Jan’s drawings help bring canine characters to life

Artist Jan Szymczuk, who did the illustrations for 'The Dogfather'.
Artist Jan Szymczuk, who did the illustrations for 'The Dogfather'.

A STANNINGTON resident has used his sketching skills to illustrate a new children’s book.

Jan Szymczuk was asked to do the drawings for The Dogfather, inspired by the visits the author (Gerard Mac) made to Warkworth, through his work for The Northumbrian magazine.

The self-taught artist, who grew up in Pegswood with his Polish parents, now has a studio at his home in Stannington.

He said: “I enjoyed doing the illustrations for the book. I was given a synopsis of the main characters so I could reflect their personality in the drawings, but I was allowed a free rein as to how I could depict them.

“I’ve always loved dogs and I’ve had three Siberian huskies since I retired. I did a fair bit of research and it was interesting to find out more about certain breeds and crossbreeds.

“I actually used iPad technology with the drawings because it helped me to add the finer details. I regularly enhanced images for my job in Photoshop, so I’m adept at using computer software.”

Mr Szymczuk’s art education began in earnest when he did a foundation course in graphic design at Newcastle College, developing skills in areas such as sketching and portraits.

He went on to work for the Metropolitan Police in London, retiring after 30 years of service in 2009 as the senior police artist at New Scotland Yard.

Over the last five years he has continued to do sketches, but he now also regularly paints in colour using a selection of different mediums such as acrylics, watercolours, pastels and coloured pencils.

“I enjoyed my time at the Met, but I was excited when I retired because I was able to fully explore the art I had waited so long to do,” he said.

“I was very late to colour and I have found that I enjoy using acrylic paint the most as it dries sufficiently fast enough for me to paint in the style I enjoy.

“However, my favourite medium will always be graphite pencil because I can achieve a high degree of detail in my sketches.

“I also take great pleasure in drawing cartoons and caricatures of subjects in both colour pens and black ink.

“And I enjoy teaching art to people. I make sure they have the fundamental skills in place, including how to correctly hold a pencil for drawing and the best type of paper to use, so they can then go on to produce some good works.”

Mr Szymczuk is available for a range of commissions and to do portraits and caricatures at events such as wedding receptions, parties and fetes. He is also running new drawing and painting classes at his studio in the spring.

For more information and to make a booking, visit www.szymczuk.co.uk

Mr Mac, who died in 2011, bought a spaniel puppy named Ria for his granddaughter and got the idea for the book after seeing the interaction between the dogs they met in the village of Warkworth and on visits to hotels and pubs after long beach walks.

The fun adventure, laced with plenty of humour, features a character based on Ria, her hero Jimmy, a collie cross, her friend Lulu, a French poodle, and a daring gang of village dogs led by Don Schnauzer, The Dogfather.

The book is priced £8.99. For more information about where to purchase it, or to make an order, call Powdene Publicity on 0191 2650040.