Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fangs to Amelia!

Over the last 18 months I've been redesigning the books in the Amelia Fang range - the best-selling children's stories about little vampire Amelia, written by Laura Ellen Anderson.

Delacorte Press (part of PenguinRandomHouse) couldn't have chosen a better pairing; pumpkin-loving Laura and her little goth characters in their Halloween-all-the-time world, and me with my scratchy pens, love of ink and my leaning towards the murkier side of things. I would have DEVOURED these books as a 10 year old - well, I love them now!

Laura's books are already well known so this was a slightly unusual job for me; normally, I'm illustrating the entire cover, and even the insides of a book. Amelia Fang has a wide and very eager following, so it felt like something of a responsibility to create her 'new clothes'.

Aside from Laura's characters, everything on the covers needed a re-design. The first job was to create from scratch the logo for the book range. This came very naturally; all spikes and jaunty angles, I drew up seven different options in my sketchbook, and transferred those to my iPad Pro where I could put some meat on their bones with my Apple Pencil. Normally, this would be done with ink on paper, but since I was working in Edinburgh at the time, it had to be done in my hotel room and on lunch breaks, so the iPad was my heroic little chum. As it turned out, it was the perfect choice of hardware, allowing for fast changes-of-mind and quick erasing on the go with no need to fret about leaky ink in the suitcase.

Once I was back in the studio, art director Katrina picked out a few for further development and we placed these in situ with some of Laura's characters. MANY ideas for the cover were generated:

The final chosen was my favourite - always a satisfying outcome - the one where the ends of the letters hint at bones, pointing jauntily upward while warning us off with the twin pointy spikes of the As, held together at the top by a tiny bat. We worked on it and fine-tuned until it was just...imperfectly perfect!

Curly bits here? Or there? how many thorns or no thorns? Ink splat or bat? What sort of Es?

The books titles needed hand-rendering too, along with a new identity for Laura's name: all had to sit together comfortably in Laura's gently spooky world. We decided the whole thing needed tying together with some ink-soaked, dramatic fantasy skies...which DID require litres of ink on acres of paper! (And back to multi-coloured fingertips) - here are just some of them:

The final touch was the moon. Initially created with ink, bleach and collage, the enormous glowing moon was placed behind Laura's characters to anchor them under the new series title, the inky skies studded with bleachy stars:

...add some spider's webs to the corners, and there it was!

The final covers consist of millions of layers consisting of scans of multiple ink-made skies and stars, - the moon along is 5 layers deep! - along with he little shadows and details in the characters. If ever a job required Extreme Layer Discipline - labelling, colouring and folding layers - this was it!|

'The Barbaric Ball' and 'The Unicorns of Glitteropolis' were published on 30th July 2019, with the next two - 'The Rainbow Rangers' and 'The Memory Thief' (with RIOTOUS colours on the cover!) being published in March 2020.

Thank you Laura for trusting me with your colours and Katrina at Delacorte for having the vision to put us together! And Laura - hurry up and write some more, will you? :D

Buy the Amelia Fang books HERE

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

On The Trading Floor

I recently illustrated the London Stock Exchange's book '1000 Companies To Inspire' for my old college-mate, art director Rob Patterson at Wardour Communications.

The cover was a bit of old-school Molework - all fineliners and simple but busy-busy detail on paper, inspired by my 50-something illustrations for Ernst & Young - hinting at all of the UK's countries and their biggest industries. Drawn on an A2 sheet, it was scanned and given a careful vectorisation so that Rob could suggest myriad colour combinations to the LSE team.

The book turned out really well - however, the extra-exciting bit came next! Rob and his team decided to curate a live drawing event to celebrate the day of publication. Deep in the Stock Exchange building in Paternoster Square, London (home to the London publishing trade, prior to it being destroyed in WW2), and right in the shadow of St Paul's cathedral, the trading floor opens every day at 7am...which is when our event was set to start. Not my usual start time - unless I am on a Virtuous Gym Day - but I was willing to give it a go!

The idea was that some of the 1000 companies listed in the book - all firms who've done exceptionally well, created significant numbers of jobs and contributed heavily towards an overall growth in British revenue - would be invited to attend on the morning of the book launch. And I would be there, pens in hand, already busy adding their companies' names to the board in brightly-coloured inks.

There were a few things to work out - what to draw on, how big it could go, would I have time to create an entire piece, how long would it take. Rob worked out that a large, robust paper-based print with some of the book's cover illustration already present would provide an immediate focus for guests, and it would look like I'd been working on it all night.

Into gaps in the illustration carefully edited in by Rob I would write the company names, in trusty Poscas pre-bought by Rob in a frenzy of pen-buying not seen since his college days! Poscas are renowned for their 'every-surface' reliability and nicely opaque ink, and a bagful of yellows, blues and whites was duly thrust into my palm on arrival at the Stock Exchange at 6.30am.

There was a lot to like about this event. First, staying in a 4-star just down the road from the venue meant a delightful 5.30am walk with commuters, cyclists and paper deliverers through historic London, over the Blackfriars Bridge and past Amen Corner with its ancient, monastical roots. Buildings I'd seen more recently in pictures towered over me, a foot-based rather than the usual engine-powered journey allowing me time to stare up at them. The weather was beautiful. Second, having a big pile of pens handed to you, along with a hand waved in the direction of financially-important selection of breakfast treats, certainly took the edge off any tiredness.

I'd visited the LSE the night before as I treated myself to a solo dinner at the famous Paternoster Chop House, next door to the Stock Exchange. (I'd taken a sketchbook and drawn the diners between courses, and while sipping the eye-wideningly delicious coffee; none of them knew, and some of them (the Boris vs Hunt arguing ones to my right) turned up at the event the next morning, not showing the slightest sign of the 4 bottles of red that came to the table.) I'd seen my work dressing the LSE columns - one of those times you suddenly get all bothered about your 'idiosyncratic line quality'...

Inside, the building was festooned with my art, piles of books ready to give out. Jessica at another fave client of mine, Premm Design, had created all of the huge boards and posters in the building - no mean feat as it was splashed on a real variety of screens, boards, windows and walls.

Female staff arrived in Pantone-correct green dresses and heels, while smartly-suited men walked in with excited faces - all of them looking as if the most studious class in school had just been told a special school outing had been organised for the day. An animation had been made from the work too; everyone paused to watch as the sound boomed and the animation played across the floor-to-ceiling void, all while the Nikkei, Dow Jones and FTSEs flashed green and red in a rapid-fire succession of results. Cue: applause!

Work had begun and needed to continue at a cracking pace - 50 names to add, by 10.30. Jennifer from Wardour read them out to me replete with correct (and sometimes stylistically incorrect) spellings, a colour was chosen, a position for it, and a lettering style. Sometimes with little illustrations, sometimes not! Everyone was keen to know where their name was, and could they please pose with it??

The event was over in a flash. Happy traders and company directors mixed with creatives and watched drawing possibly for the first time since school; they ate posh snacks, drank coffee and biggedr up their own incredibly impressive achievements. Warmth and good feeling filled the building, but it was suddenly time to go and eat/sleep/sit down/rest.

Since I was working most of the time it was hard to take photographs, but thanks go to Rob for some of these and this one in particular taken by an LSE staff member - Jennifer from Wardour (hours away from heading to Glastonbury), and me and Rob about to catch up on our 25 years on the planet since we graduated together in 1993!

Thanks also to the staff who made me very welcome, and gifted me this beautiful metal official Stock Exchange pin. I had to swear to imbue the virtues and values of British industry and trade...or something...which I did, and duly pinned the glittering crest onto my shirt.

Now who's boss.


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