Illustration Inspiration

June 13th, 2012

A few weeks ago the lovely Lori of Automatism shared this video on Twitter and I just loved it. Quentin Blake’s work was a huge part of my childhood – he and Roald Dahl made pure gold together. Really fun to listen to him chat about his work, catch a glimpse of his studio and observe a little demo. Always such a privilege to hear about someone’s process, especially when you’ve admired them for so long! Enjoy!

From his books to his poignant, bittersweet and sometimes hilarious interviews later in life, Maurice Sendak’s work and influence play an ongoing role for many of us. Where the Wild Things Are is definitely one of his most famous works, but I also pored over his Little Bear series, In the Night Kitchen and one of my favourite sets, The Nutshell Library. Every Christmas I re-read his gorgeous version of The Nutcracker and as a child, I used to listen to Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must be More to Life, on vinyl, narrated wonderfully by Tammy Grimes and soundtracked by Mozart, pretty much all the time. To some it may seem like one odd tale, but as with most beloved children’s stories, the oddness and darkness are what make it vividly memorable.

A few years ago, when Christian came home from a location scout to say that he would be working on a short film called Higglety Pigglety Pop!, I just about jumped into the sky. I was so excited he didn’t really know what to do with me. So, when the production got underway, he brought me to the set. It was thrilling and really wonderful to see him in his element, and watch such talented artists doing what they do best. The sets were fabulous, the lighting was (of course) perfect and Jennie, well – she was exactly as she should be. The NFB did a lovely job of documenting some behind-the-scenes footage, which you can check out here.

Thank-you Maurice Sendak, and farewell, wild thing.

Illustration Inspiration

February 16th, 2012

Technically, this isn’t an illustration post per se – but inspiration always gets its roots from somewhere, right?

Years ago I studied Illustration & Design – it was a grueling program, and fellow classmates dropped like flies. Lucky for me, I had started the process by taking a few night classes prior to being accepted in the program so I knew what I was in for. Even luckier for me, my very first teacher turned out to be my best.

When I handed in my first assignment to Carmelo Blandino – a still life I had drawn hastily in a (very) short hour before class, I got “it’s fine, but I know you can do better” back. Incredibly, nobody had ever said this to me before. I was so surprised that I forgot to be embarrassed or insulted and proceeded to re-draw the same subject matter (my boot – I was a combat boot gal in the mid-90s) for the next class. I gave it a good 3-4 hours and, to my surprise, he was right – it was so much better that I finally felt the appropriate twinge of embarrassment when looking at the first version from the week before. I still have that sketchbook somewhere; I love comparing the two and reminding myself that we all have that potential inside of us, waiting to get hustled out.

It was so much fun to work with Carmelo in those early years – as a group, we worked on giant tableaux for a special gala at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts in honour of their Lichtenstein exhibit. As students and teacher, weekly we challenged each other to go above and beyond in our exploration of techniques and art history. I got accepted into the full-time career program and life was crazy, but good.

Then I got sick. I was diagnosed with IBD (specifically, ulcerative colitis) halfway through my studies. Shortly after, things took a serious turn for the worst and I had to leave my job and apartment behind, then cut my school hours by more than half. I can’t really put into words what it’s like to be seriously ill for several years (and on and off ever since) and the resulting earnest gratitude I feel daily for the most mundane things as a result. I was put on additional side-effect-heavy medication just to help me make it through school, and I was fortunate to be able to stay on by special permission from the faculty – it would take an extra year for me to graduate. And graduate I did: by the skin of my teeth, with a lot of determination. I’ve led a pretty varied career path since then but those years continue to influence me, and my work, daily.

Carmelo has since left Montreal and his successful illustration and teaching career behind to immerse himself in fine arts – it’s been a real treat to watch him express himself so vividly. His work is luscious, organic, larger than life. I want to live in his paintings. My walls covet them. We keep in touch here and there, and we usually get to say hello when he comes to Montreal for one of his exhibitions. Recently, he decided to make one of his pieces available as a print – guess who snapped one up instantly.

This piece, a beautiful rendering of a vintage Dior dress, painted on an Hermes box (that is some chic recycling Carmelo!) hangs in my office and reminds me every day that I can always thrive to be better. Thank-you Carmelo :)

Dior Vintage White Dress on Hermes Box - Carmelo Blandino

In this spirit, and to honour one of the resolutions I made earlier this year, I will begin a new column next week where I post a sketch of the week. Just to keep me limber and to remind myself of the possibilities. Because there is always an abundance of possibilities :)

Illustration Inspiration

December 1st, 2011

I’m a little late to the fun but my head’s been a little buried in the production of “another” magazine… ahem :) Speaking of which, Pure Green Magazine’s first printed issue ever is flying through the presses as we speak! I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands…

I stumbled on NICE Magazine last week and immediately got lost in it. Not only is it a design and illustration magazine, but the current issue is about FOOD. I love it when good food meets good design. Mmmmm. Nice to see Ed Nacional and Kelli Anderson in there, and to discover a few new faces as well – I love Ben Johnston’s laser engraved cutting boards, Glasfurd & Walker’s recent work, and who can resist Linus Kraemer’s 360 degrees of cake?

Read the issue here, but be sure to grab a snack first.

Ben Johnston

Linus Kraemer

Glasfurd & Walker

All images from NICE magazine.

Illustration Inspiration

November 2nd, 2011

Living out in the sticks means being prepared. It means noticing that there are ten bars of soap left and saying, “time to stock up”. Okay, I may be a smidge overly enthusiastic, but I know this will become a major hide-saver come Christmastime. November is upon us, and I am officially opening the floodgates to holiday shopping. Online, preferably. Local, independent, sustainable? Even better.

If you are anything like me, all that browsing inevitably results in buying yourself a little something along the way, amirite? This year, I barely started before this little beauty offered itself up to me and I said, one for me too, please!

English Muffin 2012 Calendar

Bess Callard is a good friend and she is also a super talented illustrator. In addition to running her own studio, she lends her talents to Pure Green Magazine and it is all the more distinctive for it. This is her second year in the calendar business and she does not disappoint – I received my copies and they are beautiful! Gorgeous colours, typography and theme. It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite but April is my birthday month so I’ll have to go with that :)

English Muffin 2012 Calendar - April

The best part? Once the month has flown by (as it is apt to do), you have the option to frame the print! How cool is that. My favourite kind of gift is the one that keeps on giving. Head on over to the English Muffin shop to start your holiday shopping on the right foot!

English Muffin 2012 Calendar

photo: Bess Callard


Illustration Inspiration

October 24th, 2011

I adore children’s books. I still read through my old ones and I dream of working on one, one day. Putting a graphic, minimalist spin on some old favourites, Christian Jackson designed an eye-catching series of posters that capture the bare essentials and simultaneously remind us how most children’s tales are threaded through with foreboding undertones. Love the subtle grunge and clean typography. Now I want to redecorate a children’s library.

Christian Jackson - Little Red Riding Hood

Christian Jackson - The Princess and the Pea

You can see the entire series here, and you can purchase his prints here.

Christian Jackson - Mary Poppins