Friday, July 31, 2009

Images 33 Show, London

I went to the AOI's Images 33 'Best of British Illustration' launch on Tuesday, and was able to gorge on pictures for an evening with a nice glass of orange juice in my hand.

I had two pieces in the show, but as usual with the timing of Images, by the time the show is up you're fed up of your own pieces and can't wait to feast on the other work there. This show had a noticeable increase in hands-on media - drawing, acrylic, 3d, collage, gouache, mixed-media - which was very refreshing and encouraging as further evidence of a gentle move away from the digital bingeing of the late nineties and noughties.

First off it was great to see my friend Kevin's work proudly displayed. Kevin and I were part of the same agency years ago, which we had a hand in setting up, and have kept in touch ever since as part of a circle of close fellow illustrators - the five of us have weathered many illo-storms over the years! Jill Calder is one of them, and she too had her beautiful rainbow-coloured garden piece in the show (last year her work graced the cover of the Images annual too).

Andy Smith won a Gold for his Sight and Sound cover (Chris Brawn, the commissioner, must be a lover of typography as I've recently taken up the mantle of the S&S covers myself) and rightly so - a bold, red, squawking 'coq' on a paper background made for a beautiful screenprint. I did something I've never done before in my life: saw Andy wearing the obligatory name badge and approached with 'It's Andy Smith, I'm such a fan!" Eek. But I meant it, I do love Andy's work, and I've never met him in person. (I was by myself as my +1 guest was still in the pub with chums...which probably increased the stalker look).
Another prize, though, I was really not so sure about. The student piece by Amy Knibbs entitled 'Dandylion' was a Gold winner - several representations of a dandelion, very delicate and pretty, but not prize-winning stuff. Across the room were the pieces I felt very strongly should have taken that prize, and hadn't. Liz Kay's 'I'm A Woman' was a quartet of beautifully-rendered, immaculately-painted lyrics from Peggy Lee's 'I'm A Woman', complete with charming, cleverly-observed illustrations, and all built into a challengingly-sized frame. Funny, gently stylish and technically very accomplished, I stood around them staring into the detail and waiting for the stude to arrive so I could congratulate her on her work. Quote honestly, I was staggered that this piece - and others in the collection (Julia Bruderer in particular) - had been overlooked. Dandylion, I felt, looked like the start of a promising way of working that could develop further...but lacked the depth and thoughtfulness of Liz's work.
Add ImageOverall I enjoyed the show tremendously, and as an added bonus bumped into an old friend as I hurled myself on the tube to Elephant and Castle. Cyrus Deboo and I were part of the same agency a few years ago, but lost touch - though we've kept an eye on eachother's work. He was well and busy, and up to some intriguing stuff that he refused, with a glint in his eye, to expand on. But for now, here's Cyrus's work. It really was lovely to hook up with an old chum and catch up on news.
The Images 33 Show is on at London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SB , and will tour the country over the coming months.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Say Yes To Free Tattoos

My latest set of tattoos are ready, and waiting to get to their new homes! A reminder of the tattoo project: they're free on condition you send hi-res photos of you (or someone you know) wearing them. Points are awarded for creativity and imaginative placement. It's a trio of three designs this time.

They're are inspired by the words of US poet Andrea Gibson, whose humbling and brilliant words you can read here. You can only get this latest set direct from me, or by going to one of poet Andrea's performances in the USA this summer.

You can see the global efforts of those already furnished with free fake ink at the MySpace Gallery.

Email if you'd like to be sent some. And remember - I WILL chase you for photos...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 4th Fireworks Poster, NYC

This summer I did the July 4th Annual 33rd Fireworks poster for Macy's in New York. The legendary celebrations, sponsored by the 'world's biggest department store' Macy's were extra-special this year - the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Mannahatta island, by Henry Hudson who sailed up the river which was eventually to be named after him.

The job was to create a poster which was then turned into a store-side animation and window displays. As the poster had to reflect the historic nature of the event, the typography harked back to a pre-digital era with every letter and illustration hand-drawn, inspired by the history of the event and the pyrotechnics themselves.

Since we were in New York for three weeks in June, we just managed to catch the campaign as it went live, but not the event itself (though last year's were amazing!) If you're in NY, the Mannahatta Project exhibition at The Museum of the City of New York is incredible - see the island as it was at the point of discovery, its flora and fauna, and type in any Manhattan address to see what it looked 400 years ago.

'Identity' at the Ten Two Gallery

I went to a private view last night, one which, unusually, was held in my home town. A ten minute walk was refreshing ('private view' usually means a car or train trip to London or further afield) and the little gallery, Ten Two, where I used to have a studio a few years ago, was filled with people and the smell of warm bready things and coffee. (I should mention the gallery has its own cafe, very cosy with very large sandwiches.)

The work was 'Identity', the NHS Open Art Show 2009, which is touring. It's art by people who have suffered or still are suffering from health difficulties, with an apparent emphasis on mental health problems, whether currently in treatment or not. Some people had never made art before, some were postgraduate creatives, but the art was linked by an urge to communicate, express, explore, or deal with something personal and important.

Take 'Painting Mum' by Jan Welch. This is the one that had me standing in the corner in my unsubtle canary yellow rain mac trying not to show the reddening eyeballs. (I apologise that the iPhotos here are further affected by the glass reflections) Terribly moving in its simplicity, Jan had painted her Mum in a simple and realistic way, through three 'screens' of colour - pink for the positive outlook she retained throughout her life, grey for the Alzheimer's which eventually claimed her memory (but not her spirit) and yellow for the fear she felt 'most of the time'. In addition to this, the artist had painted over the photographs of the woman's three children, because the Alzheimer's eventually meant she forgot who they were.

Jack Shotbolt's 'Threadbare' is an ordered but frantic weaving of thick paint, a deep mesh of luminous colours and powerful strokes. This is a close-up. Of it, Jack says: 'In recent times I have repeatedly found myself in turbulent circumstances beyond my control that have rocked my world. The only constant has been my need to make sense of all this change by making paintings'.

This one I didn't record the artist for - sorry - but the position of the figure says it all. And the light. And the face...

This one I wanted to buy - but it was sadly the only one marked 'NFS': 'Covered ID' by Lou Woods (ID as in identity, or 'id' as in Freud?)

These delicate bowls called 'Change' and 'Gone' were made by Maggi Gamble after her mastectomy; tiny and fragile, they really needed no further explanation:

There were many others worthy of mention. Mat Brandford's 'The Gift And The Curse' was his first ever piece of artwork - a brave move then, to show such a thing in public - after 20 years of struggling to know 'which face to wear in which circumstances and with which people'. He had a past which included 'bullets' and a 'Teflon-coated' career in crime, and his brutally honest drawing shows his continuing struggle between the two 'faces'. I wish there was somewhere else online you could see all these - as there were plenty more I'd like to have mentioned.

This wasn't artwork shown for its awards, slickness, or clever concepts. To be presented with such raw and honest expressions was humbling and a little moving, and made me happy for the artists (to have such an outlet) and sad that they had cause to work in this way, though the resulting work was often beautiful. Some actually saw their mental / health problems as a gift, and chose to celebrate the different-ness it gives them. But mostly, it made me appreciate how lucky I am never to have been affected by such issues, and aware that one is always only ever a hair's breadth away from them.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A nice oxymoron

I love the title 'working holiday'. When I was younger I couldn't figure out what one was (surely you were doing one or the other), but as an adult I've had plenty of examples.

For instance, New York. We spent the last three weeks there, on a trip based round a couple of work commitments which quickly became 2-5 work commitments a day.

Along with all the meetings and stuff, and despite my feeble protestations (I'd already had three projects to finish), a couple of illustration jobs came in which were too nice to pass up, so I did them one weekend with sketchbook perched on a borrowed cupboard in front of the window, to get enough light to draw - and an incredibly ropey wireless connection. The files got there against the odds in the small hours, and here they are. A couple of nice new bits for the folio, with both clients a joy to work with (and extremely tolerant of my tech issues!).

For the Guardian newspaper, to encourage ethically and environmentally-driven companies to advertise with them. Entirely hand-drawn in felt tip pens and ink.

'Gangsters Special' - cover for the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine. This one follows 'Tarantino', and is hopefully the second in a series


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