Monday, December 21, 2009

Gocco Christmas

What enormous fun! The annual Inkymole seasonal greeting was produced this year on a recently-acquired Gocco PG-5, a tiny all-in-one Japanese printing machine.

It's a cross between rubber stamping and screenprinting, and my initial results are amusingly oafish - a big loud Christmas greeting rendered in chunky colours which started off neatly contained in their own spaces, but soon bled excitedly into one another making some of the cards outrageously 'spontaneous'. A hefty amount of ink is required, but this little creature can produce up to 1000 prints from one screen. Seeing them pile up over every available surface in the studio, with gaudy Christmas lights bouncing off them, was truly delightful.

I've been moaning ever so slightly over the last eighteen months or so that I don't do enough print, and so in a year where we seem to have received far fewer 'physical' cards, and more 'e-cards', I was proud to be lugging bagfuls of hand-printed, slightly wonky things to the post office. Actually...that sounds like last year. Come to think of it, the year before, too...and...

I think I finally appreciate now that if ever the year comes when I don't send something hand-made (or at least hand-drawn) out into the world in December, there will be uproar.

Thanks little lavender Gocco monster. Can't wait to see what I do with it in 2010!

Prepare, as I geek out most publicly. Here's how the printing was done:

The artwork has to be drawn in one take onto thin non-reflective paper, using a carbon-heavy tool - a pencil, the special RISO Gocco pen, or you can use a photocopy. After an initial disaster using the original art (bottom left) which revealed the Special Pen to be Not So Special, I went for an old-fashioned sticky-with-carbon photocopy.

Gocco lid open, ready for action:

You put the artwork down on the sticky pad, press the lid down and expose the screen using these amazingly glass-fruit-like bulbs, which pop like 70s flashbulbs and die after just one screen. Ahhhhh....

Then you cover the reverse of the screen with as much ink as it will take, blocking off areas you don't want to bleed with ink blocking foam. I only used a bit of this, as I wanted to see just how amusing the bleeding would be.

The screen looks like this after a while - completely smeared with ink:

Press down and clunk to print...

Print again...

Till you can't print any more...

And get your Mum to stamp and label them! (Note starring sprout being coy behind prints drying in cute Gocco rack.)
Gocco mentalism!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Girls' Night In

Not that many people know about all the 'chick lit' books I do, as there isn't room to get them all on the website, but I've worked on an awful lot of this particular genre. I found this as I was stomping through WHSmith today: a bargain 6-book 'Girls Night In' Collection (whatever did the apostrophe do to offend them?) for the silly sum of £4.99.

Can you tell which are Mole's?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It Wasn't Me.

The other day we were sitting discussing the heating system for the new studio (we're aiming to make it as off-grid as possible, not an easy task) when a text popped in. 'Hi, in London. Just saw (insert Ad Campaign/Poster/Book Cover), did you do it?'
Now, often the answer to a query of this nature would be 'yes', but this time it wasn't.

A quick Google revealed both client and illustrator. Nice folio. Lovely job. Did I teach them? Seems familiar. Really nice work. I can see why they thought it was me. Yeah, I can definitely see why...hell, this is practically studied. In fact, if there was an Inkymole School of Illustration, this person had to have put in at least a couple of years graft. I was due for a run that afternoon and, feeling unsettled by the similarities in the work, I ran and ran and ran further than I have for months. It felt good.

See, there is no Inkymole School of Illustration. As I've had to tell a few curious emailers lately, my (current) style wasn't taught in a certain specialist class, nor did I do an extra course, and neither is there one you can enrol on now. Every time someone gives me a platform to pass on some of the wisdom I've gleaned from a few years doing this, I tell students the same thing: keep evolving. Keep moving. You absolutely, cannot, ever sit back and rest on your laurels - there's going to be a litter of pup illustrators yapping excitedly around your feet every twelve months, and good luck to 'em too, because we've all been one - and probably taught a few of them.

Illustrator X doesn't know how heavily they've referenced my work (or maybe they do), nor should they. They're just getting on with 'getting on with it'. When things like this come along it's a reminder that it's time to apply the same thinking as in my run - push a bit further even if the limbs ache a bit. Work it off. Evolve. And take the whole thing as a ginormous compliment. If I didn't...I'd be a grumpy old fool, and the illustration biz has absolutely no room for those.

'Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us'.
Albert Schweitzer
(oh, and this one was me).

Must. Try. Harder. Always.

I love looking at other people's work, especially when it's really, really good. And specially when it's by people who don't know they're that good. Makes me want to be a better illustrator. Like this fella:

I like this font:

A font created using items from the Mitchell Library’s (The State Library of New South Wales) broad and eclectic collections, to celebrate its hundred year anniversary. If you go to the library you can click on any letter and see the elements it's made from.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Life In Macs.

The other day I found a photo of my friend's baby, 'tapping away' on my keyboard. I emailed it to her and wrote, 'Hey look Jules! It's George on my Mac!'
She sent back the message 'actually, that's Isabelle.'
To which I, gormlessly, replied '...are you sure?'

Of course she's sure - it's her daughter. I on the other hand remain confused about exactly when the PowerMac 4400 was replaced by the G4 (which was like a thousand Christmases at once) and when the 4400 replaced the Quadra 950. The Quadra my Mum and I bought between us - not realising this was a super-powerful server machine capable of running a vast network and built like a tank - and the 4400 was bought with my own money. Gosh.

Every Mac I've owned has been passed on to a family member, sparing me the pain of 'recycling' it or (shudder) 'harvesting' it for parts. The Quadra stayed with Mum. The G4 went to Dad. The 24" iMac went to my sister. The MacMini went to my other sister, but has come back home now for use as a music station. The only one I sold was a little black Powerbook, which ran my other company's* office for two years.
*and that's another story.

I've loved all of them and it's no secret I'm horribly sentimental about them, as each one is irrevocably connected with life events. The Quadra meant leaving college and moving into no. 6. The PowerMac was buying my own house, and George and Isabelle coming into the world. The G4 was finally earning enough to buy a brand new one. And so on.

But there is only so much the house can take. The PowerMac 4400 and the Quadra have to go. They still spring into life when I switch them on.

2 x Classic Macs, a colour Apple monitor, a modem, keyboard, mouse and assorted cable madness plus various geeky bits where I've upgraded.

Anyone, by any chance, want to adopt?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


In the unlikely event that anyone's on the lookout for one, I'm selling my lovely Eavestaff piano. Back in the day it was Art vs. Music. Art won, but I still have my piano. It's got to go to a loving home, in order to make space for the new studio, and it's a beaut.
See it on eBay here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Central Illustration 'ACE' Calendar 2010

The new Central Illustration calendar is out! Printed on recycled Colourset Light Grey 120gsm stock, with Trojan Whiteback and Tridon Greyboard card stand, with vegetable based inks, except for the 'Holo' effect foil on the cover. Limited edition of 600 only, 14cm x 14cm.

£7 UK / £12 elsewhere inc. postage

Get one now before they're all gone! (And I'm told they do go quick)

Letter Playground

Type fans will love this. I've contributed some of my letters to Letter Playground run by Nate Williams.

Delicious piles of As to Zs by fellow type geeks! Send some in, why don't you?

Here are some of mine!

Friday, November 20, 2009

You probably weren't thinking about Christmas cards in February, but...

Since it IS only a few weeks away, here's a blatant reminder that you can buy Inkymole Christmas cards to order - any quantity, any amount of different images - from I'm often asked to design Christmas cards for people and much as I'd like to, many people leave it just too late - I'm usually working on Christmas between February and September - so if you fancy some easy-does-it cards, with all the print buying taken care of, get stuck in!

See the collection here.

Moo's print is all done in the UK and they're a British company, so you'll be supporting the right kind of firm. They keep an environmental eyeball on all their processes too. (If you're REALLY organised, there's Valentine stuff already on there too...)

'6 weeks to go'

The Co-op have used the 'That's The Spirit' campaign again that I did for them last Christmas. Apparently they loved it! Watch out for Gabriela Cilmi's infectious tune on TV as my favourite supermarket (well, the only supermarket I'll patronise) counts down the weeks to the Big C. (You might also notice it on the Somerfield ads, since the Co-op have bought the firm).

Watch a Co-op TV ad (directed by Luke Scott, son of Ridley!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

600 pictures and two: Images 34

I was a judge on the Association of Illustrators' 'Images 34' competition this year, which involved looking through almost 600 illustrations (and that was just the Design and self-Promo Sections!) I saw some breathtaking work, chose some well-deserved prize winners and got to gorge myself on pictures for hours on end all in the name of 'work'.

Needless to say, I wasn't allowed to vote for myself, which is why I'm pleased I got two pieces accepted: 'Snowtrees', last year's Christmas print with words by Ed Garland, and 'Housing Works Birthday', one of those quick illustrations for a US client which turned out to be strangely popular.

They'll be in the Images Exhibition next year (usually around June time).

I'm annoyed I didn't get time to enter the Society of Illustrators competition (our New York counterpart) this year, but I suppose you just can't do everything...

The Witches

We've just come back from hosting The Witches at the East Gallery in Brick Lane. You'll know this of course as I've been talking about little else for the last six weeks or so!

Never been a team to do things by halves, we firmly believe in giving anyone who comes along - clients, family and friends - a good show. I'm usually to be found wide awake in the small hours for a week or so beforehand, worrying about whether the work is OK, is there enough of it, will everyone enjoy it, will it just look weird? and so on. A day or so before, most of the logistics are usually sorted and by the time it comes to putting the show up - well, you've done everything you can by then.

I needn't have worried. The Witches opening night was a lovely, chatty, buzzing evening where new faces were put to familiar names, and old friends, family and colleagues mingled and enjoyed the medievel-inspired tasties and plentiful Pendle Witches Brew, which was supplied by the amazingly generous David Grant of Moorhouses Brewery, up in Burnley. Chef Jed Smith, who had been left largely to his own culinary devices and has catered admirably for Inkymole events before, produced tiny bowls of hot pumpkin soup decorated with popcorn which surprised everyone, and was gulped down. The same went for his delicious almond tasties and 'Satan's Seitan' - tiny triangles of fiery home-made seitan, all served by Kate on little black trays. Both Jed and his team Clement and Kate get a big hot-handed hi-5!

Sean Canty aka Demdike Stare on music had been instructed to keep it dingy, and darken the room he certainly did - but in a retro-vampire-BBC-sound-effect-sub-bass-where's-that-noise-coming-from? kind of way. Having travelled alone due to the other half of Demdike being hours away from becoming a father, he steered the tuneship solo. The illustration, photography, words and wicker combined with these and the many glowing pumpkins and candles to create a gratifyingly seasonal atmosphere. Outside was eerily warm - I travelled to the gallery in just a corset and skirt (oh, I did actually have some shoes on), and felt not a twinge of autumn chill - and this meant people were to be found hanging outside the gallery and chatting in a summer-eve manner.

The most memorable thing for me will be the learning curve of working with several other people - Tom Hare, the willow artist, Anthony, the photographer, and Ed, who did the writing. I'm an uneasy collaborator, finding my work comes most naturally when in solitude and with plenty of direction, and although there were the logistics of being separated by anything between 3 and 3000 miles, we drew together a body of work which many commented 'hung together' perfectly, the pieces of which reflected and expanded on each other to reveal more and more. Other visitors commented that 'there was such a lot to see' and 'so many stories' and indeed, I'd put a lot of work into making sure the show flowed and the narrative was clear and plentiful.

Cards were taken, phone numbers exchanged, emails written down, meetings and liaisons organised.

There is already, of course, a list of things I'd do differently next time (and there is bound to be a next time!) but this show was most satisfying. It would only have been half as good without all the people who came along to it both on the opening night and down the week, so a warm and pumpkin-sticky 'thanks again' to everyone who did!

Photos: > click 'The Artwork' tab

What's next?

Tom Hare - currently building a 12ft reindeer for Westonbirt Arboretum, and showing again at Kew Gardens in 2010.

Anthony Saint James - working on video production back home in NYC, and undertaking fatherly duties from Match 2010.

Ed Garland - writing things that sound like this, and probably going abroad for more mind-widening soon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's getting a bit bonkers here

The blog silence can be explained by a huge amount of disruption at home (which is also work as many people will know) - illustrations have been carried out to the noise of banging, scraping, drilling, sawing, bashing and stair-stomping.

Still, work must continue apace as The Witches show opens this week! I'm never going to be a proper 'gallery' artist, and these events make me incredibly highly strung for a period of several weeks. Sometimes when things are getting hairy I think 'why, no really WHY, am I doing this to myself?'

The answer is always the same. Because I can, and I should. It's exactly because they shove me a bit rudely out of the usual Inkymole comfort zone that I do them. Bringing people from 3 to 3000 miles away to take part feels like a massive responsibility, but when it's done, I feel like I do when I've run for much longer than I have before - surprised I'm still intact, and surprised at how much I've stretched myself.

Luckily with this show, I've also enlisted the help of Tom Hare, Ed Garland, Anthony Saint James with Demdike Stare for musical accompaniant and 16th Century inspired vegan food designed by Jed Smith - who by day currently works for a famous Michelin starred West End restaurant.

The opening party is on the 29th of October and starts at 6pm until 9pm. The show runs until the 5th of November.

You will come along, won't you?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The clearout continues: new home needed for plan chest and paper shelves

I thought this might be useful to someone.

As you might know I'm having a BIG clearout for the new studio we're having built. I'm selling a bespoke-built paper/plan chest unit which I had made for the studio five years ago, as it's not migrating to the new space. Brilliant for a home office or studio like mine!

This very sturdy unit was hand-built to store samples of illustration work in its bottom drawers and store supplies of SRA2 paper stocks on the top shelves.

Built of 3/4 inch MDF, the unit has outlived its purpose here and is being replaced by a bigger one on our new studio. It is ready for painting or sealing, thought we preferred it in its unfinished, matte state.

It stands 8ft high, 13" deep, with 15 shelves each approximately 2" apart, wide enough to store SRA2 paper plus an inch or so at either side. The top shelf space is 13" high. The 5 soft-close drawers range from 4" (top) to 8" (bottom) in depth, with silver handles.

The unit will need to be collected due to its weight, and will be supplied dismantled with all screws, drawers intact and handles attached).
If anyone wants it, it does need collecting as we don't actually have a car at present! Sorry. And also because although it will be supplied dismantled, it's fairly big. (We're based in Hinckley, LE10 0DW; around 100 miles north of London).

We're extremely reluctant to take this item to the tip, which'll be the only option soon! Let me know if you're interested - make me an offer. Cost £400 to have built, but anything at all will be considered!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Are you sitting comfortably?

Just a quick one. I've kicked off The Big Antidote's 'Tell A Story' project. One illustrator starts, then more come along and finish it, up to a maximum of 10 stories each with 10 illustrators. 100 illustrations. Those images are then going to be screen-printed in glorious colour and put into an exhibition in 2010.

Anyone can volunteer to contribute a chapter, and the illustration-loving James at Cure Studio (who is running the project) will choose from the submissions (Note: you don't actually have to produce anything until you're picked; just send in your details).

So. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A Book About Death

My friend Anthony Saint James and I have contributed a piece to this exhibition opening in New York on Thursday 10th September.

Though I enjoyed quoting the author of my favourite book in the universe, this image is really ALL about Anthony's photograph. (There is more of this to come - but more on that over the coming weeks). On the back is a quote by another one of my favourite writers, Buddy Wakefield, whose line was chosen for its interesting parallel with Emily Bronte's quote and the world she inhabited - every day lived overlooking a graveyard and watching her sisters, brother and half the village succumb to consumption in their twenties.

Death though was virtually an additional family member in Haworth during the 1800s. Looking constantly over the shoulders of the villagers, down whose only street ran the toxic effluent of a pre-drainage era, Emily must have looked rather less fearfully into the grave than we would, as of course, she was off to meet her sister Anne and two older siblings before her. Perhaps death is the great big lie-down after the graft of a long life well lived - as opposed to a constant threat or thing to be feared.

And the notion that the earth would actually quite like to hang on to us a bit longer is charming, if not another good reason to be buried in the earth coffinless and un-embalmed with a sapling and a microchip over us (my plan; yours might be different).

So 'let go', as Buddy says. Because I don't know about you, but 'I'm not afraid of dying, I'm afraid of not living'. (Exodus 77).

The show is on till 22nd September, and you can read more about it here.

(Oh come on, after the pretty fruits and records, you were expecting some darkness, surely?)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Than Kew

You might remember Tom Hare, the willow artist who collaborated with me on The Witches project for TBWA. I've just done some signs for his enormous sculptures in Kew Gardens. They make up the Seed Walk, built to celebrate Kew's 250th anniversary and the Millennium Seed Bank there, and are built of willow and steel; giant poppy seed heads and Cocas de Mer jostle for attention at the gates of Kew - see some of them here.

These had to be done in a real rush using Hard-to-Buff ink on Tom's home-chopped oak, painted with just a touch of Osmo oil to help preserve them. No varnish. They were done in 'one take' - pencil could not be rubbed out from the wood as it stained it, so the words were put straight on without outlines or guides. Ooof. They're a bit up-and-downy, but I think they do the job! I wrote off four brushes as the ink ruins everything it touches...but that's because it has some serious gumption.

'The Witches' is being shown again with additional pieces in London this October, where you can see more of Tom's work. Mark your diaries for October 28th!

Tom Hare
Kew's Seed Walk
Tom Hare talks about the project

England's pantry

Just look at these beauties. We had to stop and photograph this breathtaking assortment of produce today as we stood in the kitchen unwrapping bits and pieces.

It's all in season, and it's all English too. From left to right, we have tomatoes, cabbages and runner beans from Rickards' Farm in Congerstone. Fresh-picked on the morning you order the box, which is £5 for enough to feed a family of five. Or two greedy people. There's no website, and no, you can't email in your order. It demands a 20-minute drive to the farm every week! They're organic too, but you won't find a Soil Association mark on them - the family have been growing veg this way for three generations, but they aren't in a hurry to apply for any sort of kitemark - they're too busy growing!

Next to that we have Kent Cobnuts bought from Berwick Street market, Soho, London. Picked them up at the weekend along with some juicy dates (which we've already eaten.) You peel off the green skins and crack them like nuts. They're lovely. The sweetcorn is also from there, as Rickards' own cobs aren't ready yet.

The big Bramley apples are from our friend Boyd's family's back garden. We live at 71, they live at 3. Boyd and I were at junior school together. His Mum brought a massive bag round which we turned into a gingerbread apple pie. That got driven to London, where Boyd lives, and we fed him a taste of home - with custard!

The obscene carrots are from Rickards. They like to pick out the handsomest, or the ugliest - depends on Chunk's mood when he picks them out. These two are definitely in the Handsome category.

Finally, FINALLY... a bowl of damsons from the neighbours' felled damson tree (the wood is in the wood store for forthcoming autumn chills), next to a bowl of its rounder cousin allegedly called a damseen - though I can't find a trace of these on Google. Anyone know anything about them? The plums I had to photograph for their vivid colour.

Colours, shapes, tastes, shiny skins - sometimes I am at a loss to understand why anyone at all chooses to buy fruit and veg from a supermarket. Why have a pineapple in December when you can let the seasons surprise you, and provide a continuous flow of fresh, home-grown goodies?

(ps anyone spot the silly face?)


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