Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Radio Times: Christmas Edition: Madama Butterfly.

A lovely commission from the Radio Times. An image for the radio pages to accompany the late Anthony Minghella's acclaimed production of Puccini's opera being broadcast by the Met, live from New York on Saturday 17th December. As a main theme I kept coming back to the idea of Cio-Cio San reacting to her fate with quiet dignity, her expression overlapping into her childhood memory of witnessing moths and butterflies being pinned to a display board. When rendering the finished artwork I approached it from the onset intending it be more decorative than usual - as per some of my experimental images of late. A lovely job and many thanks to powers that be at the RT for the commission. Out on the newsstands from today.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Steampunk Cat Demon - An experiment

An experimental image with a bit of history as it was sat in a sketch book for a while. Always knew I'd do something with this Sphynx like scribbly exaggerated drawing (based on our cat) as it had an interesting anthropomorphic feel to it. I'd been working on and off the finished image for a while and a version of this character also came into play when working on the Times Dreams & Nightmares series, as a sphynx like demon for the second article. I decided to take it a little further, changing mainly the eyes. No real planning to the changes, just leaving progress to fate when rendering the finished image to see what would happen. Hoping for inspiration from the divine accident!

I'm playing with a new approach with a heavier bias towards working in Photoshop. To date I've always preferred the directness of Adobe Illustrator, but recently I've been exploring PS a little more inquisitively. Screen shots were taken to gauge and monitor progress (yes I was struggling!) when rendering, just as I did when working on the Tosca image for the RT. Where that image came together beautifully, this Steampunk Demon proved a little more troublesome, going through three colour-ways before I was totally happy. By the time the image was fully resolved I had about 40 screen shots totted up. As I'd maximised the viewable image for each screen grab they all lined up quite well. Thought they could make an interesting sequence showing all of the key stages of the render when animated into a slide show. Assembled in Adobe Flash after a steep learning curve. My first time using the software and I actually found it quite intuitive after the initial head scratching. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 10 October 2011

LAB Visual Illustration Agency

I'm delighted to report that I will be represented in mainland Europe by the new Illustration Agency LAB Visual. An exciting new venture and a huge thanks to Ev and team for the invitation to join :-) Agents? Never ever say never. I had no immediate plans to approach an agent but fate intervened and an interesting email came pinging into my inbox a couple of weeks ago. An invitation to join something new - a different type of agency. Small in scale with only a handful of artists. Limited, agreed representation. No contracts sealed in blood. Soul not exchanged for a bulging suitcase full of dollars & euros with Beelzebub. The main carrot for me? They intend to concentrate and limit their promotion to Europe, Russia and the far east, where I've hardly ever worked (mainly UK and US) before. They have the team to deal with any language barriers that may arise and the experience to back up their venture. After quite a bit of head scratching and ether based correspondence I decided to take the plunge. It will be interesting to see how things move forward. After all, I've been involved with two other agents in my career - both at their genesis and really enjoyed being part of something at the beginning. The same scenario here with LAB Visual, starting from scratch with yours truly on board for the journey. Lets just hope its an interesting, stimulating and smooth ride for all involved...

Community Care Magazine

As soon as the email came through from the Art Editor, I knew I wanted to do this job. The description of people passing through a clock face to liberate themselves from the constraints of the usual working time frame appealed immediately. Two final variations shown where the figures and clock were adjusted for scale and placement so leaving the copy clear. Also, interesting to fire up Adboe Illustrator as well on this job. I've been neglecting this fiddly, but very versatile piece of software in preference for Photoshop of late. I really enjoyed tinkering with the gradient mesh and pen tools again and had forgotten its distinct benefits and advantages over Photoshop (namely speed). I shall be playing some more :-)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

New York Times.

A real privilege to work for one of the worlds great newspapers this week, with the added bonus of a rather challenging subject to tackle as well. The article discussed the current reduced US productivity levels and the potential follow on scenarios, which are of great concern to the financial markets. A few ideas were submitted but the Art Director preferred the concept of a sparse landscape with the factories only capable of manufacturing and producing tumbleweed. Simple and to the point. A huge thanks to Minh for the opportunity to work for the NYT. Out on the newsstands today.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Radio Times: Gormenghast: Steerpike

The world of Gormenghast created by Mervyn Peake needs little introduction due to the dedicated following the books have gained since publication. BBC Radio 4 are currently broadcasting a radio adaptation in six parts, adapted by Brian Sibley. I was commissioned by the Radio Times to produce an illustration for their radio pages to accompany the series. A gift of a project. I thought it best to concentrate on Steerpike and his murderous intent. For me, he's by far the most interesting character in the book(s) as he's so calculating and unrelentingly evil. A true villain in the best theatrical sense. His ambition to be part of the castle life and hierarchy is all consuming and I thought it would be interesting to depict him overlapping into the walls of Gormenghast itself. I explored a few other ideas, but I kept coming back to this as it seemed to have the most potential for a brooding portrait. I also subtly referenced the Peake original drawing without resorting to copying or fan worshipping - his illustrations for Treasure Island (astonishing) made a big impact on me as a student. Great fun to do, and timely in reference to the last Bama / Aurora illustration blog entry, as they were an influence here too.

More on: Mervyn Peake
And a link to a post by Brian on his blog:

Friday, 1 July 2011

Aurora - Universal Monsters

Aurora. Not the Northern Lights, although that is a spectacle I would like to witness once day, but a 1950's company that produced an interesting range of self assembly model kits that were an influence on me as a youngster. Now defunct, but a very popular brand in the US (less so in the UK) through the sixties and into the nineties, when still releasing kits under changing parent companies. Compared to the likes of Airfix, Revell, Tamiya etc, the company placed themselves in a unique position by obtaining a copyright license from Universal Studios, allowing Aurora to manufacture plastic kits in association with Universal's famous monster movies, following on with popular TV show / comic related kits. They commissioned a talented artist to depict the model kit figure on the box cover and lets just say there was artistic license with the portrayal of the actual contents! Favorites are The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Dracula (based on Bela Lugosi), King Kong holding on to a mini glow in the dark Fay Wray and of course Godzilla - my all time fav creature feature.

Nowhere near as scary as a ten year old boy would hope, despite the real "glow in the dark" pieces. In fact once constructed the Godzilla figure looked like he was suffering from a bad case of elephantiasis! The Mummy kit based on Boris Karloff is slightly out of proportion as well, sporting a rather large head. No matter, as a kid I loved these kits and more so the box cover images, pouring over the cover and then the contents, afterwards enthusiastically covering my fingers in polystyrene glue and Humbrol enamel paint when constructing them. For me at that impressionable age they were evocative of the movies themselves, bridging the gap between cinema and behind the sofa fan, where perhaps a little piece of Hollywood terror could sit a on kids shelf. Inspired.

The illustrator was a chap called James Bama. He was latterly famed for his portrayal of native americans, formerly, for a broad spectrum of commercial work, most famously the Doc Savage book covers. I only linked the childhood experience of these kits to the work of the artist and the Aurora company when I studied illustration at college, then of course finally understanding the role of a commercial artist - I was a slow learner (still am). These tall portrait box images are the original Bama illustration covers. The square 'glow in the dark' covers were from a later controversial release, where the original paintings were overpainted by another artist to exaggerate the new glow in the dark kit parts.

Bama's later gallery work consists mainly of delicate sensitive character studies, a million miles away from the commercial work. But for me, its the Aurora model cover art that still pleases the most due to my nostalgia driven experience of them. The way a heightened colour pallet was used for exaggerated (cinematic?) drama, how the limited printing process of the time added its own patina and how the images spurred on the imagination, long after the movie had been watched. Kitsch? Definitely, even gloriously so. But they are executed with such affection for the genre that I find them irresistible. Even though my work influences have changed significantly over the years, they still make me smile, and always will. Thanks James Bama and Aurora.

More on James Bama:

More on Aurora:

More on what happened to the originals (shameful):

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

UCLAN 2011 Exhibition

UCLAN Y3 Exhibition: Spent a very pleasant morning catching up with Steve Wilkin who is the course leader of the BA Illustration course at UCLAN in Preston. I enjoyed a good few years teaching at the Uni with Steve and his team. Certainly very interesting to be back in the academic environment for a short time, catching up with student progress, the course evolution and how the nature of University funding is changing (for the worse - much worse) in relation to the new fee structure. Its show time of course and the Year 3 bods have their graduation exhibition now open to the public. Overall its a mixed show, but there are stand out artists and potential stars in the making. The course has gone from strength to strength over Steve's ten year role as course leader, turning out some of the finest UK based illustrators working today. To name check just a few: Rachel Goslin, Danny Allison, Jay Taylor, Angela Swan, Liam Derbyshire Ben Tallon and Kate Pankhurst. Being in the Y3 exhibition room brought back the memory of the frantic last minute preparation, student panic and the relief of completing it all. Wistful sigh! Great to see that the course is thriving with Steve at the helm and his teams passion for the subject appears undiminished, despite the challenges ahead regarding Uni funding etc. Well worth a looksee if you are in area :-)

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Occasionally projects come along that just raise the spirits. This was one. I was contacted by Art Director Rob Story who is putting together a bound sketchbook of his favorite artists drawings / sketches, to be presented to his two boys when they are older. A lovely idea. I thought it would be interesting to contribute sketch ideas for a proposed set of promo / experimental pieces that will go on to be finished paintings or promo illustrations, the format yet to be decided. At the moment I have no idea how they will develop, only knowing they will move forward - somehow. As its such a personal project Rob wants to keep the website available to the contributors only and out of the public domain, but he has kindly allowed me to share my drawings in my newsfeed. Anyways, a lovely project to be a part of and thanks to Rob for the invitation. More on Rob:

Here's a brief snippet from one of the email exchanges:"Hi Rob. Well, I've finally finished the drawings..! Sincere apologies for the delay in getting them done. Drawing for me is a purpose solely to get to the finished painting or digital illustration, so I didn't want to just 'knock something out' quickly. To me, that would just not feel right somehow, and be a false representation of how I work. So, I waited until the decks were clear and could start planning a series of experimental images, loosely exploring concepts about passing ideas down the generational line. Making the sketches working drawings to progress to either a painting or digital illustration. That way there is a creative lineage to a finished image or even a series (who knows where the direction will lead) from the sketches. But the important issue being, these drawings are very early in that creative process. Concept genesis if you like. So they are fresh and also part of 'something', rather than just a dashed out doodle. Nothing wrong with that approach, just not how I work really. Anyway, enough rambling, time to get busy! "

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Radio Times: Wind In The Willows (A Change in the Willows)

Here's a set of beloved characters that I would probably never have considered tackling independently of commission. Somehow I would never have associated my work with Kenneth Grahame's Wind In The Willows, but I'm very pleased that the powers that be at the Radio Times thought otherwise. From the synopsis:

"A Change In The Willows reunites the beloved characters of Kenneth Grahame's seminal The Wind in the Willows for an all new adventure, written by Ian Buchan.

Toad is back on a spending spree and dismissive of his friends until he needs their help for a rather irritating ghost problem. Ratty finds himself flooded out of his riverside home by rising river levels.

Mole tries to understand the link between the pang in his stomach and the desire all animals have to be amongst their own kind. And good old Badger is upset that nobody listens to him and his friends take him for granted.

The cast stars Tim McInnerny as Toad, Stephen Mangan as Mole, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Ratty and Andrew Sachs as Badger."

A really interesting commission all round, a real challenge and great to be stretched with the subject matter. Out on the news stands today.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Lürzer's Archive 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide

I'm very pleased to be able to report that I had a piece selected for the Lürzer's Archive 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide. I really enjoyed looking through the superb work on display in this beautifully designed book. A really varied cross section of working styles representative of how the illustration profession stands at the beginning of 2011. A privilege to be part of.

If you have visited this news feed before you may remember the image, originally commissioned by the Radio Times and featured in this post: Radio Times: Tosca. So a great big thanks go out to Jacob Howard at the Radio Times for the commission and all of the final jury members who allowed my work to be featured with such illustrious company.

Here's a brief description from the Lürzer's Archive bulletin...

More than 1,100 illustrators applied for inclusion in what is now the fourth special to be entitled "200 Best Illustrators," with no fewer than 6,075 submissions having been received. Yet – as the name itself suggests – only 200 actually made it into the selection. In a volume numbering 326 pages, we present you with exceptional illustrations produced during the past two years from around the world. Incidentally, the cover of this new edition comes from India or, to be more precise, from Taproot India, Mumbai. The name of the illustrator who produced it is Anant Nanvare. What particularly pleases us, as a publisher dedicated to showcasing the best advertising from around the world, is the fact that this illustration originally appeared as part of an advertising campaign (featured in issue 3/10). The motifs for Transasia Papers were also awarded a Golden Lion at Cannes in 2010.

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