Bicycle – riding life’s ups and downs

“Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”  ~Albert Einstein

Medium: Adobe Illustrator using Graphics Tablet


Journey-planning, discovery and making memories

(Click on image to enlarge)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one
full of adventure, full of discovery
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours seen for the first time
 (from Cavafy’s 1911 poem ‘Ithaka”)

Using the technique of montage, this illustration represents what a journey means to me: maps, discovering new places, new directions & turning points, making memories and always sketching what I find.

Composed of digitally Photoshopped layers of scanned ink, acrylic and watercolour paintings, pencil sketches and photography.

I love making maps. These fictional maps are part of an ongoing mapping and story project, ‘The Ithaka Isles’. Semi-fictional really. The places don’t actually exist, but are partly my memories recreated in another form. Maps and islands are appealing in themselves for the mystique of remote isolation. Tiny dots on the map of the world, and named after the legendary island of bliss in Greek mythology, these Ithaka Isles are a fictionalPacific Ocean playground abundant in riches and splendour. Imagine an island paradise of pristine beauty, balmy days, turquoise blue waters, brilliantly colourful flora and communities full of life. But this lavish beauty is buffeted by contrasting pockets of hazardous landscape, haunted forested valleys, precipitous cliffs, hostile blustery seas and shipwrecked coasts exposed to the violent elements of the ocean. They describe also a history of immigration from all corners of the globe and a unique sense of community among opposites.

The book itself in the image below doesn’t exist yet. It’s still a continuing idea.

The largest map, of Eurekatownship, in its original size is comprised of 12, A4 sheets of paper. I scanned each one and because I had no access to Photoshop that day, I inserted each section into a word .doc and pdf’d it. The name ‘Eureka’ was the actual start of mapping my journeys. I’d just completed a very serious piece of artwork and was wondering what my next project would be. On a walk I noticed the house at the end of my street had been given a name tag ‘Eureka’, which brought back light-hearted memories of living in a town of the same name. Eureka, I’d found it.

Soon after, I came across Cavafy’s wonderful 1911 poem, Ithaka, and the ideas keep growing from there. The sketchbooks represent how the journeys never end – they get renewed as I use my memories again and again.

Many writers use fictional maps to illustrate their storytelling: Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Faulkner, (Tolkein) , Karen Wynn Fonstad (Atlas of Middle-Earth)…..If you’re fascinated by fictional map making follow any of the interesting links below:

Bottled – Savouring Summer

It’s back to basics this week with pen and watercolour. Officially summer’s over for another year, but the warmth is still with us and summer salads remain on the menu, dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon. I’ve created my own labels which connect this illustration with a series of paintings for my cookbook which is in the process of being overhauled.

Duet: Ukuleles at sunset

I thought I’d mark the end of summer in this part of the world with one more play with The Character. A quick one, modifying a background pulled from another project and visiting to experiment with a different colour palette. In this exercise I’m trying to move away from a primary colour scheme and to keep the image simple. It would have been so easy to fill up the background with a playful scene with dolphins, birds,…but the subject would have been lost. It’s more of a challenge to leave things out.