Monday 28 December 2009

Last Indy of 2009

In actual fact this is my last Indy illustration of this decade, something that only dawned on me in the last few days. In the busy, mad year that 2009 has been I hadn't even realised that the noughties (I hate that term, but it does the job) were drawing to a close. It's been an interesting decade for me and maybe I'll write a proper round up in the next few days, but for now I'll post today's Illustration and urge you to read the article here, as it is an interesting read.

The brief was straightforward, I had to visualise a book that should act as a glowing beacon drawing society towards it. So rather then worry about constructing an idea that communicates, my focus here was on producing an image that was powerful yet ethereal, suggestive but simplistic and most of all filled with hope and redemption. I was pretty pleased with the result and happy that I had created the right sort of atmosphere using the minimal colour palette I had chosen.

Here's the image for you to look at and see if you agree:

Monday 21 December 2009

Christmas week Indy..

but unsurprisingly my brief was nothing to do with the impending festivities, which was a shame given the snow covered ground outside my home and decidedly Christmas feel all around.

Instead I was asked to illustrate the perceived failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. It was quite a specific brief this week; to create a distressed, cracked and patched up version of the Mermaid of Copenhagen. I was happy to oblige and did so in the manner shown below:

The article is here

I'd also like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

December update?

As I remarked to a friend recently, it seems I went to sleep one day when it was October and woke in December! I honestly have no idea where November went, but I do know I spent a lot of it working flat out on various creative projects. The Indy continued weekly, but I also created several images for an agency pitch in NYC, did a couple of editorials and carried on teaching and working at Oil. Busy times.

Obviously it's been a little difficult keeping the blog and website updated, but hopefully the New Year will see me get back on top of it. For the first time since I started freelancing I am taking a full Christmas break (well, bar the Indy) for two weeks so after Friday I won't be accepting commissions until 2010. This should give me chance to relax and recharge, tie up some loose ends and finally iron out any things on my to-do list.

I'll post my Indy illustrations over Christmas, but besides that I don't intend to do much blogging. So until those messages have a great Christmas (or winter holiday), enjoy the New Year celebrations and keep an eye out for 2010 calendars featuring my artwork and supplied by my agents NB Illustration

Finally here is a snap of yesterday's Independent illustration, accompanying this article with the brief for me being 'dishonest labour, a general take on cover ups, spin and deceit featuring Iraq, the pre-budget report, Brown, Blair but not showing the people specifically' so a shot of Labour MPs walking over (and discarding) newspapers with negative headlines emerged:

Monday 30 November 2009

Double Indy.. a Dindy?

Last week was a blur of busy-ness and most of it business, hence the lack of posts, it really is a manic time of year.

So (with a small build up) here is last week's Independent image; a vision of the realities of the Iraq war being erased as a response to my brief, which was 'The Chilcott inquiry - it shouldn't be a whitewash'. My interpretation was that the Inquiry owed it to the soldiers and families of soldiers who fought, suffered or died in Iraq to be thorough (and hence not a whitewash) so I wanted to show that they shouldn't be erased from history by a politically driven Inquiry. Simple idea and a simple execution. It's rather difficult to show an image being erased without actually doing so, hence I had to keep the actual image quite flat and shape-based to help create the 'erased' textures.

I was pleased with it, especially the colour combination, but it wasn't as nice in print, which is always a shame. The article is here

However, today's image I am much happier with. It looks really atmospheric in print and is one of my recent favourites. I can't say this is because it's highly conceptual or astonishingly intelligent, rather it's nicely composed with limited colours and containing several of my favoured elements (moody urban structures, figures and a sense of foreboding) when I'm illustrating.

The brief for today's illo focused on the Conservative party and the Centre for Social Justice Think Tank (run by Iain Duncan Smith). I was asked to visualise this as an attempt by the Tories to 'go red' to reach out to the poorest parts of society and was given quite strong direction that the red of the image should focus on the Tory figure and not the background. The image below was the result and both the art director and I decided the background should be quite foreboding to suggest the Tories reaching out into unchartered, potentially dangerous (given that they could alienate the base) territory.

The article to this is here and it's an interesting (if somewhat complicated) read.

Hopefully I'll have a few non-Indy related posts soon, but at the moment everything else I have to share is still unpublishable until it goes live or the pitch is over.

Have a great start to December!

Monday 16 November 2009

Independent 16th November

Super quick update with today's Independent image, as time is something I don't have at the moment!

My brief had 3 options to it, and for this illustration I chose to work with 'How it's the UK's mission to restore peace'. I went with the idea of rebuilding Afghanistan after it had been (metaphorically) shattered into a thousand pieces. Conceptually the image isn't too complicated, but it's nice to change the pace and instead this week I spent a lot of time experimenting with the texture and feel of the visual, rather then communicating a complicated message. The full article is here and the illustration is below.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Independent 9th November

As anyone who follows me on Twitter will know this has been a manic work week. I completed some broad development roughs for a pitch piece, did the artwork for my agent's promotional 2010 calendar and created an illustration for the Independent.

I can't post the first two examples of work just yet, but I can bring you the illustration that appeared in yesterday's Independent.

The brief was related to the Fort Hood shootings and raised the issues of how to deal with being a Muslim in the West in the wake of such events and also the more specific question of what was in the mind of US army major Nidal Hasan. I did not want to speculate about the motives for such actions, given that I have no knowledge of what occurred beyond what has been reported in the press, so I kept my artwork relatively abstract. I also generated some roughs about the difficulties facing peaceful, law abiding Muslims in the West but the Art Director chose to go with the idea about the motive and this is what I created:

The image ties in quite nicely with the article's headline (about not knowing what the motives were) and similar to last week allowed the text to run around the image. Unfortunately the article doesn't seem to be online, which is odd. But I'll add a picture of the paper this evening for context.

Tuesday 3 November 2009


Hello, hello.

I have recently become a little bit of a liar, all these promises of updates 'later' and then later never seems to arrive. But despair no longer, the images I have been promising (bar one) are featured in this blog post.

First up is my image for The Ride Journal, a cycling magazine with an emphasis on storytelling and experience swapping nestling amongst beautiful design and evocative illustrations. Happily I was asked to contribute an illustration to the Journal to accompany an article called 'Pedal to Enlightenment' which told the tale of the writer's fight through the pain barrier to a zen like feeling of calm as he rode the roads of California.

So the art director asked me to do something a little more abstract then my usual work, focusing on my love of colour and strong compositions to convey the feelings referenced in the article. I had great fun doing this and was really pleased with the end result. It was nice to do something a bit more experimental and I got to play around with all of the textures that I collect on a daily basis to build up hundreds of layers which then come together to create the overall image.

This image will feature in The Ride Journal III, which is launched this week at the Pebbledash Gallery in Stoke Newington (London) on Friday at a Private View of the 116 TO SEA exhibition. To quote the site 116 TO SEA is "an exhibition of photography by Joe McGorty in collaboration with The Ride Journal. The Dunwich Dynamo, the annual 116 Mile all night bike ride from London to Suffolk coast, took place on the 4th of July 2009 the Saturdays nearest full moon. Joe McGorty's distinctive photographic style captures the spirit and fell of the unique ride."

I'm looking forward to the Private View and will report back with some pictures (promise). If you have a moment over the coming week the exhibition should be worth a look as Joe McGorty's work is really beautiful.

On a slightly different tip, the image below is my recent-ish one for The Sunday Herald about teen drinking. It talks about the contradiction between adult attitudes to teen drinking and their own vastly different actions, which set a bad example, and the lack of understanding of the serious effects of teen drinking on the still developing brain. This was more of a classic Jemillo illustration, lots of figures and a strong narrative underpinning an image of composite scenes around the same theme, all combining to convey the contradiction visually (I hope). So in a nutshell we see the adult hands appearing to toast the drunken antics of the youths on the right hand side. Colour wise it is a lot darker then a lot of my work, deliberately, to show the behaviour that tends to occur mostly in the evening and also to suggest the negative implications of such actions.

I also spent a great deal of time creating artwork about Washington for the Urban Land Institute in America, but alas I am still unable to publish this image online as the work is not yet in use given that it advertises the 2010 ULI conference and the 2009 event has not yet taken place! But the minute I get the nod I'll pop it up here. I do have roughs for two alternative ideas that I will publish when I pull them together.

Finally then I have added two of the three images that have been selected for Images 34.

These are 'PDA', the image from the 'We Have A Nice Day' project that responded to the statement:

"My life is a public spectacle.
Enjoy the show.
I’ll be here all week."

The second image is 'Storm', also from We Have A Nice Day and this image responded to:

"Close atmosphere today.
Need the rain to breakthrough.
Heady, clammy, intense air.

Storm on in."

Many thanks to Michelle Bower aka Bowerbird, regular commentator on this blog, friend and collaborator on the We Have A Nice Day project. Her clever, thought-provoking or inspirational words were an instrumental part in my selection for Images 34, as without them I would not have had the starting point to create some of my favourite pieces of work, so thanks to her.

Finally the third selected image was my Harry Patch illustration for the Independent. I was really pleased that this image was selected as again it is another of my favourites and also talks about a serious subject matter, which I think is important to recognise in Illustration awards as sometimes the serious gets overlooked for the shiny, showy or shallow and it is nice to see something less 'trendy' be recognised. Especially when it's my work, ha ha. Anyway the Harry Patch image is already on the blog, so if you wish to see it please scroll down!

That's it for today. Phew. As mentioned on yesterday's posts the website has been updated so if you want to see all my work in one place please visit

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday 2 November 2009

Today's Indy part 2

The brief I received yesterday began as the Tories v Europe, but quite clearly from the image that was published in today's paper that brief was shelved in favour of the story that broke over the weekend about Professor David Nutt's sacking from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the subsequent resignations (and threat of resignations) from other council members.

It was a really open brief, I was asked to create something about the story that conveyed the notion that the cannabis comments had lit a blue touch paper to a wider issue within the government about advisors and policy. Originally I had the spliff in the image dropping ash onto a 'normal' Houses Of Parliament building (which is just starting to set alight, to suggest the idea that the cannabis issue is going to grow into a full inferno - which judging by today's news reports may just be the case). But at the rough stage the art director asked me to make it more druggie and create a building from cannabis plants and leaves. This took a while and required a lot of pieces in various green tones to create a depth to the shape and make it visually interesting, rather then just being one shape repeated ad infinitum.

You can see a close up of the cannabis plant based Houses of Parliament below:

As you can see in the post below I'm really happy with how the image has appeared in print. I sent the art director both an image with a background and one without, so that if the opportunity arose the illustration could be set into the text a little more and cropped to fit. He took the opportunity to do this and thus there is less dead space in the paper's version and the composition is a little more dynamic. Obviously with the nature of the grid it is not always possible for the images to appear like this so when they do it just gives my work a little extra oomph and takes it away from being a standard rectangle.

The article is online here and the picture in print can be seen below or in more detail over on twitpic

Today's Indy part 1

A brief post about today's Independent; here's a quick snapshot of the image in the paper. Loving the art director's crop and placement of the image, really makes it work as a composition.

I'll upload the full image and discuss the brief when I can...


Hmm somehow my blog title has disappeared and was (for how long I'm not sure) replaced by the word blue. Random! I will get this fixed..

Breaking news

My apologies that it has been a bit quiet on the blog front. I have an update post in draft, but it's pretty mammoth so I haven't quite got round to finishing it. However, I intend to do so later today as well as posting today's Indy image and some other recent illustrations.

But as for the breaking news I found out last night that 3 of my images have been selected for The AOI's Images 34 annual, which is great news. I'll post which ones later.

I also have some work in the new 'The Ride Journal' and there is a launch party for that this week on Friday in Stoke Newington, London. I'll also post more details about this later too.

Thanks for checking back in on the blog and normal service will be resumed shortly. Don't forget I have updated the website so do hit the link and visit to see some new work.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Freedom of speech

This week's Indy illo is about freedom of speech, and more specifically about the recent Jan Moir Daily Mail article and the upcoming appearance of Nick Griffin (the BNP leader) on Question Time.

The rationale presented to me was that Jan Moir has been labelled homophobic and taken to task by the blogging, commenting and twittering community for her article about Stephen Gately. Yet in contrast the BNP get away with much more openly offensive comments and actions with a lot less furore.

Interestingly and unusually I considered my personal response to this statement before I began my ideas, just because the argument had piqued my interest. I wasn't sure how I felt as I think the BNP do get a lot of negative media coverage and I also thought Jan Moir's comments were nasty and snide and I agreed (in principle) with the shocked response (if not the faux outrage that accompanies these things once the mainstream media report it) but of course I could see the point of the argument. As much as the Daily Mail article is hurtful to friends and family of Stephen Gately and offensive to a wider audience by its very nature as an opinion piece it has limited influence and is much less dangerous then the BNP, who as a political party have the potential to affect and influence Government and the wider European community. Thus the response to the two things should technically be proportional to their power. But that's not how things work, emotionally charged arguments always win out and the entertainment industry will always trump the political arena when it comes to popularity.

So these were the thoughts swimming around my head as I worked out my roughs. It took me almost double the time this week as I tried to create a composition that would effectively convey the argument and be visually interesting and not repeat any of the elements I featured in my recent illustration about free speech.

Finally I settled on an image set in Trafalgar Square, imagining a scenario with a large outdoor BBC screen I set about creating a world where Nick Griffin on Question Time was ignored in favour of protesting against Jan Moir. This image gave me a chance to reference the two points made in the brief and hopefully sits well when given the context of the article.

I'm writing this blog post without the final article for reference, so I am not sure how pointedly Jan Moir or Nick Griffin will be referred to, or if the article will be more generalised. Hopefully the article will do enough to ensure my image makes sense. I'd also like to point out that I am not attempting to link Jan Moir and the BNP or commenting on the death of Stephen Gately. As I've discussed on this blog previously my visual responses are just that, visual responses to the brief I am set, this one may have caused me to consider whether I agree or not, but that has no real bearing on the images I produce.

On another note after completing the illustration above I settled in for a night of XFactor and noted this beautiful advert for American Express during the commercials. I think it's gorgeous and wanted to share so click the screengrab to see the full advert over at the 'Add A Dog' website, credits can be found there.

Finally the website update is underway, should be live by Tuesday.
Updated: the article is here now.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

A random tuesday

or if we are to be exact Tuesday 13th September, the birthday of one of my good friends and two days before my sister's birthday (an event akin to the Queen's birthday in her eyes!) so this week I have been mostly present ordering and card buying (to steal an old Fast Show line).

However, inbetween that and my little jaunt to Paris I did my illustration for the Independent. I can't say this is one of my recent favourites, sometimes an image that works well with the brief just doesn't inspire the same affection as a piece that resonates with your personal interests or develops over a longer time frame. But both the Art Director and I were happy with the outcome and it looked good in print yesterday, so that is the main thing.

The article for this image discussed the lack of ethnic representation in the recent party conferences and subsequently it seemed silly not to work in a two colour image, with white being one colour and using a slightly murky red (to suggest the blue of the Tories mixed in to Labour's red) as the other.

Besides the Independent I am back at Loughborough teaching there and things are hectic as they always are at the beginning of term, I am also still working at Oil. But I intend to do a full update of the website this weekend as I have both my macs working and ready to go! So check the website at the beginning of next week to see all my recent work.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Yesterday's Indy

Internet access is a bit of an issue at the moment so my apologies for the continued lack of updates, I do intend to update the website and this blog with non-Indy images but for now I'm afraid you'll have to make do with the limited posts.

This week's image centred around the economic ideas and opinions of George Osborne and resultingly I was asked to focus on imagery that communicated the idea of economic policy and how central this will be to the Tory party in the next few months.

I came up with a few roughs and the art director was really keen on the image of a fruit machine, designed to suggest the idea of gambling and taking a chance on change and raising the question as to whether George Osborne will be able to 'hit the jackpot' with his policy and help the Tories gain power at the next election.

I was pleased that the art director went with this idea and I was also happy with my execution, I think I managed to get a sense of energy into the artwork and I also had fun with the elements of typography. Overall this was a fun image to create and it is always pleasing when a good idea fits with the text and also allows me to have fun with the artwork.

As always you can see the article here and the image below:

Sunday 27 September 2009

Illustration round up

Manically busy at the moment, it's a new term so my lecturing duties have resumed, which is always demanding and rewarding in equal measures and illustration commissions have been coming thick and fast.

But I have had a second to upload the illustration I did for the Indy this week about Labour's party conference. Article here and unusually there is a cropped version of my image online there too. The full image is below (as it appeared in print).

I also mentioned on twitter that I had an illustration in Scotland's Sunday Herald at the weekend (on Sunday, ha!) and this was a rather large image about teenage alcohol abuse and the long term effects. The article was really interesting and actually quite worrying in terms of the damage alcohol can do to the developing brain. If you saw it in print please let me know and I'll post the image here soon.

Finally I'm doing some work with Oil Studios at the moment, which is fascinating and nicely challenging. If you haven't checked out their work before then do visit the site and take the time to play some of the Routes games.

Sunday 20 September 2009


Back on track with an illustration post today. I've completed my Washington DC illustration and that has been approved by the clients, which is a great feeling after all the hard work that went into the image. I'm really looking forward to seeing pictures of it in year!

That's the nice thing about editorial illustration, the immediacy with which you get to see your work in context and obviously the work I do for the Independent is an extreme example of this. Today's image was a bit different in that I received the full article to work from, rather then just a direction. However, there was an overriding theme of 'how the liberals have given up on freedom' so I read the text with that in mind, looking for lines which provoked visual responses that were simple enough to work in the newspaper. It's important for me to remind myself not to over-complicate the image, as I am so used to working up multi-layered images (the Washington project was over 500 layers and a GigaByte in size!) that I have to distill my ideas into their purest form to make them work in this format. There are several reasons for that; the size of the final artwork, the quality of the paper it is printed on, the complexity of the ideas discussed in the column and the time I have to do the artwork in. All of these factors make it crucial to have one strong idea in an image, rather then numerous pockets of information and to this end when I do get to work from the article I have to break it down into single statements of inspiration.

So I created my roughs and the idea that was selected for artworking was inspired by the idea of taking away civil liberties from the people, in order to balance out the free reign given to bankers and other industries throughout Labour's terms. The exact paragraph is here:
"A party that should have intervened for social justice and greater equality instead allowed the markets to let rip. Having raised the white flag to the bankers, ministers instead sought to exert their power elsewhere, at the level of the citizen, seeking ever more ingenious ways of watching us, listening to us and telling us how to lead our lives. I am no Freudian psychoanalyst, but I can find no better example of displacement theory in modern politics."

I was visually interested in the notion of psychoanalysis and a sort of automatic response, which lead to the idea of scribbling. Combining the theme and the visual inspiration I worked towards the image shown below, a vision of people walking on an average street with their mouths closed up by red crosses. The idea being that even when going about our everyday lives personal liberties have been removed in an almost childlike, ill-considered manner. The colour usage is deliberately muted to add to this feeling of being repressed.

The full article is here

Monday 14 September 2009

Monday Night Gin Club

No, not a confession of alcoholism but a description of my start to the week.

Through the power of my favourite social networking site (Give me a T, Give me a W, an I, T, T, you get the gist..) I ended up with an invitation to the Bombay Sapphire Gintelligensia evening at their concept pop up bar, the Dusk Bar at Somerset House. An opportunity to meet other bloggers, creative types and the brand ambassador, chief Mixologist Sam Carter awaited.

Now I'm always interested in seeing how brands interact with consumers and I was suitably intrigued by the bar (dreamed up by legendary designer Tom Dixon and his Design Research Studio) and the rationale behind it to give up my modicum of downtime on Monday evening to experience it.

It seems that successful brands are increasingly willing to engage with the consumer to ensure their product stays hot, or in this case cold. Gone are the days when advertising solely relied on telling the public what to buy and how to wear it, eat it or engage with it, now any brand worth its salt comes to the public. Through digital mediums like twitter, facebook, blogger or offline in print, conversation and demonstration, big brands are increasingly looking to give something back, learn a little more and encourage their customers to stick with them in the face of decreasing markets. As I've mentioned before this is something that I find fascinating and is especially interesting to me as an Illustrator, as obviously we benefit if a brand decides to utilise illustration in a new campaign, so my interest in advertising trends isn't purely without motive.

As part of this event 'Gintelligensia' my small group learnt about the brand's history, taking a tour across the globe sampling, smelling and handling the ten botanicals from exotic locations that make up Bombay Sapphire's special blend of Gin. We were then shown how to make a Gin Martini and a specially devised cocktail for the Dusk Bar, the Bombay Sapphire Berry Spice. All the while the narrative around the brand was expertly told by Sam, who entertained and ensured this experience was a fun one.

Not only was it educational (I now know a Dickens martini comes with no Olive or Twist, but will always leave you wanting more – thanks Sam for that joke!) it also introduced me to the legacy of a brand that has been around for hundreds of years.

The mixology events are open to the public (reservations are on sale through Somerset House) and are an integral part of Bombay Sapphire's attempt to publicise their brand. The Dusk Bar is open until October 18th, meaning a great deal more people will come away with a warm association with the brand and their mixologists and staff will have gained valuable feedback and a chance to meet and discuss the drink with their consumers. The Dusk Bar and the cocktail events have a twofold effect, one the bar itself is a delight, a real talking point and a great venue to hang out at, which reflects positively on the drink, especially as the skilful staff ensure the quality of cocktails served is immense. Secondly, the brand have recognised that as people increasingly entertain at home initiatives like this are necessary to tempt drinkers into bars and if they do decide to participate in the mixology events they will take away the recipes (also available online) and try them out at home. Rather then fight the notion of supermarket purchases Bombay Sapphire have recognised that it can be a strength, as long as they are the brand purchased, which they aim to achieve by listening to what their customers want and through offering them an added extra that makes their product more appealing and accessible. This sort of smart promotion is something I expect to see more of from the brands that stand tall in the recession. It's also something that really resonates with me, as I'm generally quite loyal to brands that put a bit of effort into advertising their product.

It's no big deal for an alcohol brand to sponsor a bar, but it was nice to see the quality of the whole set up, The space really is quite special, especially if you catch the glorious sunset when the sky matches the blue of the surrounding bar for a fleeting moment. A great bonus in mid September is that the clever design also ensures the breeze from the Thames is tempered and the beautiful setting of an outdoor bar is not lost in shivers and goosebumps.

So all in all a good fun event. Obviously there are other Gin brands available and this post is not about the merits of Bombay Sapphire's drink, more about their willingness to recognise the changing relationship between consumer and product and respond to it innovatively. This is not a sponsored blog post and as Liz Lemon once remarked in 30 Rock "this isn't product placement I just really like it" that's the case here. I just thought the whole place was great and if you can get down there then check it out during Fashion Week when the bar will have music and special events.

Poor neglected blog..

It's only been a week since my last post, but I phoned it in a little last week so I feel neglectful. Unfortunately the functional updates will continue for a while longer as I work my way through the last stage of several long term projects. So...

I completed the artwork on Friday for the large image I was working on for the Phoenix Creative Group, on behalf of the Urban Land Institute. A bit of a dream job for me as I had to create my own interpretation of Washington DC, which is the sort of thing I love doing. So the image contains people, buildings and transport system signage. Fabulous! A lot of hard work and research required but the final image is, in my opinion, one of the best things I've done so that was pleasing. I can't post it here yet but when I get the green light to do so it will be uploaded. I also have the two alternative ideas to post too, once I've neatened them up and I am thinking of making them limited edition prints.

I also did an illustration for the New Statesman towards the end of the previous week and over the weekend whilst I was in Cannes (contrary to what this blog may suggest I don't spend all of my life travelling..) this can be seen online here and the full image and what I hope appeared in print is below, I shall find out when I collect my copy later.

This was quite a tricky brief as it accompanied a rather complex review of a book discussing theories about uncivilisation and how society would cope if civilisation (as we know it) collapsed, and if the notion of a stable society is actually a falsehood and that civilised life is a transient entity. So not a jolly walk in the park, but a great theme to get stuck into and I was really pleased with the rather dramatic image that I produced. I have to say that I've seen it online for the first time as I'm writing this post and the colours really sit nicely with the text (and surrounding adverts, who would have thought it would complement EasyJet's orange so well!).

Besides that I am just in the process of creating artwork for Nursing Standard magazine and also need to check if the Velocity magazine I illustrated a month ago is out yet so that I can post the image here.

Obviously as it's a Monday there is an Independent illustration to post and this one is about the Government creating a Nanny State. I didn't have much more to go on then that yesterday so I haven't yet checked to see what the tone of the article is, but hopefully they will be harmonious. I went with the idea of a looming, dictator-esque shadow sitting above a crowd of people going about their daily journeys.

I've also been pulling together the final bits of picture research for the current Laurence King title I'm working on and starting my blog posts for a trend website, more on that soon. I think that brings us current in a quick round up way.

I hope you've enjoyed these images and there should be a few more appearing soon.

Monday 7 September 2009

All the way from Nice airport...

no, actually that's a lie! I began to write this post in the airport but then my internet allocation ended, so the title was as far as it went. Now I'm back in the UK and snowed under with a million and one things to do, but I wanted to get this week's Independent image online for anyone who didn't see it in the paper yesterday, so here it is. The image was a response to the Edlington torture case and the factors that are often inevitable in cases relating to child violence.

This is the article that the image accompanied.

It was an odd thing to be illustrating from a beautiful location in France and after a delightful wedding (more on my trip to France sometime this week - hopefully) made more poignant as Doncaster is my hometown, so I knew a lot about the case through friends and the local press. A thoroughly sad situation for all involved and a tricky one to work with visually.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Bank Holiday Independent

Controversial was my first thought when I got yesterday's brief for the Independent. I was asked to illustrate the view that releasing the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the right thing to do to protect British trade/economic interests. Having just logged onto the Indy's website (as well as the BBC, Times and Guardian) I was aware of the storm brewing over the leaked letters that insinuated such an opinion was in fact, a fact, and this knowledge contributed to my initial response.

I am often asked if I have ethical problems with any commissions I receive, or if I illustrate my own opinions and I always say that in commissioned work I create to the brief set by the art director. This was the case here, it is (in my work for the Independent) not my job to make judgements or comment on the issues, my job is to find a visually satisfying way of depicting the opinion articulated by the author on each given week. Until my name is attached to the words I am comfortable visualising their opinions, whether I agree or not. But it does concern me that sometimes people might see an image I create with a particularly strong sentiment and assume that it is my own personal opinion. I am not egotistical enough to believe that my work could ever garner such attention on a large enough scale to cause me any discomfort, but in the age of far reaching technologies one does consider this more then before. I guess that was one of the reasons behind my decision to start this blog, to give any visitors to the website a chance to learn more about the process of creating my imagery.

Generally for the Independent I am given something akin to a statement of intent, one line or sometimes even a mere word that I am asked to generate ideas around. Sometimes it is quite abstract, other times more descriptive such as this weekend's brief. But in all cases my position as illustrator is to do just that, illustrate, not push my own agenda. That is what self directed projects are for!

Some might argue that my position is a cop out, that I have a platform to say something important, but I don't view it that way. I have a role to perform and people have their right to agree or disagree with the views I illustrate on behalf of the newspaper. It is after all an opinion and debate column, not a fact and truth one, thus the ideas outlined on the page both in words and pictures are there to be discussed, ruminated on, shouted at or applauded. If comment is free (as one other newspaper declares) then I am happy to be part of that process.

Now saying all of that, yesterday's process actually went a little awry, in that the brief I was given and the direction I took became a little too similar to that given and taken by the cartoonist on the page adjacent to mine. So an 11th hour rethink was required, not the most fun of events but something to get the adrenalin pumping! I was asked to think about Gordon Brown's involvement in this scenario and after a little discussion both the art director and I decided to work with the notion that Gordon Brown had hidden the truth about the motivation for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release (that it was for trade purposes).

A quick round of ideas ensued and after another rapid discussion we decided I should move forward with the image that appears in today's paper; that of Gordon Brown up to his neck (or in this case nose) in oil, holding up his hands in a show of surrender or pleading innocence, depending on how the viewer sees it. Brown almost drowning in the oil is intended to have political implications, the idea that this is another case where his political career is likely to be even further damaged and that he is metaphorically drowning as PM. It is also meant to be inferred that this is another sleaze type allegation, that leaks (oil spill > leak) from within Government show up more of Brown's perceived inadequacies and that once again the Labour party is linked with behaviour that one might call oily. Obviously the most overt reason for the spilt oil is the idea that the true reason for the release of al-Megrahi was all about oil and that this truth has now been leaked. Simple really!

As for opinions in my work, sometimes I agree with the authors, sometimes I don't, but I pride myself on the quality of the work being consistent irregardless of what I personally believe.

Finally, here is a little picture of the 'oil slick' I created at the last minute yesterday using vegetable oil and cocoa powder (for colour), I was quite pleased with my ingenuity (she says modestly) and this picture provided the right texture and outlines for the final image. Illustration can be a ridiculous thing sometimes!

Sunday 23 August 2009

Inky fingers

Firstly I've just finished updating my website so if you want to check out some new pictures then please give it a visit

Today's illustration for the Independent focuses on Afghanistan, in particular current events there and how the author's support for the war has wavered in recent years. I was asked to reflect the elections that took place last week by creating an image made out of a fingerprint.

This was tricky (and messy) work, as not only did I have to compose the image I also had to make it work within the fingerprint shape and make the contours bend to show the figures. The messiness came from fingerprinting myself which I did with very little skill, leaving my finger and thumb a nice blue shade (including the fingernail). So if you should see me out and about in London this week please remember that it isn't dirt, it's just very stubborn ink!

The image itself turned out really well, again I was pleased with the sense of drama and atmosphere I managed to create. It's much more abstract then the piece last week, but generally that tends to be the way when I don't need to discuss or suggest specific people.


Wednesday 19 August 2009


I don't make a big issue about selling prints of my work, but I do actually do it, so I thought it might be worth mentioning on the blog.

Not to make this a hard sell but I currently have giclee prints available of a large range of my images in limited edition series of 10 or 20 (depending on the print).

To make this post a little more visually interesting here are a few pictures sent to me by Dan Upham, whom I recently sold (and hand delivered) a print to in New York. It was pure coincidence that his enquiry came just before my trip, so international personal delivery isn't the norm! Alongside having impeccable taste Dan happens to be a comedian and you can check him out here

If you would like to buy one of my prints please contact me via email to discuss the images on offer.

Monday 17 August 2009


Hello blog,

sorry I've been absent for a week but things have been hectic at Jemillo HQ (I wonder if I say that enough it will take off, or will it continue to sound cheesy forever?).

In fact things are still hectic, so this is a super quick post just to show the image in today's Independent. The brief focused on the news that David Cameron is keen to protect the NHS in the wake of criticism of the system by other Tories (and the Americans who are against a public health service).

I came up with the idea of Cameron as Superman, but with less muscles and more MP style trappings (socks and shoes with the tights, rather then boots) looking down on the audience with a grey city style hospital in the background and a small selection of nurses and doctors to represent his 'sidekicks'.

Colour wise I tried to keep the Tory theme with the different blues and overall I thought the image had a nice feel to it. Certainly one of my recent favourites compositionally.

Oh and if you happen to see it in print today you'll notice that I have been credited incorrectly (it's a G-Gemma, rather then a J-Jemma) but it's still me!

Thursday 6 August 2009

Is Twitter Down?

Having resisted much of the social networking trends of the past few years (I don't myspace, never Bebo'd and rarely venture onto Facebook) I occasionally looked down at those people who checked their facebook pages like I check my email. I enjoyed the technology and appreciated its significance, but never felt the need to broadcast every moment of my life to people I'd once known. As anyone with an ounce of self awareness will recognise, everyday life is not that interesting, trying to document your every movement in the manner of Heat magazine is tiresome, inane and often boring. It's hard enough sometimes writing this blog (case in point?) a few times a week and that's even with the open brief of not having to always write about myself.

So imagine my horror when I realised that I was bothered by the fact that TWITTER IS DOWN. How has it come to this? How have I become a lover of the act of tweeting? Have I given in to the media drip feed of how awesome Twitter is and started to believe the hype? Or is it that it actually has a benefit beyond finding out that Paula Abdul has quit American Idol?

Well I would say (in my defence) it has quickly become important to my working day. Although I would consider maybe half of the people I follow on there friends, a great deal are people I respect professionally or whose tweets give me food for thought throughout the day. So I follow the posts of No.10 Downing Street and Barack Obama, Creative Review and The Independent. Services like this keep me informed of developments worldwide which I may have to illustrate, or of creative output that might inspire or interest me. I follow a Guardian blogger whose articles made me laugh and a musician whose music I enjoy but who also has a fantastically original approach to engaging with her fans. I follow other illustrators and I also used twitter to make connections with people before my trip to New York, which was invaluable in giving me a chance to network and in some cases make friends.

All in all I would now call myself a fully paid up member of the Twitter fan club. I don't think Twitter can save the world (Sorry Guardian Online), and I recognise that for most it may just be a simple distraction, but if you utilise it properly the system can be a really useful tool for a freelancer and definitely one worth exploring. So earlier when I felt the need to google "Is Twitter Down?" and landed on the fantastically simple site Is Twitter Down, where the answer was Yes, I found myself rushing to my blog to bemoan the situation and share a more lengthy version of what I will post when it returns;

Jemillo: @twitter "You don't know what you've got til it's (temporarily) gone"

Disclaimer (with tongue firmly in cheek) I'd like to point out that I am not an addict and I'd also like to say that this post was in no way paid for by Twitter (I wish) or endorsed by them or anyone associated with the website.

Now if only Twitter was working I could let people know I'd written this....

Tuesday 4 August 2009


or at least definite news, is a little thin on the ground at the moment. A lot of things in the pipeline but it's limbo time (not in the fun party way) at Jemillo HQ as I wait for people to return from their holidays and for plans to be put into motion. Not the worst way to be as it has given me a little time to work on my New York animation. You can see it in its current rough state below:

This is my final contribution to the We Have A Nice Day project I worked on whilst I was in New York. I'm going to be adding my favourite images from that project to the website and blog soon, as soon as I get time to do all of the admin required and once I get this animation finished. It has taken longer then the other outcomes because I wanted to take my time and experiment with 3d space and cameras in After Effects (I've also been pretty busy since I got back, so have been squeezing in time to work on this). Generally when I animate I tend to work in 2d space and move along the horizon, so this has been a lot of work, experimentation and tutorial watching to get to this point. Ridiculously frustrating in parts but I'm quite pleased with where I'm at so far. Hopefully I'll get some time this week to go back into it and work up the backgrounds and add the next scenes.

Alongside this I did my image for the Independent, which looked a little like this yesterday:

This image is about state control/intervention. I was told that the article would mainly be about assisted suicide, but I was asked not to work with that, but to focus more on the broader topic of Government intervention in people's lives. This was the idea that was chosen by the art director and my main intention was to use the Union Jack as a set of paths, showing the character being prodded down one route by the hand of the state. It is meant to be a little reminiscent of Government propaganda and also suggest an all controlling power. I wanted to stay away from CCTV and prison like environments and was quite pleased with the way this turned out.

I also completed a full page illustration for The Ride journal last week, which I won't post here until it has been published. That was great fun though, a wide open brief and evocative story to illustrate. It was perfectly timed given that I was working on it whilst the Tour De France was coming to a close, so I worked up the rough with the inspirational feats of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish on in the background. Good times!

Right now I'm working on an image for Ink Publishing so I'd better get back to it..

Monday 27 July 2009

Harry Patch

Whilst fighting illness and surrounded by visiting family members over for a BBQ at my family home I snuck away for the afternoon to await my weekly Independent brief. This week I was asked to create an image about the death of Harry Patch, the last remaining veteran of the first World War.

Sometimes a commission comes through that makes you really think. Not so much about the job itself, but about the subject of the piece. This was certainly the case yesterday, as I got lost in thought about what this brave man had seen throughout his lifetime. This was a man who had survived a horrific war and gone on to lead a quiet life, well respected it appears, and who had only begun to talk in public about his experiences in the last 11 years; a complete contrast to the age of celebrity and 21 year olds' autobiographies that we live in now.

I don't know anything beyond what has been reported in the papers, so I will not claim to speak with any authority about Harry Patch. But I did want to create a piece with quiet dignity, which seemed in keeping with the news reports, also remembering that this was someone's grandfather not someone who chose a public life. I can't take credit for the idea this week, my art director suggested the Poppies in the chair approach, but I worked hard to make the composition quiet and understated with the addition of the wartime scene in the background populated by ghosts of a different time.

I rarely analyse my work after the event, but I was pleased with this and the sense of atmosphere that (I believe) I have generated within the image. It took a lot longer to make the background work and overall I was happy with the sense of history and memory that I created.

The Independent has carried a lot of stories about the troops in Afghanistan recently and I think it has done a fantastic job of reminding people that it is a dangerous place, something to think about in the here and now, not as something that began when I was at University and just continues to trundle in the background. Whatever one thinks about the merit of this war or any war, I always try to remember that it is real people involved with families, friends, dependents (on both sides) and not just a source of stories for Hollywood films or political posturing. My commission yesterday sparked off many conversations amongst my family, as we had a current Army captain and a Navy Veteran of World War II in the house and an absent cousin who is serving in the Army at present.

I guess that is what a simple illustration can make you think about. Harry Patch represented a generation that was lost. It put my grumblings about being ill into the shade and I hope that my work was suitably humble and respectful to his memory and his family.

*any views expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect the Independent's editorial position.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

News update

A quick post to keep the website up to date as I haven't had chance to upload any new work recently.

I'm back in the UK now and to quote Tracey Jordan in 30 Rock I'm 'On my grind', or working hard as it's more commonly known.

I have a set of Independent illustrations to upload and I intend to bring some of my favourite bits of the We Have A Nice Day project onto the website too. I'll be talking about that project in more detail on the blog once I complete my final image. I didn't want to rush it so have used the time to work on an animation in After Effects which is a little more technically accomplished then my previous efforts (I hope!).

Once that is finished I intend to put together a showreel of my animations, as the 'new' doesn't currently showcase that side of my practice, which was a conscious decision at the time. But now I have a reasonable amount of material I definitely want to take the time to produce a proper showreel.

I also have an illustration on the go for Ride magazine, which I am excited about, as well as an illustration for Mental Health Practice magazine.

This is a busy time for me as I'm catching up on all of the things that I had to put aside when I injured my hand, which means lots of personal work being finished and loose ends tied up. I'm also looking into the ways in which I can expand my creative practice, which is something I always like to do once the academic term has ended.

So I think that gives a brief summary of what's happening here at the moment. Hopefully there will be new work on the website over the weekend so keep an eye out for that...

Saturday 18 July 2009

A final New York post..

written in England, sadly.

But all good things must come to an end and my time in New York is up, for now. Much to the relief of my bank account and probably my knees, who will appreciate a little less pavement pounding.

I promised I'd blog about my final week in New York and I figured it would be poor form to renege on my promise.

During my last week I took a trip over to the Tenement Museum for an interactive murder mystery event I'd seen advertised in Time Out magazine. The Tenement Museum "tells the stories of immigrants who lived in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on Manhattan's Lower East Side" and for one night only a crowd of visitors would try to solve the real life case of 'The Ryans'; a brother and sister who were found murdered in 1873. The event seemingly captured the imagination of many a New Yorker, as when I arrived 40 minutes early (by now having got the hang of these free events!) a line had already formed and the email reservations we had been asked to make were scrapped as too many people had replied. The event attracted more then twice the usual turnout, but luckily I was one of the 100 people who were able to participate.

The murder mystery was lead by actors playing the parts of residents and when split into groups of 25, it was down to the visitors to interrogate the suspects we found lurking on the street or in the Tenement itself. The experience was fun, the actors really inhabited their roles and certainly in my group we enjoyed speculating over the identity of the murderer and asking questions to the suspects. It was my own slice of C.S.I New York, but just a century and a bit earlier.

The most entertaining part of the night was unscripted though and happened right at the beginning of the event. My group were 'interviewing' our first suspect on the stoop of an apartment block around the corner from the museum, when a resident of the building became a little enraged by the insolent, strangely dressed man talking about the Ryans on his stoop. What ensued was a confrontation straight out of a sitcom. The resident walked into the lobby and then returned to the actor three times, each time becoming more irate at the actor's perceived offensive comments about him and his fellow Lower East Side residents. Obviously our 'suspect' was trying to stay in character and props to him that he only let the facade drop once when it looked like he may take a blow to the face for his art. Even when the reason for our gathering was explained a verbal volley addressing film crews, tv programs and performance art continually consuming the street was unleashed. Irrelevant to us, simple as our motive for being there was; to enjoy a fun evening. But the resident raised an interesting point, what to us was a fun piece of performance was, to him, one of a series of daily intrusions into his life when all he wanted was to get into his home after a long day at work. A hazard of living in a a desirable location for films and tv programs (I had in fact been here the previous week on the Gossip Girl tour) or a valid point?

The general consensus seemed to be that he had overreacted and certainly his aggressive behaviour was completely disproportionate to the crime committed, especially as the actor in question did actually live in the same building. But it provided a slice of real life drama and demonstrated just how easy it is for passions to ignite and tempers to escalate in a densely populated small space, which seemed perfectly apt in relation to our reason for being there.

A photograph of 'The Landlord' taken at the event organised by Carlo d'Amore.
Photo taken by Greg Scaffidi see the original blog post here

Whilst on the Lower East Side I knew I had to pick up a cupcake from Babycakes. The very reason for my earlier experience of Broome Street (said store features in Gossip Girl series 1, the Thanksgiving episode, for those who care..) I had only managed to have a shot of frosting (yum) so this time with free hands and a few spare dollars in my wallet I popped into the all-natural, organic, free from many allergens bakery to see if a healthier version of the sweet treat could taste as good. Answer = yes. My choice was a delicious chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, which of course looked as good as it tasted. So much so that I couldn't resist posting a few pictures. Yum.

Also on a food related note, I had to post this picture of Tom's Restaurant

I found this on their blog, and it was added by Kit Kaplan a Brooklyn photographer who I think captured this slice of Brooklyn history (the diner has been around since 1936) perfectly in the shot. This is where I had the most delicious breakfast of Pancakes, Eggs and Bacon washed down by fresh O.J. The diner was packed and it seemed everyone left with a full stomach and a happy face. If you're ever in Brooklyn and want a great breakfast in a place brimming with history this is my recommendation.

I rounded off my exploration of New York with a subway ride down to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. It was fun to seemingly leave the city behind and hit the sand and also to be in an area where very few people were speaking English and the signs were often in Russian. The area is filled with immigrants who have found a new home and life in Brooklyn, subsequently it is a melting pot of cultures, but definitely with Russia as its heartbeat. The Village Voice talks about this more here But with it being my last weekend in New York I'm only slightly ashamed to say that my interest was more rooted in hitting the beach and relaxing with a book, rather then exploring extensively. I apologise for the touristy nature of these last few paragraphs, but as it's my last real post on my trip I want to milk it! This is a picture of Brighton Beach, with Coney Island in the distance:

Then one of the Promenade at Brighton Beach.

I enjoyed it down there, although it was definitely surreal to walk past the fur selling stores just a few metres from the beach, not your usual seaside fare.

Finally I did a little bit of shopping in Soho, with of course a foray onto Canal Street to pick up a New York trinket or two. Whilst I was enjoying the hustling and haggling of Canal Street I looked up to notice this advert for Grand Theft Auto.

It's probably been around for a while, but I was struck by how completely fitting it was to see that there (and not just because the game is based in Chinatown). Maybe I am a horribly commercialised, advertising influenced example of my generation. But rather then see it as an intrusion on the natural environment I thought this was a perfect example of outdoor advertising at its best. A product that so befits the environment it is shown in, in terms of attitude not just locality. Despite its tourist attraction status Canal Street definitely carries the scent of the underworld, but for the tourists in a slightly distant, thrilling way rather then in an obviously threatening fashion, which is something the Grand Theft Auto franchise totally exploits. It presents this dangerous, crime filled, violent world to people who rarely encounter it and allows them to run riot. Of course it also works because the game is based in Chinatown, but it wasn't that connection that first caught my eye. The image also appears to be spraypainted onto the building, though I imagine it is some sort of vinyl wrap, but again everything is just so and fits perfectly with the environment.

So that's my justification for snapping it. Plus it does look pretty damn cool!

In summary (on this exceedingly long post) my trip to New York was an action packed, adrenalin fuelled cultural adventure that, in terms of my own work, has been highly beneficial. I managed to do a lot of promotion, which was great, but I also replenished my mental store of visual reference by spending so much time watching and observing. It was great to get out and do that and I am hopeful that I can squeeze some of the amazing events I observed into personal work over the next month or so.

Thanks for reading and I hope I haven't bored you too much with my tales. Normal service on the blog will resume shortly, with more work orientated posts returning. Until then...

Saturday 11 July 2009

Too much to report, too little time

I say goodbye to New York on Monday, so I've decided to leave the blogging alone for a few days so I can maximise the minutes I have left. I haven't yet got around to telling the tales of the Tenement Museum ghost story or discussing my latest venture into Williamsburg. All of this I'll post when I return to the UK I think, once I've had the chance to collate my thoughts and pictures.

So for the next few days I'll leave you with one of my favourite pictures from the trip so far, taken when I stumbled across the Gossip Girl shoot in Soho. This show is my guilty pleasure, for which I feel no guilt, I just love it...

Have a great weekend (xoxo)

Wednesday 8 July 2009

4th July

For the 4th July celebrations I took a little trip over to Hoboken to meet up with some fellow Brits and enjoy the Macy's fireworks from a Jersey vantage point. Macy's fireworks have been an East River tradition since 1976 despite their debut as a Hudson River spectacular in 1958. However, the fireworks returned to the Hudson River after a long hiatus to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the exploration of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson, so Hoboken offered the perfect view for a Brooklyn resident willing to take the PATH train and bypass the crowds forming on the West side of Manhattan.

Top: The many boats moored on the Hudson ready for the show to begin
Above: The crowds on the pier in Hoboken built steadily

Fireworks over the Hudson River

A nice close up

I had a great time watching the fireworks but I was also fascinated by the crowd during the build up. There is something compelling about crowd dynamics, especially when there is a development of unspoken rules that someone unwittingly disturbs; a person who chooses to stand in the area where it had been silently decided no-one should stand, the muttering to, and elbowing of, neighbours as a newcomer snags a better vantage point, or the stranger who stands too close to a group for their liking despite it being inadvertent and a natural consequence of a busy event. All of these things took place and I always love watching how people respond to such a situation. I think it's important for my work to take note of the nuances of social interaction and I am especially vigilant when I find myself in a crowd because I love to depict them in my illustrations and I'm always on the lookout for new subtleties to add to my interpretations.