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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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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