Drawing people

This morning at my church we did something a bit different – set out the hall with tables and invited adults to bring along something they do during the week. I put all my slightly past it fineliners on a table and invited people to have a go at ‘live sketching’ others in the room. The outcome, perhaps, is predictable – two or three adults had a go, talked about art at school, and then gave up, while a whole group of children got stuck in and were still drawing when lunch came out later. I don’t really know why it’s like that. I feel convinced that, given enough time, everyone would find a way of drawing that would work for them. Am I right?

Anyway, these children were able to get straight on and using just a few marks produce recognisable impressions of the people around us.

Thanks to those who let me post them here!

WEBA Christmas Cards

Those of you who like your Christmas cards a bit Biblical might like to know that you can now get these four Christmas cards in a pack of 8 (2 of each design) for just £5. The four designs are sketches I’ve done in Bath, Bristol, Calne, and Clevedon over the last four years for our work Christmas card at WEBA, and the verses are all about the incarnation, God coming to earth, but they’re not so much the ones that get over-used at Christmas.

We’re selling them in aid of Home Mission, and you won’t get cheaper cards from me under any other circumstances anywhere. They’re on top quality 300gsm stock and come complete with envelopes. I have carefully inserted each set into a very compact cellophane sleeve myself.  Contact me if you’re interested; postage is £1.50 extra.

Four christmas card designs

Fred and Rita

Fred and Rita dance test

One reason why I haven’t posted anything for a while is that I’ve bought my first graphics tablet.

This is something I’ve wondered about, and sometimes resisted, for about twenty years. Recently, however, I’ve been commissioned to produce a short animated explanation for the people I work for four days a week. I wanted to take this opportunity to experiment with animating in my natural, rough, sketchy drawing style, and I knew the tablet could potentially make this possible.

I work for a network of Baptist churches in the West of England, and together with our neighbouring Associations, we want to share the idea of what’s possible through Partnership. The idea of Great Partnerships became part of this, and that gave me the perfect excuse to try drawing what I could never hope to do in real life: dance like Fred and Ginger.

Or, in this case, Fred and Rita, because the moves above are roughly based on a scene from You Were Never Lovelier starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.

Kind of. Because I’m just practising, and I’m using 6 frames a second to try to save time. That means you’re seeing only a quarter of the pictures per second that you’d see in a Disney film. It does take a ridiculous amount of time, but I do love it. I’m going to get back to it now.


A Goodbye Plate

Today I was at a community tea to say goodbye to our minister Laurie and his wife Karen. They’ve been at our church ten and a half years and it’s been brilliant. They’re leaving a happy group of people, doubled in size, with a wide range of ages and cultures and broad links to the local community.

My excuse for posting this on my illustration blog is the blue glass plate that I got to design for Laurie and Karen.

blue plate

Many years ago, I saw a photography exhibition that included a photograph of the congregation of St James Picadilly gathered in one of the aisles. I had an idea that we could take a similar photo at tbc, to put on a sign outside showing that there were friendly human beings inside. One teatime, while hosting at least two extra children, I managed to scribble a sketch of the kind of thing I meant, to take to a church meeting that evening. The church thought the sketch would do as well as a photo, and that sketch has been on the sign outside our church ever since.

original tbc illustration

For this 30cm blue plate, I had a go at updating it, reflecting the way the church has grown and including some different people – although there was no way I could fit everyone in. I had to work from photos, which I normally refuse to do. Just sometimes, though, when the purpose of what I’m drawing and my connection to the people I’m drawing is strong enough, I get away with it. The figures end up a bit more stilted, but hopefully the overall effect is still one of joy and community, even in silver on blue.


Destination Bethlehem

Actors and visitors at Destination Bethlehem

On Saturday I went to Clevedon Baptist Church to sketch at ‘Destination Bethlehem’ for the Christmas card we’ll send out at work. I work at the West of England Baptist Association and we’re trying to feature a different one of our churches each Christmas. Destination Bethlehem was a magnificent immersive nativity experience – and a complete sell-out, I believe. Guests lucky enough to get a ticket, and also a large number of school children during the week, were taken through a labyrinth of Nativity story sets, and had the opportunity to bake real bread, be shouted at by Herod, chat with some Bristolian shepherds, haggle in a Bethlehem market, and finally meet the baby in the manger. I got to put on a costume, crouch in the corner on the way to the stable, and draw what I saw.

My drawing reminds me a little bit of Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations in We’re going on a bear hunt. I so much wanted to draw like Helen Oxenbury when I was fourteen, and I never will, but perhaps it’s the colours in this, or the way they’re all moving gently and hesitantly towards the baby they know is the culmination of their quest.

My reading of the Bear Hunt story (which will be an animated special on Channel 4 this Christmas) was always that the family wanted a fun adventure together with lots of actions  but that it preferably wouldn’t involve an actual live bear. We see the bear herself at the end, lonely in the moonlight, unable to play with the family who came to seek her. Bears, after all, are real, and they’re not exactly safe.

The baby in my picture is, of course, a plastic doll. I think Christians are probably very accustomed to play-acting. We do it all the time.  But however much we act makes no difference at all to whether the person represented by the doll, Emmanuel, God-with-us, is actually real, and actually with us.

Wobbly Rock

To be honest I haven’t done a lot of sketching for a few weeks, but I do have a few drawings from before Christmas which still need working into final illustrations. I got round to this one on Saturday so that I could put it on a birthday card for one of the singers. This is a group from my church, tbc, singing selections from a rather good jazz musical called Wobbly Rock, written by local musician Marilyn Childs. It’s based on the life of St. Peter. When she publishes the sheet music, and the CD, and when we put a proper concert on at church one day, I’ll tell you.

Wobbly Rock