The London Underground is a neverending flow of interesting faces. These are based on people I watched and recalled afterwards.
An ink sketch of fellow travellers on the beach in Oaxaca.
During a recent visit to Oaxaca I sketched these plants in the courtyard of the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO). It’s a beautiful space where people were working and reading… a couple of sketching tourists fit right in.
I’ve tried my own medicine and coloured another one of the bible stories from the young people’s Bible knowledge book I drew picture for last year. Jesus is having coffee and cake with Zacchaeus and his wife.
The fun part of colouring is that you can rejoice in sofa upholstery that you’d never allow into your own house.
The book whose cover I drew, “Mujeres Situdas: Las Parteras Autónomas en México” is out now on Amazon! Go ahead and buy!
A few details from drawings for a possible education project in Southern Africa! I used to go to a school like this myself and, checking the way kids look, it seems like the school uniform and schoolkids’ hairstyles haven’t really changed.
A Mexican street scene: one of the guys selling toasted snacks, peanuts and grasshoppers (chapulines) with lemon and hot sauce. (In addition to people selling macadamia nuts, creamy pastries, shoeshine services, oranges whole, peeled or juiced, cotton candy etc… and I haven’t even mentioned the textiles or child labour)
This guy was one of the least enthusiastic salesmen I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in African controlled economies.
I’ve got an exciting commission coming up for the Evangelical Lutheran Association for Youth in Finland, Nuorten Keskus: colouring-in pictures for young people based on biblical stories, to form part of a multimedia activity book called “Painiva Jumala”, “The wrestling God”. The book will come out in 2017 on Kirjapaja but they already needed the image for the cover: Jacob wrestling the Angel.
This is a pretty inconclusive and ambiguous story of how an anonymous person challenges Jacob to wrestle as Jacob’s on his way home to reconcile himself with his brother Esau, after making his fortune in the world… His two wives and two slave concubines and eleven children have already crossed the river and then this dude challenges Jacob to wrestle. They fight all night and in the end the only way the stranger can win is by kneeing Jacob in the groin, well, top of the thigh. When they finally introduce themselves, the stranger doesn’t say who he is but tells Jacob that his name should no longer be Jacob, but Israel, ‘he who has struggled with God’. – The theologians have an interpretation about this story representing humankind’s conflicted relationship with the deity, but I found it pretty unsatisfying, thin on motivation.
Nonetheless it presented an interesting compositional challenge: how to depict a wrestling moment where one party has the other by the neck (this is in the book’s title) but neither is obviously winning. And it couldn’t look gay, as I’m assuming that teenage boys are still one of the most gigglingly homophobic groups of people in existence, and the Youth Centre does want them involved too. And it couldn’t just be a mess of limbs writhing on the ground. Many historical paintings of this scene show a pretty boring Graeco-Roman stance with the angel and Jacob grabbing each other by the shoulders, although Gauguin´s angel in “Vision after the Sermon” has Jacob in a headlock. I wanted something with verve and action. A few hours of wrestling videos later (Finnish Olympic wrestling; aikido vs jiujitsu; Californians doing Brazilian jujitsu) I settled for a kind of theolgical MMA: the angel has Jacob in a Brazilian vale-tudo headlock, but Jacob is countering with a vingativa from capoeira.
This, in turn, reminded me of the capoeira song “Foi no clarao da lua“, a showoff song crowing about how capoeira won over jujitsu in a moonlit bout, and goes into the details of the moves used: “No vale-tudo con jujitsu… a capoeira venceu!”.
In honour of the US American Thanksgiving holiday coming up, here’s a sketch of turkeys! And the small boy who was chasing them gleefully.
These two black turkeys came high-stepping down the path like they owned the place. They were not much smaller than the smallest kids playing football on the path, and for a minute I was worried about how the beak vs cheek contact would go. But the Southside Team goalie stepped up and chased the turkeys back the way they’d come with an exuberant series of sideways leaps, as if he was swinging on invisible lianas or vaulting invisible fences. At one point he did go splat on the ground but the turkeys looked at him indignantly and beat a dignified retreat.
Turkeys are called guajolotes in Mexico and are one of the few animals to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica. Provecho!
La Sociedad Latinoamericana de Agroecología, SOCLA, held their fifth international conference in Argentina in October… and Development Cartoons was there to do the graphic recording of the session on Scaling-up Agroecology with the good people of ECOSUR, Mexico. Graphic recording means drawing ‘notes’ on a live session, expressing the things being said in images for everyone to see. This graphic was drawn live, capturing the feedback contributions from the brainstorming session.
Life drawing with a proper model, plenty of time and a choice of materials is a welcome change from my normal practice of dashing off line sketches of passers-by after studying them for ten seconds… Here’s a sample. She’s drawn on A3 and scanned on a dinky A4 scanner, with a few technical fixes applied (with very limited success) to the horrible scan line in the middle.
From the sketchbook: Do these featherballs look like chickens? No. They look like fluffy knots. Plus, they produce delicious fresh eggs and do the work of a compost. My views on the marvels of backyard chickens are expounded here!
This month sees Development Cartoons in action in Turkey. Here are some photos from the end-of-project festival of ‘Start with Sports‘ in the delightfully named city Batman. 400 project-participant kids had to be entertained and edified and I, with Eija and Cihan on the team, ran a series of 20-minute sessions for them on ‘Drawing sports’. We used stick figures to draw action poses. The sprogs behaved admirably well and produced some expressive football, basketball and badminton drawings.
To my great satisfaction Naïma (who asked me to illustrate her wedding invites) has reported that “The invites have gone out and have been delighting everyone. My parents burst out laughing upon seeing them, and they are apparently a hit with kids. Thanks again!”
Here’s what the final product looks like:
After struggling for a long time with how to get watercolours into a digital medium I’ve acquired a new scanner for the purpose – an Epson V37. According to illustrator lore this is slightly less great than the truly great Epson V600 – but on the other hand it weighs about two kilos less. So now I’m looking forward to tinkering with the settings to get all those pale subtle washes onto the screen!
Here’s a test scan from the sketchbook.
My Inkscape illustrations for the ‘Social Inclusion through Sports‘ project’s summer festivals are done and printed! Here’s a pleasing photo of what it looks like in real life. The good people at Sports Inclusion have printed eight of these.
The vector graphics are turning out nice… smooth as a pleasant workout. This pilates image is one of a series for the Social Inclusion through Sports programme’s end-of-project festivals, to be shown on the signs around the festival areas. These graphics can be blown up to the required size – a meter square – without looking pixelated.
For how many minutes can you hold the plank position?
My most recent commissions have been to produce training and publicity materials for the EU project “Start with Sports” (full title ‘Technical Assistance for Supporting Social Inclusion through Sports Education’) in Eastern Turkey. The enthusiastic people at ‘Sporla Basla’ are involving kids, teenagers and young adults in games and sports with elements of cooperation, self-awareness and self-confidence, consideration and even CV writing. It’s been a pleasure to draw for their calendars, training materials and the Disabled Inclusion and Healthy Families projects.
I think development through games and sports is a great idea. (The Finnish NGO LiiKe Ry do something similar in Tanzania!) I’ve seen at first hand how people can flourish when they get good at something physical – in my case, I’m talking about the Brazilian martial art capoeira. With games you can really cheer up people, give them self-confidence, remind them that they are valuable, give them a space to make friends… an excellent base for the bigger development goal of a healthy, ingenious population who demand their rights!
For the Sports and Inclusion illustrations I was able to travel to Diyarbakir where the project HQ is, and see at first hand who is involved. I’ve lived in Turkey before but hadn’t been to the eastern parts. I gave a capoeira workshop to a motley crew of Inclusion through Sports enthusiasts ranging from nine-year-old girls to some Korean martial arts practitioners asking questions like “Doesn’t anyone win??”. It was a challenge but life’s not supposed to be so easy, eh?
You’d think that someone lounging in a hammock on the beach would stay still for more than five minutes. Not the case. My drawings of friends in hammocks ended up as express sketches – croquis – live drawing done with very little time.
But once they moved and messed up my portrait I could still work on the ropes and knots.
Hammocks define the outermost points of the person inside… it’s as if they wrap a plane around limbs and protrusions which makes for fun drawings. There’s something early-90s-computer-graphicksy about them.
And you get to feel like you did something creative on holiday.
This sketch was inspired by some hairdressers we interviewed in 2012 in Mirerani in Tanzania. Mirerani is a frontier-flavour mining town – the origin of all the world’s tanzanite, a precious stone. Our partner organisation was finding out about the social impacts of the tanzanite companies – and small-scale miners. Our interview with some women at the hairdressing salon turned into a major streetside spectacle.
Seven Survivor is a Tanzanian band who play the urban music mchiriku. This is a sketch from a gig of theirs in November 2013. (Another famous mchiriku band is Jagwa Music.) Mchiriku is a frenetic genre based on high-octane staccato drumming. The rest of the instruments and the rapping seem almost secondary to the drumming, which sounds as if the drummer is on speed; or as if he’s anticipating the end of the world any second and is trying to fit in a lifetime of drumming into a few short minutes. The pace and intensity of the drums ebbs and flows but never falls below ‘feverish’. It’s a rhythm that you can only dance to by jumping up and down, but you’d have to do that very quickly – almost vibrating! – to keep pace with the drums. The band also featured a lethargic mini-Casio keyboard player; a rapper (the lyrics are political and worth getting into), another percussionist using sturdy sticks on a small coffee table, and a guy shaking home-made maracas made with nailed-together bottle tops. Here’s a link to one of their gigs. And the main man – the drummer – was in some sort of trance with his head thrown as far back as possible. You’d need to really be at one with the flow to manage to keep that level of intensity going for hours.
“Start with Sports” (Technical Assistance for Supporting Inclusion through Sports Education) is a project for improving living standards and future opportunities for children and youth, funded by the EU and Turkey, running in three locations in South-Eastern Turkey. I illustrate their training and promotional materials.
These illustrations were for the brochure on Healthy Families – taking a family-level approach to healthy habits and exercise together.