By Ed Sherwood

Since my highest calling in life has been to write or more specifically to document and share through the medium of writing, certain things I have experienced, known and learned in this lifetime, it’s easy for me to forget that I once use to spend a lot of time drawing, illustrating and sometimes painting, what I saw or imagined.

For many years I considered drawing, illustrating and painting a form of ‘training’ for the countless hours I would one day spend sitting attempting to write. The following images, with more to add, are a minute sample of the hundreds of drawings and illustrations I did more than ten, twenty and thirty years ago.

All were done ‘free hand’ without using tracing paper, light boxes, photocopying machines and/or ‘grids’, so when I did copy something (i.e.: a photo in a book), if the ‘original’ was very small, as it usually was, and I wanted to produce a larger illustration any enlargement would have to be an eye-hand-brain co-ordination thing. For a more capable illustrator, and I have seen the work of many more capable than I, including illustrators capable of producing an image (i.e.: a portrait) in less time, it would be a ‘no-brainer’. For me, it was a matter of observation and a lot of practice, patience and perhaps most of all persistence, since the exercise of producing an accurate ‘impression’ of what I saw, felt and/or imagined, was often physically and mentally exhausting. With this being the case, with some exceptions, ‘the joy’ of drawing, illustrating and/or painting, like writing for me, was more in completing something, in having created it, rather than in the process or ‘journey’ of getting there.

In contrast, the joy of ceramic art and design, which I studied full-time at Derby University from 1990-1992, was both in the process and in completing something. This is because I derive more enjoyment from making things. Working in three dimensions and especially with clay, it’s easy to feel directly connected to the earth, and the Earth. It’s also very alchemical and elemental working with base materials, physical elements, chemical reactions and heat, and a lot more sensual. The creativity and skill of designing and making something from a ball of clay spinning on a wheel, and/or by other means, that is both artistic and functional (i.e.: useful), has always appealed to me, and the two years I dedicated to experiencing this remains with me, as does the two (full-time) years I spent at The Institute of Art and Design, in Gt. Yarmouth, nine years earlier, learning graphic design.

Barry Hughes, the college Dean, who was a mentor and friend to me, asked me when I attended the college entry interview “What is graphic design?” I paused for a moment and replied, “Communication. Graphic design is about finding an effective way to communicate something through the media of visual art and design.”

As the expression goes, ‘a picture can say a thousands words’ and it can be a photograph, an illustration, a painting, a sign and symbol. Similarly, a thousand words or less or more, or one, can ‘paint a picture’, and both can effectively communicate something about something else, including the communicator. With this in mind I share a little artwork, from years gone by.

Man’s Best Friend:

When I left my parents house in 1981, at aged sixteen, to begin a two year full time course in Graphic Art & Design at the prestigious Gt. Yarmouth College of Art & Design, I left behind a very much loved family dog called ‘Harry’, who I had experienced a special relationship with. I had rescued him as a pup, by another name, from a cruel and abusive town slum alcoholic ‘owner’, who beat him repeatedly, before I could give him another life in the countryside where Harry changed from a dog afraid of any human contact to man’s best friend. When the circumstances of moving far away from my parent’s house to attend art college did not allow me to take Harry with me, I carried him in my heart and put that love into one of my first pieces of ‘commissioned’ artwork (Fig.1).

Fig.1 The Doberman (1981)

In late 1981, while in my first year at Great Yarmouth College of Art & Design, a student asked me if I would produce an illustration of a much loved dog they owned. Knowing this student greatly missed her dog, living far from her family home while in college, I was happy to do so, and from a passport sized photograph as reference I created an A4 sized black ink drawing, which I then framed. The drawing took several hours to complete and was given shortly thereafter to very happy owner. With permission I made a single photocopy at the time for my illustration portfolio only, and more recently a scan for posterity.

The Silent Comedians:

Although my main calling in life is to document and disseminate what I have learned and experienced about Parapsychology, Extraterrestrial contact and the UFO phenomenon, and the Crop Circle phenomenon, all of which are mostly very serious subjects, and projects, I also love many others, including great humorists, beginning with the silent comedians. Many a Saturday around the age of seven, eight and nine I would take myself, and my younger half brother, to the cinema in King’s Lynn (Norfolk) to laugh away a few hours with some of the greats of silent and talking comedy. Later on, while approaching the end of my first year of Art College in Great Yarmouth I desired to express my love of comedy by organizing a group exhibition, in which I would produce a series of illustrations dedicated to the silent comedians. The first piece I produced was ‘Laurel & Hardy’ (Fig.2):

Fig.2 Laurel & Hardy (1982)

As with the Doberman all of the silent comedian illustrations I did were produced from very small photographs. Back in those days my vision was 20/20 and my brain was like a photocopy machine able to scale up small stuff freehand quite readily, it just took a few hours. Laurel & Hardy was an A3 sized drafting ink pen line drawing with shaded pencil emphasizing. I swear my pen seldom left the paper once I began the line drawing. While the drawing itself went pretty fast paradoxically the periods of deliberation in between took a few hours. Like a ‘butterfly’ dreaming it’s a human being I’m mostly a slow illustrator dreaming of being a fast one.

Fig.3 Harold Lloyd (1982)

The next illustration in the series was Harold Lloyd, which was a combination of black ink and conte crayon (for the ‘blurry out of focus’ background look). It was between A3 and A2 sized, just to be awkward, and framed in a thick smooth silver frame for a slightly ‘art deco’ look. The original portrayed quite a bit more detail including Harold’s hands and the bicycle he was peddling, which the copy machine at the time could not accommodate (Fig.3).

Unfortunately, when several art student friends and potential participants of the group exhibition dropped out, for various reasons, I too had to put my pen down. However, seven years later, after a very long ‘dry spell’ of drawing and illustrating I picked it up again to draw ‘Charley Chaplin’ for a very small portfolio produced to support my application and interview to Derby University, and another two year full time course, this time in ceramic art and design, and studio pottery, which I completed (Fig.4a & 4b). The funny thing was, when I drew ‘Charley’ it had been quite a few years since I had drawn anything and I seriously wondered if I could still draw. Eight hours later I realized it was just like ‘riding a bicycle’ one hadn’t ridden for a long time.

Fig.4a & 4b Charley Chaplin (1989)

My illustration of ‘Charley’ is an A2 sized all pencil drawing produced again from a very small book photograph.

Of the three silent comedian illustrations, the original Laurel and Hardy was framed and sold to a fellow illustrator and friend. I kept a copy for my illustration portfolio. Harold Lloyd was given to a great art college friend (Louis Vettese) who loved Harold Lloyd movies. Charley is the only original of the three I still have.

Endangered Species: The Disappearing Apes

During my last year at Gt. Yarmouth College of Art & Design I made another attempt to rouse the interest of several fellow illustrators and fine artist friends to hold a group exhibition, but again free time restraints from college set projects, and other pursuits and commitments caused the effort to peter out. While it seemed like it might happen I produced three gouache illustrations, of many more planned around the overall theme of ‘Endangered Species’, with the first set about the disappearing apes, which is why each one is only partially illustrated. One of the three, ‘The Plight of the Mountain Gorilla’ is currently mislaid or lost due to multiple house moves since the early 1980’s.

Fig.5 Chimpanzee Experiments (1982)

I wanted to depict the ‘despair’ in the eyes of the disappearing wild Chimpanzee, due to multiple factors of its disappearance in the wild including, destruction of habitat, poaching, trapping and ‘animal experimentation’ (Fig.5).

Fig.6 The Disappearing Orangutan (1982)

With the mountain Gorilla the Orangutan is in great peril of extinction due to human greed and destruction of precious ancestral rainforest habitat for palm oil production. Since the Orangutan is fast disappearing from the Earth it is also disappearing from the illustration (Fig.6).

A Little Humor:

More than 95% of the fine art, illustration and design work I created in my childhood, teens, and for two colleges was given away, sold, stolen and destroyed (mostly in storage). This includes multiple humoristic sketches, ink drawings and a few paintings. However, there is one that I still have a photocopy of that I called ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ (Fig.7).

Fig.7 Mona Lisa Smile (June 1983)

The original was an A3 sized dark sepia coloured oil ‘thumb painting’ (i.e.: no brushes were used to reproduce Leonardo De Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’). I framed it and displayed it for a while before giving it away as a parting gift to a college friend and artist.

Since countless people have asked if Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is smiling or not, the joke is, in my version, is she going to burst out ‘laughing’ or be ‘sick’ from the course humanity has taken since Leonardo’s insights of the future?

Copyright 2001-2015 Ed & Kris Sherwood
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