Sunday, January 20, 2019

Vintage Circus Bear on a Tricycle

This is my page inside Sharon's Vintage Circus journal... the first thing I did was scour the internet looking for vintage circus ideas. But while searching through the really old photos, I found myself getting angry and teary at all the abuse and neglect the animals suffered (at the hands of people who should have cared for them). I printed out a few pictures and attempted to start... but the more I was scribbling and drawing, the worse I felt. 

It wasn't fair how they were all treated... its now all in the past but it will always be remembered. Thankfully, more and more people and organisations are looking out for animals and their rights. I know you all agree, animals deserve our love and respect. Always <3

artwork featuring a bear on a bike and other bears by Jenny James copyright 2019
Drawing them (above) with hats and signs saying "Free the Bears" didn't help. I wanted this to be a happy page, one that was positive not full of anger and hatred at humans. So it was put aside for a week or more because I wasn't coping.

artwork featuring a bear on a tricycle by Jenny James copyright 2019
A few weeks later, with a fresh mind I refound the photoshopped looking image of a bear on a tricycle I saw and used it as a reference as I drew my own bear. He's drawn freehand on Strathmore Watercolour Paper with pencil then inked with fine black felt tipped pen.

watercolour painted artwork featuring a bear on a tricycle by Jenny James copyright 2019
A few days later, I erased the pencil marks before painting with watercolour paint. I used sample spots (swatches) of Daniel Smith Watercolours (saving for the tubes now!) and my trusty waterbrush. The bike frame was painted first, then the wheels, all while reminding myself constantly, to let areas dry before going further.

watercolour painted artwork featuring a bear on a tricycle by Jenny James copyright 2019
The next day, after the bear's basic colours and shading was completely dry, I used a very fine brush (and the same colour brown) to paint in some fur structure, more shading and with a white gel pen, added highlights.

artwork featuring Tim Holtz Stamps by Jenny James copyright 2019
To start off the background, I stamped images from Tim Holtz Stamp Set, Theories. Tim's antique style engravings were perfect for this, as was his quote from the stamp set, Handwritten Thoughts : Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. The characters were stamped using Ranger's Archival Ink in a dark brown and the quote is stamped using black.

The background was coloured using an Ink Blending Tool and Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pads... patchy blends of Antique Linen (cream) and Tea Dye (light warm brown) were first, then splattered and splashed with water (using a Water Spray Bottle) before being dried with the heat tool. Tumbled Glass (pale blue) was blended over the page next, then Walnut Stain (dark brown) was blended around the edge. More sprays of water were splattered and then it was all dried again.

watercolour painted artwork featuring Tim Holtz Stamps by Jenny James copyright 2019
The next stamps to be printed were from Tim Holtz's Psychedelic Grunge Stamp Set. The faded dots across the base of the page were stamped using Tea Dye Oxide Ink. The larger circles were printed using the Tea Dye and Tumbled Glass together, then across the base only using Tea Dye.

watercolour painted bear on a bike by Jenny James copyright 2019
While the inky background was drying, I cut out my bear using scissors and a craft knife for inside the spokes.

watercolour painted artwork featuring a bear on a bike by Jenny James copyright 2019
The above photo shows my bear placed loosely on the page to see how he'd fit. He seemed happy enough so continued :)

watercolour painted artwork featuring a bear on a bike by Jenny James copyright 2019
Next... I stamped the bicycle of three riders (also from Tim's Theories set) onto the bottom of the page, then covered it with washi tape and the matted printout of the vintage poster because I didn't like it! lol :) I added stamped wheels to the left hand side of the page in black after stamping the bicycle at the top. The poster and bear are glued down with Ranger's Dylusions Glue Stick.

To finish off the page, I used a couple of stamps from Tim's Tiny Things 2 stamp set. I gave the bear some music to ride along and "tied" gramophone onto the high-wire with a brown fine felt tipped pen. Both images were stamped using the Distress Oxide Walnut Stain Ink Pad.

historical photo of bears on a bicycle with a sidecar
The back of the page features a picture I found at the beginning of this journey (bordered with washi tape).
While this historical photo is from the era of abused animals, I live in hope that these two were looked after well. They seem ok apart from being skinny and muzzled.
Rather than waste the printout, I've included it with a few thoughts (white gel pen)... Free the Bears!

The end result is a good one... my bear looks content to be peddling along his musical path while the circus world carries on around him.

Thanks for reading! Hope it creates a smile :D xx Jenny


  1. Jenny that page is absolutely mind blowing!!! Congratulations!! I love your smiley bear and all the vintage details you included.
    I am so glad that you managed to work through your distress, but still include your reference to the former cruelty that occurred. Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you so much Pam! What an amazing response - mindblown! :D Thank you!

  2. You have done such a great job Jenny...all the inking is awesome and your bear is fantastic. It is sad to think of animals being used to entertain people.

    1. Thanks so much Roz! It is sad but it is getting better all the time :D

  3. simply brilliant work; from bad things, good things can grow. YES, congratulations !!!

  4. A wonderful tribute to the circus bears Jenny, really well done! 😍

  5. Congratulations Jenny, such a beautiful piece and tribute to the plight of brown bears. I just wish that all brown bears were currently safe in the world, but sadly not, but at least things have improved somewhat from the "vintage circus" days.

  6. Fabulous-loved how you shared your feelings about animals! I’m an animal lover and am glad there are now so many animal advocates now! Thank you for working in my joy!

  7. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous I love your page Jenny and totally agree re the poor animals of vintage circus era.


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