more drawings from the garden

so, after my last post (2 weeks into lockdown), i continued drawing in the garden.

i produced a series of three images that used a lot more colour. i felt like i was painting really, rather than drawing in the way i had been before which (as i’ve said before), appears to be just like using pencil on paper (but on an ipad). There are a few images where i used reduced opacity because i liked the effect of different layers overlapping in places to create some darker shades, but i fell quickly and comfortably into using more solid flat colours. i say ‘comfortably’, but i was conscious the whole time of what i was trying to do (which sometimes made it feel a little forced), and it didn’t always come easy (depending on the complexity of the image). and in some ways i wasn’t sure this was true to my normal way of working (doubting oneself, even when things are going well is fairly typical!), but i reasoned that when producing my collage works with cut-paper, i am essentially producing images that are reduced to shapes (usually textured, but sometimes flat colour) without outlines – in my collages, the cut lines are actually the outlines that i’d previously drawn. so i realised that what i was drawing on the ipad wasn’t that far removed from what i’ve been doing for years.

once i accepted that, i’ve been happily drawing away and documenting whatever has been blooming in the garden. i’m not much of a gardener, and i don’t know what everything is, but i’ve always loved our garden and as i said in my last post, i’ve felt very lucky to have this space to escape to during the corona lockdown and the compulsion to sketch has seen me out there in heat, rain and uncomfortable seating positions. i was a bit annoyed that i didn’t get to record what we think is a type of jasmine as it got destroyed in a heavy downpour, and i’m now overly preoccupied with sweet peas – they bloom and fade so quickly and the layers of vines and tendrils look different from every angle so i don’t feel like i’ve exhausted them yet. as usual, i’ve been uploading videos of many of these to social media. so you can see how the drawings takes place from start to finish: instagramfacebooktwitter or just enjoy the gallery below.

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garden drawings

over the last couple of weeks i’ve been img_1483drawing in the garden. like most people we’ve been in isolation/lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. one message that i’ve got through a lot of social media is that we should all be exploring new things, being creative, learning to knit, writing that novel you’ve always wanted to or something, but for me the truth is that this has been such a worrying time that i’ve often found it difficult to be creative even when a small amount of time has permitted. i have however pushed myself to produce a series of drawings from our garden.

i’ve said elsewhere on social media that i’ve felt privileged to have an outdoor space at home to escape into from time to time, and i know that my 4-year old daughter has really benefitted from that over these last couple of weeks. i’ve drawn in the garden for many years now, not that i have a particular interest or knowledge of flowers and plants, but when we moved into our home 8 years ago, we inherited a garden that had some established plants, and we’ve introduced a fair few in the meantime. it’s a space that’s required (a lot of!) maintaining and so i’ve had to be involved in something i had never really had to bother with before. it’s a nice space to have, and when needing to just draw – it has an abundance of subject matter readily available. and as it’s the start of spring, a lot of flowers are appearing too.

so i’ve been drawing on my ipad without any particular aim other than to just focus on something else for 20-30 minutes at a time. i’m not sure if it’s mindfulness, but drawing like this is something that i need to do regularly (regardless of a pandemic). they mostly look very much like drawings on paper, but i keep using the ipad because i love producing videos of how the drawing has developed. if you want to, you can see the videos on your social media of choice (instagramfacebooktwitter).

a week and a half into lockdown, it was interesting to see a bbc news report where david hockney was talking about doing exactly the same thing.

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godzilla sketchbook

i recently started a new project based on the king of the monsters – godzilla. i’ve been drawing from the showa-era films (which covers 15 films from 1954-75), and have been working from gojira himself as well as a range of foes, allies and combatants. some people now criticise the first film (and others), because of the dated effects etc, but i think it still really stands up 65 years later as a relatively strong piece of work. the opening credits to the film with its deafening monster roar is relentless and terrifying, and although he’s introduced in the daytime appearing over a hill, the monster is particularly effective when he gets into action in the scenes set at night. i think that the destruction sequences of the original still contain a lot of power, even after all this time.

although i usually like working with characters, i’ve found that the drawings become less effective when you start to see more of his face – particularly working from the later films because the costume was changed and his eyes were made much bigger (as well as other things like his spines being reduced in scale too). the first costume is a monstrous thing of beauty when seen from the side, it’s such a massive behemoth of a beast that you can’t imagine anything stopping it. later on it looks more anthropomorphic, which is i think part of the change in costume design to allow greater movement and flexibility for performance.

these drawings were all done on my ipad pro using the procreate app. i’ve been sketching with the dry ink brush which was a new thing for me, but seemed to give quicker coverage, and at times a more defined edge, than the 6B pencil brush i was using previously. i’ve still not perfected it though, and at times find it a little inconsistent and hard work to be honest. i’m also working with a reduced opacity too, so as to layer up the initial mid-tone before adding darker tones and highlights. i’ve been sharing videos of the drawings on social media if you’d like to see them take place from start to finish. i’m going to do some more sketches and develop a series of refined/finished drawings that’ll be worked up as digital collage pieces. but for now here’s a selection of images and a few i haven’t shared elsewhere – i hope you like them, and let me know what you think.

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christmas 2019

reindeer close up by chris cowdrillseason’s greetings! we’re well into the festive season now, and recently i produced two drawings that i initially worked up as digital pieces – the first was of a partridge, the second a stag. now – in all honesty – i wanted to do a drawing of reindeer, but i was finding it really hard so i ditched the reindeer and drew a stag. i drew it; it looked like a stag; great. i scanned it into my mac and then worked it up in purple and blue hues (just as i have with a penguin, owl and sloth in the past) – and it turned out to more resemble a reindeer. i know it isn’t a reindeer (and those of you who might study animals can probably point out why – but just from looking at a few examples i could tell that the nose and antlers are very different), but the simple change in colour made it appear like one. i decided to also work it up in more natural colours and this (as you might expect), does look like a stag (!) i also made traditional cut-paper collage versions of both too. continuing my series of stern looking creatures – they both look pretty serious, but then that’s how they are. anyway, i hope you like them – the different versions are all included in the gallery below.

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in dreams…

i’d long been working on a tribute in dreams - an illustration tribute to david lynch by chris cowdrillto the works of director david lynch and i recently completed the project and so collected and printed the illustrations together in a book format. it’s titled in dreams after the roy orbison song used in blue velvet and the fact that dreams play such an important part in lynch’s work – either the dreamstate used as inspiration or as a narrative element of the film.

The covers feature a series of icons that represent dream-related items from several of the films and the images inside relate to twin peaks, mulholland drive, blue velvet, eraserhead and lost highway (the last i’ve always considered my favourite).

I made some of the images into sets of badges that i’ve put onto my etsy store along with copies of the zine. i’ve bundled the zine together with an ‘exclusive’ set of badges that feature quotations from the films. the quotations initially appear to be like positive, life-affirming memes…

‘go to sleep, everything is alright’
‘in heaven everything is fine’
‘that gum you like is going to come back in style’

…but how genuinely positive or reassuring they are is questionable when considered in the context of the films. i think this might be a little harder to get into than some of the more friendly, upbeat, smiling animal or robot work i’m used to producing – i’m not sure how well it resonates if you’re not a fan of the films themselves. to be honest i produced this work mostly just for myself. i love these films and wanted to produce a tribute to them. and i wanted my own bemused-looking henry on a badge. i’m sure there’s some more of you out there that will enjoy these – i’d love to hear what you think.

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retro robots

a short while ago i was back on robots again. if you’re a follower – you will haveretro robot set of 6 postcards by chris cowdrill seen this bunch before, but they were in traditional cut-paper form. so recently i decided to go back and produce digital collage versions of them. as usual they are drawn out by hand in fineliner, scanned in and then the colours, patterns and textures are collaged in using photoshop (from a stash of hand-produced and scanned painted textures). i really enjoyed going back to these characters – so much that i decided to get them printed as a set of 6 postcards and scale them down to make some hand-pressed button badges. i love making little sets of things! i put them up on my etsy shop and have also offered the images as mounted prints too. this was part of a conscious effort at expanding the range of work i have available on there.

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brum zine fest 2019

last month i was at brum zine fest which ‘celebrates independent publishing and diy making, bringing people together using zine approaches, methodologies and formats.’

the event was organised and managed by a lovely group of folks, who put together a weekend of events that included a zine fair as well as a series of activities and talks.

they faced particular challenges this year because they received no arts council funding so had to crowd-fund the event in a very limited amount of time. they were successful in doing this which meant they could pay artists for running workshops and activities, provide an access fund to help cover travel and accommodation for stallholders at the fair, pay festival assistants a living wage and invest in independent local suppliers. The full story is well-documented here.

i was in attendance as part of indigo octagon (the artist group i work with from time to time), and we had our series of self-published work for sale as well as a few prints, 2 new book editions by andy and a t-shirt design hand screen-printed by shaun. it was great to meet so many people, discuss our work, and pick up lots of zines and artwork by creative and talented folks.

Brum Zine Fest 2019 poster by Chris Cowdrill

they had an open call for poster designs, so i enjoyed producing an illustration just for this. the template included the text and a rounded rectangle – it was supposed to be the outline of a train ticket, but i made it appear that the shape was a hole cut into the background, rather than an object placed on top.

the positive, supportive and community-led approach by the organisers was particularly inspiring and made it a real pleasure and privilege to be a part of the event, and we were thankful to them for selecting us to be involved. i’m really looking forward to next year’s brum zine fest.

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a few months ago i developed a series of IMG_1167-copy.jpgworks based on peacocks. i’d been wanting to develop this work for a while and produced outcomes that included drawing, digital collage and traditional collage. The first piece I worked on was the pink portrait using cut-papers (this is roughly A3 in size), and then produced a second colourway in more realistic peacock hues.

peacocks are often simplified and their faces prettified with the focus on their plumage, but i wanted to work with portraits and thought that they were really quite stern with their faces containing often overlooked details and different textures. This was something I was conscious of when producing these portraits, and the drawing of them that i used to produce greetings cards emphasises their stern qualities even more, i think.

in addition, i worked up digital collage versions of the portraits in 2 colourways. this involved re-drawing them using a fineliner, scanning the drawings, scanning the textures and patterns that i’d used for the traditional collage pieces (i had the forethought to do this beforIMG_0253e cutting up the painted patterns), and then cutting and pasting the textures in photoshop. i also had in mind that i wanted to produce a full figure paper-cut collage of a peacock. this became quite an arduous, painstaking task because each of the 15 large feathers i produced contained 150-200 separate cuts. i got blisters on my fingers. but it was worth it to produce the larger scale outcome (its approximately 90×42 cm – larger when framed up in the pictures).

i’ve put some of the smaller work up on my etsy shop here, where there’s more photos too.

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christmas 2018

cut-paper collage fox by chris cowdrillis it really nearly christmas again!?

apparently so, and i’ve produced another series of designs for cards and prints for this festive season. there are three different designs and they follow in the same vein as the designs i produced last year. three different critters this time – a fox, an owl and a sloth each wearing something to keep them warm during the winter months. i’d decided last year that i wanted to add more creatures to the line up for 2018, and after feedback from people who liked the designs last year but were asking why not this animal or that animal it made my decision an easy one for this year. the card designs are hand-drawn, scanned and coloured/collaged in the computer – i’ve retained the pencil drawn outlines again, whereas i usually draw in fineliner to keep the lines more graphic. the cards are available through my online shop and i’ve also produced a larger cut-paper collage version of the fox for inclusion at craft fairs.

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visions of a free-floating island

i recently worked on this booklet for artists andrew smith, hugh marwood and shaun morris for their exhibition at surface gallery, nottingham. the title is taken from andrew’s painting featured on the cover which they had selected to use for their promotional material. rather than a traditional exhibition catalogue or a publication that included the exhibited work, they had decided they wanted to produce something in the vein of a colouring book because of its connotations of mindfulness and how this linked into some of the work directly, and indirectly. other than that, the brief was pretty open.

the booklet is twenty pages in total. the opening spread a collection of phrases and fragments gathered by hugh and set against a cropped photograph of one of hugh’s sentinel or childish things sculptures. i didn’t know at the time that he had actually applied some of these phrases to the sentinel sculptures, and so it turned out that i’d used the same background as he had for them. the middle section was a series of images of the artists’ work reduced to line drawings perfect for colouring in. the final section was a piece written by andrew titled a therapeutic conversation that i presented against cropped sections of the painting used for the cover. The back cover features part of one of hugh’s flagging pieces, the union flag consciously incorporated.

i always love working with these guys, and as an admirer of their work it’s always great to get to play with their creative output. i’ve included links to their online activity below so you can check out more of their work.

andrew smith’s blog

shaun morris’ website

hugh marwood’s blog

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