A Herbology Lesson

“And remember the delicate wand movement we’ve been practising for the Severing Charm; you don’t want to harm your Bowtr—Mr Scamander, what are you doing?”

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There’s a scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where the second-years are given shrubs with bowtruckles in them, and have to use Severing Charms to get the creatures off. I suspect Newt wouldn’t even need a wand. As opposed to some of his more enthusiatic classmates.

Watercolour on Canson cold-pressed paper, app. 17×22 cm.

Those of you who have followed me for a while will have noticed that there was extremely little art this year – and almost none between May and October. I did a few things, but wasn’t very happy with them; this has by far been the longest art slump I have ever experienced in my life.

A lot, I think, had to do with the class I took with SmArt School last year, paradoxically – in retrospect, I think that one thing it did was to show me how far I was from where I wanted to be, and where most others from my class were, and that added to the creative hiatus because whatever I tried to get to where I wanted to be, I didn’t get there.

Inktober proved to be a welcome ladder out of that slump. I had hoped that it would be, and the outcome surpassed my wildest dreams. The main, huge takeaway of Inktober for me was that I can do art every day. And it was small, quick art that I could pour my soul into, not huge, intricate portfolio pieces that occupied – and frustrated – me for a week or two, as many of my class works have done.

Using music to focus was another thing that has proven wildly successful. I even reorganised my desk to make it easier for me to feel tidy and ready.

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So not even a day passed after Inktober before I whipped out the watercolours again – and I found that somehow, my brain had kept working all these months, even if my hands at not.

Art is incredible – you can level up without playing the game. This isn’t the first time that has happened to me, but it’s been the clearest example of this I have had yet. I knew how I wanted this piece to turn out. In fact, I had wanted my art to turn out like this for more than a year, and was frustrated when it didn’t work. Now, after lying by the roadside for a while, suddenly all fell into place.

Art is a curious thing. I’m glad I have it back again.

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Inktober 2017

My first ever Inktober! Inktober’s rules are simple: Post a piece drawn in ink, every day of October.

Initially, I did try actual ink, pen nib, and brush. After day 2, however, I decided that my inking skills were so lacking that I was in danger of totally frustrating myself, especially after almost a year of hardly any art at all. So I decided to stick with what little comfort zone I had left, and do these pieces in ballpoint pen.

I also had the idea that sustained me throughout this month: I decided to dedicate Inktober to my personal heroes of page and screen – all the film and book characters that have fascinated me in my life.

A couple of days in, I had to ask myself: Do I want to have 31 top notch pieces at the end of October? That was my fuzzy mental idea when I started out, and I had to bury that as early as October 2nd. It was marking season; my desk was buried under a hundred exams. I thought about quitting. Then I decided to make this my personal “DO THIS” project. No matter how busy the day was. No matter how little time you have. No matter how crap the drawing is. Do it. Post it. Inktober is all about forming habits. I wanted to show myself that I could still art.

The only one I missed was 15 – we went to see Bayer Leverkusen play VfL Wolfsburg. In retrospect, I should just have done a scribble in the stadium. Today (Oct 31) I would. Two weeks ago, that prospect still felt daunting.

Here are the results, along with my thoughts and comments on each as I first posted them. You can navigate through them by just clicking on the image that’s open.

 

Inktober has been an incredibly valuable experience for me – over the last few years, with two small and then borderline teenage kids, a taxing day job and sky-high levels of exhaustion, I had a lot of excuses for not being creative. Those excuses had become so ironclad that they effectively kept me from creating for about a year. Even the things I did draw and paint were a huge effort. At times, over the summer, I felt that maybe it was time to stop being an artist. The most frightening thing about that thought was that it didn’t frighten me at the time.

I was totally sure I would never finish Inktober (as with the ill-fated Junicorn I tried one and a half years ago), so I hardly advertised it, and hardly prepared for it. Maybe that was good. It definitely took the pressure off me, and uploading even the pieces that were sub-par in my eyes proved unexpectedly cathartic.

A wonderful asset of Inktober has been the flow of positive vibes I’ve been getting through social media, talking to people about the films and books we love (and even encountering some of the authors – talking to Tamora Pierce and being shared by Guy Gavriel Kay and Tad Williams).

Thank you! <3

More Newt Scamander missing moments

I’m at it again! How I love exploring these missing moments from stories. These two are even mentioned in the movie. expelled_col

Expelled. Watercolour, coloured pencil, and gouache on Etival grain fin paper, 18×28 cm.

The next is one that appeared in my head (and, no doubt, many viewers’) when Newt mentioned to Jacob that he’d worked with dragons – Ukrainian Ironbellies – on the Eastern front during the First World War. So quite naturally, I’ve spent the last few days researching possible locations he might have been stationed, the nature of wizarding involvement in the war, and Russian uniforms before the Revolution.

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“All quiet on the Eastern front”
Watercolour and coloured pencil on Etival grain fin paper, 24×16 cm.

… .really, mum. They’re just horribly misunderstood creatures, Ironbellies.  Pyotr, the Chief Warlock of the Beast Division here in Tarnopol, is a staunch supporter of the Tsar and has named all the dragons after members of the Muggle royal family.  Nikolai is positively sweet. Anastasia can be a handful, though,  but nothing we can’t handle.

Thanks for the woollen socks you sent, and especially for the Hot Air Charm you’ve put on them.

Please give my love to Theseus when you write to him. And make sure Nipper eats properly. He always moults so badly while I’m away. They say we’ll be home by Christmas, so I’ll be seeing you soon.

Your loving son,

Newt

“It – it says here you can only bring one pet?”

Little Newt gets his Hogwarts letter.

One of my patrons suggested that, up to 1908, that passage was actually missing from the official Hogwarts letter, and was only introduced in 1909, after a student had tried to bring two Puffskeins, a Kneazle, and a baby Hippogriff (“He can sleep under my bed; I’ve got him house-trained, he’s no trouble!”) onlyonepet_col

Watercolour, coloured pencil, gouache on Etival grain fin paper, 18×28 cm. Newt kindly modelled by my son (with a pillow over his shoulder – Loki wouldn’t stay put long enough).

“Is that — a Jobberknoll?!”

All right, it’s been a year since the last major obsession, so it’s time for the next, right?

Unlike Kylo Ren, Newt Scamander at least is unequivocally adorable. He’s the dork in all of us. He’s the one that sets Hufflepuff in its best light. He’s the one that team mates feared more than the opposing team, because while I’m sure he was a Chaser with excellent hunter’s instincts, he’d be totally useless if anything with fur or feathers appeared near the Quidditch pitch.

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“Is that — a Jobberknoll?!”
Watercolour and coloured pencil on Etival grain fin paper, A4 size.

Jobberknoll is based on a robin. Newt was kindly modelled by my son. <3

I have at least three more ideas sparked by half-sentences in the movie. Merlin help me.

Newt Scamander

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Newt Scamander. Watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil on Etival fine-grain paper, A4 size.

Prints here!

I’m finally getting the hang of doing detail without overrendering things. This comes as close to the style I want to work in as I have ever come in my life, I think. On to 2017!