Bristol bound and inked out

October has been brilliantly busy for me, with Inktober through the month and finishing with Bristolcon at the end. It was a wonderful event, and as well as selling some paintings and postcards, my colourful stall even had a mention in a few people’s blogs! (Thank you Sophie and Thomas). To finally see all 5 of the Urban Faerie paintings hanging together in the very city that inspired them gave me a great sense of achievement which has left me creatively fired up to get started on my next series in the new year. Masses of love and thanks to everyone who helped make it possible by babysitting, driving, carrying canvases, chatting to me, buying art and supporting me.

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I tried my best to take part in Inktober this year, but with varying degrees of productivity. I caught a cold, various members of my family got ill and life generally happened. I’m not going to say that I failed it though – even though there are some artists out there that insist if you don’t complete an ink drawing a day you’re not doing it right. I completed a total of 5 ink portraits: one of Aidan Turner as Poldark, one of David Bowie as Jareth and a triptych of David Bowie eyes.  The original paintings of Bowie’s eyes I had beautifully framed and sold at Bristolcon – I don’t call that a failure! If you’d like to have a look at the paintings, or download a digital version of them for yourself, you can find them on my Etsy store  You’ll also find some beautiful prints of the 5 Urban Faeries paintings on there too, and to celebrate their arrival, I’m offering free UK postage on them until next year.

So what’s next? Well I’m finally getting back to work on the comic book that I’m illustrating, which was written by Neil, and then after that, I will begin photographing my models in preparation for my next series. I’m very nervous excited about this series – I can’t say too much about it at this stage, but I think it might divide people like marmite! There will be a total of 7 paintings in the series and as with a lot of my art, they will explore our relationships with ourselves, environment and each other. It is my hope these paintings will invite the viewer to question the things we do, things we don’t do and what type of relationships they think they are seeing. Stay tuned!

 

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It’s About Time for Sophie E Tallis

Last year at BristolCon, I had the good fortune and pleasure to meet author and illustrator Sophie E Tallis in the art room, where she was exhibiting her fantastic pencil portraits, silk paintings and incredibly detailed fantasy maps. She’s been a practising artist for over 20 years, has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education, was a teacher for 16 years and has been a freelance illustrator for the last 6 years, including working for HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and as an Artist-in-Residence for Oxford University.

Sophie has illustrated 15 books so far, specialising in hand drawn detailed pen & ink illustrations and fantasy maps, including creating the fantasy maps for Anna Stephen’s ‘Godblind’ and Anna Smith-Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, both published by HarperVoyager 2017 and for Diane Magras’s ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ by Penguin Random House, published 2018, for which she is now drawing the sequel’s map for.  Most recently Sophie has seen her artwork on the front cover of Far Horizons magazine. Sophie has also been a panellist, moderator and an exhibiting artist at BristolCon. Sophie is a shortlisted nominee in the 2018 British Fantasy Awards in the Best Artist category.

 

She is also a published author with BFS Award winning independent press, Grimbold Books, has been a full member of The Society of Authors and ALCS since 2013 and was an author/illustrator in the 2015 Cirencester Literary Festival. Her epic illustrated fantasy debut, ‘White Mountain’, the first of her Darkling Chronicles trilogy was re-published in December 2014 by Grimbold Books. She is still writing the sequel, ‘Darkling Rise’ and has had a number of stories published including her sci-fi short story ‘Silent Running’ featured in acclaimed anthology, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ published by Kristell Ink in 2016, and ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, a dark fairytale in anthology, ‘Shadows of the Oak’, published December 2016 by Tenebris Books.  Sophie also has two Darkling Chronicle novellas, ‘The Siege of Kallorm’ and ‘A Friendship Forged’, coming out later this year.

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If this wasn’t enough, she has also recently opened her own Etsy store! Sophie lives in Gloucestershire with her four white wolves, and over the summer I asked her if she would take part in my continuing series of interviews about finding the time to be creative. Here is what she had to say…..

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
ST: I wake, usually after an insomniac night of between 3 – 4 hrs sleep and sit for about half an hour while my vertigo settles so I know I’m safe to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Annoyingly I get vestibular vertigo every day, some days are far worse than others, but I need to move slowly and give my brain a chance to stop swirling. My waking times vary due to my library job, so on mornings I’m working at the library I wake about 7ish on non-library days it’s nearer to 8:30 – 9 depending on how late my four doggies will let me sleep! I take them out for exercising & play for at least an hour, they then get their daily Piriton and treats, more exercise and play, then ‘fishy on a dishy’ (I have a whole embarrassing song ritual which goes with this) which involves giving them tablets/supplements in their favourite tinned salmon and tuna. Did I mention that my daily life is dominated by my four huge white wolfies? More exercise and play (and at the moment a lot of massaging my poorly dog and Photizo laser treatment). I never eat breakfast, I had forced myself for a few months but in all the heat that’s dropped off entirely. By about 10/11am after I’ve fed the birds and done my doggie stuff, I work for about 2/3 hours, either on drawing for a commission work or silk painting/other art (for sale). Sadly, I rarely do any writing these days. Before I got ill, I’d be writing for a solid 6 hours or so, now, my concentration and the mental exertion needed for writing maxs out at about 30mins. After the dogs lunch and my own, I continue working until 3pm ish when I take them all out again for a couple of hours. Back in for them to rest and more work then out again for another hour before they have their dinner. I only check emails and social media in the evenings, I’d get nothing done otherwise. After a final toilet for the dogs I head upstairs and mess around online or writing notes/little excerpts or sketching drawing ideas until about 2am. I rarely sleep much before 3.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
ST: One of my older dogs Tolly has degenerative myelopathy which paralyses his back legs and travels up the spine, so he requires so much help and attention throughout the day that it’s difficult to carve out any time for other things. I deal with it better on some days, if he’s relatively good and can walk a few steps before collapsing and worse on days when he’s bad and is just dragging himself around. The other time zapper is usually having to juggle several projects at the same time, like buses you have a quiet period then they all come at once!

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
ST: Small steps. It’s obvious, but if you have a hectic life or are struggling with illness, you physically and mentally can’t take 5 or 6 hours just for yourself to go work on a project or block everything out until you complete it. No-one scales Everest in one go, tackle the small foothills first, one stage at a time. Every moment spent on a creative endeavour, no matter how short, is time well spent and is a success.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
ST: I get my best writing ideas/scenes when on the toilet or in the bath/shower, bizarre but true, and I get my best art ideas at night when I’m struggling to sleep. Actually being a total night owl my creative brain really ramps up in the wee small hours. There’s something a little magical about being awake when everyone else is asleep and just listening to the night sounds outside for inspiration.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
ST: Some quiet alone time at least, which is why I’m so active at night, I rarely get quiet times during the day to just think about ideas and work out plots/scenes or artwork solutions, so my night times are essential. If I do nothing creative in a day, in whatever medium that may be in, I get really depressed, I literally need creativity for my physical and mental health!

GB: Final words of wisdom?
ST: Try to be kind to yourself. I say this as someone who beats myself up all the time over my lack of productivity, not being prolific, not writing fast enough (I’m glacially slow), not getting a project done by a deadline etc etc. Criticising yourself to the point of paralysis is self-defeating. Try not to be like me! Life throws curve balls at you all the time, it’s hard, it’s tough, shit happens, so give yourself a break if you’ve dropped a ball, missed a deadline, if you’re only writing a book once every 5 years while your friends whizz one off every few months, or if you’re only completing a few artworks every year while others manage new works every day.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her answers and insights. I love her advice to those of us struggling to find time and am a great believer in the power of small steps to move yourself closer to your artistic goals.

If you’d like to find out more, contact or commission Sophie, then all her links are below:

Website & Blog: sophieetallis.co.uk

Illustrations: sophieetallisillustrations

Book: thedarklingchronicles

FB page: facebook/fantasyepic

 

If you’d like to read more interviews about finding creative time, the previous ones can be found here: Andy Bigwood, Joanne Hall, Aliette de Bodard, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell, Iain Clark.

The Neon Faerie

She’s finally here!

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The Neon Faerie

It’s taken a while but I hope you agree she’s been worth the wait. Sitting in a nightclub doorway,  our neon faerie matches the viewer with a steady gaze. Guardian-like, yet in stockinged feet, in a dark alleyway that would usually be fearful for women alone, she is quietly confident – her inner strength is a comforting, shining light in the growing darkness around her. The location of the painting is inspired by Leonard Lane in Bristol. If you’d like to know more about the locations of the five Urban Faeries, check out their Gallery page. Feel free to ask me anything about the series in the comments below.

 

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Detail – The Neon Faerie

In other news, I’ve been doing a few practice portrait studies of the two remaining faeries. Although these 5″ x 7″ head studies are much larger than the size the faeries will be portrayed in the finished paintings, they are still excellent practice. I definitely know these faces well now, and am hoping that will help to make the Graffiti and Litter Faerie paintings even better.

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The Litter Faerie – study on 5″ x 7″ canvas board

I originally posted this portrait on Instagram, so if you’re not already following me there, please do. The Graffiti Faerie will be posted there soon too, along with other little work in progress shots now and again.

Until next month my friends!

Oiled Up….

I don’t know what I was expecting from my first ever oil painting class, but it wasn’t this!

As I drove up the hill to the venue, past beautiful views and curious horses, I was expecting a messy day of oil paints, linseed oil and solvents. Instead, I discovered a way of working with oil paint that I had never imagined and produced an effect that looks more like a subtle graphite. Dry brushing with oils is as far removed from my current method of working with acrylic as you can get.

I usually use tons of paint, mediums, tissues, lots of different colours and at least 3 pots of water – in other words an organised mess! This method used the tiniest amount of paint, a couple of brushes and just one colour – lamp black. I spent the first half of the class convinced that the minuscule amount of paint scraped thinly across the palette would be dry in minutes, and constantly reaching for an imaginary pot of water to rest my brush in whenever switching brush size.

The technique of dry brushing is a delicate and controlled method that very gradually builds layers of tones. It was a completely alien way of working for me, but a very absorbing and satisfying way to paint. I didn’t know you could have so much fun with just one colour! Overall it was a wonderful class with an enthusiastic and knowledgable tutor – Richard is quietly inspiring and supportive to his students and the result I achieved has left me completely hooked.

If you’re in the South Wales area and would like to try one of these classes, I’d highly recommend them and the tutor Richard Bowdidge. Check out his Facebook page or website for more details, and watch this space for future oil paintings!

The Mask She Wears

If you cast your mind back to October last year, you may remember a painting I did for a Wet Canvas Challenge all about Masks.

Well the fascination with women and masks has stayed with me and is fast developing into a series of paintings that I envisage adding to in the future. Here are the three in the series so far. Let me know what you think! Prints and postcards of these three (and more) will be available to buy soon. In the meantime, I am working hard in the studio and hope to have more paintings to share with you all soon.

 

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Mask – Yellow

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Mask – Blue

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Mask – Red

Life and drawing

Selling your house and moving home has many challenges, but the impact on art and time for creativity is significant. Between chasing solicitors, raising my son, frantic packing, chasing solicitors, putting everything into storage, chasing solicitors, moving in with my in-laws and chasing solicitors, there’s been little time left to paint.

Life drawing classes have been a great way to keep some drawing practice up while I’m unable to paint and take a couple of hours for creative expression amidst the chaos. It’s a quick, no fuss solution with a definite start and finish that satisfies the creative itch without the guilt of an unfinished project.

Here are a few sketches from the recent classes I’ve been to, with the time the pose was held for:

5 min poses

5 min poses

30 min pose

30 min pose

 

I’d recommend life drawing classes for anyone serious about their art and honing their craft. The good news is that the house is now sold and so it will soon be time to break out the paint!

‘Motherhood’

My latest painting is a deeply personal one.

Those of you who know me, or even those who have just skim read my ‘about me’ page will realise why. I took a decision early on in this painting not to take progress photos as I usually do, as I would prefer this piece to be judged on its own finished merits, and not the techniques with which it was produced.

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Motherhood – 20″ x 24″ Acrylic on canvas

It is heavy with symbolism, and I’m sure that any psychoanalysts out there would have a field day with it! I don’t want to influence your interpretation of it, so all I’m going to say is that I deliberately chose a limited palette to enable the composition and subject matter to take the viewers’ attention. I won’t explain each aspect of the painting here, but I am more than happy to answer any questions about it in the comments – please do let me know what you think of it, and if there’s anything that you’d like to know about the painting.

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Art Macabre

UPDATE TO THE POST BELOW:

If you would like to read about the Art Macabre evening from the other side of the canvas, please visit the lovely Steve’s blog and find out how a life model feels at these events:
Steve Ritter – Life Model

I’ve been following the fabulous Art Macabre on twitter for some time now, hoping to go to an event and finally the stars aligned on the 25th August. The event was billed as “Drawing from the unconscious: The Exquisite Corpse” and the Freud Museum was the perfect venue. Having never attempted life drawing, or used charcoal before, it was always going to be a challenge, but a challenge that I really enjoyed.

We had the run of the museum and there were different models or drawing exercises in each room. With no set order, you were free to engage with whatever took your imagination. At first, it was difficult for me to loosen up my drawing, but with the help of a few starting exercises guided by our hostess (The lovely Nikki) we all got into the right frame of mind and then began exploring.

What struck me was that the models moved position every 15-20 mins or so, which I hadn’t expected. At first, this seemed frustrating, but then I realised that it was very freeing! There was no pressure to create the ‘perfect’ drawing in 20 mins. Instead you captured the section of the scene that interested you, worked too quickly to have time to self-criticise and then moved on. You can probably see the development in pace and confidence from the 4 sketches below that each took about 15mins:

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1st Sketch – Magritte-esque

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2nd Sketch – In The Frame

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3rd Sketch – The Terror of Tiny Hans

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4th Sketch – Magritte’s ‘Lovers’

Although this was far from a usual life drawing class, it was a fantastic evening and a great way to open up the creative subconscious. I will definitely be using some of the exercises in future, and can’t wait for my next chance to attend a life drawing class.

Foreshortening Finished

Challenge completed, and boy was it a challenge! I think I repainted the little finger on the right about 3 times to get it to stop looking broken. That is the beauty of acrylics – you can paint and overpaint until you are happy with the result.

I started this 16×12″ canvas board with a few coats of Deep Violet no 403 – Daler Rowney’s System 3 acrylic paint. It’s a gorgeous colour that I hope to get some more of as I’ve currently run out!

Then I sketched a rough outline from my reference photos using watercolour pencils. This outline will then dissolve easily when I apply the first washes to the primed canvas, unlike graphite pencil which would require rubbing out or leave grey streaks that would muddy the paint

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Then I completed a rough under painting to help see where the darkest darks and lightest lights were…

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Then began the painting proper, gradually building up the layers. It was at this stage that I noticed the problem with the little finger on the right of the painting….
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…..which I corrected while building up the layers and details of the hands.

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And after adding a subtle shine to the fingernails and some sparks of electricity here is the finished result. What do you think?

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Nightmare in pastel

You know when you start a painting and think it’s going to be great but it gradually gets worse and worse? Well this is exactly what happened with my first attempt at painting J.

It started so well, with a strong drawing, good composition:
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But quickly descended into a pastel nightmare with a lack of tone and contrast:button 4

And finally ended up like this:

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I’m not proud, or pleased, but posted this anyway to show that we all get it wrong sometimes. I’m going to chalk this one up to experience and learn from the obvious mistakes made, so that my next portrait will be better.