Saturday, 21 December 2013

yule frog eats mince flies holiday pun shocker...

Nothing says festive celebration more than weak word play for comic effect ;-) Well that and poor handwriting on a card (it's been years since I wrote this much in longhand). Pull a christmas "croaker" just hopped to mind too (lucky I didn't use that then). Puns and poor penmanship aside, "Hoppy holidays to all and to all a cracking new year!" See you in 2014 folks.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Napoleon in America book cover and frontispiece artwork

Well it's been a while in gestation (and I've hinted at it in an earlier sketch) but I'm very pleased to be able to finally post the work for a commission I got recently to provide both the cover illustration and design for author Shannon Selin's epic historical novel "Napoleon in America".

Now I will admit that I didn't know a whole heap about Napoleon save for the odd factoids regarding hands in waistcoats, distinctive headwear, "not tonight..." comments and death by wall paper (look this last up, very intriguing). That being the case it's been an interesting journey reading Shannon's fascinating book and researching a little myself into the short guy (not at all the case... look up British propaganda and Cruikshank's cartoons...) with an abundance of character. I also learnt a fair amount on nautical accoutrement (ratlines, belay pins, bulwarks and such...) along the way.

Shannon and the folks at Dry Wall Publishing left the cover brief wide open, but gave some very handy pointers on geography and the world of 1820's America for me to get a hook on things. From there I pitched in with several possible approaches and, pleasantly they all liked a runner up cover concept enough to use it as a black and white frontispiece image alongside Napoleon surveying his new dominions atop a texas cliff on the cover.

There was even to some 'frankenstein forgery' to be done on Napoleon's signature for the title treatment. For this I created a cut and paste of the great man's (it has to be said, untidy) signature from several of his actual chicken scrawls. I then used this as my reference to rewrite it in ink for the cover. Ah, if only I could find Napoleon's cheque book.... he must have been good for a franc or two ;-)

Thanks to Shannon and Dry Wall for the inspiring brief and being a delight to work with. All I can say is if you already know something of Napoleon and would like to add to this with the alternative history of his exploits beyond St Helena (and all this based on an actual escape plan that was never set in motion... look that up too) or, you know little about him but love a good historical yarn (and you might just learn stuff along the way as I did...) look out for Napoleon in America, available in hardback, paperback and ebook early in 2014. Shannon has a pdf extract of the book on her own website if you would like your appetite whetted.

Incidentally I typed all this with one hand tucked in my coat ;-) The stereotypes still persist.

chupacabra ... "the goat sucker"

December's creature for a little bit bunny blog is the chupacabra, and I wanted to get my submission in asap before the silly season blows up proper. To be honest this weird, fantastical cryptid creature didn't really inspire me (interestingly, it seems to have now been identified as being coyotes with mange... not a ideal illustration subject though) but, in translation of it's Spanish name into "goat sucker", a scenario did come to mind. As a happy accident I was able to continue a theme started with last december's ALBB creature goat and a follow on post from that with Joseph and his technicolour milk float! OK, so I'm a little off model in my new goat but it's nice to continue the story. Incidentally I still have a third Joseph illustration I want to tackle... it's only been a year since I thought of it!

I hope you all have a merry multicoloured slurrrrrp or two this christmas folks :-) Cheers!

 As usual, just sketches and a cropped detail of the illustration here. Pop onto ALBB for the full image.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Alice consults the (Cheshire) cat nav on which way she should go...

"Silly me", thought Matthew to himself. "I completely forgot to blog (part of) my picture of the Cheshire cat and tell the 'curiouser and curiouser' people to look for the rest on a little bit bunny blog. Honestly dear blog, the more time I spend illustrating the stranger it all gets. And now, I wonder, if a raven is like a writing desk what manner of creature is like a drawing board...? Perhaps a beaver... and sometimes a sloth?

Monday, 2 December 2013

"Jet ! I thought the major was...." (ahem, not that jet)

Boy, my neglected blogger dashboard coughed and spluttered and belched out gritty smoke as I logged in. High time to squirt some fresh oil into the engines, remove the chocks, pull back from the terminal and push the throttles to full power (why the clumsy jet metaphors...?!). Well I've been busy with various things, a lot of which are ongoing and will see the light of day ASAP but, for now, here is a post on some work from a few months back which I can finally, at long last, show.

To begin with I was commissioned by the extraordinarily talented dutch photographer Arthur Mebius to provide a graphic for his latest personally directed photography project "Jet Six Settings." Given my penchant for all things aircrafty this was a project right up my street. Arthur had seen a concorde illustration I'd done for fun way back when and felt it would be a good fit stylistically for his own series of 1960 'the gloss and reality of airline advertising' (my words not his you understand...) photographic scenes. If you look on the image below showing an internal spread from the book you might just see one application of my simplified concorde graphic on the wall of the crew rest area in Arthur's stunning photo. And it goes without saying ©Arthur Mebius for all the internal photos in the book.

From the logotype for the airline we moved onto advertising that airline with a poster cover for the Jet photos book. Arthur wanted that glorious late 50's through the 1960's heyday of jet travel feel to the graphics so, "I riffed on that theme man", and here is the end result.

internal & invite photos Copyright © Arthur Mebius

On a quick aside I've recently been getting my latest Mad Men fix, mainlining all the latest visually and narratively stunning episodes from season 6. I could almost fool myself into thinking I'd got to work on the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce "Jet account" (Stan Rizzo I ain't though ;-) And while I'm on the subject has anyone else noticed that Peggy has bought some more David Weidman prints to go with last seasons decorations ... she has very good taste! I'm very pleased to see such a great illustrator and print maker get exposure like this... even if you do have to have eagle eyes to see it. (can you tell I like both Mad Men and David Weidman... :-)

Mad Men photo Copyright © 2013 AMC Network Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.

Back to Jet. Not to let a graphic go to waste, along side the book the artwork was also applied to an 'airline baggage tag' invitation to the opening exhibition which, very sadly, I was unable to attend. If you are in the Amsterdam area anytime up till December 11th I'd recommend you check out Jet at the Gup Gallery. If you do make there it I'd love to hear what you thought.

This really has been a cracking project to work on and Arthur has been wonderful, highly creative and colaborative client. Thanks to him and I strongly suggest you check out his website and marvel at his work.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Napoleon is proving complex...

Well my head and desk have been full of all things Napoleon over the last few days. I cannot talk about specifics at this stage, safe to say there's hopefully going to be a book cover and a few other things in the offing. Although the brief calls for a little restraint in how I depict the little big guy I couldn't resist having a play with a more caricature approach and get it out of my system early on. So here's some Napoleon sketches. No doubt more will follow...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

some pheasants...

Some pheasants from the sketchbook that I've been meaning to do something with. I don't know the collective noun for pheasants...? A panic... a skitish...?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

a 'medicinal accordion' for my grandad...

My Grandad is feeling a little out of sorts and short on breath once again so I did a little card to raise his spirits. He plays the accordion, in case I didn't mention that... Get well pronto Grandad.

I've also included my initial 'warm up' sketch for this. Now he doesn't look quite like this chap so, credit where it is due, to the grand reference photo I used as a starting point... google image search is a marvellous thing to be sure!

I'm working on a few things I cannot show straight away but I hope to have some Napoleon illustrations to post in the not to distant future... "not tonight", but when things progress and I've pulled my hand out of it's waistcoat so to speak :-)

On an unrelated note (though colour is always related)... I always doubt my colour instincts when I illustrate (and especially when I paint) and I'd love to hone my understanding that bit more. To that end (and to sit next to my colour wheel and swatch books...) I've just bought the full version of "Interaction of Color" (spelt incorrectly, can I get a discount ?) app for the iPad. I only dipped my toe into the coloUred waters but, from what I've seen so far, it looks great! Check out the features if apps are your thing.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

can you hear me Major Tom...?

It's like my last but one post said... anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work [they are] supposed to be doing at that moment... This notion for an illustration popped into my head and pushed out the two other tasks I should have had in there today...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

a curious concoction... the Fiji Mermaid (Feejee Mer 'made')...

This months a little bit bunny creature was already pretty mixed up to begin with. The Fiji Mermaid... also spelt in the more salty sea dog vernacular "Feejee Mermaid" was a curious concocted creature to be sure.  I won't go into the whole fascinating history of the beast, save to say, as far back as the early to mid nineteenth century sailors (possibly the best makers were Japanese fishermen, recreating the Nigyo of Japanese myth... very interesting deviation from the traditional western image of the mermaid by the way...) crafted these so called mermaids from bits of monkeys and fish joined together with liberal amounts of paper mache thread, wire, wood and, seemingly, anything else that was to hand. One such example (the first to bear the name Feegee Mermaid) was exhibited to great effect by the famous US showman P.T.Barnum along with a fabricated scientific provenance. Since then no self respecting sideshow has been complete without a gen-u-ine Feegee Mur-maid!

For my humble effort I tried at first to compare the western and eastern takes on the mermaid topic or, at least, to compare the fact and fancy of the whole thing. Beauty and the beast. I think, for me however, it's the back story of the side show flim flammery that really puts the icing on the cake so I next tried to get a flavour of the whole factual tale of this creature with glue bottles, needles, thread and sideshow paraphernalia framing the subject. The DIY facts behind the myth. All that got a bit muxed ip in composition though... so, long story short (too late) I eventually decided on a kind of faux sailors scrimshaw / nineteenth century print (that will also work as a screen print) that hints a little at the historical origins of the thing while playing up the weirdness. Hope it works... especially after drawing all those decorative loops and sailors knots (not my usual style but a nice, and slightly hypnotic, visual change). I've also got sketches for a companion piece in a similar style that will show the more beautiful, seaweed haired, western 'watery bint'(as Monty Python would describe her perhaps :-)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A Staithes like fishing village screen print... finished finally!

It's been a drawn out gestation for this screen print design (version one, version two) but at long last I've got something that captured the flavour of the fishing village that inspired me. It's been a personal project I've picked up and put down many times over the last few months but I'm glad I didn't give up on it.

The print has ended up being in three colours as I just couldn't make things work compositionally with two screens and a third mix colour. That being said, as usually happens when I play about with multiple mixed colours, I do like aspects of the design in just two of the three screens. That's the bonus I find in designing screen prints, you get two or more colour designs for the price of one.

I've worked in a different manner on this compared with other screen print designs I've done. Whereas I'd usually sketch straight into photoshop with the wacom tablet the majority of this is composed of loads and loads of scanned in, very quickly generated ink, paint and pencil elements. Actually compositing in photoshop took a great deal of time though with so many elements to assemble. I've actually surprised myself with the looseness of the final illustration and the balance of stylised and more naturalistic elements. There's so much detail and texture in there that I have my doubts on capturing everything in the screens but the looseness will, hopefully, be more forgiving of happenstance accidents in the printing process as a whole.

Now on with other less seagully things!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

an axolotl...

Not enough posts over the last few weeks. I'm working on on various bits and bobs so there should be some blog fodder ASAP. Here's a tidbit for the blog smorgasbord (I never get tired of that word... sssmooorgasbordt), my take on an axolotl for a little bit bunny blog. I've been enjoying quick free and easy doodling with an ink dipped kebab skewer on grease proof paper, coupled with loose 'filling in the shapes' painting on a separate sheet. I used a similar approach on my eagle a few weeks back. I love the variation in the wandering lines thickness and the happenstance capillary bleeding of the ink in places too. The mismatched edges of the paint fill and the ink outline seem to give things an energy, pep things up and stop the drawing looking too flat. It doesn't always work as planned but there are nice surprises to be had when you assemble everything in photoshop. It's always fun to shake things up and loosen up from time to time. As always with a little bit bunny creatures there is a cropped view and some development sketches on this blog... pop on over to ALBB for the final illustration. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

quite a 'Lancastery' few weeks... Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight hanger sketches... and two roaring Lancasters

I've been meaning to post these sketches for weeks, and what with the Dambusters 70th anniversary today now seems the ideal moment. I recently visited both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hanger that houses the BBMF Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster et al, and a nearby airfield called East Kirkby where the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre have a Lancaster bomber that taxis, gives rides and poses for photos and sketches! Plane geek that I can be I won't go on... suffice to say I highly recommend both venues if you like your aircraft or would simply like to learn more about the just what those RAF flight crew went through in the war.

The BBMF guided hanger tour was very comprehensive and you could get right up next to the planes while they were being serviced (not strictly allowed I suspect, but you could even affectionately pat bits of Spitfires, all carefully labelled, that were on shelves yet to be screwed back on). Fascinating stuff!

Equally wonderful was the chance to see the East Kirkby Lancaster glide past right next to you with all it's engines going like the clappers. The Lancaster stops being a museum piece and really comes alive (and nearly shakes it's tail off !) when you are able to stand (well try and remain upright) right under it's wing tip as all four merlin engines truly roar at full power! Awe inspiring.

And finally, as if all that Lancaster time wasn't enough I also got a chance to see the BBMF Lancaster again last Sunday as it did a Dambusters commemorative flypast just down the road from me at Brooklands Air Museum. Strangely the weather was practically perfect and I managed to take some OK photographs.

Quite a Lancastery few weeks all in all...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

pine cone pangolin...

It's pangolins on a little bit bunny blog this month. Now I was going to go for an hilarious (that remains to be seen...) illustration of a pangolin for my submission, but whilst out walking the dog, I found the perfect pangolin pine cone. I thought it would turn out to be a quicker alternative to a full illustration... how wrong I was... ... fiddly but rewarding (the varying leg geometries was a challenge..). Nice to have an object sitting on your desk after a project. I'd also recently, at long last, managed to get along to the truly superb Pitt Rivers anthropological and archeological museum in Oxford and I think I was somewhat channeling some of the wonderful animal carvings, ceramics and artwork on show there. My own little pangolin totem. Here's a sneak peek of my process and the end result. There is a photo of the final assembled chap over on the a little bit bunny blog. If I could of curled the pine cone and had the pangolin touch his tail, so much the better. Think I'll have to keep an eye out on my next walk for a pine cone 'doughnut'...