Did I tell you I lived in the UK in the 2000’s? Lots of memories! One of them is that red double decker bus, more precisely the good old fashioned hop on and hop off ones, otherwise known as the Routemasters. My late mother lived in the Notting Hill area and whenever I was staying at her place, I would take that bus to work early in the morning. Bus 23, it was. Hopped on and off it each time. Sadly when I quit my job in 2001, the journey came to an end. By then many Routemasters became replaced by the modern automatic doors due to health and safety regulations. It was not till 2005 that the entire system completely phased out. I do miss that loads The modern ones are just not the same. No more being able to catch the bus when it halts at traffic even when you missed it at the bus stop, and no more being able to hop off earlier at your convenience. And those bus conductors shouting “Any more fares!” whilst whirling their little ticket machines hung around their neck. Oh the memories! And what better time came this opportunity to paint about this during my Tuesday afternoon classes with Dieter Klassen!
Inspired by Ad Verstijnen
Dieter had this brilliant idea of opening a few books by modern Dutch artists to inspire us. Knowing that I love cute illustrations, he suggested Ad Verstijnen to me. And who is Ad Verstijnen? He is a Dutch painter born in 1948 who is known for his colorful paintings and describes his work as: “Swinging full of pleasure, back and forth between fantasy and reality. Optimism pushes me forward in an adventure of creativity, in which achievements are avoided as much as possible. Usually I start from nothing. Then I dig into my past, and a classic car, bicycle or children’s drawing is central. I try to take the attention away from myself”. As a result much of his paintings involve lots of colors and inspired by drawings by children. Perhaps like me he is getting in touch with his inner child? Well that’s my man then!
Whilst flipping through the pages, then, the of the paintings that stood out most of course was the Routemaster. All the memories of London flooded back. And then I started imagining all the cute little characters piled onto the bus with their cute little faces. And I love that waving hand sticking out of the window! All on Bus 23. What a fun painting to be inspired by. So let’s see what I can come up with in my style and interpretation, shall we?
I decided to make the painting square, and as I was planning on hanging it somewhere at home, canvas was ideal. Acrylic paint in a trio of different dark-ish blues was firstly applied with a palette knife to give some interesting texture. Once I let that dry, I then carefully sketched the bus with some white chalk before tracing over it with white acrylic marker. Biggest challenge of all was of course making the bus look as Roadmaster as possible in correct proportions especially as it’s double decker. Making the windows large enough for the characters to be drawn in was also another thing. In the end, though, I managed although it took some time. The next fun part was trying to blend various reds till I got the perfect “London Bus Red”. A combination of Naphthol Red Dark and Naphthol Red Medium was used then blended with some Gloss Medium to give the desired finish. So far, so good!!
And here comes the fun part! Incorporating all my characters onto the bus. A variety of cuteness was used including kitties, teddy’s bunny’s doggies and of course Little One! Oh and of course let’s not forget Hello Kitty! Before committing myself on the canvas, I made my draft sketches on a piece of scrap paper. What fun that was! I made sure they had funny and cute expressions on their faces. Once I was happy with my sketch, I went about transferring that onto the canvas, firstly with charcoal pencil then tracing over with black acrylic marker.
The Cute Colorful Passengers
And now comes the even funner part! Coloring them all in! A variety of acrylic paint and pens were used for this. Making colors as varied as possible was the key here, something that gave me the chance to think and plan correctly. Lots of bright vibrant colours against the dark blue background and making sure they were cool shades to compliment the warm shade of the red bus. I also made it a point to scrape in some modelling paste on the main Little One’s hair so she pops out more from the background. Features like eyes, mouths and whiskers were then drawn in the end with black acrylic marker. And here we are!!
This project was one of the funnest I’ve done in classes. I love that my tutor, Dieter, encourages me to develop my own “kawaii” style and continue with incorporating cute characters in my work, although his classes are more oriented towards abstract paintings. That is precisely why I joined his class though. I would like to combine illustrations with abstract and create something unique. This Bus 23 project certainly played on that theme. And now, I like to develop this into something further which I hadn’t thought at the time: the passengers each have their own story to tell, don’t they? I should now like to do take each part of this painting and write individual stories about them. Now that should be fun. So watch this space!! All from Bus 23.