Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

My mother always said I was a fairground child. She had reason – I used to like trying my hand at all the stalls. Not that we went to many fairs, but the Girl Guides and the Scouts had them and occasionally one came to town from further afield.

I think I frustrated her because she could see that I had some talent of sorts but that I squandered it (her words!) on getting to grips with many things instead of mastering just one.

Actually, I think this enriches my life. I love learning all sorts of things and getting fun from doing all sorts of activities. But – and it’s a big but – it does mean that while I’m illustrating (and in the zone), I’m fine. Same with writing. But if I’m casually doing one or the other (not in the zone) then I can get seriously distracted . For instance, I had just finished an article illustration done digitally, about the financial sickness of a particular country’s banks, when I decided to do some watercolour! Not for any reason in particular; just some vegetables and fruit for fun. Miniature ones. I’ve assembled them here for you.

wc-fruit-and-veg

White Nights watercolours on Khadi handmade paper

It’s not that they’re bad (for my lowly ability, they’re quite reasonable – and each is only two inches tall) but I know I won’t continue to practise watercolour: my oil pastels are winking at me. And my alcohol inks… So – fairground child indeed!

What I’m thinking of doing is rationing some of my time. Work is work and I must concentrate, then allocate myself some hours or days to simply do whatever takes my fancy among the fairground stalls. For that, I shall call myself Wandering Ellie.

Over the last year or so I have only written articles, children’s picture books and some (many!) editorials. I do a lot of editing of sentence structure for a variety of reasons. Sometimes to refocus on the main point, sometimes to clarify the point I thought I had already made clear(!), and sometimes to fit the need for brevity.

It occurs to me that this year alone I have got letters published in the Daily Telegraph many times. Not long-winded, knowledgeable, informative ones. I leave that for the experts. Mine have been succinct, salient nuggets destined to cause a grin, a reaction or a very precise point. I claim this openly without pride. The reason is that you don’t get published unless your letter arrives exactly how they like it. It’s a salutary lesson in focus and crafting to editorial need.

Edit and re-edit

What no one knows is just how many iterations I scribe compared to how many I do for an editorial (three routinely) or a short story (a few). The ratio of revisions to word count is astronomical! I cut and move and alter and exchange until the shortness, succinctness and rhythm of the read (sometimes only two sentences) is as perfect as I can make it. And it’s written one day for publication the next, because relevance and fit move on rapidly in the news world.

Here are three of my successes (the first will not make sense without the trigger but that’s how you join in a conversation in Letters. That and starting with SIR!):

SIR: “Somewhat quaintly; not too sentimentally” (Letters, 6 March) is the most likely result, in my experience, if the piece is played on an old harmonium with bellows operated by foot pedals. “Somewhat breathlessly” will certainly apply.

SIR: On reading Shane Watson’s piece on what makes us posh or not (Features, September 6), I vividly recalled being at a small gathering of parents from the local private school. Suddenly a voice boomed: ‘Who cut the stilton like this?’ I glanced at my husband, who raised his eyebrows slightly and shrugged. To this day, I have no idea about stilton etiquette. And don’t care. If that’s classed as not posh, I’d rather be normal.

SIR: Keith Taylor’s simple solution of installing a call blocker (Letters, October 25) is unworkable. The firms involved regularly change their number and I have no wish to stand by the button rejecting each one.

I hope this inspires you to try writing a letter to the editor of your favoured newspaper or magazine. The year has been good to me in my writing world and I’m looking forward to Christmas and a few days’ break 🙂

I am delighted to have won a writing competition that I entered in August. I have very little time for fiction writing these days and am perhaps a little fed up that it’s almost impossible to get certain novels published. No, they’re not horrendous; they’re just not the “in” thing.

And although I have self-published really successfully in 2008-9, twice, I’m not sure that the one I have completed would be welcome in secondary schools, which is mostly where I would need to take it to do workshops and sell copies. (Oh for the return of Borders, the book chain that went into administration!) Schools are still very reluctant to deal with any issues of LGBTQ sexuality, even though the plot doesn’t hinge on it, but on the need to find out why a brother has suicided.

So to have written a successful, carefully constructed 1,000 word short story with a theme I know a lot about as a part-time young people’s therapist, and a dollop of emotion in the story, well… I’m pleased! It reminds me of my long-standing love of writing to move people. Currently I write for a very different audience in my editorials or the occasional article.

The new (January) issue of Writing Magazine will be out on December 1st, complete with my winning story. How nice is that! It’s their most popular competition of the year, so it feels extra good to have won it.

It’s a bit of a change from drawing a loo in Promarkers for World Toilet Day last Saturday! I was pretty pleased with this result too, although the reflection is a bit off and should be lighter. Mine is nothing like as posh 😦

promarkers-loo

I spent yesterday upgrading (ruining?) my illustration portfolio site. I think it works now. At one point it had no home page and now it probably has two of every page, but if I delete one, the other goes too. Since I first started with WordPress, they have upped their offerings, complexity, usefulness and instructions so much that I find it hard to manage my way through to do what I want.

I had two aims in mind:

  1. Limit what was on the site so that art directors could immediately find relevant, good stuff.
  2. Make the landing page be the portfolio itself. In other words ‘About’ could be less obvious at first.

You know how they say, with editing your novel, ‘kill your darlings’? Well, I’ve removed my fine art and my sketches and my photo artistry images. I’ll decide what to do with those later. They are not going to aid my illustration aims, so they had to go. Focus, focus!

What is left is a portfolio of editorial illustration and a portfolio of children’s illustration. I shall regularly add new work and remove older stuff. There’s a lot of competition out there and I need to make it easier to be seen, and to develop my style in each discipline to be recognisable. Hopefully desirable too.

The two portfolios that now remain sit side by side (by some miracle at midnight!) and my next aim is to make the images within them sit in a block too. I have no idea how, but it can be done, they say.

If you want to look and offer feedback, that would be great. If you understand how the Qua theme works, even better. I’m all ears 🙂 You can find me at eleanorpatrickillustration.com.

Here is my latest biro girl with background. Exam results came out last week.

certificate girl

I spent a long time doing biro sketches of children last year. I still love using a scribbly biro and have been tempted to ditch heavier ink outlines and revert to type!

Anyway, I just painted this little toddler tennis star and was wondering about a background for him. I decided to sketch the flowers in his garden in biro (ball point, if you call it that), and then simply locked the unused pixels on the flower layer and brushed various colours over the linework to make a background without it being intrusive.

I had my doubts at first, despite liking it, but then changed it to mono to check the tonal range of the whole piece, and it’s not bad. In a picture book, it would need some darker darks somewhere.

I’ll put both colour and mono versions here so you can see for yourself what you think of ‘coloured’ biro backgrounds of this sort! The mono version would probably work quite well for a chapter book illustrated in black and white. I think I always assumed they were done in shades of grey but recently saw some artist finals for a chapter book and they were in colour, although eventually printed in mono. I live and learn!

tennis toddler with flowers

tennis toddler with flowers 2

 

 

Having spent some time reducing (diminishing?) my children’s story to under 1,000 words from its original 1,200, I wanted to run it past my granddaughter. I pulled up the newly shortened version and suddenly realised it would make little sense, so I obviously had to immediately pull up the original.

Why would this be? Well, it has no pictures yet. And the main way to cut length is to eliminate everything that could be shown in the illustrations. This meant, for instance, that if the spider is forging a new web, you can say One… two… three… four… And have spot illustrations to show where he fixed the four strands. Without the illustrations it is both nonsense and boring. There were so many instances where I left room for the illustrator to show the story so that I wouldn’t need to tell it that I had no choice but to ditch the new version and read the old one.

I think this one hit home with her. Perhaps its best use, therefore, is in a short story volume where only a few pictures are used and it can stay in its original form. Haha. How many unknown authors get to publish an anthology of great stories?? So I will push on with the new version and send it out.

This kind of ‘this or that?’ scenario does ring a bell with illustration too. How many times have I had a good version and a ‘ruined’ improved version. Gut feeling plays a large part in creation. Perhaps sometimes we really ought to stay with the original. Unless market forces combine to prevent that. In which case… Give in?

Example. I sketched this little dancer this week. She looked cute but I ploughed on to digitalise and paint her and I’m really not too sure if she couldn’t have inspired the imagination better in her original form! What do you think?

little dancer

little dancer revised

OK – I’m not claiming to be good at anything. But while trying to design an editorial illustration for a long article on the history of airships and their possibilities, I kind of got caught up in wanting to finish.

It’s the same with novels or any fiction. You dash through, entranced by the story, and rush to the end. And then stop and think wow, it’s done. It’s not! We all know that. Revision and editing play a large part in both writing and art. (Which is probably why watercolour and me have an uneasy relationship and end up going digital walkabouts together afterwards!)

So here I was thinking that this version would pass muster (besides, I wanted a break).

airship final 2

Yes, it’s flashy and grabs the attention, but it’s absolutely awful in terms of professionalism.

So I pulled myself together and started again. I redrew the airship and trees etc but kept the girl and the window idea (and the aerial perspective). Photoshop and Illustrator have figured throughout. The watercolour background is dragged in from another of my pieces. I hope you agree it has a more ‘finished’ look. It’s this that I am calling ‘good’ in contrast to just OK.

airship version 2