Feeding the beast

Thought I’d write another little post with a bit more information about how I like to work. I always find it interesting reading about how other people approach their work and the thinking behind it!

Hound illustration by Lara Crow

This beast image was an editorial illustration. I often work on these and when I do, the article’s Editor will always give me some suggestions on what they had in mind and what the gist of the article is. We usually then have a brief chat about different ideas and directions. I suggest options and they let me know which one sounds best to them!

I also always ask the Editor for the tone of the piece- I’d hate to approach the subject in a cheery or jokey manner if that would seem too flippant for the article, likewise I don’t always want to draw something too serious or macabre if that wouldn’t suit the tone either. It can be a tricky balance sometimes.

With this particular article, the Editor told me that the subject we were talking about was the absolute worst. All thoughts of a funny fat beast being fed cake were quickly abandoned in favour of a more frightening, hopefully more thoughtful interpretation of the brief. I wanted to get across a primal, instinctive sort of gnawing drive. The gaping maw of a beast seemed to tie into both that hunger and also a nightmarish side that I thought would be interesting.

houndsI started out with some research, looking up photos of wolves and bears snarling and yawning. Mainly to try to get an idea of how their jaws fit together, where the teeth and gums show and where they are hidden by lips or fur.

Although I liked the bulkiness of bears, I decided wolves were closer to what I wanted- being a sharper shape and having a stronger association (at least in my mind!) with folklore and ideas of hunger and nightmares.

Then I started scribbling. Here are a few of the sketches. In good old green biro again! I was starting to stylise the hounds at this point, so there are some longer faces and exaggerated gapes.

hound-sketchObviously this is no great revelation or anything, but I find sketching things the best way to understand, just looking at something don’t seem to cut it as well for me. I think perhaps my brain does some sneaky colouring in around the edges when I’m just looking and sort of glosses over anything confusing!

I liked the sketch on the left a lot, but it didn’t seem hungry enough and looked a little too worried. More like a gasp than a gape! It seemed better for the beast to be looking up, so it was all teeth and mouth.

Using my sketch as a guide, I roughed in the dark lines in Photoshop. I often do quite restrained and smooth linework but this time I was trying to keep it all a lot looser and scruffier (turns out that’s a lot easier when you’re drawing a hairy beast!).

hound-ink

I played around with various backgrounds, but in the end decided keeping it quite simple and having the beast appear from the gloom suited the feel I was going for. But it still needed a little something to lift it.

The spark of light from the eye seemed to be what I was after- though I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to do it! Sometimes just playing around with stuff gives you a new idea.

scary-model Working on this beast was really satisfying and I hope to do some more soon. Who knows, maybe there’s a series or a story in there somewhere…

Luckily I have this excellent (and most terrifying) beastie to draw when I feel inspired. Here she is pulling her best Hound of the Baskervilles face.

The Golden Mario

Steve turned 33 recently and to celebrate this, we had a MarioKart party! Because we are grown ups now… Yeah.

mario-1Getting into the true spirit of the thing, I decided to make a Golden Mario trophy for the winner of the championship. Inspired by this party idea post on Offbeat Home.

Here’s everyone’s favourite plumber being sprayed a lovely gold. I bought the vinyl figure online and planned to just spray him, but the spray didn’t take very happily to the vinyl. I ended up priming him with a couple of layers of watered down PVA glue, which worked brilliantly.

What was less brilliant was that Steve later stepped in the bowl of glue I’d left on the floor…
a nice little reminder to tidy up during your craft projects people!

mushroomsDespite hating actual mushrooms (come off it, they have gills and grow on dead stuff for goodness sake, don’t get me started I could rant about their creepiness all day) I also made some mushrooms.

Look at these little guys in a row! Now that’s the kind of mushroom I can get behind.

I already had lots of paper lanterns, so that was handy. Adding the paper faces and dots didn’t take long. Shame I didn’t have any green ones. Those are obviously the best.

The estate agent who happened to be looking round our flat at the time definitely didn’t think it was weird decor… not at all.

Mags-n-mario

Maggie did not enjoy the party, (despite getting a lot of fuss from everyone) because celebrations got noisy when the trophy was handed over.

She doesn’t enjoy party poppers or people jumping about, but she did rather like the Mario. And the crisps that fell on the floor, which she selflessly helped to clear up.

I’m afraid despite this sad face she pulled, she had to let the Mario go. So long Golden Mario, see you at the next MarioKart Championship!

mario

Papercut commission

the-clawIn December I was commissioned to make a layery green papercut as a present for someone. Weeee papercut! This was good fun to work on, though a little challenging as due to an irritatingly extreme cough, I was ill during the week I had planned to work on it. Wielding a scalpel while coughing violently is not such a good idea I find.

I had to do it all in a bit of a mammoth paper cutting session over one weekend to make sure it was ready in time and boy did that mess up my hand! I virtually had a claw by the end of it. Claw Hand.

papercut Here’s a little cartoon to show you the claw hand. (No, it didn’t really turn green thankfully! But the fingers did start to point in alarming directions for a bit… Yikes.)

I made a gif of the different layers for fun (what? Yes I am very cool and fun). Shame I forgot to take a photo before I glued the door and roof bits in. Nevermind, you get the idea.

The last image is the finished papercut in the cool glassy frame my client found. I thought it worked really well for this kind of design. Hopefully it is looking good and behaving itself in its new home!

I’m glad to say my claw hand has now fully recovered, so if you’re interested in commissioning one of these papery bad boys for yourself or a loved one, give me a shout!

Christmas fair

lamb2Thought I’d write a belated update on what I’ve been up to besides eating too many mince pies and watching Die Hard.

In December I took part in the Made In Surbiton Christmas fair in The Lamb pub which is a bloomin lovely, cosy place. It was extra Christmassy at the time, what with fairy lights, a (fab) band getting people to sing along to songs and the smell of mulled (wine? Mulled something anyway) drifting about. Ooo it warmed my cockles!

I was a little nervous setting up, what with everyone else seeming to know each other and all the locals chilling out in the pub greeting each other like long lost friends- it all made me feel a bit like some damn outsider taking up a whole table of precious cosy room in the small pub! But actually everyone was super-welcoming and lovely!

It was great chatting and seeing some of the neat crafty stuff people are making. Thanks to everyone who came along and said hello- apologies if I sounded a bit gravelly towards the end of the evening, I was starting to lose my voice!

lamb1I always enjoy talking to people at fairs but also find it incredibly tiring! It’s partly that I’m one of those irritating introverted types, and spend a lot of time on the tube so tend to instinctively freeze in horror if someone starts talking to me! But I suppose I’m also just a bit out of practice at talking about my work.

I don’t want to come out with naff cliché answers to questions but I’m also aware that people might not want to stand around listening to a slightly confused ramble about the different things that influence me or how I work! They’re fun questions to answer though. I guess that’s a subject for another blog post.

One more thing to add: I loved that big solid hunk of a wooden table I had at the fair. I loved it so much- look at that grain, I mean, come off it. *Furniture swoon*

New Year toot toot!

tootHey. Hey, did you see this? There’s this new year thing. Pretty nifty innit? This little doodle and I wish you a very happy one! Hooray! Woop woop etc.

Sorry it’s been a while, I was pretty busy in the run up to christmas and then I had a very important appointment with some cheese and biscuits and mulled wine, so that took up a lot of my time, but I’m sure you will understand. I’ll be back soon with some more updates!

Diary of a Headcase book cover

I’ve been wanting to share this for a while: my lovely friend Faiza* has written a book about her experiences following a brain injury she got in a serious car accident. She asked me to do the cover for it and here it is.

Diary of a Headcase cover illustration by Lara Crow

The accident and Faiza’s recovery are not my story to tell, but I thought I’d write a little bit about working on the cover and the ideas behind the image.

Chatting to Faiza and reading bits of the book, I was thinking about the things she mentioned when piecing together life after the accident. I wanted to represent something of that, so there are the odd puzzle piece, a map, letters, notes, books, photos and receipts. (incidentally my desk looks a bit like this, only with more half drunk cups of tea and pencil shavings).

I like the idea that these solid, fairly mundane, everyday objects can give you a window into the more elusive internal life of memories and ideas. I wonder if that’s partly why people find it interesting to look at other people’s bookshelves and desks when visiting? (or is that just me? Oh dear *blush*). Ah no come on, I’m not the only one. There’s that whole ‘shelfie’ thing. Mmm books.

Although we originally discussed a more science-y and crisp design, I wanted to keep this cover from becoming too clinical. I tried to find a warmer, more personal side because to me, this seemed more a memoir than a science textbook (although it does have a lot of scientific discussion and I learnt a lot!). Hopefully Faiza agrees!

Working on it took ages. Dah, I think I need to buy a new computer, this one is getting so slow and chuggy! A few unfortunate crashes and I ended up doing lots and lots of changing something, paranoidly saving the file. Change something else, save it again! SAVE SAVE! Argh!

So anyway, that’s about it from me, why not buy a book from Amazon or Lulu and read more? I can recommend it, it’s a lovely mix of personal story, humour and neuroscience. A winning combo for sure! A donation from the sale of each book goes to Headway too.

*A nom de plume! Dah, I want to be a writer so I can have one of those!

Feeling weird like a wobbly werewolf!

Ah the exhibition is finished now. What fun it was! Thanks to the people who bought prints- hope they are all behaving themselves on your walls!

I’m feeling a bit coldy and wobbly today and what with the storm outside, I thought I’d sit down and write a little post about this wobbly werewolf illustration. He’s one of my favs I think.

Werewolf illustration by Lara Crow Scruffy doodle by Lara CrowHe started out life as most of my work does, as a little scruffy doodle on some scrap paper. Here it is, with some trees which I ended up changing in the final version. Ha- green biro for the win!

It’s not very impressive sounding but I often end up doodling stuff in green biro, for some reason I find it takes the pressure off compared to black. I’m all like, pah, doesn’t matter if this turns out rubbish, it’s just a stupid green scribble. The green is somehow more forgiving and I suppose on some level I hope it makes me think about things more organically. Or possibly I just happen to have that pen lying around a lot.

I wanted this guy to look alarmed. I was pondering werewolves (apparently I do this quite a bit) and how a lot of artwork tends to show people turning into one, rather than one turning back into a person. I was thinking about the moment when the wolf starts to turn back to a human and suddenly knows he’s a monster and looks in horror at his own hands, realising the terrible things he’s done. But that’s a bit heavy, so I gave him some scruffy jorts as well because they make me laugh. I was tempted to make them purple like the hulk, but no, that’s probably a bit much.

Originally I doodled him in a wood, but the more I worked on this, the more I felt it needed to be more open and lonesome, so the cliff appeared, with the jagged forest below. For some reason this is how I imagine the landscape around the castle in Dracula (which I re-read the other week) only probably without the jorts. Haha, jorts.

So yeah, that’s a little bit more info on one of my favourite recent pieces of work: the werewolf. He is available as a print if you like. Or as a rather fetching mirror. I’m sure I’ll do another werewolf illustration sometime soon, they are just too enjoyable!

Exhibition is up!

Smaller-framesPhew! Sunday was a busy day of framing, kerfuffle, pondering heights, wrestling with string and losing the scissors (where are they now? WHERE ARE… oh wait here they are), but the exhibition is finally up!

It will be running from today until 4th August in The Press Room cafe in Surbiton. Seller of lovely cakes and tea (and I believe rather nice coffee too- alas if only I could drink it). A couple of minutes from the station, which is just 20 minutes from Waterloo.*

The Press Room staff were all rather lovely and understanding about me bumbling around, trailing bits of bubble wrap, tape and string and generally getting in their way while they were trying to clear up- thanks guys!

Working

Here’s a picture of me wrangling the pictures up onto the hooks. Yeah that’s a whale cardigan. I am very fashionable.

It’s been a lot of work but great fun. I’m pretty happy with this group of beasties and I hope you get a chance to come meet them!

The framed prints are all available for sale in the Cafe, or unframed through my website shop. Ooo colourful monsters to brighten up your wall!

Give me a shout on Twitter (or email!) if you do pop by, I’d love to hear what you think of the exhibition or if you have any questions about my work. Ok so here’s one more photo from the shop- couldn’t resist putting up one of the lonesome monster, my poster boy!

row

* 20 minutes! Dang, that’s really no time at all, you should totally pop over, maybe get some cake, it’d be ace.