Drawing at The Curious Menagerie

Acting on something I’ve learnt on the MA, I arrived at the workshop and immediately began to do a few thumbnails. The idea was to get to know the space a little bit and to consider composition, this is the result:

CMThumbnails_01 CMThumbnails_02 CMThumbnails_03 CMThumbnails_04 CuriousMenagerie_01

Then concious of time I thought l’d start a bigger, more ambitious drawing. When the taxidermists went to lunch I got another chair to rest against and began to measure and lay out the general space. When they all came back I tried to get a feel for the group, all intently working on their squirrels with concentration. There were quite a few tissues, bits and bobs and ‘body-forms’ (that go in the squirrels when they are re-constructed), adding up to a lot of generic shapes that were frequently moved around the tables, so they ended up being just suggested in the drawing. And the space was quite small, so there wasn’t a lot of space to move back from the figures, to get them all in.

The windows and walls are full of interesting vintage objects that would be so good to draw in their own right – I had to try to not get distracted by those! Anyway, although I am concious of it’s myriad of faults – I like the overall feel of this drawing, for the sense of the space and for the figures.


As it was growing dark, I took the opportunity to produce a tonal study of a woman working quietly by a lamp. And another quick study of two figures working with the vintage lamps in the background.

CuriousMenagerie_02 CuriousMenagerie_03

Then, before I had to go I did a few quick studies of the animals and the taxidermists’ hands; moving the animals left right and all over the place, quite rapidly, to get the right amount of stuffing, and to recreate the squirrel with care and precision. Here are a few quick sketches…

CuriousMenagerie_04 CuriousMenagerie_05And this is where I am beginning to think that I am getting an illustrator’s head. You see, as a fine artist I’d say that drawing came out well, or not, that bit worked or that bit didn’t – but as an illustrator I am interested in what this image is telling me.

The larger, more worked drawing tells me that a group of people are sat around and concentrating on doing something with their hands, some craft or other. But it does not tell me that they are creating their first taxidermy squirrel. To do that would require detail at the point of the hands and the squirrels. hard to do when they are moving all the time. So I took some photos and I am going to work on this – see if I can produce an ‘illustration’ of this event. And I am going to try a method that is in part inspired by Quentin Blake (at a lecture he gave as part of Cambridge’s Ideas Festival)…so watch this space….

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