Sunday, 27 May 2012

Talking of the middle ages..

Sorry folks, if you'd read the last post that was almost a link...

I am dead excited.
I have feathers ( is handy working in a zoo).
I have oak apples (procured from the one oak tree i could find in my local park...much undignified jumping to reach high wasn't pretty).

Now what in blue blazes do I want with those?
Well dear reader, inspired by trips to Durham, talk of the Lindisfarne Gospels, and my trip to see Leo (Da Vinci, not Sayer), I have decided to go old school; making my own 'iron gall' ink, and then making my own quill pens (properly this time!!) to draw with.
I now need a few extra ingredients for the ink, such as iron sulphate (I'll let you know if I get arrested asking for this at the chemist), gum arabic (which I must be able to distill from a packet of Wrigleys), and tincture of myrrh.  I will be calling for a lot of assistance I think on my mum and dad, who are medical herbalists, but also know a thing or two about making plant dyes etc, and found me the recipe for the ink...check the Herbarium - it is a mine of information for anyone with even a passing interest in herbal medicine and the use of plants.

Not only do I get to nerd out over pens and ruin at least one of the kitchen pans, but it's made me come over all botanical too.  The only time I'd really seen oak apples was in autumn...hard brown dusty things with an exit hole or two in the side.  These ones I are kinda squashy.  And then I found some that had no case and were all fuzzy...were they the same thing?

Now I know that oak apples are formed as the result if an insect making its home on the tree and then the 'apple' is formed around it, but I don't know if the apple is formed by the insect or the tree.  And what kind of insect  lives inside?  Hard to say at the mo, but there were lots of eggs...although when I cut this one open I did have one little grubby thing waving back at me.  And it's fairly clear that the apple and the fuzz are one and the same....

I will let you know how my research goes, whether I win any prizes for it, and what the bill for clearing any subsequent infestations of my house comes to...

That it should come to this...

Here's me at my kids' school fete, sticking my head through one of my own creations (..and how many people can say that?).
I am dazed from standing in the sun for 3 hours manning a badge making stall, and am slightly worried I am going to be on the receiving end of another volley of wet sponges.  Welcome to middle age Mr Church!

All joking aside, a very good day was had! Oh and keep looking over your shoulders sponge throwers...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Redressing the balance

It occurs to me that being as I work as a children's illustrator, this blog is often maybe a tad:
a) monochrome
b) not of children's illustration
c) too wordy

Here is a picture of a dinosaur playing maraccas.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Life drawing at The Tobacco Factory

As any fool knows, if you are to draw cartoon lions with any degree of competence, it is essential that you first develop a decent understanding of the human form..namely by going to lifedrawing sessions.

Now for the record I had got a bit bored of lifedrawing.  Poses seemed to be the same wherever I went (Hand on hip...check.  Hands on head...check.  Sat on floor with head on knee....and so on) and they didn't seem to relate to things people actually do (eg interact with the world around them).  So I was a tad sceptical when I first went to the Tobacco Factory to do their class...but hats off - it's ace!!
Michelle Cioccoloni who organises it actually seems to think about what she gets the models to do and why - she brings in ref pictures to give people inspiration;  the models often lean on things, pull ropes etc to show muscle tension and balance, and wear clothes or are draped in fabric so you can see how material hangs/folds.

I've included a couple of pictures from Monday's session...I have chosen the ones least likely to make your granny blush!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In a devil of a pickle (or maybe a jam..)

This weekend was ace on a number of fronts. Friday night me, my lovely other half Mel and our good friend Lou Archell put up a bunch of our stuff for exhibition at The Bed Workshop in Bedminster as part of the SouthBank Arts Trail  (it's a bit of a link frenzy this isn't it...sorry, it's going to get worse).
I'd like to particularly thank Mel, as she got me to do this when there was a large cloud of 'not sure I can be bothered' looming on the horizon.  In the end I put up pretty much every passable King Lear sketch I had and was well chuffed with the results.

Now I don't have many pictures of the exhibition without these guys in front, but that's okay as they were the main reason the weekend was ace.

At 3 oclock on Sunday, slightly befuddled from attending a wedding the previous day (another good weekend factor!) I and about a hundred other people crammed into the shop to see 'The Blatant Creation of Art' featuring The Bristol Ukulele Club doing 'Four Posters and a Pickle'.

Now this was a rock opera about the devil's efforts to scupper the burgeoning romance between a jam maker and a pickle maker (and also nipping the pickle makers nascent carpentry career in the bud by means of hellfire).

Why?  Well it's loosely linked to the fact that the Bed Workshop used to be a pickle factory..and who knows there may be some other historical basis for it...but for now I don't care!

Hands down the best thing I've seen in ages... funny, well acted, funny, well sung/played, completely unexpected and funny....I'm pretty sure it was all done for the love too.  And for one who's trying to get a handle on rhyming and storytelling, it was properly inspirational.... kids have been giving it 'P to the I to the C to the K to the L-E-S to the J-A-M' ever since.

There was someone videoing the whole thing so I'm hoping they'll put it up on their blog or somewhere.  Here's the link just in case..

I bloody love Bristol sometimes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Sam goes medieval!

Three things have happened recently which lead me to today's slice of pen nerdery!

Thing the 1st - I went to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at Bristol Museum, and it rocked my tiny world.  How did he get those amazingly subtle marks with a dip pen?  Got me wondering about old drawing techniques....

2nd - I went up to Durham, and spoke to Dr Keith Bartlett, who is very knowledgable about such things, not least because he is an expert on the Lindisfarne Gospels.  I subsequently read up a bit on the Lindisfarne Gospels...awesome is an overused word but if it applies...

3rd - I found what I think is a buzzard feather on my way to work.  I also own a penknife, so with a little help from my son's Horrible Histories book I had a go at making a quill pen.  
Me and the kids quickly set to a bit of scribbling.  Please note the sunlit photo and the brightly coloured vase of flowers...I am getting better at this blog lark.

Now let's get a few things straight..this was something of a bodge...if I remember my chat with Dr Bartlett right,  I should have left the feather to mature for about a year, rather than 2 days.  I also should really be using the 1st or second wingtip feather from the right hand...or maybe left hand.. wing of a goose (being as I'm right handed).  You will see that as it was the pen was more than a tad awkward to hold.

Then I had a go at the Leonardo did he achieve those amazingly subtle lines?  The answer is that, well...he was quite good.  But also drawing with a quill is a massively different proposition to using a metal dip pen.  See the scribbles below, which were all done with the same quill - you get a much softer line, and can go from very thin to very thick in one stroke without gouging a hole in the paper.

It's a joy to draw with...and all adds to my nagging and well documented feeling of having been born in the wrong century.  Now where's my calligraphy book?