christmas 2017

penguin cropmerry christmas.

i thought i should post my designs for christmas this year. i produced four different animal illustrations – a penguin, a flamingo, a llama and a rabbit – each wearing a scarf or hat to keep them warm in the winter months. i had two of the illustrations made into cards, and i used all four illustrations across badges, magnets, mirrors and prints. the illustrations were drawn by hand and coloured/collaged digitally but i produced a special larger paper-cut version of the penguin for display at any art/craft fairs that i was at. i’ve included some pictures of the designs below (click to see more detail), but you can see more pictures and work is for sale at my online shop here: chris’s shop.

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i’m working on a series of insect-based moon bugillustrations using ladybirds (or ladybugs), as the starting point. here’s the first two i’ve completed. there’s been some new challenges in producing them – although they only contain about 40-50 individual cut pieces each, some of the cuts are more intricate or tricky than usual (the legs, for example), and there are more cuts per piece on some of them than i’m used to (so one wing on the moon bug has 21 cuts, whereas the flower bug has 40+ cuts per wing). i’ve enjoyed working on them and will probably develop more of these beyond the three i’ve initially planned.

let me know what you think…

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baby shoes

if you’ve seen my twitter feed, then you’ll know baby shoe 14 ai’ve been drawing a lot of shoes recently. i’d wanted to document all of my daughter’s footwear from when she was first born (just over a year ago), and had been holding onto all of her bootees and pram shoes with the intention of eventually getting around to drawing them.

the impetus came when it occurred to me that although i often go on to students at work about the necessity for working from observation and using primary references, i hadn’t done some myself for a little while. i needed to do a bit more drawing and pledged that i would start drawing every day. thinking ‘it shouldn’t be too hard,’ it’s actually been a little harder than i thought it would be. i am pleased that it’s meant that i’ve been making time every day to draw something, even if that time has been late at night when my little girl girl has gone to bed, tea is made and eaten and things put ready for the next day (which is usually a lot later than i’d like).

i’ve been doing a lot of this drawing on my ipad, using the apple pencil and the procreate app which has a nice function on it that records your work from start to finish – imperfections, corrections and all (wordpress won’t let me host the videos on here, so you’ll have to pop over to twitter to check them out). i’m tending to favour the 6b pencil, and the gel pen (with a lower opacity setting). and i’m not the only baby shoe hoarder – my folks had a box of my baby things which included half a dozen pairs of my baby shoes, so some of those have made the mix too (the brown ones). i’m just including a selection of the shoe drawings on here – you can see all of them (and more to come), on twitter.


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christmas 2016

i’ve got a couple of craft fairs coming up chriscowdrill1before christmas and have been preparing some new stock for them.

i’ve produced two new card designs for christmas this year, both featuring drawings of some vintage bauble decorations. i produced some neater versions of the drawings and also considered tracing them in fineliner, but used the much rougher original drawings in the end because i thought they looked better and that the lines had a bit more life to them. i was particularly pleased with the more colourful one because it has a 50s folk art-style printmaking illustration feel to it. i’ve also done a small print run of the typography-based card i designed for last christmas.

as well as taking them to fairs i’ve made some available through my online shop and i still have a few copies left of some older designs.

here’s a link to my online shop.

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a minor place

i recently worked on publicity material amp-flyer-frontfor an exhibition of work by friends and past collaborators hugh marwood, shaun morris and andrew smith at artists workhouse in studley. the exhibition was described as “working across a range of practices including drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, text and video. the exhibition, in its broadest terms, presents as its overarching theme different imaginative responses to the urban environment.”

the choice of image used across the poster, flyers and booklet came from the artists.  it was from a photograph of shaun’s and appears a little blurred or low-res in all of the publicity material – this was because of a conscious decision to scan prints of his photos rather than using the original digital files so that the images didn’t appear perfect and also included dust and dirty marks (some from my scanner!).

as well as the usual flyers and posters, the guys also wanted a publication to accompany their exhibition – this was to be a stand-alone artefact rather than a typical exhibition catalogue listing the work on show. it was quite an open brief – they provided me with the content and i was pretty much left to it. there were three pieces of writing; one by hugh and two by andrew, so i organised the publication into three sections based around them. I knew that i wanted to present andrew’s piece we had stayed up all night in the centre pages opposite one of shaun’s lorry drawings so that meant that the preceding section could be devoted to hugh’s written piece: a minor place, and the following section to andrew’s stock footage. for the first section i had a range of photographic references, preparatory works, and final artworks that all three artists had provided for me to select from. i enjoyed the task of making connections between the written and the visual; pairing them up seemed to come relatively quickly, quite naturally.  I also enjoyed having to consider varying the composition of the work, thinking about pacing and impact, keeping things different but also making sure that the whole thing tied together. stock footage provided more of a challenge because there were 18 verses and an image to go with each which initially led me to think of presenting them in a uniform way but for the publication didn’t think this would be interesting enough across several pages (i didn’t have to include them all, but i thought i would see if i could make it work). instead i decided to do the opposite and try to present them differently from one double page spread to the next, while keeping the style of type consistent with the rest of the booklet.

i’m glad the artists were pleased with the outcome because i enjoyed working with them and with their work, and was grateful to be a (small) part of what was a great exhibition.


you can read more about the exhibition on hugh’s blog here and on shaun’s blog here, and this is a link to andy’s wordpress blog.

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img_0088earlier this week i was at oxford’s natural history museum and pitt rivers museum, accompanied by 40 art students from the college where i lecture. the objective being for them to gather visual reference for their first project of the new academic year (second week back and out on a trip – not bad, eh?). as usual, i was gathering visual reference too – apart from that i like to take these opportunities to get out the sketchbook, i think it important to do the same thing i’m expecting of the students – as well as racing around to help advise and evaluate what they’ve been drawing. i first visited pitt rivers when i was teacher training over a decade ago and have been back with students so many times since, it now seems mandatory for every year group. both museums are located in the same building, and despite having been so many times i still never make it off the ground floor. this time i took my ipad instead of my sketchbook to have my first proper go at using it as a sketchbook on location and felt really comfortable using it, just as i would my traditional sketchbook (of course this was after initially feeling like a bit of a tit with £800 worth of tech when a couple of sheets of paper and a pencil would have been fine). was it worth using the ipad instead of a sketchbook? it felt quite natural to be drawing on it – i got to choose my background colours while on location (instead of having to pre-prepare all the pages in a sketchbook), i got to undo (a lot), and i got to vary my drawing implements without having to carry a case full of different pencils. i also got a few effects that i wouldn’t have got normally (i really like setting the tools to be semi-transparent and then building up layers of opacity), but i still tried to keep the drawings looking like sketches and not be too finished or over-worked. i plan to use these drawings (and previous sketches i’ve done at the museums), to develop work alongside the students over the next few weeks.

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toys 2

this is a quick follow up to the last post.  owly-low

with the intention of producing a series of images for exhibition, i continued to draw from my daughter’s toys using my ipad pro and apple pencil.  the three new drawings were again produced using adobe sketch software.  the works were exhibited as part of the end of year show / summer exhibition at the college where i teach.  the idea behind last year’s staff show, squeeze, was that we fit our practice in between so many other commitments – this has become even more true over the last seven months.  i felt it was fitting in the spirit of last year’s show that to get this work done, i had to squeeze them in while my daughter was napping – new technology and having to work quickly forced the work to happen!

i said before that while i’m happy with this work, i feel a little detached from it in terms of style – i see them more as sketchbook pieces or experiments rather than typical finished work for me.  i need to play with the tech a bit more to see how this will sit a bit more comfortably within my practice.  my friend shaun has been drawing using his ipad for a while and he’s recently produced a striking set of images as part of developing themes and ideas in his current work (check them out here).  i’d like my use of the ipad to feed into my other work in a similar way.

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i got a couple of new toys this week – crocodile rattleafter thinking it over for longer than i care to admit and researching a lot over the last few weeks, i finally bought an iPad Pro. i bought an apple pencil too and have really enjoyed playing with them. i’ve been stealing moments to try out my new tech by drawing my 5 month-old daughter’s toys. i’m living with these things – they’re taking over our living space, i’m interacting with them on a daily basis, animating them and speaking for them (mostly to my daughter’s amusement), so it seemed appropriate to work with them.

i began by using the notes app to produce a couple of sketches but quickly found this limiting despite being stunned by the different qualities of line i could achieve with the apple pencil. I’ve been using adobe sketch to work on a few pieces now and am amazed at the variety of drawing tools and other variables available in the free app (layers, different colours, brushes and sizes).  i’m not sure the drawings are typical of my usual ‘style’ – though they do show a typical interest in colour, shape and texture/pattern – the type of rendering isn’t what i normally go for. i want to work a bit more rough by sketching rather than producing these more finished pieces of work – but i’m having fun for the time being.

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sketches from exhibitions 2

this is another post collecting together someclose up of my sketch of 'untitled' by lee bul work from my sketchbook.  i started making a point of drawing sculptural work when visiting galleries and exhibitions – capturing in two dimensions things that should fundamentally be seen in three.  some of these were done when visiting exhibitions with students as demonstrations of working quickly, that the work in the sketchbook doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ or what they regard as effectively a ‘finished piece.’  these sketches are often done fairly quickly, parts are rough – for me they are often an exercise in looking, familiarising myself with a subject that i may later develop work from; so the drawing doesn’t always have to be ‘perfect’ because it’s a preparation for later work.  a major part of the activity of drawing should be about looking – when often they’re fixated on their paper while drawing instead of looking more at what they’re drawing from. even worse is when students take a photograph of something on their phone and then sit right in front of the object and draw from the picture on their phone!

some people like to use their sketchbooks for developmental or experimental work, to record ideas or notes, or to gather materials and ephemera whereas i use my sketchbook in a very specific way – almost always it will be to record from observation.  sometimes the work is for a specific project, sometimes as a record of visiting somewhere or doing something, but mainly just to draw because i enjoy drawing.

i hope you like the sketches above  they were done visiting the following exhibitions/galleries:

marvellous machines – a rowland emett retrospective at birmingham’s gas hall

lee bul exhibition/installation at birmingham’s ikon gallery and the title image is of untitled (cravings white) reconstructed at tate modern

the falcon and malefactor by peter hiorns at the herbert art gallery, coventry

the castle from pavel buchler retrospective at ikon gallery

giacometti: hour of the traces, germaine richier: diabolo, julian trevelyan: bomblet, joseph beuys: lightning with stag in its glare – all from tate modern



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riso printing @ rope press

i recently attended a riso DSC01323bzine workshop at the splendid rope press in birmingham.  i’d been wanting to attend one of their workshops to learn a bit more about and have a go at the risograph printing process for a while, and so my partner julie bought me access to their zine workshop as a birthday present and to make sure that i actually got round to going.  if you’re not familiar; risograph printing is a bit like a cross between screen printing and photocopying .  it’s a spot colour process which means the colours are printed on separate layers like in screen printing, but at higher speed and volume.  by printing on separate layers you can get miss-registration and other effects that add to the unique aesthetic of the process.

we were ably guided through the workshop by reece who taught us about the process and was knowledgeable, helpful and patient – especially when i couldn’t decide which colours i wanted to work with.  they had a whole stack of magazines and ephemera we could use for collage; so i took the leftovers from some pages that other people didn’t want, some carefully selected portions from a book on plastics and a guide to medicines, and added drawings from my sketchbooks.  the booklet was 16 pages, but because you have to produce 2 layers for each page we had to produce 32 pages which was a tall order in a relatively short space of time.  you then have to arrange the pages so that they will print in the right place when the A3 sheets are guillotined and folded.  the printer is such that two colours can be printed at a time, but the first lot of prints have to sit and dry for 15-20 mins before the reverse side can be added.  once the second side is printed and dried, they’re guillotined, folded and stapled.  i printed onto three types of paper: white, newsprint and canary, and it was interesting to see how the work looks so different on the different papers – i thought i’d prefer the pristine white, but much preferred the the other two once the run was printed.  I really enjoyed my afternoon at rope press and would happily recommend one of their workshops if you’re interested in different ways of printing.  i was also really pleased with how the prints came out and am now planning more work to have the riso treatment – can’t wait.

rope press are a non for profit organisation based in birmingham, uk, that offer printing and book binding services as well as workshops.  check out their website or facebook if you fancy.

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