Posts Tagged ‘artTutor’

I really believe in the benefits of drawing something every day. I always start with a proper sketch, which I upload to a sketching thread on ArtTutor, or sometimes maybe a few thumbnails for an illustration I’m planning to make. I try to fit in some writing too – and that’s all before breakfast!

But at Christmas, a friend gave me a Moleskine Accordion notebook:


I’d never had one before but have many times followed Lynn Chapman’s adventures  as a resident artist doing similar things (with greater skill haha!).

So I set about it, documenting bits of my life every few days or when I felt like it. And today I got to the end of the second side. (You work through it one way, then it sort of folds over and you work your way on the reverse until you get to the cover again.)

It has been such a fun journey. Here is one of my spreads from a month or so ago.FullSizeRender 8

I might have to buy another, but then I also need a few other things, like, um, food! Although art does tend to become all-consuming 🙂


I produced all the material required for the final assignment of my London Art College Illustration diploma a couple of weeks ago, and they found it acceptable!! Yay!

But what does that mean? I’m fully aware that the award of an overall distinction by my superb tutor Spencer Hill is meaningless in one sense. If the work I produce in future is substandard, I won’t be commissioned by anyone, however hard I tried to get that distinction. Plus, I need a channel to commit to now. That period of college time is gone; the future is at stake.

But which way to jump? The course took us carefully through six types of illustration, but my preferences obviously still follow my seeming life preferences – which are the same as before: editorial work and children’s books. I think I could slot in here pretty well in an illustrative capacity. If only I maintain a good-enough standard.

So I have a plan for 2016 and will stick to it. I will pursue editorial illustration chances and will also build a portfolio of children’s work – and at the same time be re-illustrating my out-of-print children’s book. I think limiting my options like this will be an incentive and a focus.

So how come I am ending the year still sketching whatever I please? Like this lady in a cafe down south last week (I loved her crutch propped there, and hat with its knitted flower):

cafe lady

And this one of the famous striking clock in Thornton’s arcade, Leeds, that I took a photo of a few weeks ago on a sketchcrawl arranged by a group of members of ArtTutor in the north. I used to live in Leeds, so it brings back fond memories.

Leeds arcade done

Maybe I just like sketching – and that will remain my morning, in-bed activity for sure. And as I don’t believe in new year resolutions, I’ll write the mantra Focus Focus Focus over my desk and hope to stick to my other plans all year – but only after I’m out of bed 🙂

We’ve all probably experienced a dread of going out and about with a sketchbook and chancing that people will see us.  I can think of three of my ‘super fears’ immediately.

1 They will think that I believe I’m good, or even ‘an artist’, but not say so, so I won’t be able to correct them. That’s unjust.

2 They will look down their noses and tell me how I could be doing it better. That’s humiliating.

3 I will not actually manage to produce anything of any standard. That’s soul-destroying, not even remotely funny.

Actually, I went to York with two friends recently, specifically to sketch. And do you know what? No one took the slightest bit of notice of us. That’s mortifying. That’s also ridiculous – we were right in their path and they didn’t see us. It’s also hugely liberating. I can do it! Now I just need to work at getting my sketching up to scratch. Here’s a collage of some I did that day. Badly photographed but proof that I faced my fear and dared.

York plein air sketching

Many thanks to friends from the online tuition site who joined me. And lessons on Craftsy that gave me confidence too. We gather resources from many places to help us on our way, don’t we!

I never thought I would prefer solid paints to tube paints. But then, I never thought I would prefer small illustration to large masterpieces! My tube paints are all W&N Artist quality (hollow laugh, but they say we should use good paints) plus a few Terry Harrison ones. These are great for large areas of wash. Here, I’m going to introduce my three favourites field boxes which have pans not tubes, in case you fancy giving one a try.

First off, I acquired a tiny travel box from Daler Rowney – with quarter size pans. Not refillable with blocks but I could replace the paint from tubes. These have entranced me. With a cut-down, decent-size brush together with the given small one, they are my go-to set, at home or out. The colours come off onto the brush well and, strangely, the one mixing area is mostly enough.

Daler Rowney quarter pans

Daler Rowney quarter pans

I then found out about St Petersburg White Nights – a set of block paints from Russia. Very reasonably priced and nice to use in a different way. Also soft. I wouldn’t take these out for a quick sketch because the folding out palettes make it a little bulky to hold in one hand. But definitely if going away for a week to a relative or a hotel. The front tray can be removed. There are some great colours in this box. I confess I was a little lured by the fantastic write-ups and the rather romantic-sounding name, but I haven’t regretted the outlay once. The names on the wrappers are not repeated elsewhere so I quickly made a chart to keep.

St Petersburg White Nights

St Petersburg White Nights

And then, just recently, someone on ArtTutor asked about Koi paints. I was probably stressed out with work and vulnerable to shopping therapy, but OMG what superb paints they have turned out to be! It’s a travel-sized box again with a removable additional palette that can be fixed left or right, plus two little sponges and a water brush. The paints come off easily and are transparent. What a gorgeous set!

Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

I might or might not take these out for a spot of sketching but they are certainly fit for purpose – they won’t look this new for long. I’ve no idea how I would refill these particular paints, but I think the W&N box has proved how long little blocks can last for illustrations, so I will worry about that in a decade or two!

I think I should abstain now from buying any more field boxes. But if you’ve used any of these boxes, I’d love to hear what you think of them.

And no, I’m not on their pay roll or anything. But I promised I’d write about the art courses I’ve been doing over the last year or so and they’re all at London Art College. Or rather ‘with’ them – they run distance learning courses.

I had already learnt so much at that I was only really looking to fill a gap which they don’t cover. All art uses the basics, of course, and the skills are transferable, but I wanted some tuition, some project, specific to illustration. I guess that’s because I write children’s books. The lure is always there to go further! Maybe do my own picture book. You know, the next Julia Donaldson!

Anyway, I enrolled for the Children’s Book Illustration diploma, tutored by Maggy Roberts, an experienced illustrator. I ended up with a merit, and since I’m clearly not as talented as many others on the course (there is a student forum where people post their progress), that was fine. I knew I’d improved. It’s a learning curve more than a competition.

Each of the six assignments had various parts – the first a series of sketches or an exercise connected to the skill being practised or point being taught. The second, a finished picture done to a brief, as if given by a publisher.

To give you the idea in case you’re interested, here are a some pieces I did in amongst the many that were required.

First up, the first finished piece to illustrate the line ‘Row row row your boat gently down the river’. It was totally nerve-wracking sending in my first full artwork for someone to see. I guess I’m more blasé now.

Row row your boat

This next was a pen piece to practise inking skills: it had to be a kitchen container used in a fantasy fashion and including a small person or animal interacting with it. (The full piece that followed this was an undersink world!)

container pen work

And finally for now, animals doing silly things was an essential step to being able to illustrate children’s books. I was pretty pleased with this crew!

silly animals

Of course, every now and then after this point in the course, I went digital, probably because I was scared I would ruin a piece done by hand and have to start again. And again. And again. But I’ll write about my digital adventures later because they led me to do the digital illustration diploma when I’d finished the CBI one.

Two-and-a-half years since I last updated this blog! Whatever happened to me? Well, it’s easy to explain. Just after that last entry, I joined the new teaching website and have been learning to draw and paint. It was just something I needed to do. In addition, I specifically enrolled on some courses at London Art College, because my main interest in art is illustration: a lovely mix of ‘real’ media and digital. I’ll be writing more about this in future. Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 16.31.12 In other words, I have decided to go the self-publishing route once more and want to illustrate the books too. The whole works. I haven’t actually tried to interest publishers with the three books under consideration. I just decided to go it alone. One will need a cover, one will need tiny drawings intermixed on various pages within the short chapters, and one will need larger illustrations all through. I think I’ve set myself up for an enormous job, and I am well aware of the need for good quality. But right now, I have got far enough with my art to feel up to the task. So it starts here! From now on, I’ll update regularly and write about my art and my writing ‘as one’. It’s exciting.