Winner of the London Art college 2013 competition…

My name is Margaret Orchard. I am writing this having just learnt that I have won the LAC Competition for 2013. I am absolutely thrilled to have won and would like to congratulate Alexandra for her delightful depiction of her cat “Boris” which was awarded runner-up. Looking at this year’s entries, the standard was amazingly high. It astonishes me that there is so much artistic talent about.

I thought you might be interested to learn a little more about me and the inspiration behind my entry entitled “Purple Moment”.
Most of my art is self taught. I love reading magazines about art and read factual art books like novels. I have now accumulated quite a library! My love of art comes from watching my mother produce the most beautiful pictures when I was young. When I was ill she would sit on my bed and draw to keep me amused. Hers was an exceptional talent and I have inherited her love of art.

At school I studied art at A-level gaining an A-Grade for work in Life Drawing, Still Life and Composition. I also studied art as a main subject at Teacher Training College but here my skills were more useful in helping me design posters, worksheets and games for teaching purposes rather than individual pictures. Once my two children arrived I had little time to draw so it wasn’t until about five years ago that my love of art was rekindled, when I was given a set of paints as a present at Christmas. I joined a local art group, which meets every week in my village hall and since then I have not looked back. I love to learn new techniques and try them out myself. This is when I discovered the London Art College. I am a reluctant driver so attending day courses any distance away was out of the question but the London Art College, with its superb selection of distance learning courses, has provided me with expert tuition from the comfort of my own home. My first course was on Pet Portraits with Melanie Phillips. I had previously shied away from pictures of animals but my daughter became involved in working with animals and bought an adorable rescue boxer dog and I found myself wanting to draw him whenever possible. It was during working for one of the assignments for this course that I had to do one using coloured pencil. I really had no idea how versatile coloured pencil had become. Realising that my work was lacking in techniques I enrolled on the coloured pencil course with Julie Douglas and now at long last I am able to add colour to my graphite drawing which is the medium I love the most. I had not used coloured pencil since my school days and marvel at all the different techniques you can use with them whether dry or wet.

If I had to choose my favourite subject it would be anything botanical. Whilst visiting an Open Garden last year I was able to photograph one of my favourite flowers – the Iris. I always carry a camera with me and take as many shots as possible from different angles. Then I put them on the computer and crop them until I have the angle and size I want. I usually have one copy in black & white, enlarge areas where it is difficult to see all the detail and make a copy of the picture in pixels to give me a better idea of the colour ranges. When I have all this information to hand I go about doing a thumbnail sketch of the design. I have no idea exactly how long each piece takes but it could run in to weeks of work. Because I enjoy what I am doing so much time is irrelevant.

Well done to all those who entered the 2013 competition. I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing through the vast array of wonderful pictures. Well done to Alexandra for her lovely picture of “Boris”. Thank you to the London Art College for your guidance and inspiration and thank you to all of those who voted my picture as the winning entry. I am delighted!


Graphic Design Student artwork…

Rachel Morrison has just started the Graphic Design Art Diploma course after already completing the Children’s Book Illustration course and currently studying its follow on course too! Vanessa Weaver, the Graphic Design tutor, emailed us a piece of Rachel’s artwork to showcase here on the blog. Vanessa has really enjoyed viewing Rachel’s work, we all agree that the standard of finish is excellent!

Vanessa Weaver said ….”Rachel has put together a super set of illustrations for a tourist brochure. Although restricted to pen and ink, she has considered tone effectively to bring good contrast to each scene. Her compositions are strong, with good use of a focal point in each and surrounding detail is kept to a minimum. I am really pleased with the way Rachel has used contrasting tones to depict forms, such as placing a light toned object against a darker toned one. In this way she has eliminated the need to rely on outlines…”

Congratulations on your artwork Rachel, we look forward to seeing more of your work over the coming months.


Illustrating Children’s books students amazing story….

An amazing story from one of our Illustrating Children’s books students Jacqui……..


A few years ago I was lucky to be given the London Art College Illustrating Children’s Books course by a good friend. I love working through the course, even if I have been ridiculously slow at it. Yet seeing everyone else’s work on the forum was inspiring and also daunting. As much as it is something I have always wanted to do I could almost feel my dream fading daily. With three small children finding the time always seemed impossible; my head is full of ideas but barely get a chance to put them down on paper!

Instead of concentrating on my course work, and feeling overwhelmed, I started to find just five minutes each day to doodle. It was incredibly therapeutic! A year ago a lady I hadn’t met before saw me drawing and loved what I was doing. She said I should open a Facebook page for my art. So I did. Not for selling but just so I could play around with my art (never having tried different mediums before) and share the results…good and bad, to receive feedback.

One of my old singer/songwriter neighbours liked what he saw and asked me to draw his album artwork for him. Which was a real pleasure to do. One of our other old neighbours, another singer/songwriter saw the album cover and said she wanted to talk to me…

Katherine Crowe has been an inspiration to so many people over the past year or so. She has terminal breast cancer, and is allergic to the usual treatment, having suffered anaphylactic shock twice from trying chemo. And so is trying to find an alternative treatment to help. She says she is ‘ten months past her dead date’ and yet still manages to produce records that make it into the top ten of the singer/songwriter download charts on iTunes, and, this is where I come in, get a children’s book published in record time!

At the beginning of the summer holidays Katherine came to see me with a story she had written when her children were little. It was a dream of hers to see it published and said she had looked for an illustrator in the past but couldn’t really find what she was looking for. Since then her 10 year old daughter, Becky, drew her interpretation of Denzil the Mouse. Katherine asked me if I would be interested in illustrating her book for her! Absolutely, I agreed nervously.

It was an incredible, and fast!, journey. With Becky’s drawings there was no need for us to work on developing Denzil; I just needed to do all the illustrations. I was a graphic designer in a previous, pre-children life, so Katherine also asked if I could bring the book together too.


Now, having never illustrated a children’s book before (nor having completed my course!) I had to learn all about the layout, expectations, illustrate it and get it ready for the printer. During the summer holidays I had three children at home, and one growing quickly inside me. It took a couple of weeks to agree how to illustrate Denzil – pencils, pastels or watercolour. Using Katherine’s story I laid it all out (in InDesign) and worked out where Becky’s pictures fitted and what was missing. Then I drew full size pencil mock ups to show Katherine.

Thankfully she loved them, and was excited to see Denzil finally coming to life. At the end of the summer holidays, Katherine ended up in hospital again, and it scared me into making sure we got the book finished, quickly.

For three weeks, just as the holidays ended and I needed to start school runs, and after school activities again, I worked hard on Denzil. It was quite tough at times; the baby was getting bigger and was kicking the drawing board just as I was trying to paint; I wasn’t spending much time with the kids or my husband, yet it was all worth it. My children would look at it and say “Wow Mummy, they look amazing!”

It felt like, in the end, that we managed to create a book in just three weeks. I had to get all the pages ready for the printer too, and we still had to get the ISBN number. To see her book published Katherine funded the first publishing run herself, having set up ‘Rabbit is Strong’ publishing. Somehow she managed to sweet talk the powers that be into getting the ISBN numbers to us within 24 hours, and then everything went into the printers hands.


Denzil the Mouse was published last week with a book launch, and signing, in Waterstones in the Isle of Man last Saturday. I have yet to see a copy but the feedback I’ve had is that it’s great and all the kids love it.

Sadly Katherine has been in hospital again, but is still fighting back. She’s a strong, fighting lady, who gets things done! It was a real privilege to illustrate her book for her, not only making one of her dreams come true, but also one of mine. She has another book for me to look at too, which is more exciting…now we know what to expect!

Look for Denzil the Mouse online, you can view the official Facebook page >> , The official Website >> he’s available to buy on Amazon, or through shop to shop transfer with Waterstones, from the Isle of Man store.


Alexandra’s write up about Boris My Bengal……

I was really over the moon to receive runner up in the LAC Competition 2013 for “Boris my Bengal”
My name is Alexandra, and I live in Maidstone, Kent. I have been married to Alan, a forestry consultant, for 33 yrs and have a daughter, Lisa, and two grandsons.

I have 3 cats, one Persian and two moggies; Boris was a fun loving, mischievous Bengal, who enjoyed playing with other cats and was also very friendly. Unfortunately he developed a tumour and had to be put down last year and it was a great loss. The drawing is my way of remembering him.
I am a self taught graphite pencil artist, and have only been drawing seriously since 2010. I was given “Drawing from line to life” by Mike Sibley, for Christmas and was so inspired by the detail in his drawings that I decided that I was going to adopt the same approach.

I used Mellotex white 250gsm paper, Staedlter 780 clutch pencils (2H, B, and 2B), and my trusted Blu-tack eraser. When I draw, I imagine that every 1” of my drawing could be a picture on its own right. It takes me quite a long time to draw as I want the viewer to see the detail and more than just pencil strokes. I think I spent about 12 weeks drawing Boris until I was happy with the texture of the fur.

I enrolled on the Coloured Pencil course with Julie Douglas, and have nearly completed the first set of assignments. I want to be able to still use my graphite but also incorporate colour. The amount of colour work that I have done so far isn’t much and I am getting to grips with the very different approach needed. With graphite it’s a case of using all the different shades of black, but with colour there is so much more to think about.

Finally I would just like to say thank you to Julie for all her advice, and I can’t wait to get back to my drawings.

Thank you



London Art College 2013 Winner and Runner up…..

We would like to announce this years winners for the London Art College Competition 2013…

Winner – Margaret Orchard – Purple Moment.
Runner up – Alexandra Riley – Boris my Bengal.

We would like to officially congratulate both students on creating two superb pieces of artwork. Both pieces are at a very high standard and students can see all of the entries, the finalists and the winners on our competitions page here – Competition 2013 >>

We had a really high standard and a record number of entries this year which we are thrilled about. All of the tutors and admin staff who attended the annual conference had the difficult task of choosing a winner and runner up out of the finalists that had been selected by tutors a week prior to the conference. All of the pieces of artwork were viewed on a giant projector and discussed in depth during the meeting. However much we would have liked all of our students to win, we all felt that Margaret and Alexandra really stood out from the crowd. We would like to thank all of our students who entered and we are looking forward to next years competition already!



London Art College Meeting

Each year all of the college staff and tutors get together for a yearly meeting in Bristol UK. This year was a good turnout, with only four tutors missing, we had a superb meeting which was very enjoyable and productive. We have collated a page on our website with some information about the day along with annotated photos. The two photos below show the voting and discussions for the London Art College competition 2013…the winner and runner up to be revealed shortly!

View our 2013 photos page here – Meeting 2013 >> 



Wildlife Artist of the Year 2014 – Open for Entries

The David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2014 is now open for entries. Please click the image below to visit their website. Contact Nina, details below, if you have any queries. Please note that the London Art College is not affiliated with this competition, students enter at their own risk.

Nina Neve
WAY Coordinator
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Saba House, 7 Kings Road, Shalford, Guildford, Surrey GU4 8JU
Tel +44 (0) 1483 272323 Fax +44 (0) 1483 443859


Art in Graphic Design….

We have two pieces of typographic work to blog today from a student who is currently studying on the Graphic Design in Art Diploma course with Vanessa Weaver. Ella Chambers has put a lot of thought and time into the artwork and Vanessa said….

“…They are particularly good examples that show effective font choices and excellent hand rendering. The piece entitled ‘Music’ is a wonderful example of type exploration. The brief encourages students to include contrasting type styles. The result creates a textural typographic arrangement and is a wonderful achievement…”

Congratulations to Ella for some stunning work.