Wednesday 31 March 2010

Houston we have a problem..

Greetings from the floor of departure gate E10 at George Bush Intercontinental airport, Houston, Texas.

It's 2:07am as I type this and I've been stuck here since 8pm after missing my connecting flight to New York through no fault of my own and after landing from Grand Cayman 5 minutes early. A combination of poor staffing, poor scheduling and a denial of information and then the presentation of incorrect information as fact has seriously dented my belief in America as the home of good service. But onwards and upwards, I have 4 hours to kill until my new flight leaves and nowhere to sleep so it makes sense to spend that time productively!

I'm in transit back to the UK after several weeks of international travel, some of which has been documented on here and on flickr and some not so much, but I'll endeavour to keep the blog work related and save the travel tales for family and friends.

First up is an Indy from a week ago about the Irish Catholic priest scandal and how it was covered up. I think this is the article but having not seen the paper yet I can't be 100% sure, but it seems likely. My idea was all to do with generating atmosphere, creating a sense of hidden instances that occurred behind closed doors and were kept there by the Church's inability to embrace transparency, so in my image the Rosary Beads literally hold the doors closed as the Priest and young boy disappear.

I was happy with this image, especially with the eerie feel I managed to generate. It was a tricky topic to visualise without using the obvious iconography in a stereotypical manner, but I'm pretty confident that you don't get too many illustrators using Rosary Beads to secure door handles!

The Indy image that appeared in Monday's paper dealt with a very different topic and consequently provided me with a new challenge. I felt this image is much more conceptual, despite also being scene-based. With this weekend's brief I was asked to visualise how the 'special relationship' between the UK and USA was no longer so special. The full article is here and my illustration centered on the notion of the 'marriage' between the two countries breaking down.

It was Winston Churchill who first referred to the special relationship in his 1946 Sinews of Peace address and I started with this as the basis of my interpretation. I translated this ethereal notion of a relationship into an object, in this case a wedding band, designed to denote the ties between the two countries and worked with the premise that the band was to be returned to sender now that it had lost its meaning. Much as a divorcee removes their ring to signify a break with the marital state, the hand in the image is seen holding the ring rather then wearing it. The visual suggests that Gordon Brown is returning the ring to the U.S in the same envelope in which it was originally sent to Winston Churchill. The ring also has the motto of the USA inscribed in it. This was designed to say that it is the UK that has recognised it is no longer special to the USA, rather then the other way around, and that by returning the ring the country is embracing a new period of life, as a single country striking out on its own and free to disagree with the choices made by the U.S.

On a less serious note it gave me plenty of excuses to do some fun research into the correct stamps used for airmail in 1946 and have a go at recreating an aged envelope complete with weathered postage. This was great fun and again I was really pleased with the final image:

Besides the Indy I also had an image in the Daily Mail at the weekend, unfortunately the image wasn't credited to me, which is always disappointing, but it was definitely mine:

This image was for the Bel Mooney advice column again and responded to a reader's letter in which the author talked about her fears for her unborn child in a world that she believed was full of dangers (exemplified by the James Bulger case) and her inability to protect the potential 1/10 children who (according to statistics) are abused in her role as a teacher to 40 children. I think that summary sums up what the image was trying to convey, 4 of the 40 children shown are marked out in red, as the women cowers in the centre hiding and simultaneously protecting her child. The full article is here

I also wanted to quickly upload two sketches I did whilst out and about with blogging buddy Bowerbird in Grand Cayman. The first is a sketch at Smiths Cove in Grand Cayman, as we watched an American family contemplating the waves and their ability to jump into them and the second is at the Turtle Farm, looking out onto the fresh water pool. It might not be the sort of thing I normally seek out but there was something extremely relaxing about sitting in companionable silence sketching in the sunshine (or, as in the first image, under some potentially stormy clouds).

My apologies for the poor photography, I've just shot these on the airport floor (I'm sat down here as it's comfier then the chairs!) as I thought it would be nice to show some 'rougher' drawing in contrast to the more polished final illustrations.

Happily writing this blog post has taken over an hour, which has brought me a lot closer to my flight's departure time. It's a weird limbo here at the airport, with the abundance of overhead lighting reflected against a large mirrored window one can almost imagine it is daytime instead of the early hours. I'm not sure this will help prevent jetlag. I would photograph the space, in fact I tried earlier, but it's really rather bland and the lighting strips it of any sense of atmosphere, which as a lone female traveller I'm actually quite happy about. I can't always be thinking about the visual properties of an environment!

I guess I should also take a moment to give a nod to the fabulous fast wifi provided by Boingo, I really don't mind paying for internet provision when it's super efficient, easy and fast. Plus it's helped pass the time... Luckily there are also plenty of these Samsung Mobile Charging Stations about:

I am totally in love with Samsung for these and it has definitely made me think more favourably of a brand I normally associate with my football team's main rivals. Now it's back to listening to Ellie Goulding, who is the current soundtrack to my travels as I sit firmly on the bandwagon. My week in the Cayman Islands was also accompanied by the wonderfully quirky track "Eat That Up, It's Good For you" by Two Door Cinema Club, check it out if you fancy a summery tune infused with Mario Bros. type sound effects.


*delete as appropriate!

Wednesday 17 March 2010

St Patrick's Day in NYC

I promise I'm not just blogging to show off about my travels, seriously!

I'm now in NYC and although I didn't get around to finishing off my chatter about Chicago I wanted to do a quick post today of some drawings I've done at the parade this morning just in case the sketches get too smudged by the time I make it back to my hotel.

I wasn't particularly prepared for drawing this morning, but I managed to cobble together some quick reference drawings using the 3 pencils I had available and a lined notebook. I was trying to catch the things that stood out to me, the empty Fifth Avenue (in terms of cars) before the parade began and the shadows falling on the buildings as the parade occurred. As well as the helicopters whirring overhead and the different people that passed by on parade. I did quite a few pages, it was tricky, trying to lean my book against the barriers, look, record and keep my balance as people pressed into my back but I just about managed it and really enjoyed being able to work in my sketchbook live, which is a real rarity.

Here are some (admittedly dodgy) photos of my pages, forgive the photography, I've taken these in Bryant Park and haven't had time to crop or adjust as my battery is low. Off to see the Tim Burton exhibition at MOMA this afternoon, trying to avoid the hordes of drunken 'Irish' people on route.

Before the Parade began

Passing troops

Looking down 5th Avenue

Looking up

Looking on

Happy St.Patrick's Day!

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Hello from the windy city

So this week in March finds me in Chicago, the windy city, which actually isn't too windy for this time of year according to the locals. It is a little grey and drizzly, but that didn't stop me from picking up some new sunglasses on my trip to Wicker Park yesterday!

I came to Chicago last year and didn't get chance to head over to the Wicker Park area, so yesterday we took a trip on the blue line of the El to Damen and wandered around. I loved it over there as it was characterised by all of the elements that make a visit to a city worthwhile for me; lots of interesting aged signage, a mishmash of architectural styles and a sense of discovery.

As well as taking pictures of the area I also spent a bit of time browsing in book stores, first up was the second hand store Myopic Books. I only made one purchase here picking up Ogilvy on Advertising, the 1983 book by David Ogilvy, the extraordinary founder of Ogilvy Mather (as it's now called). Although over 20 years old the book discusses principles that still hold true today and should be an interesting read, if only to show how different (or similar..) the world is now to how he predicted it might be when writing in the early eighties. It's also worth confessing that my current binge watching of Mad Men has stoked my interest in American advertising agencies through the ages, which may have also influenced my purchase.

Speaking of American advertising I keep seeing adverts for U.S Cellular and I am really taken by their use of typography. It feels very European, contemporary and trendy which is not something one traditionally associates with American cellphone companies (as a broad generalisation).

The website is similarly styled and a quick click on the about section of the website shows the company is based in Chicago, which explains the ubiquity of the advertising and also informs me the company was founded in 1983, the same year Ogilvy published his book and (more importantly, some might say) the year I was born! The advertising for U.S Cellular is credited to Publicis and Hal Riney, a San Fransisco based agency, whose website is currently under construction unfortunately, but some of the TV ads they've done for the brand can be seen here. For the type lovers amongst us apparently the typeface is Rosewood filled, although that may be proven incorrect (I read it on another blog) and if you'd like a different opinion on the adverts this guy here isn't a fan! Readers of Grazia and those living in the U.K might think they've seen this sort of thing before, which we have, but it was more the fact that I'm in the U.S right now that made this stand out as it looks rather different to a lot of the other stuff on the billboards.

I shall continue my tales of Wicker Park, including my purchases from Quimby's bookstore later. Right now I have to go and get ready to register the students, run a crit on their sketchbooks/visual documentation and then get to the Chicago Gangsters tour!