Painting, drawing & TV: Off the Fence 20th Anniversary

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Happy new year! It has purely been mugs! mugs! mugs! around here lately, but I’m still drawing and painting as ever. To kick off 2015, I’ve got a super colourful painting to show you. This piece was commissioned by the team at Off  the Fence, a TV Production company which celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2014. As part of the anniversary celebrations, I created this A1 piece for the company’s founder, and it is now hanging in the company’s head office in Amsterdam.

Here are some close-ups:

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This painting is an assemblage of everything that Off the Fence is, as well as things that OTF’s founder, Ellen Windemuth, loves. After a meeting with the London team, we came up with a long list of things to include, from images of Ellen’s beloved children and pets, to OTF’s worldwide office locations…as well as a rather tongue-in-cheek quote from a colleague which you can see on the blue banner.  Off the Fence produces a huge range of non-fiction television, and I incorporated many of its flagship productions into the painting (look closely on the TV screens and you can see some popular titles!).

The bright colours I’ve used are not random: the branding of OTF productions is colour coded according to subject matter, and I thought it was fitting to use their characteristic colour palette in my painting. I hope it’s obvious that I had a lot of funw orking on it, because I did!

Congratulations to Off the Fence for their 20th Anniversary! It was fantastic to be a part of the celebrations.

Elephants & Teacups

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Hello! I’ve been so busy working on a big personal project (details coming SO SOON!) that I have had fewer commissioned pieces to share with you. Having said that, I’ve still been taking on projects here and there, and this is one of them. You see, my friends B & C have a private in-joke involving elephants and teacups (and elephants in teacups) and when C asked if I could illustrate it for B’s birthday, I was all in. The joke frankly makes zero sense but I’m all about drawing vintage crockery and sweet-faced animals.

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The piece is felt-tip pen and white pencil on textured grey paper. I love Photoshop, but I also love busting out my pencils and sharpener and getting to choose beautiful paper to put in a frame. I hope you like it, B!

Bhuna’s Beetles: A New Painting.

Hello! I’ve got a new painting to show you, and it features plenty of six-legged beasts!

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So far you’ve seen a lot of beetle photography from me, but it had never occurred to me to put my beetles onto canvas! Luckily, someone else (codenamed Bhuna, a long story in itself) had the idea, and asked me to paint something based on all the photos I’d been taking. We settled on something green, lush and leafy with plenty of details for the eye to explore…and I got cracking. Here are some of the work-in-progress shots I posted on Instagram:

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I had a lot of fun researching imagery for this painting! I often create Pinterest boards for my projects, but they’re usually set to private so that the project remains Top Secret. In this instance I created a public board called Bhuna’s Beetles, so that Bhuna (who is not a member of Pinterest) could keep track of the beetles I was inspired by. Funnily enough, the board got quite a few followers, all of whom must be all confused by the board’s title!

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My aim was to draw beetles that remained true(ish) to nature, and which were stylised as little as possible. However, I did use a generous dollop of artistic license, but as an artist that’s literally in my job description! I’m allowed to borrow patterns and shapes from different species to create insect hybrids not necessarily seen in nature!

I also gave the beetles human eyes with irises because, towards the end of the piece, something felt missing. I realised that the lack of irises on the insects’ faces made them expressionless. Obviously, beetles don’t have human eyes or human expressions, but the addition of little eyeballs gave the painting character and humour…which is what I’m always trying to create in my work.

Bhuna, I hope you enjoy looking at your leafy canopy of beetles! I really enjoyed painting it.

An Evening at Dr. Sketchy’s: Burlesque Life Drawing Class.

Last night I attended Dr. Sketchy‘s burlesque life drawing class at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. I rocked up with a sketchbook, coloured pens, a few friends and high expectations. We did not leave disappointed!

In case you’re wondering what burlesque life drawing involves, think of it as an upgraded life drawing class: Instead of traditional nude models, you get to draw ‘beautiful burlesque performers, bizarre circus acts, and rippling hunks of man-flesh‘! Dusty Limits, our glamdrogynous MC, prowled around the room barking orders and handing out lollipops and cheeky compliments. The approach to drawing was the same as with karaoke: Skill doesn’t matter, but enthusiasm does. It was a really fun way to get back into life drawing.

Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--16Out first model was Violet Strangelove, who appeared on stage in full Minnie Mouse regalia.

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Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--14Above: My drawing is on the right (I can’t resist adding colour, as usual). The sketch on the left belongs to my friend Tom, who I’m more used to seeing with a paintbrush in his hand.

Below: A drawing by my friend Andrew Croskery, who brought some super awesome brush-nibbed pens with him.  Andrew has published a graphic novel, and he’s so very good at drawing comic-style figures.

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Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--03After a while, Minnie took her clothes off. Although she covered up her chest with her huge mousey hands, we did catch a glimpse of her Mickey Mouse shaped nipple tassles. OOH-ER.

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Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--02Drawing above by Tom, drawing below by Andrew.

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Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--17Next up: The gorgeous Frankie von Flirter. With her striking features and tumbling locks, Frankie was a dream to draw.

Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--10Below: A cubist interpretation of Frankie.

Helena-Maratheftis-dr-sketchy--09 Continue reading

Illustrated Recipes: Apricot Muffins & Pumpkin Fudge

Hello! This post is part of my illustrated recipes series. I love making food and I love drawing it, so I figured I should put the two together!

These two doodles were made for two of my friends. On their wedding day (yes, more weddings around here) they asked guests to bring print-outs of their favourite recipes, so that they could begin married life in a …delicious way. Obviously, I wasn’t going to rock up with plain old Times New Roman on printer paper. Oh no. I was going to draw my recipes! I dug through my old handwritten recipe binder and pulled out two old favourites:

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Recipe 1: Apricot Muffins (original here)

Helena-Maratheftis-illustrated-recipe-cards-02I’ve had a lot of practice with these muffins because one of my best friends really likes them, and she ain’t afraid to make requests! Having said that, they’re really really easy to make.

TOP TIP: I’ve always used tinned apricots rather than dried ones. If you live in the UK, go to Sainsbury’s and buy tinned breakfast apricots instead of regular apricot halves. They’re smaller and sweeter and you won’t need to chop them up (unless you want to separate the halves, which I often do).

Recipe 2: Pumpkin and Walnut Fudge Helena-Maratheftis-illustrated-recipe-cards-03

This recipe is a bit more complicated, but I’ve still managed to make it a few times without a candy thermometer. Just go for it! It looks and smells amazing while it’s cooking, and tastes really good when it’s set.

TOP TIP: Do not be tempted to stick your finger in for a taste while it’s boiling – you will melt your hand off! (I speak from experience.)

Enjoy responsibly!

(i.e. don’t eat the whole batch in one go before it’s even cooled properly.)

Hold me closer tiny canvas (aka Little John)

For my birthday,  a friend of mine gave me a bunch of tiny canvasses. I got excited when I saw them, but I also had no idea what to do with them. However, I had a bit of an aha! moment this week. You see, whenever I do big paintings, I always end up with leftover paint which I hate to throw out. In the past, I’ve used the leftovers to paint my flowerpots…but I have now run out of flowerpots. And now? Well now, it’s tiny canvasses to the rescue:

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I love how silly the tiny canvas looks next to my massive portrait of my boyfriend. (Yes, that’s Andy Warhol’s Mao hiding my boyfriend’s face. My Dearest One started to get weirded out by seeing himself hanging on the wall all the time, so we’ve covered him up for the time being.) After I finished drawing on my tiny canvas, It struck me that the man I’d drawn looked kinda like my brother. I’m therefore going to call this one ‘Little John‘.

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The best thing about tiny canvasses is that they’re unintimidating. There isn’t a massive blank space staring at you, daring you to mess it up. It was so easy to slather the hand-sized canvas in paint, and and to pick up my black marker and doodle a face on top. So easy. Sometimes, it’s nice to draw easy things.

p.s. if you’re wondering what this post title is all about, listen here.

The English Summer Breaks My Heart

Hi. The sky is grey today and I’m feeling gloomy. I’ve lived in England for almost a decade, and I love London so much, but every June my heart starts to tremble and long for sun-drenched lands. This weather makes me homesick. I need some good, summery vibes!

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My current solution to this grey-skied homesickness problem is to fill my house with colourful flowers and play Belle & Sebastian as loudly as possible, while making drawing after drawing after drawing. Any other tips would be received gratefully!

Theftypix on Instagram!

Psssssst! I recently joined Instagram, and as predicted, I’ve become a total Instajunkie.  Fortunately, I’ve managed to keep the food shots to a minimum (I swear). I’ve been having a lot of fun snapping at my palette and works in progress, and I’ve posted some of my favourites below.

Come and join me @theftypix!

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Are you on Instagram? Leave your handle in the comments so I can follow you back!

Wisdom Teeth: Pain, Illustrated.

Hello. I’ve been quiet for too long, and this is part of the reason why: WISDOM TEETH. Evil, evil wisdom teeth making my gums look like angry red balloons. I have a history of drawing my way through pain and illness, and this episode has been no exception. Behold!

Helena-Maratheftis-wisdom-tooth-600pxThat’s all from me today – I’m off to gargle some salt water! I should be back to regular programming shortly  and have a bunch of new drawings and photos to share with you. Oh, and, If you get a spare second, please send some good vibes to my miserable mouth!

Life Is Good: Variations on a theme.

Hello! I’ve got more work to show you! These are sort-of-but-not-really new, and if they look familiar it’s because they are. You see, I spent yesterday afternoon playing with Photoshop (again), converting this drawing into a set of stylized images. It’s so easy to get sucked into a Photoshop black hole where several hours disappear – it’s my equivalent of a Playstation 3. No joke.

Helena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-small-pink Helena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-small-stampHelena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-small-pink2Helena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-small-mosaicWhich one’s your favourite? Mine is the blue/purple one with a rubber stamp-like treatment. The last image is a bit cheesy, what with the mosaic texture, but I really love it! It makes me want to touch it! Ha!

LIFE IS GOOD (Oh Yes)

Hello! If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been (whining about being) ill all week. It has not been pleasant. However, there is a silver lining! I sketch a lot more when I’m sick, simply because I spend less time working on front of the computer. So, life really is good, oh yes.

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Helena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-close4Helena-Maratheftis-life-is-good-small-2Drawing is a kind of meditation for me; I get completely absorbed in the activity (which is GREAT because it means I forget about my sore throat and throbbing ears). I’ll often come out of a drawing-trance and be almost surprised at what I’ve made. My miserable sickly self was definitely surprised when I looked down and saw that I’d spelt out ‘Life is good oh yes’. Ha.

This drawing makes me happy. I like the way the floral pattern obscures the text, so that the words don’t jump out at you straight away. That way, you get a nice surprise a few seconds later when you squint and read it. Another silver lining, I suppose.

Dear Snow, Kindly leave.

Hello! I rarely post on Saturdays, but I’m stuck at home with a disgusting cold, and it’s snowing outside. I woke up at 7am this morning to take my delicious flu medicines, and when I pulled back the curtains I got a shock of the cold/ white/ flaky kind. Urgh, thought I, this is awful, I must draw about it. And so I did.

Helena-Maratheftis-dear-snow-smallNow, let us not pretend that this is the finest artistic endeavour I’ve ever undertaken. It’s a messy sketch produced by bleary morning eyes and hands shaky with SNOW RAGE. However, I needed to share it with all of you, especially the ones who might be feeling the same about our snowy springtime friend. Share it with your friends, Londoners, and maybe Mister Snow will take the hint.

p.s. On a lighter note, I joined Instagram today – come and find me! I’m theftypix.

A Spoonful of Sugar: A hand-drawn Illustration.

Hello! I finished this illustration yesterday, and have been eagerly waiting to show it to you. This one is really quite special: It’s a private commission, and is going to be a gift for someone who is unwell and deserves some cheering up! I love the idea that my drawings could make someone feel even a tiny bit better, and I really hope my drawing fulfils its purpose. I’ll definitely be posting this one off along with an extra pinch of good vibes.

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On a more technical note, I really enjoyed going back to my roots with this one – it’s just watercolour and pen on card, with not a bit of Photoshop in sight! I’d forgotten how much I relax when I sit down and work on a detailed piece, with the radio playing in the background. I hope you like it.

Double Dolls: Playing With Patterns.

Hello! I had some free time yesterday, so I picked up a red pen and started scribbling on scraps of paper. I scanned one of the drawings – a doll in a party hat – and went wild on Photoshop. As you can see, I’m a fan of creating repeating patterns and layering one on top of the other. I get really excited when I get to play around with colours and patterns – I guess my retinas really enjoy being bombarded!

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Helena-Maratheftis-double-dolls-small3 Helena-Maratheftis-double-dolls-small2A funny thought: Although red is the colour I wear the most, I hardly ever use it in my artwork. On the contrary, you’ll find shades of blue all over my drawings, but I don’t own a single piece of blue clothing (except for a single pair of electric blue tights). Isn’t that strange? I wonder why that is.

Random observations aside, I reckon the last image would make for some excellent wrapping paper. What do you think?

Be Happy: Good Vibe Doodles.

Here are some good vibes for you:

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Hello! These are some sketches from the last few days. Ironically, I started drawing while I was in a very bad mood. I’ve now cheered up considerably (and I like to think that’s ’cause of these doodles). I’m thinking of turning them into posters. What do you think?