Jack the Station Cat-Alan Cliff

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Saturday 9th August

Yesterday I took my little family to meet Alan Cliff, Writer of  ‘Jack the Station Cat‘ children’s books, at Marine Lake in Rhyl.

My Photo of Marine Lake

My Photo of Marine Lake

This is the first real time I have gone to a book signing, and I have to admit, I was really nervous!! I forgot to take a pen for notes and after a few questions my mind went blank!! I really need to sort this confidence thing out! Regardless to my brain letting me down, Alan was a lovely man who was very proud of his books. He said that he composes the stories, his son illustrates the books and then his lovely wife(who was also there) pretty much handles everything else. How fantastic is that? The family working together as a little team to produce some beautiful children’s books!

Before my brain evacuated itself, I managed to ask how long it actually takes to produce just one book, and even though my memory is packed out with school holidays and nappies and feeds, I managed to remember Alan telling me that it takes a good 6 months for just one book to be completed. That seems a long time but when you consider all of the work involved, it really is quite a quick process.

Marine lake, mini railway station

Marine lake, mini railway station

Alan Cliff

“Children’s author Alan Cliff was born in Lancashire and attended both Cambridge and Oxford Universities. In 1960 he married his wife Rosemary and became a Methodist Minister. During a career that first took him to Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth, and then to Edinburgh, where he became the youngest Superintendent Minister; he eventually arrived in Wrexham in 1974, taking charge of the area’s Methodism circuit.

Alan, who now lives in Rhyl, has been a railway enthusiast all his life and is president of Rhyl and District Model Railway Club, president of the friends of the Rhyl Miniature Railway; and vice president of Bala Lake Railway Society. Alan and Rosemary have housed cats for many years and one of them, Jack, also seemed to hold an interest in model railways. This inspired Alan to write a series of children’s books based on Jack’s adventures. Both Grabbit and Skoot and the Invasion of the Grey Squirrels and Jack- Special Agent a tale from Jack the Station Cat and the Space Aliens, and other Stories have been short-listed for the Goodchild Prize for Excellent English: the former in 2001 the latter in 2003. Alan Cliff was the first children’s author to be short-listed for this prize and the first author to be short-listed twice. Alan is a Member of Academi.”

Alan signing my book

Alan signing my book

Alan and his wife

Alan and his wife

The Books

“There are fourteen books in the series to date with the fourteenth (Jack the Station Cat and the Vanishing Lady) having been published in November 2011. Two of  the books have also been published in Welsh, with the translation being done by Berwyn Prys Jones. The books are aimed at children between the ages of 3 to 9 and combine cat stories and railway stories and were originally illustrated by Helen Maffin with the later books being illustrated by Nigel Cliff. As with his Grabbit and Skoot series, the author has chosen to donate half of his author royalties to various different charities.”

 

Alan on the footplate of Mallard with illustrator Nigel Cliff

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Alan pointed out that the ‘Great Little Trains Robbery’ was illustrated by an independent illustrator and that ‘Jack the Station Cat Goes to School’ was the very first of the collection.

I thought I would support my local writers and illustrators by buying one of these cute little books and I  have to admit that my immature side took control when choosing 😀 I chose ‘Jack the Station Cat and the Snail Trail’, mostly because I thought that all of the snails on the cover looked really funny!! The imagination is used greatly as it is not often that you see a convoy of snails slithering  down the path!! Anyways, I haven’t actually had chance to read the book(costing £2.99) yet but I did have a flick through and I was surprised to see that at the back there is a fun puzzle section!! I will be reading the book and who knows, I might even buy the rest of the collection for my new arrival-mickey moo!!

Jack the Station Cat and the Snail Trail-My Signed Book

Jack the Station Cat and the Snail Trail-My Signed Book

 

The books are published by Gwasg Helygain, in Rhyl and the funds from the sale of books yesterday went to the mini railway station at Marine lake.

Gwasg Helygain

Gwasg Helygain: specialists in Graphic Design, Litho & Digital Print since 1974. They produce work in Welsh and English primarily for customers in North Wales (Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy, Wrexham, Gwynedd & Anglesey) but with a customer base which extends across the UK and beyond.

They specialize in high quality print & design for large companies, small businesses and individuals.”

I am looking forward to following ‘Jack the Station Cat’ on facebook and as soon as I had read my book, I will be right back to tell you all about it! 😉

Bodelwyddan Castle-Whats on at the gallery..

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Watercolours and Drawings: 18th to 21st Century

“This exhibition is the third to be brought to Bodelwyddan Castle from Hastings by Caroline Gee, a Sussex art dealer who has been specializing in Watercolours and Drawings for over thirty years. It will follow a similar format as her previous exhibitions, beginning with the early years of the watercolour school in Britain, moving through the early nineteenth century, the ‘Golden Age’ of British watercolour, and finishing with delightful twentieth Century examples.” Watercolour is an interesting subject for me as it is an area I would like to develop and explore. As an expert in that area Caroline Gee would be an ideal candidate for information! Caroline Gee Caroline Gee, a dealer in early English and 20th century watercolours and drawings, is particularly excited by the potential of watercolours from the first half of the 19th century by John Varley and David Cox. Both were among the earliest members of the Old Watercolour Society, the founding of which in 1804 saw watercolours starting to be considered an art form in their own right. She says: “In the late 19th century, Cox was considered to be on a par with Constable and was only marginally less expensive than Turner. So what’s on display? ” Featured works on display include some of the most prominent artists who exhibited with the Old Watercolour Society (formed 1804), among them David Cox, Peter de Wint and John Varley. The Victorian Age is mainly represented by those artists who followed in the tradition of the early landscape painters, and will include two large and splendid views of North Wales by William Evans of Bristol. In the twentieth century section there will be another group of the wildlife drawings by Eileen Soper which so delighted visitors last time.” I have to be honest, I am not very familiar with these Artists! So I am going to do a little research 🙂

A Short History of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

“The beginnings of the RI can be traced back to 1807 with the formation of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours. The New Society was inaugurated as an alternative to an existing society (now the RWS) which had been founded in 1804 and which exhibited only the work of its own members. From the start the New Society showed the work of non-members’ alongside that of members, a policy still followed today. Both societies were started at a time when the Royal Academy was refusing to accept watercolours as a suitable medium for serious artistic expression despite its use by many highly regarded painters including Cotman, Turner, Cox, de Wint, Bonington and many others. The New Society changed its name in 1808 to the Associated Artists in Water Colours. The exhibitions attracted some of the foremost watercolourists of the time including: David Cox, Peter De Wint, William Blake, Samuel Prout, Paul Sandby and Joseph Powell. Even so financial problems caused them to fold in 1812.” (www.royalinstituteofpaintersinwatercolours.org/)

16 Old Bond Street Gallery of New Society of Painters in Watercolours, 1834 George Scharf (1788-1860)

How amazing is it to look back to how, just one aspect of Art, was used? And  how it has developed over the many years until now! I love how all the paintings in the picture are all bunched together across the walls.

David Cox 1783–1859

Cox was born at Deritend, near Birmingham, the son of blacksmith. In around 1798, aged fifteen, he was apprenticed to aminiature painter named Fieldler. Following Fieldler’s suicide, Cox was apprenticed around 1800 as assistant to a theatre scene-painter named De Maria. In 1804 he took work as a scene-painter with Astley’s Theatre and moved to London. By 1808 he had abandoned scene-painting, taking water-colour lessons with John Varley. In 1805 he made the first of his many trips to Wales, with Charles Barber; his earliest dated watercolours are from this year. Throughout his lifetime he made numerous sketching tours to the home counties, North Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Devon. Cox exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1805. His pictures never sold for high prices, and his earned his living chiefly as a drawing-master. Through his first pupil, Col. the Hon. H. Windsor (the future Earl of Plymouth), who engaged him in 1808, Cox acquired several other aristocratic pupils. He wrote several books, including Ackermann’s New Drawing Book (1809); A Series of Progressive Lessons (1811); Treatise on Landscape Painting (1813); and Progressive Lessons on Landscape (1816). The ninth and last edition of his Series of Progressive Lessons was published in 1845.”

Rhyl Sands c.1854

I live in a small village right next to Rhyl, So to see a painting from the 1800’s, of Rhyl Beach, is amazing. I think the sky looks quite realistic but I get a grass feel instead of sand. I can see it is sand and the longer I look I wonder if it is windy right there by the sea and so the sand is moving?

PETER DE WINT, OWS
(British, 1784-1849)
Hastings from the East Cliff

Peter de Wint, OWS (British, 1784-1849) Hastings from the East Cliff watercolour heightened with bodycolour 38.5 x 56cm (15 3/16 x 22 1/16in).

“The son of a Dutch-American father and Scottish mother, Peter De Wint drew on the British landscape for his subject matter. Whilst working as an apprentice to John Raphael-Smith, De Wint met William Hilton, who was to become a life-long friend. Stylistically, De Wint was influenced by John Varley and Thomas Girtin whose sweeping brushstrokes and subdued blocks of colour were introduced to him by his patron Dr. Monroe. During the summer months, De Wint visited his patrons at their country estates in order to sketch the landscape and work as a tutor to the children of the family. He was to teach throughout his career in order to supplement his income and this resulted in numerous pupils working in his style. “(www.bonhams.com) Although this is a very beautiful piece of work, painted by a very talented Artist, to me, it feels old and the colours feel dark and dull. Maybe Peter de Wint actually used colours the colours of what it actually looked like on that day? I do like the visual lines running and swirling through the grass and I think the tiny detail of the people and buildings is very clever.

JOHN VARLEY OWS (1778-1842)

John Varley was a central figure for the watercolourists of the early nineteenth century. A founder member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and its most prolific exhibitor, he was also a highly significant teacher of both professionals and amateurs, and a writer of instruction manuals. He encouraged his students to paint in the open air, but also promoted the Picturesque theory of adapting nature to the requirements of composition. Of Lincolnshire descent, John Varley was born in Hackney, Middlesex, on 17 August 1778. He and his brothers ‘were said to have been born at the Blue Posts (formerly the Templars’ house), after their father had converted it to private use, although the building was still an inn in 1785’ (T F T Baker (ed), A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney, London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1995, pages 10-14).”

KILCHURN CASTLE ON LOCH AWE

Whilst scanning through the Chris Beetles website, this is the painting, from Varley, that first caught my eyes. Varley has used dark and dull colours as I said about Peter de Wint’s piece, but he has added contrasting colours to the dark greens with brighter yellow tones. And the, as a further compliment, he has added a soft toned sky which I think makes the trees and land stand out very well. WILLIAM EVANS

William Evans of Eton (1798-1877) was a late-Georgian and early-Victorian landscape artist of real distinction, who painted exclusively in watercolour. Further qualification is needed, however, to explain why he was remarkable. Numerous watercolour artists augmented their income by teaching privately, including his own teachers William Collins and Peter de Wint, as well as his rival at the Old Watercolour Society, JD Harding. But as a Drawing Master teaching at Eton, then the premier public school, he stood above most of his peers, occupying an office which had been held by that innovative teacher Alexander Cozens in the previous century. He came second in a painting dynasty which through four generations lasted over 120 years.

He was the ardent supporter of institutions, both of his own school and of the Old Watercolour Society, where he never quite achieved official recognition. His signature, William Evans of Eton, was developed after 1845 when another member with the same name joined the Society. Throughout his life he remained loyal to watercolour painting, finding that the medium was capable of everything he wished to express, and considering those who experimented in oil renegades. His quarrels became bitter and absolute, and few of his artistic friendships remained intact. It was a period when the inventive quality of the British School of watercolour painting gradually ossified, and critics such as Ruskin damned the annual formula exhibition pictures which were sure of their market. By the 1850s William was himself producing ambitious, large pictures which lack the freshness of those painted in the 1830s and 1840s; but he reacted with a rush of inspiration to the south of France in a group of pictures painted in 1867-8, which have since been lost. As ill health inhibited his output, he became more and more involved with the administration 0f the Old Watercolour Society and was one of those who insured it retained its elite exclusive character, keeping out the more progressive ideas emerging in the mid-century.”

Evans. Cricket on the College Field. 1830s

It feels like there is a lot of white area in this painting, in everything there is white space. It feels a little hollow to me. I do love the circles that make up the trees on the left.

Eileen Soper

                                                      “the enchanting world of the Famous Five illustrator – Eileen Soper “Eileen Soper sought success at an early age, and was considered a child prodigy when she was the youngest artist ever to exhibit her work at The Royal Academy in London – at the ripe age of just 15. She was fantastically well received. But Eileen was not new to art at that age – she had experienced a lifetime of top tutoring from her father, George Soper, also a well-accomplished artist.

He drew out the creative side in both his daughters.

Eva, Eileen’s elder sister by less than two years, was a skilled potter, producing many designs for Royal Worcester – whilst Eileen and their father were more focused on etching and painting. Eileen produced around 180 different etchings, two of which were bought by Queen Mary. Her set of etchings of a specific group of children are particularly popular. The same set of children appear numerous times, enjoying different games and activities, and all these drawings were produced during the 1920’s, but they are still hugely well-liked today.”

Brush strokes – Eileen Soper painting.

The Famous Five & Eileen Soper

The Famous Five are among Enid Blyton’s best-loved creations and countless children have gone adventuring with them since the publication of Five on a Treasure Islandin 1942, the first of twenty-one full-length adventures and numerous short stories. Enid Blyton’s original books were charmingly illustrated by Eileen Soper but there have been numerous interpretations and adaptations of the Famous Five over the years including continuation novels written by French author Claude Voilier, cinema films, stage plays, two television series and, more recently, a Disney cartoon series featuring the children of the Famous Five.

First edition: 1944 Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper Category: Famous Five Genre: Mystery/Adventure Type: Novels/Novelettes

THE BOAT SWING

EILEEN SOPER   I absolutely adore this illustration, the movement that is illustrated is beautiful. I like how the drawing shows a small section of what is actually happening but it leads the viewer to imagine the rest. I think the overlapped lines work well for the movement and the lack of colour makes  no difference at all.

ETCHING ON LAID PAPER 6 X 4 INCHES FINAL STATE

This illustration also moves me, the child really is sad about her broken doll and Eileen Soper has illustrated that very well. I really like her use of sketchy line work and again although this is not a moving picture it still gives the viewer a feel that the image is alive. Round Up That’s all I have time for today but I hope I have given a good insight to the exhibition now showing at Bodelwyddan castle! There are always exciting pieces being shown so be sure to keep an eye out for new exhibitions! keep a look out either by facebook, twitter or via their website!

Change of plan…

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Things don’t often go as planned in my household and today was no exception! I didn’t get round to visiting the exhibitions at Bodelwyddan castle as promised and planned but ended up some where else in my local area at very short notice!!

I still think I will take a closer look at the works that are being shown at the castle, as an illustrator it would be of great use to me if I observe illustrations from both past and present. Following that, I will reveal what else I have been up to with my little family today 😀

During feeds and nappy changes…

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Time is flying quickly and baby is growing fast!! Its the summer holidays and I have been entertaining my eldest with Alton Towers and Loom Bands, whilst thinking about new uniform and baby grows! It was a nice surprise to receive mail from Gareth Whitley (Bodelwyddan Castle), again offering the chance for my family and I to view the latest exhibitions in return for a few mentions right here at my blog 🙂

Just to give you a preview, here is my introduction..

Some exciting work will be shown at this exhibition during 23 July – 28 September!

Watercolours and Drawings: 18th to 21st Century

“This exhibition is the third to be brought to Bodelwyddan Castle from Hastings by Caroline Gee, a Sussex art dealer who has been specializing in Watercolours and Drawings for over thirty years. It will follow a similar format as her previous exhibitions, beginning with the early years of the watercolour school in Britain, moving through the early nineteenth century, the ‘Golden Age’ of British watercolour, and finishing with delightful twentieth Century examples.”

Thomas Miles Richardson, Landscape with Distant Hills

“Featured works on display include some of the most prominent artists who exhibited with the Old Watercolour Society (formed 1804), among them David Cox, Peter de Wint and John Varley. The Victorian Age is mainly represented by those artists who followed in the tradition of the early landscape painters, and will include two large and splendid views of North Wales by William Evans of Bristol. In the twentieth century section there will be another group of the wildlife drawings by Eileen Soper which so delighted visitors last time.

An additional feature to this exhibition will be a section of works by contemporary artists from East Sussex, which will include a few oil paintings and acrylics, with one by Royal Academician Gus Cummins who lives just down the hill from Caroline.

You have the opportunity to purchase pieces from the exhibition, as all of the works are for sale. Prices will range from £100 to £10,000, with many for under £500.  We hope that there will be something for everyone, and we will be offering various instalment plans that will help you with the purchase.”

Paul Sandby Munn 1773-1845 Bala Lake with Cader Idris in the Distance Signed and dated 1833 Watercolour

I am looking forward to diving straight into the exhibition this coming Saturday and hope to take lots of pictures whilst learning all about the history of the Artists 🙂 It will be interesting to take a close look at works that have been painted of locations that are local to me, and places that I have been to such as Bala Lake, North Wales.

I have been experimenting with watercolour to bring my latest drawings to life so I am looking forward to exploring how other Artists have used it to colour their work.

 

More exciting work showing now at Bodelwyddan castle…

 

Bob Collins: Shooting Stars

Eric Sykes, 1959 © estate of Bob Collins / National Portrait Gallery, London

“As part of our Summer special exhibitions programme, we will be showing Bob Collins: Shooting Stars inGaleri 3. This is a really enjoyable display that consists of 23 informal photographs of famous faces from the 1950′s/60′s.  As well as offering a welcome dose of nostalgia, we feel that the exhibition will highlight Bob’s skill at capturing spontaneous moments on film.”

 

After my visit on Saturday I will be blogging within a few days to tell you all about the above works..dont miss it!!

 

see you soon 🙂

Time out…

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So the baby has arrived and settled in at home, I have completed my degree in design communication and the plan is to take time out from drawing after a long three yrs…but I can’t stop thinking about drawing! I’ve been watching horrid Henry for style tips and I’m finding that every time I look at a person I visualise how I would draw them!!
Maybe I will work on strengthening my style during time out?

Final Module..

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The last few weeks of my time at Glyndwr University are flying fast!! It wont be much longer before that chapter of my life ends ready for a new one to begin! My final assessment will roughly be around 8th May and then I am due to have my baby on 15th!!! So right now, every minute of everyday is very valuable to ensure I am ready for that final assessment but also ready for the new edition of my family to enter the world!

Just briefly, I have been very lucky with this pregnancy as everything has run smoothly and therefore I have still been able to carry on working on my degree.

The final module is mostly based on portraying a professional practice with my work so that when I leave my studies, I will be ready fr the big, wide world of illustration. Some of the things that are required to show my professional side are designing a website, creating and printing business cards and postcards and creating a portfolio to a professional standard. If I am honest, a few weeks ago I didn’t feel ready to build a website, It wasn’t really that long ago that I discovered my natural drawing style and therefore I didn’t feel that I would have enough of that style to display within a website. I went ahead with the website anyway as it was part of the module and I’m glad I did! It has given me a new goal and more to aim for, I feel quite excited that I actually have my own website and find some inspiration and drive to draw more illustrations to fill it.

You can see my cards on my Twitter page and I have also created a Facebook page! The Facebook page is brand new but I am working at filing it up very soon.

I have been looking at Children’s Education for the final module, to complete the negotiated study number 2 and I am really excited about the characters that I have created so be sure to follow the next few post where I will upload the process of creating them!!