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.