Watercolour painting of a grey rainbow breathing unicorn by Laura Elliott of Drawesome Illustration

Unicorn Make Over

Unicorns have had a long history in mythology; with what started out as attempting to catalogue creatures from far off distant lands, later turning to something with a more magical quality.  Notoriously difficult to catch, they could once only be lured in by virgins; now they’re everywhere and everyone’s friend.  It’s a great thing to know that unicorns have finally decided to share their magical qualities with the rest of us, even becoming vengeful when called upon.

So yes, unicorns have been around a long ol’ while.  And as with any story, like Chinese Whispers, the details get warped from time to time.  I like to question and play with what is understood about this creature: why is it still white if its qualities are not so pure anymore?  What would happen if rainbows came out of its mouth instead of its butt?

sketchbook drawings of horses by Laura Elliott of Drawesome IlllustrationAs I form ideas about what I want my unicorn to look like, I start practising drawing horses.  Horses are notoriously difficult and after the first few wonky horses, I’d wonder why this was a good idea…  Despite this, my way of tackling challenging shapes is to draw them over and over and over again, so that each time, my hand to eye co-ordination comes to understand the shape and weight of a horse; the power, the gesture, the lines I need to communicate ‘horse’ to any viewer.

Once I eventually find the shape I like, I’ll trace it onto my watercolour paper, ink it up and head on in with paint.  Before I even touch the main image with paint, I’ll always have a test sheet nearby or use the corner to make sure I’m mixing my colours correctly.  You can see some of my tests with the rainbow effect for a rainbow breathing unicorn.watercolour painting tests on paper by Laura Elliott of Drawesome Illustration

Once I’m ready to go, I usually try to paint it in one sitting.  Watercolours can be quite unforgiving and personally, I find it works best if I work quickly, to make sure I’m happy with laying my paint down with different tones and blends before everything gets a chance to dry out.  I know other painters have a slower approach but this is the one that I find suits me.

There’s a lot of grey in the final unicorn, as you’ll see below.  One of the things I love about paint is that it allows me to only work with three paint colours: red, yellow and blue (in warm or cool palettes).  The grey, believe it or not, is made by just the right blend of red, yellow and blue.  No black, no grey, no white.  Amazing huh?

Maybe in a future blog post, I’ll talk about the magic of grey…

But for now, here is a bad-ass rainbow breathing unicorn:

Watercolour painting of a grey rainbow breathing unicorn by Laura Elliott of Drawesome Illustration

 

How to Say I Love You

Valentine’s is a tricky road of cliches and panic.  And love.  Yes, there’s some of that too.

If you’re looking for a slightly more creative way of showing some adoration, here’s a tip that I like to work with:

Do you have a favourite hobby/food/place/activity?  It’s a little unconventional for sure, but telling someone that you love/like/fancy them more than a particularly prized object or activity gives a tangible comparison.

For example, I LOVE granola.  So much so that I took to eating it for breakfast every morning.  Then I started lovingly baking my own.  Sometimes I’ll even eat it for not-breakfast.  Now and then, for a treat I’ll keep a shot glass of granola to hand so I can nibble on it whilst I’m working…

Anyway, if I’m to tell my partner that I love him more than I love granola, then BOOM: that’s a mighty comparison right there.

I also like this technique from other perspectives too.  This was the line of thought behind these pictures:

pencil drawings of birds

Birds!

birds sketchbook 1People ask if I draw a lot of birds and I say, ‘No, not really…’  Then I think back over the subject matters I’ve worked with and actually, there are a fair few birds in there.  So here is a lovely collection of my feathered friends, from sketchbook, to the final few I worked up into my birds series.

There’s something I like about their demeanor – short quick movements suit my short quick drawing style; the tilt of their head gives them a human-like quizzical expression.

So as I draw and draw, a few start making themselves known as the ones to paint.  It all started with this cardinal a long time ago…

cardinal bird a garden bird in america

To which I added four more… They’re all available to buy online in my redbubble shop, in various retail places in Bristol, and they’re currently in an exhibition at the Better Food cafe until Saturday 13th December.  I’m hoping to send them on a little tour around Bristol, so maybe you’ll see them up…

watercolour painting of Splendid Fairy Wrendiademed tanager redbubbleKing of saxony

Lost Cat-o-matic Robot

laura elliott - pen, ink and watercolour illustration of a robot that collects lost cats

 

 

I confess, I have robots on the brain.  I don’t think it’s that dire a medical condition so I won’t be too worried at the moment.  It’s a bit like an ear-worm where the only way to get rid of the one lyric circling your brain and sanity like a vulture, is to listen and/or sing along to the entire song.  I’m currently working on a robot performance project so it’s been taking up a lot of my back burner brain, which means that little bits of robot related ideas and imagery tend to find their way onto the page.

My invention for today is inspired by the fact that we tend to have robots working their way more and more into our lives.  Soon, we will have robots for every imaginable whim, perhaps even searching out lost cats…

The Lost Cat-o-matic is fed an image of your lost cat, it then heads out into the wild urban jungle to track down accidentally homeless kittes.  Once a lost cat is found, the robot will collect the cat via the scientific gift of a powerful tractor beam.  Once a cat (or cats, depending on how successful a trip out is) has been found, it will be returned to it’s rightful owner.

A Date With My Etch-a-Sketch

It lay forlornly faced down, amid an assortment of drawing tools.  I picked up my Etch-a-Sketch, devoid of life; staring blankly back at me.

“Hello old friend, it’s been a while.”

I remembered the good times we’d had; time I happily spent ‘in the zone’ whiling away the hours.  Having neglected my Etch-a-Sketch for too long, I decided to take it on a date to the museum.

lion statue at bristol museumWe rocked up at the Bristol museum, a little flustered from the rain.  As I warmed myself with a cuppa at the cafe, I carefully pulled out ‘Etchy’.  It’s grey face a blank canvas, white knobs glistening in the light – we were ready.  The bottom of the grand staircases are decorated with (to my mind) slightly worried-looking lions.   Sat in direct view of worried-lion, I began my continuous single line, weaving its way around the screen.  My fingers attempted a careful co-ordination of ‘up’ and ‘across’ to get those elusive curves.  Some attempts were less successful than others, granted… But at times slip ups were useful for creating impromptu ‘shading’.  As my line completed its final stroke across Etchy’s screen, I couldn’t help but be pleased at my efforts after such a long separation.etch a sketch drawing of lion statue

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I wandered upstairs to the taxidermy section where wild beasts of all kinds stood their morbid watch.  I settled down for some Etch-a-sketch time with a pig but that didn’t end so well.  Frustrated, I shook my wiggly pig picture and started afresh with the creature next to it – a Himalayan Tahr.  I took my time, starting with the nose, working my way up and around its horns.  My favourite bit was the shaggy fur, as its more difficult to screw it up when you’re trying to be messy.

etch a sketch version of himalayan tahrEventually my Himalayan Tahr materialised onto the screen.  And just in case I forgot what it was, I wrote the name in the top right corner.  Unfortunately, in order to connect the letters you have to use a cursive writing, despite plain ol’ capital letters being the easiest  to create with the Etch-a-Sketch’s straight lines.

I was definitely getting in the swing of Etch-a-Sketching but sadly that was all I had time for.  We make a good team, Etchy and I, so I think we’ll be having another date.

Soon…….

Waiting.  Can’t get in…

Feels like hours…

Getting cold out on this doorstep.

Soon…….

 

image of dog waiting using given photo to work with as part of the photo response project for Art House co-op

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was created as part of the Photo Response Project organised by Art House Co-op.  They are the same people that created the Sketchbook Project which I took part in the other year with my piece titled Nighttime Stories.

Participants were given 5 photos and we had to pick one to create a response to.  The photo I picked was of the door to the house, it was the one that jumped out to me.  Something about it felt empty but only recently so and in my mind’s eye I saw a dog.  I wondered if somehow the dog had been forgotten or left behind.  So I drew his waiting.  I wanted it to look like he’d been waiting a long time, with forlorn hope.

I don’t know who owns the dog, or who lives in the house, or whether he ever has someone to take him home.  That’s for you to continue the story.  I’d like to hear what thoughts you have.

I drew and painted the dog (a red and white irish setter for those interested) and added him into the picture.  The longer he waits, the more faded his image, like a reversed time lapse.  I wanted to communicate the distress of the dog and the impression of not being looked after by similarly distressing and tearing the print.  I don’t usually mix drawn and photo images but this was a good project to experiment with such things!

Zooray!

I hope you appreciate my mashing of ‘zoo’ and ‘hooray’ together for the title of this here entry – I felt it summed up the entry well as  I was able to spend the afternoon at the wonderful Bristol Zoo Gardens last week; like a kid in a candy store, stuffing my sketchbook with visual goodies.  Unleashed into the zoo I didn’t know where to start first!  A couple twists and turns found me some birds, the only one that sat still enough for me to vaguely capture it was a special magpie thing that I forget the name of…

azure-winged magpie

pencil sketch of black cheeked lovebird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it was an Azure-winged Magpie, at least that’s what oh-mighty-google informs me it might be.  There was also a  delightful collection of black cheeked lovebirds too.

Daffodils are always good fun to draw with their wiggly trumpets –

pencil sketch daffodils and lavender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found feeding-time at the meerkat enclosure.  There were little babies scuffling around, they were so cute!  I bet they’d look cuter in my pocket…  As it was feeding time and they were twitching scampering meerkats, my sketches of them didn’t turn out so hot.

 

meerkat pencil sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apes and monkeys seemed better at holding still for a wee bit longer –

pencil sketch gorilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

pencil sketch of a howler monkey

pencil sketch of howler monkey staring out a window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pencil sketch of ring tailed lemur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a go at some mark-making with the different types of trees I could see, as well as playing with blending, getting the right colour, for the tulip tree flower I drew.  Some other plants featured too:

 

 

collection of trees at Bristol Zoo Gardens

various flowers at Bristol Zoo Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the zoo was emptying out and the zoo was within minutes of closing, I couldn’t not get some lion action!  Although considering the image I got, I don’t think action was much on his mind…

 

 

pencil sketch of lion sleeping in the sun at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Babes in the Jungle

A friend of mine is due to have a little boy soon and I thought boys like jungle animals right?  I’m sure jungle animals like kids…

Anyway, I’m conjuring an illustrated photo frame, some of the apetures will contain animals, some will be left free for my friend to put photos of her beautiful baby boy.

Here are some of my sketchbook paintings that I worked from.  I was a little sad to find the snake didn’t quite fit, but I hope to find a use for him somewhere…

And here’s a sketch of a lion – I liked it too much to dismiss it as ‘sketchbook crap’ to never see the light of day again.