Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Always wanted to be an artist....

Children's TV character Mr Benn

.... ever since my oldest sister went to study foundation art and brought home a signed first edition of her tutor's new book "Mr Benn - red knight".  David McKee's child like drawing and attention to detail had me hooked. 

Book illustrator Pauline Baynes became one of my heroes after I read "The Dictionary of Chivalry" by Grant Uden.  Her beautiful imagery gives Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham a run for their money (love them too).  

Although I can fill a sketchbook with spidery drawing I have never been as good at drawing as my sister, who studied illustration, but I have always had a keen interest in repeat pattern and textiles.  So, after foundation, I studied textile design as surface decoration.  In the early 1980s there were some great emerging designers coming out of the post-punk era who had a strong influence on my own work.  One of my favourites is the very graphic-based Timney Fowler with their stark black and white reworkings of classical design and also Candace Bahouth's tapestries.  

A couple of years back I was asked to reproduce some pictures by children's book illustrators onto a library wall in a local school.  It was great fun researching different illustrators and even more fun trying to reinterpret their work using acrylic paint.  Of course, I could never match their skill but copying someone else's work is a good exercise in learning how they create.  You can see how fast Quentin Blake draws with his pen and where his pen has rested before he starts quickly moving the pen across the paper. It was a joy to paint every square in Kipper's blanket (by Mick Inkpen) and also Little Bear's striped pyjamas (by Jane Hissey). 

Here is Little Bear but I don't want to show too much of this project as I don't want to fall foul of an artist's copyright. Suffice to say, the library mural was painted to encourage children to read. 

Book illustrators have always had a huge influence on my art, probably because they help to tell a story and yet they stand up as art in their own right. Although I can't remember the last time I painted on a stretched canvas (it wasn't good art) I really enjoy painting on loose canvas, such as banners, and on walls.  Here is a banner I painted for the ceiling of a primary school.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Summer Garden

This year more plants have become established in my garden, despite the harsh winter.  Although I lost a penstemon and an oriental poppy my flag iris seems to have appreciated the prolonged cold spell and I am rewarded by a show of different poppies too.
These large peachy pink oriental poppies are too large for the garden now so I am going to split them and pass them on.  They are magnificent when they flower but I wish I could prolong the flowering until August. 

Most of these poppies have self seeded from the poppies I grew last year and I have taken quite a bit of poppy seed from field poppies but I did go a bit mad and buy some lavender poppy seed on eBay. 

I planted up a few pots too with pansies and verbena and nasturtiums (nasturtiums are about to flower) just to fill up some gaps and make a bit of a show on the doorstep. I love orange with hot pink. I also planted flowers up with parsley, coriander and basil and they seem to share the space well. 

My dianthus is really thriving this year and has established itself alongside a liatris so I am going to Skipton market this week to buy some more.  I planted it alongside the path and the dog keeps stepping on it but it doesn't appear to mind too much.

However, the thorn in my side is my neighbour's overgrown hedge which has taken all the nutrients from my strawberry bed and blocks the light out too. The only things growing here now are herbs in pots and a few poppies.  I need a plan for this bed.

I am already planning for the autumn and I am going to risk planting a blackcurrant (ribes) in the front toward the back which will hopefully begin to fruit next year. Although I will probably have to share the fruit with the birds!
To see more pictures of my front garden visit my images on Flickr