one of the women who was there for the first week didn’t turn up this second week). That’s all.

But I know that I am going to get more done, and with more freedom and a better chance of success than if, say, I’d decided I was going to draw at home for three hours every Tuesday night until I’d made a book.

Plus, there’s something about speaking an idea that shows it up for what it is – naked, shivering against the wall, nowhere to hide. And there’s something about people answering back to your idea that catapults it off into new directions.

The book I want to make is about a bird.

So after that first week, I went home and I drew these:

birds

Well ok, so far so good, but, y’know, I’ve drawn something like this before.

And I doodled a lot – I had to work in London on one day, so on the train up there and back I could draw.

And at the weekend, I sat down and I drew this:

kite

(You can click on all the images in this blog to see them bigger – or, in this case, to see how poorly I have stitched together the various scans it took to get this large image in.)

And, while they were fun to do, I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d discovered anything new, or happened upon a style I wanted to use for the book.

I felt, I dunno, like they were really constrained, and flat. I wanted to scale them up six times bigger and work with a paintbrush the size of my arm.

The night before the next class, I started thinking, well, kites are made of paper, right? And I started piecing together this:

Fevvers by Myfanwy Tristram

And, ooh!

That, that has lit a firecracker under me. A slow-burning one, sure, but put that together with some ill-advised insomniac eBay purchasing, and I have thought of a route that I find really, really exciting. All will be revealed, at some point…

Meanwhile, a couple of us actually cracked open the paints at the class this week. I started drawing without much thought, but I like what came out.

Oddly enough, it is the opposite of the huge, splashy, free painting I thought I wanted to do.

Paddyfields by Myfanwy Tristram

Someone saw it on my Instagram feed and said that at first glance, they’d thought it was a rug. Wouldn’t that be nice?