Sunday, 2 December 2012
While Charlie and I agreed that it would be best to leave the look of specific heroes and villains to the imagination of his readers, it felt right to depict some key players in greater detail.
Here – representing his covert tracking of the monstrous army of adults led by the vile St. George across North London and beyond – we find one of my favourite characters; the secretive, determined, resourceful 'Shadowman'.
He's a fascinating addition to Books 3 and 4 in the ongoing series, and has some of the most gripping adventures so far seen as he observes, and inevitably tackles, the rise of the army.
Not joggers taking to the leafy paths and greens of Hyde Park here, I'm afraid. . . just yet more ravenous adults looking for what they'd judge to be a tasty al fresco picnic treat – and I don't think it's sausage rolls.
Here - fuelled by events in Higson's 3rd book in 'The Enemy' series 'The Fear' – we see what's unfolding South of the river Thames, as groups of kids gather at locations of relative safety. The Imperial War Musuem being one. Safe, or so they think. . .
A fragment of my illustrated Map to show the nerve-wracking character journeys in Charlie Higson's 'The Enemy' series for young adults, published by Puffin Books (see previous posts). Click on the image to get a larger version.
Here it's not rampant City traders that are roaming the streets with a taste for expensive cocktails - it's the diseased and cannibalistic adults, devastated by the mystery plague that has hit everyone in the world over the age of 14. They do, however, like the traders before them, have very refined tastes. . .
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Curiously find myself - through the approach of journalist Anna Richardson Taylor - included in this diverse article for the new issue of this magazine.
What was I never told at Design School?
Well - I went to an ART school – but you get the gist. See my thoughts on the matter
I am apparently a 'leading artist/designer'.
That's a relief.
Nice to be asked my ten pennorth's worth, nonetheless.
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Once again as Autumn shifts towards Winter and the leaves spiral down into Red Lion Square in Holborn, my esteemed colleague Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck and I will be participating in this event.
Click on this image to get a bigger version on-screen.
Friday and Saturday - 11am til 7pm.
Nearest tube Holborn - a brisk walk from the West End East, or West from zones like Clerkenwell.
It would be lovely to see you there – whoever you may be.
In fact it wouldn't be the same without you.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
A moment's pause at Higson Towers last Sunday to record the Illustrated Map of his Enemy series of young adult novels (see posts passim) that I completed with the deft and skillful help of Mette Ambeck over the Summer.
The 4th novel in the series from Puffin Books, 'The Sacrifice', was released last month to rave reviews.
And I must admit – it's a corker.
Saturday, 6 October 2012
St. Martins School of Art, Graphic Design graduation year 1985.
Venue: The Lyceum public house, on London's swinging Strand.
Past, present, futures impacting at one point.
Photo by Mister Rob McGillivray (well, at least his camera).
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Fresh off the mind press: 'bio auto graphic' issue 22 –
"Glass Half-Full/Glass Half-Empty".
Let loose at the Whitechapel Gallery London Art Book Fair 4, this weekend (see below for details).
Click on the image to make it bigger (if only everything worked that way).
Happy times, in the business of laughter.
I still can't quite believe it happened.
It roots around in the broad cliché territory that some people trot out; 'some people see Life as a glass half-full, some people. . .' etc.
Those who know me – though I'd suggest not too well – see me as a dour Northerner who subscribes to the 'half-empty' outlook.
I can see why, but of course things aren't that simple.
One life, fifty years, ten pages (between covers); signposts, turning points, hills climbed, descents negotiated.
A reasonably complicated task, which essentially boils down to a decade per double-spread.
My usual modus operandi kicked in with some stimulating breaks from creating the 'Enemy Map' (see recent posts) during August's dog days, tearing through the pages of a nice new Moleskin sketchbook. Here – beginning with the first doodle of the cover composition – and in a few other posts, are fragments that remain therein – whispers of things that made it to final artwork (or that didn't).
The edition is dedicated to my two fellow travellers:
Michael Ian Cumming
Andrew John Altmann.
150 years between us, by God.
Check out http://www.whitechapelgallery.org
for lots more and full list of contributors.
Mette and I are upstairs Gallery 8 at Stand 68.
We will probably look something like this.
Though perhaps a little older.
Snatches from my latest Ensixteen Edition, 'Half-Full/Half-Empty' ('bio auto graphic' Number 22)
can be found in upcoming posts.
Monday, 17 September 2012
These are living adult humans in a horrible state of advanced illness that – as it's destroyed their personalities and mental faculties in the sense of controlling their terrible urges to violence and cannibalism – manifests in shocking, poisonous distortions of their physical form.
Here the prototype 'Sicko' was possibly a little too familiarly zombie-looking, though the idea that his dreadful hunger is making him begin to eat the Map itself was fun at the time.
More from the sketchbook working towards the final map for Mister Higson's 'Enemy' series for Puffin Books (just released and accompanying Charlie on a first signing tour for Book 4: The Sacrifice).
As I knew they would by necessity have to be very small in the scheme of things (so much ground to cover, literally - the complex journeys of FOUR novels) the figures would probably need to be bold.
Making them a solid black could have been one solution, which is what you see here.
This fragment doesn't refer to one specific incident, but as the kids pick up all kinds of weapons along the way at places like The Imperial War Museum (Book 2: The Dead), the sword makes a good, potentially-distinctive element for the central figure.
No such image made it to the final version.
Click on it to see a larger version, as usual.
Monday, 10 September 2012
I have yet to see the finished thing, but I was the man that drew it - and prepared it for a first edition of printing with the invaluable help of Danish book artist and designer, Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck (see www.ambeckdesign.blogspot.com).
Here above you can see one of my early trial images for the Sicko look.
This has been an immensely challenging piece, created over the Summer months from a first discussion in May this year and across several subsequent meetings between
Charlie and I.
You can find the journeys of characters representing the first four novels in the sequence, and begin to see the scope of what Charlie is creating in the epic as a whole.
It sums up London in the grip of the dreadful illness that has rendered every adult a lurching, shambling killer with a taste for human flesh - especially that of the kids who are left in the shattered ruin of their old lives.
A great privilege to be asked to do this, and I'm thrilled that CH is pleased with the result.
More details will be available soon from the man himself regards how to get a copy.
I'll post more on my development of the piece here in the near future.
Until then, here's a second detail from the sketchbook - an early trial for the Map's 'Legend' - the box that carries the detail of what to look for.
If you click on the images they get bigger.
Monday, 6 August 2012
The premise is simple - an email will see you receive a randomly-selected word from which you might create a piece of original artwork that will be thenceforth archived in the project, whether online or at gallery events.
My word speaks for itself. . .
With a distinctly Olympic Year theme - though not in the case of my own contribution as you can see - the show is at the Rich Mix facility on Bethnal Green Road until Sunday August 19th.
Another webby link will take you to more information:
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Course Leader Luke Pendrell thought the title 'Interesting Times' entirely appropriate for these days that we live in.
Sunday, 10 June 2012
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
I will be revealing unseen images connected to the preparatory process for the Living Well With Dementia project featured recently (and also covered in Design Week and Creative Review blogs) and ushering in my role as 'conference illustrator' at an event at St.Bride off Fleet Street entitled 'Making Pictures'.
The latter has just been featured on the Eye magazine blog - take a look at
Incidentally, I will soon be creating a new bouncing baby blog nearby this old war-horse to offer parallel material and host the record I create, in drawn form, from that day.
You have been warned.
The next post will contain a genuine fragment which I have meant to include here for a very long time.
And - while you're waiting - here's a superb speech delivered by a certain Neil Gaiman at the graduation ceremony of a London-based university related to 'the Arts'. It's not far away. . . in The Land of Vimeo
Thursday, 26 April 2012
I have provided illustrative line work for 6 films conceived by this company to reflect a Design Council initiative called 'Living Well With Dementia' which launched today at their central London base and online at www.livingwellwithdementia.com
Click on the image here to see greater detail from the homepage.
The site showcases the work of 5 teams from across the UK that have created design-centred strategies to ease the burden of both those who have dementia and those who care for them.
Working with WNA designers Clayton Welham and Sam Williams – as well as company co-founder David Ellis – I talked through the concepts and possible visual elements that might best complement the separate projects, and these were then layered into the deceptively complex final film pieces you can view at the site. The subtle film sequences within which my line moves were created by photographer Julian Germain.
I'm grateful to WNA for championing the Ensixteen style they have enjoyed as long-term readers, and it's particularly important to me that I was able to contribute to what I feel is important work.
All too often design merely complements the market forces of our culture, the throw-away surface values, whereas work like this shows that design can help lives and not just help sell things.
I will post material from the developmental stages of this project here soon.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
It's been a fascinating and busy period of late.
As well as revisiting my past in terms of TV storyboarding (see recent posts below), I have been working on a large illustration project for the esteemed Why Not Associates.
I will post more detail in due course on this (it's still in the developmental stage) but suffice to say it will see my humble line reach the world of on-screen moving image, as part of a typically rich mix from this influential studio.
And for a very pertinent and life-affirming cause, to boot.
Also upcoming is the marvellous chance offered to me by designer Becky Chilcott to be a 'Conference Illustrator' at an upcoming event at the hallowed halls of the St. Bride Foundation, just off Fleet Street.
What is a 'Conference illustrator', you may well ask?
We shall see what we shall see. And draw what we shall draw, too.
More soon on that as well.
Finally - here is a fragment from my freshly-completed 'bio auto graphic' edition: 'On The Margins'.
A copy is winging its way across the cold seas to Jutland even as I type this, to be included in the exhibition of that theme at the 4th annual Doverodde Book Arts Festival and Symposium (at the atmospheric Limfjordcentre, by the twinkling fjord waters). There it will be in the safe hands of my darling Dane, Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, who is the event's organizer this year.
Good luck, sweetheart.
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
The analogue signal begins to die today.
The withering attack of Paxman vs. G. Galloway Esq. on Newsnight – and some fascinating documentary on the Wikileaks mallarkey – being the last of that channel to squeeze through the modest aerial into my televisional box.
So - having done nothing about swapping to the World of Digitalis, the question remains:
Do I stay or do I go?
I will leave such thoughts until after Easter.
Damned if I can get too excited about it right now.
Saturday, 31 March 2012
What's it like to start a new piece of work?
In discussing this matter with my students I sometimes get the feeling that they feel there's a single formula to it, a definite way that creativity happens.
No such equation exists, of course. Experience has taught me that.
There's a pleasurable state one reaches – of making and thinking all at once - and in many ways a point of not thinking, actually.
One succumbs, having put in place entirely personal details of materials or environment that have been discovered through trial and error to help the process (see my recent post below).
Sometimes it feels like this image (from my 2010 edition 'Day & Night/Night & Day').
You just fall into it, powerlessly.
And trust that you'll catch yourself. And the thing that saves you is the new work you make.
Is what I've just written here a candidate for Private Eye's 'Pseud's Corner'?
No - I think I believe it to be true.
Simply stated: Everything Connects.
In reading this again it's with sadness that I note some of the branchlines of my life here have faded since the making of it - whether they be people who I see now rarely or passing creative infatuations from which I have moved on.
Many shall never wither, though.
Click on the image to get the detail.
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
A flipside to our personalities, and differing interpretations of our actions, are recurring themes across previous Ensixteen Editions. All part of my subjective translation of what happens to us – or to myself.
The new edition for Denmark (see below) once again finds me teasing out such aspects in image as well as written form.
As with all posts within this blog, if you click on the image you get a larger version.
And so, for the 4th year in succession, I will be creating a new edition to submit to the Danish book arts event held at the Limfjordcentret in Thy.
Their 2012 theme is the notion of 'udkant' – translated as 'on the margins'.
I am enjoying the usual preliminary stage; considering the shape of the ideas inside the given theme, noodling around with written notes as well as early sketches, relaxing into a few visual motifs that recur as more pages are filled.
At the start of every new Ensixteen Edition (this will be the 21st) I draw out a version of the image here – visualizing the ground ahead, considering the empty set of pages within which I'll place a new narrative.
It's as unashamedly ritualistic as the making of a pot of tea. It helps me ease into the creative day.
The sketchbook is a blank map and I step out regardless.
Saturday, 24 March 2012
I was recently contacted by a University of Westminster PHd student, Gamze Toylan, who is looking at the production and evolution of 'The League of Gentlemen', for which I storyboarded with director Steve Bendelack in their third series (BBC 2002).
Thanks to GT for a very easy interview process on a shining, chill morning, as we descended to the bowels of a UW building on Regent Street and blathered on about my experiences, comedy in the 1990s and early 2000s, TV and all points between.
Amongst various 'precious things' I unearthed was this fragment.
It all took me back to many vivid memories of that period when my predominant income was storyboarding for television (and film), most commonly on comedy projects.
I faced many interesting challenges and met and worked with many fascinating people.
I stepped inside the television having worshipped at its feet since my childhood, basically.
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
I'll be in attendance at this new event - should you be in striking distance, please do drop by.
Click on the image to get a bigger version and read all the details. . .
Despite the absence of my treasured partner in crime Mette-Sofie Ambeck this year, the latest Leeds Book Fair (the 15th) passed by enjoyably, with lots of sales and interest during an intense 33 hours stay in that interesting city.
I am here pictured – thinking of all the coins in my cash box – by my fellow exhibitor and University for the Creative Arts colleague, Jane Cradock-Watson.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
For those following the link from my listing on the site recording participant book artists of the Al Mutanabbi Project – a collective effort to sustain the memory of a street of booksellers bombed by fanatics in Bagdad some years ago – please scroll back here to posts from September 2011.
My three-part edition 'The Physics of Violence' was covered in some depth at that point.
Detail here from the third of the three parts – 'Effect'.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
An image from my recent 'The Power of Ten' edition.
I intend to use it with my entry in the catalogue for the upcoming 15th International Contemporary Artists' Book Fair in Leeds.
Event taking place on the Friday 9th & Saturday 10th March, 2012.
Venue is The Parkinson Building, University of Leeds
11am - 6pm on Friday & 10am til 5pm Saturday
Do drop by and sample my wares.
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Ian Wood Hay is one of the voices to be listened to in my life.
I treasure each – generally unexpected – phone call:
“Hello, Mike. You lovely old thing. . .”
His gravelly tones would put Valentine Dyall to shame, but not only that – there’s just so much sheer good sense and insight in what this man has to say (with or without a glass of Shiraz to hand).
His proclamations can bring a room to silence, or send it crashing into laughter, as the latest local or global events are filtered through his own distinctive lens.
Some of the funniest bar-room material I have ever heard, and I’ve heard quite a bit.
Ian would truly grace any stage – indeed I’ve seen him hold an audience or two in the palm of his hand – and, given his lifetime passion for comedy, this seems entirely appropriate.
(His annual 'speech to the nation' on Christmas Day, meanwhile – though I think occurring only in his imagination – is an acknowledged cornerstone of British Life.)
We worked nearby one another at the Colchester Art School, though typically Ian got the naked ladies as part of the job (his life models during fascinating studio days).
Essex born and bred, Ian had first stepped up to the artistic coalface in that very town (the old art school on the hill) then up to London (to the Royal College of Art itself as a contemporary of the likes of Mister Hockney and, later, teaching at my old school, St. Martins) and back again to build a life with lovely Teresa. Later the father of two lads, and lately a grandfather.
They named a gallery at the art school after him before he left, in fact, and he continues to exhibit his deft landscapes – often of his beloved county – widely.
A well-deserved retrospective (‘A Life Drawing’) at Colchester’s Minories Gallery in 2010 brought together the true scope of his work, including beautiful studies of abandoned cars from the early 1970s, portraiture and gorgeous black and white studies of town & country & coastline.
He was touched at all the fuss, I think (beyond the bluster he is a modest and gentle man, too), and deeply chuffed.
Since his retirement – and my cessation of work at the school – we maintain a brisk paper correspondence (he once briefly flirted with electronic mail before deciding it ‘wasn’t for him’) and still meet with regularity – most often on licensed premises it has to be said; whether out across that fine eastern county on Jolly Boy’s Outings with the other fellows, or in the strange twilight world of the North Countryman’s Club (at least in the Smoker’s Area outside).
A Rennaissance Man? A Doctor of Life, certainly (and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Essex University in 2009).
A Man of The Old School, unashamedly.
My dear friend, the good doctor Hay.
Sunday, 15 January 2012
Michael (‘Mick’) Smee is one of the select band that proved so inspirational to me – at work and play – during my early teaching years in Colchester, Essex.
His easy human touch, so vital to the studio nurture of young art students, made a lasting impression when visiting his sessions alongside a certain Mister Hay (see elsewhere on this blog).
He did what he did with great generosity and care.
Outside of the teaching I drew great creative inspiration from Mick’s delicious, atmospheric paintings of public house interiors, hinting at a love of a good pint and the daftness of shared blather and laughter.
In fact I’m inside one of these works, now hanging on some unknown wall (it was purchased before I could ever see it).
It commits my own past local, The Shakespeare pub in London, N16 to posterity, from a lost afternoon shared years ago.
No small honour, that.
Alongside his talented wife, Nicola (an illustrator/writer of many beautiful children’s books) – Mick lives near the salt flats of Maldon, in a gem of a village called Tolleshunt D’Arcy (once home to the esteemed author Margery Allingham, creator of detective Albert Campion).
My times as their guest – sitting in splendid company in the garden amidst summer breezes, sampling Mick’s sublime home-made pies after rounds of dark beers over the road at The Queen’s Head – remain some of my happiest memories of that much-misunderstood county.
Mick’s is a reflective sort of approach to pub conversation. After keeping his powder dry he’ll drop in a nicely-timed word-grenade of his own, having gauged the flow – and he can pull off a textbook deadpan expression, before the arrival of with a huge smile.
While it’s also rumoured that he is a practising warlock, I have no corroborative proof of this.
Friday, 13 January 2012
The very man who, in January 1990 – at the meeting points of Fate and Chance that nudge us through our lives – ushered me into a brave new world of teaching; the parallel career track that has offered me many challenges, and continues to do so.
At the Colchester Institute I enjoyed around 7 years of leadership from Phil, pushing the message of creativity (and passion for language and imagery beyond the subject) that underpinned his approach to the disciplines of Graphic Design. It formed – alongside the deft skills of others in the building in those years – an elegant, daily masterclass in the role of the tutor/lecturer/teacher.
More important still, in that strange, bustling Essex town – and in nearby Wivenhoe – (where here the lad himself can be seen outside The Rose & Crown, down by the river on a late afternoon of buttery light and deep beers), I learned the value of new mid-life friendships that sustain me still.
Phil, now happily retired from the fray, it seems to me has an enviable life, mapped out between points of significance; his inspiring local landscape, a passion for books, cinema, music and good company, and a touching loyalty to those whose friendship he relishes.
Long may he seek A Sense of Glory while walking those wind-blustered Colne estuary flatlands.
“Hold onto this. . . “
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
One of my recent forays into my stupidly large DVD collection – within which I tend to build little connected sections (by theme, or perhaps director or writer or actor) that I might watch successively – allowed me to relish three TV plays directed and written by Stephen Poliakoff:
'Friends and Crocodiles' (2005), 'Joe's Palace' (2007) and 'Capturing Mary' (2007)
What are his driving themes? What does Mister P concern himself with. . ?
Well. . . the plays return to certain issues again and again; identity and the back-story of cultural history behind all of our shoulders; the tides of time and how they shift our sands; the influences of power and privilege – or the lack of it – on our fate as individuals.
How new spheres of experience can change us – for good or bad – if we step inside them.
There's strangely dream-like, fairy tale quality to much of it.
Beneath the beautifully-realized recreation of historical periods, for instance, the characters slowly assume almost emblematic, symbolic roles that are bigger than reality.
The prelude to World War 2, the war years themselves, the bleak ravenous desires afoot in the Thatcher era – all these are inspected through the distinctive lens of the writer/director.
Dialogue – the exchanges between characters – can feel somehow timeless, possessing a secondary significance beyond the scene at hand should you care to play Poliakoff's game of meaning.
Yet these are also extremely British pieces, in many ways, populated by the finest actors of several generations – as well as instances where Poliakoff has used completely fresh talent.
For me the most affecting piece was 'Capturing Mary', with a memorably sinister turn by David Walliams as Greville White. In fact I was astonished at how quickly his performance wiped the slate clean of the familiarity one has for him in other comedic roles.
The story slips from what feels like reality – the happenstance of Life's chance encounters and how they alter us at a profound level – into unsettling places where time and space are toyed with to unsettling effect. It has the creeping discomfort of a nightmare in places.
It's marvellously disorientating stuff, crafted with care and immensely, immersively watchable.
And highly recommended by your author for the remaining Winter nights yet ahead.