Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working in museums, galleries and the arts, an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects, and a parent to two young beings who can't help but influence her creative journey.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

3 December 2010

Memory and Imagination: A visual diary

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Uta Sanders, full of thoughts and ideas, shared with me her idea to draw her travel diary.
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Her idea reminded me of how inspired I was by an exhibition of Bobbie Baker's diary at the Wellcome Collection, and how I intended to draw a diary from then on. Neither of us had managed it, but we agreed it would make a wonderful project for our four days of trekking in Torres del Paine, southern Chile.
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I should mention that I have always felt incapable and intimidated by the idea of drawing what's in my head, rather than what I see in front of me ... but finally, I really enjoyed the challenge!
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This is my diary. I hope to share Uta's with you next time!

21 November 2010

Haunting Figures

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I spent a morning in Santiago playing with photocopies of my sketches from the Museum of Precolombian Art. I was magnetised by these wooden funerary figures, who were displayed under a powerful light, which cast shadows that were almost eery.

18 November 2010

Avalancha de Caos

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Santiago's Museum of Fine Arts was mainly closed for a changeover ... but, completely different to my usual choices, I was captivated by Norton Maza's 'Avalancha de Caos', 2006. First thinking it was an extremely clever painting in the traditional styles, I realised that it's a photographic construction of the most incredible model, and referencing every apocalyptic painting of history. It would be AMAZING to make a scene like this ... I see the potential for artist photographer collaborations!

12 November 2010

From the Sketchbook: Uyuni Cemetary of Trains

Uyuni's Cemetary of Trains, spread across a remote desertscape, has an eery magic that would keep me happy with my sketchbook for hours. On the other hand, it has the potential for a trail of fun and adventures. And on the other side again, it is strewn with rubbish that makes me long to base myself there and invent creative ways to clear the ground.
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Blurry, Stripey and Spotty

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These shells were given to me by an avid beach comer in Mancora.

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They seem to hold the potential for great adventures.

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Blurry, Stripey and Spotty went for a walk ...

23 October 2010

Recycling in Pisco

Pisco was destroyed by an Earthquake in 2007. Three years later, its streets are still broken by holes and heaps of rubble as, piece by piece, people attempt to rebuild their homes. I spent a week with Pisco Sin Fronteras, an enormous team of volunteers who are doing their bit towards the reconstruction. I quickly realised I could be more useful with the children of the 'Ludateca' than by trying to learn to build a house within a week. And so I pooled my recycling imagination, begged, borrowed and stole plastic bottles and bags from all the volunteers and worked with the children to make braided jewellery and woven pots.

14 October 2010

From the Sketchbook - Huascaran National Park, Peru

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Playing with everything in my pencilcase, to capture the (or try) the magic of the mountains.

From the Sketchbook - Mancora, Peru

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Watercolours are not my medium. Water is not my theme. Still, when confronted by the crashing turquoise surf waves of Mancora, I can't help but try to capture that moment ...

3 October 2010

Painting Quilotoa

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Arriving at the remote outpost of Quiotoa, we found ourselves accommodation in one of the cluster of hostels that comprises the 'village', overlooking an exquisite crater lake. Gathering around the fire in the family's house for warmth, the (many) children were absorbed by my sketchbook, and thrilled when I opened my paint set and offered them a go. I was excited by the familiarity with which they painted the green lake and local mountains, as a child from London might paint Big Ben or the London Eye. I eventually re-aquired my paint box and pencil case many hours later ...
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From the Sketchbook: Pre-Colombian Monsters

I've become a little obsessed by monsters! Fascinated by the chararcters in Cartagena's Museo del Oro, and then by the stone statues of San Agustin, which I've continued to find in various forms through Ecuador, I've been playing around with creating my own. I'm sure Maurice Sendak visited South America before creating Where the Wild Things Are! And I'm afraid now, my own creations try to mimic Guayasamin's expressive inkiness ...

28 September 2010

Las Manos de la Protesta

The Hands of Protest, Oswaldo Guayasamin, 1963-1965

When I was 17, I visited Paris, and Monet, Rodin and Picasso changed my life. It's been a long time since I felt that way, but I felt similar visiting the Museo Guayasamin in Quito yesterday. It's difficult to convey in words or reproductions the intensity of expression in every one of Guayasamin's paintings. The painting above is from one of the most incredible series, of hands and faces expressing every emotion. Even the more positive emotions convey a sense of devastation in the angularity of the features and the gaping black spaces. Surely, anybody who visits this place wants to paint like Guayasamin.

25 September 2010

The Children of Otavalo

My journey took me to the animal markets at Otavalo, north of Quito. Here, amidst a heaving hubbub of pigs, cows, chickens and people, I sat down to sketch. When I realised I had a young audience for my sketching, I tore up pages from my sketchbook and invited them to draw too. So we did a kind of sketch exchange - I gave them each a picture in exchange for one of mine. I'd like to create a kind of collage re-enactment of the market, if I have enough pictures.

19 September 2010

From the Sketchbook: Quito Cathedral

I am surprised by the gentle colours of Quito. Even in a good quality reproduction, the colours in this sketch are bolder than I intended, but I couldn't let the delicate balance of whites, greys, dark greens and soft browns pass me by.

Obsession with Plastics

My fascination with plastics, and obsession with finding creative ways to use my rubbish continues. In Colombia, my greatest production of rubbish was the plastic bags which contain water - far cheaper and more ecological than bottles, but plentiful nevertheless! So my hostel rooms are filled with plastic bags cut open and drying, and I have been exploring the many possibilities for using them. Unsurprisingly, water bags lend themselves to watery scapes ...

13 September 2010

Graffiti of Bogota

Candelaria has graffiti galore ... my favourite this gorgeous, subtle combination of mosaic and paint to create an imaginary city. It makes me itch to return to my broken crockery, marbles and shells!

From the Sketchbook ... Cartagena, Colombia

My mind is awash with visual stimulae ... I don't know where to start, so I fill my sketchbook with everything. Every day I invent a new theme; shall I focus on windows, or people, travel, buildings, the magnificent gold that is in the Colombian museums? Shall I make, and make, and make, from my rubbish? I collect the bags that I buy water in, I cut them open, I dry them out, I stitch with them, but in the meantime, I draw and paint and draw and paint, wherever I am, whatever I see. This is my language school in Cartagena, Nueva Lengua.

2 September 2010

Amun's Desert

Some children just have the gift. They do what you imagined they might do, and more. I thought it a bit too ambitious to suggest making a cowboy on a donkey, but Amun did it anyway. He's 6.

31 August 2010

Faris Badwin and the Art of Doodling

I followed the trail of some doodles I spotted in the newspaper ... and found hundreds of pages covered with circles and lines to create contorted figures, grotesqueries and eccentric delights. This is Faris Badwin at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Clearly the man has a unique mind and an obsessive hand, but the result is incredible. I responded by ordering a mug of coffee and opening my notebook to doodle.

I've never been a doodler. I once informed my tutor that I don't draw from my imagination. But maybe, having seen these, maybe, just maybe maybe, I will begin ...

27 August 2010

Indonesian Rod Puppets

The Object-handling base at the Horniman Museum has a glorious collection of Indonesian rod puppets or Wayang Golek, which have always caught my eye for their colours, mystery and exoticism. More accessible to children are some simplified rod puppets made from paper mache, which I have long thought would make a delightful workshop project.

'Art of the World' at Orleans House was a great opportunity to take this adventure abroad ... Here, Emilie and Amun bring their Indonesian Lady and their Elephant vibrantly to life!

24 August 2010

Losing Marbles

I've long been fascinated by marble runs. I dream of building a run that zigzags all the way round the kitchen. Sharing a small flat delays this dream from coming true, but I saw a fantastic opportunity to dream in the very best of playful company when designing a workshop to respond to the Artplay Exhibition.

Will the marble make it ... round the funnel, down the tunnel, along the moat, drop to the next funnel, pitter patter down, and through the maze to triumphant cheers from the waiting crowds? ... Yes, yes, yes!

Photographs by Eleanor Salter Thorn.

23 August 2010

Someday ... Longing in London

In a glorious afternoon of exhibition ambling, I found Charlene Lam in a cosy corner of her exhibition at Craft Central ... as an ex-pat in London, she's exploring her relationships with New York and with London and between the two, but you can tell she's as devoted to London as we all are. Two joyous discoveries for me ... she strolls along the banks of the Thames at low tide, and collects all sorts of ceramic goodies, but most incredibly, thousands and thousands of pipe pieces - as in smoking pipes. Put together they look incredibly beautiful. Apparently pottery was the plastic of the past - and just as disposable. Her collections remind me of wandering through the woods as a child and collecting the empty bullet cartridges ... and of my brother collecting smoothed down coloured glass on the beach.

The other joyous discovery: she's another fan of envelope interiors! She has an array of boxes wrapped neatly in inside-out envelopes. I feel that perhaps I should start a club of people who share the joy of envelopes!

20 August 2010

The Art of Fans

Another holiday workshop and heavenly day of making ... I love my days with the littlies, but working with the teenagers always comes with the joy of presenting a thousand possibilities and then handing over to their imagination to see what happens.

17 August 2010

How to be Alone

Every time I see an animated drawing I have to hold my ankles firmly and remind myself that I wasn't born with the degree of patience required for a career (or hobby) in animation. But still I am inspired, again and again ...

This gorgeous piece of alone-ness is by singer-songwriter Tanya Davis, and animated exquisitely by Andrea Dorfman. My favourite moment ... the balloons, floating up the screen ...

16 August 2010

Another Digression

Here at last are my illustrations for I Digress, along with a couple of other people's perspectives:

- Liam Roberts' review for the Brixton Blog

- A writer's experience by Jonathan Gibbs

- Illustrations by Naomi Sloman

15 August 2010

Posing Giacometti

Exploring a Century of Art, my 9-14s covered themselves in modroc, paint, sand, wire, chalk and the rest to create Giacometti figures which created a rather mysterious world as they stood out to dry in the sun last week. Clearly not Giacometti poses, you may be thinking ... we sketched from one another's poses and developed these with wire.

13 August 2010

Madalaine's Charms

This is why I will never stop working with children: I challenge them to create strange and crazy characters, and amidst the array of dinosaurs, aliens, monsters, kittens and strange animal hybrids, somebody takes it upon herself to do something entirely different ... and inifitely creative as a result.

These are Madalaine's Charms. She couldn't say where the idea came from, only that there are sixty of them; she made one and thought of making sixty. There is something delicate and whimsical about them that makes me wish I'd made them myself!

And what difference between this and something that appears in the Tate or Hayward? Although the themes are very different, it somehow reminds me of Susan Hillier's From the Freud Museum - something about the organisation and sensitivity, I think.

9 August 2010

just got out of bed do not disturb

I finally finished my sketches from Freightliners City Farm ...

7 August 2010

Staging Magritte

A week of holiday fun, exploring art of the twentieth century ... I've always thought Magritte leant himself to stage set possibilities, so we gave it a go! These are a couple of my favourites - the first a drawing by Gabriel, and the second, Rosie's set design.

3 August 2010

It's a Hen!

I've finally had my hen night badges made ... I'm not a massive fan of all the pink hats and L Plates at hen nights, but it is, after all, a time for celebration. So here's my contribution to the hen tradition. For sale in my folksy shop ...

2 August 2010

I Digress Hits the Masses

Some time in late 2009, Alison (friend and exquisite draw-er) started talking about bringing together illustrators and writers and getting them to respond to each other. We had already experimented with an exhibition at the Grosvenor Pub, and its variety, warmth and eccentricity could provide a rich source of inspiration, as well as a focal point for a project. Together with Naomi, we developed I Digress.

I Digress took in 14 writers and illustrators and sprouted from a story by Evie Wyld and some illustrations by Hannah Carding. From this gentle but inspiring start, we created chains of illustrations and stories, each inspired by the other.

Last Thursday saw the outcome of many months of daydreaming, planning and creativity. We took a heap of spanking new 'zines' to the Grosvenor and launched the book in the home of its inspiration. Surrounded by an exhibition of all the illustrations and excerpts from each piece of writing, a crowd of enthusiasts celebrated the joys of writing from drawings and drawing from writing.

The evening was capped by a reading by Charlie-Fish from 'Nadine', the delightful tale of the Grosvenor's imaginary horse and her meeting with the fairies of Myatts Fields, who speak with a remarkably helium influenced male voice!

If you were unable to join us at the launch but would like to buy the zine, then please click here.

Illustration in final photo by Staffan Gnosspelius.

Photos by Charlene Lam.