Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A load of old baubles...

The light was amazing today, so I went out to a local park to take these pictures in the snow - which of course reflects the light wonderfully. I hardly tweaked these photos believe it or not - they were pretty perfect from the off.
I was so pleased with the results, I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
You can see more here

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Markets

I went to the Manchester's Christmas markets yesterday for the last time before they leave.
You can seem more Christmas photos here:
The snow is really coming down now....

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

An article about how a man is having a 'fling' with another guitar.
The 'comic book' style really suited this as a light hearted approach was what was needed.
My big addiction as a child was comics - this style is influenced by years of reading the Beano, Dandy, Buster,Whizzer and chips, and Whoopee!
Life could not really get much better than a pile of my favourite comics, and a bag of sweets!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Doing the Can-can

For an article about if people really can tell the difference in tone between a US made Gibson guitar and one made in the far east. Another great idea from my art directors over at Guitarist magazine. A take on the advert from the 80's 'take the pepsi challenge', the idea was to have two cans of 'tone' exactly the same apart from the 'made in...' at the bottom.
I bought a load of cans to photograph, but the one I used was an amalgam of a red stripe beer can (for the white and red colour) and a coke can - the size and can top. The type is actually the coca cola font. For the finished look, I wanted it to look hyper-real, I remembered some of the art of the photorealists which would often exaggerate the shine and reflections on the surface.
The subject matter reminded me of some of the photo realistic still lives, often things like sauce bottles (like that of Ralph Goings) the great american diner, and pop art.

Friday, 6 November 2009

A new editorial piece.
I really love using two colours and the combination of dots to create the tonal range.
I'm going to create a range around this design. Watch this space....

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Nearly a healthy start...

These illustrations were very nearly going to be used for a very high profile advertising campaign for the NHS.
Although the agency chose my style, unfortunately the research carried out did not favour an illustration route in the end - shame, but at least I have some new portfolio pieces.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Two illustrations about killing

The first is a parody of the famous 'Home taping is killing music' from the 70's, but updated for the new century. I thought that a Banksy graffiti stencil style would be apt, interesting and challenging to me.
But it was important that a hand done look was achieved. So instead of doing it all digitally, which would have been possible - I cut out my own stencil and spray painted it, overlaying it on a photo of the wall in my back yard. The final touch of a blood splatter finished it off.
The second was about the 'death' of a limited edition Jimmi Hendrix guitar before production had even begun. It was a brilliant idea by the guys at Guitarist - of a crime scene. But they thought that the grave element was a bit too much. So I went out and took a photo of some flagstones - which I actually ended up preferring - as it's a simpler design.
What I love about having a regular column is having the freedom to answer the brief in whatever medium I choose or combination of. Bringing in more of my photography into the work is really satisfying and adds that further string to my bow.
Sometimes, I am concerned about having such disparate 'styles', as all the most successful illustrator's have a distinct idiosyncratic style.
But doing it differently each time keeps it fresh and interesting to me. In a way it reminds me of the Btec/Foundation course I did in my youth - where in the morning it would be printmaking, afternoon painting etc.
At the end of the day, it's the communication of the idea that counts more than the medium anyway.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Just got the Sunday Times travel magazine through the door this morning which has one of my illustrations in it. Quite a dry article on exchanging money on holiday, it was still quite a nice job to do, (with all the pieces that I fitted together like a jigsaw.)
My original illustration had more contrast in it with the hands more of the central feature, but the art director wanted to make the locations more obvious - its often tricky putting the clients ideas in, and making it work as an illustration.
I was fairly pleased with the result, and it is always nice to be in such a good magazine.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Some photos I took whilst away in Almeria Spain. This region has been used as on location by many hollywood films and spaghetti westerns because of its similarity in landscape to the American west - it is windswept and desert like. It was also the place that John Lennon wrote Strawberry fields forever whilst filming 'How I won the war'

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Sound choice

An illustration for an article in my monthly spot, this time about the rise of Spotify.
Coincidentally I've started using Spotify myself recently, it's great for listening to albums you're not sure whether to buy or not. With current working days of around 12 hours, that's a lot of hours of music and speech to listen to. The BBC website is great for me these days for choosing BBC radio programmes and TV shows I may have missed.
I also get access to the radio genius that is Danny Baker who is on BBC radio London between 3 and 5.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The Usual Suspects

A parody of the famous film poster on different musician 'types' done in my Beano style for a magazine article.
The limitations given when using this style of 2 main colours is enjoyable to do - creating tone with just use of the dot pattern alone. I also occasionally put in a slight intentional mismatch as you would have got with the old style print process. It adds to the whole feel of the piece.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Big Chill

Just been to the Big Chill festival in Ledbury, England. Here's a few pics....

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Beach House

When I came back to freelance illustrating after a few years working in studios, I was looking forward to getting some editorial work that would stretch my brain cells a bit. However a large part of my work is still in the greeting cards and wrapping paper market. This work tend to be just aesthetic, without any greater meaning. It's still really enjoyable and brings its own set of problems.
This work is part of a larger collection based on the Beach House theme, for a US client. I love to create a collection, creating a colour palette first and then designing it all from there.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


I've been so busy lately for some reason I've not had time to blog.
This is a new card taken by The Art Group. I'm especially proud as it's the first photo I've had published. I was just walking past a tacky gift shop in London and I just spotted it.
I don't class myself as a photographer, but I can visualize a good picture.
The union flag and all that paraphernalia seems to be fashionable at the moment.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Another photo from a beautiful beach in Menorca, with the most crystal clear turquoise water I've ever seen. I really like this picture of various tiny people seen from above - enjoying the water. I have to fight hard not to put turquoise into every illustration I do - it's my favourite colour.

The next commission was another one for Health and Fitness Magazine. I really enjoy getting free rein on an illustration and creating a visual solution for a large article, and this was no exception. It was about the environment harming your health in various different ways. In stark contrast to the previous job I completed (below) my other slightly more humorous style worked well, with the fast food, and all the nasty things chasing the jogger.
Using my old typefaces seemed to really bring the illustration together, and my craft paper base seemed apt for the organic food bit.
I love that base green colour (inspired by a burger t shirt I have)
Changes were needed - the main one being the car - I was dubious if I could get it to look right, to be a character and being cute at the same time, but I was very pleased with the results. The rubber stamp type addition at the clients request matches the font that is used in the article.

Not had chance to blog for a while, been so busy, with a backlog of work that came in all at the same time whilst I was away. First was this article about being control freak in the home for Sainsbury's magazine. The idea was from them, which is sometimes tricky making it work exactly how the client envisions it. I suggested the house like a dolls house - as I like to work from a central image - I find it aesthetically more pleasing.
This is the first draft before some changes were made, the house was moved to the side to avoid the gutter (something you have to remember) so everything was moved around slightly.
For the feel of the image, I was thinking about old Brad Holland illustrations from years ago. For anyone that doesn't know, I think he's the godfather of modern concetpual illustration. So many people have been influenced by him (some have based their whole careers on emulating his work). His style and use of colour of course is superb, but more important than that - it's the visual metaphors and striking visual ideas where he shines.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


I've been away to sunny Spain,swimming in the sea - I'll post more photos soon.
Since I've come back I've been mega busy with loads to catch up on.
The heat in my little studio is amazing - it's super hot in the UK right now...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Illustrating an article about a "guitar that supposedly once belonged X, was stolen, found it’s way in to Y’s possession and was then purchased from Y by Z. Now X has recognised it and thinks it could well be his guitar and has decided to sue Z."
I did the guitar in question as a homeless tramp, using minimum colours and simple two tone design which I thought made a striking and successful illustration.

Friday, 12 June 2009

It's all about me!

Here's an illustration of what happens when you don't have a clear idea of how you want your illustration from the beginning. The brief was for "a guitar shape/silhouette which is entirely made up of lots of repetitions of the word “ME”. As in “It’s all about ME!”. Mixing lots of different typefaces and/or hand-drawn type."
I started the first one and was not happy with it, so from then on continued with various versions - none of which I was totally satisfied with. In the end I sent them all to the client for some art direction - he liked them all, and was a fan of the Saul Bass inspired ones. But in the end chose the bottom middle one as that seemed to fit the magazine and readership best of all.
Sometimes the simplest of jobs can be the most tricky, with all the elements not working exactly as they should. This is the nature of creative work, it's that ingredient x, that you're searching for, that moment when you just know it's complete.
Incidentally the font I used in the Saul Bass inspired ones is called Hitchcock by Matt Terich and can be found here

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Various Characters

I've been doing more and more character work, especially in the US. Perhaps this happy, cute, sweet style acts as light relief against the glum recession news etc.
I guess my two slightly different styles reflect the two parts of my personality as well.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Bottle

This is an illustration for Guitarist magazine, Art Directed by Phil Millard who came up with the brilliant idea of an elixir in an old apothecary jar, called 'vintage vibe' that would give the player an instant 'mojo' in the same way that reproductions of classic guitars claim to.
It was a great idea, and needed doing properly to justify it.
So I travelled up the motorway to a place called Bygone times in Chorley in Lancashire.
This is an old mill crammed full with loads of 'old stuff' for want of a better word, not really antiques, but really interesting.
They had loads of old bottles and I found just the one, and it was really cheap.
Next I bought some brown sugar and poured it in the bottle, to make it appear like the alixir.
I came home and designed the label, looking at old packaging, and making it look as authentic as I could, distressing the edges.
The next part, was actually photographing it with my trusty Nikon D50 camera.
I took 35 shots in the shoot, and of course the first one was the best!
But I did bring in parts of another photo which I like elements of (the shine and lighting, and the label was clearer.)
Opening the RAW file (essentially like a digital dark room) then cleaning it up in Photoshop was the final piece of the jigsaw.
Phil absolutely loved it, I've found that 99 times of 100, if I love it the client will, and is unlikely to change a lot.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

For a magazine article showing growing your own veg, organic food labels, animal welfare, air-miles food travels, and supporting fair-trade schemes etc.
As there were quite a few parts to the illustration, and the client was not exactly sure about the size, I decided to arrange it in blocks, making it easy to change format if need be.
Also they can use parts of it as spot illustrations throughout the article. I was really pleased with the colour combinations and the contrast with the two somewhat disparate parts of my work - the cutesy, and the more serious montage. The client liked the bright colours, the use of the old lettering, and the hand made look in my work. And the craft paper suited this organic theme brilliantly.

Friday, 24 April 2009

This is for an article for Prevention Magazine on receiving computer mailed reminders for annual health screenings. A simple, bright and light hearted illustration was needed by the client. This is the initial piece I have just sent to them. If there are any changes, I shall post those as well, so you can get an idea of some of the amends required by a professional illustrator.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Vintage illustrations

The Encyclopaedia of Illustration compiled by Gerard Quinn has over 5000 illustrations, mainly from the 19th century. It is now out of print, but can be found on second hand book websites. I love it (especially the dog smoking on the cover) and have used it and other Victorian engraving books in my illustrations.
The Dover book shop in London is a brilliant resource for finding these drawings.
For this illustration, the client wanted that vintage look, so it was perfect a perfect job for me, and with the addition of the old distressed paper, the illustration was quickly and easily completed.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dreams of an English Summer

I've not done any photographs for ages, I thought it was about time. As the summer approaches (thank god!) I created a collage of some pics I took last year in Brighton. I wanted to make the colours over saturated, echoing the picture postcards from the 70's, when the mass printing process always exaggerated the colours, especially the cyan blue skies.
I love the seaside, and all the paraphernalia in the beach shops, the day-glo buckets, spades and little flags. On this piece I've included the quintissential english deckchairs, the fish and chip shop, the pier and the english rose.
Alan Bennett our greatest living writer said that the Union flag always had the best colours in comparison with other countries. I have to agree with him. If you take the obvious connotations out of it, it is aesthetically beautiful.
Also of influence, is the brilliant Magnum photographer Martin Parr, and his book 'Think of England"
I love the over saturated colours and the use of the flag, gaudy exaggerrated pattern and flowers. It is comic, opinionated, and savagely satirical.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Keep it simple stupid

An article for Prevention magazine, on the health benefits of part time meat eating, and 'flipping' wheatena cereal into your breakfast for the benefit of your heart. I was especially pleased with the way the colours really sing on the buff background colour. That simple colour contrast can really lift an illustration. I learnt to mix colours properly in cmyk mode several years ago when I first started working for UK greetings. Before then, colour for me was an afterthought. When designing a card range, I often start off with the colour pallette. This book, The Colour Index is an invaluable source for colour combinations. I tend to mix onscreen in photoshop as well.

Monday, 9 March 2009

I was again inspired by vintage Penguin book covers for this article about Plectrums. I started off with lots of Plectrums, but it didn't work, and was over fussy. It takes experience to say to yourself - this isn't working - start again.
I was really pleased with this simple design - and added the dog eared book cover bends to make it look authentic.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


This illustrates me perfectly recently (without the hair and glasses) - I've been juggling a few different jobs - both in North America though - so there's been the time difference - which can work to the illustrators advantage regarding deadlines, but it can mean that you're waiting all day for a response for roughs that you've emailed. This illustration is one of a series for the Indianapolis monthly magazine on "How to get rid of stuff" - this particular one deals with: "I am going to read/fix/organize all of that when I have some free time.” All good intentions, of course. But, let’s face it, that ever-rising stack of New Yorkers on your night stand is probably more of a stress trigger"
This is a subject close to my heart - I just love to throw stuff out/give to charity - and my work space has to be fairly tide for me to start work - sad I know!
Clearly inspired by Edvard Munch's 'The Scream', I was really pleased with the simplicity of the composition, the balance of colours that really sing - and the addition of the New York Times text - on top.
As usual with the best of my stuff - it came to me quickly and fluidly - after an hour or so - it was almost done.
A few suggestions from the client (add hair and make less baby like) and it was complete.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Turn on, tune in.....

...Play out!
The article was about encouraging people to get out of their bedrooms and playing their guitars in public. I managed to find a fantastic photo from Image bank Corbis.
The style that was needed was 50's advertising. At first the client wanted me to reproduce a similar illustration to 'Lets Rock' ( I was happy to do that, but felt like I didn't want to repeat myself - and I could just visualise the illustration more or less as is. This is always a good sign - the most successful illustrations come with a clear idea of what you want at the very beginning. If you don't then messing around for hours with no clear idea is a real bind - and often results in a less strong images (though sometimes happy accidents happen.) Also my best illustrations are executed very quickly because of this.
There is so much inspiration on the Internet, no illustrator has any excuse to be uninspired (though it happens to us all.)
Here's some vintage cigarette ads that were an influence on this project: