Friday, January 31, 2014

To Stitch A Mockingbird.

While hunting around online recently after someone alerted to me to prints of my Mockingbird cover being sold ‘elsewhere’, I found this.

Kristin H aka Sewtechnicolour is a US-based needlesmith, and she had stitched a version of my cover! How could I not get in touch with her? On bouncing around her blog a bit it became apparent we both share a love of books and book covers - her blog is littered with them along with myriad creations in beautiful fabrics and yarns. She picks covers she likes and uses its colours to inspire a new piece of work - nice - and in fact her first blog of 2014 is her list of ‘most-anticipated books’, together with a patchwork of their covers. She writes well too.

Oh and she loves British TV series - I really think we should be friends! In real life our chances are slim, for now I’m happy to make her acquaintance online!

Here’s what she did with my cover. How nice to be ‘re-interpreted’ again!

And, you must go to her blog!

The B&A Journal.

The Bernstein & Andriulli Journal arrived recently. A nice sturdy, well-designed thing with great print for ’ten dollars’! This one has my Male Me Heart piece in it, and is designed by The Brooklyn Brothers. I hand-rendered my name in tiny letters too, though you can’t really tell from here.

Thanks to Aaron Barr at B&A for sending it!

If I draw owt that’s any good this year, I shall probably be in it again.

Brain Power.

This article for US health magazine New You was about the things that we do, or don’t do, with our brains in middle age and how that affects how our brains perform in later life.

Although mentioning the risk of Alzheimers and the effects of dementia, the feature focuses on the more common problems of memory loss, struggling to recall facts and information (for example, ‘what did I come into this room for?) and our ability to learn. Although we might like to think our learning is over by the time we reach retirement, and it’s all about kicking back, the importance of picking things up comes sharply into focus when you think, for example, about the technology that’s emerged over the last twenty years, and the technology yet to emerge in the next twenty - and how much we might need to rely on it.

Key among the things our brains like is down time - those moments when you’re staring into space gormlessly. Don’t fret about that - your brain loves it. Also sleeping, and learning a new thing - it’s like exercise for it. Speaking of which, real physical exercise is like nectar to the brain as well, feeding it oxygen-rich fresh blood to keep it healthy. Grim as it sounds, a kind of ‘plaque’ builds up in the brain’s tubes if we don’t ‘use’ them - so things like routine and repetition, although good for us in other ways, can have an adverse effect on this most precious organ.

Incidentally, one of the things our brains hate is multi-tasking - we’ve got a limit to our ‘bandwidth’ - and it’s a bit like having eighteen browser tabs open at once and asking each one to do something different. No wonder we struggle, yet multi-tasking is held up and worn as a badge of heroism by many of us - 'just look how many things I can juggle!’ - particularly by women. Our brains apparently love to do what is alleged to be the ‘man’ way of doing things - pick one thing, do it well, be pleased, move onto the next thing.

We’ve kept the article and shared it with friends and colleagues. It was good to create work for such a significant article - here is what I did, from rejected rough to the final pieces!

The Cock of All Migraines.

I am of course referring to the jewel-like peacock I drew for my colleague Maxine’s Save The Date card (wedding invite to follow!) which was somehow, against massive odds, created in the flashy-blindy nauseablur of a migraine which was to settle in for the next eight hours and ruin my Hallowe’en. But, I am a professional and The Show, as you might suspect, Must Go On!

I do love doing personal work as you can play about a bit. I felt a bit extravagant with this type and I think you can see me flexing my life-long love of Mucha. I think he would be disappointed at my efforts - the work in his own painstakingly-rendered original drawings is absolutely breathtaking, and so careful - but one is allowed to aspire. Hopefully he would be kind to me in the way that a wise elder would treat a struggling but earnest child, crayons gripped in determined hands. Wax on, wax off.

The artwork is all drawn in ink and fine liner on an A3 sheet and of course the peacock, who will be making a dramatic comeback in the wedding invitations themselves, is my favourite bit. I was so ill I honestly cannot remember drawing it. But I do remember feeling the gritted teeth, thinking ‘I can’t let her down’, and finishing it, emailing a scan then immediately staggering upstairs to collapse while my long-awaited Hallowe’en happened without me!

Never mind. The job was done, to mine and the client’s total satisfaction, and the wedding will be awesome! I will follow up wight he wedding invitation design when it’s ready.

The Neil Gaiman Quartet.

Sounds like a magic-coloured jazz quartet of angels, but no, this was the set of covers for Neil Gaiman titles that I started last year and finished last week.

I confess to never having read any of his books before I got the job (always on the never ending ‘list’) but Neil Gaiman’s reputation precedes him. Massively prolific poet, writer of magical tales for adults, Doctor Who episodes, award-winning children’s author (Coraline), screen writer (Beowulf) and collaborator on some of the most famous graphic novels of all time (Sandman), this posed A Bit Of A Challenge, since there is such a huge archive of covers, interpretations, dramas, films and TV series of his work already in existence.

I know from experience that when this happens you’re best not to look to hard. Not only can it end up influencing you - for better or for worse - but it can also depress you if former interpretations have been awe inspiring!

Reading an entire manuscript can, I’ve learned, bring you too close to the characters and the minutiae of a story, which can then make excising visual elements for the cover difficult and sometimes lead you in the wrong direction. You can lose your objectivity (which is also, incidentally, why authors are rarely involved in the cover art process at the start). Especially if, as has happened on occasion, you really really like the book. So, I read the synopsis of each book, and a little about the characters, and got to work. The first, Neverwhere, was the hardest to crack as it was the first of the series and thus had to set the style. Just days before the job started I’d been standing right under the Angel Islington, so I had a little starter.

I actually intended to make this very typographic, and quite brave, as actually, previous covers had in my opinion been a little predictable. In the first rough, the two mirrored worlds of Neverwhere in positive and negative sat at opposite ends of a cover that was designed to be read any way up - something I’d experimented with a bit when I was at college:

In the second, the idea of the very word itself, ‘never where’ - suggesting never any where in particular - was explored with an all-over hand-drawn omnidirectional repetition of the title, the ascenders becoming London skyscrapers, lamp posts and iconic buildings. This one I loved, and was rooting for!

The third was a bit traditional looking, I thought, but could perhaps more easily be carried over to the other three books - and it’s the one they went for:

The sketch was turned into an ink drawing:

and then put together with colour and a moody hand-inked background:

The next three came over the course of the year with the final one, Anansi Bpys, completed recently. Here they all are, sitting well together, I think.I love the little pile of bones on American Gods, and the mallet!

On this one I was pleased I managed to stay real minimal on the colour - it was very tempting indeed to add more to this quite skeletal piece, just the ruby as the sole highlight:

Finally Anansi Boys, with its very liberal webs and fat juicy spiders, on a background of rusty flaking paint, taken in a friend’s reclamation yard:

I’ve had several requests for prints of these covers which I was happy to fulfil, so if anyone fancies one, please do get in touch!

Let’s Be Friends When We’re Old.

This was a private commission for a colleague at AMV BBDO London, on emigrating to LA. This very personal piece, commissioned to give to the best mate he was leaving behind, was done in one-take in ink on hand-tinted paper. Since he wanted to give his friend the original, there was no room for slip-ups. Keeping it real eh? I really enjoyed doing it!

Chemical Kaleidoscopes

This cover for Nature Magazine might seem familiar,with the gentlest whiff of turkey and cinnamon to it, and that’s because right back in August it became the inspiration for my Christmas cards.

Commissioned by Michelle at Nature Magazine, it was the cover for a special edition reporting on a Chemistry Masterclass in their Outlook section. Broadly speaking, the premise of the event is that more experienced scientists get together in an environment where they can be interviewed by up and coming scientists studying a related field. In this way ideas, inspiration and excitement about the subject can be devolved, shared and spread.

The brief was wide open but came with the enormous pressure to get the science ‘right’ - references to some extremely specific scientific concepts had to be found and checked, and more trickily, accurate and usable visual representations of them had to be sought. For some concepts, such a thing just didn’t exist (yet), so it was a question of ‘suggesting’ the relevant process or sequence using other things. The art was going to be checked by the science team (the art director herself is a trained scientist) for accuracy and relevance. Some of those references were beautiful, and definitely fed into the energy I had for this difficult job: the research part alone took over a day and a half (which represents quite a chunk of the studio’s week):

I wanted to use a lot of colour, and suggested a couple of ideas, the first focussing on the face-to-face opportunity to learn from a senior scientist:

And the second, the one that got chosen, was almost as much work as the final piece itself - 14 hours’ worth of drawing! - and used pencil drawings of my planned kaleidoscopes to communicate my discovery that an enormous amount of chemistry is ROUND - particles, paths, cycles, journeys, atoms, and so on:

What I wanted to convey was an explosion of ideas, firing thoughts and concepts into the blank dark sky of infinite possibility, and the ‘new colours’ that result from the overlapping and blending of those ideas.  Amazingly they bought into the concept via this very rough rough, and the work began then of changing the pencil drawings into the real thing.

All drawn with a combination of ink + nibs and fine liners, each kaleidoscope was created separately then overlaid:

Here’s the final art as it was submitted:

And finally the art in place:


Related Posts with Thumbnails