Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Jim Flora's 'The Fabulous Firework Family'

So, today me and Jord were talking about about illustrators from the fifties and we both mentioned how much we love the work of Jim Flora. That was when I realized that I have yet to post any of Jim Flora's fantastic, playful and wonderfully imaginative work on my blog. So, with that in mind, I decided I would post some today.

There are so many amazing examples of Jim Flora's work that I could have chosen to show you: his archetypal record covers, his beautiful fine art paintings and intricate woodcuts. I was really spoiled for choice! In the end I decided to start with his 1955 book for children 'The Fabulous Firework Family'. This showcases all that I have come to love about Jim Flora's work: his sharp and exciting style of depicting inventive characters using captivating colours; all coming together to create work that buzzes with energy and fun. This book is absolute treat, the kind that I wish I'd been given as a child. Enjoy: 










Sunday, 20 March 2011

Home Sweet Home

As I've mentioned previously: over the last few weeks, all of us on the illustration course have been putting together a publication to raise both funds and awareness for 'The Wellspring'; a resource centre for homeless and disadvantaged people, located in Stockport.

Each page of the publication is dedicated to a particular issue covered by the charity. We were each allocated a page and asked to produce an illustration which represents the issue.

The publication is called 'Home Sweet Home' and last week we finally got our copies from the printers. I'm really pleased with the way that 'HSH' looks and I'm really pleased with the guys on my course who all did a fantastic job. It was a real team effort and I think we've produced something that we can all be proud of. But, hey, don't take my word for it, see for yourself (I've added a link below each artwork to the relevant persons blog/website):





    Hannah Cheetham                                   Philippa Lightburn


Gabrielle Taylor                        Megan Thomas



Dominique Byron                                       Ian Murray



 Joanna Spicer                                  Chloe Jones



                                    


   Laura Gilbert                                  Katie Broome
                         

Rebecca Hadfield                                Alexander Birks


Mil Connors                                           Kyle Hart



Matt Bray                                    Eleanor Mulhearn


Holly Mcloughlin                                  Rebecca Longden


Emma Thorpe                                 Paul Underhill


Kris Sale                                        Rosie Wilman



Saturday, 19 March 2011

Ben Newman


I’ve been a big fan of Ben Newman for a while; last year he became one of my favourite illustrators and since then his work has had a huge influence over mine. If you haven’t got it already, can I highly recommend a book of his called The Bento Bestiary’, it’s a beautifully illustrated guide to some of the ancient spirits and demons of Japan. It is also a fantastic example of contemporary illustration that is both exciting and dynamic, while at the same time simple and minimalist.





 
I sent Ben a few questions and he was kind enough to reply with some really interesting and helpful answers. Enjoy:


Hi Matt


I hope this is okay. I'd just fallen asleep through Lethal Weapon 3 and then started typing so you might want to check it for spelling mistakes. Thanks for the email.


Can you tell me how you began as an illustrator?

I graduated in 2004 from Bristol UWE with degree in Illustration. I spent a while developing my work in my own time over the course of a couple of years. I travelled around bits of Asia and worked on some small editorial jobs for a music magazine and took part in numerous exhibitions trying to push what I had learnt at uni. I didn't buy my own computer until 3 years after University and then taught myself. When I see a lot of new young illustrators I feel miles behind the curve. 

 

 What are your inspirations? Are you influenced by any artist in particular? 

Jim Flora is a huge influence but I mainly draw my inspiration from early to mid-20th Century design, mainly Czech matchbox labels, Bauhaus, Russian movie posters, etc. I find simple shapes and bright colours endlessly inspiring. I'm lucky enough to have some incredibly talented friends like Bjorn Lie, Stuart Kolakovic, Rob Hunter, Jon McNaught, Tom Frost and Nick White. I've known Nick since we were 13 and I feel that the optimism I have for drawing stems from when I use to visit him at Kingston when we were young.



 
 Is there an artist you aspire to be like? 
I would just like to be as good as I can be at being me but I do love the photos of Charley Harper as an old man. He looks so satisfied with life and that’s how I'd like to look as I get old.



How do you come up with ideas for set briefs? 

I start by thinking "what the fuck is this going to look like?” I kind of like that feeling at the start of a brief and then reality sets in and time slips away and it either goes by very smoothly and horribly horribly wrong. It all depends on the brief and the client. My rough sketches are very rough but generally I quite enjoy the whole process (through gritted teeth).



 
How do you get started? How do you solve a creative block? 

Cup of tea. Find excuses to ring people. Worry. Draw. Start worrying again. Crippling self doubt sets in. Wander over to someone else's studio. Waste time. Walk home. Come up with an idea just as I get home.



 
Could you describe your working method? 

Pencil. Ruler. Compass. Light box. Scanner. I work using the raw spot colours and use overlays to get my secondary colours. I'm slightly obsessed with the mechanics of colour.


 
How do you divide your working time between personal and professional work? 

You just fit in somehow. Generally, paid professional work comes first.


Where do you work? 

At SNAP studios in Bristol. I share an attic space with my good buddy, Tom Frost.


 
Are there any advantages/disadvantages to this? 
The disadvantage is that when it rains I get wet on my way to the studio.


What kind of promotional work do you do? 

My agent, Pocko, sort most of that out. I use twitter, Flickr and my blog to help people find out about new work so I guess the internet is the best self promotion tool available.




What is your opinion of the illustration industry at the present time? 

Harder to find jobs. Harder to find clients willing to pay. Its just pretty hard all round. I think Nobrow is giving the illustration community a healthy injection of excitement though. Most illustrators I know are leaning more towards personal work now.



Is the industry in a good place? Is now a good time to be an illustrator? 

Last year I felt like it was but the last 5 months have felt quieter. That’s just for me though. I have no idea if there is ever such a thing as a 'good time', you either do it or you don't.





Is there any advice you could give to a student trying to make it in the illustration industry?

Don't feel like you have to rush head first into the industry. I think the slow approach is a great way to help expand your interest and inspirations. You'll need a thick skin and a hard work ethic. 


Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Wellspring


Over the last few weeks, all of us on the illustration course have been putting together a publication to raise both funds and awareness for 'The Wellspring'; a resource centre for homeless and disadvantaged people, located in Stockport.

Each page of the publication is dedicated to a particular issue covered by the charity. We were each allocated a page and asked to produce an illustration which represents the issue.

The issue that I was asked to represent was 'Debt and Homelessness': Debt is one of the biggest causes of Homelessness in Stockport and one of the biggest barriers to people becoming housed. The Wellspring provides a ‘money management’ and ‘budgeting finances’ course. They also provide one to one benefits support and will help people write a budgeting plan.

For my illustration I wanted to portray debt as a burden that brings people down. I also wanted to portray a positive message (we were told in the brief that the illustrations needed to avoid clich├ęs and should be uplifting). I decided that I would portray debt as something dense and heavy but that I would also portray it as something that can be managed and overcome. I came up with the idea of portraying the debt as a set of weights and using a 'circus strong man' lifting those weights to represent the idea of overcoming and controlling debt. Here's what I came up with:


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Stuart Kolakovic


 Stuart Kolakovic graduated with a BA Hons in Illustration from Kingston University in 2007; and created quite a buzz in the industry with his ambitious and award winning 'Final Major Project' : an 80 page comic about his Serbian Grandfather. 
Since then he has worked consistently to a high standard and has an impressive client list that includes: 'The Guardian', 'Dazed and Confused', 'New Scientist', 'The Telegraph' and 'Nobrow' (it was through the 'Nobrow' publications that I first became aware of his work).
For a while now, he has been one of my biggest inspirations: I love his way of portraying people, his simple and yet highly effective use of colour and shape; and the way that his work also manages to communicate his Eastern European heritage.
So, last week I sent him a questionnaire and he was kind enough to reply with answers that are thoughtful, informative and helpful:


Hi Matt, 
cheers for the compliments. I'm uber busy at the mo, so you'll have to excuse the short answers to your questions. On another note; I've been doing a few talk/lecture things and workshops at a handful of different universities recently; so if you want me to come up to Stockport at some point, hassle your tutors!

·         Can you tell me how you began as an illustrator?

Studied BA Hons at Kingston Uni,  and began milking friends I knew who worked at skateboard magazines, skateshops, etc for bits of work. It was a good way or learning how to be an illustrator without massive amounts of pressure. Then did the hard slog and tried to show as many art directors as possible my portfolio.



·         What are your inspirations? Are you influenced by any artist in particular? Is there an artist you aspire to be like?

A lot of comic book artists, like Chris ware, Seth. Some of the tutors that taught me at Uni, like Jonny Hannah and Geoff Grandfield. Friends like Amy Brown and Ben Newman. 


·         How do you come up with ideas for set briefs? How do you get started?

In this order: Panic. Procrastinate. Panic. Read the brief. Procrastinate a bit more. Read the brief again. Make sure I'm on the same page with the art director. Start thumbnail sketchs. 

·         How do you solve a creative block?
A bowl of cereal, play an instrument, go skateboarding, listen to music, read, or go to bed. 


·         Could you describe your working method?
Pencil sketches then it's black ink, 00 brush, cheap A4 copy paper, scan in, colour on Photoshop.

·         How do you divide your working time between personal and professional work?
I don't, I just take it as it comes. 

·         Where do you work? Are there any advantages/disadvantages to this?
Home. Advantages; being surrounded by all my books, equipment, kitchen, not having to get up at 7:00 in the morning.
Disadvantages: Going days at a time without speaking to someone, Batdog, not knowing when to stop.



·         What kind of promotional work do you do?
I have an agent, Heart agency, who promotes my work via mail outs and emailers.


·         What is your opinion of the illustration industry at the present time? Is the industry in a good place? Is now a good time to be an illustrator?
I don't think it's ever a good time to be an illustrator! In the short time I've been an "illustrator", I've seen a decrease in the costing of particular jobs (especially book jackets). The competition is rife!

·         Is there any advice you could give to a student trying to make it in the illustration industry?
Don't do it! And if you do, try not to do work for free!



Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Owl and the Pussy Cat Toy

The following are photos of a toy that I made, based on the story of 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat'. The idea was that this could work as a toy, a story and a puzzle all in one. I'm reasonably pleased with the finished outcome but I think there is still a lot of room for improvement. See what you think, any feedback on this or any of my work would be greatly appreciated.