It’s really really soon now, you guys

Woah, those Finns are arriving pretty soon!

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you might like to catch up on the history of my madcap idea to bring two complete strangers over to the UK to sleep on my sofa and talk about comics — hopefully to an audience, which is of course where you come in.

You can see Siiri Viljakka and Lauri Tuomi-Nikula speaking at four events in Brighton, London and Hastings, next week.

I’m pretty sure these are going to be the best Finnish-comic-and-FOI-related events ever held in the UK (and possibly the only ones) so I’d advise you to grab a ticket while you can.

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Fly Across London

by Myfanwy Tristram

Fly Across London by Myfanwy Tristram

I’m not normally the type to squeak deadlines – you might have noticed that I had my Cape/Comica/Observer entry in weeks before the closing date. And then what happened? I started talking to friends about how little chance I felt I had of winning, and one of them suggested hedging my bets a bit by entering a strip into the Thought Bubble Comic Art Competition.

Well, that deadline was only a few weeks away (it’s still open! Enter!), but it only involved submitting a single page, and I managed that. And THEN the same pesky friend said that since I had turned that around so quickly, maybe I should submit something to the AOI Prize for Illustration*. The deadline was something like 10 days away at that point – 10 days which included a weekend we had booked away for a family reunion.

Anyone sane would probably have shrugged and said, oh well, maybe next year then, but it appears that  a) I’m very suggestible, and b) I find it hard to turn down a competition.

It’s not even as if I sprang into action right away, either. No, I spent a while casting round for inspiration. The competition has the theme “London Places and Spaces”, and goes into some detail about the requirements, which include the fact that you must at least nod to a form of London transport. Eventually I landed on the idea of all the backs of houses and gardens you see from the Overground train windows, which always grasp my attention as the train trundles through the suburbs. You get just enough of a glimpse to imagine yourself down there, bouncing on a trampoline or picking flowers from the pristine beds, lying on a garden bench or picking up toddlers’ toys.

Once I’d played around a bit with composition I suddenly thought, of course! The theme lends itself very well to the collage form I’ve used before… but would I have time to do something quite so intricate? Well, now I know the answer.

As a rough estimate, it took about twenty hours’ work, mostly crammed into the time between finishing the day job, and going to bed when I reached exhaustion (which actually isn’t that late for me! I wake early for the school run, so by 11 or 12pm I’m bushwhacked). The knock-on effect of the late hours was that I was too tired to do my normal exercise at lunch time – something I’m usually very strict about – and that my husband started giving me the side-eye over the share of housework I was(n’t) doing.

Hopefully it was all worth it: I’m pleased with the end result. If I’d had more time, though, there are things I would have done differently. My stocks of maps and stamps – my favoured materials – were very low.

A friend has been promising me some old maps for months, and I’ve been too lazy to go and collect them, so that’ll teach me. I had to use my very last scraps, which didn’t give me a full tonal range of materials to choose from. Also, because of the London theme, it would have been just great if it could have used London maps and tickets – but I had no such thing in my stash.

Never mind, though. It is, as they say, what it is.

 

* Warning, this website flashes in a very disconcerting and headache-inducing way.

My prints at Spitalfields Market

I went to Spitalfields Market yesterday and saw my artwork in situ.

The printing looks really good, and the colours have come out just as vibrant as I was hoping.

spitalfields2

That’s mine, top left – the tins watercolour. If you want to buy a print, the stall will be there all weekend – it is in a dedicated part of the market that is all art, on the west side nearest to Bishopsgate.

There’s loads of other great stuff, too. I was really interested to see a Christmas card made from collaging maps (bottom row, extreme right in the image above): the same idea as my recent illustrations, but executed so differently. It’s beautiful – and if I find out the artist’s name, I’ll link to him or her.

spitalfields

My prints are available in two sizes, with the smaller one costing a very reasonable £10 (larger ones £25; you can see both sizes in the picture above).

Meeting Gudrun and the women who wear her clothes

Yesterday, I had the very singular experience of sitting in the London Gudrun Sjödén shop, sketching away while customers came to greet Gudrun herself, who was in town for a flying visit.

Gudrun Sjoden by Myfanwy Tristram

As I listened to the women who queued up to speak to Gudrun, and as I chatted to her in between times, it became clear to me what a feat the Gudrun label represents.

Red hair by Myfanwy Tristram

Most of the women had one pressing sentiment to impart: a big, resounding ‘thank you’, for recognising that women come in all shapes and sizes, and that we need not stop wearing colour and pattern once we’re over a certain age. Gudrun, with her trademark bright green specs was one manifestation of that spirit; another was the broad range of ages who approached the table for a biscuit and perhaps a photograph.

Beret lady by Myfanwy Nixon

Old or young, slender or not, the customers all wore colour, and wore it boldly. It made for some interesting drawing (so would the shop itself: the colourful clothes all around, the artwork and lampshades, and the glorious coterie of shop staff provided almost too many potential subjects).

Just discovered Gudrun, by Myfanwy Tristram

Gudrun shop assistant by Myfanwy Tristram

I was glad to have a moment to thank Gudrun for including older women in her catalogues, and catering for women no matter what size they are. It’s one of my personal bugbears that anyone who is a different shape from straight up-and-down has to look at photographs of clothes online or in catalogues, an then do a kind of tricky mental leap to translate that into what it would look like on them.

bought whole shop by Myfanwy Tristram

“It’s what’s inside that counts”, said Gudrun at one point. She was talking to Amanda from the Womens’ Room blog, who had popped in to do an interview.

Amanda from the Women's Room blog

I like the Women’s Room’s premise, too – that women over 35 just aren’t catered for by mainstream clothes shops, and that that’s a jolt for women who have grown up expecting to be able to express themselves through fashion.

It’s probably a strategic business error, as well, if the women I saw yesterday are anything to go by. Put it this way: these people are not gracefully sliding into an age of polyester twinsets.

Blue and red by Myfanwy Tristram

Anneka by Myfanwy Tristramyellow and blue by Myfanwy Tristram

London

This couldn’t have been more strongly illustrated than by the woman I sat opposite on the train back to Brighton. In her seventies, or perhaps even her eighties, she sported a shock of snow white hair onto which she’d splurged a mix of bright pink and purple dyes. She looked magnificent.

Pink haired lady

A note about the drawings: In the end I took pencil crayons, which allowed me to make colourful marks, quickly and without mess. I haven’t used them for a long time, and it was good to rediscover some of their plus points, like how nicely the colours can blend.

Drawing people as they quickly came to say hello was difficult, so I have not tried for exact likenesses. In most cases, I was drawing and colouring in long after the customer had departed, so colours and details are often from memory, or completely made up. Please don’t feel offended if you see an unflattering rendition of yourself – chances are I’ve mixed you in with one or two other people! Likewise, I’ve mixed and matched the things I heard people saying to Gudrun, so they probably aren’t next to the people who actually said them.