Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

mother artist

This piece of graffiti is a fairly new addition to an underpass on one of my running routes. I enjoy graffiti and street art well enough, but my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of it that spoke so directly to my own concerns. I’d like to meet whoever scrawled this and have a good long chat with her.

I’m not sure whether the big ‘NO’ underneath it is in answer, or whether it’s part of a previous piece of graffiti. Either way, it adds some hollow humour that I also enjoy.

Anyway, with all of that in mind, here’s my review of how I did on the ‘artist’ side for 2015 (the parenting side is always a work in progress, and another matter).

Comics

wild flowers by Myfanwy TristramLots of my work comes directly from motherhood and this year that was reflected in two cartoons: one about the school run, and one about my own mum.

In 2014, I drew Underdog, which relates a true experience of sewing with my daughter, and this year it was placed second in a prize, which is very gratifying.

I once again had a shot at the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest, but feel more and more resigned to the fact that I’ll never make a dent in that one.

I made a four-page comic about what happens when you take synchronised swimming to an extreme.

Feb 3rd brings the annual challenge of Hourly Comics Day. I’m looking forward to this year’s, although as it’s a working day, I’m a bit concerned as to how I’ll manage it…

Clothes

Clovember - illustration by Myfanwy TristramThe 30-pictures-in-30-days Clovember project was also a motherhood project: I drew everything my daughter wore (far more interesting than my own outfits).

This year I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects with the Swedish fashion label Gudrun Sjoden, purveyors of beautiful, sustainable clothes. In March, I painted customers in their shop, and then of course in August I had an amazing two days pretending to be a model. This has to be the wildest and most incredible reward that drawing has brought me yet.

The sketch diary I made around that trip has had an amazing amount of comments, likes and shares: it’s wonderful to have had it enjoyed by so many. And that’s not the last of it: I’ll be working with Gudrun Sjoden again this year, and I’ll share more details when that happens.

Travel

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy TristramWe had family holidays in Frome and Barcelona, and I drew a sketch diary for each (16 pages and 26 pages respectively). The Stockholm diary added another 12 pages.

I also recorded a trip to Madrid for work (26 pages). I was particularly pleased to find a way to combine my very interesting day job, and my drawing.

I love having my sketch diaries, and I do enjoy the process of making them, but as my drawing ability improves, so do my ambitions, until I am in the silly situation of having to spend a couple of hours a day on them for weeks after our return.

This time could be used for other types of drawing, so this year I will have to think carefully about whether to continue.

As it happens, my favourite type of sketchbook appears to be really thin on the ground at the moment: I haven’t been able to find any in TK Maxx and Homesense, where I usually pick up two or three at a time.

I have two unused ones in a drawer at home and after that it’s entirely possible I won’t be able to find any more, which is a real shame as I’ve never seen any other sketch book that’s quite as well-suited to sketch diaries. Maybe it’s a sign that it really is time to give up.

Other stuff

petting party birthday invitation by Myfanwy TristramAs I only just posted, I drew my daughter’s stocking and all its contents (twice in one year, as it turned out, as I only completed 2014’s stocking on January 3rd 2015).

I also made my daughter’s party invitation – more happy combining of parenthood and drawing.

People and events

This blog was given an incredible boost by WordPress when they featured it in a round-up post at the beginning of the year, and then in a couple of subsequent features. That recognition has brought almost 5,000 subscribers to my blog. That’s great, and makes me think of ‘success’ and ‘exposure’ in entirely new ways.

But sometimes you also have to meet people in the real world, right? Even if parenthood has put you in the habit of staying in of an evening.

I went to a few excellent drawing-related events this year: an talk put on by the Lewes Children’s Book Group, and the inspiring Graphic Brighton conference.

Then there was the Brighton Illustration Fair which had a strong comics slant. This year, I’m going to try and be on the other side of a table.

Finally, I rediscovered Cartoon County, a group specifically for cartoonists, and right on my doorstep – I really should make more effort to go.

So, can you be a successful artist and a mother? To answer that question quite seriously, I’d say that yes, you can.

I’m not pretending that I’m a successful artist myself – that must depend on your definition of ‘successful’, but I’d bet that most people’s definitions would include making a living from it. I am an artist who’s becoming more content with her work, and enjoying a burgeoning readership though, so that must be a good thing.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the anonymous graffiti artist is probably in the early stages of motherhood (or maybe even pregnant, and thinking ahead?). If that’s so, then my answer would be to hang on in there. The first few years of motherhood do not allow for very much else, but that’s not a permanent state. And motherhood will inspire your art in new ways.

 

 

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A week in Barcelona, final part: rainbows, closed doors and iconic pavements

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s the final pages of my Barcelona sketch diary.
You can see part 1 here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

And part 4 is here.

As always, click and click again to see each page at a larger size. Now read on…

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

A week in Barcelona, part 4: giant heads, small press comics, and food colouring

This is part 4.

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Click each image and then click them again to see them at a larger size.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

That blue sketchbook ends up being the one I did my Clovember drawings in.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Tomorrow: the final installment.

Brighton Illustration Fair

BIF wristband by Myfanwy Tristram

I’m really feeling the pressure of time at the moment. It’s a fine old thing to have a drawing blog, but that becomes a bit problematic if you find yourself having the choose between updating it and actually doing some drawing!

So this is a bit of a fly-by post.

I just wanted to tip my hat to the organisers of the Brighton Illustration Fair. This is a brand new event which had its debut couple of weeks back.

The focus was mostly on comics (just the way I like it). I’d just been bemoaning Brighton’s lack of a sizable comics fest with a number of other local cartoonists,  and for us visitors, the event just materialised, like manna falling effortlessly from heaven.

In reality, it must have taken tons of preparation. The hall was so busy for the whole weekend, with talks, screenings and activities, as well as the table top sale of zines and artwork. I think we can safely say that the illustration/graphic novel/zine scene is booming here in Brighton, and rightly so given its famously high-quality art school.

I mean, look at it! Heaving first thing on a Saturday morning (Click to see this picture bigger; yes, guess who just discovered the panoramic function on her phone camera).

BIF panoramic by Myfanwy Tristram

Here are some of the artists I met, listened to or bought stuff from, together with some links so you can find out more.

Catherine Faulkner

catherinedoart

I’ve been following Catherine’s pun-filled Instagram account for a while now (typical example above), so it was lovely to  meet her in person. You can see her website for more.

Lizzy Stewart

Lizzie Stewart travel diaries

I’ve mentioned Lizzy before on this blog, because she does gorgeous sketch diaries. I wish I’d bought more from her, actually, but reading Four Days in Marrakech and Swim was a real treat.

You can buy them on her website.

Maria Herreros

Marianna madriz at Brighton Illustration fair

This was a bizarre thing: I was recently in Madrid with work, and one evening I was very pleased with myself for scouting out a little shop with a back room full of indie comics.

I bought a handful of the most interesting-looking ones (another blog post I haven’t written) and what do you know? The very same comic was sitting on a table at BIF, along with its gracious creator.

This could be a story about how annoying it is to buy something unique while you’re abroad, only to find it’s readily available in your home town, but I’m choosing to think of it more as a beautiful coincidence.

 Luke Drozd

Luke Drozd

Luke had some funny patches that really tickled my Brownie daughter, but I was more taken by his gorgeous poster-size prints, like this one for the Handsome Family.

Eleni Kalorkoti

Elena Kalorkoti

I bought a couple of cards with this grey cat on them, because he looks like our cat Sushi. More here.

Laura Callaghan

I found myself listening to a panel featuring Laura and Marianna (above) and Donya Todd (whose work I hadn’t come across before, but who must be well-known as she was given top billing!).

Laura’s work really won me over when I saw it on the big screen: lots of very detailed interiors which look like they’re done in felt pen, although it’s actually watercolour.

Laura CallghanThis talk really gave me pause: I was sitting watching comics creators who were evidently in their early twenties, saying how comics have changed in the last decade. I thought to myself, argh, I was creating comics *two* decades ago!

The whole scene is different now, though: as with every other sector, the internet has allowed people to organise, to self-publish and to market themselves, and this new generation of young cartoonists have a much brighter prospect. That must be part of why the whole scene seems to be blooming at the moment.

Matt Taylor

Matt taylor

Matt’s comic shows how to create a comic in monotone and still have it come out beautiful.

In summary

That’s not even all. There was a film; there were activities to keep children busy (my daughter loved drawing on the 3D Exquisite Corpse and designing a t-shirt); and there was Warwick Johnson Cadwell talking an audience through how to draw his particularly loopy imagining of Tank Girl. There was Joe Decie (mentioned in blog posts passim) and nice fox pendants.

If you’d like to see more people that I haven’t even mentioned, all exhibitors are listed here.

Yep, that really was a fun weekend. Next year, my supremely talented illustrator and comics friend Zara and I pledge to have a comic PRINTED and FOR SALE so we can be on the other side of one of those tables.

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…

Cartoon competitions update

by Myfanwy Tristram

As you may recall, I’ve entered three illustration/comics competitions in recent weeks:

(I’ve also entered the competition to design a new pound coin, just for fun! And so did my daughter. But that’s another post for another time).

It’s interesting to compare and contrast the entrant’s experience for each of these contests.

Thought Bubble: After submitting my strip by email, I had an acknowledgement to thank me for entering.

I just had a look at the competition page and to my surprise they have put all the entries online. I’m also surprised to see how few entries there apparently are – 38 in the over-18s category and just eight in the 12-17s. Still, that’s a nice wodge of comic strips to browse if you feel so inclined, and several of them are excellent.

Thought Bubble will be displaying every single entry over the course of the festival, which also gives a good incentive to enter, whether or not you think you might have a chance of winning.

Cape/Comica/Observer: The date that the winners will be informed is clearly given on the contest website, and that has now passed (sorry to break it to you gently if you are still hoping!). In fact, run out and buy your Observer on Sunday because that is when the winning strips will be printed.

There’s no acknowledgement email, or indeed any other communication to the entrants until then… but then, of course, there are far more people submitting entries to this contest. Last year I remember seeing that they’d had 180, and this year they’ve announced that the number had gone up. So perhaps it would be impractical for them to put all of them online anywhere.

Luckily, as you know, I’m making it my mission to collect together as many entries as I can, and you can see the results here. Please let me know if you have seen any I’ve missed, or have one to add yourself. So far I have found 23, which is already more than I managed the year before, though clearly only a small proportion of the complete set.

Prize for Illustration: I got an automated email on upload of my entry, and today I’ve just had an update to tell me who the judges are and that they had an “overwhelming” number of entries (ulp!). They will be judging on the 29th of October and hope to tell everyone the outcome shortly after that date.

As 100 entrants will be selected to be exhibited, this also feels like a competition where the odds are a little kinder. Plus, among the several judges there are an agent and editors of magazines: it has to be a good thing that your artwork is passing under their eyes.

That’s my summary of how it feels to be an entrant in one of these illustration and comics competitions. In short, from the entrants’ point of view, a little communication goes a long way.

Have you entered any of these? How are you feeling about it?

When illustrators speak instead of draw

satoshi

Above: one of several quotes from illustrators I’ve collected together in a single browsable interface.

You can learn a lot about drawing by looking at the work of your favourite illustrators. Certainly you can make conscious deductions about their use of colour, composition, or media.

But there are some things that no amount of staring at pictures is going to tell you. While you can guess at things like inspirations or working methods, only the illustrator’s words are going to tell you the answers for certain. Perhaps it’s ironic that we need the written language to understand a visual artist properly?

In any case, I’ve found myself reading a lot of interviews with illustrators lately. I suppose it’s the same instinct that makes me pay for a ticket to go and see them speak: I want to lap up their thoughts, note down their insights, and learn more about their processes.

Every artist has different inspirations, methods and routines, and so it’s not – it can’t be – a hunt for the magic formula. A great deal of it may just be reassurance: these people have doubts, too. They have pictures that go horribly wrong, and days that they hate everything they draw. Sometimes there are nuggets of advice, ways of dealing with setbacks or generating ideas.

With all this in mind, I have started a collection of spoken snippets from my favourite illustrators, and you can see it here. I hope you’ll have a sniff around, and find a quote or two that interests you.

In short, it’s a collection of statements with an emphasis on working methods, inspiration, and truths about the art of illustration. These are statements I’ll want to visit again and again, and read for reassurance, enlightenment, or even my own inspiration. And I’ll be adding more snippets regularly.

 A note about the software I used

As with my Chile sketch diary, this post represents a fortuitous link between my day job and my interest in illustration. The software that I’ve used is called SayIt and in its current iteration, it’s a bit like a Pinterest for the spoken word: it was developed by my workplace as a piece of civic/democratic software that would enable people to publish transcripts of the spoken word.

It is envisaged that it’ll be used for publishing what was said at council meetings, or major trials, et cetera. The great thing about it is that, once transcripts have been imported, they can be searched, browsed in different ways, and linked to easily.

It certainly wasn’t developed for collections of quotes from illustrators, but it’s beautifully flexible and it certainly works for my needs in this respect.

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]

The best sketchbook

baby by Myfanwy Tristram

For years I used to carry tiny sketchbooks around with me – A6, they were. Fine for drawing a surreptitious portrait of another passenger on the train, and great for fitting into any bag or pocket, but there’s no denying they were limiting in some ways.

I do tend to draw tight, but there’s nothing like a tiny page to make sure you never challenge your own boundaries, say, by sweeping an ink-laden brush with great abandon.

buffy sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

A few months ago, I picked up an 8″ square sketchbook from Paperchase. Actually, I don’t think it’s even branded a sketchbook; they call it a notebook. The inner pages are cream, with a bonus centre section of several unbleached brown kraft paper. I’ve been back for several since, and I’m now in that precarious position of someone who has a favourite sketchbook and fears the manufacturer will discontinue it one day.

It’s not exactly enormous, but one way or another it has vastly multiplied the amount of sketchbook work I now do. (Also, it still fits perfectly well into my bag; I’ve never been one for dainty clutches).

I don’t know why this sketchbook has been the one to change my habits – I have plenty of one-off books in all shapes and sizes where I’ve only drawn a few pages. Maybe it just happened to coincide with an upturn in my drawing; maybe it’s just uninitimidating: I didn’t buy it, as I sometimes do, because it’s so beautiful and perfect and OMG I can never sully its pages what if my drawing goes wrong. Nope, it’s easy to pick up and start drawing in this workaday book.

crouching by Myfanwy Tristram

These days, it’s my go-to for trying things out. It’s never going to be one of those sketchbooks that you proudly show round, or god forbid, publish in a book form. There’s lots of failed drawings in there – if they really start to irk me, I stick something over the top or draw right over it.

Faces by Myfanwy Nixon

plastic in the tree by Myfanwy Tristram

The paper is smooth. It takes pen fine (my habitual drawing pen is a Unipin, although a recent post by Dan Berry is making me think about that (qf reference to tightness above).

It’s not as brilliant for brush and ink, though it will take it – the ink sits on top and slides around a bit rather than sinking in. The brown pages are better because they have some tooth.
baby by Myfanwy Tristram

pleats  by Myfanwy Tristram
portrait by Myfanwy Tristram

When you run out of space, you can even draw on the back cover.
backcover by Myfanwy Tristram

So – that’s my sketchbook these days. If you: draw in pen a lot; find Moleskinnes too expensive, too thin-paged or too intimidating; want a good chunky book that will last a while but will still fit nicely into a medium-sized bag, I recommend it.

But just in case they *do* stop making them, I’d be interested to hear what your favourite is.

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.

Happy Birthday, Dude

Thanks to poor forward planning skills, our family suffers a quadruple whammy at this time of year. As soon as all the kerfuffle of Christmas and New Year is over, it’s our daughter’s birthday, and then, just a week later, my husband’s.

I spent the first few days of the year creating a winter wonderland birthday party fit for a nine-year-old. Then it was time to turn my attention towards my husband’s big day.

He’d just asked for money this year, as he’s saving for a new laptop. It’s hard to make a cheque exciting to open, so I thought I would put in some extra effort and let his card double up as a piece of artwork.

Dude birthday by Myfanwy Tristram

And here it is before I added the colour.

Birthday card line drawing  by Myfanwy Tristram

I think the likenesses were very slightly better before I put the colour on, but ah well, never mind. The dude in question didn’t seem to mind.

And now, maybe I can return to my normally scheduled artwork… until Valentine’s Day.

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.

Ask and it will happen

In a recent post, I mused about getting a gig where I could just sit and draw people. To my surprise, last week I received an invitation to do just that!

Gudrun Sjödén, the founder of the exuberant Nordic fashion label, will be visiting her London shop on Saturday, and they’ve invited me to come and draw her, and any brightly-dressed customers. Wow.. that’s like my dream situation.

I’m wishing I could take my inks, as they’re my brightest medium, but I think I’ll draw in pen and colour at home. It’s not that big a shop, and I can well imagine an ink catastrophe among all those lovely clothes.  Perhaps I’ll take some pencil crayons…

new20Nov12

Here’s a picture from my clothes drawings last November, just so this post has an image. I’m not drawing my outfits every day this year, though I have been photographing them. I think I was dressing a lot more brightly last year.. maybe a trip to the Gudrun shop will shake that up a bit.

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

Booner

booner by Myfanwy Tristram

Poor Booner. She’s our oldest cat, and has never got over her own nervousness. She was a rescue cat, and we think she must have been badly treated in her previous life. No amount of love and cuddles (slightly too enthusiastic cuddles sometimes, from our daughter, I’m afraid) have allowed her to relax completely.

This week she’s been diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid. What with £107 worth of blood tests, and medication for the rest of her life, it’s a good job we love her.

November 2012: clothes project

Everything my daughter and I wore in November 2012

Everything my daughter and I wore in November 2012

In November 2012, I decided to draw the clothes I wore, every day, for a month.

And as if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, I also drew my daughter’s clothes. At the end of the month, a good friend commented that the illustrations would make a great comic.

She said one thing that really struck me: that these clothes may seem pretty ordinary now, but in a few years’ time, the picutres could stand as a historic document.

So I cleaned all the sketches up and started putting them into a printable format. What you see here is me playing about with ideas for the cover.

In my day job, my boss has a penchant for extarordinarily long blog titles – I think that’s influenced my choice of title here.

My summing-up post at the end of the whole project – complete with pie charts! – can be seen here, and clicking here will take you to all the pictures on Flickr.

Everything my daughter and I wore in November 2012