Yesterday the weather was glorious. The first really sunny spring day and I felt inspired to have a day of drawing.
When everyone else seemed to be clambering to rush outside and take in the maximum amount of rays possible, I also felt alive and excited (about the good weather) but in a totally different way. I’m curious to know how many of you fellow reader-artists would feel the same way here, but sometimes when a good weather day comes along, how many of you think …. yes today is an excellent day to do my artwork ?
Some friends would think I’m crazy not to set off for a 5 mile hike at the slightest sign of the sun, and I’m not opposed to this either, but what I’m trying to capture is that feeling of when good weather puts you in the mood to create and stirs your imagination in a way that you really just want to go with it. This desire (at that moment) appears to overpower the urge to do anything else.
Another friend of mine liked to work, undisturbed by calls for lunch or tea and would carry on until her body needed food and her ‘creative flow’ had got to a point where it felt right to leave her work, or perhaps also at a point where the work was going so well, that it would be easy to return to. After all we all know how tricky that ‘creative block’ can be when it comes visiting. Please offer your comments below if any of this sounds or feels familiar.
I digress, lol and had a great, inspired day, visually soaking up the sun whilst trying out my new Pentel brush pen. I heard about this from my friend Laura Weston who happened to tweet about a new pen she was trying out. I ordered one from China and loved the sense of line it gave my work. Quite different from my usual way of working, but sometimes… that’s a good thing too ! Thanks Laura for sharing your thoughts : )
Here’s a wooden cat, don’t ask me why she has orange wood grain for a coat, sometimes you just have to go with these feelings lol. I do like the way she feels quite 1960′s though !
I spent a lot of time playing around with elephant shapes. The pen allows you to make long continuous curves, where the ink splays out and creates wonderfully textured and expressive lines, that it would be tricky to create as easily, if done digitally.
I even did some mark making or just plain ‘dabbling’ on the page to try out the nib and later turned the ‘random shapes’ into whatever animal seemed to suggest itself from the scribble beneath. It does add another layer to the work that’s different again and sometimes a feeling of movement too.
I noticed that the Amaryllis, my mum had ‘donated’ at Christmas was now fully ‘exploded’ and illuminated, what a three headed monster !
At least the ladybirds in the garden had been enjoying an outdoor sunbathing session yesterday, even if mine was more indoor : )
Please don’t forget to leave a comment below, if sometimes the desire to draw / create / paint etc grabs you in the same way I described at the start of this post. I’m curious to know how many artists need to go with their creative flow when it comes calling : )
Miroslaw Tokarczyk was born in 1934 – a painter, illustrator and chairman of the board and co- publisher for ” Our Books ” .
He studied graphics in the studio of Jan Marcin Szancer at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
He was artistic director of the ” Movement ” , and chief graphic designer in publishing and Pedagogical School and the Institute of Publishing ” Our Books ” and artistic advisor Publishing House “Alpha”. Characteristics of Miroslaw’s work is intense , contrasting colours and simplicity of form .
Miroslaw developed graphically and illustrated more than two hundred books for children and young people.
He has participated in many exhibitions (eg in Bratislava, Vienna , Munich, Bologna) and has received numerous awards and honors – including the Silver Cross of Merit (1988) , as well as the award and prize competitions Polish Association of Book Publishers for the most beautiful book of the year (1987 , 1990). In a series called ” Read to me , Mom “
What does this yellow pidgeon, the Mona Lisa and Banksy have in common ? Well I bet you didn’t know, but you can find all three at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool at the moment ! I took a trip there last sunday, and I must say I’m not usually a big fan of sculptures, but there was a certain charm with Harriet Hosmer’s version of ‘Puck’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There were a few more angelic faces to keep him company.
Some great textures in the hair of John Gibson’s sculptures, and just check out that facial hair ! Oddly impressive lol
It’s easy to get a little spooked out with a room full of faces and figures so we moved onto see some of the paintings.
We learned a lot from one of the gallery staff, who showed us their version of the Mona Lisa, the Walker has dated this painting between 1630 and 1660. I didn’t realise there were so many similar yet different versions, more info here. In case the Mona Lisa didn’t catch your eye, I’m sure the richly carved frame would do the trick !
I didn’t catch the maker of this wonderful cat throne but liked its regal and quirky stance.
Wonderful use of coloured wallpapers really add something to the walls and compliment the work.. even when the customers try to clash !
A few ceramics and another story about the artist Banksy who paid the Walker a visit and was so impressed with it that he offered to loan them a piece of his own creation. They gladly accepted and again it sits quite happily nestled in amongst the Turners, Rembrants and Pre Raphaelites. When viewed from a distance the pixelated face becomes a real one again. Quite clever !
If you’re planning a day out in Liverpool the Walker is always worth popping in, even if it’s just to eat some of their lovely home made cakes… which of course I would never do : )
Blog update… sadly I believe the Banksy has now moved onto pastures new. Gosh you have to be quick !!
Yelena Bryksenkova is a cultured soul who lives partly in a beautifully illustrated world of her own creation. Born in Russia and brought up in Cleveland USA she now lives in New England, with her imaginary pet elephant and works as a freelance illustrator and fine artist. Like many of us illustrators, she likes to collect objects, and have familiar, comforting things around her. Using 005 Micron pens, watercolors, and Acryla gouache to work with. It’s no coincidence that her watercolors are “Leningrad” brand cakes, as they are something Yelena tells me she “absolutely cannot do without.”
I sent Yelena some carefully chosen questions and she kindly and enthusiastically replied.
How much of your Russian heritage do you feel has formed the person that you are today ? How did your parents come to make the move from Russia to Cleveland ?
My mom and I moved to the US in 1996, when I was eight years old, during the post-Soviet wave of emigration. We already had relatives in Cleveland who helped arrange our move. The language – spoken, read, written – is a part of my everyday life, and my heritage will always be a beautiful, mysterious and painful part of me which I’ll never be able to truly verbalize. Russia’s rich visual and literary culture is deeply meaningful to me, but unfortunately it’s one with a very tragic fate, and who I am today and the opportunities I’ve had to grow as a person and artist I owe largely to having grown up elsewhere.
You moved from NYC to New Haven ( I also love New England) was this move away from the big city, a decision based around finding a smaller, more personal space to call ‘home’ ?
After a brief stint in New York – which I had never really dreamed of – I jumped at the opportunity to live somewhere smaller and more manageable. I do like this little city, which is small enough to get to know well but so charming that it feels new every day (I go on long daily walks and it never gets old; Yale University’s old campus alone is a marvel!) I am inching my way toward Boston, though – that’s a city I have dreamed of living in, ever since I was a tenth-grader on a school trip.
You appear to be well read and a painter of characters loving solitude and quieter times. Does this reflect you as an artist or a world that you see around you as perhaps an ideal place to live ?
This absolutely reflects me as a person; as much I enjoy time spent with friends and family, I am quite solitary by nature and really value time spent alone, which I suppose is a handy quality to have in my line of work. My carefully curated world, in which I am surrounded by things I love, never feels lonely or boring.
I noticed that you have a ‘healthy obsession’ with detail and textural patterns, whether it be on fabrics, in the home, or flowers in a garden, stars in the night sky etc. Is this desire to capture detail just a part of your developing illustrators style, or part of a painters way of putting more information into a piece of art for the viewer to ‘read’ ?
Details – in clothing, in furnishing a home – are deliberate choices that one makes, appreciated by oneself and by those who care to look closely enough, which is why, for me, patterns and colours are very important in communicating the mood and personality of my subject (and inevitably my own). Plus I find the physical process of drawing small details highly meditative, so I can sometimes get carried away! The decisions of which surfaces could use a pattern and also when to stop are completely intuitive.
This colour in this illustration (below) was inspired by the flowers and Yelena’s chosen palette from above. A small series about solitude.
I really like the feel of these images Yelena created from a trip to Reykjavík. You can sense the cold, still climate perfectly.
Barbarella, wolf girls and ladies with jewellery are all captured here in Yelena’s personal and editorial work.
Her sketchbook work is so beautifully laid out, it’s almost like a published book in itself.
What have been your favourite commissions to date and who / what would you most like to create artwork for ?
My favorite job to date is one that I just completed – it’s a special illustrated edition of Mrs. Dalloway’s Party for Random House Spain, which will probably be published later this year. I love the 1920s and this was an absolute dream come true; the research alone – clothes, cars, furniture – was intoxicating.
Here’s a couple of other book covers Yelena has illustrated.
And some greeting cards.
You mentioned that you love painting girls and their environments and pastimes, where did this interest stem from ?
Art imitates life, and my penchant for that subject matter is always reinforced when I look at Impressionist painting. People (mostly women), in quiet repose, surrounded by cherished books and objects. Just a moment in time, nothing more. Although magically, complete strangers in different corners of the world pick up on some secret transmissions that I guess I inadvertently broadcast, and they write me lovely, very moving notes of emotional solidarity, sometimes even in very broken english.
Here’s some girls wearing Orla Keily fashions and patterns.
I love the notion of your imaginary pet elephant, can you tell us a little more about, where he came from, does he have a name, what does he like to do when you’re busy working ?
His name is Vaclav and he just materialized one day, about eight years ago. He’s a dream pet, a comforting thought and a kind of talisman. I imagine he just sleeps all day; very low maintenance and his mere presence at all times is all that is required.
Where to next ? any plans for the future and details about new work etc ?
I have been very busy working on a couple of special books, and there are two middle grade novels – Aaron Starmer’s The Riverman and Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s Under the Egg – coming out later this month, for which I illustrated the covers. I am so excited to be working with books, finally!
We’ll look forward to seeing more of your book covers later this year then. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and well considered replies Yelena. It’s been a joy to look through your work and discover more about the illustrator and your elephant : )
I’m a little late with this post as the content is from January, when I visited Tate Britain in London. It’s been a fair few years since I was last there. To be exact, I was last there doing some research for my A level Ceramics essay on Lucie Rie ! You do the maths.
This week, as Spring seems to have sprung (a little more anyway), I’ve seen some wonderful morning and evening suns which I thought I would share with you. This is the morning sun bursting in my bathroom.
This is what I’ve christened ”Bird foot tree” : ) and some fiery evening skies.
These dappled morning skies were like inverted snowscapes.
In January, I spent a great afternoon rambling around Tate Britain. Another calm and peaceful gallery space. There’s a fine collection of Henry Moore sculptures there at the moment.
Lovely to see some of Henry’s sketches hanging alongside his figures.
This eerie collection of figures seemed to have some weird connection to McDonalds. The space they were in felt cold and uninviting, which added to their spookiness.
Two beauties that caught my eye.
On the way home from the Tate we encountered this coppiced row of trees, also looking a little spooky in the lamplight ! We’re they shaking their fists at us ?
A few more glimpses of sunshine on the house plants.
Somehow I think that this is the nearest I’ll get to sitting down with Eric Ravilious and Angie Lewin for a cup of tea ; )
Spring is definitely in the air and it’s a very appropriate time to talk about it, not only because there are snowdrops and daffodils out in the parks and woodland. But also because Spring is the very subject of my first guest blogpost for my agents site. Yellow House Art Licensing.
You can read the article here.
I had another fab day at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool last sunday. It’s such a wonderful space and the mood of the building is light, joyous and refreshingly uplifting for what I would call a more traditional style of Gallery. I had forgotten this painting (below) ‘Springtime in Eskdale’ by James McIntosh Patrick, but soon got a sense of how comforting it was to come across it again. For me his work has strains of Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer and Pieter Bruegel all rolled into one. I love the perspective, use of colour and how James paints a tapestry of walls and fields that encourages our eyes to linger, explore and visually wander down those same lanes, that he painted back in 1935.
James is regarded as one of the greatest Scottish painters of the 20th Century. Born in Dundee in February 1907, his work has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. His father and brother were both architects and it was no real surprise when he enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art in 1924.
By 1927 he was selling etchings in London, and he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy whilst still studying. He left the Glasgow School of Art in 1928 and had won many prizes for portraiture and landscapes, and the prestigious James McBey Prize for Etching. The success of his paintings during the 1930s established his reputation, with many acquisitions made by public galleries and institutions. Since then his work has been displayed regularly at major exhibitions. I love his use of light here depicting Dundee High School.
In 1940, James McIntosh Patrick was called up into service with the Camouflage Corps, and was stationed in Africa during the Second World War. Upon his return to civilian life, he concentrated on exhibiting in Scotland, especially at the Royal Scottish Academy, and in 1957 became a full Academician. He started painting outdoors and loved it, which changed his working methods from then on. His work is full of detail and rich textures.
He captures the landscape around his hometown of Dundee so well. The light and shape of the hills and understands the movement of the land, it’s undulations and grassy patch-work fields.
The light and colours here are beautiful. We can sense that mid afternoon sunshine and the feeling of the summer months approaching.
Summer at last, but soon comes more wintery climes.
Patrick loved to paint out of doors, believing that his landscapes could encourage people to appreciate nature: “I don’t suppose there is much sentimentality about my paintings, but I have a deep feeling that Nature is immensely dignified when you are out of doors. I am struck by the dignity of everything.”
By the 1950′s he had perfected his style and technique in outdoor landscape painting and began recording his beloved Angus countryside on canvas, working in all seasons and all weather conditions.
In the same way that Bruegel’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’ captures my attention in its use of space and the aspect of the landscape. The same happens for me in this last piece ‘Winter In Angus’ acquired by The Tate Gallery in the same year that it was painted, 1935, when James was just 28 years old. Stunning !
Only last week The Courier newspaper announced that some of James early drawings had been rediscovered.
Long may his work be rediscovered, I’ve certainly enjoyed doing just that.
Finally I just wanted to point out a fine tribute for the site that I received, after covering the work of Matt Dawson here on Feb the 14th. Thanks Matt : )
Melvyn Evans began his working career as a marine engineer, working mostly on submarines, but even then he was drawing and painting. After finishing an apprenticeship at Portsmouth Dockyard he went to Camarthen Art college to do a foundation year and then to Exeter to complete a degree in Illustration. Then onto Goldsmiths College in London for a year where he took up drawing classes at the Royal College of Art under the tuition of Bryan Kneale RA. During this period he started getting illustration commissions for magazines such as Elle, Red, Homes & Gardens etc. This generated illustration work for design, Sainsbury’s wine labels, Marks & Spencer food packaging and advertising work for Network Southeast, Mini Cooper etc.
“I’ve been illustrating ever since, and if I get a bad day I know it’s never as bad as working on those cramped noisy submarines.”
I contacted Melvyn to ask him a few questions about his present day career path.
Can you describe the start to a typical day in your working week ?
The day always begins with walking Bessie the dog. She’s a hyperactive working Cocker Spaniel and quite a socialite, she’s always happy and when she’s excited she tap dances like Bruce Forsythe (she even has the chin). I love getting out first thing in all weather, it’s a great way to formulate ideas. The countryside around where I live is very inspiring even though we live close to London. There are many ancient trees, woodlands and copses. Sometimes in late January or early February the light as the sun rises is spectacular, a red orb silhouetting the trees, or a shaft of bright light penetrating through the dark purple clouds.
How did your creative path develop to bring you to where you are today? Did you always know you wanted to illustrate and be an artist ?
I think I always knew I wanted to be an artist, although I didn’t know which path this would take. My mother is an artist and we always had all the drawing materials at hand, and she didn’t mind the mess her four children made. We’re all artists now, from jewellers, woodblock engravers and etchers. My father was an engineer, very practical and inventive, I think he gave us a lot of confidence in our abilities, something every artist needs.
What a fabulous studio space Melvyn has to work in. These images show his old press (top) and the new Albion Press (below) built in 1860.
There is a mix of lino cut (hand rendered) work and photoshop or illustrator created illustrations amongst your portfolio. Is there one way of working that you prefer or do you see equal merits in both ? Does one provide a welcome change from the other ?
I started out as an illustrator whose style was relief printmaking, and I worked like that for nearly fifteen years before touching a mac, so I really like hand making and mark making, cutting and getting my hands dirty. I think this is my natural way of working and the way I prefer working. I think this goes back to my childhood with all the crayons, paint and glue covering the table and not knowing which to use first. Having said that, I do think the mac is wonderful as another tool to allow artists to create, scanning in drawings and then quickly blocking in colour alongside colour, testing combinations altering compositions. I think the ipad is the next stage forward, I’ve used a Wacom tablet for years, it’s good but it’s not like drawing on a surface. The ipad with the right stylus works really well, and there are some great drawing and painting apps, I’ve sketched on the beach at Whitstable and loved using it.
Some of your work looks like it’s specifically created for children. Along with the greeting cards and stationery products you’ve worked on, are these areas that you would like to expand into or perhaps create more one off commissions that were interesting asides from your preferred forms or illustration ?
I’ve been commissioned to create cards and other stationery products over the years. I’d quite like to expand the print work into this area, there are some great companies like Art Angels, producing cards from the artwork of printmakers. Another area I’d love to explore is patterns for textiles and papers, collaging the print with paint, texture and line.
Melyvn kindly shares with us, some of his initial sketches for a series of printed pieces called The Worry Story .
He says “I would love to create a children’s book at some point, I have ideas in sketchbooks dotted around the studio. I created an image for a book I had in mind called The Worry, in which worries were tangible things that could be lost and forgotten. It’s something I would to love to explore further, filling the book full of relief print illustrations and almost making the books limited editions for adults and children. The Worry story is centred around the the little character in the print. He has a worry in his bag but he has no idea why it’s there. At night, in the dark he can see the bag on the table by the bed and the worry seems to get bigger, but in the morning it’s still there same as it was previous day. The story goes on with a series of encounters and in one he is so engrossed he puts the bag down and forgets where he put it. So now he’s finally free of the bag and the Worry that was in it. “
Who’s work, would you say, continues to inspire and amaze you ?
There are so many artists, I love looking at new paintings or discovering new work by artists I’ve admired for years. I recently bought a catalogue of Henry Moore lithographs of Stonehenge produced in the 1970′s. The drawings are beautifully, dark and heavy, the almost abstracted forms of the stones stand like sentinels or lie like fallen giants. I’ll list a few favourites but it’ll read like a wish list of paintings prints and drawings I’d like to have on my walls. I think my first is the early work of Samuel Palmer, the woodblocks of Graham Sutherland, the work of Henry Moore, William Scott, Ben Nicholson of course Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Terry Frost and then bringing it up to date Laura Carlin, Emily Sutton, Ed Kluz, and Charles Shearer. It’s quite a list and these are only a fraction of the artists who have really inspiring qualities to their work. Recently your Fishink blog introduced me to the Chinese artist Zhou Sheng Hua who’s work is stunning. There are so many gems yet to be discovered.
Are there any companies that you’d like to create some work for ?
I like companies that give illustrators and artist a lot of creative freedom. I’d really like to create textile designs for St Judes Fabrics and sell prints through the St Judes Gallery. They have a fantastic group of printmakers who contribute to their textile designs. I think they’re very much like the Omega Workshops and the Edinburgh Weavers, allowing artist to create and interpret designs. I’d also like to create a cover illustration for Penguin which sits within the classic and timeless Penguin paperback design.
I really like your collection of work featuring bees and hives in the garden. Was this something inspired by your personal interest in the area or prompted by the increasing talk about their dwindling populations in the world news ?
Up until a few years ago my parents kept bees, so I’m aware of the devastating effects of the verroa virus, genetically modified crops and climate change have on bee colonies. So I was really pleased to be commissioned to illustrate a book called ‘The Wisdom of Bees’. I produced the front cover as a lino print, and the inside illustrations are all digital, there wasn’t enough time to complete all the illustrations as prints. It was a wonderful commission I really enjoyed illustrating the different rural setting and discovering more about the small insects we all rely on.
Nature plays a large role in your work. Is this due to a personal interest / what happens to surround you / or what has a large appeal to your creative audience ?
Nature is very important in my work, as I get older I think its importance has grown. Its relevance is more apparent, especially pieces like ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’, or ‘The Greene Knight’. These are figures in the landscape relating to our aural traditions and sense of place. I feel a connection with nature, sounds very hippy I know, but I feel it’s a similar kind of connection I see in the work of artists like Henry Moore or John Piper, where there’s a search for a deeper understanding of landscape history and prehistory.
Do you have any specific plans for the future ?
Thinking further ahead I’d like to exhibit more. It’s something I’ve only just started doing even though I’ve been illustrating all these years. It allows me to concentrate on my own ideas rather than commissions. The other thing I’d love to do more of is paint. The trouble is I’m addicted to painting, I don’t do it very often because I know if I pick up a brush I can’t put it down. Oils are my favourite medium, they’re great for working into, pushing and pulling the paint around, marking the surface with scratches and textures until the idea forms into something concrete. I think this would be my ideal for the future, continuing to explore illustration, but spending more time delving into the infinite possibilities of printmaking and painting.
Thanks Melvyn for sharing your work and thoughts with us. I hope some of the items on your ‘future wish list’ come to fruition. Superb work, I’d love to see more of The Worry Story, and some more textile design work too.