Thursday, July 05, 2012

'How To Punctuate.' or should that be 'How to Punctuate'.

Sometime last year our friend Liam Clayton alerted me to an exhibition that was being prepared for 2012. So I have him to thank for this one.

'The Library of Lost Books' is an exhibition of artists' re-creations of salvaged books which have been discarded from closed libraries up and down the country. The idea appeals to me for so many different reasons. First, libraries shouldn't be closing. Second, I'm continually appalled at how easily our independent bookshops were allowed to die in the face of the double-barrelling from Amazon and Waterstones (though the latter is at least a bookshop), and third, I love old books and their bindings, foilings, nameplates, papers and embossings. I don't buy enough of them, but those that I do have are still awaiting a proper book shelving system to go on, so I can't buy any more for the time being...

Now, I don't know whether it was pure chance or a little digging about my background that brought my particular 'lost book' to me - I like to think it was breathtaking coincidence. Or magic! For I was sent 'How To Punctuate', which, if anyone knows me or has ever experienced me via social networking, will be aware of my rigidity on the correct used of grammar, punctuation and spelling, in the interests of clear and accurate communication by all.

My brief is to
1) Explore the book as an object of wonder, beauty and/or magic.
2) Make a work driven by a considered engagement with the book-as-object.
3) Make work that is technically interesting or innovative.
4) Engage with the book as an historical object.

I don't yet know what I'm going to do. I have an idea, but I've yet to think it over properly. It's not the only piece of work I've got on the agenda which is a little scary (there is more than one personal piece of work to make for a September deadline). But I feel the pressure to do justice to this beautiful, pedantic, very correct book.

I shall report back!


The majority of book covers DO make it to final publication, I'm pleased to say. Every time I walk into WHSmith (it tragically being the only 'bookshop' left in our town) I see at least two or three of my covers, and even though I retired from women's fiction, I still dip my un-manicured toe in now and again which keeps me on the Richard'n'Judy shelves. I used to do all of Louise Bagshawe's covers (now Mensche) and back then, it was almost into double figures on those shelves.

Currently though I'm doing more children's and teenage fiction, which I love. In fact I'm starting another one today. This series I did over about two years, and although I've only read one, they're very cute and just right for little girls. I wanted to be a ballerina and I know that had spot varnish and holographic foil been common in the early 80s, and providing they'd had these in the library, I'd have had my little hands on these.

This is the Olivia series for Nosy Crow books, IPG Children's Publisher of the Year. Written by the Guardian newspaper's theatre critic, Lyn Gardner, the stories centre around Olivia, the daughter of a circus artiste (on the cover of 'Movie Stars' she's in the sky with her Dad) and the series follows her journey through stage school and beyond. This reviewer sums them up nicely:

'This is Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers meets Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes with a bit of Pamela Brown’s 'The Swish of the Curtain' thrown in for deliciously good measure'.

Cover to cover.

I do loads of book covers and I added them all up not so long back - it was over 150. I've done more than that now, and since I often do series, I'm guessing it's closer to 170ish.

I can't remember though whether I included the ones which weren't used. Which, as I've said before, does happen. If that's the case, I tend to show the work anyway - it's irrelevant whether it was used, the work was still created! And often I'm quite pleased with it (not always, mind). You can see how much work goes into them - these are still roughs, not even finished artwork.

Here are a few I've done over the last few months. All of these were rejects. One was eventually used on its Singapore edition. All of them I liked! 'Jepp' was the one I was most disappointed by, as I really thought I'd cracked what was quite a tricky subject matter (you'll probably find it on the US Amazon, if you want the synopsis). Sometimes though, a rejected cover can be revisited for a job further down the line, so it's like having an archive of dormant ideas, waiting to be brought back into gainful employment. Or maybe I'll use just a bit of the idea - like an illustration organ donor!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

'Can I get you another drink sir'?

Yep, we decided to put a pop-up restaurant in our house. For two days. And somehow, it worked.

I got to dress up as a waitress (albeit one with peacock eyelashes) and get into servile mode as our friend Jed - whom you'll have read about before if you read this or the Gallery blog - whipped up the final parts of a four-day cooking extravaganza, bringing his Michelin-starred chefing experience to our little spot in the Midlands.

The full story is here - but here are some pictures. it really was one of the hardest events we've organised *notwithstanding 'When A Girl Writes Off The World' in the middle of a surly Manhattan at five week's notice with no prior experience - but that's another blog entirely, coming later) but we pulled it off. And the food was...

Food & Flint.

If you read our Factoryroad Gallery blog you'll already know all about this.

But if you don't, well, you may or may not know that we built a gallery into the ground floor of our home about 18 months ago. Our latest show was Henry Flint and DJ Food.

It went incredibly well, and everyone involved enjoyed this one a lot - in fact I think it went well beyond any expectations we had.

I'm not going to re-post the extensive blog here, instead if you like you can read it on the original blog:

We were also given a cheek-warming review by Kev himself. His is funnier than ours, and has better pictures. (Although he does use Wordpress, which always did our heads in so we returned to Blogger...)

We host these shows 3-4 times a year, and they provide an outlet for the things that excite us beyond the main job of illustration. We have a manifesto of sorts, which isn't quite yet finalised, but as we put it to someone recently:
'People whose work we love, the well known and not so well known. People we want to work with. We experiment a bit! None of it is for profit (ie: we don't do it to sell artwork and get fat on the proceeds) although we do make a souvenir tea towel for each show (nice household item!) and have sold one or two prints.'

Which just about sums it up!

We have more shows lined up - each is always very different from the last. If you want to stay updated, send an email to - or just keep reading the blog.

Ask Amy Green.

Last year I swapped women's fiction, which I was doing tons of, for teenagers' and children's books, which I was also doing a lot of but enjoying more (kicked off by the massively enjoyable Lottie Biggs series). It's paid off, as I'm drawing a lot of bright, cheeky covers which involve humour and a light touch, often employing felt tips, and forcing me to draw silly little things which I dread but have to get used to - like DOGS. Rather than trying to draw MEN and SEXY LADIES, which I am both monumentally terrible at.

Amy Green was a series I did last year for Walker Books which is now out on the bookshelves. I didn't have to read these before doing the covers (sometimes I do), but I like the bright and chirpy exteriors. What's nice about these is that a) it's a series (I like the continuity and the opportunity to carry an established look across several covers) and b) they built a website to go with the books. I can even look the other way at the fact they've put musical notes the wrong way round.

Since I didn't read them I can't vouch for how good the stories are, but the books look very appealing lined up together.

I've done a few series since (my first was iconic Princess Diaries Series, many years ago - look at the bottom of the blog) one of which I really got excited about but is not yet published so I'm barred from wanging any jpegs around. But I will. You know me.

Salt & vinegar.

In June I had this massive poster up on the underground for a month, to celebrate two things - the Jubilee, and my love of chips!

Let's clear up any cross-atlantic confusion before it starts - chips are not little crispy deep-fried potato snacks. No. Those are 'crisps'. Chips are chunks of English spud sliced and fried hard - sometimes twice - served hot in paper with lots of salt (mine need to look like it's snowed) and good vinegar. They're not fries. Fries are thin, mean little things you might get with a nasty burger. We're talking real potato.

Having got that out of the way, one of my favourite things, as I'm sure it is of many other human beings too, is a plate of chips with mushy peas. Served real hot, and a strong cup of tea, they can right all wrongs, dry all tears, soothe all nerves. Some people might prefer gravy. Others, traditional curry sauce. (If you're reading in the US and have never tried the 'curry' sauce of the average British chippie, then why are you not on American Airlines' site now, booking yourself over here?)

I had a birthday party in December at the magnificent Grimsby Fisheries. Allow me to jog your memory:

I seem to have many photographs of chips, but I've only drawn them once, for my party invite, based on these willing models:

Anyway. The resulting invite got turned into a print, because people seemed to like it, which then through a series of events ended up as a 3 metre poster on the underground. Our copy is arriving in the post this week - no idea what we're going to do with it! But this is what the big one looked like, at Hyde Park Corner:

I also sent out a large batch of prints of the illustration to clients and colleagues, wrapped in specially printed chip paper (from Tudor Road chippy, ten minutes away), and you can still get one if you'd like one. They're in the shop, or you can email me to ask for one direct.

Tell Everyone!

I've been helping out my friend Pamela Esposito, who used to be my agent at B&A, with some marketing for her organisation in Brooklyn which raises awareness of Ovarian Cancer. They're called TEAL (Tell Every Amazing Lady) and of course, their signature colour is teal (more commonly referred to in the UK as turquoise or aqua!)

I drew this pair of pretty speaking lips for Pam after a visit in March. You can see how she's used them in a promotional video here.
Really they should be yelling - I think there are plans to work on a more 'vocal' pair for future use!

If you're in New York, you might want to think about taking part in the TEAL walk which takes place in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, every September. Pamela would love you see you there! |
More about the walk:

Advice Line.

Bernstein & Andrilli's new publication 'The Best Advice' was a collection of their artists' responses to various bits of long-held advice offered to a group of creatives.

Mine was pretty taxing. Was not being good enough for the railways a good thing? Or a bad thing?  Did it spell the end of your career before it had even begun? Or the release from a life of locomotive drudgery and into a world of drawing and imagining? Either way...regardless of what Wolfgang Heiss might have told him as an A level student, it got Flo Heiss where he is today. I grappled with the picture for some time before despairing, compiling a 'I'm throwing the towel in' email, then deleting it on realising I couldn't possibly give up and go an work on the trains instead. So I eventually cracked it.

Here's the image shown on screen at B&A's launch of the book at Village Underground, London, 26th June. Really good to meet up with Louisa and Aaron, Ben, Stan, Dave, Harriet, Rod and Chris. The book is available through Bernstein and Andriulli.


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