Drawing: Sonya Yoncheva

Sonya Yoncheva

This is the second sketch I drew of Bulgarian opera soprano Sonya Yoncheva. The first one she signed at the Royal Opera House last summer when she performed Violetta in LA TRAVIATA. It was dedicated to me and signed with her shortened ‘Sonya’ sig. This one I mailed to her agent in Switzerland prior to that and it came back last week with a full autograph in silver sharpie no less.

Sonya is returning to Covent Garden this month to replace Anna Netrebko in the title role of Bellini’s masterpiece NORMA. It’s the second time she has replaced the Russian opera star, after stepping into the role of Marguerite in FAUST in 2014. Sonya will also extend her London season playing Antonia in LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN in November.


Drawing: Tracy Austin

Tracy Austin

At the age of seventeen, Tracy Austin become the youngest female tennis player to win a Grand Slam, beating Chris Evert in the 1979 US Open final. She went on to add two more Slams to her impressive 30 career titles, winning the US Open again in 1981 with a victory over Martina Navratilova and the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles with her brother John a year earlier. In that year she also won the WTA World Tour Finals, becoming  World No.1  and the youngest ever inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992. Tracy was known  as a solid baseliner with a strong forehand and a reliable double-fisted backhand using substantial pace and pinpoint accuracy.

Since retiring in 1994, Tracy has been a tennis commentator with a number of TV networks, including the BBC at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, where I met her outside the media centre and she signed this drawing for me.

Drawing: Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn

Known as ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’ during the Second World War, Dame Vera Lynn not only entertained the troops overseas, she kept the spirits up of the British back home, especially during the Blitz. Her songs ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’ are synonymous with the British wartime. She joined the Entertainment National Service Association and requested to be sent where other concerts parties were not going to, performing in Burma as well as Egypt and India. Her popularity continued after the war, appearing on TV and in films as well as continuing her musical career.

Now in her hundredth year Dame Vera became the oldest living Artist in 2009 to reach No.1 in the British Album Charts with her compilation album ‘We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.’ In fact she is the only artist to have a chart span reaching from it’s inception in 1952 to the 21st Century. In 2000 she was named the Briton who ‘best exemplified the spirit of the 20th Century.’ She has also been known for her tireless charity work with ex-servicemen and women, disabled children and breast cancer, recognised by the Queen in 1975 with a Dame Commander of the British Empire.

I sent this drawing of Dame Vera to her via her Foundation and she quickly signed and returned it with a very nice letter.

Drawing: Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper

Pop culture icon Cyndi Lauper was in London last year to attend the West End premiere of her musical KINKY BOOTS, which opened in August at the Aldephi Theatre. The Broadway hit won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It also won Best Musical Score for Cyndi, who became the first woman to win alone in that category. She also collected the Grammy for the show’s album. At the British Oliviers KINKY BOOTS collected three awards, including Best Musical.

Her thirty-something career nearly wasn’t. In 1977, while singing in the covers band ‘Flyer’ she damaged her vocal cords and was told she would never sing again. But regained her voice with the help of vocal coach Katie Agnesta. Since then the ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ songstress has sold over 50 million albums and 20 million singles, collecting multiple awards and being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also won an Emmy for her guest appearance on MAD ABOUT YOU in 1995. Cyndi is an active advocate for gay and transgender rights. Her song ‘True Colours’ has been recognized as an LGBT anthem.

I left this drawing at the Aldephi, hoping to get it signed, but nothing came back…. until this week. Cyndi was recently back in the UK on her DETOUR Tour which included London’s Hammersmith Apollo.

Drawing: Lead Pencil in Full HB

Lead Pencil

Now this is a group I had to draw. The comedy sketch trio of Louise Beresford, Maddie Rice and Dave Bibby, collectively known as LEAD PENCIL and specialising in nonsense. As their blurb says, “a comedy sketch show that is literally sketched.”

Realising that life is absurd the group formed in 2012 to deconstruct it with a show that is based on 90’s nostalgia, full of observational sketches, songs and their trademark 2D stylised, colourful cardboard props. Sell-out shows (some may say they were drawing in the crowds, but that would be silly) at the Underbelly in Edinburgh followed and appearances on Comedy Central and BBC Radio 4.

I just had to give them my 4B treatment with a splash of colour. The rendering was dropped into the Leicester Square Theatre at the end of June where they were performing for one night only. It was returned via an unusual route. Nothing came back for a couple of weeks, so I thought they maybe they didn’t get it, didn’t like or simply run out of writing instruments.

Then I received a letter from Transport for London’s Lost Property office saying they may have an item of mine.  As it transpired it was this drawing, signed by Louise, Maddie and Dave with a complimentary note and the stamped envelope I had left with the drawing. It appears that one of them was intending to post it and left it on a bus. Thanks LEAD PENCIL and TfL Lost Property.

Drawing: Maria Alexandrova, Principal with the Bolshoi Ballet

Maria Alexandrova

When Moscow-born ballet dancer Maria Alexandrova became a Principal with the Bolshoi Ballet in 2004, she was considered by audiences and critics in both Russia and beyond as the most distinctive ballerina of the new century. She is one of those rare dancers who have a commanding stage presence and superb technique.

Her signature moves are a soaring jump and extraordinary ballon (that’s the ability to being lightweight and effortlessly airborne). She won the Gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition, which she put in perspective.” The main thing is not to be first, but to be the best.” Maria was in London recently with the Bolshoi as part of it’s Diamond Jubilee three-week summer season at the Royal Opera House with a five programme repertoire, including DON QUIXOTE, THE FLAMES OF PARIS and LE CORSAIRE where she kindly signed my sketch.

Drawing: Jess Robinson

Jess Robinson

“Stunning”, said the Edinburgh Evening News about Jess Robinson at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe where the actress, impressionist and ‘vocal gymnast’ won two awards for her show THE RISE OF THE MIGHTY VOICE.

Jess is ‘joined’ by Cheryl Cole, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Kate Bush, Adelle, Judy Garland and a host of contemporary and vintage stars, in fact her latest show, IMPRESSIVE contains over 100 impressions… 99 of which are packed into a four minute rap, including a spine-tingling Amy Winehouse. She warmed up at  London’s  Wonderground on the Southbank before taking the show to this year’s Edfest where she is currently performing at the Pleasance Courtyard. I drew this sketch of Jess in her MIGHTY VOICE pose and had hoped to get it signed at Wonderground, but didn’t make it, so dropped it into her London agent, where she signed and dedicated it before heading north across the border.

Drawing: Ekaterina Krysanova, Principal with the Bolshoi Ballet

Ekaterina Krysanova

I drew an initial sketch of Russian ballet star Ekaterina Krysanova and dropped it into the Royal Opera House in London for her to sign during the Bolshoi Ballet’s three-week Diamond Anniversary residency at Covent Garden recently.  ‘Bolshoi’ literally means ‘big’ and she’s one of their biggest names. I immediately received a very nice complimentary note back, but, alas no signed sketch. This has happened on a few occasions when people inadvertently forget to include the sketch. I redrew this one and popped it back to the Opera House. This time my second letter contained the prize. I did say she could keep the initial drawing.

After graduating from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 2003, the Moscow native joined the famous company rising to Lead Soloist in 2009, before becoming a Principal.

Among her many medals is the Gold at the 2001 at the Prix de Luxemborg International Ballet Competition.

She was the only Principal to appear in all five productions  DON QUIXOTE, SWAN LAKE, TAMING OF THE SHREW, THE FLAMES OF PARIS and LE CORSAIRE this year, so I was super appreciative she took the time out of a hectic schedule to accommodate my requests.

Drawing: Elf Lyons

Elf Lyons

“Enthusiastically peculiar” and “Endearingly essentric” are two labels attached to stand-up comic and writer Emily-Anne ‘Elf’ Lyons. The Latitude Festival blurb, where she performed this year was a tad more specific, calling her an “award-winning, immortal, red-hatted comedian and storyteller from London.”  She’s a mixture of the surreal, saucy and the strange covering everything from budget erotica to very physical impressions of a Dressage horse.

With two theatre degrees, Elf is a founder member of ‘The Secret Comedians’, a small comedy collective who perform satirical evenings in East London. She is also a recent alumni of the Paris-based clown school, L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier and wants to kill her mother….in a comedic way of course. Her current show PELICAN is being performed nightly at the VooDoo Rooms as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe (or if your savvy and lazy, the ‘Edfringe’). It’s based on her mother’s complaint that she didn’t feature prominently enough in her daughter’s comedy routines, so she was made the subject of a show, relishing the madness of mothers and the age-old fear of turning into your mum. “Lyons is endearingly awkward, sexually frank and delightfully silly” wrote Rowena McIntosh in The List review.

She signed my sketch at the Leicester Square theatre as part of her Edfringe foreplay.

Drawing: Kristina Kretova, Leading Soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet

Kristina Kretova

One of the more interesting autographs came back this week. Interesting in the sense of the writing implement used. Leading soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet Kristina Kretova signed her sketch in what looks like a magenta crayon, possibly a grease paint theatrical makeup without any detailed forensic analysis. As one can imagine, sharpies are obviously a low priority item in the dressing rooms at Covent Garden. She also added a little ballerina pictogram. Very cool. Sixty years after it’s first visit to London, the famous Russian company has just finished it’s Diamond Jubilee Guest Tour series of concerts at the Royal Opera House.

Kristina graduated from one of the Bolshoi’s feeder schools, the Moscow State Choreographic Academy in 2002. But instead of joining the main company, she went to a smaller one, the Kremlin Ballet Theatre, where she was immediately promoted to Soloist and able to perform lead roles in classical ballets such as GISELLE and THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. She joined the Bolshoi in 2011 and during this summer’s London run performed in all five productions, DON QUIXOTE, SWAN LAKE, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, THE FLAMES OF PARIS and LE CORSAIRE.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal during the Bolshoi’s season at the Lincoln Center in 2014, Kristina  commented on facing the New York critics. “Nerves aren’t a problem. As a mother I have bigger things to worry about.” If she worried every night she would be crazy already she added. The critics praised her performances by the way. The 32 year-old has a young son… who may have some crayons… suitable for colouring in…. and signing sketches? I wonder.