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1. Review – Imagine a City

The sumptuous cloth cover and unfurling clouds swirling across the end pages indicate something special about Elise Hurst’s latest picture book, Imagine a City. You’ll recognise Hurst’s illustrations from her other picture books such as The Night Garden, Flood and The Midnight Club to name a few. Imagine a City is a glorious collection of […]

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2. the ghosts of night, the dreams of day

Had a lovely day yesterday, drawing for the love of drawing rather than for work. I always love catching up with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, my sketchcrawling buddies, too. We spent the day at the National Emergency Vehicles Museum in Sheffield. It was right up my tree. Loved the subject matter. I could spend another day, or ten, there. And, maybe even a night; apparently there are many ghosts in this former police and fire station. If you believe in that sort of thing, of course. I don't but I'm willing to have my mind changed.

 There was a very specific colour scheme too. Reds, blacks and a little yellow were the colours of the day. I managed to not take seventeen pencils cases, which is an achievement for me, and narrowed it down to just the three sketchbooks. I always try to take some tools that I wouldn't normally draw with at home. I try and play a bit more on sketchcrawls. It feels like the right place to do that as you often encounter subject matter you wouldn't normally choose to draw. The red Bingo dabber was an inspired choice of pens.

 Here's something I've noticed during October, as I'm participating in Go Sober For October, I do a lot more with my weekends. It's much easier when you're not factoring in a 'big night' or a hangover. That's just another benefit to being sober; doing more stuff with your time. Just look at how my blogging has increased in the last month!

 The museum holds a vast range of fire service related memorabilia that had previously been sitting in attics and local fire stations all over the county and amongst the exhibits were prisoner files from the last century. I found these the most fascinating of all, and below are my drawings of some of the mugshots from around the 1940s. It's funny how just by drawing somebody, spending that time studying someone, you can feel a real connection with them. I don't just want to now more about the faces I drew, I feel an empathy, sympathy, for them. Protective towards them even, like I knew them. I guess what I'm trying to say was that I was touched by them. Maybe I do believe in ghosts.




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3. Illustrator & Printmaker Daniel Danger

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I first stumbled across Daniel Danger’s work quite a while ago and it stuck with me ever since. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the chance to meet him, but if/when I do, I have a feeling it’ll be like seeing an old friend.

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Daniel is a Boston-based illustrator, mediamaker and printmaker with a penchant for urban scenery, natural landscapes, vintage guitar effect pedals and creepy memories. His style is marked by confident black strokes and eerie uses of color, often looking to one solid shade to create haunting contrast. You might have seen instances of his work through gig posters for bands such as The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and Flight of the Conchords. He’s also worked with clients like Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, Penguin Books, Polyvinyl Records and ABC Television.

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His aesthetic strongly reminds me of Tugboat Printshop–the obsessive linework and powerful contrast work beautifully in a screenprinted format. I think art is especially successful when it looks good across a variety of formats (screen, print, phone, etc). He reflects the best and worst of reality, and most interestingly, his works reflect what’s neither here nor there–ghosts of forgotten cities, empty theaters, silent roads. Daniel demonstrates a sincere concern for the elements of life that continue to exist without inhabitation–an awareness that is rarely paralleled.

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I feel an extreme bond to Daniel not only over our shared love of creepy abandoned houses, but also because he’s yet another illustrator-musician hybrid (currently on tour in Europe right now, as a matter of fact). In a lot of ways, I couldn’t imagine him not being a musician–if that makes any sense. These pieces would all go entirely too well with some Neko Case or Laura Veirs songs.

The detail of his works is nearly overwhelming to the point of obscurity–as, sometimes, the most realistic aspects of life are the ones that are the most difficult to understand.

Follow along with Daniel and his breathtaking work:

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4. the changing man

Here's just a little (it's all relative) something I knocked up in my sketchbook.
The story of the drawing goes a bit like this...
Sometime back in May I went to my friend, and Dr Sketchy partner, Lara Gothique's fabulous vaudeville extravaganza (I do love that word, extravaganza. In fact, I love both of those words; vaudeville and extravaganza) called Cupid Stunts. I sketched the whole show that evening. I came away with a load of drawings. Over twenty quick sketches.
One of the fabulous artistes that night was a Victorian strong man called Sir Leopold Aleksander. I got a good handful of sketches of him. They were pretty much all as below - simple line drawings.
Over the last couple of weeks, as I have been living a life of sobriety, I seem to have a bit more time on my hands in the evenings. Time to do the things I've wanted to do for ages but not got around to because wine got in the way. Time to go back through my sketchbooks and rework some of those quick sketches that needed a bit of the AJ treatment. So that's what I did with the, now, tattooed gentleman above, and, at some point, will do with the sketch below. Sure, they don't exactly look like the Victorian gent, but that's what happens when you a) sketch in the dark and b) complete the illustration using only your memory and a lot of imagination. And, that's what I love about drawing.
Thanks to Sir Leopold for the use of his body(?!)
Thanks to Lara for her fabulous show.
And thanks to Go Sober For October for giving me the headspace to draw instead of drink wine! 
If you can spare a bob or two please donate to my sobriety challenge. I am raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support. The most worthiest of causes. You can do that HERE.
And if you'd like to see a vaudeville extravaganza, and are in Sheffield next weekend (a long shot, perhaps), Lara is putting on another. Check it out HERE. Take your sketchbook!

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5. Nora

 Hi folks, I have a small, limited edition, set of these bag and badge ('button' in the US?) sets for sale.
The tote bags feature my illustration of Nora Hildebrandt, the original tattooed lady, on the front and back.
 The badges feature a couple of examples of my drawings and a couple of examples of my lettering work.
Also, I'm making a donation, from each set sold, to MacMillan Cancer Support, who I am fund raising for this month - by being sober!
 
You can get your paws on them HERE. Merci!

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6. and i say, it's alright

I always think that as long as I come away from a day trip or sketchcrawl or Dr Sketchy or any sort of drawing event or opportunity with one 'good' drawing, or, at least, one drawing that I like, then I'm happy with that. That's all I ask for. Just a memento of the day.
 By the time I was leaving London last week I still had nothing, apart from a few prosaic, pretty average drawings of people on the train there, and it was getting dark. I'd gone to the city with a drawing in mind. There's a sculpture I wanted to see and I'd packed the yellow and orange pens especially for it. But, our time there went so quickly that I didn't even get to see or draw it. But, that's okay, that's another trip
 .I didn't want to leave though, not without something, a souvenir, to take home. So, just before I caught my train back, I dived into a café on the corner of Tottenham Court Road for a cuppa and a draw.
 I missed my next train home. So, I had an extra hour to spend drawing the souvenir shop on the opposite corner. I got another cuppa.
 Is it a 'good' drawing? Do I like it? Not really. It's alright. Ish. But, I feel like that about a lot of my work. I need to close the book and put it away for a while. I almost always feel differently with time between it. Who knows, I might even like my souvenir from London in a few months time. Right now I doubt it, but you never know.
 And here's a couple of prosaic, pretty average sketches of people on the train...

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7. i'm gonna clear out my head

Another good reason for participating in Go Sober For October is that I'm not just kicking the booze for a month - or, who knows, maybe longer (one day at a time and all that) - but I'm also giving the elbow to another habit; the fags. You know, I never smoke unless I've had a drink. Never. It doesn't enter my head to. I never want a cigarette when I'm sober. It repulses me.
 Then I have a drink. Then I can't get enough of the fags (might have a different meaning in the US??). I'd smoke two at a time if I could. All willpower, self discipline, whatever, goes out of the window. I crave dirty tobacco. In the freezing cold and pouring rain, I'll stand outside the pub or in the back garden. It has to stop. It will stop. It has stopped. No more.
 Another damn good reason for taking up this challenge. So, yeah, I'm going double cold turkey. And, if that ain't enough reason for you to donate/sponsor me then I don't know what else to do? You can do that HERE. Cheers (probably not the best choice of words).

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8. Ready to Play: Peter Carnavas bears all on ‘Oliver and George’

Peter Carnavas is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, some of his titles including The Children Who Loved Books, Last Tree in the City, The Great Expedition, The Boy on the Page, The Important Things and Jonathan!.   Peter’s books consistently provide both children and adults with heartwarming, humorous and thought-provoking experiences that leave a […]

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9. she's leaving home

 I really am awful at finishing a story off. This one has been going one for nearly six months and it still hasn't come to a conclusion. I can never deal with endings. I wonder what deep psychological scar I'm avoiding looking at? Hmmm. But, that's another post, another drawing, hey, another book!
So, when we last caught up with my bookbench, my girl, she was finished - all apart from a little colour that I added, and a few more doodles. Less is never more around here. Why stop when you can just keep on going and going? (Go Sober For October really is making me look at my addictive behaviour, it seems).
When I'd thrown as much colour and doodles at her, it needed to be finished with a coat of hardcore resin/varnish. That bit was done at 2am the night/morning before she was being picked up. It was meant to have been done four days before (I didn't realise that until 2am when I finally read the tin) but, shhhh, don't tell anyone. And, anyway, I couldn't have lived with the small of that resin for four days. I'd have been as high as a kite.
And then they came to take her away. After a rather undignified exit from my house which included a door being removed and a washing line being snapped - she just didn't want to leave - she was off.
 After dominating my living room for the past few months she suddenly looked so small. She looked tiny, out there, in the big wide world (car park). Aw.
 She was carefully and lovingly wrapped then bundled into the back of a van and off to find her new home in the big city. In the Big Smoke.
 Well, not quite. Because, yes, she did make her home in London, for the summer, but it was in a rather lovely, green, little churchyard in Greenwich. I even got to go and visit her.
 And, not just once, but twice. Yesterday, I went to say a final farewell, as all of the fifty bookbenches were gathered together in Gordon Square, London, before they go on auction and onto the next chapter of their lives. Lots of people came out to see them in all their glory, on a perfect autumn afternoon.
 And, so, that's it. This evening they will all be auctioned of to raise much needed funds for the National Literacy Trust.
 Unfortunately, I won't be able to make the auction, but I hope she goes to a good home. Bye Bye bookbench.
THE END
(or is it? Maybe, I'll get to visit her in her new home, where ever that may be)

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10. it's just everything i do, we did together

Today's journal. I'm glad I didn't discuss my love of typography, but, got down to the nitty-gritty instead. I think it's important that I did that:

'I started this drawing on day one of my Go Sober For October challenge and did a bit more last night (day two). I had originally intended to discuss why 'd kept these specific wine bottles and my love of typography, fonts and lettering especially French stuff and the Art Nouveau period. But, I'm finishing this drawing on day three of my sobriety, which also happens to be a Friday night. And, twice I've had a wobble. The first time was around tea time, approaching wine-time, when all I wanted to do was drive up to Lil'Sainsburys (the same old routine) and get some wine. I didn't. And again, now. Again, I'm having a wobble. It's a Friday night. I should be drunk. My friend's are drunk. People on Facebook are drunk. And I'm not. And, I'm not going to lie, I'm not only jealous, I'm angry. I'm annoyed.'

Please sponsor my sobriety here; https://www.gosober.org.uk/profile/andreajoseph

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11. you are always on my mind

Tonight I am donating the fiver that I would have spent on my Thursday-night-end-of-the-working-week-wine, if I had not been taking part in Go Sober For October, in support of the amazing MacMillan Cancer Support.

The drawing was made with graphite and colour pencil. The donation was made with ease. And gratitude.

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12. the corners of my mind

Today I start a month of sobriety, in an initiative by the wonderful MacMillan Cancer Support called Go Sober For October - which not only raises money for them but also gets us, taking part, to look at our own drinking habits.

My feelings about it change like the weather. One minute I'm really looking forward to it. Excited about the break. No alcohol for a month. I know I'll be more productive, I know I'll feel so much better, I hope the house will get cleaned.

Then it comes over me like a wave, a tsunami actually; NO WINE FOR A MONTH. And, it terrifies me. What will I do? It's those moments, those routines; Thursday after finishing work for the week; Friday night; chatting on the phone with Tim; early Sunday evening; whilst cooking; chatting on the phone with Mark. FRIDAY NIGHT!!!

From the far blurry corners of my mind I remembered something that I saw in one of Danny Gregory's books. I can't remember which, unfortunately, an Illustrated Journey maybe. In it, he gives tips on journaling and one of the ideas he shares is to go without something for a day (chocolate, alcohol, smoking, tv, the internet, etc) and journal about it. I think I may try this over the next 31 days. It would be the most fitting way of me to document the month ahead.

I'm not expecting the next month to be easy but then I remember the cause and it puts it into perspective. If your life had ever been touched by the amazing, and humbling job, that MacMillan do (or if the thought of giving up alcohol for a month terrifies you, too) please donate/sponsor me. You can do that HERE.
Cheers!

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13. push it along push it along

If last month I was spending all of my time drawing in pubs, this month I seem to have been spending it all drawing on trains. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of public transport. Firstly, I love driving, but, more than that, I don't like being stuck in a confined space with the general public. It's one of my 'things'.

But, necessity dictates and, as I've been back and fore to London and Sheffield all month, I've found myself being stuck in confined spaces with the general public. A lot.

It has, however, given me time to draw the general public. It's not the easiest way to draw. And, you have to hope they'll fall asleep - which they usually do - because they don't always tend to like being drawn. But there really is nothing else of interest, subject wise, on trains, I find. I've made a hundred, or more, sketches, over the last month. Mostly of people sleeping. I've actually enjoyed having that time, with nothing else to do but sketch.

Above, is a drawing of a friend who had no hang ups about being drawn. The two below are a couple of my favourite sketches out of a bunch of pretty bland stuff.
 


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14. Illustrator Interview – Lisa Jahn-Clough

     I confess that after my trip to Portland, Maine, this summer and falling in love with the area, when I noticed on FB that Lisa spends part of her year there, I thought I should invite her onto … Continue reading

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15. oooo baby, here i am. signed, sealed, delivered. i'm yours

For those who have enquired, I have had another delivery of books from my publisher and so they are back in stock HERE. Cheers.

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16. i wanna say, i wanna tell you

 On Saturday I got to be part of a lovely event in Covent Garden, which was brought about by Moleskine in collaboration with Urban Sketchers. I was absolutely stoked to be asked to contribute, to the event, in way of presenting a 'learning session' to anyone interested in Urban Sketching. I was surprised, to be asked, too, as I'm not normally recognised for that kind of sketching - although I am an active member of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire - I suspect I was invited because I am a prolific Moleskine user and fan.

And so, I found myself up at an ungodly hour and on the six o'clock train down to London.
Which is, of course, when I started drawing.

 My first stop, on arrival in the city, was a Timberyard café in Covent Garden, where I met the Moleskine team and the other three sketchers, Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs and Olha Pryymak, taking part in the event. This, too, was a privilege as I have admired these guys work, from afar, for years. Then we were joined by members of the press and bloggers to discuss all things Urban Sketching, before moving on to our venues.
James and I were based at the wonderful London Graphic Centre for the day. I'd never visited before, but it really is a must for pen/stationery/notebook geeks (you know who you are). If you're in London, and you are such a geek, don't miss this place. Three or four stories of awesomeness, I have no idea how I didn't spend a fortune. Well, I do; I was kept busy, drawing the day.

In the afternoon it was time for my Learning Session, in which I talked about my journey from being a secret private drawer to taking that leap, joining an Urban Sketchers group, and drawing outdoors and in public. I also discussed some of my coping strategies for making that move, how it has changed my drawing and how it's changed how I view the world (now EVERYTHING is a drawing opportunity). Then we took to the streets for some more sketching.

It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. And, again, it is another reason I love 'sketchcrawling' - just getting in that zone with a bunch of people who are passionate about drawing, talking, not talking, but always sketching. There were sketchers of all ages, too. Above are a couple of my sketches of the youngest sketchers.

Now, I know what you're thinking, and, no, there aren't that many moose roaming the streets of London. This one was on the wall of a flower shop - the one that Emily is drawing above. I know it's not what you might expect of Urban Sketching, but that was part of my class; there are no rules when it comes to creating. Just get out and draw.

If you feel intimidated by the big picture, by drawing a whole scene or street or building, then start by drawing little bits of it. Just draw the signs, or the bins, or the windows, or the people. The rest will come. You can add the rest of the scene in later. If you want. But, if you are curious about drawing outside, stop putting things in your way. I speak from experience. I came up with so many excuses for not doing what I wanted to do, but finally letting go of that was the best thing.

I don't have all the drawings that I made, to share, here, as at the end of the day we tore them out of our books and hung them at the London Graphic Centre and the Moleskine shop. We didn't just tear up our sketchbooks though. No siree, we'd been drawing in Moleskine's new square Sketch Album which has perforated pages. Another great idea from Moleskine. Above are a couple of drawings by James and myself.

And, finally our day was finished. It was exhausting but exhilarating. There is nothing I enjoy more than talking about and sharing my love for drawing. I wish I could do this every day of the week. I guess I, kind of, do that online - which is great and all well and good - but, there is something about doing it with real live actual people!

As Adebanji finished his last sketch of the day, James and I went for a final coffee before I got my train home. But, as always with obsessive sketchers, a view from the window of Stanfords bookshop café proved to be too tempting. So, I squeezed one last drawing in before departing.

A big thanks to Moleskine and to Urban Sketchers for letting me be a part of this Moleskine Story, to the other artists and everyone who came along to sketch on the day. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks y'all.

 Did, I say that was my last sketch of the day? I was lying. What else do you do on a train journey?

One observation I will have; if you are on the same train, in the same carriage, as a VERY drunk man then it's very comforting to be sat at the same table as a huge tattooed body builder. Even if he is wearing pink. Just saying.

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17. guess i'll have another round

I seem to have been spending a lot of time sketching in pubs over the last few weeks. It's kind of become one of those unintentional themes. An enjoyable one. What could make a better subject matter than a lovely old pub? And, I've been visiting quite a few. On Sunday evening I attended Pubscrawl in Sheffield; ten pubs turned into art galleries, or exhibition spaces, for the evening, hosting ten different artists. Such a great idea. Great to view art in these great British institutions.

The drawing below is from a Pubcrawl Sketchcrawl that myself and a friend hosted, here, in the High Peak. That day we took in seven or eight different pubs, drawing inside and outside of them. I drew this in the beer garden of our final stop.

So yeah, there's a definite theme going on. One that I'm quite happy to continue.


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18. take me up to the top of the city

So, it's nearly time to say goodbye to August, and summer, and Hello September. I like September. It feels like a month when changes can and will happen and I always welcome that. Plus, autumn is most definitely my favourite season. Even the word 'autumn' is lovely.

September, before it has begun, has a theme to it. I am paying three visits to our capital - which feels exciting and sounds expensive. At the end of the month I am going to see, and I can't quite believe I'm saying this, Kate Bush in concert. I know, how crazy is that? I hope she hasn't had a big strop by then and called the rest of the dates off. You wouldn't put it past her. And, I love her for that.

Mid month I am finally going to see my bookbench. It's been a long time coming, but at last, just days before it retires from the city, I'll get to see it, in situ, on the streets of London. Well, actually, in a churchyard in Greenwich. The photo, below, was taken by, and of, a couple of friends who recently visited.
Then there's next weekend and a rather fabulous opportunity that presented itself to me. You know, sometimes, a little gem of a 'job' pops up in your inbox? Sometimes, you don't even take it seriously because it sounds too good to be true? Yeah, that.

Next weekend, on Saturday 5th of September, I will be drawing for, and representing, MOLESKINE and URBAN SKETCHERS in COVENT GARDEN. It's true! Please come along. We're there all day for a big old sketchathon. Come! Draw! Plus, rumour has it, that there may just be free Moleskines. Oh yes. You'll need to get there early to catch one of those lovely worms.

Oh, oh, and I forgot to mention the rest of the Covent Garden sketching team. I'll only be sketching with, ahem, Urban Sketching correspondents Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs, Olha Pryymak. Eeeeek! I already feel like a fraud.

Full details of the event can be found HERE. Even though our Learning Sessions are sold out still come along. We'll all be hanging out, sketching, all day. Hope to see you there.

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19. now it's closing time, the music's fading out

Photography by Rod Walton
Now, if you visit this blog regularly, you'll be aware that I do bang on about Dr Sketchy every now and again. Well, not only am I hooked on the whole concept of these alternative life-drawing events, but, I also co-run the Dr Sketchy Sheffield branch, with my partner in crime, Lara Gothique, so, you know, a little banging on is allowed, right? And, to be honest, when we create these kind of amazing events I think we have every right to bang on. They're great!

Drawing by me
The photo, at the top of this post, is of me in action - or, more to the point, is of Tallulah in action. The drawing, above, is the end result. We are so lucky to have a couple of great venues to hold our shows. This one, the Old Clubhouse, Buxton, is a former Victorian genlteman's club. To say that it worked beautifully, as the saloon bar, in our Wild West themed evening last Wednesday, would be an understatement.
Photography by Eric Murphy
I have to say that seeing these images makes me hugely proud of what we achieve; the whole Dr Sketchy Sheffield team, that is. The models, the guys who volunteer their services - in the way of music and photography - just everyone. So, we don't make a penny out of it. But who cares? Success can't always be measured by money, right again??
Drawing by me
Which brings me on to our sketchers. Not only are the photos stunning, but the artwork produced on our evenings is insanely good and so varied too. You can see what I mean in our Facebook Group HERE. Plus, when all the sketchers leave saying they had a great time then that's how you measure success, I reckon.

Photography by Rod Walton
Oh, and making scenes like this, above, happen to.

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20. have you ever had it blue?

Damn, I'm going to miss this place this year. These are drawings of Clermont Ferrand. They're a kind of mixture of realism and imagination, fact and fiction. I like that place in between both. I have an idea for a small series of these drawings. So, if I will not get to physically visit this year, I will travel there through drawing.

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21. Ten Illustrators To Follow Now

From sketches to digital art narratives, here’s a visual journey into the worlds of ten illustrators on WordPress.com.

Brad Young

The drawings at Brad Young Art capture life’s little moments. From pen and ink to watercolor, and gardening to food to neighborhood spots, it’s easy to get lost sifting through Brad’s mix of doodles and sketches.

Sarah Goodreau

Sarah Goodreau, an illustrator living in Amsterdam, has a distinct style marked with the warmth you’ll find in children’s picture books, as well as the mystery of surrealist landscapes. In addition to illustration, Sarah is interested in video and stop-motion animation.

Marc Taro Holmes

At Citizen Sketcher, Montreal-based artist Marc Taro Holmes chronicles his location sketching, travel drawing, and plein air painting. His work-in-progress is refreshing, from airy landscapes to spirited pieces full of movement. When viewing his work, you can picture his hand moving across the page.

Drew Dernavich

Artist Drew Dernavich works on a number of projects, from New Yorker cartoons to art for musical projects. At Words, Pictures, Humor, you’ll find highlights from his professional work.

Robert M Ball

London-based illustrator Robert M Ball shares a range of work on his blog, from his “Beautiful Death” series for HBO’s Game of Thrones to his new book, Dark Times

Lorna Alkana

Los Angeles artist Lorna Alkana experiments with multi-layered digital media and visual essays. It’s fun to read about — and see — her process of image manipulation.

Pete Scully

Urban sketcher Pete Scully organizes monthly sketchcrawls in Davis, California. An avid keeper of sketchbooks, he’s constantly doodling, bringing the world to life with his colorful, lighthearted illustrations.

Anna Totten

Just Look at My Face is Anna Totten’s virtual lost and found of doodles and illustrations. Playful and colorful, Anna’s work will put a smile on your face.

Slightly Chilled Porcupine

It’s easy to scroll through the black-and-white illustrations at Slightly Chilled Porcupine and lose track of time — at first glance, the drawings are simple, but the messages, while often quirky, are not to be dismissed. (Also, who doesn’t love porcupines?)

Danny Gregory

Award-winning artist Danny Gregory has written numerous books on art and creativity. (Fun fact: Pete Scully, mentioned above, is featured in one of them: An Illustrated Journey.) On Danny’s blog, you’ll find drawings, illustrated journaling, and essays. Be sure to also check out Sketchbook Skool, his six-week online art course.

Let Them Draw Cake," Danny Gregory
“Let Them Draw Cake,” Danny Gregory

Want more? Browse some of our favorite art and design blogs, or explore the illustration tag in the Reader.


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11 Comments on Ten Illustrators To Follow Now, last added: 8/15/2014
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22. i am still right here

For everyone feeling like shit today.
A new range of products, lotions and potions that I may, or may not, be bringing out in the future.
Probably not coming to my Etsy shop very soon.

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23. A Special Relationship - Linda Strachan

In Anne Cassidy's recent blog It takes a lot more than one person to write a book  she mentioned a lot of different people who contribute is so many ways when you are writing a novel. But if what you are writing is not a novel but a picture book there is one person whose contribution is as important as the author, and that is the illustrator.

Picture book images are not merely drawings that help the story along, they are an integral part of the story, often carrying a storyline of their own. If you drop by picturebookden.blogspot.co.uk  you will find some interesting and amusing blogs about writing/illustrating picture books, including one by Malachy Doyle on how NOT to write a picture book- see especially points 6 & 7 about illustrators!
Sally J. Collins

People are often surprised when they discover that the author and illustrator of picture books frequently do not meet, or even speak to each other during the process.  The publisher will decide to publish a picture book text and then commission an illustrator to work on it.  The editor is then often the go-between during any discussions about the illustrations.

This has been my experience except in one case and that is the Hamish McHaggis series, 10 books that I have written over the last 10 years which were illustrated by my dear friend Sally J. Collins, a talented illustrator. 
Sadly Sally passed away recently as some of you will know, but as well as being friends we had a wonderful working relationship as author and illustrator working closely together from the very start of the project.

When I was approached to write the Hamish McHaggis books, I suggested that Sally would be a great illustrator for them and luckily the publisher agreed.  Once I had outlined the personalities and characteristics of the four main characters, Sally started working up the drawings until we were both happy with the way they looked.
Hamish, a cuddly Haggis, went through various versions before we were happy with him and Sally as had no wish to draw Hamish or the woodland creatures who were his friends, wearing clothes, we compromised with accessories. Sot Hamish had a hat, Jeannie the osprey had pink beads and painted claws, Rupert the English hedgehog sports a bow-tie and often wears  his glasses, and the cheeky wee pine marten, Angus, wears his red cap back to front.
Because we had a very tight deadline for the first 4 books, Sally and I fell into a kind of routine where I would come up with the basic storyline and she would do thumbnail drawings of all 12 double page spreads.  
One of Sally's thumbnail drawings  © Sally J Collins
We would meet up, luckily we lived close to each other, and discuss how it would look and make some changes before I even finalised the text.  This meant that Sally was able to get started on full size rough drawings of the first few pages that we were happy with, while I was writing and editing the text of the story.

One of the things we both enjoyed was the collaboration. I would suggest things that she might want to incorporate in her images and she would come up with ideas for the storyline. This happened more and more the longer we worked together, and made it all the more fun each time we got started on a new book. 

Hamish & the Whirry Bang at the Falkirk Wheel book launch
There was, for a while, a real car made up to look like Hamish's Whirry Bang vehicle and there is also a full size Hamish costume. 
Both of these had a lot of input from Sally and I to make sure they resembled her drawings as closely as possible, and painting up the car was a real labour of love!
Sally and I also went out on the road with Hamish.  
As the books are set in a variety of wonderful locations, Sally and I went on research trips so that we really knew about the places where the books were set.  Sally  would make sketches and take notes so that she could faithfully replicate things like the pattern on the pale blue carpet in Glamis Castle and one of the chairs in the Queen Mother's room, which was incorporated into the story.  She also had to draw so many of the  places in the books, even the front of Edinburgh's parliament building, which was a bit of a challenge!  

The Falkirk Wheel, the world's largest boat-lift, was the setting for another Hamish adventure and when we launched that book we took a boatload of children and parents up on the wheel as we told the story and Sally showed them the pictures from the book. Afterwards they had a drawing class with Sally.  
We had research trips and also book launches in Balmoral, Stirling and Edinburgh Castles and  the most recent was the Kelvingrove and the Transport museum in Glasgow. Sally even managed to sneak in small images of  both of us into one of the pictures at the Transport museum in Hamish McHaggis and the Great Glasgow Treasure Hunt
She had a great sense of fun.

The Hamish books are used  in a lot of schools as the focus for anything from a week to a term's work and although I have always done a lot of school visits on my own, it was fun when Sally and I went to do events together.  I never tired of watching Sally drawing Hamish with a class of children. 
I love writing the stories and it was a joy to watch them come to life on the page with Sally's illustrations.

Hamish McHaggis and his friends have gone out all over the world and he is well loved, as are Sally's humorous and delightful illustrations.


Last year after a lot of fine tuning we were both finally happy with the little cuddly Hamish toy, which is faithful to Sally's drawings of Hamish.


A lovely, talented artist but also a kind and gentle person, Sally will be sadly missed, but wee Hamish and his friends will hopefully delight children for a long time to come as they discover and enjoy his adventures.


It has been a very special relationship that I feel privileged to have been part of and which has left a host of happy memories.




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Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children  

She has written 10 Hamish McHaggis books illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby

Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  


Linda  is  Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh 

website:  www.lindastrachan.com
blog:  Bookwords 





 







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24. Nora

 Look who's turned up.

0 Comments on Nora as of 8/22/2014 11:37:00 AM
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25. me, myself and the Gents

Me, drawing, by Paul Gent
I'm very lucky to have met some really wonderful artists over the last few years. Artists from around the world. I've met them online, then met them in person. In many lovely parts of the world. Plus, as well as that, I regularly meet up with some brilliant artists closer to home.
Me, drawing, by Miriam Gent
These drawings, of me, were made by a couple of extremely talented friends, Miriam and Paul Gent. They were created, just a couple of weeks ago, on a local Sketchcrawl/Pubcrawl that we three planned (in the pub). It was so local it went through the streets we live on.
Me, drawing, by Paul Gent
It's amazing, when you look, what and who you'll find on your doorstep.
I couldn't love them more; the drawings and the Gents.
 

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