Wednesday, March 25, 2015


We all do it, and we can stop berating ourselves for it, because according to this article in Stylist magazine, it’s actually good for us and helps us - bizarrely - crack on with our stuff, albeit not in the way we might have originally expected. I am so familiar with the desk-polishing, shelf-tidying, pen-organising school of easing into a job!

Art directed by Natasha Tomalin, this was one of those jobs where I caught myself laughing at the silliness of drawing for hours with every blue pen I’ve got, very fast, to a mad deadline. There are times when I can’t believe I’m being paid for what I’m doing - as a friend (now my agent) once put it, ‘we do colouring in for a living, how brilliant is that?’

She’s right, it’s brilliant, and this scribble bonanza - more controlled and careful than it actually looks - turned out well. I was glad, since the only other illustrated covers Stylist have ever done included two by Quentin Blake and David ‘Shriggles’ Shrigley. So, no pressure there then. It actually took several back-and-forths to get exactly the right feel, but I think it turned out proper doodletastic.


We’ve made our solid easter eggs twice before (you may even have eaten one) but our versions for 2015 are fabulously evolved beasts!
The eggs are a labour of love that, quite frankly, we make because we can, and because we should, and because the world has been crying out for a solid - like, actual SOLID Easter egg - since Easter Eggs were invented. Easter usually comes right in the middle of an annual busy period, so there is always a late night or two as packaging is designed and photographs are taken…samples eaten...eggs collected…but somehow we do it, for the love of sinking one’s teeth into a bed of praline or gnawing on three inches of chocolate into the night.

Hand-made for us this year by Leicester chocolatier Pete at Cocoa Amore, whose shop sits right in the middle of the current Richard III activity in Leicester, Solid Egg 2015 has a girthy 70% cocoa shell filled with either solid chocolate or incredible soft praline. Now coming as one solid egg (rather than two halves), we’ve made these in Solid Chocolate, Praline, Salted Chocolate or Ginger (the latter types in limited supply). Every egg comes wrapped in a chocolate-brown signed screen print of cocoa-loving artwork by me, printed in Factory Road, just a few doors down. Which is fully washable and can be used for any purpose after the egg is long gone!

This year we’ve made 20 available as a super special edition snuggled in a hand-woven nest by international willow artist Tom Hare. If you’ve been to any of the RHS gardens, or specifically Kew Gardens, or latterly to Bishopsgate, the Bellagio in Las Vegas or to might have seen his work. He too was in the middle of a super-busy period when we commissioned these nests from him, so we’re grateful to have them - each one will be different from the last.

As usual the eggs are 100% vegan, gluten and dairy-free, with the emphasis on flavour and quality. Oh, and size. And…weight - over 500g per egg.

Watch one being cut, and listen for the chocolate crack! Good tempering!

And you can buy one here:

Check the photographs for proof of the existence of this magnificent celebration of bunnies, greed and re-birth!

This is the Solid Egg with praline filling.

Stuart prepping the artwork.

Egg, print and nest. Cocoa Amore, Inkymole and Tom Hare.

Only 100 made, all hand signed.

It's so dense, it virtually has it's own gravitational pull.

Stacked up and ready for signing.

The Family Project.

The Family Project is a joint venture between the Guardian Newspaper and publishers Faber + Faber, inviting the owners of the book to explore their own family’s unique quirks, traits, habits, memories and history by talking and remembering, and recording them in this fat, two-colour journal.

Written by author and journalist John-Paul Flintoff and wife Harriet Green, page after page offers opportunities for observation, laughter and note-making; there are graphs and boxes to draw in, questions to consider and things to draw - or, if drawing’s not your thing, attach clippings, memories and precious things, all in the name of creating a snapshot journal record of your own family, as it stands in time right now.

I illustrated all 200+ pages of this lovely book (over 50 A3 sheets of illustrations) in nib pen and ink, and enjoyed doing them - it was great to relax back into the wobbly, unrefined style I worked in for years and years earlier, but haven’t had the chance to flex much lately. The goat was a challenge (I can’t draw animals or men) and the pathetic-sounding note I wrote on it was meant only for the art director’s eyeballs, intended for deletion on printing. I drew on personal experience for the deathly below-freezing caravan too, since the memory of one which tried to claim all our lives a few years ago has stayed with me!

You can buy it here:

Friday, March 20, 2015

It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.

I was interviewed recently by Visualmente, the creative section of a newspaper in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Unless you speak Spanish you won’t get much out of the screen grab of the article below, so here is the interview in full. Though I think there have been one or two little elaborations for the sake of translation, as the article was read out to me by Hugo Weinberg, my French CIA agent, it sounds like it was printed pretty much word for word!

I think you can probably work out which of the questions is the one which raised my eyebrows and piqued my interest…
I like answering interview questions if they’re considered and the interviewer has done their homework, which I think this guy definitely had.

1. How would you define your style? It is an illustrator or specialist lettering?
Both, But when I tell people what I do, I’m ‘an illustrator’.

2. The world of typographic illustration is revealed as a man's world. How is it for you to work in that world?
Is it? A man’s world? It absolutely isn’t! I must admit, I laughed a bit at this question. I’m surprised you don’t know Marion Deuchars, Marian Bantjes, Paula Scher, Ruth Rowland…there are many more.
I compete with other illustrators, not other men or women - I can’t speak for others but I’ve personally found illustration to be a largely genderless industry. Happily!

3. You have worked on many magazine covers. How was work for Playboy? Can you explain the title "The College Issue”?
Playboy are not traditionally known for their use of illustration - inside maybe, for some of the articles - but there hadn’t been an illustrated cover for 25 years when they called me to make this one. It was a risk for the relatively new Art Director, and he took a chance on it - I did feel the responsibility of it, this famous and VERY long-standing magazine - and I do also know that Hugh Hefner had to approve the cover in person, as he does all issues.

So I know that Hugh himself approved my work!

We did not know until the last moment which of the 9 photographs was going to be chosen for the cover, so I had to create artwork that would work with any of those photographs. That was tricky. Those photographs included some close-ups and tight crops, so the art had to flexible. I managed to do it and the turn-round was very quick - a few days only.

The brief was simply to imagine I was a female college freshman doodling notes around the subjects of the magazine’s features, but not to make it too ‘pretty’ - the girl was pretty enough! It had to have movement and life without putting off its male buyers - I think it worked - and I have never been asked for so many samples of my work by friends, ha ha!

4. You have also worked in advertising. What differences are there for you to work for a client and a magazine?
Advertising has big budgets, so there is a lot of pressure. By the time you have been commissioned, a lot of processes have taken place - meetings, sketches, planning, media-buying, budgeting - to arrive at that point. Therefore you can’t mess it up.

It also has longer deadlines than Editorial work, which is very, very quick - often as fast as a day or afternoon. And a much lower budget, meaning that an Art Director can take a chance on an illustrator or style knowing that illustration won’t be in the public domain for long.

I find I can experiment a little with Editorial, and be a little bit more conceptual, whereas in advertising, my work is usually very heavily directed.

5. How do you usually work? Makes sketches before working?
I always draw in pencil first, then ink it in. All my work is created with ink (which can be nibs, fountain pens, brushes, biros, felt-tips, gel pens or Japanese calligraphy pens and others) on paper. It is of course then scanned to be sent all over the world!

6. We would like you to tell us the choices of different typefaces drawn from the cover of "Sight & Sound”?
Aha; those aren’t typefaces; they’re all drawn by hand on paper around the figures or characters shown on the cover, specially for each issue! Some were made with a pen, some with brushes, depending on the atmosphere we needed to create. I would make perhaps three or four times the quantity of type that was needed, then would experiment with different combinations. I really enjoyed working for Sight and Sound, which is the magazine of the BFI - the British Film Institute.

You can see the online version of the newspaper here:
And their Facebook page:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Six And A Half Deadly Sins

Last year I started work on a new series of books in the US, the new covers for the Colin Cotterill collection of strange, wonderful and macabre stories about a 70-year-old coroner called Dr Siri Palboun, set in Laos. And yes - having read a couple, they are as strange as they sound!

Nailing down the look of a series always takes quite a bit of work, and this one was particularly tricky given the subject matter and the precedent of the author's popularity. It was also the hardcover - I've since designed the rest of the paperback covers.

The finished cover is below, and rather than talk my way through this one (my usual method!), watch the cover evolve from early zombie-filled ideas into a typographic/ink-sloshy solution! This one doesn't 'look like me'...know what I mean? I do like a surprise result.

Six And A Half Deadly Sins is out on May 19th this year in the US, and is to be followed by 8 more books in paperback, with titles like 'The Woman Who Wouldn't Die'! Excellent.

 Close-up of the repeat pattern intended for the endpapers - not used in the end:

Monday, February 16, 2015


On 26th February ‘Nightbird’ will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK. I’ve been looking forward to this one, as the synopsis of the story reads this:

'Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

In this enchanting story by beloved author Alice Hoffman, love and friendship are truly magical.’

Alice Hoffman is one of the USA’s most distinguished authors, having written a total of 23 books to date, including one I really want to get a copy of, Here on Earth, which is a modern reworking of some of the themes of Wuthering Heights and thus of course, very close to my heart! Her book Practical Magic was turned into a Warner Brothers Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock film - if you’re old enough you might remember it!

It’s about the Nightbird - a boy who can fly - and the central character Twig who lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, 'baker of irresistible apple pies'. Described as ‘a spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town's famed apple orchards’, it sounds right up my street, so I’m looking forward to receiving my copy:

'YOU CAN’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR, not even in Sidwell, Massachusetts, where every person is said to tell the truth and the apples are so sweet people come from as far as New York City during the apple festival. There are rumors that a mysterious creature lives in our town. Some people insist it’s a bird bigger than an eagle; others say it’s a dragon, or an over-sized bat that resembles a person. Certainly this being, human or animal or something in between, exists nowhere else in this world. Children whisper that we have a monster in our midst, half man, half myth, and that fairy tales are real in Berskhire County…'

The artwork for this is one of those which was completed and approved then altered afterwards, so the one which went to press is different from the artwork which was approved. It happens more than you might think with covers, and most of the time, I’m a bit disappointed with the result as it usually means something’s been removed! In this case, the silhouette of Twig on her garden swing has been taken out and my dramatic dawn/dusk sky replaced with a night-time one; in addition, the hand-drawn author logo’s been replaced with a font (“if I had a quid for every time…”)

Nevertheless, covers are, as you will know by now if you’re been reading my blog for any length of time, subject to a bewildering variety of pressures from editors, sales teams, book sellers, supermarkets and other influencers, making the art director's job a tricky one, and I think this one has managed to retain its sense of mystery and dawn anticipation. This one was commissioned by my long-term client Jennifer at Simon and Schuster.

You can see the printed version online, or in the shops on 26th, but shown here is the full version, which I was very pleased with, together with the developmental sketches that took it to its conclusion.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Charlotte & Zaani.

When new Mummy Charlotte Bevan walked out of a maternity hospital just days after having baby Zaani on the coldest night of the year so far, I, like most of the country watching the news thought she would be found chilly and disorientated but safe on the streets of Bristol in no time.

But wearing just the hospital’s standard-issue slippers and without a coat, baby wrapped in a blanket, her chances were skinny, and my optimism turned to vivid fear for this young woman I’d never met, my concern for whom could not be explained beyond my repeating of the phrase ‘but she looks like…like people I know’. The image of her walking determinedly across the city, talking to her baby and headed only she knew where, was not shown anywhere on TV, but played vividly and endlessly over and over again in my mind. As her own Mummy and her partner reassured her on screen that they whatever had happened they only wanted to ‘go forward’, the contents of my mind grew darker.

In the end I knew with complete conviction I had to draw the pair of them, and I finished this spontaneous picture as the news broke of the terrible outcome up on the Avon Gorge. It is unlike me to be so gripped and distressed by a news story, but this urge to capture a moment in the life of a woman I’d never met went beyond reasoning and superseded any deadlines that day.

The Season of Good Will.

The last job I did in 2014 was this front cover for the Washington Post’s Capital Business magazine. A simple enough theme (how to donate if you’re a company), the brief was for bright, eye catching ans seasonal type without specific reference to ‘Christmas’.

In the grip of The Lurgy, I made this rough against all the odds (they were lucky they didn’t get an abstract composition of a few smears of ink on a sheet of paper, highlighted with Vicks Vapor Rub and and a couple of Kleenex) which I was really feeling, having given it what I’d hoped was a 50s-style American Village Noticeboard feel:

Alas the art director’s suggestions of tinsel, lights, poinsettia and holly were sacrificed in the name of a more generic and less denominational look, but the snow flakes and presents lived to see another day. Here’s the finished piece, all done in ‘one-take’, with coloured inks on paper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Richard III, pt.I

Almost precisely a year after the body of Richard III was found to be exactly that in a car park half an hour from where I live, in a spot passed possibly hundreds of times in mine and Leigh’s lifetimes, I got a call from the people I’d worked with on the Robert Burns Museum. They asked whether, should they be awarded the job, I’d like to create some illustrations for the planned Richard III Visitor Centre, to be built right over the spot where he was found.

Nothing was certain, but if they got the job, would I be interested? I couldn’t get the words ‘yes your majesty' out of my mouth fast enough. With the Battle of Bosworth colouring our school trips and local history and growing up within biking distance, it seemed I was royally obliged to say yes.

Within a couple of months the job was indeed awarded, and the briefs were here. As is typical of this kind of work, they changed and shifted and some were deleted, briefs re-written and until three major pieces were finalised.

Now, friends and colleagues will be aware that although my Richard III project started in 2013, it still hasn’t finished, with two of my pieces still to be installed. The complexities of local authorities, funding, architects, planners and designers are myriad and mysterious, but suffice to say this was an involved project with many hands on deck. I’ve resisted announcing the project till it’s finished, but since it’s clearly an evolving project, I shall bring you news of the pieces one by one!

The first of the three to be installed are what became known as the Death Quotes. One dark corner of this very atmospheric and incredibly carefully-lit building (the ground floor being about Richard’s life and death, the upper floor exploring the science of his discovery) deals exclusively with the horrific manner of his death, the violent struggle and injuries which caused him to die there on the battlefield.

These were explored visually via three contemporary quotes about his death, each rendered in a historically-inspired lettering style which did not, thankfully, have to adhere to any particular font or level of accuracy - I was free to interpret and after a little wrangling back and forth, to be as spiky and writhing as I wanted it to be. The quotes would extend out from a central point suggesting the fatal blow to the back of the head.

Here’s a close up of a section, ink-soaked and written in inch-high or more letters on A2 cartridge:

And here is a section of quote being created:

Once finalised - which was a long process - they were put in situ with the cracks of the 'glass panels' and the shards of splintered glass all, unusually for me, created in Illustrator to go alongside the very organic hand-lettering:

Finally the built structure complete with its Tudor weapons was built around the ‘glass’ panels, thus:

No matter how many pictures we took none of them seemed to capture the essence of this structure, so I think you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself.

So, there are two (actually three) more large installations to happen, one of which is possibly the most significant one in the whole centre. I don’t have an update on when, since the centre has to close each time any work is done (as it has recently, but Richard’s reburial approaches, so I’m anticipating that they’ll want to get it done before then. I’m extremely pleased with the two pieces to come, and cannot wait to show them, but they unfortunately have to wait until the centre has them in situ.

The Grave Site, above the ex-car park where Philippa Langley first sensed that King Richard was under the letter 'R'; an inverted copper pyramid awaiting its engraving of all of the British monarchs:

And this enormous etched series of glass panels covered on roses, in the Centre's reception area - metres high and long:

Keep your blog-reading eyes on, then.

Richard III Visitor Centre

4A St. Martins, Leicester, LE1 5DB

0300 300 0900


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