Heli-skiing in Russia – Illustrated travel memoir

This post is an illustrated travel feature from my heli-skiing trip to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia. I have illustrated my account in artworks created in watercolour paints.

Heli-Skiing in Russia

By Kimberley Kay

As the Russian ski guide, Jonanin, adjusts my avalanche detector I pray I won’t need to use it. He tightens the straps across my chest and I realise I am not breathing.

Jonanin asks if I am okay – at least that is what I think he asks, I can’t hear him over the deafening roar of the helicopter rotors. I give the required ‘thumbs up’ – although I am sure that my eyes belie the fact that I am far from ‘okay’.

We climb away from the ramshackle village of Kransnaya Polyana. The peeling paint of the houses and the rusty roofs shrink to miniature as I peer through the window. The helicopter has seen better days, the interior is basic and dirty – I wonder whether the helicopter or the ski descents of the Caucasus Mountains pose greatest risk to my existence.

I have skied since I was five years old – but I know that the heli-skiing will be more challenging than any piste or slalom course I have ever encountered. I knew this when I booked the trip last October, I knew it when I boarded the plane in Moscow to fly south – I hope I have the mental strength to overcome the physical challenge.

Nausea set in at breakfast – I ate what I could stomach, knowing I would need the fuel – but recalling the smell of the dill laced fried eggs makes me wince once more.

We soar towards the mountains where Russia borders Georgia, near the Black Sea. I spot the shadow of the helicopter projected onto the snowy canvas. We are flying level with the mountains – it feels close enough to catch a rotary blade on the jagged granite rock – time to get a grip and calm down.

Twenty minutes later the helicopter begins to slow and hover – my heartbeat quickens and my mouth is dry. On the guide’s signal the skiers one by one jump from the doorway disappearing out of sight. I pull my goggles over my eyes, thank my former self from having the foresight to invest in a helmet, then I jump. Jumping in ski boots isn’t easy – they are rigid and can hyper extend your knee. I break through the icy crust into the soft sugary snow beneath. The lead guide’s advice front of mind, “stay low so that you don’t get sucked into the rotors”.  I crawl across the steep slope to the rest of the group, digging my boots in to keep me from falling. The power of the blades whisks up the air. I feel like a commando – it feels hardcore and I like it. What an adventure!

Immediately the guide signals to the pilot, the helicopter rises and banks away – the noise goes with it leaving silence. The isolation of our location sinks in – we are aloft the landscape with peaks around us 360 degrees, the mountain slopes shimmer in the sun – looking like they have been draped in fondant icing.

My consciousness returns to my situation, knelt at the top of a slope – I look down between my boots and the world drops away almost vertically – oh my… I peer forwards to see over the crest of snow in front of me and see a valley that tumbles away as fiercely as the first. I start to feel my body go heavy as the reality sets in. I dig my skis into the snow at 45 degrees – the only way to clip into the bindings on such an incline.

The guide signals the off and drops over a cornice – I point my skis downwards, taking a deep breath. I focus what lies immediately ahead as I don’t want to become overfaced by the scale of the location.

These are the kind of conditions when people die – loosing their grip and ‘rag dolling’ down the slope until hitting the rocks below. I grip the icy incline with the edges of my skis determined that I will not fall.

Narrowly missing a crevasse brings home to me my naivety about the mountain conditions – I conclude that I have a better chance of surviving staying close to our French guide, Marc. I put my faith in him. And with the helicopter nowhere in sight or earshot and Marc and Jonanin holding the radios, the only means of hailing our ride home, who else can I count on.

I follow Marc down the steep slope my skis juddering on the ice as I fight to stay in control and ensure that I am attacking the mountain and not the other way round.

As we continue to descend the icy surface is then snow, and my skis glide on the surface, I relax and take in the view. There are only mountain peaks as far as I can see, that and the blue sky, I feel like I’m literally on top of the world. It feels like I’m a bird, flying.

We encounter the path of an avalanche – which has thundered down the mountain leaving behind a barrage of boulders of snow. I stand contemplating my descent.

My mind is telling me repeatedly that I can’t do this, as I hear the thoughts my body feels heavy and clumsy. I feel fear coursing through my muscles – debilitating and dangerous. I fight to change the thoughts, to believe I can ski this terrain. Before I have chance to think better of it I point my skis downhill.

Picking a route through icy avalanched snow blocks is like skiing through a collapsed building – very different from the perfectly groomed pistes where I normally ski.

I traverse to an area untracked by the avalanche – the snow is suddenly soft and my knees come up to my chest, throwing me forwards unexpectedly – my helmet hits the snow. The momentum, and the smooth surface of my helmet, means my legs flip quickly over – my helmet hits the snow again – once more the momentum ‘flick flacks’ my body over and I land on my skis. I laugh as I brush the snow crystals from my goggles – I had executed a double front somersault and skied out of it – I’m feeling awesome.

We must have covered 3 kilometres already. The snow is heavy now – it’s April after all. I pull on my strength, my resolve and my determination to ski the run of my life.

And then I am down, joining the guide as one by one the group arrive and gather for the helicopter pick up. To fly us another mountain to ski.

I peel my helmet from my head and survey the slope I have conquered. As the pain in my legs subsides my breath slows and I feel an overwhelming sense of achievement. I look up at the mountain so silent and still, yet so dangerous – an unpredictable opponent.

We all stand at the foot of a deep gorge waiting for our pick up. There is tranquillity in being so far from the busyness of the world. The only other sign of life are bear tracks. I scan the slopes to ensure that there aren’t any bears planning to bound down for an easy lunch. We wouldn’t stand a chance the snow here is too heavy to run or ski on.

The helicopter is now heading straight for us. Although we have to stay squatted down my instinct is to bolt.

Three more heli drops later I savour a bottle of cool water – such exertion in spring temperatures makes me feel like I have had a sauna with my ski gear on.

As we leave the snowy wilderness behind the foliage seems greener than before. It feels like we are flying through the seasons – from winter to spring. The day is warm so I choose to walk the two miles back to hotel. The houses I pass indicate the simple lifestyle of the residents which contrasts uneasily with the extravagance of our morning’s pursuit.

Back at the hotel I relax in the sunshine, my exerted muscles soothed by the sun’s warmth. My perfect day – a great morning skiing and then being able to get my bikini on and enjoy the sun in the hotel garden. I wear a smile inwardly and on my face – I have pitted myself against nature and survived – with some quite fun acrobatics.

Krasnaya Pollyana, Russia.

Ski Kit

Related work…

Ski Illustrations

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Brushed Blooms

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

Thanks so much for being here. This post is a departure from my usual posts which are about my art process. If you’ve enjoyed the post please comment and/ or Like it. If there is someone that springs to mind who would enjoy it please share it with them, it’s my goal to reach people through my work.

I regularly post new work, but not so frequently as to bother you. To see more you can follow this blog. To see more regular updates you are welcome to follow me on Instagram @Inspire by Kim

Thanks all.

Kim

Ski Illustrations

I have skied since I was 5 years old, thanks to our local council taking the bold steps to build one of the first artificial ski slopes in Britain.

I decided to illustrate a subject matter that I know well and began painting ski equipment, there is a lot needed for a day on the snow.

I’ve been working on a number of ski icons as part of this project. Here’s are the pieces so far throughout this email…

The ski slope was our playground. We trained there, made friends, raced, jumped, fell, got up and enjoyed skiing in all weather from baking heat through drenching rain to the delight of freshly fallen snow.

Often travelling with friends and the local ski club we travelled to the Alps for the added magic of real mountain skiing.

More to come on this project as I’ll bring these elements into compositions for editorial illustrations and marketing campaign visuals. So follow my blog to see the development of this work.

I have been busy painting skiers, ski lifts, and most recently I started to paint some of the additional snow based activities such as snowmobiling.

One of my favourite pieces in the project so far is this Parascending painting.

I’ve found an ease to this work, knowing the subject matter and working from experience. I love these watercolour paints, they’re lush hues and a delight to create with.

If you’d like unique, eye catching visuals for your marketing campaign, editorial or activity you can email me at inspirebykim@outlook.com

Thanks for being here.

Here’s related work…

Heli-skiing in Russia – Illustrated travel memoir

On Brand Illustration

Best 9s of 2019

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

It’s been a productive January with ski illustrations and two sewn projects.

I’d love to know what you think of this work so please Like if you do and comment below. I’m keen to reach people who will enjoy my work, so if you’ve a friend or colleague that springs to mind please share this post with them.

Regular updates on my Instagram feed…

https://www.instagram.com/inspirebykim/

Thanks folks 😊⛷

#ski #illustrator #marketingcampaign #socialmediavisuals #editoialillustation



Plant Based Diet Editorial Illustration

Been busy painting for #matseditorial2020 Make Art That Sells assignment about reducing meat in the diet, and its benefits for the environment.

Completed this editorial assignment for @makeartthatsells

I’m pleased with the outcome, although I’m uncomfortable being prescriptive, but that was the nature of the brief.

Process

This is stage 1 to create a number of icons and to illustrate the concept of optimism.

I then moved on to thinking about the composition and how to communicate the tone of the article.

My preferred concept at this stage was this advertisement style editorial illustration rough.

I found that working with the elements on tracing paper allowed me to play around with the composition without having committed to drawing on the normal paper. I was then able to scan this and arrange it within a client document for discussion/ approval, before the next stage.

In addition to the final editorial illustration at the top of the article here is an animated gif of my editorial illustration.

Interesting brief from which I learned a great deal. I enjoyed it more than expected by finding what I could enjoy in the subject matter.

I most enjoyed painting the tractor and vegetables.

Here is related illustration work…

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

On Brand Illustration

Ski Illustrations

On Brand Illustration

Following on from the two festive illustrations for K Steels (below) I created a third on brand illustration. Each illustration was designed to reinforce the brand service values, delivery messages and the product range.

The new illustration was to reinforce the precision cutting service offered for steel, using a play on words of how New Year’s Resolutions are often stated as cutting out vices such as drinking or smoking.

The illustration uses a main photographic image with digital illustrations adding a resolution list, a warehouse operative, branding – both on the saw and on the steel, and a ‘text message’ style box to anchor the meaning and allow the viewer to quickly read the content.

The visual was created in a square format making it suitable for use on social media.

Secondly, in order to attract attention and increase stand out on social media, a GIF with light flares on the steel cutting blade and the text box being revealed.

So here’s to 2020. I don’t so much have resolutions but I do have exciting intentions for the year which will be revealed as they evolve and are created. Watch this space to see more and to follow the work progressing.

Thank you to K Steels for their illustration briefs. These are great opportunities to work with live briefs, which pushes my work forwards and helps to develop my evolving process.

Here are some recommendations for my illustration work…

Tennis Club event poster/social media visual

Instructional illustration sheet for Bali Parasol

Find out more about how I can help your business or project here…

Creative Solutions, Visual Content and Illustration

If you have a need for visual content or an illustration to promote your brand and key messages, please email me at inspirebykim@outlook.com

Thanks so much for reading, please Like this post if you do, the feedback really helps.

These are posts that relate to this work…

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Ski Illustrations

Best 9s of 2019

Bali Parasol – Instructional Illustration Work

Breakfast Cereal Design Concept

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

Brand Art and Infographic – Steel Company

Thanks so much and here’s to a great 2020!

Thanks to much. Have a great year.

Kim

Best 9s of 2019

I’ve been reviewing the past 12 months and evaluating my favourite work.

Best 9s are a great way to do this. Here are my Best 9 of the year. Work that I feel pleased with as they broke new ground in terms of skills and technique progress.

It’s been great to apply art to commercial illustration briefs and to monetise my practice, as above.

Here are my painted Best 9. A real break through this year was the workshop that I did in Rotterdam with Helen Dardik. The techniques Helen shared, and the products she’s uses, are a real revelation. With practice and care my painting skills are building.

Fabric and Textiles Best 9 – I enjoy the colours and textures that I create on fabrics. Florals and birds were key themes of my work in these mediums this year.

Here’s to 2020. I’m excited to see what emerges this year. I hope your have a great year.

Please like my post, if you do. Thank you so much.

Here are related 2019 highlights…

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Illustration Recommendations

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

Bali Parasol – Instructional Illustration Work

Latest Illustrations

Gingerbread Adventures

Developed the Happy Christmas design into a 3D gingerbread model. This was the greeting card design…

I used my structural ceramics experience to plan the build and required panels.

And hand cut the pieces using the templates I created, before baking them.

And the gingerbread creation…

With icing, sweets and spin sugar the car, Santa and snow dog were a great table centre piece.

To complement the gingerbread I also baked a chocolate cake with jelly bunt and spun sugar.

Hope everyone’s Christmas is just as they wish it to be.

Kim x

Here are related stories…

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Free Download – Christmas Card Design

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

I’ve been busy working on these bespoke Christmas illustrations. It was important that the illustrations were on brand and in line with the style of the company logo, website and social media channels.

I created two commercial illustrations in line with the brief for K Steels to use on social media. The illustrations reinforce key product lines and service messages.

 

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Santa wished that K Steels would do all of his deliveries…
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When a test flight went wrong Santa knew he could rely on K Steels

The illustrations included photographic elements, cut paper and digital art using the K Steels brand colour palette.

Hoping that you and yours have a truly wonderful Christmas.

For more information about bespoke communications solutions for your business or organisation visit the following link:

Please Like my post if you do, and share with organisations who would like am on brand illustration. Thank you so much.

Creative Solutions, Visual Content and Illustration

Related projects:

Happy Christmas Illustration

Brand Art – Steel Company

Tennis Club Promotional Work Highlights

Bali Parasol – Instructional Illustration Work

Football Commissioned Artwork

Happy Christmas Illustration

Wishing you a Happy Christmas.

I created this design as an online and offline greeting. A still illustration with photographic and digital art, and also a gif with flashing fairy lights.

The design swops Santa’s sleigh for a sports car based on my favourite car design. I originally made the car in cut paper for this ‘Going to the Seaside’ Paperart piece.

Santa is joined by a little white dog, who is enjoying the ride, and a small festive robin.

The little white dog features in that artwork and those who’ve been following my work will know is the character Sam, who I’ve also painted for the Children’s book – The Dog Who Wanted To Fly

Sam – Copyright Kim

I chad created the Santa for commercial Christmas illustration I was also working on…

Using the design I created a limited print run of just 10 Christmas cards. Then my printer stopped working.

I added sparkly details with gel glitter pens and sent the fleet of greetings to family and close friends.

I next went on to bake this design in Gingerbread. See this story here…

Click on the image to see the gingerbread version of this design…

Once created I felt that the robin on the picture needed to ice skate. So I added skates and made an animated gif. A little winter sport fun for my favourite festive bird.

Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas. Thank you so much for the support and to everyone who has read, Liked and Shared my work. It means so much.

Please Like and Share this post, if you wish to. I’m keen to reach as many people as possible to brighten their Christmas.

Thanks so much.

Kim x

Here are related posts:

Christmas Commercial Illustrations

Gingerbread Adventures

Latest Illustrations

September Reflection and October Direction

Paperart Originals – Ready for a new home

Free Download – Christmas Card Design

Free Download – Christmas Card Design

A free downloadable Christmas Card to print at home.

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The design for the front of the Christmas Card.

 

I’m so grateful for everyone who Likes and engages with my Inspire by Kim website, Facebook page, Instagram so I wanted to give a thank you. Here it is…

A free downloadable Christmas Card to print at home.

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The design is a winter village scene featuring the Gingerbread House, reindeer, sleigh and snowman that I baked.

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I recommend printing on card or good quality photo paper and just ask that the design is sent in its entirety. If you’re new here please follow the blog to be eligible for the download.

Click on the following link to download.

Christmas Card – Inspire by Kim. Not for sale

Please note this for your enjoyment and whoever you choose to send it to. This copyrighted card design cannot be printed for sale and cannot be sold.

See the Gingerbread House here…

Thank you again to everyone for their ongoing support.

Kim 

Related:

Breakfast Cereal Design Concept

Illustrated Recipe – Buns

Instagram Highlights

Bottle Brand Design

Instagram Highlights

Have a lovely Christmas all.

If you’ve liked this post please Like it and if you think there is someone who would enjoy seeing it please share. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

The Kindness Cup – Magical Worlds Illustration

The most special night of the year the nights when the Kindness Cup is presented. A great celebration for the winner of the highest accolade.

I initially cringed at the magical worlds brief but quite enjoyed it in the end, right about the time I started adding fairy lights to the illustration.

The Brief: The ‘Magical Worlds’ prompt for #portfolioclub for this month got me thinking about ideal worlds, and how it would be if kindness was valued above all else and was the greatest achievement of success.

Life in this alternate reality would have cultivating kindness at the foundation of its values. It would be life’s work to be kind.

My initial concept, drawn whilst brainstorming.

The brief had an ‘ethereal’ prompt and a defined four colour palette, which are not my normal colours therefore this was challenging, but I enjoyed working with them.

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This figure is in the colour palette defined in the brief.

I spent time this year drawing trophies for illustration work to promote tennis club events for social media posts and on winner’s certificates. This work informed the development of the Kindness Cup.

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Tennis Club Promotional Work featuring trophies

The Kindness Cup with the cast iron work of the Paris Metro, which inspired the design. I love this art deco work by Lyonnais architect Hector Guimard.

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The Kindness Cup – inspired by the cast iron of the Paris Metro
Trophy woman gif
I began to see a face in the trophy. So I developed this and might explore it further. Here’s a gif of this in the meantime.
Character illustrations
My characters who formed the community crowd.

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I made the characters into silhouettes and gave them LED lit balloon and light up tulips. Added a little mist for atmosphere. The fairy lights, a fuzzy moon and multicoloured stars light the scene.

#illustration #kindness #trophy #magicalworld #success #thesecretofsuccess #valuekindness #conceptualillustration #illustrator #sheffieldillustrator #lancashireartist #howto #inspiration

Related work:

Portfolio Club – Circus Illustration

Breakfast Cereal Design Concept

Bali Parasol – Instructional Illustration Work

#PortfolioClub September – Folk Costume

You can see more of Hector Guimard’s work here.

Thanks for being here. Please Like if you do and supportive comments are always appreciated.

 

Art, illustration, design and movies by artist Kim.

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