We’ve got another exhibition coming up, this time with perennial favourite, Mister Peebles! The exhibition will open on Thurs Sept 3, from 7-9pm, here in the shop and continues until the end of October. There will be prints and cards in new and old designs, and even some Peebles originals! We did a little interview with Helen McGinley, the artist behind Mister Peebles to find out a bit more about how those punny creatures come to life.
What is your artistic weapon of choice? Pencil, pen, paintbrush, printing squeegee…
A combination of mechanical pencils, watercolour pencils, water and very small brushes.
Who is Mister Peebles?
Mister Peebles is the man with the animals, he meets them on his world travels. He is quite a shy sort of chap and while at home prefers to sit in his chair, drink tea and read tales. I draw his animals, keep the teapot filled and listen to his stories.
How did you get into the business of drawing punny animals?
A few years ago I was working at a job that wasn’t really going anywhere. I decided to leave a cold January in London and went to summer in Tasmania with my husband to be. I didn’t have a working visa so I spent the days drawing and looking at the Tasmanian landscape. The animals and puns just seemed to introduce themselves to the pages. I would draw plants and food and phrases but most of the sketches seemed to be animal or pun related in the end. Once back in London I decided to start a little range of cards and prints and the puns kept appearing!
What is your process for creating your pieces?
Each drawing is quite different. Some begin with the word or phrase and others with the creature. Some take a day, other much longer. I like to sketch out a rough idea and then add all the details and textures. Building up the layers of fur, feathers or fabric with watercolours is my favourite part of the process. There are always multiple colours in each texture, even if it ends up looking like a flat colour, it rarely is. I usually colour the eyes in first. I think the eyes are key to giving the creature their personality. Once the drawing is completed I scan it, clean it up and add lettering, either by hand or in Photoshop. Then everything is printed here in the studio or by our helpful printers.
Do you find yourself returning to themes or characters with your work?
I often return to a particular animal over and over. Bears are a current favourite and it’s great to really sit and learn what an animal looks like by drawing them a lot. I love to read about a species and their habits when I am drawing them, I think it helps to inform the illustrations and the themes behind them. I also clearly can’t resist a pun or a play on words so that is often the start of a idea which grows from there.
How long have you been drawing?
I’ve been drawing since I was small. I was lucky my parents encouraged it and I went to schools with passionate art teachers that helped me keep it going. I studied Costume Design at Edinburgh College of Art and there was a lot of life drawing involved, which I always loved. We got to draw models wearing stripy socks and holding stuffed alligators or surrounded by props. It was great!
I have been drawing the puns and animals since finding Mister Peebles in 2011.
What is your favourite takeaway?
That’s a tough one! It has to be either pizza from Zaza Express or a curry from Bombay Munch, depending on the day. Always with a cold beer. Mister Peebles is a big fan of Sutton & Sons fish and chips.
Thanks Helen and Mister Peebles! We look forward to seeing you September 3.