Advent Illustration: Behind the Scenes

Advent Illustration: Behind the Scenes

This year I created an illustration a day from the first of December until Christmas day – depicting 25 things of what Christmas means to me.

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Day 13 – Making Christmas Cards

The idea came to me when I was illustrating another advent calendar with ‘traditional’ Christmas icons such as snowmen, gingerbread men, bells and angels. When I was making it I thought that despite being the symbols usually associated with the festive period, they don’t relate at all to my personal experience of Christmas. For example, it rarely snows in Yorkshire in December – so snowmen are out off the question! Scenes such as church choirs performing and bells ringing are also very far removed from my own memories of the season.

I made these illustrations to represent what my Christmas is like, and what is significant about it for me. This meant that the drawings often showed spending time with my family, eating a lot of food, and enjoying / enduring the traditions of the holiday.

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The winter cold is an inevitable part of the Christmas season! This was Day 17 of my advent illustration.

My favorite illustrations were Winter Walks, Getting the Sniffles and Making Mulled Wine. I felt that the illustrations were quite strong, and these were all things that happen every December without fail – despite not being traditionally ‘Christmassy’.

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Day 10 – Making Mulled Wine

Each illustration took about 2 hours to complete – plus or minus some time depending on the level of detail. Things such as drawing expressions or trying to create a likeness of a real person took significantly longer, whereas drawing scenes with just objects (such as Day 4 – Mince Pies with Brandy Butter) was a lot quicker.

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Half-way through an illustration – drawing in pen over the initial pencil sketch

I didn’t realise that it would take me this long to draw each picture before I started, which meant that I had to alter my daily schedule to fit them all in. Often I would wake up early before work to get a head start, and got into the rhythm of drawing through my lunch break with a sandwich in one hand and a pro-marker in the other. Before the weekends, I would create a few illustrations in one intense evening and set up my social media posts for Saturday and Sunday so that I could actually have a social life too!

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Working in my lunch break at a cafe on Day 10 – Winter Walks

Due to the time constraints, I went straight into each picture in pencil and then pen without planning the layout on a separate piece of paper beforehand (like I normally do for illustrations and comics). This meant that the pictures weren’t as good quality as I had wanted, and some were experiments that I pulled off with varying degrees of success.

At the start of the project, I chose a colour palette and stuck to it throughout the illustrations. I incorporated the traditional Christmas colours of red and green, but also added warm tones of pink, brown and orange. These colours not only gave off a nice cosy vibe to me, but were also ‘practical’ natural colours which I could use in most situations easily. For instance, the pink and brown I could use for skin, hair and eye colour in the cartoon characters, and the greens and oranges worked well for outdoor scenes.

The only time I broke this colour scheme (by incorperating two blue tones into the mix) was to illustrate Day 8 – My Blue Velvet Dress and Day 15 – The Trip to the Attic, to depict shadow in a more accessible way.

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Keeping the pink and gold from the original colour scheme, and adding dark and light blue

A few days into the advent, my friend, talented watercolour artist Rebecca Freeman, joined in the challenge and drew 25 illustrations of what Christmas means to her. Follow her Facebook art page here for more illustrations!

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Day 16 of Rebecca Freeman‘s advent illustration

Overall, making an advent illustration a day was very fun – although I have to admit there were a few moments I felt I’d bitten off more than I could chew, or wanted to slack off for a night! By the end however I managed to create 25 illustrations, and post all – except one – on time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook each day. Unfortunately, Day 5 was 18 minutes late due to it falling on date night – my bad.

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My  invariably messy desk on Day 23 of the advent challenge

Many thanks to everyone who has liked, commented and otherwise sent me good vibes throughout this process! Your support was a huge motivation to stick to it and finish the project.

Click here to see the full album of advent illustrations on my Facebook page.

If you haven’t already, feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on my art in progress and more pieces. Also keep an eye on this blog for a variety of articles on art and other topics that interest me.

Want to see more of my artwork? See my previous blog post showing my sketchbook in Cambodia.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Big Brown Eyes at the Leeds Zine Fair

Who are we?

Big Brown Eyes is a comic and illustration collective made up of the three Lambert sisters – Emily, Freya and myself. Individually we have been interested in reading and drawing comics for sometime, but in 2015 we teamed up to create our collective, releasing our debut zine Beginnings at the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair that year. Since then, Big Brown Eyes have been touring the UK to distribute our books and get in touch with the comic community from the other side of the stall.

Emily is an award-winning illustrator and commissioning comic artist, who works primarily in pencil and dry ink which she combines with colour and texture digitally. She has self-published two books: Dreamscape and the very popular Four Days in Budapest.

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Emily manning our stall with a little friend

I am a fine artist by trade, specialising in ink and oil painting and pen drawing. I published Cats and Wine last year, a book of funny comics about university life.

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Me in my element i.e. surrounded by artwork

Freya is currently a veterinary science student, soon to become the first Doctor Lambert of the family. Her style is influenced by anime and manga, and having written practically a graphic novel at age 18, she has since published a series of funny How To mini-zines.

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Freya drawing her contribution to Footprint’s zine-in-a-day

 

What is the Indie Comic Scene?

‘Indie comic’ refers to artwork which has been produced by a single artist or small collective, which is printed by the artist or a printing company, and then distributed by the artist or through small publishing houses. The material produced can take any form, from standard paneled comics to narrative or sequential illustration, books of artwork, postcard collections, poetry and collage zines etc. and can feature any subject – superheroes, aliens, cats with many eyes, feminist mantras, adult colouring books, visual dictionaries, species of plants, fan art or abstract art.

Once you start looking for the indie comic community, you will find it everywhere. There are loads of events which go on across the UK including Thought Bubble in Leeds (which Big Brown Eyes will be at next), the East London Comic Arts Fair (ELCAF) in London and Small Press Day which is a pop-up festival in comic shops across the country.

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Three completely different zines which were sold at the Leeds Zine Fair

As an artist or visitor to the indie comic scene, you are instantly part of a community. Whether an established collective, first-time artist or comic enthusiast, there are always people around who share similar interests to you and who are happy to strike up a conversation. Fellow stall-holders I’ve found to be friendly, open and supportive. At the Leeds Zine Fair, we sat next to two lovely independent artists Saffa and Dimitri who had come on their own to brave the day without toilet breaks or coffee. We ended up exchanging wares and opportunities: comic artists understand that collaboration is key, and are happy to promote and support each other throughout the day and beyond.

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A fellow stall-holder chatting about his work to a visitor

Going to festivals such as the Leeds Zine Fair also puts you in touch with all sorts of opportunities which you would otherwise not hear about. For instance, whilst at the fair all of the Big Brown Eyes Collective contributed to a project by Footprint Workers Coop to make a zine in a day. This involved hurriedly drawing on scraps of paper behind our stall and giving it to their staff to print on a massive risograph printer before binding it together. With over 40 contributing artists, the five-colour zine was pretty fantastic and a really cool project to be part of.

Freya also created a card for a prisoner who has been wrongly accused of murder, whilst I made a mixed media piece to contribute to the Leeds Art Library exhibition themed on ‘Identity’.

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Our contributions to Footprint’s zine-in-a-day: my Zine Zen, Emily’s plant pattern and Freya’s unicorn

Due to the indie comic subculture not being very large at the moment (although it is definitely a developing community) the network is close and we often bump into people who go to them regularly, such as Travelling Man who stock our indie comics among others in Leeds, York, Newcastle and Manchester. We have a running gag with the talented illustrator Kristyna Baczynski since Emily always seems to run into her at these fairs as though she is chasing her across the country.

The indie comic industry is not one to pursue for fame and riches. However it has a wealth of other opportunities, including a warm welcome to an inclusive and positive creative community (abundant with dip-dyed hair and badges) and the happy knowledge that our zines are in the hearts and bookshelves of a few other people dotted around the UK.

 

What’s ahead for Big Brown Eyes?

For a sneak-peak of what’s to come for us three:

Emily is planning to continue her travel-journal series as well as create two autobiographical comics in the upcoming year.

I am developing Cats and Wine 2 (yet untitled) which will feature the funny and somewhat harsh reality of gap-years.

• Freya is working on illustrations to make into prints, as well as a collection cute zines based on her veterinary experience.

Big Brown Eyes as a whole is moving forward with its second zine, Myths and Monsters, which will feature a whole host of comics and illustrations from the Lambert trio. For our third zine we will be looking to feature emerging talent in the comic world alongside our own work – but more of that later!

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The BBE Collective in action

What this space!

An Ice Coffee for a Drawing

I have been living in Cambodia for over a month now and have been sketching  happily during my time off. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my oil paints (my luggage allowance was already teetering over the limit) which is a shame since the sunsets here are remarkable, and any other medium wouldn’t do them justice.

Every time I try to find a shady spot to draw to have some peace and quiet, I only need to sit down for three minutes when a tentative but curious child on a bicycle will suddenly appear beside me. After peering at my notebook for a few minutes they will leave, and I will momentarily breathe a sigh of relief and settle down to the next section of detail, when he will be back – only with four friends and a football. They will crowd around behind me (at this point I’m very worried about headlice and am practically bent double over my notebook) fighting for space as slowly more children come to see what the fuss is about. Last week I had twelve children around me, their attention riveted to my drawing despite my growing discomfort, until the original boy finally got bored. The rest of the children followed his example and left me, with a few backward glances, to finish the background of my picture in peace.

By the reaction of the children, I don’t think that drawing is widely practised by adults here – the only paintings I have seen were in the market at Siem Riep being sold to tourists. It is probably another luxury that mainly westerners, with ample time and money, can afford. When I told my host sisters that I studied Fine Art at University they were rather bemused by the idea.

For souvenirs I am giving drawings to my fellow volunteers for the price of an ice coffee, which is 2000 riel (50 cents) and have got a small queue forming already of commissioned artwork. One of these days I’m going to get a caffiene addiction. I’m looking forward to whipping out the oil paints again when I’m in the UK and painting some glossy Cambodian sunsets, pagodas, monks, Angkor Wot, and all of those stereotypical and very-Cambodian icons.

Below are a few of my drawings here. You can see more of my artwork on my Facebook pageEtsy and Twitter @KarisL_.

 

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The pakoda near our village
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View from our favourite WiFi cafe
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The Bamboo Bridge and pakoda in Kampong Cham
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The faces of Angkor Tom
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Buddhist statues and a building inside Angkor Wot
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A sunset butchered by watercolours