Monday, 19 December 2011

Progress on ArtOrder and RWS Call For Entries

Below you can see my latest revised rough for the ArtOrder Levi Challenge. I keep uploading different versions to WipNation in the hope other users will comment, critque and generally steer me towards a better image. So far it seems to be working.

I have to stress these sketches are done quickly and without figure reference. When I'm happy with the composition I shall photograph myself in these poses to guide me for the final pencil work.

In other news the RWS (Royal Watercolour Society) has released a Call For Entries for it's Open Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2012. The deadline is 11th January, I think I can feel a portfolio raid coming on!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Levi Art Order Challenge

There's an interesting Art Order Challenge on at the moment especially if you like medieval gravediggers and walking skeletons.

You can track my progress here. There are still lots of things I need to address in my initial sketches and I'm sure more will become apparent as people comment. However for now I'll post my current version below.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Editorial Illustration for 'Britains Most Admired Companies' Pt 2

Below you can see the finished illustrations. I was very pleased with the end result and once again the concentrated watercolour inks played a significant role in Tony Pidgley's suit. I was able to lay down the tones in his jacket without overly worrying about maintaining soft edges because I knew the second layer of inks would blend the folds and creases together nicely. The pinstripes and highlights were then suggested with pencil crayon.

Tony Pidgley Portrait for Management Today Magazine

'Most Admired British Companies' cityscape for 
Management Today Magazine

The illustrations seemed to print quite dark in the magazine and I'm not too sure why. Next time I'll have to lighten everything a tad in Photoshop.

For more about the process involved to create these illustrations view my previous post here

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Editorial Illustration for 'Britains Most Admired Companies'

Last month I was given the opportunity to work on one of Management Today's most important annual features, their top 10 of the most admired British companies. Put simply, you don't turn these jobs down.

I only had a fortnight to work on two finished illustrations however in reality I had much less because I have to spend three days a week away from my studio. Thankfully the concept was already in place before I started work on the roughs freeing up more time for the final pieces.

The first illustration was to be a portrait of Tony Pidgley, Chairman of the Berkeley Group and winner of this year's 'MT Most Admired'. The brief was to picture him in a cheerful mood with a recent Berkeley Group building development across the Thames in the background. Below you can see the pencil work and the following stage which was an acrylic burnt sienna lay-in. Acrylic under-paintings are starting to become a regular first stage for my watercolour illustrations, especially if they need to be completed speedily. The acrylic stops the pencil work dissolving in wash after wash of watercolour and also pushes through colours laid on top, giving interesting effects such as warm edges to cool colours.

These progress photos are a bit dark, the burnt sienna was more orange brown than dark brown.

The other illustration was a double page spread of an imaginary cityscape (based on Canary Wharf) in which all the top ten companies were represented by individual skyscrapers. The blank boards on each will have the company logo added digitally. The final pencil work was given the same acrylic treatment as the portrait illos but also with a hint of shadow being cast along the bottom of the buildings. Is it sunrise or sunset? I'm not sure but it certainly makes the painting more dramatic. The river in both paintings ties the images together.

In my next post I shall reveal the finished illustrations and how they looked in the magazine which arrived in the post yesterday morning.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

F-Block Portrait - TICK!

Regular readers will know this piece has been on the back-burner for much too long. Thankfully the gentleman who commissioned it has bags of patience which can be very rare these days. I eventually completed his son's portrait yesterday with my increasingly invaluable 'Dr P.H Martin Radiant Concentrated Watercolour Inks'. 

Before you ask, no I haven't signed a sponsorship deal with the manufacturers, however they are incredible. If you like strong watercolours buy some now. I glazed the blue shirt in one application and even then it was heavily diluted. The same goes for the mixing desk (bottom right). There is so much potential for wet in wet techniques I'm uncontrollably itching to experiment.

Another revelation yesterday was white graphite paper. I picked up a sheet from work (I moonlight in an art shop but it's only open during the day so I suppose I'm daylighting?) to see if I could transfer white text onto the finished blue shirt. See below for the results.

The transfer was quite strong so I putty rubbered (erased) the text ever so slightly so they blended in better with the lighting and folds of cloth. Another hurdle overcome, the next time I require reams of text on a dark surface I know just the trick.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Preliminary Sketches For Swindon Montage

Just in case you'd like to see them...

A good insurance policy is to annotate rough sketches especially if, like me,  you suffer from a scatterbrain. They could be notes on colour or style but in this case I wanted to make sure I adjusted the composition before I commenced with the final piece.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Swindon Montage

Many moons ago I studied in Swindon and up until a year ago I was still living there. I can't say the town itself ever particularly inspired me to paint but it does have some interesting features.

For example Swindon's heritage is based on the railways built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (only he could get away with that name) so not surprisingly there is a large statue of the man in the town centre. The old Town Hall is a gorgeous redbrick Victorian beast and one of a few such buildings surviving in the town. Then there are the more modern constructions such as Swindon's solitary skyscraper the David Murray John Tower and futuristic leisure centre dome called The Oasis. Also another statue is the Blondini acrobats, I'm at a loss as to why it was made but it's certainly eye catching. Finally in this long list there is arguably Swindon's most famous landmark and something which 'drives' the fear of God into the petrified hearts of all learner drivers - THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT. Imagine a massive roundabout that feeds 5 busy exits, none of which are governed by traffic lights. Then imagine this monster is actually made up of 5 interlocking mini roundabouts which often have two lanes encircling them. It's ordered chaos and yet I have never seen an accident on it.

Anyway why am I babbling on about Swindon? It's not a habit of mine but I thought you might need some background knowledge before you saw my latest private commission below.

Swindon Montage 30 x 42cm

I was asked to keep this painting simple. Really it is more of a pencil line drawing with a light wash of watercolour at the end. Thankfully the end result ticked all the criteria and I had a happy customer!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Advertising Fun!

Here we have a couple of illustrations I completed for Admap Magazine. I've never worked for the magazine before but they now use an Art Director I know so I was in reasonably familiar territory.

The concept was simple but effective. Advertising agencies are increasingly using games and fun activities to promote their products, this seems to have really taken of online in the last few years. The main illustration was to suggest this by showing a bright and colourful funfair scene growing out of a man's head. The head had to be suitably pensive and grey to emphasize the punchy funfair on top.

Below you can see the main feature, a detail and a spot illustration.

As you can see the style is very different to what I normally produce but it often pays to expand your skills in any walk of life. I'm sure a few years ago I would have struggled to mix pencil, Illustrator and Photoshop and still achieve the same standard.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

F-Block Portrait Progress

Oh! Well done you survived last night. It's good to see you. Oh no is that a claw scratch? Perhaps you should be careful next full moon... you know... just in case.

I've been having a lovely time today, there's nothing better than painting away with the radio on and few distractions. But first let me take you back in time a couple of days to the final pencil and under-painting stage.

Above is the final pencil work on stretched Arches Satin Smooth Watercolour paper.

I decided to try a Paynes Grey Watercolour under-painting. Normally I would got with Burnt Sienna or Ultramarine and always in acrylic, however I wanted to keep the skin tones and background very neutral and also have the option of lifting them out if the Grey was too overpowering.

So finally here is where the painting is at right now. I've very nearly finished the background and 'fleshy bits' really just using four colours (Paynes Grey, Rose Dore, Sepia, Yellow Ochre). With the shirt I've blocked in where the main shadows are going to be. I'll let that dry then glaze over that with Paynes Grey which will hopefully make the fabric soften and appear blue in a restricted palette sort of way.

Slight problem, but a good one to have... I have to start a large editorial commission tomorrow so this portrait is going straight to the back burner along with everything else until mid November.

Monday, 31 October 2011

F-Block Portrait

After quite a hectic month I've managed to find some time to make in-roads on a private commission. Waaaaay back at the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition private view I met a very nice gentlemen named Wilson Cotton. A few days after our first meeting he got in touch with an offer for me to paint a portrait of his son Nick. Turns out Nick is a young DJ who has recently performed on the BBC introducing stage at Glastonbury Festival under the name F-Block and he is making quite a stir on the dance circuit. Click here for his video.

Below you can see my initial sketches based on photographs from his BBC set.

Selected Thumbnail

Detailed Rough

Perhaps you can see in Nick's shirt various bits of text. These are the song titles from his set list on the night.

Tomorrow I'll post the final pencil and the first stages of colour. Until then try and survive the night Muhahahahahahaaaaaaaaa!!!!!
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Reviews Of The Bath Prize

Here are a couple of links for you. Both are reviews of the Bath Art Prize, one by Katherine Tyyrell on Making A Mark (click here), the other by Linda Kasmaty on Swindon Open Studios 2011 blog (click here). Linda's other half popped into the shop I work in part-time yesterday and I told him what had been happening. In almost no time Linda was on the phone asking me permission to do a write up.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tonight the Bath Art Prize Winners Were Announced...

And I was the shocked to discover I received first prize!! Below is the winning piece. You can view my progress by visiting my previous post (click here).

May I say thank you to the organizers of the Bath Prize at Art Ventures and all the judges who had a tough time whittling the entries down. I've just got back from the private view which is a must for anybody who likes art and lives in the South West of England. For more details click here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Elephant & Castle

I have recently completed an unusual commission - artwork for a musical theatre poster. So far in my short career this type of thing hasn't been requested of me so I went into this all guns blazing which possibly explains why I became too excited and stretched an enormous piece of paper to work on. A week into the final painting and I was flagging. Apart from jumping between another project and this one, it was taking an age to get the rich dark tones I was after. When you have a deadline looming and watercolour is your choice of medium this can sometimes be a problem so any normal person would work smaller but not me, I like to make things difficult for myself it seems.

So after grumbling and losing sleep I decided to scan the unfinished painting and drop it into Photoshop for a bit of computer wizardry. I quickly had multiple layers of rich dark colours zapping from my wacom tablet. Something that would have taken days in watercolour was digitally knocked up in an afternoon thus saving me time and helping me reach the slightly (by then) extended deadline.

What have I learned? Plan painting timescales based on the size AND content of the projected artwork. It makes sense that large scale works which contain loose details or light pastel colours are generally less time consuming than those with rivers of dark hues and mountains of details. Also another lesson to keep in mind is Photoshop shop can cover up a multitude of sins, great for illustration, not so great for original art exhibitions.

Rant over, I'm still best friends with my watercolours but now more aware of my limitations when using them.

Regarding the musical, hopefully it will be on stage next year in London. When I get hold of dates I will post them up for all to see!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Children's Book Rally Update

Illustration Rally have posted my entry (above) into their Children's Book Rally Competition. You can view quite a few of the entries and mine in more detail by visiting Illustration Rally.

The finished artwork is watercolour wash on Bristol board then pencil crayon on top of that to flesh out the colours. I then scanned the originals into Photoshop and built up the shadows and highlights using a brush on multiply layers. When I completed the images I placed the speech bubbles using tracing paper and then inked in the text with a fine-liner pen. These were also scanned in, cleaned up in Photoshop and then added to the artwork as a separate layer.

The story is of my own creation based on a boy called Walt and a whale who visits Walt's town to try and get his bones back. You can see the bones in the top image.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Agnes Sloan Memorial Prizewinner!

This was a very nice surprise, I can tell you!!

I have won the opportunity to illustrate a new children's book titled 'Momo And The Totobrats' with Birkbeck Hauxwell Publishing. At the moment I'm waiting for the manuscript to come through and to start liaising with the author which is frustrating because I can't wait to get started.

Now, so far I have managed to avoid posting a photo of myself on the blog (you can see why) but a photo was requested for publicity so I thought I might as well add it here. Perhaps I should add a health warning - 'Beware! Viewers may unexpectedly turn to stone. Chris Dunn Illustration will not be held accountable for masonry side effects, gouging of eyes etc etc...'

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Children's Book Rally

Short synopsis of 'Give Me My Bones Back' by Chris Dunn:

Walt is a small boy who lives in Shacottiby-on-Sea with his mum, his father died in a fishing accident involving a Blue Whale. The story begins with the appearance of a Blue Whale in Shawcottiby harbour who demands to have two bones returned to him. His bones are part of a large monument erected on a cliff top overlooking the town and are very dear to the towns people so they refuse to return them. A stand-off between the whale and the town ensues which last weeks. Walt is the only person who sympathises with the whale and decides to help him. He dodges the local bullies to loosen the bones from their brackets but has to stop to avoid being caught. He fails in his attempt to free the bones but that night there is a storm and lightning strikes the bones popping them out of their brackets and down into the sea. Walt doesn't find out until the morning that the bones and the whale have left Shawcottiby.

The above is a synopsis of a Children's book I have written. I have also finished two double page spreads which are the first four pages of the story. Why have I done this you ask? Because the blog Illustration Rally are holding a competition which ends this Friday that offers the chance to meet with some Children's book heavyweights. All you have to do is enter two DPSs of artwork and a synopsis of the story if it is an original manuscript.

I'm not going to release any of the finished artwork but for your viewing pleasure here are some quick sketches which I used to transfer onto Bristol board when working on the final pieces.

Shawcottiby is an anagram of Whitby Coast, somewhere I have regularly visited since I was young enough to be pushed about in a pram. Whitby's fantastic cobbled alleys and steep cliffs are a perfect setting for any kind of story, no wonder Bram Stoker first thought of Dracula there.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2011 Mini Review

This time last week I visited the private view for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. For me this was a lot of firsts. For a start it was my first private view, the first exhibition in London I have taken part in, my first entry in the competition and the first time I have seen a contemporary exhibition dedicated solely to watercolour.

The standard was very high, I still can't believe I was part of it especially when I saw the exhibition catalogue front cover. However walking around the room I quickly realised there was a distinct lack of figurative work. Maybe a large amount of portraits and such like didn't make it past the initial selecting stage or perhaps figures in watercolour paintings are not fashionable or don't sell? Who knows and who cares!? Next year I'm going for something with lots of figures - not too sure exactly what but there will be humans none the less.

Regarding the prizewinners, John Hunt won 1st prize (a pleasant landscape done in the purist watercolour tradition but not the best in show), Jonathan Pitts received 2nd prize (an arresting atmospheric painting of the river Avon, a worthy winner), Dennis Roxby Bott won the cityscape prize (a cracking name and an equally cracking watercolour similar in style to David Roberts, solid draftsmanship with a superb limited palette) and Philip Ciolina won the vintage classic cover art prize (not a lot of painting went into the piece but it suits the poetry book it will feature on). To view the winners and a much better write up click here.

A few other artists that stood in my opinion were Paul Birkbeck with his The Amorous Newt, David Forster's A High Wind Blew Over The Land, And The Colours Flew (Edinburgh) and Janet Kenyon's Manhattan. I should have taken photos but I'm afraid I was more interested in the free wine!

In other news I'm working on a couple of things which have to stay hidden for the time being, however I will post some of the loose sketches associated with these projects.

Monday, 12 September 2011

'It's Raining, It's Pouring...

I finally completed my RWA entry over the weekend. The final artwork is roughly the size of A4 (29 x 21cm), maybe not the biggest but very detailed. I decided early on to include the rhyme 'It's raining, it's pouring,' in the painting. Below you can see details of where I hid the lyrics.

You might also have noticed that the painting seems very speckled. This was not an effect I wanted so I had to lay over some gouache especially on the old man's face to smooth the colours. I have a few theories as to why the paper speckled so much. Normally this only happens when I'm working very wet layer upon layer but in this case it could have been dust on the paper or more likely the grain was damaged. The piece of watercolour paper was actually an off-cut that had been sliding around in the paper roll packaging for a few months. So note to self be wary of cars, motorbikes, rabid dogs and old bits of watercolour paper.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Failed Sleuth

Here's a quick post for you! A complete break from the norm and I didn't get the job in the end probably because I haven't even begun to hone this style yet but I thought people might like to see it. The image below was part of a prospective commission that offered the job of illustrating a story in a Pulp Detective magazine. Here you can see one of the main characters sat in his office with some of his old boxing memorabilia from his past fighting career.

The artwork is comprised of a watercolour wash, black ink and then pencil crayon to lift some of the colours. I was reasonably pleased with the end result and I'm sure to expand on this style, for one thing I can have some finished art in a day rather than a week, which is a plus!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

RWA Pencils

The Royal West Of England Academy will be holding it's 159th Autumn Open Exhibition in November and December. I was lucky enough to visit last year's and the standard was very high, there was a wide range of styles and media which I surmised was typical of a good open exhibition.

For my entry this year I decided to start a theme of maybe not serious but slightly more 'grown-up' versions of English nursery rhymes. The first rhyme I selected was:

It's raining, it's pouring
The old man is snoring
He went to bed and he bumped his head
And he couldn't get up in the morning  

 I began working up some quick thumbnails (see below)

Then I picked the thumbnail which was working for me, in this case the bottom right-hand sketch. I took the basic idea and worked out a larger sketch without reference. Sometimes it's a good idea to work a composition without reference so you are not overly restricted by the position of a model or prop (see below).

The finished sketch helped me decide most of the details in the room so I was then able to start researching suitable furniture that would suit the atmosphere of the painting which then meant the details in the finished pencil (below) were correct. I also took photos of myself posing in bed (it's a hard life) so that all the creases and folds would look natural. 

All I have to do now is decide on a colour scheme, maybe something cool in hue. Painting starts today so I'd better make up my mind!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Making A Mark

Many thanks to Katherine Tyrrell for featuring my Devizes Market Place watercolour in 'Who's Made A Mark This Week?'

If you haven't visited her blog do it now. However be warned, once you start reading and following links you'll be lost in cyberspace for hours!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My Bath Art Prize Entry has been... err entered

Magpie In George Street
48 x 75 cm
I finally completed this vast painting yesterday afternoon. It was so big I had to work in sections which can be difficult when you want to maintain consistent values through out a picture. The magpies were relatively quick to paint but the windows were challenging (no surprises there) however the part I am most pleased about is the sky. I've always found it hard to create soft almost plump clouds in watercolour but I now feel I'm getting somewhere with my 'cloud technique' which will hopefully develop further.
In my next project I'm not going to be concentrating on white puffy clouds but rather what they produce. Now there's a cliff-hanger and no mistake!!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Devizes Market Place Completed

31 x 45cm

This piece will be joining an exhibition of my past works at Bluestone Gallery in Devizes (a nearby town). The scene is looking past the fountain statues on to the market place (where the cars are parked) surrounded by the wonderful Georgian and Victorian architecture.
I worked from my own photographs, constantly trying to apply the knowledge I gained from James Gurney's instructional book 'Color And Light' knowing that photography never truly captures light as the eye sees it. I added golden halos around the leaves and the tree's cast shadow as well as suggesting reflected light on the underside of the fountain, stonework and over hanging cornices of the buildings in the background. Although it will never be the same as painting plein air I'm quite pleased with the luminosity in the painting, something which watercolour seems tailor made.

At the moment I don't have a date for when the paintings will be on show. I shall post the details as soon as I can. *

* 6 Originals including the above painting are now on show for six weeks from Monday 22nd August at The Bluestone Gallery Old Swan Yard, 8 High Street, Town Centre, Devizes SN10 1AT, 01380 729 589

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Progress On Devizes Market Place

I started off with a simple line drawing then blocked in the tone with ultramarine to re-enforce the blue shadows as it was such a stunning clear day when I took the photos.

I've now started to glaze the colour as well as flesh out the tree foliage.

Hopefully this will be finished by the weekend and I'll have cut a mount and prepared the frame.

In other news I received my invitation to the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition Private View this morning, can't wait!!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bath Art Prize Progress

Here's a little progress photo of my entry for the Bath Art Prize. The detail in some areas is quite intense so it's fair to say I'm taking my time on this one. The deadline has been knocked back to September 27th so I'm taking advantage of this by working on some other things, such as...

ALIEN SPOTTING!!!!!! A mysterious crop circle arrived in a nearby field last week. There's a pub at the bottom of the road so maybe the 'Aliens' pulled in for a swift one (Que X-Files theme music).

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Work on The Bath Art Prize has begun...

The Bath Prize is a relatively recent Art Competition in which anybody can enter so long as you produce a piece of art that features the location (in the city of Bath) allocated to you. The location is different for everybody so the final exhibition of selected works is guaranteed to be varied. It's a great idea and Bath is such a lovely place that I can't possibly resist, all that Georgian architecture, how could anybody?

Below are my first stages for my entry. I was given George Street which is not the most picturesque of Bath streets but certainly offers many challenges. I opted to show both ends of the street in one image because I like to make things difficult for myself. As you can see in the thumbnail and final pencil work I've employed a convex lens effect to bend the straight road and buildings round to achieve this. The magpie is a device to lead the eye along the street and up to the sky hopefully give a sense of depth. I like to think the bird is the same animal just seen at different stages in flight swooping through George St and then shooting towards the sky.

The final painting is going to be huge so I'm going to have to put a lot of hours into this one.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


This week I was lucky enough to be shown (thanks Dad) Katherine Tyrrell's wonderful treasure trove of a blog Making A Mark. Their are so many articles and links to UK based art information that it has been a bit of a revelation. The vast majority of art blogs I know are written from a US perspective, which is by no means a bad thing but it's nice and very helpful to read about things happening in your own country every so often.

I left a comment on her piece about the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and she offered to add my selected painting to her post. To see it click here.

Thanks Katherine!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Selected For The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition!

Hurray!!! I found out while still on holiday that 'Cracked Matador' was selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and exhibition at The Mall Galleries London SW1. The exhibition runs from the 12th-18th September 2011, I believe prizes are given that week then selected highlights of the competition go on tour around the UK Smith & Williamson offices.

'Cracked Matador' 46 x 59cm

I am so pleased to be considered at all, especially with this being my first ever entry. I know of the high standard the competition demands so it's an absolute honour to have my work hanging alongside internationally respected watercolour artists.

I shall keep you updated.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Memories Of The Lakes

I don't sketch from life nearly as much as I should but during my trip to the Lake District I managed to do a rough drawing in my A5 sketchbook of the village I was staying in. The view is the main (pretty much only) street in Hesket Newmarket which boast a lovely post office and most excellent pub owned by the local villagers. On my first night there Sir Chris Bonington was to be seen having a quiet drink, apparently he's a regular.

The sketch was done on a sunny afternoon. Suzanne and I were having a well deserved rest after scaling Carrock Fell. We got talking to some of the locals including a man designed christmas cards of Hesket Newmarket to be sold in aid of charity. He also auctioned the original artwork every year to the same ends.

Needles to say we had a brilliant, if sometimes wet time!

View from the top of Carrock Fell looking back towards Skiddaw. 
We were fortunate the sun chased us back down the hill.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Secure Computing Magazine Cover Pt.2

Apologies for my blogging absence I simply failed to put time aside for a post.

So far I have showed you how I worked on an acrylic under-painting to re-enforce the design and provide an extra layer of colour in the Secure Computing cover illustration.

Following on from that I whipped out my usual watercolours and got painting safe in the knowledge the acrylic under-painting would hold the artwork together while I was splashing about with paints. It didn't take too long to work up the correct values, most of the street scene at the bottom is in opaque gouache.

33 x 25cm