Red, Yellow, Black and White acrylic paint. I can make amazing pictures with these four colours, my recent self portrait, for example.
Now enter the enticing colour palette of Crayola with their triple-titled wax crayons. Wow, let me draw in albaricoque, amarillo, scarlet, brun and noir! The oh-so familiar smell of childhood rainy afternoons and suade-soft feel of the paper wrapper are immediately enticing to a thirty-something who just wants to play with art for a couple of hours.
With a cast of nine crayons vs. four acrylic paints and an assortment of wooden lollipop sticks, pins and skewers I crank up the music. I am excited to see how my style of mark-making differs in paint vs. crayon.
Firstly, the painting: two hours, a lot of broken cocktail sticks and one blood blister later, I give you: Tiger.
And now, with a great deal of excitement I put wax crayon to canvas.
I spent my lunch browsing lots of arty blogs after a Google search for ‘wax crayon techniques‘. It is amazing the variety of processes you can put wax crayons through to create different textures and effects. I will be utilising my hairdryer in future art projects! For now though I was curious to see if I could get any degree of intensity and build-up of tone from crayons.
My hands were hot and this made the crayons easier to apply and to get colours to blend. I was really pleasantly surprised that I was able to capture tonal variation and a whole range of interesting, energetic marks.
Both pictures took less than two hours. The crayons were a lot less messier! Once I had sponged black paint off my walls and carpet, I was able to stand back and appreciate both pictures side-by-side.
Can you believe that the same artist did these two representations of a tiger on the same day? It’s the medium that makes the resulting image so incredibly different.
I put the question out to my followers on Instagram, in the form of a poll on my Story: ‘Can a tiger change it’s stripes and still look good?‘
The response was 100% unanimous ‘YES!’.
In conclusion, I am galvanised to try coloured pencils, glass paints, collage, felt tip pens, anything to see how my style translates through different mediums.
Experiment! That was a lesson that I learnt last year when I returned to painting after a ten year hiatus. I discovered that my kind of painting (throw kitchen objects at the canvas!) was so incredibly liberating from my day-to-day controlled work as an illustrator. So every now and again, when the energy feels right, I buy myself a canvas and allow myself to indulge – it’s wonderful! And today, my world of possibilities just got larger.
Last February I was extremely privileged to visit the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I was sat at a huge oak desk with fancy lights and cushioned mats on which to rest the most fragile of tomes. There were two storeys of books all around me and a hushed sense of scholarly reverence filled the room.
A very large box was placed in front of me. This was Christmas, birthday and Easter all rolled into one! Inside the box was a sizable stack of mounted etchings – tiny – but unmistakable … Sir John Tenniel’s signed and numbered etchings of Alice in Wonderland!
My first encounter which Tenniel’s iconic illustrations was a paperback book of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass that had belonged to my mum. Her doodles and scribbles covered the inside and back front cover. It was the only book that I could sit down and read from cover-to-cover in one go.
I adored the Walt Disney version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Tim Burton films too, but for me, Alice in Wonderland’s imagery belongs to Sir John Tenniel.
With biro in hand I collaged body parts from the different characters in Alice universe and created this set of characters: The Paintress, Brian, Aliceone, Three Faces, Magdelane Morrow and Magoose. Why those names … literally the names just come to me as I am drawing! I have a particular fondness for Magdelane Morrow (Mad Hatter meets Alice, meets Tweedledee) and I have adopted her as my website logo.
I am delighted to be releasing limited edition prints of this Alice collection, mounted and framed. More details TBA.
I am delighted to showcase my latest illustrations for Bruno Wineworld in Chongqing, China. The advertising illustrations promote JP Chennet wine alongside iconic Chongqing Hot Pot. Bruno Wineworld (Bruno PR) is bringing French wine to a China market.
I have written an article about the experience of eating Chongqing Hot Pot:
July 2017. It was my first week in Chongqing, in south-west China, and I was asked by an artist what were my initial artistic impressions of the boiling hot megacity. I was giving a presentation about my illustration work and this question was posed during a marathon one and a half hour Q&A session. There were over thirty artists and creatives in front of me. I had to draw in their minds’ a visual metaphor that would not get lost in translation.
Hot Pot was my reply. The translator reiterated my words: 火锅 huoguo. The room erupted with laughter. It’s true, I maintained, in my mind Chongqing is a boiling cauldron of ultra spicy soup or a ‘fire pot’ which is the literal translation of 火锅. It is divided into two sections; two soups of different colours. An aerial view of Chongqing shows the confluence of the Jialing and the Yangze rivers. The green water of the Jialing does not mix with the yellow water of the Yangze river. Two soups. The roads, railway and footpaths all twist and intersect like loose noodles, sometimes more than five levels deep. Once, I looked at my friend’s sat nav and I saw we did a perfect circle down a mountain road in the middle of the city.
Dip into Chongqing and you will be surprised and delighted.
This was to be my first hot pot experience and it was my birthday. We drove to “Hot Pot Mountain”. It was a single track road but as we neared the complex of restaurants we found ourselves in gridlock traffic. I did not know what to expect, but when we finally parked and walked through a number of gardens I discovered that the 鲜龙井(Xian long jing) restaurant surpassed my imagination. There was a large pond area, filled with giant lotus plants that were over two metres high. Tables surrounded the pond, consisting of stone benches and a stone table with a gas stove inlaid in the centre.
There was a box of tissues, a jar of chopsticks, three small cans of sesame oil and some seasonings on the table. As with most restsurants and cafes, there was a bin next to the table to dispose of used tissues. Tissues were used as much for moping a sweaty brow as for cleaning up food mess.
My friends choose a variety of vegetable dishes from the menu. Then the waitress brought a huge metal kettle of tea and some plastic glasses. She soon returned with a metal cauldron, compartmentalised into two soups. The soup in the inner bowl was a white, mild broth and the soup in the outer bowl was red with at least twenty whole chillies floating on the surface. The stove was lit and the hot pot was left to heat up.
My friend showed me how to mix a dip. We poured our little cans of sesame oil into our dipping bowls and then added crushed garlic and vinegar to taste, mixed with our chopsticks. Apparently I had ruined mine by adding far too much garlic.
The restaurant was bustling; trolleys of cut vegetables, meats and deep-fried rice balls were passing our table constantly. A random man was visiting each table trying to sell local corn-on-the-cob that he had in a wicker basket on his back.
Our hot pot soups were boiling and our trolley of cut vegetables arrived. We were going to do a meat course later as a takeaway for my friend’s husband. I was told that there were small fish in the spicy outer soup, but the mild inner broth was vegetarian. Platters of cut lotus root, potato, green leaves, various types of mushroom, fresh and dried tofu and lettuce were laid on the table around the boiling hot pot. I was so excited; does one just dip something in like a fondue and eat it immediately?
The answer was no. The ritual of eating hot pot is a long process. My friend explained that the items on the tables had different cooking times and that there would be various stages to the meal. First, she added a third of the potato platter to the mild and spicy soup. She was most concerned about whether I could handle the heat of the spicy soup. I dipped a bit of lettuce in the boiling red liquid. No! Lettuce will pick up far too much of the liquid! And you are holding your chopsticks too low! You will burn your arm! Literally, for the entire meal, I was getting told off about something, which our other friend found hilarious. Well, when can we eat a slice of potato from the mild broth? Not yet, was the reply. We can add mushrooms, tofu and greens to the soups, but only some!
We didn’t eat for ages. The heat of the hot pot was making me sweat. It was nearly 9pm and dusk was falling, but the heat was such that my hair was wet with sweat. The photos of me blowing out the candle on my birthday cake are hilarious as my face is dripping and I am beetroot red.
The beautiful lotus flower gardens were beginning to be illuminated by lanterns and fairy lights. I took a walk to see how busy the restaurant was (very!) and I discovered that Hot Pot Mountain was illuminated with lights.
Food! I was allowed to take some lettuce from the mild broth and dip it in my ruined dipping sauce and transfer it to my bowl, then eat it. It was a struggle to use the extra long wooden chopsticks and I was very glad that I had no one sitting to the left of me. I remembered one other communal meal where my poor right-handed friend had been elbowed by me throughout the meal.
After winning a bit of potato from the spicy soup I reassured my friend that I could handle the heat. So a ladle appeared and fish were raised to the surface. I was told to take a tiny fish and try it. The fish was lovely, but stripping the meat from the bones was, for me, like operating on a mouse with a couple of screwdrivers.
We cleared the soups of mushrooms, tofu, greens and potato. The hot pot was refilled with water from the kettle, brought to the boil again and a second round of potatoes, mushrooms, tofu, greens and lettuce was added.
We had three rounds of vegetables before resorting to birthday cake. But it was at this point that the hot pot became really exciting. My other friend wanted to cook some meat to take home to her husband. I was asked if I would like to try the pig’s brain, but I was mid-way through eating half a cheesecake with a tiny ice cream spoon so I had to decline. Sliced offal and large squid tentacles were piled unceremoniously into both soups. I had to laugh because whilst one friend had been at pains to follow ritual and artfully place one piece of potato at a time into the soup, this friend just wanted to feed her husband in a hurry.
The soups took on a new ferocity of bubbling and a grey foam appeared on the surface. The smell was quite simply: boiled squid. I ate my cheesecake and watched the cauldron almost froth over. My friend’s worked really fast to skim the grey foam from the surface and ladle the meats into a plastic container.
It was about 11pm and time to pay. During my time in Chongqing everything, from buying fruit at a market to a high-class meal of African leaves on dry ice, was paid for using Wechat on a mobile. Wechat is a social media app, but also so much more. By scanning a QR code in a cafe the user can pay for the meal through Wechat. Or by scanning a fellow user’s Wechat ID QR code they can pay them money or add them to their social media network. Which is how we paid for the hot pot.
Leaving the restaurant I noticed how many families were enjoying the communal experience of a hot pot meal. It really was awesome fun and a sauna in one dining experience.
Photos from 1st March 2018 private view … on possibly the snowiest day of the year!
Braving blizzards, cancelled trains and icy pavements was a fantastic turn-out for the private view of Cluster Illustration Edition III. It is a privilege to be exhibiting with such bright new talent – congratulations everyone!
Happy New Year!!! I am beginning 2018 with more acrylic painting! Last year was such a wonderful rediscovery of my painting skills that I vowed to keep pursuing fine art projects and maybe one day I will have enough canvases to have an exhibition…
Hoo! the owl, with all his flaming energy, ushers in what has already been an exciting first week of 2018. I am absolutely delighted to announce that I am now a member of the Association of Illustrators. My Folio is available to view here.
People are already asking me if there will be an exhibition this year. I can confirm that I will be exhibiting my Portrait series, now eighteen years old! Art has more information about the Portraits.
Thank you for all the wonderful comments and compliments about my annual Christmas card. Every year I have to print more and I enjoy being challenged to produce these festive illustrations. Four years and counting:)
Fourteen hyper-realistic pen and pencil portraits.
The work of Natalie Knowles aged 15-17 at the time.
Predominantly completed in the year 2000, the portraits capture a moment in time.
Works of unbelievable technique, the portraits are a masterclass in mark-making.
It is with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I am exhibiting the portraits in 2018. For the first time ever all fourteen hyper-realistic portraits will be presented in chronological order in one room. They will tell the story of the summer in the year 2000 when my artist studies of Goya and Anton Rafael Mengs evolved into the behemoth portraits of Peter Cushing, David Beckham and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. There are the portraits that are studies in dot patterns and scars: Joaquin Phoenix and Kirk Douglas. There are the final portraits: Russell Crowe (2001) and George Lucas (2002), exercises in fragmentation.
The portraits are exceptional and it is my privilege to tell their story.
The Portraits will be on exhibition at Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich from Tuesday 7th August until Thursday 23rd August.