Category Archives: Illustration

Through The Haze Unnoticed

I’m now blogging on tumblr, where you can see stuff like this:

head over to Through The Haze Unnoticed

Remember Remember

Here’s a new poster I’ve just designed for another Fat Out show in June. Remember Remember is Graeme Ronald from Glasgow, signed to the city’s respected Rock Action label. They have this to say about him:

Remember Remember has been playing elaborately staged shows in and around the city for the past few years and has been producing some of the most epic-sounding and ambitious music we’ve heard in a long time.

If you’re a fan of the likes of Mice Parade, Animal Collective or Bjork along with artists such as Philip Glass, Brian Eno and Yann Tiersen then you really should take the time to check out his work.

Expect to hear new music from him in 2010 following on from his critically acclaimed self-titled debut album. He is one of the most talented and imaginitive artists we’ve had the pleasure to work with and are really excited at the prospect of getting new material off him.

It’s looking like a good show already, but more bands are to be confirmed soon.

It actually looks pretty sweet just with block colours as well:

Birdbook Illustrations Part 2

here’s the second lino cut for the Bird Book project. It’s a sparrowhawk.

notice the nifty x-shaped lino to reduce marks off the sides of the print

the final scan:

this is available to buy on my website.

Currently listening to: Tim Hecker – An Imaginary Country

Bird book illustrations part 1

here’s some illustrations I’ve been working on for a poetry anthology called (for now) The Bird Book. It will be published by Sidekick Books, a young imprint from the folks that bring you Fuselit, which is a london based literary arts magazine that you should definitely check out. Sidekick books specialise in collaborative projects, bringing together the work of lots of different poets and illustrators and presenting them in rather excellent themed anthologies. It will be interesting to see the final copy because I’ve done these illustrations without having seen the poems that will eventually accompany them, so they may well be complimentary, but it’s equally likely that they’ll rub against each other in some way. I don’t see this as a bad thing though; I like the idea of producing an image with relatively open meaning and then giving it up, handing it away to see where others will take it.

I’m making three images, the first two of which are lino cuts, whilst the third will be an etching. The images will be in black and white in the actual book, so I’ve done the prints in grey tones to ensure that they will end up how I intend them to be, also, it’s a lot easier to print without colour considerations, and they look pretty sweet in the end to boot. All these prints will be available to buy on my website.

Here’s the first one, its a Kite.

With this print I wanted to experiment with different inking methods, as you will see below. Many people think lino cuts are quite limited and simplistic, but this is not the case at all, there are so many different textures and effects you can achieve by manipulating different stages of the process. You can see some different effects here, by the bird’s head. The first has had ink rubbed away with tissue, the second with scrunched up paper, and the third has had ink scratched off with a knife. This is done to the lino itself after inking and before printing.

Moving on…

Here’s a scan of one of the final prints:

Currently listening to: Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker Fantasma-Parastasie

Upcoming Fat Out Show Flyers/Posters

I’ve recently been designing some flyers for my good friends Emma and Vez, otherwise known as promoters Fat Out Til You Pass Out, and there’s some sweet gigs coming up. I’m going to make some prints of these designs, probably using a mixture of lino cut and screenprinting, which will be available to own in exchange for cash if you manage to get to the gigs.

The designs are obviously suppossed to compliment the sort of music being played and the image relates in some way to the headline acts. Emma said she didn’t want any crazy psychedelic designs where the text is incorporated into the image, and I know she definitely doesn’t want anything that’s really kooky or deliberately odd.

One of the bigger shows coming up is the Master Musicians of Bukkake, who are an insane collection of musicians based in Seattle. The band includes members of some truly legendary bands, most notably Earth and Sun City Girls. They whip up shamanic droning mantras that seek to genuinely synthesise influences from west and east, combining dustbowl folk instrumentation, noise/drone elements, ritualistic percussion and obscure chants.

Although some see this sort of music as westerners dabbling in a bit of eastern exotica, I think when done well it can be seen within a more interesting tradition of experimentation. They seem very influenced by Gamelan, a form of music that originated in Indonesia and has proved inspirational to many of the 20th century’s most significant musical minds, including Cage, Bartók, Reich, Boulez…..King Crimson and so on. I’m really excited for this show; the music’s gonna be amazing and it’s Fat Out’s first gig at Islington Mill, which is always a great place to see bands, and shall hopefully be host to a good crowd on the night.

Here’s the flyer:

The illustration was done as a pencil drawing which I scanned in and finished up on the trusty GIMP.  The image depicts some kind of transcendental experience, where one’s ascension to freedom is not necessarily seen as contradictory to one’s rootedness in physical existence, symbolised by the snakes (which crawl on the earth) and the plant (which grows from within it). Obviously the image is about the false distinction between man and nature:  if you see them as separate, the image will probably have negative connotations, but if you see them all as one entity, such worries tend to disappear.

The next show was initially going to have The Death of Her Money headlining, so I prepared this idea, which relates to the band’s name:

This is about the decline of empire in the post WWII period, specifically relating to when hundreds of Royal Navy ships were scuttled or sold to other countries due to economic hardship and our navy for the first time since the 18th century gave up it’s position of global dominance. The moon is waning, again emphasising ‘the death of her money’.

The gig now has a new headliner in the shape of Ala Muerte, and thus, a new image (click on it for fullsize):

Muerte means death, and the phrase ala muerte kinda makes me think of ‘a la carte’, so this is literally just a meeting between death and food. This is a deer skull that lives in our garden,  which I set up a while ago with some fruit to do a time-lapse series of photographs.

I think animal skulls are always interesting to look at, and I think its funny that when you strip the head down to its bare functionality it always seems hideous or scary, as if the things that people find appealing or cute or attractive about animals and each other is merely surface; skin, eyes, hair, fur, clothes. Everyone likes to think that metaphorically it’s what inside that counts etc etc, and yet the giblets and meat and bones that fill us are usually a source of disgust rather than celebration. It’s also interesting to ask carnivores whether they would eat human meat, and in their reactions you can see flash past every superstitious justification to not do so, based solely on a distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’. When you put an animal skull on a platter is ceases to represent pain or death, but rather food, feasting and enjoyment…. you just wonder how many people would enjoy the feast with human skulls scattered around. When Peter Greenaway’s 1989 classic The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover was released, there was outrage at the film’s ending and it was subsequently released with an X rating or not released at all. As you may know the film ends with The Thief being forced to tuck into the cooked corpse of the Lover, which is rolled out ceremonially like a hog roast. This is  a perfectly choreographed and powerful scene which serves huge allegorical purpose within the film, and actually, I don’t even find it distasteful at all and don’t see why it should be so shocking to people. It seems to me that those who refuse to engage with imagery or content about supposedly shocking or distasteful topics like death or sex are really just refusing to engage with life.

Anyway, I’ll be turning these into prints which will hopefully find their way up here soon.

Currently listing to: Master Musicians of Bukkake – The Visible Sign of the Invisible Order (DOWNLOAD)

Prints Charming

It’s taken me a while to update this, but there’s been a few gigs and christmas and new years happening. We played I AM YOUR WEEKEND in Liverpool which is rather like atp in one freezing building, and it was good, most good… David provided some intense sax improv during our set which was insanely good. Some great bands played, and Action Beat were amazing of course.

Anyway, here’s the printing process. The first thing I did was to paint some background colours to print over. I wanted to paint mine rather than print them because I quite like having a painterly element in the finished prints.

I used the tracing paper transparency to make a stencil out of cardboard, and taped up the edges to make it withstand more painting action.

I then took my stack of paper, and placed the cardboard template in the centre. Then you can push the point of some scissors or a pen into the paper and indent onto the sheets below; this just means all your prints will be in the same place on the paper.

You can now paint each sheet with the stencil, by stippling paint through with a thick brush:

Once the first colours were dry I took them down and painted a blue background on each.

Now you can prepare the screen for printing, so attach it to the base board hinges. Now make a flap of transparency which will lift up with enough room to let your paper underneath:

This will be printed on so we can see where the paper must sit.

Prepare some ink (I am using acrylic paint mixed with some printing medium, which lengthens the drying time so it doesn’t dry up in the screen) and run it along the edge of the inside of your screen:

Now lift the screen and pull the ink across the screen using the squeegee – this is called flooding the screen.

Now, making sure that there are some pushpins at the corners of your screen to make sure the screen sits a little above the paper, lower it and pull the squeegee across the screen to print onto the tracing paper underneath:

Now we can put the paper under the tracing paper and line up the image with the background:

Once it’s aligned, tape some bits of card to the base board at the corners of the paper, so that you can quickly place a new sheet in exactly the right place each time. Now remove the tracing paper thing, and prints away! Make sure to re-flood the screen between prints, to ensure it doesn’t dry out. You’ll probably be able to do between 10 and 20 sheets before the ink starts to dry up in the screen and needs to be washed, depending on how quickly you can work and how good your ink is.

Here’s some of the finished Quadraturin prints:

I was pretty pleased, the stenciled backgrounds worked well, and mean that each print is quite different. It’s definitely better to colour the backgrounds first and print over the top, because if you try and colour over the top it takes away some of the crispness of the printed linework.

These are now on sale on my website here, along with a couple that are without the blue background colour:

Which I think look pretty cool as well.

Currently Listening to: Flying Lotus – 1983, Los Angeles

Quadraturin

Thought I better give a bit of background to the image that I’ve been printing during this tutorial thing, also I wanna big up a very dead Polish-Ukrainian-Russian dude.

A while ago I found an extract of some work by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky online, and decided to look into him. As well as having an amazing, near-unspellable name (try pronouncing in it’s Russian form – Сигизму́нд Домини́кович Кржижано́вский  !!) he was virtually unknown during his lifetime, but has since had a series of short stories unearthed and translated into English, which has raised his profile somewhat. Only a couple of his pieces were published while he was alive, and most of his manuscripts were squirreled away in the back of his partner’s wardrobe for many years. To quote from a review in FT:

“We are very lucky that Krzhizhanovsky’s work has survived. In 1976 a young scholar called Perelmuter uncovered his writing in the Central State Archive and, in 1989, published a selection – the first. The complete works – around 3,000 pages – are now being published in Russian and French. It is now clear that Krzhizhanovsky is one of the greatest Russian writers of the last century.”

During his life, his work was largely dismissed as “untimely”, and yet, as if often the case with great minds, his work seems to resonate with many contemporary themes, from climate change (‘Yellow Coal’), to agraphobic alienation in compartmentalised urban environments (‘Quadraturin’) and pointless celebrity worship (‘The Unbitten Elbow’).

I bought 7 Stories, the only part of his works currently available in English, and I highly recommend it, it’s available on Amazon here.

His stories have rightly been compared to Borges and Kafka, with whom he shares many qualities. His language is both poetic and direct, taking the reader on surreal trips that remain rooted in the very real confines of post-Revolution Moscow. His pieces are philosophical; metaphorical thought experiments that skilfully combine humour and sincerity to engage the reader whilst the internal logic of each piece brings about conclusions that are both satisfying and mystifying. Krzhizhanovsky said that he was not interested in the arithmatic of life, but rather the algebra, and thus characterisation is subordinate to logic, yet, despite this, his writing reveals surprisingly poignant details of everyday life during this fascinating period. There is also a great warmth to the stories that emerges not from normal human interactions, but from minor yet symbolically significant details (a room, a hand, a bookmark, a notebook, the reflection in another’s eye) which become fondly anthropomorphised and animated in order to articulate Krzhizhanovsky’s ethics in subtle ways. When reading his work, one feels the frustration and impulse to escape that he must have felt – cooped up in his small room and rejected by publishers – saturating each story, but none more so than my favourite two pieces, ‘Quadraturin’ and ‘The Bookmark’.

‘The Bookmark’ is a relatively short piece, yet is stunningly creative and full of fascinating ideas. It describes the ‘theme-catcher’, a man so observant and imaginative that he can spin a meaningful tale out of virtually any minor detail in everyday life. Each of the theme-catcher’s brief whimsies could easily be turned into a fully fleshed-out story, and yet publishers are distinctly uninterested. This of course describes Krzhizhanovsky’s own frustration; a man with so much creativity to offer, unsuited to the times he lived in, the driven, focused, even close-minded Soviet epoch. Although the theme of unappreciated writer is hardly uncommon, Krzhizhanovsky gets away with it because his imagination leaps and flies off the page in a truly uncommon manner.

I started by reading his short story called ‘Quadraturin’. You can read this online here.

This intriguing piece features a protagonist named Sutulin, who, like Krzhizhanovsky himself, lives in a tiny room, really no more than a closet. The story takes for its starting point a real life absurdity: Soviet regulations at the time (1920’s) prescribed each citizen with no more than 9 metres squared of living space, a regulation that was checked periodically by the Re-Measuring Commission, who would visit door-to-door to ensure no-one had somehow gained extra space. In the story, Sutulin is visited by a salesman who persuades him to buy a tube of ‘Quadraturin’, a new product that is “an agent for biggerizing rooms”. Once spread all over the walls and floor, his box room slowly begins to swell and expand, becoming grotesquely malformed and out of proportion. His furniture now seems lost in an expanse of floorboards, dirty corners that were once hidden become hideous dusty spaces, the wires and cables in the walls cannot cover the new dimensions and snap like overstretched ligaments, leaving Sutulin in a vast and terrifying darkness.

Maybe I just don’t get out enough, but this will for more space struck a chord with me. I’ve often had dreams about finding secret rooms and passages in the various places I’ve lived, and I seem to remember reading that these are really common dreams for people who live in high density areas like Manhattan or Tokyo, for obvious reasons. However, when I think about it, I wouldn’t actually like to live in a massive house because the empty stretching space and darkness are two things that would particularly frighten me.

Anyway, while I was reading ‘Quadraturin’ I drew an illustration for the first part of the story, when Sutulin hears a knock at the door, and since his room is so small, simply stretches a foot across an opens the door with a toe. Here’s a photo of the original drawing:

'Quadraturin' - Pen

I intend to do some more illustrations for this story, and maybe some more of Krzhizhanovsky’s pieces, so if you found that interesting, watch this space.

Currently listening to: Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna