The Exhibitionist Part One: Another crack at galleries

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. I don’t really like art galleries. Sorry.

I am just not the kind of “artist” who feels at home in white walled spaces. They feel contrived to me, simply rooms full of art stuff, created for the sake of art stuff. They just feel a bit…I suppose pointless; an exercise in self indulgence in it’s purest form. Sorry, that’s the designer and commercial artist in me, but I’m just not comfortable there. Give me a comfortable chair, give me a library, a bookshelf, a store front, a magazine. Give me a space that has it’s own purpose, adorned perhaps with relevant, beautiful things and that’s quite a different matter. But art displayed just as art? I struggle.

But I was in London, I had time to kill and I had a plan. Time to try again. To make friends with the gallery, the home of aesthetic culture. The home of ART.

So I did.

Let’s not get carried away or anything, I started small. I decided on two locations of contemporary illustration. Illustration is my passion. Illustration usually has a brief. Illustration is safe.

Baby Steps.

So I hit up the AOI World illustration Awards, currently on display in Somerset house. I do actually love this venue so already we were in a good place.

And it was free. Winner.

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I have to say, there was a lot of great talent to explore there. And by that, I mean there was a lot of book illustration and drawings that look like things 🙂

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The exhibit was probably what I’d consider the perfect size, two and a bit, uncluttered rooms of nicely spaced work, one central strip of glass cabinets. Easy and digestible and not at all so large it dragged. It wasn’t overwhelming, it didn’t make my heart sink and it didn’t remind me I am a failure of an “artist” for getting bored in an environment I should, by association, consider home.

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The work all had a chance to breathe, which felt relevant in a collection like this, because everything on display HAD been created for a purpose, be it a book, an advert, a poster or jacket; it meant you could take each item in and consider it in the context for which it was made. I like a bit of snappy analysis of a work’s strengths. I think this is my downfall with fine art. I can’t assess it because I don’t understand why it’s been made.

Sorry, I’ll stop moaning.

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For a collection of contemporary illustration, the AOI exhibit was a really nice one. It reminded me of Pick Me Up back in the day, before it got a bit tired (the last few years have not impressed me so much- I WILL STOP MOANING NOW) and I noted a good few new gems to keep an eye on, as well as simply enjoying the work of those I already admire. Yes, I noted the works of many already adorn my shelves.

I know it’s a bit of a cop out in my exploration of galleries, but the highlights for me were mainly book and design based illustration. Big talents like John Burton showed up and the lovely works of the brilliant Lesley Barnes, Alex T Smith and Chris Haughton were as  enjoyable as ever, both in browsing and poster forms.

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I actually liked the repetitive set up of the show a lot, in which the same pieces were encased on walls, in cabinets and on shelves. It gave it a ‘catering for all’ kind of vibe; the work in it’s raw form, the work as a ‘work of art’ and the work in the context of other work next to it. Each variant allowed the illustration to speak in a new context.

With the book being the best one. Obviously.

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I liked a lot of the work on display, both by the known and the unknown. I can’t say I think it was a broad collection in terms of the style of work, which did surprise me given that is was a collection from all over the world. Even across cultures and geography, a lot of the drawing styles, use of shapes, colour spoke in a similar language; but realistically I suppose it was unlikely to be anything else. This exhibition was always meant to be a snapshot of contemporary illustration which, like anything, is at the mercy of fashion. With so much exchanging of cultures, information and products through the magic of the internet, I suppose it’s very reasonable that fashions are less confined by borders than ever before. It was a shot of the trendy world of illustration in the here and now. And I, personally, really liked it!

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If you are hankering for a bit of tasty, picture based joy and are in the area, I would suggest checking it out. It won’t take your whole afternoon, it won’t cost the earth and it likely will inspire you, even just that teeniest bit to go and make some nice things. Or at least look at them.

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Hat’s off to you Somerset House, the AOI and all your contributers. The awards were well deserved, there was very little that I felt fell short of acclaim; naturally not all to my personal taste, but I suppose that is, in part, the joy of the visual arts.

And I really do appreciate, support and have enjoyed the hard work from those working to champion the humble illustrator. There’s an awful lot of talent on this earth and events like this do their bit to try and push those, often fresh faced, creators into the limelight they really do deserve.

So, was I cultured yet? I decided I wasn’t. I’d really enjoyed my speedy mosey through the contemporary illustration scene, but it wasn’t quite enough. Onward to part two of my afternoon exhibitioning…

 

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Illustrated Emotional Animal ABC now Available on Amazon!

Hello world!

I recently worked with a really great company, Go Strengths Ltd, on a project they were putting together to help young children identify with the emotional spectrum.

It was a wonderful project, written by the very talented child psychologist Renee Jain, whose work in the past has been designed  to help a number of children with various anxiety and emotional problems cope in their everyday lives.

This new project is a light hearted, illustrated introduction to the alphabet, using a  colourful menagerie of emotionally able creatures with original illustrations by yours truly!

Available on Amazon.com now!
Available on Amazon.com now!

The book is Renee’s own humorous and charming story, centered around the journey of a, rather unlucky ABC book, as it is passed from paw to claw, traveling through the entire alphabet. Each character embodies a new emotion, introducing young readers to the whole spectrum with full page illustrations drawn by moi.

Percy the Panicky Penguin
Percy the Panicky Penguin
Yen the Yearning Yak
Yen the Yearning Yak

The adventure is now available in paperback and on kindle via the magic of Amazon.com and was an absolute dream to work on. I wouldn’t hesitate to commend the wonderful work from the guys at Go Strengths Ltd and their wonderful cause and was really honored to be approached and involved in it.

Plus, it was seriously educational deal. Not only does it have the important task of providing children with an early platform to explore emotional complexity, but also taught me the meaning of xenial.

And I know know what an x-ray tetra is. Seriously, something for everyone.

Stay cool

B

Illustrating Science: The joy of pseudo diagrams (fig. 2)

This is Lucy.

Lucy's feedback

And this is Carl.

Carl's Brain

They like to do things. Things like moving. They’re especially good at intentional moving, unconsciously.

This was Lucy, once.

Lucy's egg legThen I got my hands on her.

And This is Proprioception.

(A project from last Christmas.)

This is Proprioception

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Inspired by the ingenuity of the pseudo-educational comedy, Look Around You, Proprioception was a mock 70’s educational manual in which I took a real life bit of, really damn interesting, biology and explained it using entirely non scientific methods. Because I am an illustrator, so cutting things up makes more sense to me than the deeply fascinating intricacies of real life biology.

FeedbackThe pseudo diagrams were designed to portray the importance of this fascinatingly vital sixth sense, so inherent in our bodies most people have never even considered a life without it (and in fact there are only 6 known cases of people having a complete lack. This is a really cool video about one man’s battle.)

The “text book” had fold out elements to reveal new tasks that got people thinking about the impact of Proprioception in their own life.

Opening page 1Opening page 2I wanted to draw people’s attention to it’s vitality to our functioning everyday and used tasks and design choices to create a style reminiscent of an 70’s school textbook/instruction manual with a playful, modern twist.

Carl dancingProprioception allows us to understand our own body’s position in relation to itself without consciously considering where each limb is. It’s why when you close your eyes, you know where both your hands are. It’s super neat and super vital and I wanted people to understand that fact using simple collage techniques and fun imagery to demonstrate the incomprehensible struggle that would be living without it.

Plus it gave me an excuse to cut up my friends faces for a few months.

Seriously, I was picking Carls head out of my carpet for weeks.

A Slap on the Wrist and a Bunch of Stuff for Sale

Yeah alright, so it’s been an age since my last post. And I have actually been busy too, which is doubly annoying because I’ve actually had bloggables to share with you, and simply haven’t done it due to extreme laziness/business/general heat-envoked fatigue.

So let’s go back an age or two when I was a good blogger and pick up from there shall we?

So, I was lucky enough to get myself a spot at the International Alternative Press Festival on Sunday 5th and have to say, it was a bit of a blast.

As usual for these little graphic gatherings, I met some truly awesome people, had some bat-shit mad conversations and generally flogged a whole load of my stuff.

It wasn’t as manic as Comiket, but given that it was a Sunday and during that mad thing that was the ‘Lympiks (sorry but did you SEE the boxing?? It was frickin’ AWESOME) that was only to be expected.

Once more, the free zine Tele was back on display and finding it’s way into the pockets of just about everyone!

Prints galore!

I was selling the usual: Tick, Rumble and all the zines as well as a selection of limited edition linocut and screen prints. The Sock Creatures once more made an appearance and did so well, I’m sorry to say I don’t even have photos of most of them! They were flying off the stall like mad. Only three remain with me so I’ll have to get sewing in anticipation of the next one!

And they weren’t the only addition to  my ever-growing repertoire of textiles. Due to the success of the sock animals at previous events, I’ve recently been knocking up a new line of fuzzy cute things:  The Felties. They made their debut on the stall at the IAPF and did pretty well too!

The Felties were met with just as much popularity so will definitely be making appearances at future conventions. Each one is entirely unique, but there’s enough madness in my noggin to sustain a good few designs I reckon!

So, surrounded by incredible examples of storytelling, I had a pretty ace time, met some totally weird and wonderful people and made a little money while I was at it. It’s at these things that I tend to be reminded how great my life can be!

If you have never been to an independent/small press comiket I suggest you get on the internet and find out when your nearest one is. They really are a brilliant laugh and I can guarantee you’ll find some kind of gem hidden in one of the stalls.

Plus then you can buy a sock animal. Don’t pretend you’re not tempted.

B

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