Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas at the Wall Street Journal

I did some fancy multi-coloured illustrations for the Wall Street Journal's Christmas gift guide. Here are some of the illustrations, from the Books section, and the big bow from the cover, in its three colourways.

The type was very relaxed on these, energetic and organic with the merest trace of digital tidying which even the most skilled CSI would struggle to detect. Most refreshing.

Jingle bells!


This year's cards were a blatant representation of how excited I get about Christmas. I realise not everyone shares my wide-faced excitement, least of all the elves (Brook and Leigh, Anne and John) who played the part of 'tolerant exploited labour force' for two days without complaint or unionisation.

But the card design was drawn with ink, printed in full colour by our excellent local printsmith, the circles cut and drilled by our other excellent local printsmith, then the faces hand-drawn by me, followed by stamping, tying of neon ribbons, folding, sticking and posting. Lots.

More than that, however, the ink I used is special. Very special. You see, it's...oh, wait, home time already? Coming!

Happy Christmas all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas again - in April.

If Christmas in August was weird, Christmas in April was even odder. This was done for Pitcher & Piano, independent bar and restaurant chain. I quite like the energy of this one...though you always spot at least three things you'd change once it's published!

Frohe Weihnachten!

I was drawing reindeer back in August, which is quite normal for an illustrator. In fact it's quite late to be doing Christmas stuff. Getting in the mood when it's sunny outside isn't that difficult - by this time of the year, the Christmas 24 Channel is on telly a couple of hours a day, so you can binge on terrible made-for-TV Christmas movies till the nausea kicks in..but by that time, you've drawn your picture anyway.

This one I loved doing. It was for Monika Winckler, at Ernst & Young in Germany. I like the German language a lot - it's deliciously multi-syllabic, crisp and muscular - and this was a delight to produce. They also turned the illustration into an animation for the company's annual Christmas identity. (My favourite bit on this is the gingerbread twins of robustly ethnic origin!) I like to see my work animated and I'd love to do more of it myself...when time and brainpower allow. For this one though, I was happy to let the clever German pixel engineers do it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt To Work Day


It's Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt To Work Day, and this is mine.

Sadly, when I was going to watch the likes of Kajagoogoo and the Thompson Twins, I didn't have the money for a band T-shirt. I embroidered my own logos onto the classic early-80s khaki canvas bags that were de rigeur for schoolkids, and if you gave me a quid or so I'd have done yours for you as well.

Later on I refused to buy an Aerosmith/Monsters of Rock/Skid Row/Whitesnake T-shirt, though I had the sweaty front-row chance to do so several times. I wasn't a t-shirt wearing sort of girl.

So this is the oldest one I have. And it's probably the most significant. By 1995 we were Portishead groupies, having done our courting to the first Portishead album - a total revelation, musically - watching them perform for the first time on Jools Holland from our bed and marvelling at the dark, tearful vocals and massive, surly hip-hop beats. Those phrases sound like cliches now, and in fact a new term had to be invented to describe it ('trip-hop'), but at the time...nothing had ever sounded like them. Eighteen years later, we're still courting, and we have all Portishead's other albums (in duplicate) - and today's a good opportunity to revisit them. Though, the opening bars of Dummy still give me goosebumps; in fact, the album's so evocative I find it hard to listen to.

What's also still around eighteen years later is the T-shirt. I bought this at their Bath gig. We'd seen them on several stops on tour, and I wore it with a tiny black skirt. I don't remember what was on my feet. Probably not trainers, as I'd swore never to wear them (that changed as well). I probably did have some sort of thermal-ish top underneath, as I have right now (always did feel the cold) and black tights. The skirt in this picture is from 1994, having been bought in a charity shop with a matching waistcoat. I wore both to death, and still wear them, though the fabric's getting delicate. My hair was twice as long (it's growing back after a full-on urchin!) and red. The lippy I've done my best to match to the Body Shop one I was addicted to in 1995. And the eyeliner...hasn't changed much! Perhaps a little more skilfully applied now - I'm in less of a goddamn hurry. And I have a cold in this pic (ahh...the old self-confidence hasn't exactly rocketed in that time either!)

I've managed to listen to Dummy up to Wandering Star so far, and no tears. In fact I've written this blog to the album and realised how much there is to be bloody overjoyed about. The T-shirt's still here, the skirt's still here, Leigh's still here, I'm still here, the album's still here and it's still fucking marvellous. So good.

Monday, November 05, 2012


I LOVE fireworks, and I love everything about these wonderful posters, from the private and massive collection of Maurice Evans, who also has a mammoth hoard of original fireworks, Guy Fawkes souvenirs and packaging from the late 1800s onward. 

That Wessex 'Guy' is particularly evil looking - in fact, he's rather like the Anonymous / V for Vendetta mask isn't he? Oh wait...hold on a minute...
(In fact the collector himself, Maurice, has an charmingly characterful face of his own.)

And wouldn't you love to go to that cosy back garden fireworks party in the Brock's advert? You can smell the hot baked spuds from here!

More beautiful sparkly images in this article:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Burns, quilted

I got a phone call from an excited but anxious-sounding lady on Friday, who told me she'd been to the Robert Burns Museum recently. She was so enthralled by the Tam O'Shanter 'Weathervane' walk, which I created the designs for, that she'd returned shortly after to take some photographs. This she did with the intention of making a quilt telling the story.

With its 'January grey' background, Mrs Barbara Dillett of Prestwick has made a fine job of this full-size bed quilt. I know a little bit about quilting as my Mum has done it for many years - you can see her creations in fact on this blog. I know the hours of work and the complexity of cutting shapes and keeping everything ordered.

Mrs Dillett thoughtfully wanted to check she wasn't in trouble for using the illustrations (of course, she wasn't) and also wanted my blessing, which she got wholeheartedly. I understand it's being exhibited somewhere then sold on.

I think she's done a fine job, and the colours are robustly wintery a perfect reminder of our own freezing trip to the Museum on its opening night two years ago.

Mrs Dillett's own pictures are shown along with the weather-vanes in situ, and an original drawing or two. Good eh?

My original blog on the artwork and opening is here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I've just painted this little Noise Box Shell for Sam Underwood, who will take the other 9, join them together and make an electronic music machine to play at Supersonic's 10th Anniversary Festival.

First, to say I like electronic music is an understatement. Second, home-made music machines - or machines of any type, actually - appeal to me greatly. Third, I get to draw whatever I fancy. So I did. This one's wearing Dutch lace (I don't know why it's Dutch, it just came out like that). I can't help imagining the others are robustly male. It's electronic music after all. I had to paint it in the enamels that it was sent with, so some of the lines are a bit choddy.

This is how the noise box will look, ish:

The other reason for contributing is that the Capsule Girls, Jenny and Lisa, have been supporters of Inkymole activities for a very long time, and their festival, now internationally highly regarded, is a gem of Midlands curating and programming while being completely unhaunted by bullshit or indie-festy-pomp-fuelled bollocks. We were involved in the earliest Supersonics, as Factoryroad, and so it felt nice to be making a tiny something for its decade anniversary.

Good luck girls! May it be a mental one.

Into Battle.

I've not talked about this for a bit as we were very busy behind the scenes post-event. You might already know that as well as doing illustration I have a gallery which shares the same floor as the studio here.
And we have a review of the Gentleman Practice show, of creative responses to Buddy Wakefield's show, on our Factoryroad Gallery website at last.

I'm not going to add much as both Buddy and ourselves have written just about all there is to write about the experience of the creating, curating, hosting, mounting and debriefing of the show. It was one of the most exhausting and emotional things we're ever undertaken - perhaps it comes close to the Write Off The World shows - well, actually, as I begin to recall that, maybe close, but not the same - but It feels correct, however, to write about the piece that was my contribution to the collection.

I am a guilty person. I feel guilt. Most of the time; from all angles, guilt comes at me in assorted guises. It is usually my fault. Even when it's most obvious to other people that it isn't. I'm not Catholic, so can't blame that stereotype. I've never had pressuring or pushy parents. I've never done anything terrible to anyone. I always pay my bills on time. I've never exploited or bullied anyone. I give money to charity, I make cakes for people and I look after my sisters. I make coconut flapjacks for my boyfriend and sometimes he doesn't even need to ask me for them. And yet, my head tells me I'm never good enough, clever enough, kind enough, hardworking enough, friendly enough, relaxed get the picture. It's boring. It even bores me. But it's there, and actually, I feel a bit guilty right now, for even writing this and not doing my 'work'.

So when I read Buddy's poem 'Healing Herman Hesse' - one I've listened to a lot but never actually read - the following lines cuffed me around the back of the head:

‘Spends his time falling from the weight.
Got a lead brain.
It’s a battle magnet.
He carries it round by the guilt straps.
Don’t laugh.’

My own Battle Magnet was created by night, alone, from pure driven desperation to make manifest this source of negativity and mental collision. It was made from canvas, calico, a safety helmet, insulating fabric, tapes and straps, paper, ink, Sugru, ear defenders, a glue gun and some sewing. It had just two tiny pencil sketches beforehand, and whoosh, eleven hours later, it was there. Right in front of me. My own brain. Staring back at me in the mirror atop my own head (I made it to fit of course - the theatrical props maker of old Mole will look for any reason to force herself through any available gap). When on my head, the piece obscures my vision, makes it impossible to hear anyone properly, and adds real weight to my shoulders. Funny that.

So there she was. I didn't know whether to embrace her and soothe her, or set fire to her. The final part of the project came in the dead of night again - I simply had to pose wearing the beast, my own pale and worried body supporting the literal and metaphorical weight (it's very heavy, and not very stable when on). It has been thought that this photo shows the Battle Magnet atop a 'white mannequin', which I found funny, as I had clearly disguised myself sufficiently for people not to realise it is my skinny arms and chest underneath.

The Battle Magnet is still in the room and I don't know what to do with her. She is part of me, even though she's externalised now. But where will she live? Well the answer is easy, actually. Where I can keep a goddamned eye on her, and her destructive tendencies.


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