110427 new work

Agatha Christie

Have just started a series of female literary portraits. Strictly speaking these are illustrations as they are not done live and are created from reference material. The men (Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh et al ) were produced a while ago so now it is the ladies’ turn. Yesterday I put the basics down for Virginia Woolf, Enid Blyton, Germaine Greer, Anita Brookner and four others. They are going well and it is a joy to be working in the conservatory (my studio is too untidy) with gorgeous views of the garden, standing as I always do when I paint. Unfortunately a fly landed on Enid but I managed to squidge it and wipe it away before the paint dried. The printmaker in me is more than happy to work in series and to have eight illustrations on the go feels quite normal; I happily work from one to another treating each as an equal member of a family. Laurie Anderson is proving the most difficult at the moment as her face is too broad. At the moment I am using acrylic but may change to oil when more Liquin arrives (I haven’t ordered it yet, mind you). We’ll see. Royal Wedding fever has gripped the country and tomorrow St Mary’s Convent school down the road is hosting a garden party for the neighbours. Shall I go? Again, we’ll see. On verra!

Roald Dahl is my inspiration

I love the work of Roald Dahl. I can’t say I’ve read all his books; just Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Twits. Oh, and a brilliant short story about Henry Sugar.

I am currently dipping in and out of his biography and keep flicking to the end to read more about his writing of children’s books. That’s what interests me and that’s what I want to do. They appear so original, so effortless, and so complete. If only I could write like that; come up with such satisfying  ideas, just one would do. Mr Dahl, like everyone else, I revere you.

I have just set my students a project asking them to choose a Dahl book, select any chapter, character, or sentence, and allow it to inspire an illustration. They’ve had to look at Quentin Blake’s illustrations first, then get on with their own. The results are stupendous: exciting, fresh and lively. I’m proud of them, if not everso slightly envious.

Having spent six months extolling the virtues of twig and ink  to everyone I know, and filling sketchbook after sketch book with my drawings, I read somewhere that Quentin actually uses reed pens; so  I’ve just bought my first (very expensive) set from Shepherd’s, (previously Faulkeners)  in London. They arrived yesterday, by next day delivery in a cardboard tube, wrapped in an old fashioned green and white striped paper bag, complete with reservoir.  This is a brass reservoir, just like the long bit on a paper fastener, but without the head bit. The pens look like cheap ends of bamboo that have been chiselled and drilled a bit but I shall try them out tomorrow in the life room; spend all day dip dip dipping my new pens into inky egg cups of  black ink. If the results are promising it will be a worthwhile investment. I’ll let you know!

Funny to think I used to rub shoulders with Quentin Blake and Dan Fern as they wandered around the illustration department at the Royal College of Art; I actually tried to change from printmaking to  illustration but they wouldn’t have me. Never mind.  I did however exhibit with them in the 1988 Folio Society exhibition with my illustrations of Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved Ones”. I was into collages in those days; different graph papers, tracing papers, and oh! lots of staples.  Ah! Happy memories.