Tuesday, 30 November 2010

British Museum Print rooms

I have left the confines of Versailles this week for a list of meetings and evenings spent with old friends in London. It is never a chore to comeback to London as it is always changing and evolving, new trends, new shops, new buildings, it seems in a constant state of flux.

An old friend and constant in London that can supply a bit of refuge is The British Museum. The first time I visited London I trawled around the Egyptian galleries, pressing my face to the glass cabinets trying to see embalmed mummies, cats and crocodiles but it was only when I took a life drawing class at at CSM that I actually took my time to explore. One of the most beautiful discoveries that I found was The Print Rooms, I can still remember walking in and being confronted with Albrecht Durer etching of a rhinoceros, formed from a simple description in a journal. I had saw it in books but this was the first time I had 'seen it in the flesh' so to speak.

I went back today and he was there to greet me again along with Durer's original sketch. Another treat wa the exhibition that is on there at the moment called From Picasso to Julie Mehretu, this was an exhibition of prints and sketches collected over the past 35 years, it also showcases many of the great artists of the 20th century, starting with Picasso’s study for his masterpiece Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, the painting that shook the art world in 1907. A few of the highlights were by Heinrich Campendonk, Charles Seliger, Dorothy Delue and Julie Mehretu, I have managed to find a few examples of their work to give youa feel of the exhibiton but if you have a chance pop along, it's free and it's beautiful.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Tate Update

Derry, Yesterday
LegenDerry has struck again! In case your were unaware Derry/Londonderry won the first City of  Culture in the UK for 2013 during the summer, since then there has been much speculation about what events are going to take place, well hot of the press it has just been announced that The 2013 Turner Prize will take place in the walled city a part of it's year of cultural events. Maybe I should start working now on a paper cut illustration!

Polaroid Passion

 I love Polaroids, I have about 6 different Polaroid cameras one of them is the 250 Land Camera. I picked it up on ebay for about £15 and it has been my favourite Polaroid camera even beating my beautiful, folding SX-70.

When I go it in the post I opened it up and it smelled of an other age, it was pretty dirty but there were no holes in the bellows, the rollers worked and all the switches functioned. I bought some B&W 1000 iso film and went out to experiment with my new found treasure. If you have used a Polaroid most of them have limited focusing capabilities, it's simply a point and shoot camera but the 250 is a rangefinder which allows yow a bit of play with depth of field and can give beautiful image that can appear half documentation and half memory. Now before you go off on a rant I know you can download countless filters and frames to make your iphone pics look like Polaroids from the 1970's with light leak and uneven emulsion, but in my experience there is nothing like the real thing. The ritual of framing, shooting and then ripping the frame from the camera and of course then there is the waiting… In a previous post about Polaroids I touched on this, but with the 250 Land Camera it's even more special as you have to peel the negative and the print apart an then there is the reveal, when you discover the real beauty of the camera.

If your tempted then The Impossible Project have a limited edition kit just in time for Christmas, but it's priced at 500E!! If you don't have that kind of cash, originals can still be found in a less loved state on ebay (other auction websites are available).


All Polaroid images here © Patti Smith

Another fan of the 250 is Patti Smith, in fact it was after seeing some of her photographs that I searched out my camera. Here are a few images of hers to give you a feel of the image quality and atmosphere that can be obtained.

Friday Photo

Bureau de Travail, Paris, 2009

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Introducing English

When I was back home in Ireland at Halloween I happened across an old text book from my secondary school called "Introducing English". Until I was confronted with the cover it had been totally wiped from my memory but once I saw the bright colours and geometric illustration I was instantly transported back into Miss Murray's classroom, with the dust speck floating in the beams of sunlight that penetrated the heavy velvet curtains.

It made me hungry for some more information on the designer who I found out was Cor Klassen. He was born in Amsterdam in 1926 and studied under Mart Stam, who had studied at the legendary Bauhaus and is most remembered for his work with tubular as shown by the Stam chair. While searching for the designer I happened across a fascinating and informative site called Vintage Irish Book Covers, it is run by a designer called Niall McCormack. I highly recommend poping over there and having a look. 

To give you a taste of what you will find here are a few covers by Anne Yeats (yes part of the famously talented Yeats family which include W.B. the author and Jack the painter!), these are just a stunning set of illustrated covers, to discover more pop over to Vintage Irish Book Covers now!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Christmas presence

Just finished the AC Christmas concert image last night, I decided to loose the white Christmas tree and to just keep the emphasis on the presents which is a tree in itself!

If you have the chance check out the concert, if past years are anything to go by it will leave you with a feeling of good will to all men and a head full of beautiful songs.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

An Artic Circle Christmas, so far…

Well you can almost hear the sleigh bells, with the Grotto pop up shop and the F&F wrapping paper in the last post and now I'm working on an illustration for Arctic Circle's Christmas concert which is at Kings Place, London on the 17 December. It's become a bit of a tradition now and is well worth experiencing, for more info pop over to the Arctic Circle website.

I'm almost there with the design, the idea is formed and most of the parts for the illustration have been cut and folded, so here the progress so far…

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Grotto Open

Just a quick post to say that Grotto is now open. If you're  in Manchester pop in and you will be greeted by a wide array of screen printed goodies. I have adapted the poster design for LDWR into a mathematical wrapping paper and I'm drawing another based on x-mas TV! So pop in if you're in the area.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Fog

This morning was really foggy and it reminded me of some photos I took in London under similar conditions. Perfect weather for hot soup!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Razzle Dazzle 'em

Ah the tranquility of it all, traveling by train through unspoiled countryside when there was always 'a man' to help you with your bags at the end of your journey, not the cattle lorry mentality of 'stack em high sell them cheap' of modern travel. I can't quite see Michael O'Leary commissioning an artist to romanticise the 5.30 flight to Magaluf, ah life seems to have been so much more easier in the 1930's but of course I'm idealising it just a bit!

Well you can blame that on this man Norman Wilkinson, I recently discovered the work he carried out for the London Midland and Scottish Railway. One of his posters caught my eye (the subject was a place near where I grew up), and after a few clicks on the net I found out a little bit more about the man behind the posters.

I have always admired this kind of illustration the broad sweeps of flat colour with enough detail to make it seem real but enough stylisation to make it feel like a waking dream. Around the 1930s lot's of Royal Academy artists were commissioned by the rail networks to make the idea of travel more appealing to the masses, Wilkinson was amongst them. His illustration career began in 1898, when his work was first accepted by the Illustrated London News, for which he then continued to work for many years, as well as for the Illustrated Mail. Throughout his life, he was a prolific poster artist, designing numerous posters for the London and North Western Railway, and the London Midland and Scottish Railway. It was mostly because of his fascination with the sea that he traveled extensively to such locations as Spain, Germany, Italy, United States, Canada, and Brazil and it was the sea, or more precisely the boats that sailed on them that presented him with the opportunity to work on a larger scale and in an altogether different style.

During WW1, Wilkinson served in the Royal Navy Reserves, he was attached to a submarine patrol. While serving he was astounded by the success rate of German U-Boats and wondered how he could change this. He struck upon a way to aid the war effort through his painting. A boat could not be hid at sea from a submarine but he had the idea of making it more difficult for the submarines to make a successful strike, by using paint. The camouflage paint wasn't to make it blend into the sea but to make it harder for submarines to judge the distance to the ship therefore making it harder to judge when to fire their torpedoes.

Tests were carried out and Wilkinson was made head of a team of model makers and artists charged with creating geometric "dazzle" patterns. These were then in turn tested and then sent to other artists who applied the designs to ships at the docks.
I find it difficult to see the silhouette of this ship, sitting comfortably at home and nevermind in the wilds of the North Atlantic at night.
I was aware of these ships but I never realised that Norman Wilkinson was the man who struck upon the idea. I love the lateral thinking that brought this to life and that opened the door to modern camouflage patterns. It has echos of tribal war paint and of danger markings from the animal kingdom, but most of all I love the contrast between this and his earlier work for the railway companies, they seem like worlds apart but I suppose that was the affect of two world wars.

Proposed paint schemes for Naval ships, 1918
A print by Edward Wadsworth who was one of the artists that were charged  with applying the designs created by Wilkinson and his team. Wadsworth prints and painting inspired Saville's sleeve design for OMD's forth album Dazzle Ships
Dazzle Ships by OMD released in 1983, sleeve designed by Peter Saville

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Christmas is coming…

It is getting a bit more festive around my studio at the moment, I haven't festooned the place with tinsel and blinking lights or started putting my Phil Spector Christmas album on repeat, it's just that I'm all of a creative Christmas whirl at the moment. One reason for this is the pop up shop 'Grotto' where some of the releases I have done for F&F will be on sale. They will also be selling some specially designed screen printed Christmas wrapping paper, which still needs to be designed  so a few late nights ahead.  Oh well 'tis the season.

The Samphire Band

I haven't posted much of my own work recently, as I am in the middle of a lot of projects that are not finished so I have had nothing much to show, one project that has just finished is the creation of a logo for Harry Escott's latest project The Samphire Band.

An early daft of the logo layout presented on a poster.
If you don't know Harry by name then you will have heard his music. He has composed numerous film scores, along with with Molly Nyman for films such as Michael Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" and "Road to Guantanmo", Nick Broomfield's "Ghosts" and David Slade's "Hard Candy" and if that wasn't enough the pair have recently been nominated for a British Independent Film Award for their score to "Shifty".

I really enjoyed working on this and must say that Harry was a great client and nice guy who was really open to new ideas, wanting to challenging how an orchestra should be perceived out side of the confines of the usual frame of the QEH or Radio 3.

During our conversations and emails he mentioned that the band should be seen as 'a place for like minded people to come together', I liked this idea of place and my mind jumped to musical venues and spaces, it eventually landed on bandstands. I know very few bandstands are used now as musical meeting place but I couldn't help shake the idea of updating the concept and applying it to symbolise a new space for music.  This then led my mind to the image of garlands of bunting and of 'the celebration of music', and it was this that provided the starting point for creating the typeface that I used for the logo. I wanted to reflect different shapes and parts coming together and creating something new, not dominating but collaborating much like how the various musicians involved in this project bring something unique to The Samphire Band.

Two tone colour

The new logo placed on a proposed poster

Web mock up and the logo used simply in black and white

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Rob Ryan in London

If you are in London this month pop down to the TAG gallery where there is a collection of new work by Rob Ryan, it runs until Saturday 20th November 2010. I am so gutted that I won't be over to go and see it as his paper cuts are unbelievably intricate and poetic.
For those that can't make it pop over to the TAG gallery site where  you can see a short video of Rob talking about his work, in the meantime here are a few images to whet your appetite…

All images © Rob Ryan