Sunday, 13 April 2014

murmuration screen print designs...

A few weeks back now I was fortunate enough to witness the amazing spectacle that is a murmuration of starlings, all swooping and pulsing in a flock before they roosted for the night. It really is a jaw dropping sight to see... and hear. It sounds just like the sea breaking on shore and, when two masses of birds conjoin it actually moves like waves crashing and flowing together.

I really wanted to try and do justice to the scene and cook up a screen print illustration so, off an on, I've been trying to depict the flavour of the event graphically for the last fews weeks. Just like the actual murmuration itself it's such an intangible thing to capture, like bottling smoke. There are the silhouettes of the birds themselves against the sky but, more importantly, there is the motion of the flock as a whole that I'm trying to get at. The pulses, swirls and eddies of the birds all add up to a group organism that is curiously more than the sum of it's individual parts. It really is like in 1950's cartoons when the protagonist goes after the honey, gets chased by the swarm of bees, who form into a fist and bop them on the head.

It's fascinating to read up on theories about this behaviour of flocks of birds, and also bait balls of fish (something else I'd love to see), grouping in such a manner as to deter predators by, perhaps, appearing as a bigger predator... kinda like when a cat puffs up to 'look big'.... (anyone else recall that far side cartoon ? I need to reread my Far Side, it's been far too long... I digress. Here's a smattering of my exploratory sketches, photos I took of the murmuration, (some as animated gifs) and the final "Early Birds" and "Home to Roost" screen print designs. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did cooking them up!


Sunday, 23 March 2014

the trojan horse... or... it might well prove a good idea to look a gift horse in the mouth...

I was stumped for this months a little bit bunny blog post as the prospect of illustrating a horse didn't sound all that exciting... until I remembered the trojan horse that is! As usual I've only posted a cropped detail of the final illustration below, plus some rough initial sketches. If you would like to see more the full epic tale is over on a little bit bunny blog... I must admit while sketching, at one stage my wooden nag's design was unintentionally veering toward Monty Python's 'wooden rabbit'.... or was it a large wooden badger...?! Such marvellous creations as Gilliam's bunny tend to burrow into your brain and stay there (if you pardon the pun...).

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

tardigrades... and an interview...

Time to break the dry spell on the blog, and as is my wont I'll do it with this months ALBB creature which is the tardigrade. Truly fascinating little fellows these. Tough as old boots too. Burn 'em, freeze 'em, dry 'em almost to dust... high pressure, the vacuum of space, massive doses of radiation... all that and these little tardigrades (aka moss piglets or water bears... ahhh) keep on keeping on. Hard as nails and yet still thought by many to be the cutest of microscopic critters. Well worth a read all about them. I've opted for a variety of colourful mossy piglets for the illustration and just had fun with different characters. As always, here is a sneak peek and some sketches (and collage elements) while the final illustration is over on a little bit bunny if you would like a look down the microscope!

While I'm blogging I need to also send belated yet sincere thanks to Craig over on Fishink blog for his asking for an interview and including me on his truly excellent blog of all things illustration, photography and textiles. Much as I hate talking about myself it's hard to shut me up once I get waffling about illustration as a topic! I cannot recommend Fishink blog highly enough. Just looking back through his posts it's spooky how similar a lot of our visual tastes are and he's also posted a wealth of words and pictures on many glorious illustrators I'd certainly never come across before. Bookmark fishink and I guarantee it will give you all the illustration eye candy you could wish for! Cheers again Craig.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

a further sketch in the informal 'cameras I own' series... the Polaroid SX-70

I threatened with my last camera ink sketch to continue the theme... oh, I have plenty more cameras yet... So, while I'm on a roll with my old nikon FE sketch one, old nikon F2 sketch two and my much newer panasonic LX5 sketch (geeks love numbers) here's the transformation of the sublime and anachronistic Polaroid SX-70 camera (this link is to an wonderful Charles and Ray Eames produced original SX-70 advert). Sadly I have to admit that I have never had the polaroid film packs to be able to discover whether this lucky car boot find of mine even works but, as an object of quirky and beautiful design history I'm glad to have one to sketch and admire.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Staithes illustration greetings card...

I'm very happy to say that you can now buy greetings cards from Art Angels stockists of my Staithes fishing village (well Staithes inspired) screen print illustration (previously on Matt Dawson blog...). The production quality of the Art Angels cards are just grand with a nice heavy textured card stock with a debossd print area and a great print reproduction to boot. I'm over the moon at being listed with such printmaker luminaries also stocked by Art Angels as the superb Edward Bawden, Angie Lewin and Mark Hearld. Truly inspirational illustrators to rub shoulders with. I've already had several enquires for screen prints of the Staithes design so the sooner I can get things sorted and my house covered in acrylic and drying prints the better I shall feel!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

egg box rhino... I am the egg box, I am the rhino, goo goo g'joob...

Happy new year blog! And before January's out here is my first a little bit bunny blog post of the year... an egg box... an rhinoceros. I had, and still have, a notion to illustrate my own take on Durer's Rhinoceros, an illustration I've always loved. I was all set, and had sketched some roughs but, finishing the last egg in the egg box this morning, an alternative take came to mind. Long story short, just one egg box, some scissors, a dab of two of glue and here she is. Makes a nice change to have no preconceptions at all, just snip and fold and see what happens.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

yule frog eats mince flies holiday pun shocker...

Nothing says festive celebration more than weak word play for comic effect ;-) Well that and poor handwriting on a card (it's been years since I wrote this much in longhand). Pull a christmas "croaker" just hopped to mind too (lucky I didn't use that then). Puns and poor penmanship aside, "Hoppy holidays to all and to all a cracking new year!" See you in 2014 folks.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Napoleon in America book cover and frontispiece artwork

Well it's been a while in gestation (and I've hinted at it in an earlier sketch) but I'm very pleased to be able to finally post the work for a commission I got recently to provide both the cover illustration and design for author Shannon Selin's epic historical novel "Napoleon in America".

Now I will admit that I didn't know a whole heap about Napoleon save for the odd factoids regarding hands in waistcoats, distinctive headwear, "not tonight..." comments and death by wall paper (look this last up, very intriguing). That being the case it's been an interesting journey reading Shannon's fascinating book and researching a little myself into the short guy (not at all the case... look up British propaganda and Cruikshank's cartoons...) with an abundance of character. I also learnt a fair amount on nautical accoutrement (ratlines, belay pins, bulwarks and such...) along the way.

Shannon and the folks at Dry Wall Publishing left the cover brief wide open, but gave some very handy pointers on geography and the world of 1820's America for me to get a hook on things. From there I pitched in with several possible approaches and, pleasantly they all liked a runner up cover concept enough to use it as a black and white frontispiece image alongside Napoleon surveying his new dominions atop a texas cliff on the cover.

There was even to some 'frankenstein forgery' to be done on Napoleon's signature for the title treatment. For this I created a cut and paste of the great man's (it has to be said, untidy) signature from several of his actual chicken scrawls. I then used this as my reference to rewrite it in ink for the cover. Ah, if only I could find Napoleon's cheque book.... he must have been good for a franc or two ;-)

Thanks to Shannon and Dry Wall for the inspiring brief and being a delight to work with. All I can say is if you already know something of Napoleon and would like to add to this with the alternative history of his exploits beyond St Helena (and all this based on an actual escape plan that was never set in motion... look that up too) or, you know little about him but love a good historical yarn (and you might just learn stuff along the way as I did...) look out for Napoleon in America, available in hardback, paperback and ebook early in 2014. Shannon has a pdf extract of the book on her own website if you would like your appetite whetted.

Incidentally I typed all this with one hand tucked in my coat ;-) The stereotypes still persist.

chupacabra ... "the goat sucker"

December's creature for a little bit bunny blog is the chupacabra, and I wanted to get my submission in asap before the silly season blows up proper. To be honest this weird, fantastical cryptid creature didn't really inspire me (interestingly, it seems to have now been identified as being coyotes with mange... not a ideal illustration subject though) but, in translation of it's Spanish name into "goat sucker", a scenario did come to mind. As a happy accident I was able to continue a theme started with last december's ALBB creature goat and a follow on post from that with Joseph and his technicolour milk float! OK, so I'm a little off model in my new goat but it's nice to continue the story. Incidentally I still have a third Joseph illustration I want to tackle... it's only been a year since I thought of it!

I hope you all have a merry multicoloured slurrrrrp or two this christmas folks :-) Cheers!

 As usual, just sketches and a cropped detail of the illustration here. Pop onto ALBB for the full image.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Alice consults the (Cheshire) cat nav on which way she should go...

"Silly me", thought Matthew to himself. "I completely forgot to blog (part of) my picture of the Cheshire cat and tell the 'curiouser and curiouser' people to look for the rest on a little bit bunny blog. Honestly dear blog, the more time I spend illustrating the stranger it all gets. And now, I wonder, if a raven is like a writing desk what manner of creature is like a drawing board...? Perhaps a beaver... and sometimes a sloth?