Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can you just make it like this?

Now and again I'll receive, along with the brief, a client sketch of what it is they're after. It's my job to interpret what this is and how they would like the finished thing to look.

Some are so wonderful you wonder why you've even been hired - 'what's wrong with that? Just ink it in', you think to yourself, 'and you're golden'.

Other times, it's - well. They're still wonderful, but for opposite reasons. You know how hard they've tried. You can see the effort. And you can also see WHY they've hired you. I love those. Those are the best ones. They're charming, and have a sort of vulnerability to them as well - they trust you to interpret their scribbles.

It'd be like me being asked to sketch out my own wiring diagram for a new central heating system, or show someone how I'd like my foundations laying with a quick mock-up. I'd have a really good go, but it'd be painful, and the house would fall down if you went with my version.

I've put a couple here for you to enjoy. I've not put the final art with them, as that would just spoil the fun, wouldn't it?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rose & Linda.

Today was the tenth anniversary of the Art Cafe opening in Hinckley, and the 24th anniversary of the Art Studio, Hinckley's art shop which I've written about before, and which was the first place to sell the cards I made as a second year degree student when I came home from Polytechnic from time to time.

This is significant because Hinckley's not exactly got a reputation for long-lasting businesses. it certainly did, until a couple of decades ago, but those businesses - such as the china shop, the sportswear shop that sold the (British-made) school uniforms, the toy shop and the high-end hi-fi place - have long been replaced by charity shops, coffee shops and...well, empty shops.

I'll just contextualise this 24 years in business a little bit. Our main street, which was once a quite delightful buzzy thoroughfare lined with trees, opticians, flowers, books, solicitors offices with beautiful etched glass, travel agents, clothes shops and plentiful parking was turned into a corpsy murk of a place, with the outrageous and deeply unpopular decision to pedestrianise. This decision effectively cut off the air supply to the little independent shops and ensuring their gradual metamorphosis into the destination for the 8am drinkers, the 4am kebab buyers and the grimly predictable procession of hopeful new shop / sad closed shop that everyone but the councillors predicted. The cobbler's, there since the 70s, is a testament to the fact though that some things will always be required - good shoes will always need repairing, despite the Bargain Shoes shop selling plastic horrors for the same price as the posh coffeechino mocha-ry of a drink sold a few doors down.

This all sounds rather negative. But it's important to put Rose and Linda's success against a truthful backdrop. The top end of town, where their lovely cafe, gallery and art shop sits, has been subjected to similar harrowing decision-making, but it hasn't had its soul torn out. The little knitting shop is still there, there's a tattoo shop next door to the hairdresser who has been there for 35 years, and the new Polish food shop only adds to the flavour of the area. Hinckley's oldest record shop, also opened 35 years ago, is still going strong and is just round the corner. Rose, joined by Linda a few years later, opened her art shop in 1989 to my immense relief (prior to that it meant a train ride to Leicester for supplies) and through recessions, the freezing cold of winter and baking hot of summer, her top-floor shop supplied everything the local artist could want.

These two ladies have flexed and adapted to every change in the town, adding to their offering steadily with workshops, jewellery (Rose's original trade is jewellery), events, coffee, sandwiches, exhibitions and rented studios. I had one of them, for a few years while I was working on two businesses simultaneously and needed 'separation'. It had a ghost (no, it actually did). Which alone made the rent worth it!

We went in today to offer our congrats and to have a chat. It turned out to be a much longer one than we thought; I'd never really thought about our businesses and some frank discussion were had as to the realities and challenges of being in your own business, comparing notes a little, but overall, celebrating quietly the fact that we're all still here, businesses, limbs, sense of humour and souls intact, and that, really, is something to be very happy about indeed.

Cafe reviews.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


This is my 'Business Life' magazine cover, out now. I love the colours in this!

Here's a little 'anatomy of the job', for the curious; a step-by-step, since I'm quite often asked if my work is all digital. As you can hopefully see, it's black ink on paper, with a hand-painted background, some textured paper and a little digital colour alchemy. It's built up a bit at a time - each image is a stage I would have sent to the art director, Belinda at Cedarcom, for her to give her opinion on and/or a green light.

My favourite bit is the bendy yoga!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Case in Point.

My Mum had my original iPhone (the one with the silver back) and she didn't like any of the cases available. So, just as she did with her Kindle she got her needles out and made one herself.
Resourceful, elegant and delicate, it has a soft felt lining and a pop stud. It's great.

Skilz, eh?

Hood up, crack on.

My hoodies are what I rely on to get me through grumpy or stressful patches. If I can go upstairs and get my hoodie, put the hood up and cover my forehead and the back of my bonce like a sullen teenager, I can get through whatever the thing is that's making me feel like a rueful teenager.

The best ones I've ever owned are made by Strange Famous. You have to be comfortable with a bit of a loose fit (think man's hoodie but smaller), but they ARE robust, warm, extremely well made and fluffy inside, with a proper adult-sized cover-your-eyes hood. I designed these for Sage Francis a number of years ago and the white on black design sold out too quickly. Then he made a black-on-grey version, which is my choice for the gym (think zipped up with black vest while I jog on the spot and punch things. Or, grimace through ten minutes on The Grappler which is the reality...)

I'm happy to report that the white-on-black version is back, and looking pretty fine. The lettering was in a style I still do, detailed and time consuming, but this was the first time I'd done it. All the best 'styles' originate with some personal work, I find, which is why you have to do it. This lettering was also blown up into a MASSIVE (15ft x 4ft) banner for our New York exhibition, and then went on tour with Sage after that. I think it resides now on the wall at Strange Famous HQ, along with a selection of other pieces from the whole show time.

I thought you might like to see this in close up, and also have the chance to get a black hoodie before they sell out again. Meantime here's the t-shirt version modelled by Strange Famous's B. Dolan.

Book Pile.

A delivery came this morning of some of the covers I've produced in the last few months, from Faber +Faber and Nosy Crow. Bling includes spot varnishing, holographic foiling and embossing. Yeah!
We have about thirty more to chase for copies at the minute, bonkers as that sounds. But I do do a LOT of books covers. (Good job I like doing them then.)

PS I didn't draw the tigers on the two with animal titles. Nope. Can't do animals. Although if you ask I can show you a pretty decent horse, since I did a regular spot for a horse magazine for two years. (I don't even like horses, and I know they're not that keen on me either.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Coventry Transport Museum visit.

We went to Coventry Transport Museum the other day to look through the normally-closed storage hangar which houses the old and unrestored, under-repair and un-shown vehicles in the museum's collection.

The day was all about the internal combustion engine, and as you might know we're quite into cars. The day started with taking a mate's car to Dynodaze, our vehicle engineers of choice, followed by the museum trip, then Fast and Furious 6 and a terrifying eBay bid on a car at midnight. You know how it is - we'd set our budget, we wanted the car REAL BAD...but so did half a dozen other keeners. Did we get it? Well. One of the cars shown on this blog might be ours. But then again it might not be.

So. A day of petrol and brake horses it was, and I'm happy to report I stuffed my lens with these beauties while I was there. Motors are SUCH a resource for lettering and signage, emblems and beautiful motifs. I do look at cars and absorb the curves, shapes, angles and marques; the bonnet decorations, interior quirks, silly electronics, the lights (eyes), the stance and the attitude, and take it all in. I'm sure it must emerge somewhere creatively but I couldn't cite any traceable examples. I just know I often love what I see roaring past me on the motorway, and a dull car is a terrible wasted opportunity (I'm looking at you, Yaris), as is an ugly one (yeah, 'Fiat Multipla').

Here are some of the gems from the day.


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