Apologies in advance for the rather narrow and niche audience this second post of the day (what, two doses of verbal effluvium in just one day…?!) this is likely to have any relevance at all for, but for those more familiar with this blog there may be a few among you – not also among the membership of Staines Strollers running club – whom recognise the featured character (see also 1 December 2012 and 15 December 2011 for a little gentle memory-prodding, should it be required…): Mr Ken Saunders, sporting hero of Spelthorne and all round spectacularly good egg. As part of his impressively extensive – and dispatched entirely voluntarily, I think – remit within the local running community, he valiantly leads the warm-up/stretching exercises every Wednesday evening for the Strollers, come rain, shine, midge swarms, or any manner of other emphatically-more-unpleasant meteorological conditions. During the course of this 10-15 minute enterprise, he endeavours to educate us ingrates and ignoramuses in correct muscle-stretching techniques to prepare for the impending run – however, the ‘standing quad stretch’ routinely poses a considerable challenge to his verticality and (arguably) dignity, often entailing some rather protracted hopping about whilst turning through 360 degrees, so I felt this weekly struggle would be perfect material for immortalising in watercolour in honour of his 60th birthday, thus:

(Click on the images to see full-size – ta!)





And for those even remotely interested in attempting this elaborate athletic move, here is how some bloke from Gold’s Gym reckons you should approach it (though there is no mention of it here, ‘some people’ [*ahem*] swear by touching your nose with your index finger – index finger of the hand not holding your foot, that is[...] – to avoid losing balance), and some other science-y stuff that those of a physiologically-savvy persuasion may appreciate.

Have a lovely evening, y’all!

AP x

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Watercolour ‘wildwood’ wedding! (Yeah, try saying that after the speeches…)

The last couple of weeks have amounted to something of a maelstrom of activity, incorporating the completion of several small, private commissions, a masterclass in dummy-book creation orchestrated by the always-brilliant British SCBWI, a Mummy Pollard visitation, a trip to Lowry at The Tate, umpteen birthday/other celebratory evenings ‘out’, and only the merest soupçon of packing (i.e. an assortment of lists has been drawn up, but not so much as a paintbrush has yet actually been packed…) for Cambridge and the Anglia Ruskin MA in Children’s Book Illustration Adventure. As such, the execution of casual doodlings and potential fodder for Illustration Friday submission has been rather scarce, so – with kind permission from the commissioner – I thought I’d share the most recent wedding portrait to have wafted out of the IllustratedbyAmanda studios, on a bluebell, peony and orange-blossom-fragranced summery-wedding breeze, in an effort to counteract the encroaching dank and gloom of (premature, I’d contend) autumn:


The brief was for a flatteringly (i.e. quite minimally) caricatured portrait, with the emphasis firmly on eschewing the ‘cheesy’ and saccharine in favour of something a little more light-hearted – and, if possible, featuring an apparently omnipresent black retriever… Conducted beneath the glowing canopy of an English woodland setting, and framed by a beautifully wildflower-woven greenwood arch against a carpet of bluebells, this must be one of the most idyllic non-church wedding ceremonies imaginable. (And the newlyweds looked so deliriously happy in every single one of the reference photos supplied, that I suspect I was grinning inanely throughout the entire duration of this commission…!). I’ve included a few progress pictures, below, to show how the initial pencil sketch translated, via my trusty lightbox, to final line drawing (rather feint, I’m afraid), with an alteration to render the rather odd-looking dog in the initial drawing a little more convincingly – it amused me no end that I was taking such time considering how best to draw in a ‘photobombing’ retriever (especially one that didn’t actually appear in any of the photos from the day that I’d received, despite what I’d heard about his capacity to intrude on almost every other moment!)


Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to include any of the actual photographs (without being able to seek the subjects’ express permission, to post the same online would have been, at best, rather unfair…) to demonstrate the likeness, but the commissioner assured me that she was able to recognise them both from the final artwork! ;)

I really enjoyed creating this piece, particularly the soft-focus effect bluebell wood in the background, the mischievous photobombing dog, and the challenge of representing the beautiful gossamer-fine material at the sleeves and neckline of the bride’s dress. More weddings, please!! :)

‘Til next time, hope you all have a fab week AP x

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Illustration Friday: that’s LUSH, that is…

Well, actually it’s mainly overdue and one of the lamest pieces of drawing I have produced in several weeks, but in the interests of attempting to retain my seat on the Illustration Friday train (head, hands, feet and all other extremities inside the carriage at all times, if you don’t mind…), I thought I’d post this for last week’s topic, lush, anyway (a quick scan of the topic submissions reveals that there are, thankfully, more than a handful of kindred spirits out there with a similarly wine-based take on the theme. Don’t judge, people…): IF-LushAnd, just because I feel rather wincingly ashamed of this offering – and because opportunities for casual sketching have been slightly limited this week by a current commission (which I hope to be able to share next week, subject to obtaining the commissioner’s permission) I thought I’d throw in a couple of other sketches I did on the previous week’s ‘rescue’ topic:


A rather feeble duckling (in the shallows of the river) angling for a helping wing out onto the bank – it always amazes me how they manage to hop and scramble their way out with their stubby little wings and ungainly feet (almost as funny as watching them slither into the water…).


I didn’t really think through exactly what the top-most, rescuing mouse was perched on in his efforts to snatch his chum from the feline Maw of Doom (looks a little like the lip of a teacup, though this obviously would make NO SENSE) – but hopefully you’ll excuse this significant flaw *cough* and see only the valiant attempt of aforementioned rodent rescuer in the face of certain death (those are some serious claws he’s dicing with…).

While the glorious, sunny weather has been utterly brilliant - and catapulted me back to the blue-skied, tarmac-bubbling summers of my conservatively-spent youth – it has been singularly distracting and has played merry havoc with my watercolour painting, so I’m afraid I have to confess that little part of me is quite thankful for today’s decidedly grey outlook…

‘Til next time, have a great weekend!!

AP x

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The inverted duckling: a solution…

Further to the duckling sketches awkwardly tacked onto the end of my last post, last week I posted a new design on Twitter (one of a couple I’ve been working on for a recent commission) which, if you missed it, looked a bit like this:


Having, pre-emptively (of anyone more observant to the challenges of a duckling’s equilibrium when acted upon by forces exerted by a couple of helium balloons doing so) expressed some concern that perhaps the little chap suspended upside down by his little webbed foot may struggle to regain a more comfortable, vertical (i.e. correct orientation) position on the ground, the wonderful Lynn Adams suggested that his friends may be persuaded to offer some assistance…

This week’s Illustration Friday topic, rescue, practically demanded that I explore this outcome, if only to lay concerned minds at rest that aforementioned small waterfowl was not doomed to spend eternity (or at least the lifetime of a helium balloon – however long that might…?) futilely ‘windmilling’ his stubby little wings in an attempt to plant those leathery feet on the ground again (and no doubt suffering a beast of a headache in the process…):


This, those sticklers for continuity among you will note, is not the same duckling, being suspended as he is by both of his little webbed feet – an even more fiendishly tricky predicament from which to extricate himself than previously posited. However, I thought it was funnier (despite the heightened risk of incurring condemnation from defenders of illustrated animals’ rights…), and has contributed extra height to proceedings, necessitating some further farcical duckling acrobatics – including the wielding of a dangerously sharp and cumbersome pair of scissors (I fearlessly court health & safety-related outrage, too!!). It is, I think it’s fair to say, a rescue attempt fraught with risk of serious injury, possibly death, and certainly the wanton destruction of inflatable party merchandise. However, my hope is that they will all miraculously emerge utterly unscathed from the enterprise – except, perhaps, the know-it-all on the ground whom is here offering his unbidden opinion on the wisdom of attaching balloons to one’s feet… (I think the afflicted party has already arrived at a pretty solid understanding of the flaws in his original plan entirely unaided…)

I had really hoped to be able to colour this one up in time for submission, but I have a deadline looming and – while I do love a good procrastination activity – now is the time to  knuckle down!

Have a lovely day – only one more day until the weekend! Hurray! :)

AP x

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Jayne[y]‘s got a gun (and it’s called Vera…)

It was Marvellous Dave’s birthday last weekend and, following a serious drought of illustrative, er, juice, I decided (at the very latest minute, of course…) to rustle up something Firefly for the occasion:

Jayne's looking a little under-nourished here - and his left hand looks slightly odd not gripping the gun, but I was, in fact, following a photo so (unlikely though it might appear) it is *all true*...

Jayne’s looking a little under-nourished here – and his left hand looks slightly odd not gripping the gun, but I was, in fact, following a photo so (unlikely though it might appear) it is *all true*…

This also dovetailed nicely with one of my presents to him, purchased from the always-brilliant Etsy and the awesome talents of Southampton-based graphic designer, Ben Smith, whose online shop, Bensmind, is well worth a gander if you’re of the sci-fi-appreciating persuasion (or know/live with/are married to someone who, emphatically, is…):

Full cast of Firefly - Serenity. Check out his other brilliant work on his Etsy shop page(s), which includes loads more Firefly designs, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek and an impressive array of other sci-fi-themed poster illustration.

Full cast of Firefly – Serenity. Check out his other brilliant work on his Etsy shop page(s), which includes loads more Firefly designs, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek and an impressive array of other sci-fi-themed poster illustration.

On an entirely unrelated note, it has mainly been raining since yesterday, so I thought I’d also share the following, as this is - as we are constantly reminded by the wits from TV weather forecasting school – lovely weather for them:

duckling1 duckling2




This one is a very rough preparatory sketch – that rather fell of the right-hand-side of the page – for a new little commission I’m working on, although I think the duckling currently suspended upside down by his little webbed feet will need to be amended somewhat, lest I be accused of gratuitous cruelty to small, sketched water birds… (I thought it might look a bit funny and sweet, but feel the end result is mainly just mean…)

ducklingR1 ducklingR2 ducklingR3‘Til next time, whensoever that may be… ;)

Have a fab weekend, AP x

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Too hot to (globe-)trot!

Another sweltering afternoon here in sun-ripened (it is ‘bin day’, after all…) Staines, and I can actually feel my brain cells melting away into a soupy mess of stupidity in this heat. It is with this, admittedly paltry, excuse that I present a vintage illustration from the Amanda archives in lieu of a spangly new drawing for this week’s Illustration Friday challenge, travel:
This ‘cartoon’-type illustration was created as a birthday card for our most excellent friend Steve, just as he and his gorgeous girlfriend, Eliza, were about to embark upon a 7-month globe-trotting Trip Of A Lifetime together. The annotations are really quite specific to Steve, and our friendship (the footwear-related note pertains to an observation once made by the couple that Marvellous Dave and I were wearing identical shoes [a very fine, versatile Merrell walking sandal, as I recall...] – although it actually transpired that, having the very same foot size, we were each wearing a left and right [and right and left] sandal from two almost indistinguishable pairs of shoes… *ahem* – of which I feel, after 5 years, we are unlikely to ever hear the end…), but I hope that at least some of the remaining notes will resonate with other intrepid backpackers :)

I have, in fact, been sketching pages of characters (in my new sketchbook: I am being unusually disciplined about sticking to that resolution…) over the last couple of days, approx. 60% of which I had been trying to train towards answering this week’s brief, but alas, with a stultifying average temperature of about 28 degrees in my studio the results have been horribly smudgy and frustratingly sub-par, so I am reserving any further postings until I have something half-way decent to offer up…

Have a glorious Wednesday, all!

Wilting AP x

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It’s just not cricket…

IF_Protest(…No, but is it tennis/some other identifiable category of sport…??)

A quick Illustration Friday offering in response to the week’s topic, protest. 

Something along tennis-themed lines, inspired by the warm, fuzzy after-glow the collective British public seems to be (still) luxuriating in after Mighty Murray’s Wimbledon triumph last Sunday and its apparent reinvigorated interest in the sport, all thanks – of course – to our glorious leader’s stirring words of recommendation and promotion in The Commons… This chap, while clearly raising some sort of game objection, hardly conjures (as originally intended) comparisons with the heroes of Wimbledon, appearing – as he does – to embody an unholy alliance of characteristics concocted from Mediterranean stereotype, a golfing apparel magazine and some sort of 70′s light entertainment TV programme…



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