Art Group. August 2016

This month I decided to do something new… or something old, actually. When I first discovered my drawing ability I started drawing or painting portraits of people. For a while it was the only art work I would produce. I eventually moved on to other things, but always fell back to using this style.

However, I soon became dissatisfied with my drawings. I put too much pressure on myself to make them perfect. I was never happy. Drawing portraits made me feel depressed. Now, after a couple of years, I had the urge to try again.

Using black and white photographs to help me, I produced a portrait every week this month. I began with celebrities, but as I am not really that interested in films, TV and media, I struggled to find suitable photographs of stars I actually knew of. Therefore I asked online for volunteers to send me their own photographs for me to draw. I thought it would be good practice for me, but also nice for “real” people to have a portrait of themselves. Two Tumblr bloggers, queen-kong and mybpdblog, kindly let me look through their photographs and select one to draw.

As always I doubted myself, thought the outcome was not good enough and let my perfectionism take over. However the feedback I got from my “models” helped me to feel proud of my work. They both loved what I had done and told me the drawings were fantastic. It was lovely to get such genuine positive feedback. Now if only I could keep this in mind next time I doubt myself…

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So you think you can’t draw?

“I can’t draw” is the biggest lie I have ever heard. I believe everyone can draw. To draw simply means (according to dictionary.com) to sketch in lines or words. Can you hold a pencil? Can you make a mark on a piece of paper with said pencil? Can you write your name? Congratulations, you can draw.

What many people actually mean when they claim “I can’t draw” is: “I cannot produce a 100% accurate representation of an object as precisely as a camera can.” I admit that some artists amaze me with their photographic-like drawings, but that does not mean that those who cannot achieve the same standard are unable to draw.

Think of the picture books or cartoons from your childhood. Did you look at them and say “those do not look realistic – the artist cannot draw”? Some illustrators earn money for producing scribbles or messy artwork that, although may not be accurate in terms of proportion, scale and so forth, are perfect in their own unique way.

Let’s take Sir Quentin Blake as an example of illustration. Nearly everyone must be familiar with Blake’s artwork thanks to the numerous book written by Roald Dahl. Blake, now 84, has been drawing for as long as he can remember and was the head of the Illustration department at the Royal College of Art for over two decades.

Blake creates simple pen drawings and adds colour with water based paints. None of his finished creations resemble photographs; none of them are perfectly proportional and anatomically correct. Does that mean he can’t draw?

Another illustrator, Lauren Child has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for her creation of children’s characters Charlie and Lola. As well as using aspects of collage and photography, Child also produces simple pen drawings and colours them in. Her characters do not have necks and have incorrectly placed facial features. So that means, despite her awards, she can’t draw either, right?

There are numerous other illustrators who have similar drawing styles. Are you going to accuse them of not being “real” artists?

Beatrice Alemagna, Yann Kebbi, Claudia Boldt, David Mckee, David Hughes, John Burningham, Satoshi Kitamura, Edward Bawden, André François, Susan Einzig, Kathleen Hale…

Now, some of you are probably thinking “but these are children’s illustrators; they are meant to look like that.” However there are “adult” illustrators who are not producing “perfect” drawings either:

Jasper Goodall, Andrew Zbihlyj, Lucinda Rogers, Gary Taxali, Astrid Chesney, Spencer Wilson, Simone Lia, Sara Finelli…

So, you might not have the skill to make a career as a portrait painter, but it is not your ability that is the problem here. The only thing stopping you from believing you can draw is your constant comparison to perfectionistic art styles. That stickman you’ve drawn? He could become a £1000 cartoon. Believe in yourself. You CAN draw!

Colouring with Purpose

Colouring books are great things to buy. They are fun, relaxing, beautiful, and make fantastic presents. It is impossible to only buy one book. Before you know it you have too many to store. But nowadays colouring is not only restricted to books…

One innovative colouring alternative are greeting cards. They are creative and personal ways of expressing you feelings, congratulations or sympathy for friends and loved ones. Many people have made their own cards by hand at some point, but these cards make it slightly easier to produce something (almost) handmade. You may think it is cheating, but everyone has a unique way of colouring. Every picture is different due to the choice of colours, type of pen/pencil, and even the way we hold said pen/pencil.

The pictured examples above come from a set bought for me from The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.Each one features a different type of bird: hawfinch, goldfinch, yellowhammer, coal tit, great tit and long tailed tit. Some of the cards are more detailed than others, but the final result relies on you, the artist.

There are loads of ready-to-colour cards out there. Look in art and craft shops, book stores and local gift shops to discover many of the different types. Also, websites like Amazon have a huge selection. Here are some examples:

  • Rebecca Jones has produced several ranges for The National Trust. Each set contains some aspect of nature: butterflies, flowers etc.
  • Prepare for Christmas with these cards produced by the same publishers as above.
  • Instead of greeting cards you could opt for Postcards, like these from Puffin, the publishers of thousands of children’s books.
  • You can buy cards for all sorts of specific occasions, especially birthdays
  • … and thank yous.
  • Even popular colouring books have postcard versions.
  • Colouring cards are just as relaxing as colouring books.

Sadly, these packs of cards can be expensive. However you can make your own coloured-in card. If you have finished colouring sheets lying around (or a book that’s fallen apart like I have) you can turn them into a lovely greeting card for someones birthday. All you need is a blank card to stick the sheet on (which will probably need trimming), and voila, one handmade card. Give it a go!

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Kingsley Choral Group 50th Anniversary

My big design project of 2016

The Kingsley Choral Group turned 50 this year, and I was honoured to take part in the preparation of their Anniversary concert. Usually a member of the choir designs the adverts, tickets and programmes in Microsoft Publisher for their biannual concerts at Trinity URC, however this year they wanted something special: a professionally designed souvenir programme.

Having heard through my Mum (a choir member) that the KCG committee were considering commissioning a professional designer but were worried about the costs, I offered to volunteer my graphic design skills. So began a huge project to produce the perfect souvenir programme.

Initially I was provided with an image/illustration idea from the founder of the KCG for the front page – a pair of conductors hands – which I faithfully attempted to use, however the designs were just not working for me. Through experimentation I came up with an alternative idea, one that I was quite proud of, and, thankfully, so were the committee. (The design was apparently applauded at their following meeting.)

With the hardest bit completed the next couple of months were filled with almost weekly meetings with the KCG secretary to discuss the content, layout and printing requirements. Most of the time it was a case of reworking the pages as information was updated and to assure the layout was exactly as the KCG committee and founder wanted it (after all, the client is always right!)

With two weeks before the concert, the final printed programmes arrived. Here is how it looked:
Final Programme

The concert itself was a great success, and perhaps the best performance the KCG has given – at least in recent years. With previous members returning to join in on the special evening, the music and singing was tremendous. Beginning with the more formal pieces such as Fauré’s Requiem before moving on to the more upbeat medley of various favourites of the KCG, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Being such a prestigious occasion, the choir took the opportunity to thank and present gifts to the founder, Tom Johnson, for all his hard work over the past 50 years. There were also special mentions and thank yous to many other people (myself included!) who helped to make the evening such a success.

Although I have had many people congratulating me on my programme design, I would like to thank the Kinglsey Choral Group for providing me with this work experience, which has helped to boost my confidence. I am someone who struggles with holding conversations, meeting new people and worrying about not being good enough: so THANK YOU KCG for giving me the opportunity to prove to myself that I CAN do these things!

P.S. Vera, sorry for temporarily taking your role of programme designer away from you. The position is once again all yours!