Vampires, Aliens, Spooks, Madmen and The Beatles. (So, just an ordinary day around here, really…)

Hello! It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything here, so here’s a bit of a bumper bundle to show some of what I’ve been up to during my absence!

I suppose it makes sense to work through it all in order that I did it, so first thing’s first…

beatles christmas

First up, here are three designs I did to interest a T.V/Radio listings magazine.
As it’s really the radio listing pages which carry the bulk of the illustrations for the magazine, it was these I was targeting. All the illustration adhere to the relevant dimensions- the reproductions would appear less than three inches at the longest edge, so it was quite interesting to see how I could convey what I wanted without it getting cluttered and losing detail. All the images are based around radio programmes aired in the last twelve months and they are, “Beatles Christmas”, a documentary which examined how The Beatles marked the festive season while they were an active unit. I chose to use elements covered in the programme including their 1967 film “Magical Mystery Tour” and the fan cub flexi-discs issued between 1963 and 1969. Their own Apple label logo I thought made a fine substitute Christmas pud and I don’t think anything says Christmas more than crackers, so I thought that putting their likenesses on the labels illustrated the theme nicely.

diary of a madman

Next we have “Diary of a Madman”
This image is based on a production of the Nikolai Gogol short story starring Kenneth Williams. Originally recorded as the soundtrack to an unproduced early 1960’s animation, the recording was adapted much later by BBC Radio Four into a play, which has been broadcast several times by Radio Four and Radio Four extra.
In this I wanted to show the disturbed psyche of the main character, a lowly clerk, including his obsession with his manager’s daughter, his paranoia resulting in him thinking that dogs are conspiring/talking about him and his ultimate delusion that he is in fact the King of Spain. This is actually a reworking of a piece I did a while back. For this new version I was able to base the portrait of the main character on Williams and much prefer the result to the original!


Thirdly there is “Vampirella”.
This piece is for the full cast radio play “Vampirella” written by Angela Carter originally produced in the 1970’s.
For this, I decided to concentrate on the titular character, a lonely female Vampire. Throughout the play, she is referred to as pale and trapped, (the blood trails from a Vampire’s bite wound acting as prison bars and the bat wings in the background signifying both her heritage and her true nature). In the play, her pet caged Skylark symbolises her entrapment and longed for innocence and purity. To that end, I rendered both her and the Bird as pale silhouettes, with the latter making it’s escape to freedom, echoing the climax of the play.
I thought I’d play with the frame on this one, and make it look as though the Skylark is escaping from the constraints of the illustration itself and off the page.

Next, also for the listings mag, and to show how my work looks on a bigger scale I thought it fitting to cover a soon to return alien from Doctor Who…

The Tenth Planet editorial
“Dr. Who- The Tenth planet”
This piece is based around the Cybermen’s first appearance in Dr. Who in 1966. For this, I wanted to show the idea of the Cybermen’s evolution from man to man/machine hybrid. The background figures show the starting point from organic (the yellow humanoid figure) progressing to the machine state. The foreground figure grasping the arm of a humanoid signifies the continuous process of domination and conversion.
In the background the Earth is seen with the Cybermen’s own planet (an erstwhile “twin” planet of our own) which is decaying as in the climax of the story.
I’d actually finished this and was getting ready to send it along with the others when It was announced that the original 1966 Cybermen were returning to the screens, so I was being more contemporary than I’d thought, which is nice!

Finally, and bringing things more or less up to date, is an image inspired by an article in Fortean Times Magazine- a publication which, if you are unfamiliar with it, reports on and investigates strange phenomena and beliefs with an open and inquiring but critical mind.

ft ILLUSTRATION small fin

They recently featured an article entitled “The Haunted Generation”. This concerned in part the disquiet felt by some children growing up in the 1970’s at some Television programming. This struck a particular chord with me, I must admit, as I remember being particularly spooked by some of the Public Information Films shown. Honestly, from what I gathered, it was a forgone conclusion that if you went out to fly a Kite it would get tangled in an electricity pylon and you’d be electrocuted! Similarly, Death could easily be found hanging around dirty streams waiting for some hapless child to fall in and meet a sticky end (“Oh Dear”, Death would gleefully intone, sounding remarkably like Donald Pleasance, “That branch is rotten, it will never take his weight!”) Yep, that’s right- for a child growing up the 70’s were terrifying! And if the T.V wasn’t enough, we also had Abba (shudder!). The article mentions these films, and also programmes themselves which had affected some. In my image I have used three images used in the actual article, (from Left to right; the opening titles from “Bagpuss” featuring some strange Edwardian looking children”, “Dark and Lonely Waters”, the public information film described above and “Penda’s Fen”, A Play for Today, which centred around a devoutly religious teenager struggling with the acceptance of his own homosexuality. These are three of the key subjects of the article.
The main image though, is of a 1970’s TV set showing a corruption of that era’s iconic BBC One indent. It’s all laid out in what I hope is a suitably 70’s style, and I actually had an awful lot of fun doing this! For a change, most of the imagery is created digitally, although the distortion of the skulls was done “live”; I moved the individual skull pictures as I was scanning them, as I wanted to be surprised at the shapes they would make. I then edited them together and added the text to make the final screen image layout. I thought that adding noise would replicate those days of dodgy reception and added a faint double image, a characteristic of received broadcasts in those days. One thing that I remembered  while doing that, was that the double imaging was actually called “Ghosting”!!

I tell you, the 70’s were out get the sensitive children!
Anyway, that’s all for now, so thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again soon!

Shapes of things…

Hello, this time I’ve gone back to a method of image making I’ve not used for quite a while.
Ages ago I posted a piece titled “Wet & Windy”, which was created by a method of fairly randomly splashing ink, watercolours and Gouache onto paper and seeing what shapes were suggested by the result and modifying to bring those out to create the finished image.
Recently, I found myself wanting to make a picture, but not really having any firm subject in mind.
So, off I went flicking bits of colour onto wet watercolour paper,  allowing it to dry a bit, then doing some more on top of that! Finally I dropped some black ink into the centre and let it pool into whatever areas it wanted to. Once that had started to dry, I looked at it from different angles and saw that one particular area seemed to resemble a figure (headless at this point) shooting out of the centre. So while the ink was still a bit wet, I pulled out a head and the suggestion of a lower arm on the left and then forced myself to not tinker with it any more as this is how things can get overworked and spoiled! I thought that the figure looked rather like an Astronaut or someone using a jet-pack. You can see the result below…



I then started to think of what I might be able to use it for. I thought of a few ideas and  settled on a book cover design for H G Wells’s  novel, “The Shape of Things to Come”. The theme of the book centres around the emergence of a technology based Utopian Global unity emerging from the ashes of a devastating ten year World war. One aspect is the domination of the air, and I thought that the figure blasting into the air from what looks like an explosion kind of fitted that premise whilst still remaining nice and ambiguous!

The only real modification further to the addition of the various body parts(!) was to digitally invert the colours, a bit of cropping/re-sizing and the addition of a lightened band
for the spine to help the title and author details stand out on the shelf, and of course the addition of the actual text. I’d like to say that it was all my own work but really should once again thank a very good friend for her very good advice and valuable opinions regarding the final positioning of the text on what would be the front cover, so again thank you Karena! Directly below is the finished piece.


I’m not really sure if this is going in my portfolio yet, as it looks so unlike the rest of my work at the moment, but I would definitely like to try somehow to incorporate this method where possible…

Anyway, that’s all for now so thanks for stopping by and see you again soon, possibly with more blobby and splashy things, possibly not!

Illuminating quotes (2) & It’s not what you say…

Hello! Well after a bit of an absence I’m back again, this time with the next two illustrated quotes in the series.
The first one is a Mark Twain quote. For this one one I tried to think of things that would represent the beginnings of a journey and also be a loose narrative; the starting pistol triggering a beginning which leads to development and in this case literal growth.
The dice, although not part of the narrative as such, I thought was nicely symbolic of the start of something.

started mark twain finished


The second piece is based around a William Faulkner quote describing the passion of the creative mind.
I thought I’d have some fun by making the materials that symbolise the different art forms (a guitarist’s plectrum for the musician, a pen for the the writer and a tube of paint for the visual artist) almost into little Devils themselves!
The smoke I thought just added a little atmosphere to proceedings. The methods for making these were much the same as for the previous two.

faulkner quote finished


Next here are some of the results of a little exercise I set myself recently. I was thinking of how much of the meaning of what we say to each other is conveyed in the tone of voice etc., as much as the words themselves, whether it be laughingly or sarcastically or aggressively and so on.
I followed that train of thought to the written word and decided it might be interesting to illustrate a single phrase in various ways to convey different meanings.
I thought the phrase “Go now while you can”, was nice and ambiguous enough to work with and so I decided to go with that.

go now2

The first rendering is overtly a warning of hazard, possibly industrial in nature, whilst the next one might conceivably be a message stenciled on a wall, perhaps in some kind of war zone or similar situation.

go now3



go now

The final one I thought I’d render in a romantic way, and could possibly be a signifier to a potential suitor of how one might feel toward them, or even possibly a note to oneself. But this along with the other two are open to interpretation and I really like the idea that people can bring themselves to a piece of work and derive their own personal meanings.

These were all realised digitally and in the space of a couple of hours. As I say; just a quick but interesting little experiment to see what I might come up with!

Anyway, that’s all for now. the next post may feature something more editorial in nature than of late, though I am still intending at some point to complete the run of illuminated quotes; I did say when I started that there would probably be around six of them, and so I think it’s a good idea to stick to that.
So, thanks for dropping by, and hope to see you back here soon!



Illuminating quotes (1)

Something a bit different this time, and something I’ve not done for ages.
I’d been meaning to illustrate some quotes for a while and kept completely forgetting about it, then a friend posted an entry on her blog of her own illustrated quotes and reminded that I hadn’t got around to it yet, so here we are!

One of the reasons that enjoy doing things around quotes is that it gives me a excuse to create illuminated letters, which I love!

The quotes themselves were chosen because they were either thought provoking, inspiring or just funny. These first two fall into the first category.

macca quote layout FIN

The first is from Paul McCartney, on a subject dear to his heart; vegetarianism.
I wanted to make this one fairly visceral but without making people feel queazy. I don’t really think that you need very much detail to elicit reactions on this subject. I think the sight of the machinery involved; cutters, meat hooks etc., pretty much do the job on their own without showing any actual meat. I did add a literal splash of colour for the blood for added impact. The machinery was sourced from the internet and edited accordingly. The letter was created by printing a large scale letter over which I placed a piece of acetate and traced the letter with red gouache. I wanted the effect of the colour still being fluid, and the acetate did that, by not allowing the paint to dry evenly. There were other little bits of paint which appeared like splashes and I worked those in accordingly.

kate quote FIN

This second one is based around a Kate Bush quote. Again many of the individual elements are sourced from the net.
For this I wanted to create a quite innocent and childlike atmosphere. The main letter has elements back coloured with mostly coloured paper with the letter itself designed to look like a page from a colouring book. The background I thought  should be an example of the adult and child psyches mixed, so there’s a mortgage form with a child’s picture of a house in pencil! This also helps it blend with the main letter.

Well, that’s all for now and I hope to get the next one or two finished and up here quite soon.

Hope to see you back here soon and thanks for stopping by!

Diary of a Madman (which is in no way a description of this blog…)

It’s taken me a while to get around to putting this up here-it was actually finished shortly before the War of the Worlds exhibition, but what with one thing and another and working on other things it’s not until now that I’ve finally managed it!

madman FIN

It’s based around the Short story “The Diary of a Madman” written by the Russian author, Nikolai Gogol in the 1920’s, and I thought it would be nice for the title-page or something like that. The story is written in the first person in the form of the diary of an office clerk, who becomes obsessed with the Office Manager’s Daughter, Sophie. He begins the story as a slightly distracted daydreamer with delusions of superiority over his fellow workers and gradually descends into madness by the end of the story, believing himself to be the King of Spain.
There is some really nice imagery in the story, the description of Sophie climbing out of her car as a bird fluttering out of her cage, and scenes of her dog gossiping with other dogs about her love life (an early instance of his becoming unstable is that he believes that he can understand what Dogs are saying). Both of these I’ve illustrated in the final piece, along with his imagined Sovereignty. I decided that most of the images should be “free” and not anchored to the real world- a snapshot of the inside of the writer’s psyche. The only element that is weighted is the Diarist himself, dressed in the clothes of a lunatic asylum in-mate. His imagined Royal position is signified by the Royal Crown and ceremonial costume which floats in front of him. The different elements are drawn together with relevant extracts from the diary itself.

It was quite an interesting project in terms of picture research and took in 1920’s Russian fashion, the then current monarchy and the poor unfortunates having to live their lives in Russian asylums of the day, many of whom were disabled and locked away for that reason alone. Indeed, the story is in part a critique of the way that the disabled and mentally ill were treated by the Russian State.

The picture was created with inks, pencil and Tip-ex. Each element was created separately and then the whole thing was laid out on the PC.

I really enjoyed doing this piece, as it gave me a good reason to revisit the story again, which although rather disturbing in parts, is a fascinating read. I will more than likely do another illustration based around some of Gogol’s writing, though perhaps one of his lighter stories!

Incidentally, there is an audio adaptation of the story which was originally recorded as the soundtrack to an animated version of it in the early 1960’s. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled and it was only about ten years ago that it was found, dusted off and polished up to become a radio play. The Diarist is played by Kenneth Williams and I must say he is absolutely superb- giving one the most restrained performances of his career early on, but building up to full on hysteria- remarkable! If you’re interested in hearing it you should be able to find it on Youtube.

Anyway, that’s all for now- thanks for dropping by!

A Private View of some Martians in Woking…

Well, last Tuesday (29 March) was the evening of the Private View for the “War of the Worlds” illustration competition for which I was shortlisted. There were about thirty or so shortlisted, and I’m very pleased to be able to report that I made it into the final ten! There were some very nice entries and it’s really nice to be a part of it all, I must say!

Here is a picture of the winners with various organisers/councilors, below that is a picture of me with my entry, (thanks to my brother Paul for taking it!).IMG_20160329_193519


The Picture below has a bit of a story to it; As I was about to leave, one of the organisers took me to one side and introduced me to someone who said that he particularly liked my image. This person happened to be the Great Grandson of HG Wells himself! So, it only seemed right that we should have our picture taken together! It’s really nice that someone from the Wells family likes my design, and I couldn’t be more pleased!


All in all, it was a really enjoyable evening, and if you happen to be around Woking for the next month (the exhibition runs until May 1st), it’s well worth a visit. You can find out more about it here;

Well, that’s about it for this time, although I do have a new piece which I’ll be posting here hopefully in the next few days, based on Gogol’s short story “The Diary of a Madman”. ‘Til then, thanks for dropping in, and bye for now!