Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Wall.

This afternoon, we finished The Wall, a 15 metre wide painting on breezeblock inside the newly-built premises of Briggs Hillier creators of retail environments for the likes of Schuh, Nike, Adidas, JD Sports, Screwfix and River Island.

It's been a big one, both creatively and in terms of logistical challenges - the building was still being constructed as we began work, and we had no power, no light and only a ladder to the first floor mural location. As the most prominent part of a creative space in which the entire BH team have to work, this had to be something inspirational, devoid of cheese or platitudes, timeless and beautiful.  We asked the client what they wanted. The answer was 'we leave it totally up to you'. Ah. Gulp, then.

I started by looking at what the company did, and where they did it. Adrian, the Briggs half of the company, travels almost constantly to clients in exotic locations like Dubai, Shanghai, Jordan, Tokyo, Bucharest and Riyadh. He also has a thing for shoes, as well as working for some of the globe's biggest shoe retailers and manufacturers (which becomes relevant later). Here's Adrian and his building. (Note: he isn't mincing, he's demonstrating the height of the eventual cupboards).

I was taken by the twin ideas of the different languages spoken in these countries, and the universal appeal of shopping - particularly in the UAE where I had visions of beautifully-kohl'd women perusing racks of gloriously coloured sparkling garments, shoes and jewellery: the love of retail. I was all for a swirling mass of Arabic and Hindi and jewel-like colours... till a mate reminded me 'yeah, but they work for Screwfix as well'.

Quite. Back to the drawing board then for a more inclusive and down to earth approach, this time focusing on the Briggs Hillier end of things - their creative process.

Adrian and Jenny (the Hillier part of the company) don't do things in the most predictable way. Their new building - although still a shell - was already looking like proof of that. So sketching over architect's drawings of the wall, I settled on a choice of two things:, a famous quote about shopping by Bo Derek (one of several), seen in one of the early sketches below, or one by Dieter Rams. And Dieter won.

The design became a combination of two sketches. I surrounded the Dieter quote with 'starbursts' either side of some of the myriad things BH's clients sell, with, of course, the emphasis on shoes. The whole assembly was punctuated at the bottom with a multitool of the type sold by Black's (another client), re-engineered to represent the many-skilled single weapon of mass creation that is BH. The most important thing for such a massive wall was to give it movement, and energy, and the shape of wall lent it an eye-like feel into which I put a 'pupil', 'iris' and white edges. At either corner, the buildings of BH's conquered cities were to glow white, alongside the word 'shopping' in their respective languages.

Each element of the design was first drawn up on paper in ink, with the centre lockup at A2 size; languages, objects, and buildings too.

Here's the finished illustration mocked up on screen. (Nigel Axon of Axon Architects was kind enough to donate a 2 metre print of the digital mockup, so we could start to see how it was going to look at scale):
And here's the real thing:

The journey from desk to breezeblock took four people nearly two weeks, working 14-hour generator-powered days and nights in dingy conditions, rainstorms, thunder, chill and with way too many chips for sustenance. With Leigh in project management and base prep modes and Graham and Tiffany on painting duty, it took form shape by shape, layer by painful layer (we had no idea breezeblock took three coats - every line of the illustration has been painted three times!) with a painting method more akin to rendering plaster and Polyfilla-ing. We all got extremely comfortable at heights too, with scaffolds and vertiginous ladders becoming our friends very quickly.

In all, it was quite an awesome experience from beginning to exhausted end, along the way discovering new techniques, methods and reserves of grit. And we're all incredibly pleased with the result, especially the clients Adrian and Jenny, to whom we're very grateful for letting us have free creative rein over their huge wall. Thanks must also go to Graham and Tiffany for their heroic efforts beyond any reasonable human endeavour, and the little blue van which trundled us there day after day.

Here are some action shots, starting with a time lapse by Graham. Can you hear the rain? Smell the paint? Feel the height...?

Mum's sausage sandwiches delivered with all condiments and delivered by Dad were most gratefully consumed on a particularly rainy Sunday afternoon:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Look what turned up at my door this morning!

These squidgy and horrifying Hallowe'en toys have been knitted by my Mum in secret for me over the last few weeks, since she knew I wasn't having a Hallowe'en party or going anywhere spooky and would be sad about that. She's a secretive minx that one and her needles are never still! THEY'RE AMAZING!

Look at them. Evil personified!

On the left we have The Zombie, still wearing his doctor's coat, and his (conveniently removable) guts hanging out of his belly. He also has a rotting sore for a knee, and a fleshily peeled arm. He's bleeding from the mouth! (Wouldn't you?)

Ugh, look at the visceral misery of it all!

Then there is The Count himself, replete with cape, fangs and bloodshot eye. But that's not all! He has pants! Actually they all have pants.

His mate Skeleton is a grave-robbing git, look at his damning spade. Why he has a pink hat I am not sure, but he needs it because he is only made of bones. Maggots are crawling out of his eye and his teeth and well, those buggers are pearly but sharp. He carries a rope around his neck for Satan knows what...

...and OH NO! WHAT'S HAPPENING HERE? Drac, where are you?!

Too late.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

And then this happened.

Crikey, thanks to Tumblr Radar I’ve got some new chums! Who would have thought old skullface with her deadly flower arrangement (all commonly-grown but lethal flowers found easily in British gardens) would be such a hit.
(I've got a Tumblr blog now you see, as well as this one.)
Today she's up to 16,500 posts with 1200 new followers. Bonkers.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the future, everybody will draw all of the time, everywhere. There will be crayons in more colours than we have now.

Everybody loves drawing.

This was scientifically proven on Saturday when I went to London to draw The Future, as imagined by 48 children ranging from 4 years old to 11.

It was probably one of the Best Things Ever in my life of drawing. Saturday saw me and assorted CIA colleagues interpreting, in real time, a vision of the future as imagined by our appointed children. Mine was four-year-old Rex, who became my art director for the day at London's Museum of Childhood Big Draw event called 'Drawing Tomorrow'. It was warm, busy, messy, stinky, noisy and smiley.

Put together between ad agency AMV BBDO and Ben and Charlotte at Central Illustration Agency, I drew live and on cue as Rex directed me through his brief:

'Rex will live in the land of Ooo, a leafy environment with robotic blue owls wearing welly boots who growl at people while delivering ice cream'. I took what I thought was way too much stuff but used everything in the bag to make this neon vision of Rex's world - acrylics, ink, glitter, Poscas, liquid chalk and felt tips.

Did I do it justice? Well, Rex in his awesome owl jumper appeared to think so. And as we all know, it is only the AD's opinion that matters.

Fellow 'live interpreters' included Jill Calder, Stanley Chow, Chris Gilvan Cartwright, Le Gun, Jessie Ford, Rose Blake and Ulla Puggaard, as well as a big bit of colouring-in drawn by one Good Wife (the Warrior was at home nursing a busted elbow!) Everyone coloured in - grown-ups and tots alike.

There was cake and tea on tap for the artists (thank God), a massive collection of pre-illustrated 'Futures' by the rest of the CIA artists, complete with their 'future descriptions'. Some of our favourite, slightly darker visions are below. Rest assured, they might be little, but their future predictions are far from cutopian, predicting flooding, the sun exploding, hostile chickens and over-population.

This little girl drew her own interpretation of the finished piece, and I gave Rex his own colouring/scrap book to take away at the end of the day.

Messy, exhausting and exciting. Thank you to little Rex, who styled it out for nearly four hours when all reasonable children could have been forgiven for wandering off after 20 minutes, and gave me a tiny grey soldier to add to my collection of studio creatures.

What an excellent day. How brilliant is colouring in?


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