I have always loved drawing from life, it’s the time I feel most like me. And drawing in bad weather conditions is even better. All I can do is battle the weather and draw instinctively. I love that feeling.
Gerry and I got into Olly and Suzi in the 1990’s. They draw together on one sheet of paper, often in Arctic weather conditions, even underwater. Here is a quote about them from the Sunday Times: ‘One is left-handed, the other right-handed, and they draw marks simultaneously on the same page, creating images that are half-found objects, sometimes comic, often beautiful and always with the innate vibration of the wild. They work up-close in the bush, the tundra, underwater, as close as they can get to their subject; and they specialise in predators: lions, sharks, bears, wild dogs, crocodiles, snakes. But there is an added element of danger, of commitment, daring bullishness, circus and adventure. The work has elements of performance and environmental advocacy.’
I grew up in County Durham, in an upside down house (bedrooms downstairs, living room upstairs) surrounded by small woods and farmland. My mum, in desperation to entertain me and my brother and sister during the long summer holidays, would shove us out into the rain to run around in our vests and pants. We’d jump in puddles and stick our tongues out to taste the rain. It was so exciting, especially if there was the added danger of thunder and lightening. My mum had an innate knowledge that kids don’t need many toys, and chucking them out in the rain in just pants is the best entertainment!
I think my love of drawing in wind, rain and snow goes back to those times as a kid. And the rainy beach holidays at Whitley Bay where we sat out in the rain and wind, eating sandy sarnies and playing in the freezing North Sea. Heaven!
Humans were made to live in the elements, and I am as much a sofa addict as anyone, but when I get out in the wind and rain to draw I feel so good. It is good for the soul, it recharges the batteries and I feel good for days afterwards.
I made myself a ‘Draw in the rain’ badge, and put some in my shop, thinking no one would be interested in such a niche interest badge, but much to my surprise, I quickly sold out! If you want a heads up when they are back in stock sign up to my newsletter at the bottom of this post. There are still a few dead birds left, but be quick!
Our family holidays usually revolve around a drawing trip, and in 2017 we went to Iceland to draw Humpback whales from life. I wrote a blog post about that trip here. My partner, Gerry Turley studied Natural History Illustration at the RCA and has always had an obsession with whales. We left London and moved to the windy Northumberland Coast a few years ago, and Gerry has had the opportunity to document in pictures whales that have been washed ashore. I wrote a blog post about the latest one, a humpback, here.
Gerry has made a new ‘Hand Finished Sketchbookzine’ of some of those drawings. It’s available in our shop now, and is a limited edition so don’t miss out. Each one is signed and numbered. He screen printed fluorescent elements on each page, and they really pop against the soft grey pencil work. You could keep it as a zine, or take pages out to frame them.
We opened our online shop so that we could make zines of our drawings, and other printed goodies, it gives us an oportunity to sell the things we make independently. We really appreciate everyone who visits the shop. Thank you.
By the way, Gerry is illustrating a picture book about a humpback whale. It will be out next year, I’ll keep you posted.
Do you draw from life? I’d love to hear your experiences and see your sketchbooks. I am helenstephenslion on Instagram where I started a hashtag called #walktosee. It is for drawings made from life and has nearly 8.5k contribultions so far. I post a selection of my favourites on my Insta Stories each weekend, so it’s a good way to find new followers, and if you follow the hashtag you will find fellow sketchbookers too. Hopefully I’ll see you over there!