The Illustrators Guild of Ireland had its annual awards last Friday in the United Arts Club in Dublin’s City Centre. I was delighted to be awarded the ‘Iggy’ for this illustration in the ‘Self-promotional’ category. In fact, the idea was conceived in response to a call by the IGI for images for a promotional postcard campaign but it’s still self-promotional really. There was some beautiful work on show from everybody but especially from PJ Lynch [Best Book Illustration] and David Rooney [Best Editorial and Best Overall Illustration].
‘Pencil Boy’ is a witty soubriquet bestowed upon me by photographer John Redmond [or ‘Lens Creature’] one day and it made me laugh with its crazy American comic-book language dude-like hipness. I thought a Pencil Boy would be a good image to promote a bunch of illustrators.
Anyroad, while staying at my father-in-law’s gaff in Provence during the summer, I obviously found that I needed to pass a lot of time away from the house. So it was that this was painted in the light-speckled shade of the garden. Sounds quite idyllic but the aging brittle plastic garden chair upon which I was sitting gradually collapsed, bit by bit. First the left arm, then the right, then the back and one of the legs until I was balancing on a three-legged stool. I also realised when I unpacked my kit that I had forgotten my cadmium red acrylic, so the piece is a mix of acrylic and cadmium red oil. Consequently it took ages and I wouldn’t recommend it as an approach.
I attached myself to a guided tour of the National Gallery of Ireland the other week and learned that even the masters made mistakes. Judas, who can be seen kissing Jesus in the composition, had his ear lowered. You can see the vague outline of the earlier version about 3/4″ above the existing one. This seems at odds with Hockney’s assertion that Caravaggio [amongst many others] relied on the camera obscura; unless the model he used was possessed of very high ears, of course.
Last Friday 8th September, at the Investor Magazine Mortgage and Insurance Broker Conference and Forum in the K Club, my painting ‘Tryst in the City Garden’, was sold at auction for €7500. All the money raised at the auction went to the Zest 4 Kidz charity, who operate educational orphanages in many war-ravaged countries. Their web site is down at the moment, but Zest 4 Kidz can be contacted through its founder Stuart Wilson. You can see some photos of the event at Ashville’s conference site: here.
Also, special thanks to the excellent John Redmond who came to the rescue by photographing the canvas in his studio.
I spent a morning, along with fellow illustrator Padhraig Nolan, learning from Irish portrait artist Oisín Roche [One of his many portraits above]. He’s an artist who has studied the techniques of the great portrait artists of the past and has a phenomenal grasp of how to describe flesh tones [along with everything else]. As an illustrator, I rely a great deal on whatever my own inner vision generates and what my drawing skills can support, and true-to-life depictions aren’t absolutely necessary when the message of the illustration is paramount. However, I feel that I’d like to continue to strengthen my basic drawing and painting skills -because that’s what has always attracted me to art anyway, and there’s always something to learn. I picked up a great deal even in the first minutes and it proved to be an invaluable few hours overall. Especially with regard to the palette -I’ve never been one to limit myself to the basic few colours really needed to complete a painting! I’m looking forward to the next session…I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile here are a few pictures from the session -showing Oisín’s own work. Sorry about the picture quality; I had to use my phone’s camera and it has a lens the size of a gnat’s chuff. [Don’t get technical -you’ll lose them -Ed]
As this was a study, Oisín mentioned that the reason for drawing the subject in charcoal directly onto the canvas was to save time getting to the colour work. I’m not quite sure how he would’ve approached the task otherwise.
The charcoal drawing was spray-fixed and a wash of burnt umber acrylic applied.
And the study in oils begins…I’ll bring a decent camera the next time.
I was in a position, yesterday morning, to just sit down and spend my time doodling. Fortunately, I had all the material with me [which doesn’t happen often, believe me] including a 4B pencil which makes it a pleasure to build up dark areas. The first drawing shown here started out as a preparatory sketch for an editorial job but developed into something else entirely. It might form an element of an artwork further down the line, who knows?
The second doodle is another working of a recurring theme. I have a small stove in my studio, that belches black smoke and smuts all over my studio during the winter -mmmm, nice. Winter means about half the year, here in cold, dank Ireland by the way. This particular match of furnace rugby [Dublin 1934] was called off before half-time after rain soused play.
This is a review of this week’s BTW illustration. The topic: How banks are fawning all over us in an embarrassing way in order to lend us money. [For my part, I insist that all loan negotiations be carried out while my bank manager is dressed in a gimp outfit]. Below is one of the first idea sketches [there were others, but along different lines].
I then worked up a more elaborate sketch to show the editor:
Once approved, I squared up my stretched paper and drew the composition accurately. Don’t try that banker’s position at home. I had to hire another model, after the first one put his back out trying to achieve the desired pose. I had to remove him from the premises in a wheelbarrow:
I bought a couple of new 4B pencils in Kennedy’s the other day. Beautifully soft smooth leads and a pleasure to doodle with. Hence the above sketch; done while on the phone. That’s a real space-filler of a blog post, if ever there was one!
It’s been a tough week. Whatever about the good weather outside; it’s been snowed-under here in the studio. Preparation, which is almost complete for my onslaught on France through the Marie Bastille Agency and projects for American clients have kept me slaving over my drawing boards. Then the Irish Times presented me with a mind-warping piece of financial text. Anyway, between the editor and myself we fixed on an idea over the phone, which I quickly scribbled onto a receipt. Whoever heard of an illustrator who had decent pads of paper handy?
That evening, on the settee in front of the telly, I worked up the idea into a more finished sketch and squared the drawing up for the following morning. Luckily, summer TV schedules determined that there was bugger-all worth watching on the idiot’s lantern [as my old French teacher, Mr. Dansie used to call the telly – Me: ‘What does ‘bateau’ mean, Mr. Dansie?’ Dansie: ‘It means you haven’t been listening, McSherry’ followed by, ‘I suppose you’ve been glued to the idiot’s lantern again’.].
Finally, I managed to get the final art into the old lady of D’Olier Street at lunchtime. Now, what’s on the lantern…?
We’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Dunmore East -and once again, I don’t have a single sketch to show for it. This is a recurrent theme in my life, good intentions thwarted by indolence. It is a lovely, lovely spot, no doubt about it and kick-started another little ongoing theme -thoughts of relocation away from the big smoke. However, the reverie was broken at the long weekend by hordes of city heads, intent on relocating their rubbish onto the beach. Why do people do that?
But, hey -the water was goooood. I encountered a couple of good-natured jellyfish [they didn’t sting me] and we chatted about where to site the blue flag. There’s also a cave adjacent to the beach where there’s some of the best-carved graffiti I’ve ever seen. From as far back as 1823. Forget your black markers -a couple of these messages looked as if they had hired a stone mason to realise them.
Lately, I’ve been working on a few projects that have been over A3 in physical size. Notably a suite of illustrations for brand developers Island Bridge and for the Royal Canadian Mint [That’s money, not sweets; though confusingly it did feature a polar bear]. Confident in my reprographic background, I thought they could all go straight down to my local repro bureau for digitising on their high-end drum-scanner. Well, it seems that things have changed somewhat since I left my last full-time job in a repro house, 11 years ago. Apparently, most of the old scanning behemoths have bitten the dust, been sold to China or shagged out into skips. Imagine that! These things must have cost about half a million squid when I were a lad and now they’ve been drummed out, much like myself, [only they lasted longer]. All the Crosfields have gone to Hell, it might be said, and been replaced with tiny little desktop scanners that you can buy out of petty cash.
Ah, but there’s a catch…just try scanning flat-art that’s bigger than A3 -even in your A3 desktop. You’ll get a pain in your face stitching those files together. That’s why I was relieved when I discovered that Master Photo. still have their Crosfield 640 running -and I saw it today when I dropped in the art. What a beast. What reassuring solidity. What the Hell are we going to do when the old dinosaur finally lays down her old head and dies?