Thursday, 24 May 2012

RIP Donna Summer: Amelia's Magazine Tribute Illustration

Illustration for Matt Bramford's wonderful tribute to Donna Summer in Amelia's Magazine - choc-a-bloc with gorgeousness in words, music and sumptuous illustrations.

This is my initial pencil sketch (with sunshine!):

I had a bit of a dilemma once I scanned it and cropped it to an oval .. my usual dilemma, which is the use of digital effects. So these were the 4 options that I narrowed it down to:
1. the original with the fur stole coloured in



In the end I chose the last one, which has a 'grain' effect added. It is quite pleasing in itself, but I suppose my doubts are that it could just be a doctored photo; and the original drawing is masked, if not obliterated.

My favourite bit is the pink/brown texture at the bottom!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cate Le Bon Illustration for Amelia's Magazine

At the end of last month, coinciding with the release of her new album CYRK (Polish for 'circus'), Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon launched her sell-out UK tour at London's Village Underground. Richard Pearmain was there and wrote this lovely review for Amelia's Magazine. 

Looking and listening, in preparation for an illustration to accompany the review, I too was beguiled by Cate's unique music and also her videos, past and more recent. Some are very surreal, others quite domestic and homely, but all with a sense of the resonances of nature, especially animals; they also reflect a deeper, dark (Cate's word) take on our daily doings.

For my illustration I pulled together 3 sources that I found very powerful visually. Firstly, I really liked the CYRK album's artwork, though it wasn't until the end of the process that I saw a way to include an element of it :

Secondly, the video for one of the tracks - Fold the Cloth - was compelling, not least in its use of red within an otherwise quite sepia colour range. 

It features Cate and her little niece and had a magical, childlike quality. There were several frames in which the 2 figures are on a sand dune, silhouetted against the setting sun and sky:

Meanwhile the mystical, shadowy work of Barcelona illustrator Kodomos had really appealed to me, especially his work on Alice in Wonderland (perhaps also because that's my daughter's name) and this beautiful illustration in particular:

I thought I would have a try at emulating Kodomos' style and use of light and shade, which meant a happy afternoon of building up layers in pencil. I was pleased with the likeness of the tree and the way the Cate Le Bon image lent itself to the style. But in retrospect I wish I had taken some extra time to create my own tree. Here is my half-finished pencil drawing - the paper was quite textured, meant for soft pastels:

Once it was completed, including the moon (echoing the CYRK cover) and a semicircle of light, I scanned the drawing and then digitally added some soft red in certain places.

One lovely thing was that when Kodomos saw the illustration, and his tree, a dialogue was started - he is an incredibly warm, kind and generous artist.

Also, I was more than a little thrilled that when Cate Le Bon read Richard's review and saw the illustration she asked if she could have a copy : )

To finish, some reviews of Cate's music:

“like a Valley-born Nico locked in the cupboard with The Fall” **** Q 

“Cate Le Bon follows her own path” **** MOJO

“her lyrical style recalls the whimsical, pastoral fantasy of Syd Barrett and her music jumps 
  everywhere, from garage rock to harmony pop to electronic….with it’s own sense of logic.” 
  **** The Times
“Le Bon is someone whose take on songwriting is so sideways, it would be completely impossible 
  for anyone else to replicate it” Guardian Guide

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Bauhaus: Illustration for Amelia's Magazine

London's Barbican's current exhibition is 'Bauhaus: Art as Life' and Matt Bramford has written this magnificent review for Amelia's Magazine. 

 Like many, I find the Bauhaus style, lines, patterns, colours, typography, scope and ethic very appealing, and so was pleased to have the chance to submit an illustration for the article. However, my Bauhaus 'comfort zone' was soon to be challenged when my brief turned out to be furniture, chairs in fact.

At college we had a typography project - for better or worse I embarked on 'An A to Z of Art Movements' (which kept me out of trouble for a few weeks) ... so we had 'A for Aboriginal' (which, for example, involved the letter 'A' done in many earth toned dots -  I'll spare you the finished 'piece').

So 'B'? Bauhaus was an easy decision and this was my B - making use of the typographic style and colour combinations (including gold) that I love:

For Matt's article I first of all used this image x 4 to create a background - really I was avoiding the chair part of the equation:

Separately I worked on the chair image, simplifying it even further and using the same red and black (and a little gold) of my background.
The chair - as a double, symmetrical image - was added in to occupy the space in the middle:

I really hope that I can visit this exhibition - it's on until 12 August.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Nettle Soup

I love making nettle soup - as much for the incredible green of it as for the tastiness to come.

It begins with some stingproof gloves (long enough to cover your wrists too) and a large carrier bag - you need MASSES of nettles as they reduce as much as spinach...a carrier bagful will make enough soup for 4-5 people. Only pick the tender, light green growing shoots or tips ... the older leaves and stalks will be too tough and stringy. If you start picking early enough in the season, the nettles will produce successive crops for a few weeks.

Keeping gloves on, swish the nettle tips around in a large bowl of cold water then tip into a colander (or two) and rinse again under the tap. Leave to drain.

The recipe I use is from 'The Week' a couple of years ago:

Whilst the nettle tips are draining, soften 1 or 2 chopped onions in butter in a large pan, then add some garlic, diced potato (one or two) and 2 pints of chicken stock. Simmer till potatoes are soft.

Then add the nettles - you'll think you have far too many but within moments they reduce down. Simmer for 5 to 10 mins more (until nettles are tender - by now they will have no stingability!), then season.

Puree the soup (and marvel at the colour), return to pan and stir in some cream.

Serve with a swirl of cream or creme fraiche, and some chopped chives.

Beautiful, tasty AND good for you - purifies the blood and helps with rheumatism and insomnia.
PS. you can also add raw nettle tips to quiches and omelettes, just like spinach.