Jane Eyre series

One of the projects I’ve wanted to tackle for a long time has been to do a series of illustrations for Charlotte Brönte’s  Jane Eyre. I recently re-read it and was amazed at how good it was. It’s a Victorian page-turner! I’m a big fan of the Victorian gothic imagery and the romantic melodrama. Having recently returned from a trip to England, I was also inspired by the moors, the tors and the hedgerows. Here are the illustrations:

Women’s History series

March was Women’s History Month and I decided to do a series of portraits highlighting some of my favourite women in the arts and literature.

Mrs. Doyle, the long-suffering housekeeper on the classic TV series Father Ted ,has a few of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen. Just thinking about them makes me laugh. Like when she falls off the windowsill…good Lord it’s hilarious.

Beatrix Potter is undoubtedly the most famous female illustrator of all time. Just like L.M. Montgomery above, her books have never been out of print. Peter Rabbit is an enduring character, and her illustrations continue to bring joy to kids (and adults like me) around the world a hundred years later. One day I hope to visit her estate in the Lake District. 

L.M. Montgomery is one of my favourite writers and our Canadian pride and joy. Anne of Green Gables is a modern classic; it’s never been out of print since its publication in 1908. I’m working my way through her archive of over twenty novels and hundreds of short stories. Her work has also provided me with the source material for two of my absolute favourite tv series of all time: Road to Avonlea and Anne of Green Gables (the 1980s series, not the recent crap, thank you very much).

Emily Dickinson-  the 19th century poet whose mournful poetry some people find depressing, but I like the melancholy of it.

Julia Margaret Cameron – one of my favourite artists, she took up photography in her sixties…in the 1860s! I started seeing her photography pop up on the web in the late 1990s, but didn’t know they belonged to her. I drew a lot of her photos in those days because I was drawn to the pre-Raphaelite Victorian tragedy of them (lots of Madonna/child poses). She is credited as being one the first “artistic” photographers.

Stirling Castle

When Joel and I visited Stirling Castle on our trip to Scotland, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be good, but I had no idea of the staggering amount of restoration that has gone into making this castle one of the best (if not the best) in the country.

Not only have the exteriors been restored and meticulously maintained, but the interiors have been completely recreated to represent the decor of the 1500s, complete with knowledgeable costumed staff. Partnering with a vast team of master artisans, everything from the painted walls and ceilings down to the textiles and tapestries have been re-created using techniques of the day. It is a truly impressive thing to see.  This collaboration must have been a massive undertaking, but the end result is spectacular. It’s amazing that they managed to pull it together.

The beauty of a restoration like this is that it really gives you a sense of the history of the place. When Joel and I visited Wales last year, we saw many a castle ruin; none of them were restored. While I’m a fan of ruins, it’s very difficult to image how it would have looked back in the day. Stirling Castle, being restored, gave you a real sense of history and of stepping back in time.

Highlights include the medallion ceiling, the replica tapestries and the “boat” ceiling in the great hall.  I will be inspired by my visit to Stirling Castle for years to come.

Sketches from Scotland

Joel and I recently returned from spending 3 weeks in Scotland. We saw many castles, mazes, big houses, puffins, weird and awesome landscapes, glens, highlands, rode horses, experienced volatile weather and rain. So. Much. Rain. Which is not at all conducive to outdoor sketching! Prior to our departure Joel and I had said we were going to sketch on this trip like it was our job; every other day. But due to rain, generally cold weather and midges (biting insects) we only managed half a dozen sketches! It was difficult to get a two-hour window without any of the aforementioned things to sit down and sketch.

I love how moody the landscape is in Scotland. I took many reference photos which you might see popping up in my work later on this year.

Here’s what we came up with:

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Doune Castle, where Monty Python & the Holy Grail and scenes from Outlander were filmed. A nice example of a restored 13th-century castle.

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Random house, just outside Pitlochrie.

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Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness. I’d say skip this one if you’re not into ruins crawling with tourists. We were told not to sit on the grass here…which did not please me.

 

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Lovely Tudor building in Peebles, in the Borders.

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The kitchen at Glaschoille House, in the Knoydart Peninsula. We were waiting to go back to the mainland after two days on horseback and had an hour to kill. Midges prevented me from sketching outdoors so here is the one and only indoor plein air sketch!

 

 

 

Rhiannon

In preparation for mine and Joel’s trip to Wales this spring, I have be re-reading the Mabinogion (collection of Welsh folktales). I’ve always been inspired by Celtic mythology to create my illustrations, so I’m hoping that a trip to the actual place will add another layer of inspiration to my work.

This is Rhiannon on her white horse when she is first glimpsed by Pwyll.
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