Cats is where it’s at…

A couple of things of note happened last week…

Firstly, I finally bought some Promarkers.

Secondly, whilst rummaging through books in Forbidden Planet in Newcastle last week during a stopover for work, a cover caught my eye. Flipping through said book I spied some illustrations that caused a massive flashback to when I was little and I used to go through my parents’ vinyl records – not to play them, but to look at the pictures on the covers! The book was “The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora”. So I’ve randomly stumbled upon an illustrator that probably, unbeknown to me, played a part in influencing my drawing!

I decided to try a little doodle last night with my new Promarkers, in a Flora-esque style… the main thing being not to use black outlines, and here’s the result:


It’s growing on me… I think I might try re-doing it in Illustrator on the Mac. The cats need to be more tangled (homage to my love of Celtic knotwork), and their expressions need to speak more, the colours aren’t quite right, but I’m quite excited about developing this, perhaps with a view to pulling some screen prints. What do you think?

In other doodle news, here’s another from last night, loosely based on a cute house in our town. This was sketched freehand with Promarkers, using Google Streetview to remind me of the details of the house:

ps – the cat with the odd black face? Yep, I messed the head up so went over it in black to try and disguise the mess… Nope, it didn’t work!

Inky paws…

Yo!

I shall start by giving you all a few minutes to play your favourite David Bowie song and sing along loudly. Off you go…
 
Right. I picked Ziggy Stardust – how about you?
 
And now to business. Wait, don’t switch him off – you can leave David playing as you read.
 
I’ve always fancied having a go at screen printing. And recently it’s become a more pressing need – particularly as I’d like to be able to produce my own greetings cards, and maybe even bags, t-shirts, and other fabric goodies. The thing that’s been holding me back though is the cost of all the equipment, and the lack of space on my desk in a tiny corner of one room, which I fondly call “stupidcats HQ” (the desk, not the room!). And then, the other weekend, whilst roaming around London on a bit of a jolly, we stumbled upon a little art shop. And right at the back, rather dusty and half hidden, was one of the screen printing kits I’d been looking at as a small, easy way to try the process out, and it was reduced to half the price I’d seen it anywhere else. Well, what else could I do except buy it?!
 
Monday being a rest day (I have one of those jobs where you often have to take all or half of your weekend on random weekdays) I bounced out of bed, all keen and eager for my first venture into screen printing. I’d done a little cat doodle at the weekend and decided to use him for my first test print:

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Here’s my doodle!

 
So I drew him in Illustrator on my trusty Mac and had a play with colour fills:
 

And here are a few variations of the computer version.



I decided to go with the bottom right one for my first attempt, and step one was to trace an image for each colour onto my screen:

I’d decided to use the drawing fluid and filler method for my first attempt, as I wanted the printed cat to look sort of wobbly – not clean and crisp like the computer version. And I liked the idea of painting directly on to the screen, and creating multiples copies of something hand drawn. So the next step was to draw the images in with drawing fluid and a paintbrush:

I had no idea if I’d put too much or too little drawing fluid on! I left it to dry for a few hours, then moved on to the screen filler. This involved using the squeegee to wipe the fluid down over the image in one stroke, and not to NO NEVER EVER TO do a second stroke or you’ll risk the blue drawing fluid starting to dissolve away…

I may have panicked a bit and not pressed down enough for the first few inches. Which meant the top image was completely covered in red goo. I may then have panicked a bit more and done a second wipe over the top image which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do.
 
But I thought I’d plough on, as all experience is useful! I then had to leave the screen to dry overnight, then wait until the following evening before I could do anything else because work got in the way, humph!
I washed off the blue drawing fluid, leaving just the red filler behind…

…and got a bit more convinced that my double swipe of the filler had played havoc with his whiskers. Once again the screen was put aside to dry.
 
A couple of days later, when I had a bit of time to spare between shifts, I hit the ink! I just went for the blue ink supplied with the kit, rather than trying to mix anything lighter for my first attempt.


I ran off 20 prints, then masked off the blue inky bit, and when the prints were dry I moved onto the black.

Ta-daaaaaaaa! I was right about the whiskers! Now I’ve done it once, I know what to do differently next time to hopefully improve the results. I’m rather pleased with him though – the wobblyness is what I was after, although the cat outline is too thick and, of course, his whiskers have been in the wars! But all in all, it was a hugely enjoyable lesson and I’m itching to get the screen cleaned and start again – this time without dissolving his whiskers and mixing a lighter shade of blue. I’ve also got hold of another screen with finer mesh, which should help with finer details.
 
Keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds for progress pictures of my next attempt!
 
And finally, while we’re on the subject of screen printing, I stumbled upon something today that made me squeak!
 
Cobden Place is a restored heritage building in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter. In their own words, “Cobden Place endeavours to incubate and support an array of creatively driven independent businesses, and encourage growth within Nottingham’s design industry.” Together with print studio Dizzy Ink and screenprinting technician Tom Camp, they want to create a “School of Print”. Again, in their words: “With a variety of printing methods including risograph, screenprinting and mimeograph, the School of Print will facilitate and educate practitioners of print through a varied workshop programme and the option of membership to come and use the space and facilities once trained on the equipment!
 
COOL!!!
 
They launched a Kickstarter today to raise £8,000 to make the School of Print a reality, and have already been backed to the tune of just over £800! This would be a fantastic resource for Nottingham and beyond – please help them reach their target by backing them, and sharing the link with the world! Thank you!
 
Click here to watch their video on their Kickstarter page
 
That’s all for now folks!

Custom cats…

Hello fellow cat-people! And non-cat-people too!

Back in May last year, I doodled some cats…  
Then in July of this year, after re-opening my Etsy store, I tried the doodle in a stupidcat style because I rather liked his cheeky face:

 

I liked it so much, I did a proper version in grey:

  

Cheeky ain’t he! He’s available to buy as a print from my Etsy store.

Shortly after re-opening my store, I was approached by a customer who I’d drawn a couple of custom cats for a few years ago – “Could you do a drawing for my other half’s birthday?”

After agreeing on colours and style (I felt that somthing in a similar style to the doodle-based-grey would suit, and the customer agred), out came the oil pastels and ink. I haven’t been able to show you this drawing until now, because I was waiting to hear that the gift had been given, and this morning – hurrah! – word came! So here he is…

  
I’m hugely fond of this one! I kept finding myself pulling a similar face to his as I was working on him! 

Whilst I don’t currently list custom drawings in my store, please feel free to contact me if you’re interested – with plenty of notice and if my work schedule allows it, I’ll be happy to accommodate you if I can!

Pretty in print…

Greetings!

Those of you that follow me on social media will know by now that I recently started making my illustrations available as Giclée prints – this is something I’ve wanted to do for ages, mainly because I get a bit upset parting with my originals, and also because I wanted to make my illustrations available to more of you.

Last week I added a new print to my Etsy store, in the form of Cousin Louisa Gentlepaw – you might recognise her from my previous post:

stupidcats

There she is looking pretty in a frame, and here’s a close-up:

image

She’s printed on 240gsm archival quality Archelles Aquarelle Rag paper – the texture is beautiful, and I think it really adds to the character of my illustrations.

I spent a lot of time researching the different methods of reproduction, and finally decided to go with Giclée printing, as it would give folk a gallery-standard, archival quality print – and the examples I’d seen looked beautiful. Yes, it’s more expensive than other digital print processes, but I wanted quality rather than quantity. Digging more into the Giclée printing lark, one of the first things I discovered is that it’s pronounced zhee-clay. I also learned that there are three main things that make a Giclée print a Giclée print…

1. The resolution of the original. It must be created at a minimum of 300dpi to make sure that the output print is sharp.
2. The paper it’s printed on. It must be of archival quality, which means it has to be acid free and either cotton or rag based.
3. The inks and printer used to print it. The inks must pigment-based rather than the dye-based inks you find in your standard inkjet printer. Pigment inks will last 100+ years without fading (providing you don’t hang a print in direct sunlight, which to be honest you should never do with a picture – even an original oil painting!). The printers used are generally large format printers with 8 to 12 different colour ink cartridges – as well as CMYK, it also has different shades of each colour to make the prints look even smoother than is achievable with just CMYK.

Further research led me to a company in Nottingham who specialise in work for artists and galleries, which meant I could keep things local – even better! I’ve now visited them twice with work for outputting, and am so impressed with their attention to detail and willingness to spend time with you making sure that the finished results are perfect. I took this picture on my first visit and can’t tell you how excited I was seeing all my cats creeping slowly out the printer!

stupidcats

One of the best things about now selling Giclée prints instead of originals is that at last I’ve been able to offer for sale prints of a large picture I drew way back in 2001 – I’ve been loath to part with it, but now it’s available as a print and looks absolutely smashing!

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I have plenty more cats in my sketchbook, so keep your eyes peeled for new prints!

Finally, you may or may not know that I’ve finally set up a website – it’s rather basic at the moment, but has links to my Etsy shop and this blog. Head over to stupidcats.co.uk for a peep!

A quick tip….

Somebody on Twitter recently asked me how I transfer my sketches from tracing paper to the proper-paper-for-drawing-on without them coming out back-to-front, and I had one of those little “Ohhhh, I thought everyone knew that!” moments – and I was also transported back to primary school, when I was having the same problem with a squirrel whose tail came out on the left side when I wanted it on the right, like the drawing in the book I was trying to copy. My teacher at the time showed me this little trick and I reckon it’s quite possibly one of the most useful things I ever learnt at school!

Step one: Trace your image. Or draw it on tracing paper – with my cats, I do a sketch in my sketchbook, then trace it onto tracing paper that’s marked up with the borders of the finished piece:

  
At this point I’ll work on tidying up the drawing, and making any final tweKs and changes until I’m happy with it. Note that her eyes are looking slightly to the right!

Step two: Turn the tracing paper over, and go over all the lines with your pencil on the back of the paper.

  
See how her eyes are now looking slightly to the left? That’s because we’re looking at the back of the trace. Make sure you don’t miss drawing any lines!

Step three: Turn the tracing paper over so that you’re looking at the front again. Now position your tracing paper on the paper you want to use for your finished drawing, and start going over all the lines again with your pencil. It’s very important at this stage that you don’t move the paper – you might want to tack the paper and the tracing paper down, just in case!

 
See the thicker black lines, where I’m going over lines I’ve already drawn?

Step four: When you’re sure you’ve gone over every line, lift off the tracing paper.

  
If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a copy of your drawing on your paper, in the correct orientation. Ta daaaah!

Of course, you could scan your image, flip it on the computer, trace it and transfer it that way, but I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way!

So now you know – if you didn’t know this trick, I hope it comes in useful. And thank you Alice (aka @sequinnedsheep) for reminding me of the squirrel and prompting this post!

Heeeeeeeeere’s stupid!

Hello! I’m back! My Etsy shop is open for business again and I’m raring to go!

I’ve was mulling over having a go at a sugarskull stupidcat a while ago, and did a rough doodle:

  
I’m now itching to have a proper go at it, so watch this space! It’ll probably be a larger size than my usual stupidcats due to the amount of detail. And I haven’t decided yet if whiskers will work or not…

And speaking of whiskers, this little chap is almost finished, just needs whiskering and framing:

  
More news when I have some! Hope you’re all fine and dandy out there in the big, wide world. 🙂

A bit of a blatant blog entry…

Bliggaty blaggaty blog! Well, not really, this doesn’t count as a blog, just a bit of blatant self-promotion. Ah well!

Just a quick one… I’m having a sale in my little shop until the end of August, and have taken a whopping $10 of the price of an original stupidcat drawing. That means they’re now only $25, or around 16 of your Great British Pounds.

Grab ’em while they’re hot!