Monday, 1 September 2014

A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten Pt .1

The past two weeks I have been working on the centrepiece to an upcoming exhibition of mine. In fact I'm still working on the painting, however I'm now sufficiently far enough into the painting process to show you how I arrived at the initial idea for 'A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten'.

First off - I knew I wanted to do a BIG painting but what should be the subject? It had to contain lots of characters (some which I've taken from previous paintings) and it must have depth both in terms of physical space and of narrative. My aim with the BIG painting was to develop the world in which my characters inhabited and also to spawn knew ideas for forthcoming paintings.

Gradually the idea to tackle a railway station scene, with lots of action on the platform and a great big steam engine in the background, came to me. A major influence on my choice was 'The Railway Station' by William Powell Frith which featured on the front cover of a British History book I had seen at school (I think). Frith's characters are lined up as if waiting for a school assembly photograph to be taken and the steam engine is in the far distance so when I started to thumbnail ideas I deliberately started with the engine first to bring it forward and then introduce random sqiuggles for characters afterwards in the hope the train and it's travellers would have equal importance.
Somewhere in these childlike scrawls is a reasoned composition waiting to be realised
You can see I circled the thumbnail I thought was balancing characters vs steam engine best. Some of the failed attempts either cut the steam engine in half or took over most of the scene leaving very little space for a platform that was to be teeming with life.
First rough (take two)
Because I knew the perspective of the roof and train was going to be very challenging I decided to create a rough which left the platform empty. This enabled me to erase mistakes easily without removing a meticulously drawn fox paw (insert your own obscure animal anatomy here). It also made sure the train's perspective lines joined up correctly when the characters appeared in the foreground blocking parts of the engine behind. The image above is the second attempt at the rough drawing, the first version was too side on and lacked any depth.

You might recognise the station as St Pancras in London. I visited a friend in the big smoke as part of my 'reference gathering trip'. I've got some good shots of old pubs too, ahem. I also visited Didcot Railway Centre which was a gold mine of not just trains but old luggage, station furniture, signs and trolleys.
I don't know how Bugs Bunny appeared in this sketch (far right - don't judge me).

Once I was happy with the train and station, the roof had to be re-drawn more times than I would like to admit, I then pulled out some tracing paper, laid it on top of the rough and started to develop some characters.

This post is long enough already so I'll go through some important characters in my next post and for now I will leave you with the image of the animals on tracing paper and the station brought together (like ebony and ivory) in Photoshop.
Together in perfect harmony.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

'Good Evening M'lady'

Good Evening M'lady
Watercolour / Gouache
24 x 31cm

I had lots of fun bringing my rag and bone badger and lamplighter weasel characters together for this painting. There is no doubt that I have benefited re-using two characters in a new painting, the turn around was slightly quicker than normal because most of the colour decisions had already been made in previous paintings and the overall atmosphere is lifted straight from 'Rag & Bone'. You could say half of the image had already been painted before I even picked up my brushes.

I wonder if the lamplighter managed to catch the eye of the flower seller in the end?

Monday, 7 July 2014

'Lounging About' Work In Progress

A good day's painting, the under-painting done and basic blocking in well under way.
Dappled light is always a challenge

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Good Evening M'lady WIP

I'm currently working on this painting called 'Good Evening M'lady'. A couple of likely lads trying their best to catch the flower seller's eye.
Is she stifling a smile?
You may recognise the weasel from this and the badger from 'Rag And Bone' below:
He could do with a bath.
I down tools tomorrow because I'm shooting to London to get some much needed reference photos and to meet up with an old friend who really needs to update his twitter.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Watercolour / Gouache
24 x 31cm
I can honestly say this is the first time I've painted a badger singing at the opera. No matter how serious I make her expression I still can't help but laugh at her absurd appearance (don't tell her I said that).

In terms of technique I did the usual sepia under-painting then masked everything except the backdrop using tape and cellophane in order to pull out some big brushes and work wet in wet with blues, violets and blacks. (See previous post).

After the damage was done I removed the cellophane and got to work laying in the colours on everything that was left blank, being careful to suggest a warm up-light and blue in the shadows. When I had taken the watercolour as dark as it would go, white and yellow ochre gouache came into play on the extreme highlights (metal specular highlights, skirt, claws, fur etc.) and then gently glazed around the footlights to suggest mist creeping across the stage.

Monday, 23 June 2014

'A Maths Lesson'

I've recently finished two paintings, the first being 'A Maths Lesson'.
A Maths Lesson
Watercolour / Gouache
24 x 31cm 
This particular scene was requested by Olivier, my fantastic client at Galerie Daniel Maghen. Mostly I conjure up the scenes and stories I want to depict in paint but every now and then Olivier has a great suggestion which I can then develop.

Initially I began with the teacher at the front of the class and all the pupils paying attention without any funny business going on. However as I progressed with my rough sketch I suddenly found that the young mole was passing a love note to the bunny next to him. Once those two characters had been fully realised another bunny decided to make himself known by appearing on the edge of the painting in order to observe the progress of the love note. Has the note been passed on from bunny to bunny via the little mole or is that a look of jealousy the male bunny is shooting at the mole? You decide.

Incidentally I have since been informed that this class must be in detention. Apparently school finishes at 3.00pm these days. I remember the good old days of being stuck inside until 3.30 before even thinking of finishing for the day.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Valkyrie WIP

As promised, here is another work in progress but, hang on, it's a different painting.
It's been a long time since I've used inks
Working up the badger valkyrie
I had fun with the background working wet-in-wet with watercolour and a black acrylic ink. You might be able to see I masked the badger with cellophane and magic tape so the strong cobalt blue would not contaminate the main character. I'm attempting some dramatic lighting on this painting and hoping to add shimmering stars and a smoke machine. There's still a long way to go and as they say - 'it's not over until the fat badger sings'.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

'A Maths Lesson' Progress

Here's a back dated progress shot of 'A Maths Lesson'. I'm putting the finishing touches to it this morning.
More WIPs to follow!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Paintings In The Pipeline

A Maths Lesson
Good Evening M'Lady
Lounging About
Two of them are up and running. Stay tuned...

Monday, 9 June 2014

Momo & The Totobrats

The front cover
Momo & The Totobrats written by Wendy Hesketh and illustrated by me is now available to purchase through amazon. This is the first children's book I have illustrated and therefore it's been a steep learning curve.

Momo (the main character) is a very spoiled little boy who is given everything he wants by his doting parents and grandmother, but they forget to teach him any manners. Momo pushes people around, jumps in front of queues and snatches other people's things. He has no friends. When he meets the Totobrats, he learns a lot about himself.

This book is good for teaching young children manners. It is especially useful for teaching children who have special educational needs, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents of all children, but especially those with ADHD, will also find it useful as a way to discuss and encourage positive behaviours.
Some of the interior pages
The style of artwork is very different to the paintings I have been posting more recently here on the blog and that is because I worked on Momo & The Totobrats two years ago. Way before I had a firm hold on my style of artwork and what I was going to do with it. I'm glad I decided to pursue a traditional watercolour wash with coloured pencil technique for the book's 28 illustrations otherwise I might still be working on the book now!