Hutchings and the Provensens

My introduction to Alice and Martin Provensen was via my sister Jo's Milton Bradley Memory Game (which she still owns!), that I loved so much as a kid. We played it so often I knew every image like the back of my hand, including the lovely little illustrations by the Provensens.

I posted a while ago some scans from a favourite book of mine I've had since I was little, Nurseryland Annual 1970 (doesn't that age me?!), that's illustrated by an artist called Hutchings, who was clearly influenced by the Provensens when you start to compare their textures, fine, sketchy linework, and even the forms of some of their stylised people, animals and architecture. Just who the mysterious Hutchings is has been a topic of conversation on a couple of other blogs here and here, but there's not a lot of information out there. I thought a side by side comparison between the Provensens and Hutchings might be interesting.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

I don't like to suggest that Hutchings was nothing more than a copycat, because he is clearly a very talented, inventive artist, but there is definitely a relationship between his style and the Provensens'.

Yet you might also say there are resemblances between the Provensens and Mary Blair, and so on it goes; no one lives in a cultural vacuum, and there's nothing wrong with being influenced by your contemporaries as long as your work is still your own. Perhaps though, this might explain why Hutchings is not better known as an illustrator, because his work is derivative of an earlier style compared to Mary Blair and the Provensens, whose trail-blazing work influenced illustrators for many decades to come.

My own work very much references the past, it's deliberate, and I don't disguise it, but I hope there is enough of myself in it to make it unique and relevant. I think one of the keys is to draw influences from a variety of sources, rather than just a few (and not just other artists!), and to go back to the original sources rather than take your influences from someone else whose been influenced by a particular style. That's rather like a game of telephone where the message loses its meaning and integrity as it hops from one to another, and another.

I'm not here to dismiss Hutchings, since his beautiful, magical illustrations had such a huge impact on my childhood. In his defense, here is one of his most glorious pieces from Nurseryland Annual 1970, which beautifully references the textures and linework of the mid-20th century, whilst also using the bright, contemporary colour palette and style of the late-1960s that extended well into the 1970s. Groovy!

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Sorry Folks!

Whoops! Because I had to transfer my blog feed when I relaunched my site, Feedburner sent my email subscribers a big email update with a squillion posts in it, rather than just the latest one. So sorry - that was a one-off technical hiccup and it won't happen in future!

Have a lovely weekend! :)

A random image of my Sewing Basket pattern because I don't like blog posts without pictures!

Notice Anything?

I have a new site! It was a little sad parting ways with my old blog, I did love it, but it was time for a change. This is still a work in progress. The home page design is temporary, I'll be adding new work to the gallery soon, and my shop is closed for now, while I work on some new products, new packaging for existing products, and new product photos. When I put it like that, it sounds like a lot of work...I might just go and take a lie down...

Something else that's new is that I now have two blogs. I always felt a bit funny about posting too many food-related articles, since most of my subscribers are here for the art and design side of things, so I decided to create a blog entirely dedicated to my cooking experiments, and keep my main blog focused on arty pursuits. So if you're interested in vegan cooking, you might like to take a look at Vegan Jamboree (there's also a link in the sidebar). I rummaged through all my folders of photos the other day and uploaded a whole bunch of food pics, and I'll be posting new recipes as I come up with them. It's actually really time consuming to develop a recipe with accurate measurements, take the photos, etc. I can't even imagine how much work goes into a cookbook!

Here's a portrait that I'm working on. I"m still not sure about what I'll do with her dress; I kind of like the rough linework as it is. If a strong likeness isn't crucial, I like to exaggerate my subjects' features. I did wonder if I'd gone overboard with her chipmunky cheeks, but people assure me there's no such thing as too chipmunky! I just love faces with character. And I don't think I ever posted my finished stop-motion animation experiment, so here it is. It's, um, not very good... My favourite bit is when the bird accidentally knocks the Victorian lady in the back of the head as it flies by - ha!

Violet and Gracie

I've already posted these drawings on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, but why have I neglected my blog?! Reading this article provides yet another wake up call about which baskets to put your eggs in, and makes me feel renewed appreciation for my own little corner of the internet here on magicjelly.com.au, as well as eternal gratitude to the people who still read my blog and newsletter. I think one of the reasons I don't post on my blog as often as I should is because I always want everything to be perfect, which takes time, where as posting on Facebook or Instagram is just so quick and easy. But I think it's important that new content is posted here first, as well as posting content that isn't featured elsewhere. Happily, I finally sorted out my blog feed woes too, so now, whether you subscribe in a reader or by email, all of my graphics appear (in living technicolour!). Hooray!

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So anyway, here are two of my drawings you might not have seen before. The pink lady is called Gracie (once my new shop is open, she'll be for sale, along with other mixed media drawings in a similar vein, and assorted new drawings, collages and gocco prints). I just love drawing on tinted papers using white charcoal for highlights. The other is a drawing called Violet. I thought I'd show you a close up detail too. Some people like to shade using the edge of the pencil, and blend by rubbing, and achieve some lovely effects too, especially on textured papers. I prefer to draw on relatively smooth papers and just use the point of a sharpened pencil, which is basically a build up of tiny lines creating a blended effect. That way you get a fairly fine looking drawing. It means I tend to stay down the hard end of the pencil spectrum, favouring 2b-2h, with only touches of the softer, darker pencils like 6b. Drawing like this is very time-consuming, but it suits the way I like to work, which is quite finicky and fuss-budgety.

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When doing portraits, I try to hit a spot somewhere between lifelike and stylised, so that I'm bringing something of myself to each drawing, and I try to imbue each subject with a unique character and to convey emotion. That's what I try to do anyway! It's amazing how tiny changes can totally change the expression and attitude on your subject's face. I also really love drawing hair, as you might be able to tell. :)

I've pretty much finished my new site, which includes a new shop and gallery, but have a few little technical issues to work out. I'm lucky to have my old friend Julian working on it for me (who built my blog for me), so it shouldn't be too long before everything's up and running. Next I'd like to spruce up my blog a little - perhaps a new header?

Art Paraphernalia

Where ever your interests lie; whether you like to cook, sew, build models, or take photos, or tumble rocks (or climb them!), don't you find that looking at all of your equipment and supplies just makes you so happy? I admit it, I am a total art supply hoarder. I love looking at other people's stuff, so I thought I'd show you some of mine!

So there you are; a little wrap up of some of my art stuff. I hope some of you fellow art supply hoarders found it interesting!

Postcards Sent!

So I had a little giveaway of some of my new postcards and got a fantastic response. Sometimes I wonder if there's anyone out there, still reading my blog. Facebook has taken so much traffic away from independent blogs, which is a real shame, so this is a perfect opportunity to thank you for still being there, reading and commenting and emailing - it means a lot!

Off the little postcards go (I posted them Thursday), some within Australia (all in Victoria, isn't that odd?), as well as the US and South Africa. I've blurred out people's names so they don't know which they're getting, but I thought I'd still post a photo. I wanted to write something different for each one; so someone's getting a list of girls' names that were popular 100 years ago, another is some fascinating facts about moths, another is a snippet of a poem I read recently, a little witticism from Oscar Wilde, an interesting fact about chairs, and my recipe for Green Tea Citrus Syrup - all with a few little drawings. Some of the lovely postcard recipients have beautiful blogs of their own... Rebecca has a gorgeous blog called Needle & Spindle which is dedicated to knitting and sewing and other creative pursuits. I am obsessed with sewing blogs at the moment, so it's lovely to see Rebecca's inspiring posts pop up in my Feedly feed! Natasha's blog, Bamboo Blossom, is also a wonderful record of her creative life, with cooking, sewing, travel, etc, and I think Natasha's made my vegan cheesecake recipe more times than I have! It's really amazing to think that here's someone on the other side of the world making my cheesecake (and doing such a great job of it)! Last but definitely not least is Cadry's blog, Cadry's Kitchen, which is a vibrant celebration of vegan cooking with recipes, cookbook reviews, etc, and everything is so beautifully presented. Another one of my faves! Isn't the blogging community great? I learn so much from the things people generously share on their blogs - always so much inspiration!

This giveaway was a lot of fun, so I will do it again soon. Next time, rather than the first five responses, I'll draw the names randomly so that different timezones won't be an issue. Sorry to the people who didn't get a postcard, but please try again next time!

New Promo Postcard!

So this is my new promotional postcard...what do you think? I kind of like postcards more than regular business cards, they're just more fun, and I think people are more inclined to keep them instead of hurling them in the bin. I'm really happy with the way they turned out!

Boy, did I struggle with writing the spiel on the back. I wanted to say something that captured the essence of my work, but didn't read like an artist's statement, and wasn't written in the third person (everyone knows you wrote it yourself, so why do that?). I wanted it to be clear and concise and not pretentious or boastful, but still positive (after all, I am trying to promote myself!). Urgh, I wrote about a thousand drafts and over-analysed every single word back to front and inside out until none of it seemed to make any sense anymore. *Sigh* I had to get it right since I was having 1,000 cards printed - it's hard to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences!

In case it's difficult to read in the pic, this is what I wrote (some of it I stole from my about page, which is due for a rewrite I think): "I find inspiration in the ghosts of our past; memory, nostalgia, and the things we collect that record our personal stories. Both newfangled and old school, blending digital and traditional media, my work is a bittersweet mix of levity and melancholy. Above all, I hope it is friendly, accessible, and brings people some of the happiness it gives me to make it.  ~ Karena"

GIVEAWAY TIME! I thought it would be fun to give a few cards away. Would you like one? Just email me and let me know if you'd like a postcard, and I'll post one out with a little handwritten message on the back to the first 5 people who respond (no need to email me your name and address just yet - I'll let you know if you were one of the 5 and get your details then). Doesn't that sound like fun? Come on, it's better than the usual stuff that shows up in your letterbox, eg. bank statements and electricity bills.

PS. I'm having trouble with my blog feed. I realised that people were only getting a text preview with no images showing up, so I've tinkered with the settings, but I'm still not sure it's working. It's always disappointing to follow someone's blog and find you don't get any enticing photos in your feed! So if you happen to be subscribed to my blog and do get my pics appearing in your reader or emails, please let me know, I'll be so happy if it's finally working properly!

EDIT: Well that was fun! The five postcards have gone, but I think I'll do another postcard giveaway down the track a little. Sorry if you missed out this time!

Adventures in Surface Design

I thought I'd let you know I've opened a Spoonflower shop and have some of my designs available as fabric. I have a little collection called Lilium, which you can see below, as well as an assortment of some of my other patterns, and I have a few more I'll be listing for sale in a few weeks. (See what I did there? I made the layouts look like plates from The Grammar of Ornament!) Anyway, you can visit my Spoonflower shop right here. I really love designing patterns and have other pattern-related projects simmering away that I'll tell you about later. Patterns! Patterns!! Patterns!!! How are you? I'm so happy about the lovely autumn weather and that daylight savings is over and I finally got that hour back I'd been missing all summer - pity about it getting dark so early though!

Australian Home Journal: Part One

I used to make my own clothes waaay back in the eighties and nineties, but for some reason I stopped. I think I was just much more focused on the result rather than the process and eventually grew tired of it. I've recently revisited my sewing machine and I'm loving it! This time, I'm much more engaged in the whole process and and I'm finding it really rewarding; not to mention all of my past sewing projects were pre-internet so I'm now discovering for the first time all the fabulous resources that are out there - so many great blogs, fabric shops and downloadable patterns - yaaay!

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All of this sewing buzz prompted me to pull out my stash of vintage Australian Home Journal magazines. Some of them still have the dress patterns inside, but I'm more interested in looking at the beautiful covers for now. My collection spans thirty years from the early-30s to the early-60s, so I thought I'd dedicate a few posts to sharing this beautiful cover art with you. Here are the first seven that I've selected, spanning 1932-38; just look at all of those gorgeous dresses! As a bonus, here's a sassy lassy in a sporty tennis pullover from 1932...

Rosalind, Bertie and Lucille

Here are a few more portraits. The first is an ink drawing on a collage of vintage and found paper, and the other two are graphite pencil and watercolour. Deciding on their names is so tricky. I wait until I'm finished and then look into their eyes and think, "Hmm, what's your name?" I hope I got them right!

Some New Drawings

Hi! Here's a preview of some new originals that I'll be listing in the shop in a few weeks' time - some ink and graphite drawings, collages, watercolours and mixed media pictures. My friends Mark and Stevie bought me a beautiful set of Sennelier watercolours in a gorgeous wooden chest for Christmas and I love them so much! I've been feeling very inspired lately, and thought perhaps I'd do a blog post this week that's shameless art supply porn. I love taking a peek at other people's tools and materials, so thought I'd share some of my favourites. By the way, I discovered the best pencil sharpener in the whole world (do pencil sharpeners excite you as much as they do me?) that sharpens white charcoal pencils without breaking - I will share the details.

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I've been doing some quirky portraits - I like faces with character. I also decided to do some portraits of toys because there's not a time in your life when you love a lump of plastic with as much passion, or imbue it with as much personality as when you're a kid and have a favourite toy. Expect more creepy dollies and chubby-cheeked animals!

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