Thursday, May 05, 2016

#3000chairs

#3000chairs for The Guardian.

See Twitter for the full story on this charming endeavour born from a terrible story. 3000 unaccompanied refugee children were turned away from the UK by our government. Nicola Davies wrote her poem 'The Day The War Came' in response, and has invited artists and illustrators to draw an empty chair and share it on Twitter. I didn't know which chair to choose so here are all three.
 
The poem's below.




The Day The War Came

The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill
and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.
My mother made my breakfast, kissed my nose
and walked with me to school

That morning I learned about volcanos,
I sang a song about how tadpoles turn at last to frogs
I made a picture of myself with wings.

Then, just after lunch,
while I watched a cloud shaped like a dolphin,
war came.
At first, just like a spattering of hail
a voice of thunder…
then all smoke and fire and noise, that I didn’t understand.

It came across the playground.
It came into my teacher’s face.
It brought the roof down.
and turned my town to rubble.

I can’t say the words that tell you
about the blackened hole that had been my home.

All I can say is this:

war took everything

war took everyone

I was ragged, bloody, all alone.

I ran. Rode on the back of trucks, in buses;
walked over fields and roads and mountains,
in the cold and mud and rain;
on a boat that leaked and almost sank
and up a beach where babies lay face down in the sand.

I ran until I couldn’t run
until I reached a row of huts
and found a corner with a dirty blanket
and a door that rattled in the wind

But war had followed me.
It was underneath my skin,
behind my eyes,
and in my dreams.
It had taken possession of my heart.

I walked and walked to try and drive war out of myself,
to try and find a place it hadn’t reached.
But war was in the way that doors shut when I came down the street
It was in the way the people didn’t smile, and turned away.

I came to a school.
I looked in through the window.
They were learning all about volcanos
And drawing birds and singing.

I went inside. My footsteps echoed in the hall
I pushed the door and faces turned towards me
but the teacher didn’t smile.
She said, there is no room for you,
you see, there is no chair for you to sit on,
you have to go away.

And then I understood that war had got here too.

I turned around and went back to the hut, the corner and the blanket
and crawled inside.
It seemed that war had taken all the world and all the people in it.

The door banged.
I thought it was the wind.
But a child’s voice spoke
“I brought you this,” she said “so you can come to school.”
It was a chair.
A chair for me to sit on and learn about volcanoes, frogs and singing
And drive the war out of my heart.

She smiled and said
“My friends have brought theirs too, so all the children here can come to school”

Out of every hut a child came and we walked together,
on a road all lined with chairs.
Pushing back the war with every step.


By Nicola Davies



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gold & Wolves.

Beautiful gold foil on my cover for Lauren Wolk's Wolf Hollow...

Part Mole, part Magpie, I can't stop rubbing the cover! It's SO covered in gold.
This was a tricky one to get right, but it was worth it, having received this copy in the post from Penguin Random House today.

Some of the work involved in the process of getting this cover right is shown below - many roughs, lots of ideas, before we settled on the finished thing!















Saturday, April 23, 2016

Me and Shakespeare.




My whole life - well since I learned to read - has had a constant stream of words woven through it, connecting me with poets, novelists and playwrights, first as child watching black and white classics with my Grandma, through school in English Literature classes and then as an illustrator making pieces of work inspired by writing.

I thought it was about time I catalogued the famous and not so famous writers I've worked with and for, as I have had the pleasure of working with many.


Today is 'Shakespeare 400' day - he died on his birthday - so I'm sharing some of the pieces I did for the big re-brand of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust a few years ago. This blog wasn't running then, so it didn't really get catalogued.


The Guardian recently ran this article on Ten Ways In Which Shakespeare Changed The World, and it's absolutely true that his ideas, take on life and way of putting things - and actually, in very easy language, once you can get past the schoolkid fear of the writing style - are very much part of our vocabulary today. "A fool’s paradise" is his, as is  “the game is up”; “dead as a doornail”; “more in sorrow than in anger” and “cruel, only to be kind” - there are LOADS.


My love for William Shakespeare began with the visuals though, when an Auntie bought us 'The Bloody Book', a Victor Ambrus-illustrated collection of simplified Shakey stories that spared none of the visceral gore of the plays. My Mum was dubious about it, but we loved the blood-splattered ghost of Duncan, and Romeo outstretched on the deceased Juliet. Romeo was devastatingly handsome, and Juliet had fantastic red hair, all captured in Ambrus's jittery inked line and furiously energetic 70s colours. They were the most terrifying and brilliant drawings I'd ever seen.


'All day long the battle raged'




While I could never reach the dizzying skill levels of Victor's pen nib, I did end up working with Shakespeare - as a degree student I made a pop-up recipe book full of disgusting Tudor recipes to make a meal 'as eaten in Shakespeare's Day', illustrated of course - part of a fictional rebranding of Stratford on Avon. A few years later I got to do the real thing.

Sadly this branding was replaced recently with a rather safe font-only option and all of the signage removed, so no trace of it exists. However, this is what it looked like, produced in collaboration with PHWT in Leamington Spa. I think they saw the spiky calligraphic nib action I was doing a lot of at the time (thanks in no small part to Victor A) and saw a match:


So wobbly! I'm still amazed how much they embraced the wonkiness and energy of the lettering. 
It's a bit raw innit?






I drew each of the houses in the Birthplace Trust's care - these are still some of my favourite illustrations:






Later on I did this poster for a Wyndham Theatre production of Much Ado About Nothing - classic Shakespeare in that it's a slight cuss, but a loving one, and a delayed-reaction one too:





And later on this series of book covers for Quarto - one for each book - which in the end didn't go ahead, but I enjoyed the process of doing the work. 



I like to think there may be more Shakespeare projects to explore  in coming years, but there are so many writers in the world - maybe I should just wait and see what comes my way. It's nice to mine the past, but brilliant new things are being written every day.

I'll be covering my relationship with other writers in upcoming blogs - Dickens, Austen, the Brontës, Sage Francis, Katie Wirsing, Buddy Wakefield, Jo Nadin, Hayley Long, Robert Burns...and a little bit of Robert Frost.



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Purple Rain.



Had to pause everything just for a moment this evening to get the purple inks out.
#Prince

Non-illustration Leisure Time: goodbye to bricks and mortar.


 ~ The iconic yellow type of the Lei(s)ure Centre, set in Cooper Black ~

I've always gone out of my way to use my body, ever since the day post-graduation that I realised I would no longer a) be walking miles into college carrying stuff or b) riding a bike to my boyfriend's house up several hills, now that I had acquired a yellow Citroen 2CV in lieu of a debt.

That's meant a lifelong gym habit, the acquisition of yoga, a taste for running and in the last couple of years, a twice-weekly early morning swimming routine. When you sit down drawing and thinking and typing all day, if you don't get off your ass now and again it will literally be the death of you. My body might sometimes feel like it's just a thing to carry my head around, but I'll be damned if I let my job do me in.

So me and my Mum and Dad go to Hinckley's defiantly 70s Leisure Centre two mornings a week to smash out as many lengths as we can, then get changed in the no-longer-fashionable open-plan changing rooms, where everyone stands around discussing husbands, politics, jobs and telly in various stages of stark-bollockness. It's reassuring, grounding, and completely delightful.

All that's about to change as the Leisure Centre I watched being built with my Dad, as a small child in 1978, will close on Sunday and be demolished two weeks later. It was never quite right, its construction dogged by controversy - the pool was never big enough, there were alleged shortcuts taken all over the structure, and the concrete was meant to be poorly. But I always liked its awkwardness and slightly heroic feel. It's stood there serving my town for nearly 40 years, ugly, dingy and angular as it is, and this morning was my last ever swim there.

I spent some time in the building today recording details ahead of its destruction. As I walked through what used to be the café I remembered that I once went for a part time job there, in the kitchens, and being asked 'if I could cook'. When I replied 'you mean can I flip greasy burgers and lower chips into a fryer', I was most assuredly not going to be given the job.

As we sat outside in the mossy 'Al Fresco' area I also remembered locking up my bike one night and being groped out of the blue by a mystery man whose face I never did see, because he ran off before I could even shout 'oi, perv!'

And my best mate at the time, Dawn, now deceased, who laughed at the story and told me with fabulous logic 'it's OK Colehole, he probably thought you were a bloke'.

Ah the memories!

Here are some of my photographs from this morning. They show both the wear and tear that are the reasons for its replacement, and the efforts of the staff to keep the place going. The Leisure Centre is Dead! Long Live the Leisure Centre!

The strange red building has always had a beautiful front garden:




Stand here and hear the hum of the mysteriously scary pool machinery below:










The diving pool with its 'moveable floor', the idea of which used to really freak me out. 
It stopped moving a long time ago, and the diving boards were removed years ago. 






Those angles! The place is full of 'em.



SO much concrete.





All quiet.




The last post-swim breakfast, in the outside eating area. 
As far as we know, we are the only people to have sat here in all the time we've been going!


Not about to be repaired any time soon.












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