Cover design for Victoria’s Lost Children

Victoria's Lost Children | © Natalie Knowles ArtI am delighted to reveal the cover design that I have just completed for Victoria’s Lost Children. This is a children’s book, written by Dr Stephen Curran. The book is a collection of seven short stories based on the lives of children in the Victorian era. I have completed illustrations for each of the 10,000-12,000 word stories that cover the plight of child sweepers, seamstresses, mill workers, river workers, coal miners, match girls, and those in domestic service.

The short stories include the following titles: The History of Johnny SweepFlorence Bovington Goes EastThe Farley MillThe PigsKing CoalThe Canaries and The Maidservant’s Secret.

Click here to read more about Dr Stephen Curran’s fiction and screenplays.

 

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Alice in Wonderland inspired character illustrations

Alice set one | Natalie Knowles Art © 2018

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.

Alice set two | Natalie Knowles Art © 2018

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.

 

Advertising illustration to promote JP Chennet in Chongqing

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:

Boil the Soup | Natalie Knowles Art © 2018July 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.

Preparing the Dip | Natalie Knowles Art © 2018

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.

Dipping the Potato | Natalie Knowles Art © 2018

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.

Natalie Knowles

 

Carollers in a Snow Globe – Christmas Card 2017

Christmas Card 2017  | © Natalie Knowles 2017I am delighted to reveal my illustration for my annual Christmas card. I get the most positive feedback and comments from friends, family and followers about my Christmas cards. This support inspires me to keep drawing. This is the fourth year running that I have produced a Christmas card and I really hope that it fulfils expectation. The conversation about the subject of the card began in the summer! Carollers in a Snow Globe is inspired by my friend Katy, who asked me to draw a snow globe. The Victorian-style carollers reflect the theme of my commissions this year, where I have undertaken several period projects.

YHA (Youth Hostel Association) Christmas card 2017

Merry Christmas YHA | © Natalie Knowles 2017

The YHA (Youth Hostel Association) commissioned me to design a Christmas card. The illustration represents UK YHA hostelling culture including the beautiful York and Ilam hostels and Christmassy backpackers.

It is always a delight to work with the YHA and I look forward to continuing our six year relationship.

Natalie’s work with the YHA

YHA logo

Natalie has been collaborating with Sheringham YHA on a wide variety of art projects since 2011. The hostel staff and Natalie have worked together to create murals, host annual exhibitions, and devise decorated objects as part of the Crab and Lobster festival. The painting of the beach hut style phone booth and games room mural have added a bit of coastal fun to the hostel. In 2014 Natalie designed the wall art in the entrance hallway and reception area. This was subsequently painted by another local artist, Colin Seal.

In 2013 Natalie held her first exhibition as part of the hostel’s annual Open Day. On this occasion Natalie exhibited her coastal photography on canvases. This included a range of local photography and a collection of photographs that Natalie had restored from her family’s archive. The 2014 exhibition was a series of vibrant printed illustrations, showing weekend events in Sheringham. The 2015 exhibition showed the LibertyIII YH361, her father’s traditional wooden crab fishing boat. It was based on Natalie’s and her father’s collection of photographs which Natalie turned into original illustrations annotated with text showing the career of the boat. In 2016 Natalie’s exhibition coincided with Sheringham Carnival and told the story of a typical Sheringham Carnival Queen. Also in 2016, Natalie was commissioned by the YHA to create a series of branded cards, two of which were for the YHA’s charity: Breaks for Kids.

YHA Breaks for Kids logo

YHA Promotional Postcard

YHA Promotional Postcard by Natalie Knowles

I was approached by the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) to design a promotional postcard. The brief was to represent the different environments where you would find a youth hostel in the UK: coastal, country, mountainous and urban.

The postcard is available to purchase in every YHA youth hostel in the country.

Natalie Knowles

A presentation in China

On Thursday 27th July 2017 I gave a presentation to over thirty artists and creatives in Chongqing, China. The venue was Testbed 2, a converted factory which now houses creative businesses. I showcased three years worth of illustrations based on my home town, Sheringham. The reaction was incredible. The audience were amazed and intrigued by Sheringham’s carnival, the Viking festival and the Lobster Potty weekend.

I gave a thirty minute presentation which was followed by an hour of enthusiastic questions. The main comment of the evening was that my love for my home town was palpable and this emotion is abundantly clear in my artwork. Fellow artists, Alex (the owner of Testbed 2); Jizong, a talented oil painter and Songkang, a fellow illustrator, said how refreshing it was to see an original artist and true creative in an industry where there is so much imitation and replication of other artists’ styles.

My sincere thanks to Yishi Fu and Bruno PR, Anna and team, for organising the event. Special thanks to Yishi and to Dora for being incredible translators on the night.

I must also thank Myke Joyce and Cate Tooke, a Sheringham-based folk duo, for supplying local music. The songs are: ‘This is my friend’ (written and performed by Myke Joyce, produced by Ervin Munir), ‘Billy Boy’ (written by Steve Jackson and performed by Myke Joyce and Cath Tooke). Ervin Munir has written, performed and produced ‘The Return’ and ‘Fall Apart’.

The Album ‘Chilled Lobster 01’ was released in 2015 by Rock the Lobster, who run an open mic evening twice a month in Sheringham. The album and tracks are available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Visit http://www.rockthelobster.com for more information.

Read more about the presentation here: A presentation in China part 2

The University of Brighton press release about my visit, read more.

Natalie Knowles

The Carnival Queen is now a book!

carnival_queen_cover | © Natalie Knowles 2017(The cover image is a link to Amazon where you can preview and purchase The Carnival Queen)

In 2016 I had an exhibition of illustrations based on the story of a small-town carnival queen. In fact, this is a story that I had been promising to write for 11 years! My best friend and I had dreamed this story up, embellishing it with anecdotes from our teenage years.
Now, I am delighted to be able to tell my friend that I have written the story and it is illustrated with the pictures from last year’s exhibition.

The Carnival Queen is available to buy in paperback or download for the Kindle from Amazon.

This is a link to the paperback of The Carnival Queen on Amazon.
This is a link to the ebook of The Carnival Queen on Amazon. Suitable for Kindle, tablet and mobile devices.

Victorian London Fantasia

the subsalians go down to sea at greenwich | © Natalie Knowles 2017

The Subsaliens Go Down To Sea

This image riffs on the maritime and astronomical heritage at Royal Greenwich, London. Tall ships embarking on perilous journeys across the oceans, blown by the trade winds and guided by the stars. What strange creatures lurk in the depths? I represent the parallel between deep sea and space exploration with the submariners … and hint at what mutants might live at the bottom of the River Thames!

A Windy Day On The Garden Bridge

A Windy Day on the Garden Bridge by Natalie Knowles

It is not the swaying of the wobbly Millennium Bridge, but rather it is the Spring blossom that is caught in the wind on the Thames in Victorian London, 1884. The Garden Bridge spans the river from Bankside to St Pauls and the City of London. Brave cyclists on Penny Farthings struggle against the same breeze that propels sail-boats up the river to the docklands.

New Year’s Eve in London, 1884

New Year's Eve in London 1884 by Natalie Knowles

This is the first illustration in the Victorian London Fantasia collection. It is New Year’s Eve in London, 1884. There is masked ball in a crystal palace overlooking Westminster. The theme is fancy dress. Inspired by the illustrations in the Victorian issues of Punch periodical, this collection foregrounds fantastical characters, caricature and all the whimsy of London pre-1900.

London Victorian Fantasia

London, 1884. There were reports from the astronomers that the Earth was apparently revolving widdenshins; shadows were growing; the measure of time was ineffective and the Greenwich Meridian Line (which had marked the start of all things) was the beginning and end of nothing.

The Thames Submariners searched the bottom of the riverbed but found only the reflected stars and moon laying in the mud. Mutated sealife marched on the Thames estuary and submarines were launched to defend London itself from Subsalian invasion.

Penny Farthing bicycles were the most precarious contraptions to ride across the Garden Bridge on the Thames. A high wind funnelled up the river, bringing a swell from the sea. Blossom was stripped from the trees and white sails were full as the unusual gale whipped through London. Promenaders held on to their hats, their hair and each other! The peasouper murk of the industrial factories and squalid Thames sewage was blown inland, to Henley, Staines and Windsor.

The year continued strangely with Parliment insisting that people keep the measure of time to quantify the crazy dark and light periods that fell upon London without routine. Curiouser and curiouser still were the new people that walked among the Londoners. Dressed for Steam; dressed for carnival. One day, it was decided that this year simply must end and a New Year’s Eve party was planned for seven dark periods time.

The Crystal Palace was the focus of the celebrations. The magnificent glasshouse overlooked Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment. The master clocksmith had manually cranked the hands of Big Ben (by means of a widdenshins bike) to read Midnight. The masqueraders danced through the darkness; were they real feathers and fur?

Fireworks, to symbol the time when the Houses of Parliment was nearly blown up. Fireworks like a billion years of starbursts in one eye blink. No one had set off any fireworks …

Natalie Knowles