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Archived posts: Illustration

10×10

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So this year We Made This is 10 years old. Getting on a bit right? I mean, not quite a teenager, but heading in that direction (so expect some tantrums, angst, and questionable fashion decisions over the next few years).

To celebrate our birthday, we decided to make a book, 10×10, featuring 10 short stories all about the number 10. We produced the book in a limited edition of 100, with 10 different colour covers, of which there are 10 copies each.

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The book is 10″ x 10″ square, and each of the stories is just 10 lines long, and set in 10pt type. Each story title is a single word which ends in the letters ‘t’, ‘e’, and ‘n’. Here are the spreads for the stories Brighten, Heighten, and Often:

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To give you the flavour of it, here’s the first of the stories, BITTEN:

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She was the last.

She hadn’t been anyone special before it all began.

She wasn’t sure how she’d survived so long, but she had.

She’d thought that was a good thing, but now… it seemed more like a curse.

She’d watched as everyone around her had fallen to the sickness.

She remembered how it began with the dogs and cats, their terrible eyes and bloody mouths.

She remembered how it spread to the people, their eyes just as terrible, mouths just as bloody.

She’d hoped for a cure, they all had, but that hope seemed stupid now.

She’d finally been bitten that morning, while searching for water.

She was ten.

 

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The books were beautifully printed by our friends at Benwells, using just a single spot colour - metallic silver (Pantone 877 U). The text was printed on 170gsm Munken Pure Rough, and the covers were printed onto 350gsm Colorplan with a cord emboss. Both stocks are from the good folks at G·F Smith.

We’ve sent the book out as a thank you to all the people who helped us get this far. Here’s to the next 10.

Random Spectacular Two

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The good folks at St Jude’s Prints recently sent us the second issue of their rather wonderful periodical, Random Spectacular, and it’s quite fantastic.

As with the first issue (which we reviewed back in January 2012) it’s a “collaborative exploration of the visual arts, literature, music, travel and much more”.

For instance, there’s a wonderful piece by typographer, designer and teacher Catherine Dixon about the letterpress scene of Buenos Aires (featuring the fantastic work of both Gómez Broncería Artística and Prensa La Libertad):

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and a lovely set of images from photographer Finn Beales, all shot on an iPhone.

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There’s also a lovely feature about Ralph Steadman’s illustrations of extinct and nearly-extinct birds:

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and an article by James Russell about the Submarine series of lithographs by Eric Ravilious:

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The format, somewhere between A4 and A3 (240mm x 350mm), means that the imagery is all gloriously detailed.

All proceeds from the sale of the magazine are again going to Maggie’s Centres (which support people with cancer) - so there’s no reason not to buy a copy for yourself right now!

Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments

The good folks over at GraphicDesign& sent us a copy of their fine new book Golden Meaning: Fifty-five graphic experiments.

It’s almost two years since their first book, Page 1: Great Expectations, explored the world of literature via the first page of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Where that book was mainly typographic in its explorations, this one principally illustrative, looking at the relationship of the Golden ratio to graphic design. We particularly liked the wonderful illustration by Malika Favre:

‘I decided to approach the brief as I remember approaching mathematical exercises in high school, setting strict constraints and rules before moving on to the more instinctive part of the process. As a starting point, I constructed a golden ratio grid within the double page spread without thinking about what I wanted to draw or how I would draw it. Once the grid was finished, I looked at what the lines were showing and saw a silhouette emerging. I started drawing shapes and lines as an overlay, using the lines and angles of the grid as a loose guide but relying on my instinct to create what became a woman walking by.’

Grid and overlay above, finished illustration below.

Other contributors include:

Adrian Talbot

Bibliothèque

Jerzy Skakun and Joanna Górska at Homework

Matt Rice and Christoph Lorenzi at Sennep (play with their design over here - it’s fun).

It’s a lovely book, very much sitting on the ‘book as object’ shelf thanks to a lovely format, foil-blocked cover, and the use of a single spot colour throughout (gold, of course). There’s a slight whiff of the degree show catalogue about it, because of its repetitive portfolio format (each contributor gets an introductory page, then one or two spreads), but with students of this calibre, who’s complaining?

Two more books are already in the pipeline (Religion: Looking good, and Social Science: Graphic designers surveyed), and they should build into a solid collection.

We’d really like to see a book that pulls together creative teams of Designers & Others, where designers are teamed up with philosophers, musicians, biologists, teachers, doctors, dramaturgs and others. That might start some really interesting conversations…

Carters Steam Fair

A couple of weekends ago we got the chance to visit the fantastic Carters Steam Fair while it was visiting Clapham Common.

Carters is a vintage travelling fun fair, entirely run by the Carter family, after John and Anna Carter bought their first ride, the Jubilee Steam Gallopers (below) in 1977. The ride was originally built by Robert Tidman & Sons of Norwich, in 1895; and the Carters extensively repaired and renovated it to get it looking as fine as it does today.

The other main ride they have that’s run on steam is the glorious Excelsior Steam Yachts ride (top and below), built in 1921.

The whole fair features a staggering wealth of traditional fairground art and signwriting, featuring work by Hall and Fowle:

“The later rides owned by Carters Steam Fair are painted in a style of dramatic three-dimensionality by the masters of fairground painting in the first half of the 20th century: Hall and Fowle. Edwin Hall was a master painter producing some beautifully set out and composed Art Deco designs that still stand out to this day; Fred Fowle joined forces with him later. Fowle’s work is unmistakeable in its design and skill, using gold and aluminium leaf, flamboyant enamels and a lot of guts he made some of the most extraordinary and exuberant artwork that can be seen on the fair to this day, most notably the Skid, the Octopus, and the Hook a Duck hoopla stall which are owned by Carters Steam Fair.”

Everything on the fair is still hand-painted, with incredible skill and style, by the Carter family. Indeed, Joby Carter even runs 5-day signwriting courses – the next one coming up this November.

It’s just an amazing place to visit. They even have a coconut shy, and a fantastic penny arcade, which even has a suitably creepy Jolly Jack:

And of course the rides themselves are brilliant.

The fair will be at Belair Park in West Dulwich for the next two weekends, and travelling all round London through to November (check their full diary here). Do go along if you get a chance.

Potter prints

Yesterday, at one of the Clerkenwell Design Week events, we bumped into the very lovely Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who worked on the graphic design for all eight of the Harry Potter films. Collectively known as Minalima, they’ve recently launched The Printorium, an online market place for a series of lovely fine art prints based on their work for the films.

The prints come in two formats – limited editions of 1,000, embossed and signature stamped; and limited editions of 250, hand signed, which have additional hand-worked details like gold foiling. Where possible, they’re delivered by owl.

It’s really great to see this stuff living on after the movies, and heck, they’d make the most amazing gifts for Potterheads (we had to look that up).

The print below features some ads from from The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper in the films.

Miraphora and Eduardo also have a selection of self-initiated prints available on the site, which are equally lovely.

There’ll be an exhibition of their work at The Conningsby Gallery in London from 17 to 28 June.

Wizard.

Poster Art 150

We dropped in to the London Transport Museum over the weekend to check out their truly fantastic new show, Poster Art 150.

Put on to celebrate the 150th birthday of the London Underground, the densely packed show is a collection of 150 of the best posters produced for the tube. It features a stack of brilliant designs from the big names in poster design, including Abram Games, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Frederick Charles Herrick, Tom Eckersley, Edward Bawden, Fougasse (above); as well as a few fine artists, including Man Ray and Howard Hodgkin.

The show is split into six thematic areas, which neatly sidesteps the possible problem that might have occurred had the exhibition been chronological – namely that the more recent designs just aren’t as good. Partly this is due to the rose-tinted nature of nostalgia, but it’s not just that – the earlier designs have an energy, simplicity and wit that seems to have faded away from most of the contemporary designs we see now on the tube. Hopefully this show might serve as an inspiration though, both to the commissioners at the tube, and also to designers.

And you know, it’s interesting to stop there and linger on that word ‘designers’.

It feels like most of the contemporary commissions on the underground are given over to fine artists rather than designers. Witness the Olympic and Paralympic Posters for London 2012, Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth, and The Roundel: 100 Artists Remake a London icon – all commissioned through the Art on the Underground programme. Where are the commissions for designers? Surely a show like this demonstrates just how brilliant a tradition of design London Transport has – it’d be great to see them embracing that by commissioning more contemporary designers, rather than just fine artists.

Anyway, here are some of our picks from the exhibition:

‘A train every 90 seconds’, the first poster Abram Games designed for London Underground, in 1937.

‘Behind the seen’, one half of a pair poster by James Fitton from 1948.

‘The lure of the Underground’, by Alfred Leete (the chap behind the Britons: Lord Kitchener Wants You poster) from 1927. This is a glorious poster – a fantastic economy of line, with wonderful characterisation, as you can see in the detail below:

Austin Cooper’s poster advertising the V&A’s first major poster show in 1931, and depicting Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods.

One of the highlights of the show is the fantastic array of different and frequently bonkers typographic styles. Here are some lovely ligatures from Frederick Charles Herrick’s ‘The lap of luxury’ poster from 1925:

And two Os getting up close and personal in Charles Paine’s ‘Boat Race’ poster from 1921:

And Alan Rogers’ lovely styling of the word Underground from his 1930 ‘Speed Underground’ poster:

Tasty stuff.

‘For the Zoo’, from 1933, by Maurice A. Miles, one of many posters for London Zoo featured in the show.

‘Away from it all’ by M.E.M. Law in 1932 – has a tube train ever looked so dynamic?

And finally, ‘Cup final’ by Eric George Fraser in 1928, which puts you right in the heart of the action.

The show runs until 27 October, and is really outstanding – do get along if you can.

A Monster Calls

It’s not often that a book leaves you sobbing in the darkness. But A Monster Calls, the staggeringly wonderful book from Patrick Ness, brilliantly illustrated by Jim Kay, does just that.

The book recently won the Carnegie Medal (for the story) and the Kate Greenaway Medal (for the illustrations), a pair of awards that are a big deal in the world of children’s publishing; and it was reading about the awards that prompted us to pick up a copy of the book.

The story is about a teenager, Conor O’Malley, who’s been having a terrible recurring nightmare, every night since his mother started her treatments.

“Conor looked at the ground, then up a the moon, anywhere but at the monster’s eyes. The nightmare feeling was rising in him, turning everything around him to darkness, making everything seem heavy and impossible, like he’d been asked to lift a mountain with his bare hands, and no one would let him leave until he did.”

The story was initially developed by the writer Siobhan Dowd before her premature death from breast cancer. Posthumously her editor, Denise Johnstone-Burt, asked Patrick Ness to continue the story for her. As Ness says in the author’s note to the book: “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.”

Ben Dorland at Walker Books, the publishers, then brought in Jim Kay to illustrate the book. You can read all about how the book then came about in this Guardian article.

Kay’s monochromatic illustrations perfectly capture the atmosphere of the book without leading the reader down too specific a path. You can read more about how he created the illustrations on his site. For instance, about the first image below, he says: “Conor, the figure in the foreground, was painted very quickly in ink with a tatty brush – a temporary sketch while I worked on the rest of the image. I must have drawn at least 40 versions of him later on, but ended up using that first sketch as there was something awkward and unsettled about him. Subsequent drawings were just too self conscious. I’d love to have another go at this, I think I could force the perspective more –  get under the chair almost, and beneath the monster’s head.”

It’s an immensely powerful book, and truly beautiful. We can’t recommend it enough.

Illustration: Making Pictures


The good folks at St Bride have been in touch to let us know that their next conference, Illustration: Making Pictures, takes place on Tuesday 19 June, and features an array of wonderful illustrators discussing their work. Eine (aka Ben Flynn) will be there – you’ll know his stuff from all over London, including the piece above. You’ll also get:

John Lawrence

Linzie Hunter

Kai and Sunny

The Paper Cinema (aka Nic Rawling)

Peter Schrank

Helen Stephens

As well as a Mike Nicholson illustrating live as the conference progresses, and various demonstrations of letterpress and calligraphy.

Penguin English Library

This is the new animation that Penguin have commissioned from director Woof Wan-Bau to celebrate the launch of their new series, the Penguin English Library.

The series consists of “100 of the best novels in the English language”, starting with 20 launch titles, with cover designs from Coralie Bickford-Smith. (Check out the Facebook page to see details of the designs, and how they’ve played with the Timeline there.)

The covers are all well and good, but what got us really excited here was seeing the Penguin logo animated. It’s really beautifully done. Agencies love to talk about “bringing the brand alive”. Well here it is – living and breathing. Brilliant.

Noma Bar + Wallpaper*

Noma Bar. He’s a bit clever isn’t he?

He’s just created a series of eight covers for the latest issue of Wallpaper* magazine, and they’re stunners. The covers relate to eight design hubs: Germany, USA, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Belgium and Scandinavia. Known for his witty and economical use of positive and negative space, for Wallpaper Bar has moved into the physical world, creating painted room sets in which products and furniture become part of the illustrations (Nouvel chairs for France, a Schönbuch umbrella stand for Germany, and a Babaghuri ink box for Japan).

Great stuff. And they’re available as posters and limited-edition prints (of course) from Wallpaper.