Oceans, harbours and ecological art

Jellyfish. Part of a collaborative project to illustrate a coffee-table book on plankton with a focus on phytoplankton. By Scott Luis Masson.I was walking along Bristol’s harbourside when I spied Scott Luís Masson’s glorious oceanic artwork for the first time. Schools of fish spooling towards sunlight, small rowers battling gigantic waves and other-worldly, gelatinous orbs netted my attention. Diving a little deeper, I discovered an intriguing ecological slant to the artwork, with a focus on oceans and responsible plastic use. Scott tells me this was very much a conscious choice.

“I’ve lived by the sea for parts of my life and always found it an inspirational environment,” he says. “Soon after my career change into illustration I began illustrating ocean and sea life pieces for various personal and then collaborative book projects, and ended up with a lot of images as a result that became stand-alone prints.”

Diatoms Study. Part of a collaborative project to illustrate a coffeetable book on plankton with a focus on phytoplankton.

Diatoms Study. Part of a collaborative project to illustrate a coffee table book on plankton with a focus on phytoplankton.

Prior to this, Scott was a teacher of secondary and A-level Design Technology and ks3 Art. “I always knew I had to pursue my own creative aspirations at some point, and was actually doing woodwork part time whilst teaching as the potential start of a career change, but I realised when I began making guitars that it was just an expensive hobby!” he recalls. “Illustration seemed a more viable option and I always wanted to get back into drawing and artwork in general and knew that later in life I’d regret not doing this. It was actually when my dad passed away unexpectedly that I was prompted to question what I was waiting for and to finally take the decision.”

Scott’s marine-inspired images led to further projects and opportunities including exhibiting at conferences and fairs alongside ocean conservation organisations.

“Regarding plastics, this topic obviously goes hand in hand with the ocean,” Scott comments.

Plastic Attack by Scott Luís Masson

Plastic Attack by Scott Luís Masson

As he was becoming known for his ocean-themed artwork, Shambala Festival 2018 approached Scott to illustrate the plastics problem as a large-scale painting. “The painting acted as a stage backdrop for the Raw Foundation ‘Raw Talks’ that took place at Shambala Festival 2018.

Shambala Painting by Scott Luis Masson

Shambala Painting by Scott Luís Masson

“As someone who wants to live responsibly where I can – which is definitely a work in progress – I relish the chances to use art to promote awareness of the issue,” Scott says. “I started packaging my prints in biodegradable waxed paper last year instead of plastic sleeves.”

Narrative is a natural component of Scott’s artwork, and he particularly enjoys storytelling as an element of creating illustrations.

“It’s an opportunity to fully use your imagination!” he exclaims. “Illustration is a midway point between art and design, creating art work to what is essentially a design brief, even if that brief is a personal one, and it can be asking for your creative response to many possible things. This interpretation is what I enjoy, trying to depict something visually, often someone else’s concept, as you imagine it, and then seeing the author’s response to this.”


A scene from Ardid and the Seagull, a oollaborative project to illustrate a children’s storybook.

The opportunity to work with creatives in other disciplines is another part of the appeal.  “Often illustration can be a fairly solitary activity so it can be great to work with a ‘colleague’ for a while.”

He says that juggling myriad demands is the biggest challenge of any collaboration.

“Time is hard enough to manage individually and we’re all busy with countless aspects to our lives,” he says. “When collaborating with writers the source of the content is the text, but projects can often get stalled for a variety of professional and personal reasons. It’s great when one gets going again, though. Perhaps that break allows for reflection and the outcome will be better for it.”

A passion for music drives other projects and commissions. “I love anything related to music,” Scott comments. “As someone who grew up with albums, I’ve always appreciated amazing artwork on covers and within sleeves. Responding to something audial with visuals always excites me. I’ve created the art and sleeve design for one album so far and hope to work on more in the future if opportunities come my way.”

A new work of art or series of artworks begins with a design process of “first thoughts, research and sketches,” Scott explains, “by which point I can normally see if a good composition is going to be possible. I tend to move onto ink as quickly as possible as my style is very linear and it’s the loose inky lines that hopefully bring the image to life, after which I scan and usually add colour digitally.”

Scott describes his frame of mind when starting a new artwork as being “a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I’m my own ‘best’ critic and always feel I can produce better work, so the beginning is often an overwhelming feeling of wanting to do so.”

Fortunately, he finds he’s usually happy with the outcome. “That brings a sense of achievement as well as relief, after which I’ll start that process of reflection about how the next piece can be better.”

Scott hopes to inspire viewers with “a level of intrigue about an image, maybe a sense of depth, which I try to bring to anything I draw. Hopefully they might feel like it’s something that stands out a little, which has been said to me a few times at illustration and craft fairs and is always really pleasing to hear!”

To see more of Scott’s artwork, visit slmillustration.com, where you’ll also find links to his social media feeds.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

A global odyssey

Starry Roundscape by Hattie Buckwell

Starry Roundscape by Hattie Buckwell

Discovering the imaginative illustrations created by Hattie Buckwell is a little like finding an opening in the back of your wardrobe, and stumbling out into the version of the world you always hoped was true.

It’s an impression only deepened by the shape of her Dreamscapes Within Roundscapes series, offering the sense of looking through a telescope or porthole.

“I have a bit of thing for circles, painting within a circle is much closer to what we see through circular pupils,” Hattie admits. “Our field of vision is somewhere between a circle and an oval so I love this way of illustrating.” 

Mountains to Climb Oceans to Swim

Mountains to Climb Oceans to Swim by Hattie Buckwell

Inspiration often comes to light when Hattie is on the move. My series of ‘Homes of the World’ came from a love of travelling – imagining what its like to live up a treehouse or surrounded by snow-capped mountains,” Hattie says. “I love to paint places I’ve been (or want to go to), recording what it feels like to be in a particular part of the world.”

As you might expect, lots of Hattie’s illustrations stem from her love of walking amid nature, and from her passion for travel. “I always have a sketchbook on me and draw a lot, bringing together elements from different ideas into paintings later.”

Hattie also loves watching documentaries and reading ‘proper nature encyclopaedias’. “I really enjoy of infographics of all kinds, learning with pictures, symbols on maps,” she says. “Some of my illustrations came from a want for a visual guide to something, for example, ‘Eat Fresh’ is an illustrated guide to what food is in season.”

Eat Fresh by Hattie Buckwell

Eat Fresh by Hattie Buckwell

In fact, many of Hattie’s artwork titles read like instructions for living well and enjoying life: Eat fresh, explore, feast, swim wild…

There’s a real sense of narrative in Hattie’s illustrations, which I find irresistibly enticing.

I often work on a series of illustrations, with individual pieces coming together to tell a story,” she comments. “I recently completed my ‘Explore’ Series, playing with illustrating tiny people exploring vast natural landscapes. Some by canoe, some skiing down slopes, some pulled by huskies. Through illustration I can create miniature worlds for the viewer to explore. I enjoy adding tiny details to spot little going-on’s within the tiny worlds seen in the paintings.”

Various elements of Hattie’s past and present influences these tiny worlds.

I grew up doing house-swaps with my family, swapping homes with people living all over the world,” she recalls. “So much more than a holiday, it allows you to really get a feel for life on the other side of the world. I feel very lucky to have so many memories and photos to draw inspiration from. Now I live in Bristol, such a thriving creative community and always so much to see and do – it is a constant source of energy to make.”

When I first picked up one of Hattie’s business cards, she described herself as a textile artist, a element of her past that immediately intrigued me, especially with reference to its impact on her art today.

“I trained as a textile artist – my work was based around colour, colour mixing, traditional dyeing and print techniques, and creating repeat prints from my illustrations,” she tells me. “At the beginning of a painting I still use a lot of the same processes of testing colours, playing with different layers of detail. I love to dye and play with textiles, but my first love was always in drawing & painting. The simplicity of working on sheets of paper, I feel freer to concentrate on the illustration itself.”

She still finds a lot of  satisfaction in creating a design which repeats perfectly, “like ‘Koi’. In the future I would love to work on some more repeat illustrations which could be printed on fabric, but for now I’m still revelling in the simplicity of paper and colour.”

Swim Wild by Hattie Buckwell

Swim Wild by Hattie Buckwell

Being an artist suit Hattie’s free spirit perfectly. “I love that every day is different, and that I can work on lots of different projects at once,” she says. “If it’s a sunny Monday I can just go and explore or spend the day planting in the garden if I want to. When I first went to art collage, I couldn’t believe that I could work on creative projects all day. Now I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else! It’s been a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but I’m so proud to be able to do this full-time.”

Hattie co-owns Blaze shop and studio at 84 Colston Street in Central Bristol, “so naturally this has the best selection of my work. It’s a co-operative run by artists and we are proud to sell the work of more than 60 Makers living in Bristol, from printmaking to ceramics to original paintings. It’s right in the middle of the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter which has so many fantastic independent shops to explore.”

Check out Hattie’s website www.hattiebuckwell.co.uk to see more of her work and her online shop, and find a list of current stockists. Hattie’s artworks make great writing prompts too!

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com.




To the wilds of Iceland and back again

Mountains, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Mountains, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Falling for picturebooks as a child fuelled Lilly Louise Allen’s determination to become an artist.

“I was absolutely in love with my picture books as a child, the more detailed the better!” she recalls. “I had a great imagination and was always making something from posters to little books.”

At school Lilly continued to learn new skills and express herself through art. “Then I feel there was a lightbulb moment with the ‘new wave’ of Illustration which happened in the early millennium – then there was a resurgence of books on the subject and companies used illustration more frequently. A book which really got me into contemporary Illustration and realising it was a viable occupation was ‘Hand to Eye’ by Lawrence King Publishing, which showed a broad range of Illustrators at work at the time.”

Bembridge Windmill by Lilly Louise Allen

Bembridge Windmill by Lilly Louise Allen

Other influences include the work of Lucinda Rogers, Julie Verhoeven and Tom Gauld. “I’m attracted to the storytelling that can be accomplished with just a single picture, the magic which can be created and the fact that an illustrator can orchestrate the mood of a picture, from humour and charm through to the surreal and thought provoking.”

Inspirations included “people, food, the countryside, the sea, travelling, reading, other artists – all sorts of different subjects! I don’t like to limit my subject matter either; I’m open to trying anything new if it feels good.”

Green House, Iceland, by Lilly Louise Allen

Green House, Iceland, by Lilly Louise Allen

More recent adventures include an artist’s residency in Iceland.

“I had been thinking about doing an artist’s residency but it felt like more of a daydream than something that would come to fruition!” she admits. “I looked at several websites and found the Residency Unlimited website. It was full of amazing places but The Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður in the east fjords immediately stood out to me. It looked like looked like an absolutely beautiful place and the ethos behind the centre really resonated with me.”

She quotes from the website: “The Creative Centre is an ongoing collaborative and community project and our actions and aims are based on sustainable principles and alternative methods. We want to regenerate and sustain our small village by making it into a possible and desirable place to settle – a place where you can have engaging jobs, enjoy culture, and the influx of new ideas and creative people.”

No wonder Lilly couldn’t resist. Living as she does on the Isle of Wight, Lilly also felt an affinity with the isolated located.

“I live on an island which is often faced with similar issues, certainly a lack of jobs and opportunities, especially for the younger generations growing up here. With shops and community facilities frequently closing down, it’s often Art in its varying forms and community that can help more than anything else.”

Lilly set off for Iceland with these thoughts firmly in mind. “I wanted to look at the importance of solitude to myself and to people in general,” she says. “To be alone but not lonely is something I find interesting. It’s often in these quiet times that our strongest ideas can appear and we find what we really want from life. I certainly found the time for quiet contemplation and a peacefulness inspiring. It feels completely unique to Iceland and particularly to the remote East Fjords where Stöðvarfjörður is located. There were no planes flying over head, few cars passing you by on the roads, no crowds of people or noises other than the wind, the water coming into the shore and the sound of your own footsteps – heaven.”

Turf House, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

Turf House, Iceland by Lilly Louise Allen

The life in the village and what she calls “the human element” also interested Lilly. “Many homes are occupied but there are a lot of holiday homes and some which are empty,” she says. “I took photos of every house in the main part of the village and it really made me look at each of their characteristics, reflecting the people who resided inside currently or in a previous occupancy. I also created large watercolour pictures which I hope reflect all of these thoughts.”

In addition, Lilly took sound recordings at places where she paused during her walks around the area. “It felt good to try things which I don’t normally do – photograph and sound are new elements in my work and were influenced by the other artists I lived with, which was another wonderful part of the Artists’ Residency!”

Lilly came away with a sense of being at the start of something special. “I’m pleased with what I created whilst I was there but I feel it is only just beginning in a way,” she says. “I can now reflect on everything and find a way of consolidating the project in what I hope will be an exhibition.”

Preparing to work by Lilly Louise Allen

Preparing to work by Lilly Louise Allen

Lilly relishes her life as an artist. “What I love most is that magical time when I’m painting and am completely unaware of what’s going on around me, when the work is immersive and it feels exciting,” she says. “It’s quite hard to explain but its much like when you’re reading a great book and can’t wait to read the next line, the next chapter and then you wish it wasn’t over when you’re finished. If people can sense that feeling when they look at the work and it makes them feel something too then there’s nothing better.”

You can see more of Lilly’s work at www.lillylouiseallen.com, read her blog at www.lillylouiseallen.blogspot.com and find her on Twitter as @LillyLAllen and on Instagram as @LillyLouiseAllen. She will be taking part in the Isle of Wight Open Studios from 14-24th July 2017.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Beneath the surface

Turtle by Cai BurtonArtist Cai Burton has a unique talent for capturing the natural world. Using fineliner pens, he fills pages, and the occasional wall, with swoops, circles and dots that conjure up a creature or scene that bubbles with life.

“I think I’ve always loved making patterns,” he comments. “You look back to my school books and they were covered in them. My friends used to sit and watch me draw in our physics class (Sorry Mr Gregson and Ms Wales!). But since then, that’s carried through and become an intrinsic part of the work I create today.”

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

Cai describes the work of creating his artworks as a mindful experience. “I absolutely love the process that goes into it, and I think that’s as important as the finished piece,” he says. “It’s almost as though I’m watching the illustrations come to life as I’m drawing them, which is a cheesy, but exciting, feeling.”

Recently Cai has begun producing mugs and greetings cards emblazoned with his patterns, as well as carrying out mural commissions for clients such as Mercure.

Whale by Cai Burton

His marine series have become an enduringly popular part of his output, but began on a whim. “I just fancied drawing a whale, so I did!” he says. “In all seriousness, though, I’m both in awe and terrified of the ocean, and I was feeling inspired to create something different. I like to think of it as inspiration striking in a flash! Ever since then I’ve enjoyed finding more about the amazing creatures that inhabit our oceans.”

His respect for these animals shows on the page – portrayed usually in black on white, their strength and serenity is vividly portrayed.

Seahorses by Cai Burton

Cai is equally passionate about the work dreamt up by other artists. “Generally, I love finding work from other illustrators and artists! It’s SO inspiring when you find someone who creates beautiful work – I love it.”

He thrives on the energy generated by following his own creative urges.

“I really love being my own boss,” he says. “I love the freedom to be able to do exactly what I want and not to answer to anyone – well, except for clients. It’s amazing to be able to come into my studio and decide to just spend the morning drawing, because I can. It means I can really shape my business into something I love and am proud of.”

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Cai’s work frequently appears at art markets and art trails in the Bristol area. “I’m also exhibiting at Grounded in Horfield, where you can see my animal illustrations as well as a few others,” says Cai. “I’ve just launched a brand-spanking new website which has got all of my illustrations as prints and products as well as a collection of most of my work.”

Find it at www.caiburton.co.uk.

Mercure-Mural-Mark-006Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Illuminated myths

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

When visiting Cardiff recently, I happened to wander into the Wales Millennium Centre and discovered a mural of such imaginative beauty that it stopped me in my tracks. Emblazoned with tigers, dragons, foxes and more, it conjured up the sense of folk tales, myths and literature from a multitude of cultures.

When I got in touch with the artist, Florence Jackson, it became clear that this was no fluke.

“I remember as a child, my dad would read me bedtime stories including a lot of Roald Dahl books,” she says. “I loved the vivid imagery that came to mind and transport me to a different place, inviting me to take part in the adventure…”

Florence’s interest in illustration sprang from the same source. “Quentin Blake always stood out to me – his illustrations worked perfectly in sync with Roald Dahl’s words,” says Florence. “His fluid lines have always looked so effortless. I don’t really think I actively chose to be an artist; it was and always has been my way of communicating thoughts and ideas (and I have a lot of them!).”

Tiger - Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

Tiger – Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

She adds: “In the day to day, I’m always drawn to imagery and design, whether it’s some rice packaging at my local shop or a quirky poster in the underpass on my way to work, there’s always something visual that speaks to me.”

Florence regards illustration as “an all-encompassing art form, which allows you to work through any chosen medium. To me, it’s all about communicating ideas in a way that even people who ‘don’t really get art’ get. I don’t believe art should be exclusive.”

Florence found herself being directed towards illustration after studying Fashion & Textiles at Pembrokeshire College. “I much preferred designing and illustrating the garments than the creating part,” she admits. “Seams and hems were not my forte. When I went on to study illustration in university, I worked in photography, print, ceramics, paint… There were no boundaries. I really enjoyed this freedom of expression.”

Kraken by Florence Jackson

Kraken by Florence Jackson

I love the way Florence’s art often resembles scenes in stories, so it was no surprise to discover that her inspiration reaches beyond Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl.

“I was largely influenced by Eastern philosophy, Folk Art and Indian miniature paintings,” she says. “My projects don’t really have a beginning, middle and an end ­ they’re sort of an ongoing series that started when I first started drawing. I see everything as a story though, always wandering to myself where people at the bus stop are going. Do they live alone? Do they have a cat? Are they in love? I feel sort of obligated to make up stories for them.”

Florence’s commission for the Wales Millennium Centre come about when she was contacted by Lydia Meehan, the Centre’s arts and creative officer.

“Lydia had studied illustration in the year above me and had remembered my work,” says Florence. “Initially she’d spoken about doing something for the Diwali celebration, but instead it opened up into a winter theme.”

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson2

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson2

The main challenge was the sheer size of the piece, stretching a massive 8x5m sq. “I’m used to working on A3 sheets of paper normally!” Florence exclaims. “To be able to reach the space, I had to get a cherry-picker license, which was a pretty scary ordeal. I don’t even drive a normal car, so turning up to an industrial estate to navigate a seven-ton vehicle round some orange cones whilst elevated 10 meters in the air was pretty terrifying.”

Understanding when the artwork was complete was also difficult. “Knowing whether to add another tree or some more stars… It was difficult to walk away and say it was finally done.”

The mural represents parallels between a wide range of winter-themed stories. “I wanted to look at the similarities within religious winter tales, such as Babushka, Diwali, Hanukah and Christmas,” says Florence. “Most involved a pilgrimage of some sort, often following a light towards warmth and shelter. This is what I wanted to convey – coming out from the cold dark night and into the warm festive spirit with people from all walks of life. I wanted to depict togetherness and safety, which I think is what we’re all looking for, especially when there seems to be so much conflict and uncertainty in the world.”

Florence considers art to simply be her means to live, eat and interpret the world.

“I still have to make money to pursue my artistic endeavors,” she says. “I think it’s just a way of seeing the world that makes things a little more magical, noticing small details that may otherwise be invisible, conjuring up fantasies of great escapes and adventures.  It’s just something I have to do, or need to do… it’s the language I speak best.”

Currently Florence is working on new material and focusing on freelance illustration, with new murals and a possible animation in the pipeline.

You can find out more at florencejacksonillustration.tumblr.comwww.facebook.com/florencejacksonillustration and www.instagram.com/flow_illustrates

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

A creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

The thrill of illustration

A scene from Was Schwimmt Denn Da by Henning Lohlein

An illustration from Was Schwimmt Denn Da by Henning Lohlein

Hippos, pigs, seals and fish, not to mention the occasional elephant in swimming trunks, cavort through the pages of Henning Löhlein’s picture books. Designed to amuse and enthrall, they wriggle with life.

“I always liked drawing,” Henning recalls. “Having grown up in Germany, I spent two years taking foundation art studies in Toulon France, but I was torn between graphic design and fine art.”

A scene from Was Schwimmt Denn Da by Henning Lohlein2

A scene from Was Schwimmt Denn Da by Henning Lohlein

Henning travelled to Bristol on an Erasmus exchange programme, and here discovered illustration, “which formed the right mixture between working to a brief and having the freedom to express one’s own ideas. I finished my studies with an MA in editorial design and narrative illustration at Brighton University. Since then I have taught on the illustration course as a visiting lecturer.”

Illustration for the Financial Times by Henning Lohlein

Illustration for the Financial Times by Henning Lohlein

Henning’s editorial work includes illustrations for the Guardian, the Financial Times and Country Life, as well as magazine covers. “I like to find the freedom in the constraints of illustration, be it for editorial jobs, or in children’s books,” he says.

A scene from Das Leben Ist Bunt illustrated by Henning Lohlein

A scene from Das Leben Ist Bunt illustrated by Henning Lohlein

His love of children’s books began when, after 15 years of working as an editorial illustrator, he realised he wanted “to have a longer ‘shelf life’ for my illustrations. I had started drawing more and more animals in my magazine illustrations, so the step to children’s book illustration was not very far.”

Henning was fortunate enough to have been chosen to exhibit at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, “and that opened up the world of publishing to me.”

Henning has since published more than 40 books, translated into 12 languages, and counting.

A scene from Ich Ware So Gerne illustrated by Henning Lohlein

A scene from Ich Ware So Gerne illustrated by Henning Lohlein

Initially, Henning sought out commissions by attending two of the most prestigious book fairs, Bologna in the spring and Frankfurt in the autumn, seeing as many publisher, editors and art directors as possible.

“I’m now in the position where I can develop projects before hand, which I then try and sell to a publisher at the fair,” he says. “Having been in the industry for a while, authors come to me with projects, or publishers match my illustration up with a suitable text.”

But how closely does he work with a writer in this scenario?

“Normally I just get the text, and illustrate it, having no contact with the writer, just working with the text, and interpreting it in my way,” he says.

Henning is excited about writing and illustrating his own stories. “Ludwig the Space Dog, published last autumn by Templar, is my first written and illustrated book,” he says.

“I started from the idea about a dog living in a two-dimensional world, dreaming about another dimension, which he discovers, and the reader can discover as well with using 3D glasses. It’s about the power of dreams and thinking outside the box. I also liked the idea of doing a 3D book. The pictures are obviously two-dimensional, as they are in a book, so the magic happens in the reader’s head.”

Henning describes being an illustrator as “the best job I can imagine. On a Monday morning I look forward to going to the studio, and to drawing,  painting or inventing a new story. Doing what one loves doing and getting paid for it is a privilege. I can express my ideas, and with a bit of luck, a book will come out of it.”

Find more of Henning’s work online at www.Lohlein.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Animal magic with Josephine Sumner

Punky Porcupine woodcut by Josephine Sumner

Punky Porcupine by Josephine Sumner

Printmaker and illustrator Josephine Sumner brings a splash of fun and colour to the world with her creations. From the savannahs to the jungles to the misty mountains, her animal prints fizz with energy, and a reminder of how extraordinary our planet is. Her abstract artworks are equally alive, providing a sideways glance at our history as many of them sprang from a fascination with archaeology.

Josephine’s initial artistic explorations began with a childhood attraction “to colour and shape and wanting to draw. Even as a toddler I was fervently scribbling. At school I used to illustrate all my stories and loved creating handwritten books and diaries.”

After leaving school, Josephine attended art college, where she studied graphic design. “This was an obvious choice for me, as I am drawn to the elements of design such as composition, colour, imagery and typography and making them work together,” she says. “However, I also loved making images and after a few years of being a graphic designer, I made a choice and turned to illustration full time. I worked as a general illustrator for quite a while, which then eventually led to printmaking in more recent years.”

Sunset Giraffe mulitblock linocut by Josephine Sumner

Sunset Giraffe by Josephine Sumner

Jospehine’s vivid animal prints particularly appeal to me, offering such a vivid glimpse of the diversity of life. “I’ve always been interested in the natural world, but my animal prints really got started when I was looking through an old children’s annual from the 1950s,” she explains. “It had a series of delicate and beautifully observed watercolour illustrations by Maurice Wilson of different types of monkeys. I was instantly inspired by them and they led me to produce a couple of small linocut prints of two species of monkey.”

In 2007, one of these was accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, “which was a great shock to me, not least because it was the first time I had entered a piece of work to the show. After that, there was no turning back!”

Each of her animal prints explores different elements. “I look for colours and shape, and try to convey something of the animal’s character,” she says. “Sometimes I can’t resist having a bit of fun with them like the Punky Porcupine.”

Other visual influences include ethnic art and textiles. “I also love the styles of 1920s and 30s and I am technically impressed with wood engraving and Japanese woodcuts.”

While it’s impossible to choose a favourite among her menagerie, Josephine admits to “a fondness for those which make me smile.” (I think that’s cheating – they all make me smile!).

Flamingo Fandango screenprint by Josephine Sumner

Flamingo Fandango by Josephine Sumner

“The vibrant colours of Flamingo Fandango and Sunset Giraffe certainly seem to do it!” Josephine continues. “The print that I am most proud of is Silverback. The secretive and shy lowland gorilla I have portrayed is based on the magnificent Jock, who lives at Bristol Zoo.”

Silverback mulitblock linocut by Josephine Sumner

Silverback by Josephine Sumner

Taking a completely different path, Josephine has also produced a series of abstract paintings and rug designs “inspired by the ancient history of the Wiltshire landscape. These came about when I took part on an archaeological dig near Avebury some years ago. The rich and diverse story of the Neolithic stones was too tempting not to tell and they became the perfect vehicle for me to play with shape and colour.”

Other inspirations abound. “I try to visit art galleries and museums when I can,” she says. “A favourite of mine is the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, which has a unique atmosphere.” She also adores “the exotic painting of Rousseau” and “the magical, exquisite world of illustrator Tony Meeuwissen.”

Likewise, she hopes visitors to her own exhibitions gain pleasure from seeing her work. “Seeing the joy or amusement on people’s faces when they see my animals is the best thing about being an artist! I hope my menagerie makes people happy.”

Red-tailed Monkey mulitblock linocut by Josephine Sumner

Red-tailed Monkey by Josephine Sumner

You can see all of Josephine’s animal prints on her website, www.josephinesumner.com, and in frequent exhibitions with the Oxford Printmakers Co-operative. “I’m also exhibiting with Red Hot Press from Southampton at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey in Hampshire throughout August and some of my abstract work (and a few animal prints) can be seen as part of an ArtCare Exhibition at Salisbury District Hospital in September.”

Excitingly, Josephine has just heard that she’s had a piece of work accepted for the National Print Open Exhibition at the Bankside Gallery, next to Tate Modern in London. “The exhibition runs in the autumn, from September 21st till October 2nd and showcases some of the best original prints from all over the UK. Of course, mine is a print of a monkey!”

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Seeds of art

Hyacinth watercolour by Gill Martin

Hyacinth watercolour by Gill Martin

“I don’t consider myself particularly creative, more as a recorder of natural things so that the viewer sees them afresh but also to give them a place,” says botanical artist Gill Martin.

Gill sees nature as a direct connection to art, and vice versa. “Art makes me really look at things and appreciate their beauty; I love that I can just be walking down a street and find a leaf or twig or something else that just makes me feel I want to draw it.”

Almond by Gill Martin

Almond by Gill Martin

It’s a symbiotic process than began early on in her life. “I drew and painted from a very young age and did Art A-Level along with Sciences, which led me down the path of a career in dentistry; the drawings I did at school were always close observational, usually in pen and ink.”

Throughout her time working as a dentist, Gill’s artwork was, in reaction to this “very concise occupation” far more abstract than it is today. “I produced large pieces, stained glass and printmaking – it was almost like an antidote to the dentistry,” she comments. “After I retired from my profession I decided to do a long distance four-year distance learning with the Society of Botanical Artists and felt very much back with my natural inclinations.”

In particular she finds herself attracted by unusual shapes and forms. “Although during the course I had to do many flowery subjects, I have found that I am more interested in subjects such as individual leaves.”

Examples of this include an intricate drawing of a seedpod completed while in Australia for her son’s wedding.

“The course assignment was fruit, but all the fruit I looked at seemed very boring. Then I realised that the fruits of various trees were far more interesting! I think that I really like looking at the ground, or other places where perhaps things crop up unexpectedly.”

Australian Seedpods by Gill Martin

Australian Seedpods by Gill Martin

Using watercolours, coloured pencils and graphite pencil, Gill’s beautifully precise art has been exhibited in London, at Bristol Botanic Garden and in the BV Studios where she carries out much of her work.

She relishes the ability to show people the natural world in a fresh way by focusing in detail on small, easily overlooked elements. “I love the achievement of highlighting something that most people wouldn’t notice; nothing gives me greater pleasure than to find a fallen leaf amongst many others and then making a beautiful drawing or painting of it so viewers think, Wow, look at that leaf!”

Find Gill and her work at www.gillmartinillustration.co.uk.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

A handmade menagerie

Needle felted little white mouse by JR Simpson

Needle felted little white mouse by JR Simpson

Jay Simpson describes herself as a peculiar maker and illustrator “who loves wildlife, made-up words, staring into space and sleeping.” It’s an apt description, given that many of her creations seem to have escaped from children’s telly of yesteryear (Button Moon and Finger Mouse inevitably spring to mind).

As it happens, art has been on the agenda since Jay was tiny. “My parents and granny are artists and they always encouraged me to look at the world with curiosity, respond to what I saw creatively,” she says. “I’ve always loved making and drawing but never considered that I could ever be a ‘real artist’. Luckily I’ve now discovered there’s no such thing, so I can just make art without worrying!”

Jay is fascinated by nature, and loves “exploring the weird miniature worlds I find in rockpools and at the bottom of the garden. This interest originally led me towards a career in science, but after illness forced me to quit my degree in biology, I found I preferred studying nature in a sketchbook to in a lab.”

Jay completed a foundation course in art, and recently begun studying for a degree in Illustration at the University of the West of England. “It’s loads of fun so far.”

Her family’s pragmatic approach to making a living through art seems to have rubbed off on Jay. “I sell my work through Etsy and through Blaze, a wonderful co-op of makers and artists in Bristol.”

Needle felted Elwood the Otter by JR Simpson

Needle felted Elwood the Otter by JR Simpson

Popular makes include her menagerie of needle felted creatures, “born out of my desire to share my love of small, common, underappreciated animals. I wanted to show others how cute they are!”

Each of Jay’s animals has a fully developed personality, ready to embody any story their characters encounter.

Jay discovered needle felting a couple of years ago and was immediately impressed by the infinite possibilities and immediacy of it. “It’s like drawing with wool.”

I particularly fond of Jay’s needle felted snails, with real snail shells mostly sourced “from the beach near my parents’ home in Somerset; the sea washes them clean, which saves me a lot of work!”

Needle felted snail parade by JR Simpson

Needle felted snail parade by JR Simpson

Her mice in teacups and other receptacles are also a delight. “I love combining soft sculpture with found material, like the snail shells or charity shop crockery. It provides a lovely contrast in materials, and gives the creatures a new dimension, adding context and history.”

Needle felted snail by JR Simpson

Needle felted snail by JR Simpson

Jay enjoys meeting other artists “and being part of wonderful creative communities like Blaze and the Illustration department at UWE. It’s really energising to be surrounded by so much excitement and enthusiasm. At the moment I’m concentrating on developing my visual language as an illustrator, and eventually I hope to write graphic narratives, so I can share the weird worlds and characters I have in my head!”

You can see more of Jay’s work at her Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/uk/shop/jayandthesnails, on her blog magpie-moth.tumblr.com, and at Blaze.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.