These illustrations were created with the contents of my April Art Snacks box. It has been a while since I completed a proper illustration of my zombie critters, as opposed to a doodle. I have drawn zombie bunnies in any number of compositions and colours but I think this is the first time I have drawn a tower or stack of zombie cats. I used the warm colours (two watercolour pencils and a water based marker) for the zombie cats and coloured the zombie bunnies in shades of blue using different dilutions of ink from the blue marker. The darkest blue right at the top of the illustration is the colour straight from the nib. These were fun to draw. I hope they are also fun to look at.
This was the other art journal illustration I created at the coffee shop when I met up with my local art friends. Again, I was limited by whatever portable art materials I had in my travelling art kit, things that won’t make a mess or require a lot of drying time. I had not drawn zombie bunnies in quite some time so I thought it was time that they made a reappearance. I did the outlining with my trusty micron pens and filled in the colour with watercolour pencils. Although I am not a massive fan of watercolour pencils generally (because I am not very adept at using them) but they do come in handy for drawing on the go. I activated the pigment with my water pens. The process doesn’t replicate the look of actual watercolour but it does the job.
It is not unusual at this time of year, as Summer slowly starts to wend its way into Autumn, to start finding dead cicadas on the ground. Cicadas produce the sound of the summer – a modulating, thrumming buzz like the sound of hundreds of tiny maracas or drum kits. Finding their corpses, therefore, is a signal that summer is nearing its end.
What is unusual, however, is to find a zombie cicada. If anyone was going to find a zombie cicada, however, it was going to be me.
I was collecting in the washing from the line when I spotted a cicada hobbling across the patio. Guessing it was injured, I picked it up. I studied the cicada in my hand and noted that he was missing a leg. I assumed a bird must have tried to eat him. What a shame, I thought, to be missing a leg. My youngest son is also obsessed with cicadas and collects their shed skins so I knew he would be interested in seeing a cicada and especially one who, like our older cat, was missing a leg. But incredibly it was only once my kids were handling the cicada that I realised he was missing more than a leg. He was, in fact, missing his entire abdomen. This cicada was managing to hobble around and climb without having a body. It was the Undead!
As zombie fans, we were all excited to have found a zombie cicada. My kids wanted to keep him as a pet. They reasoned and argued that he stood no chance of surviving without our assistance. I pointed out that he stood no chance on surviving in a house with two cats either. They named him Worf because he liked to cling-on to them. Naming the cicada did their case no good. I refused to adopt the Undead cicada. We left him to go his merry way.
The next day, we found an actually fully dead cicada. My youngest son wanted to adopt that one too. He wanted to go full Frankenstein and see if we could revive it. Things were easier when he just collected their sloughed off skins.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was connected to the old wedding tradition – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I liked the challenge of it really being four prompts rolled into one and the possibility of interpreting it either literally, piece by piece, or connecting it to marriage traditions.
I actually started with the “borrowed” element. I decided to borrow an idea from my kids and asked them for suggestions based on the prompts. One of them suggested an illustration of a bride and groom and one of them suggested zombies so, of course, I had to mash up those ideas and illustrate a zombie wedding photo. My something “old” was my art journal as this was the very last page of my current art journal. The something “new” was the fountain pen I used for drawing because I have only had it for a few months and have not used it much for drawing. The choice of watercolours was the obvious answer to the “blue” part. I certainly enjoyed drawing zombies again but I also think the end result is rather fun.
Our final activity of the summer break was making things from Polymer clay. We have a bit of experience of polymer clay but not much so there was still an element of experimentation. It was completely freestyle so everyone got to choose what they were going to make and how many things they were going to make.
My 13 and 9 year olds must have been in dark, horror fan moods because one created a zombie and one created a plaque that was essentially a body that had been attacked by a zombie. Mayhaps I have been taking the zombie thing too far with them this summer, what with Night of the Living Dead location shoots and all, but I am happy to have some more zombie fans in the family.
My 10 year old is following his older brother’s footsteps and getting into Minecraft so he created a Creeper figure with the clay. My 7 year old decided to make a tiny, adorable bunny rabbit complete with tiny carrots. He also made a bunch of other tiny little things. He’s all about making small things he can easily shove in his pockets – which then easily end up in the washing machine.
I decided to join in too and I sort of fused what my kids were doing, combining zombies and bunnies to see if I could create tiny polymer clay versions of my zombie bunny characters. I can see those ending up in my 7 year old’s pockets too.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbra.”
If you recognise that quotation then you may well be able to hazard a guess as to our first stop on the second day of our family road trip. George Romero famously shot his 1968 movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’ in the environs of Pittsburgh so – as a massive zombie and movie fan – there was no way I could depart the area without paying homage. My top choice was Evans City Cemetery, shooting location for the iconic opening scene.
I have loved ‘Night of the Living Dead’ since I was a wee girl. Back when I first saw it, I simply loved it for the zombie horror aspect and its grotesque moments of shock and horror. It was compelling stuff and set in motion by whole zombie fixation. Returning to the film as I got older, however, I began to enjoy the other layers in the movie: the themes of alienation and identity, societal dynamics, its exploration of the nature of and reaction to fear, its study of inversions, and also the film making with its structure, sense of urgency, camera angles and gritty monochrome, plus its explosive use of the twist. Anyway, you get the idea: I absolutely love the movie.
I will be vague in order to avoid spoilers but the opening scene involves Johnny and Barbra visiting the grave of their father in the cemetery, Johnny teasing Barbra, and them being assailed by a strange bloke. I had the images from this scene fixed in my mind so all we had to do was locate the correct spot in the cemetery in order to reproduce the scenes. I had my DSLR with me and my kids had their video camera so we could capture our pilgrimage in stills and video.
Evans City Cemetery is reached via a winding, uphill road lined with trees which then emerges into the cemetery with a little chapel on the left. While I had no expectation of the cemetery looking spookily spine-chilling, I had not anticipated just how lovely it would be. As a rural cemetery tucked away from the town’s main thoroughfares, it was serenely quiet and glowing in the summer sunshine. It was also immaculately maintained and spacious, with headstones surrounding a war memorial like ripples in a pond. It was actually a really charming place and I felt rather sorry that I was only visiting it for reasons of horror.
It took us very little time and wandering before we found the grave of a chap named Nicholas Kramer. This gravestone is foregrounded in some key shots in the movie’s opening scene hence it being the subject of our quest and also fairly easy to identify. We had turns of being Barbra posing beside the grave, looking anxious and fretful.
Finding the grave that Johnny and Barbra visit – standing in for their father’s grave – was a little trickier since it is only shown from the back with no inscription visible but we used the available clues from wide shots and glimpses of text on adjacent graves to locate the correct one.
Movie pilgrimage mission accomplished, Mr Pict, our oldest son and I had a wander around the cemetery while our other three sons filmed scenes for their very own zombie movie. My 10 year old had even packed zombie teeth in his backpack for just this occasion. He was the director and they took turns at being cinematographer and cast. I like to think Romero would approve of their homage.
PS I just wanted to reassure readers that we were mindful and respectful of the setting and fellow visitors at all times.
The first of two Life Book lessons this week was taken by Donna Downey. The object of the lesson was to work in black and white. I often work with a limited palette including often just working in black and white. I decided, therefore, that I should apply a monochrome approach to a subject I have only ever tackled in colour before: zombie bunnies. Pretty much any excuse to draw my zombie bunnies, I will grab. I used India ink for this piece, diluting in order to create the different tones of grey. It is interesting to see how different the zombie bunnies look when not in vibrant colour. My oldest son declared that they looked creepier, more menacing. My 10 year old said it looked like they were auditioning for a Universal monster movie.
My 6 year old was home sick at the beginning of the week so he was arting alongside me. He decided to use watercolour to paint his own zombie characters, a zombie jungle scene apparently. I love the detail of the lion’s eyeball dangling out of the socket.
This week’s Life Book lesson was taken by Effy Wild and, since the end of the year is nigh, the lesson was essentially reflecting on what we have experienced in 2015, what things we wish to carry forward into 2016, and recording that in a visual way. The exemplar was on a theme of sunshine and roses and reminded me of a lovely piece of stained glass, specifically the panels in the doorways of houses from the 1930s. As lovely as the design was, it just wasn’t me. I, therefore, had to think about my version for a bit and wait for inspiration. When inspiration arrived, it was in the form of zombie bunnies. These wee characters have cropped up time and time again in my artwork over the years so it is probably apt that they should feature in a piece about reflection and development, about progress. I used Inktense block and ink to create it. I wanted it to be vibrant and bright. I then wrote my intentions for the coming year – which arose from my reflection on the year about to end – in gold ink in each of the rainbow stripes. I kept my intentions broad for now. I will generate a list of goals closer to the end of the year.
This week’s Documented Life Project challenge was to use glassine. I had quite honestly never heard of glassine much less have any in my art stash. I, therefore, chose to focus on the phrase prompt which was “windows of my mind” which I chose to narrow down to just being about windows. I wanted to document the fact that this art journal page was created in Halloween week. My art journal page commemorating last Halloween was a collaboration between my kids and I and involved constructing tabs. This year, I decided to do another bit of construction and, since I think about zombies a lot, I decided to create a window crammed full of zombie bunnies.
I used inktense pencils and India ink to draw the creepy old windows and the clamouring zombie bunny horde behind them. The white spaces to each side of the zombies bugged me so I used a brush and watercolour to add some appropriate words. It has been a while since I last drew any of my zombie bunnies so I was glad they appeared in the art journal this week. I have missed them.
I had a boost to the creative side of my ego recently with two people liking my work so much they commissioned me to produce drawings for them. I have not made any art for anyone other than myself and family for well over a year since the whole immigration and relocation thing gobbled up my free time and sapped my creative energies. I have, however, been gradually building in a bit of time here and there to devote to creativity. It was, therefore, a real pleasure to spend a whole lot of time on art last week in order to design, create and complete both commissions. Of course, the house went to wrack and ruin as a result but meh! You will need to forgive the quality of the photography in this blog post. Last week was incredibly hectic so it is actually a wonder I thought to even grab a quick snapshot of the work in progress and the completed work. Suffice to say they look much better in real life than they do in the photos.
The first commission was for a doodled tree frog. I have done other doodle animals before but this was my first frog. It was a really fun shape to work with and the silhouette was so very clearly of a frog using its sticky feet to clamber up something that I had complete free rein to fill it with whatever doodles struck me. I started by sketching out the external and internal shapes. I then started to fill in the interior shapes with lots of doodles, working in different areas so as to avoid the ink running or blotting or my fingers accidentally smudging anything. It was very therapeutic and restful to just sit at a table in a pool of sunlight and doodle away. I aimed to balance out more geometric patterns with more organic ones.
And here’s the finished doodle tree frog:
In my family, we are a tad obsessed with zombies. I have been crazy for zombies since childhood when I first saw ‘Night of the Living Dead’. I have watched everything I can featuring zombies ever since and have read a few zombie novels too. My kids have inherited my love of zombies though, of course, they don’t get to watch those movies or read those books – since I am not as permissive in such regards as my parents apparently were. They play ‘Plants V Zombies’, dress up as zombies and play zombie-themed make-believe games. They also inspired me, a couple of years ago, to take on a weekly drawing challenge whereby I had to draw a different zombie every single week of the calendar year. Emerging from that personal project, I also sold a few zombie drawings. The other of last week’s commissions was for a version of a Zombie Bunnies drawing I sold a couple of years ago. My eleven year old has yet another version in his bedroom. As you can imagine, I took great pleasure in drawing zombie critters again because it has been a while.
I started by mapping out where the zombie bunnies should appear on the paper. I then applied the colour. I work in quite a graphic way with the detail coming from the drawn line so this stage was all about blocking in chunks of colour to create separation and contrast between the members of the horde.
The final stage is the most intricate and time-consuming as it is about using the ink dip pen to add all of the detail of shape, line and pattern. It is these elements that ultimately give the zombies their unique characteristics and personalities but which also tie the drawing together as a whole, unifying the image.
I had a great deal of pleasure in producing these two very different art works. They were both fun projects. It was also a real joy to be justified in devoting that much time, energy and focus into art again. It made me realise how much I was missing art in my life. My goal, therefore, once we move into our permanent house, is to find a light space in the house that I can “borrow” on a regular basis to act as my art studio. Furthermore, if I can find the time in my schedule to allow me to be productive then I might even explore the possibility of actively selling my art again. But that is getting ahead of myself for now.
Thanks for looking.