Tag Archives: scratch board
I’d like your opinion, please.
For the last couple of months in between other things, I’ve been working away on the largest scratchboard drawing I’ve made yet: a page of penguins.
I’m rather chuffed with how they look, and though I hadn’t really planned on doing anything with the finished piece, a few people have suggested that it would make a nice poster and I rather agree. So I’ve been looking into the costs of a print run.
As is so often the case, the unit price of anything printed drops significantly the more you order, but this isn’t a real saving if I end up with a pile of penguins stuffed under my bed for the next few years. It’s a balancing act of knowing that it’s a product enough people might want, at the same time as being able to offer a reasonable price. I’m trying to be pragmatic – and honest – about the challenges of putting artwork out in the world, and what the difference is between an image that people like and a viable product.
So I’d love to know, is a penguin poster is something you’d actually be interested in?
It might be that this is just a page of penguins that I’ve enjoyed drawing and people enjoy looking at online: that would be OK! But if it is something you think you might like to buy – with no obligation – please let me know, because I would like to try and make it available.
And if it is something you’d like, what would you consider a reasonable price? It’s 50 x 60cm, if that helps. Again, no obligation. I’m just wondering where’s the price point that would make you say “yes, definitely!” and the one that would make you decide “hmm, no that’s too much…”
I will be SO grateful to hear what you think. Thank you :)
Some days I think my growing fondness for scratch board, officially the slowest drawing medium in the world, is a curse, impractical and quite frankly idiotic.
Other days I think it is teaching me an important lesson.
Since Lighter Than My Shadow was published, I’ve been trying really hard not to approach everything in life like an eating disorder. If anyone is wondering how that comparison makes sense, consider that my former approach to making art involved a lot of lists, target sheets, unreasonable goals and considerable self-flagellation for not achieving them. It became clear in the aftermath of my book that this approach was not only destructive, but unsustainable and honestly not a lot of fun: it was removing all joy from drawing, purportedly the thing I love most in the world. And so I decided to learn to do things differently.
Here’s where the world’s slowest drawing medium comes in. I have no choice but to let it go slowly. An A4 page takes me the better part of a week. My penguin poster has taken two months so far and is still not done. Yet I’ve just decided to also use scratch board for some (not all!) of the next Green Bean.
I am making marks every day, and by my old standards I do not have a lot to show for it. My blog is quiet because I am not churning out work at an unsustainable rate. When I do post, I feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over, justifying to myself that this slower pace is OK. In truth, living with it is extraordinarily uncomfortable. The old pattern would have me down tools in despair, lamenting that there’s no point trying if I can’t conquer the world by tomorrow lunchtime.
I am not doing that. I am going back to the drawing board and making the marks I can make today; learning to let that be enough.
JANUARY IN BLACK AND WHITE
I can hardly believe the first month of 2016 is nearly over, but it has been a lovely one, if rather wet down here in Devon. After some consideration, I feel as though there has been a clear theme…
Over the course of the past month, I’ve observed that monochrome is really my favourite way to illustrate. I’ve been experimenting with picking a knitting project to complement what’s on my drawing board, and it has been a lot of fun. Above are my Fledgling mittens, designed by fellow Pom Pom Quarterly contributor Anna Maltz, which I knitted while working on my Penguins of the World poster (which is nearly finished, but not quite). Matching crafting and drawing themes is something I plan to continue.
January concluded with a visit from my friend Katriona Chapman, and the excuse to go to some beautiful local spots one can easily take for granted. I was especially inspired by our visit to the beach, perfectly timed with my re-reading of Ursula Le Guin’s masterpiece A Wizard of Earthsea (if you have not yet read this book, why on earth not?). I’ve decided the magic of the seashore will become the theme for my coming months’ drawing and knitting, including the new issue of The Green Bean. The perfect excuse to visit the sea more often…
It’s taken me this long in my illustration career to realise that a portfolio is – needs to be – a constantly dynamic thing. Thankfully, we illustrators very rarely need to carry around neat black folders of printed work any more: everything is online, and this is a much easier format for change.
That said, I resist it. I was upset a few weeks ago when I deleted my website’s portfolio section by accident. I still have copies of all the work, but making the selections of what to include is always a challenge. I was gifted the opportunity to start over, which I might never have done, and it turns out my portfolio needed a massive clear out.
So how did I pick what went in? I asked myself three questions:
Is it current?
I began by only looking at work from 2014 and 2015. Despite feeling like I’ve been ‘taking a break’ these last couple of years, I discovered I had created more than a portfolio’s worth of pieces that are strong, and reflect my current approaches (note the considerable delegation from team scratch board!). In the end, I did also choose one piece that was older to complemented my choices, but that’s all.
Am I proud of it?
Some people might advise against being so subjective, but I think it’s vital. It looked better as soon as I took out all of the piece I thought I should include, or that other people had like but I’d never felt so strongly about. I know sometimes feeling pride is challenging; we all have days when we feel nothing we’ve done lives up to our hopes (maybe try not to pick a portfolio on one of those days?). But I think we all also know what it feels like to be really chuffed with something. It felt good to pick only pieces like that.
Is it the kind of work I want to do?
There were some pieces that satisfied both of the above clauses, but that just didn’t quite fit. On analysis, these were all pieces created in coloured inks, and they were all very personal. I love this medium when working at my own pace, without pressure, when it doesn’t really matter if things don’t go to plan. But I feel nauseous at the thought of working in this medium for a client, therefore it does not belong my portfolio. What a relief!
Finally, I think the best thing I can do for my portfolio is keep it dynamic. In the end I have chosen 12 pieces, which you can see here, and 3 comics, which you can see here. But my plan is that this selection will continue to change to reflect my most current work, both by adding and by taking away.
People often remark on the level detail in my artwork, and say I must have lots of patience. It’s no secret I have a love of tiny details, also mammoth projects that take years, preferably both at once (see Lighter Than My Shadow). But the truth is this kind of work isn’t a test of patience for me. This is what I love. Having recently completed this Alasdair Roberts poster using scratch board, perhaps the epitome of a painstaking medium, I’m finding myself drawn back to using it again. It’s the same thing, I think, that means I enjoy knitting so much – another activity that brings remarks on how much patience I have. But it only has to do with patience if you focus on the end result. Yes it might take me a year to knit a sweater, or five years to draw a whole book. But when I finished drawing the book that took me five years, it was like the bottom fell out of my world. I have felt lost, listless and it’s taken me two years to recover any sense of what to do when I get up in the morning. Two years to realise that the finished product was not the important thing at all. I’m not saying I don’t want to knit sweaters or make books: that’s what I want to to all day every day! It’s just that I’m realising I’m not in this for the finishing. In the end, any books or sweaters are kind of incidental. What matters more is the act of making. I’m wary of this starting to sound a little wacky so I’ll tread carefully. I love creating the most when I’m utterly engaged in the process. Time drifts and my purpose becomes irrelevant: I am absorbed in each tiny mark or stitch. I’ve found that generally the more longwinded and painstaking a process is, the more effective it is at inducing this kind of meditative state where I am at my happiest. Finding this sweet spot amid deadlines, the (real or perceived) pressure to finish something new and the very real need to sell things, well that’s a different kind of challenge…but lately I’m enjoying meticulous processes that remind me they are the best bit. The above is my charming new house! I’ve spent the last couple of weeks packing, shifting and unpacking boxes. I’m still living with a significant degree of chaos but hope to show you around my new studio soon.