Tall elms

For a couple of weeks in January, I found myself with a bit of doodling time on my hands as colour collective was taking its winter break and therefore I needed to seek inspiration elsewhere. I’ve always been a massive fan of visiting galleries and museums, even more so since I took up drawing and painting – I always leave desperate to get home and draw something.

On a recent day trip to London, I crammed in several exhibitions that led to ideas for illustrations. I started by visiting the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Britain. It was brilliant to see his incredible war paintings and later surrealist works, but what I found most inspiring were his early William Blake style illustrations. I loved his groups of gnarly, impossibly tall elm trees that made me think of Dylan Thomas describing a “wrestle of elms” in his poem “Over Sir John’s Hill.”


I wanted to try and draw a landscape with a similar dream like atmosphere, so I started by drawing my own group of lanky, competing elm trees sprouting from a hilltop with rolling downland and a chalk path fading off into the distance. I added the girl and the giant clockwork robot to make the illustration feel more even more mysterious and otherworldly. I enjoy the eerie effect of putting the likes of robots, dragons or yetis into an otherwise quite mundane scene.

Later that day I went on to visit the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at the Tate Modern and the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery which also inspired an illustration and may inspire a future blog.

A yeti in New York


This is the illustration I completed for this weeks Colour collective. The given colour was aureolin, a slightly too bright shade of yellow which immediately made me think New York taxi. I wanted to try and draw a sea of (almost but not quite) identical yellow taxis that look like they could go on forever. All that was missing was the obligatory, forlorn, bewildered looking yeti.

The yeti drawing obsession started when drawing one in a rush for Animal Alphabets, it was probably the quickest drawing I have ever done, with just dots for eyes and a down turned mouth but It somehow had more character than most of the more ‘realistic’ drawing I had been doing. I decided I would use the yeti as an abominable device to teach myself to simplify my drawing style and learn to illustrate better. I had my yeti wondering aimlessly through various desolate landscapes in a set of yeti postcards so I would have to think what a tree, mountain, giant purple robot, yellow taxi etc. would look like in his world. I think the exercise has helped my drawing a lot and although I haven’t always been totally happy with all the drawings, I think I have been gradually working toward a style that is more consistent and feels like my own.

Next weeks given colour is Air Force blue, I’ve not yet sure where that will take my yeti.