The story behind the bookmark

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It began many years back, when I was was helping a ten-year-old with ideas for a story. In a nutshell, her ideas fed mine, and set me thinking of my own story for children. This would of course be an illustrated story, done by yours truly. After writing many drafts, I decided on creating the first illustration; something that might work for the cover. Apart from the grandfather, who features in the story, the drawing above features all the other main characters in The Lost Civilisation. From top left, clockwise; the parrot Herakles, Penelope, Achilles the dog, Helen of Troy, the cat, and Archimedes, the goldfish, all named after figures in Greek mythology.

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When you need some passion in your life

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1st session, using artist quality colour pencils

I’m still on the botanical track – sorry, if you were thinking I’d written a Mills and Boon style romance – although the passionfruit flower I’ve sketched is as beautiful to look at as its fruit is to eat. This particular plant was thriving a couple of years ago on a wall in my relative’s garden, and thinking it would make a great drawing I took a photo of a flower and the fruit. Alas, the plant shrivelled and died in the heat the following summer. So, I guess my sketch is a kind of memorial to that luscious passionfruit vine which died prematurely. I could have sketched this in one sitting, but decided that I’d like to take it slowly. I sketched it in three short sessions, spread out over three days, as family were visiting.

Final session

I continually sharpened my pencils and kept changing from one tone of green, or purple, to achieve the desired effects. While drawing the initial sketch I wondered how I could show the delicate white tendrils so they would show against the darker background of leaves. This was a good time to leave it alone. On return I began fleshing out the foliage and used an olive green, apple green, and a lemon cadmium for highlights. For the stamens, I used dark violet and magenta. Picking out the edges was tricky, as I wished to keep their delicate appearance, yet I needed to add depth of tone in the line, in order to have the stamens show against the green.

I applied more colour to the foliage, yet left the sketch loose around the outside, so the flower would remain the focal interest.

A significant sketch

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Metrosideros ‘Tahiti’

The significance is that the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros), with its showy scarlet flowers around Christmas, has since shed those beautiful blooms to the wind. The Pōhutukawa comes in many forms and sizes, and it was the shrub I came across in my relatives’ garden which took my fancy on Boxing Day. This was the Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros ‘Tahiti’), a compact shrub approximately 1m x 1m with its yellow flower stalks and the soft sage green of the young leaves I thought delightful. Well, to this artist’s eyes at least. I had an immediate desire to draw it, and trimmed off a piece of branch with a pair of secateurs (with permission from said relatives).

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The last from the back of the cupboard.

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Gus Gull, gouache, on smooth illustration board

Yes, a continuation of the sea creatures I illustrated for the Save Our Seas book I wrote about three posts back. To recap, I was asked to sketch cartoon characters, paint small scenes, draw a myriad of sea creatures, and a few coastal scenes.I have chosen not to put all the remaining images in here, as it would make the post too long, but I hope you like the cross-section of artwork I’ve selected for this one.

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More from the back of the cupboard

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This week thought I’d show you some illustrations from the other book I mentioned last week – Eco-Rangers Save The Planet: Earth-friendly missions for green kiwis, written by children’s author Maria Gill. This book is A5 size, and could be slipped into a back pocket. It’s full of ways young people can think about the their environment and finds ways to keep it healthy. I was asked to draw the two main characters first, and make the boy and girl a bit funky. The book was aimed at young teens, so I looked through a great Taschen book on recent illustrations to get an idea of styles. My work would be grades of back on white, with green and blue being the background print colours.

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From the back of a cupboard …

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Whale: gouache on illustration board

Some years back, and before writing took hold of me, I illustrated several children books. One was Save Our Seas, by author Maria Gill, who tells a story about the marine environment in New Zealand, based on logbooks from Sir Peter Blake’s New Zealand voyages. I was especially pleased to be asked to illustrate this book, as I love wildlife. And I had around fifty separate illustrations to do.

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The nuance of line

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pōhutukawa in Devonport

This week I shall show you why it is best to use a knife, not a sharpener for your drawing pencils. I shall use our native pōhutukawa tree for my first example, as they grow in abundance here in Devonport. They love living by the coast (who doesn’t?). But seeing it is too early for their famed scarlet flowers, I’ll show you the branches and bark instead. I went walking yesterday, and took close-up images of some lengthy limbs, as thought these would be great for me to sketch, and show you what I mean by the nuance of line created by one pencil.

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Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori: Māori language week

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mānawa – mangroves

While out walking around the mangrove estuary the other day we passed an area which accommodates several of Navy buildings. Devonport has been the Navy’s base for a good deal of years, and this area is just one part of it. It is a tranquil place, settled beside the mangroves and looking across water to a peninsula, and to the harbour bridge to the south. The glare was harsh on the water, when I took this shot, just a few steps on from the navy marae, Te tau Moana marae.(This tab will give you a sample of simple greetings, if you were to introduce yourself in te reo Māori. Example here is from an NZIE meeting at the marae). Kerry and I skirted around the wharenui (large house in the centre of the marae, meeting ground).

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Waiting for different things

I received my final book proof last week, and set about planning the sketch that I promised I would do of the cover once the print process was complete. Well, since I showed an image of the front cover in my last post, I decided I would sketch the back cover instead. I was already late with my usual Thursday post, but thought; never mind I’ll do it tomorrow, thinking the task of sketching six family members (as on back cover) a relative doddle. Last night I drafted the sketch in pencil, planning on doing the ink and watercolour the following day. Continue reading

Those who leave and those who stay

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Water-soluble pen, wash and pencil

Sketching the cover of the book you are currently reading was on the list of suggestions that our sketch tutor gave us, to keep students busy while in lockdown for a month. It’s been a great motivator, and occupation, while (mostly) confined to our homes. Continue reading