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

 

pencil sketch of a burlesque performer with white feather fans and a white costume

Burlesque Sketches

As a warm up for my drawing, I like to do a lot of figure sketches.  As I have a fondness for burlesque, a lot of my sketches revolve around that theme.  Behold, a feathered lady and an aerial hoop artist.

Monsters And Robots – Slugors

pencil drawing of a slug and scissors inspired monsterI’ve devised a warm up activity that is a great way of creating monsters and robots – I’ve also decided I should start posting them so you can see!  Please meet my monster called ‘Slugors’, he hides in your garden waiting for the prime opportunity to climb up your trouser leg. He likes to eat the contents of your pocket, from pocket fluff to coins.

 

A Piece Of Silly

I came across some narwhals on the internet today and this idea fell out of my brain and onto paper.  I thought, ‘if I were a narwhal and had access to marshmallows, I’d totally do this’

narwhals roasting marshmallows on a volcano

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searing temperatures notwithstanding…

Machete Bears All

As a drawing exercise and for inspiration whilst the piece was being created, I have several images on the theme of the burlesque act ‘Machete Bears All’.  Have a look at some sketchbook scribbles:

pencil drawing of dancing bears in fez and waistcoat


The bears are dressed for entertainment – wearing human items is deemed cute but is at odds when worn by a wild animal.  Perhaps lulling you into a false sense of security, the human aspects make it more familiar and therefore less of a threat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

salmon and tin of salmon drawings to have items for my picnic basket

 

For entertaining bear references, I thought of Baloo from the Jungle Book, Yogi Bear and Winnie the Pooh.  All loveable characters defined by their either slightly clumsy, preoccupied by food and/or  friendly demanors.  Certainly a far cry from the wild animals they really are.  I couldn’t have loveable bears without a pic-a-nic basket, a tin of salmon and a jar of honey.

 

 

pencil sketches of baloo from the jungle book studying his walk

 

Or indeed without an affable walk.  Baloo is perfect for this so studied his gait in the disney Jungle Book clips on you tube.  I can’t tell if you can see from my sketchbook notes, but I could tell he carried a lot of weight in his hips, twisting as he walked, arms swinging wide, his whole frame quite loose – very relaxed with no tension held in the body.  At complete odds with my good posture dance background!

 

 

 

 

 

Below you can see the translation of costumes from bare to bear.  Turning what you expect into something you don’t.    The character performing for your entertainment, becoming the entertaining bear.  In the act, the bear cannot get into the food in its picnic basket and is forced to revert to its feral state when it gets angry.  For this I watched lots of Eric Bana clips turning into the hulk!

pencil drawing of belly dance costume, and high heel shoes

pen ink and pencil drawing of girl in bear costume

After turning feral, the bear eats a member of the audience and is much happier for having eaten something.

pencil sketch of angry bear having just mauled a victim

 

Gossington Music Festival – sketches

A few months ago, I was at Colston Hall in Bristol watching 4 men set fire to the air with fierce gypsy tunes hailing from Django Rheinhardt era; the more familiar modern tunes that have been ‘gypsified’ (my favourite perhaps being a piece I recognised from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack); and even classical pieces played with more speed than thought humanly possible.  These musicians form Gypsy Fire and I thorougly recommend you check them out.

I had a quick chat with them over the merch stall at the end of the gig and they recommended if I liked gypsy jazz, then I should come to Gossington Festival (which is run by one of the guys in Gypsy Fire).  I adore gypsy jazz, so fast forward a few months and I find myself in Gossington.

leon hunt n-tet - one of the band members in dungarees at gossington festival.  And man playing guitar during a jam session

The Friday and Saturday comprised of music that was a bit more mainstream folk/gypsy, headlined by Bristol’s own Phantom Limb on Friday and Seth Lakeman the following day.  Sunday was for the hardcore gypsy jazz fans.  The audience were treated to gypsy jazz royalty including Tchavolo Schmitt who I particularly enjoyed watching – he didn’t bother with a sound check and went straight into the set (with no set list), leaving the bass player and rhythm guitarist to just catch up.   It was fab watching random jamming sessions strike up throughout the day as well (the guitar player on the left in the above picture is from a jam).

gossington festival - trio rosbif pencil sketch

During the weekend I had a new appreciation for double bass.  I mean, look how sexy that double bass neck is:

gossington festival - sketch double bass and christiaan van hemert

It’s sexy right!?  Those curves are gorgeous!

I had such a great time and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere which helped the creative sketching juices.  I particularly enjoyed drawing people performing and the instruments they clearly loved.

Hamburger Watching

At the risk of having made my last post ‘Ich Bin Ein Hamburger’ too long for my liking, I have a section two for my Hamburg adventure.

 

I had found myself with some spare time on my own so settled down at one of the outside tables of M&V Bar.  Here I drank tea and drew people that walked past and inspired me.  Please peruse the fruits of my labour:

 

pencil sketch of man in Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I liked how angular this guy’s face was.

 

 

pencil sketch woman wearing sunglasses in Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This lady made me think of some fly with her sunglasses so huge they almost eclipsed her face.

 

 

pencil sketch of faces

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not so pleased with old man face but I think I caught his life-bothers-me-but-not-as-much-as-your-face-does-right-now expression

 

 

pencil sketch of scruffy man

 

 

 

 

 

I really liked this scruffy trampy dude.  He was most interesting to draw and I think came out best!

 

pencil sketch of faces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was quite impressed how vertical this lady’s hair managed to stay!