The weather has been so dark and rainy this week the light was too poor to get much drawing done, so I spent more time than usual working on my iPad. The flat and even qualities of my recent pattern-making work is inspiring and I played some more with putting flat elements over grungy textures, and this is what happened.
For a long time I have wanted to develop some little characters from a pencil drawing of a group of toys and cats in one of my sketchbooks. I thought I had lost it, but I was delighted when I found it safe and well back in April, and thought to use these little bears to inhabit the flowers and talk. The way I lettered the word 'lost' at first looked a bit like 'toast' which I thought was funny, so in no time I had this pair - from wistful to a fistful!
What I enjoyed working with the bears was finding the best way to keep the feel of the original pencil drawing. After a few false starts this turned out to be to separate each creature in Procreate and draw directly onto it. Some of the original drawing on paper still shows through, which provides a lovely ground of texture and varying tone. This way I was able to firm up and clarify ideas in the original drawing while keeping the innocence of pencil marks. I am looking forward to see how it looks when I eventually remake the original drawing in colour.
I also finished the outline work for the 'collaboration' with my younger self this week, tidying up and adding new elements. There are no spaces left there now, and the pattern fits nicely - more on that later when I start adding colour.
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This morning I was getting Instagram and blog images ready for posting when, poking around in Procreate, I saw this collection of creatures in one document close by my 'digital sketchbook', a collage of textures spread like pages I put together back in February. It was a complete coincidence, I had only imported the sketchbook document the other day to look for something unrelated to the beasties. The two images were talking to each other so well I thought to put them together, and loved the result. The dark background is the original pavement photo I originally set the collection of beasties against last week which I liked well enough, but this is so much more fun! The colours and textures work off one another so well, a chance encounter has become quite a new favourite.
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An immense relief to take a break from making artworks which are all digital clicks and numbers! It must be an annual thing, because exactly a year ago I was making works based on scenes I saw in rain-soaked cracks in the park pavements after the sun has burnt off the puddles. Perhaps the rain is just the right sort at this time of year, I know exactly when I'm going to get the best photos which inspire pareidolia.
At first it was tough to get going on these, following an extended period of pattern-making and uploads of designs, but it soon came back to me. I wanted to get back into illustration mode because there is still some work to do on that children's book with author Amber Hunt.
I made the image at the top first, a mermaid taking her catfish for a swim, for yesterday's caturday hashtag on Instagram; after that the work began to flow freely. These are two interpretations of the same pavement splodge, pictured below, I simply turned it a different way around for each - the mermaid in the first image here, and cheeky little winged doggie in the second.
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This week, some of my monsters developed two heads! - inspired by insects which often display a big scary face on their body or wings which isn't actually their face. At long last I worked out how to make Reels on Instagram with the image top left, above, and set it to "What's that coming over the hill" by The Automatic - great fun.
Still working in my sketchbook, I developed the floral theme a little further with my adoration of ikebana. I love the gravity-defying weirdness where truth is indeed stranger than fiction as they spring from preposterously tiny vases or shallow bowls apparently supported by nothing but moss.
I am also preparing some textured Fabriano Rosaspina, a heavy card-like printing paper, for stand-alone works. I'm getting texture by adding whiting to my primer and using lots of scumbling.
Yesterday I had some weekend fun making small yellow flowers from one of the paintings into a repeat pattern, which I am calling Pansy Riot. Can't wait to see it on some products.
Oh, the joy! Real paper, real paints, real everything again. Overnight this week it suddenly became spring, and there was warmth in the sun meaning I could get back into my work room. It's freezing in there and dark over the winter, but this week I opened it all up again and the absolute joy of natural work spilled out all over! So exciting - I have wanted to paint monsters for ages, so I started work immediately with a wild prolific madness. I am so genuinely happy!
Don't get me wrong, I thank the Lord (and B!) for my iPad Air which has enabled me to keep producing through the most difficult of times, not just cold weather but during my parents' decline in health, the subsequent house move, and selling our former house during the horribly difficult times of the Covid plague. Periods when I didn't have a room at all, just shuttling back and forth in a car or a removal van and providing for wonderfully supportive friends who pitched in to help. Recently I have derived immense satisfaction from finding a way to make perfect patterns with basic technology digitally 'by hand' that's not actually carving woodblocks, and I've come a long way without Adobe products or automated patternmakers.
Being a trained painter, though, nothing beats the mess and randomness of the studio and I am so, so happy to be back. The freedom!
I should also mention B and I had our first dose of Oxford AstraZeneca exactly one week ago today. It was an extremely well-organised event, really quite an exciting and pleasant experience with wonderful and competent NHS staff and heating in every booth. No side effects or symptoms to report, we should have some level of protection by next week.
Pattern-making was my thing this week, and looking back on the work now I am surprised at how much I managed to get through. A few are simply different colour-ways of the same pattern and I still have to double-check my repeats, but an experimental upload to Redbubble looked good. I enjoyed working in a sort of retro 50’s drawing style, it comes naturally to me and flows and suits floral scatter patterns very well.
Believe it or not, what gave me the biggest challenge was designing the simplest thing of all - a polka dot pattern. Easy within a defined space, but try getting an flawless digital repeat without ‘snap to grid’ or pixel counting functions. I had to resort to hacks, diagrams - even maths, horror of horrors! - but I got there in the end. It makes a lovely soft secondary pattern for backgrounds to run behind a primary pattern.
I dressed up Doggie in some of my work to make an Instagram post slightly more interesting than just a square of pattern. If I had thought about it at the time, I would have posted a patchwork image like the one above as a second swipe image, it’s quite attractive. Maybe next time ...
I have been so grateful for good weather recently - for getting washing done and out on the line! I have been doing daily washes of B’s work clothes and weekly washes of dust sheets (there are about 8 massive sheets plus old bedsheets) and towels while he has been redecorating the old house, in readiness to hand over to its new owners. The regular loads of towels and bedding also must not be neglected, and I also capitalise on good drying weather to launder all the dog’s bedding. Yes, she has a bed in every room and the task of stinky-fighting is never ending. On top of that, house guests who impatiently waited for lockdown restrictions to be lifted have come tumbling in through the door in a whirlwind of joyful reunion - more bedlinen, cooking, barbecues resulting in a delightfully busy time.
So, I haven’t yet managed to start back at work yet quite as full time as I had imagined. I have started gathering things together, but that’s as far as it has gone. The photo above is a detail of my shopping list on the fridge door the other day, showing creativity must out one way or another! Doodles everywhere.
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Just a little vignette I designed for the book this week, with cute bunnies by moonlight. The work is going really well, and I have been having fun designing a pattern using lots of little elements which appear in the story. I have also started on the design for the book cover, recovered some some missing text from the author and hand lettered the last page to match the first page. I see the hand lettered pages as being a sort of voice over introducing and closing the story - in the voice of Tom Baker!
This trio of ladies singing and humming evolved from character studies for a leading lady in the children's book I am working on, and I am sure it came from the current lack of hairdressing facilities! I got into the details of the different hairstyles in a big way, as my own hair grows more out of shape and shaggy in not a good way every day. It was a bit of fun which provided something to post on Instagram.
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A sea-themed week. I have worked on seaweeds, crabs, fishes, sand dunes, and shells. I discovered a few things to do with seashores, including Sea Bindweed which will definitely be making an appearance in my drawings soon - and I couldn't resist making a little pattern with delightful yellow Beach Morning Glory.
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This is how B and I spent our Christmas afternoon - modelling like crazy! These great gifts were from Molly and her husband Ben: miniature kits. Mine was a pack of coloured play clays, referencing my pottery days, with instructions to make a Happy Llama. I did, and made him a little friend and a garden of flowers with the leftovers - I had the best time playing and inventing. B’s kit was a little racing car, rather more challenging than my kit and took more time to build, which kept him busy and in his element all afternoon. It’s so cute and beautiful, and goes really fast on its tiny wheels - not dissimilar to the Caterham 7 he used to run before the Lotus Elise he has now, so it's clear where the inspiration for this gift came from!
We have a £5 Christmas gift rule in our family, and it is great fun. Nobody must spend more than £5 on each other, just put as much thought and imagination as possible into finding a gift. One year I made Theo a bunch of sock monsters using all the odd socks I collected during the year left behind after his stays with us; this year he gave his time to replace the aged fuse-box with a modern trip system for our Christmas present.
For our part, B and I had a lovely afternoon tracking down gifts for under a fiver in the pound shop - we found a 1000 piece jigsaw for Molly the demon ‘puzzer’ for £4.99, and horror slime with a spider in it plus an Aldi Beard Wash for her husband Ben, eminent YouTuber Beardo Benjo who specialises in horror gaming. Look out for a beautifully groomed beard on his channel!
Thanks for visiting, see you next week - or next year, should I say!
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Christmas cards all finished, posted and delivered! The design is a rubbing of the lid of an old Indian box, made by passing an inked roller over Japanese tissue laid on top of the box. Once the ink was dry a shmoosh of glitter glue (obligatory) added a sparkly sheen, which looks speckled in this scanned image.
Somewhat bizzarely, I also got into Peppa Pig this week ...
I often listen to YouTube videos while I work, and one day I suddenly noticed an autoplay anomaly had taken me into the middle of Peppa Pig - Official Channel - I had never seen a Peppa Pig episode before, and I really liked it! I have seen them all now, several times, loving the drawings, fully developed characters, stunning compositional sense and clear, soft colours. The sound track is as good as the animations, rich with fun little touches of giggles, gasps, and 'uh-oh' sounds which carry the stories along smoothly. I find the whole series beautifully put together, and think I can learn a lot from it.
The schoolroom clips are some of my favourites, I love the differences in scale between the characters. I realise I have come rather late to the Peppa party and nobody is going to be surprised by this, but it has made a very happy and relaxed atmosphere in my work space! It's quite inspiring.
Thanks for visiting, see you next week - and in the mean time of course, have a very ...
This year's poster for the run-up to Folktale Week, starring Binky the cat
Yes, Folktale Week on Instagram begins one week today!
Time has flown since the prompts were released and I haven't done anything for them yet, but I made this poster for the occasion. I love the opportunity to invent weird little creatures and have the license to mix them all together to suggest or tell stories of a folksy nature.
It is such fun how these creatures come about, and once they creep in they are there for good in my stories! They seem to introduce themselves. The other two cat-like figures in the illustration came about from my bedroom curtains. Prone to idle gazing and pareidolia, about two weeks into the 100 cats project, I saw cats all over them, revealed by morning light glowing through the figured cloth.
The 100 cats project, incidentally, will continue; it had to go on the back burner for a while to make space for the Artobotic machines project, specifically work for the Brexit Art Machine which was on a deadline for the end of the month. Looks like we've had an extension to that now!
Thanks for visiting, see you next week!
More can be found on Artobotic vending machines plus pics of the work I have been making for them at The Weekly on my Heather Eliza Walker site.
Welcome to my illustration blog! I usually post here on Sundays, sometimes adding a mid-week post to keep a work journal.
I illustrate under the pen-name of Binky McKee, McKee being my mother's maiden name. Binky was the name of every single cat my great-grandmother kept - about 40 of them during her 94 years of life. Given that, I have no idea how Doggie with his dead-pan expression became my avatar instead of a cat - something to do with popularity on Instagram and lots of jokes with him! Must get a photo of my own face at some point.
Currently I am working on illustrating a children's book, pattern making, and of course I can't resist a good Instagram challenge such as Folktale Week or Inktober.
I hope you enjoy your visit!
I keep lots of scrapbooks and sketchbooks where I develop ideas and design little creatures. Here's a peek inside one ...
As you may know, I am also known as Heather Eliza Walker.
Click the image if you would like to find out more and visit my other website.
This time, take a peek into my ceramic design sketchbook. I actually made some of the mugs, but I kind of prefer the drawings! The plate designs are painted on paper plates, a most liberating process.
These watercolours are from my pattern sketchbook. I used coloured wax crayons to resist the washes of watercolour, also home-made rubber stamps dipped in bleach then printed on crêpe paper - the bleach takes out the paper dyes.
A sketchbook I used for mark-making with unusual objects - corks, seed-heads, feathers, home-made rubber stamps, my fingers and lots of flicky things ...