Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

May 5, 2015

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The wait is almost over……I did some concept work and little props for the forthcoming adaptation of Susannah Clarke’s novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I was very lucky to be invited to a preview of the first two episodes a few weeks back at the BFI. I’ve got to say, they’ve done an incredible job, it really looks REALLY beautiful. I gather it was extremely intense work for everyone involved (the number of locations and sets alone is astonishing for a seven part drama), but all the hard work has certainly paid off. I was involved at the very early stages, providing the director Toby Haynes with some concept scribbles, which I might be able to post once the series has been aired. It was great fun, I wish I could have done more but I was juggling it with other commissions. The casting is wonderful, I’m a big fan of  Marc Warren (we love The Good Wife!) and Bertie Carvel is perfect as Strange. Stephen Black is played by Ariyon Bakare, and Eddie Marsan does a great job as the prickly, vain Mr Norrell. Marsan is a prolific actor, and no stranger to BBC drama, his portrayal of Pancks in Little Dorrit is an all time favourite of mine. Anyway, I’m rambling on, watch the commercial! Well done to the Director Toby Haynes and all at Feel Films, a difficult job, brilliantly executed.

 

London Exhibitions

May 5, 2015

  500_Final_Sargent_Pozzi_1 I still nip into London for meetings on occasion, and it’s a good excuse to catch up with exhibitions. The John Singer Sargent exhibition on at the National Portrait Gallery is possibly one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen in London. A wonderful selection of oil portraits, some not often displayed, and a few watercolours too (he was a truly great watercolour artist). Do go and see it if you can, the man was a genius. I was pretty shellshocked after I left.

On the subject of watercolours; the Eric Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery is on my list of things I must visit. I’m very fond of Ravilious, his composition, mark-making and colour come together to create strange, ethereal, and often beautiful landscapes. There’s something introspective about his work; you get the feeling that when he paints a landscape he’s actually creating a self portrait. I was a tad miffed at Radio 4’s lukewarm review of this show, the critics just didn’t seem to understand what makes his paintings so moving.

The illustrator Alexis Deacon recommended this next exhibition, which closes soon. Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album, brings together surviving drawings from this particular album of sketches. It’s on at the Courtauld until the 25th May.

Finally, this upcoming exhibition could be great: If, like Louise and I, you are fascinated by all things relating to crime and the underworld, then The Crime Museum Uncovered, which opens at the Museum of London later in the year might be right up your street. It will show a selection of goodies from the Metropolitan Police’s collections, including items relating to the Acid Bath Murderer and The Krays. Hopefully it will be something along the lines of the Museo Criminologico in Rome, which we have visited a couple of times now.

Garth Jennings and his new book, ‘The Deadly 7’.

January 15, 2015

Garth Jennings, Director of  Son of Rambow (a wonderful film, and beautifully shot) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (with Martin Freeman and Sam Rockwell), has just released his first book for children ‘The Deadly 7’.

 

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The story rattles on at a wonderful pace, and is great fun (interspersed with little drawings by the author), some scenes would be great to illustrate, the monsters obviously, but also Uncle Pogo’s house – I could imagine this book as a stop-motion animated film. I can’t tell you too much about it yet, because I haven’t finished reading it! The story is about – well I’ll let the author tell you:

Interview with Garth Jennings

 

 

The Great War

January 9, 2015

Aircraft

Aircraft

Last year I illustrated a collection of short stories inspired by objects from the First World War. The book The Great War, is published by Walker Books, and contains new work by a collection of superb authors, including Michael Morpurgo, Tracy Chevalier, David Almond and A.L. Kennedy.

The illustrations, all black and white, were executed in ink and charcoal, with some digital manipulation at the final stages. It’s a nice way to work because, being spontaneous, it produces unexpected results, and hopefully stays faithful to the feel of the book. Walker did a wonderful job with the art design and typography too, which is all in keeping with the Vorticist movement of the early twentieth century. I didn’t have much time on the book, but it’s one of those subjects that you could work on for years. A truly fascinating period in history, and one now inextricably linked with the art and poetry of its time.

 

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Knit Wit

July 1, 2014

Who knew the world of knitting patterns could be so entertaining?! My partner, Louise, has been adding knitting patterns to her Etsy shop, and some of them have THE most fantastic covers. Take a look at this one, for example:

 

Knitting pattern

1960s Knitting Pattern

 

I never knew knitting could be so surreal! There are lots more in Lou’s Etsy shop LouLouMadeForYou, as well as many other lovely things to see and buy…

A New Book from Alexis Deacon

June 29, 2014

The brilliant Alexis Deacon has just illustrated another of Russell Hoban’s books for Walker Books. It’s called Jim’s Lion and is about a young boy who dreams of adventures whilst confined to a hospital bed. The illustrations are absolutely fantastic, and are currently on show at the Illustration Cupboard in London – take a look if you’re in town. You’ll have to be quick, though – the exhibition ends on 2 July! (Sorry – I meant to post this up a bit sooner!).

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Patrick Ness announces upcoming film of “A Monster Calls”

March 10, 2014

Great news for fans of “A Monster Calls” – it’s going to be made into a film, with the screenplay written by Patrick Ness himself. Even more brilliantly, it’s going to be directed by the super-talented Juan Antonio Bayona, who directed “The Orphanage” and “The Impossible”. The film should be out in 2016 – I can’t wait!

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A Date For Your Diary

February 26, 2014

The brilliant Ian Miller will be signing copies of his book The Art of Ian Miller at the Titan Store in Shaftesbury Avenue, London from 1-2pm on 22 March. I’ll definitely be popping along…

Planning Diagon Alley

February 26, 2014

I’m currently working on illustrations for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and am having a fantastic time planning and drawing Diagon Alley. I love old shopfronts and signs, and I’ve been using Philip Davies’s books Lost London 1870-1945 and Panoramas of Lost London as inspiration. They give a fascinating insight into the way London looked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – lots of the buildings have now been lost, unfortunately, but we’re so lucky to have a photographic record of them. John Tallis’s London Street Views 1838-40 is also great for shop names and types – it’s like a Victorian Google Street View!

An image from Tallis's London Street Views

An image from Tallis’s London Street Views

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Building the ‘Darwing Reliquary’

June 24, 2013

So, here are a few images of the 3-D installation piece I made for the exhibition ‘Memory Palace’ which has just opened at the V&A, based on Hari Kunzru’s new work of fiction. It’s also a chance for me to thank Marco Nisbet who did such a top job on building the beautiful wooden cabinet upon which I stuck all sorts of bits and pieces. I must also thank Louise Clark, for her endless patience over the last few months, sticking and sewing together all sorts of bits and pieces, including the crows shown below. So here are the initial designs I made for the installation piece, followed by Marco’s cabinet:

 

Concept drawing

Concept drawing

Marco's Cabinet

Marco’s Cabinet

The doors I painted first, this left hand door, seen here almost finished, is a modern take on van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, this is watercolour with gold leaf. I later aged it with sandpaper, cracking varnish and a toothbrush…a decision I’m still not sure was the right one…

Left door, in progress

Left door, in progress

I built the prisoner’s cell into the upper half of the reliquary cabinet, which is almost entirely hidden from view now, just the chair and barred window is visible through the spyhole at the top. Here is the cell before I closed it off…

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Prisoner’s cell

I had great fun making the little diorama through the window; the cloud is a lump of cotton wool, the crows are carved out of tiny pieces of balsawood.

Carving the medallion

Carving the medallion

 

I used balsawood to carve other details on the cabinet, such as the medallion for ‘Milord Darwing’s’ portrait miniature. Here’s the finished medallion, it’s only small:

Detail from the 'Darwing Reliquary'

Detail from the ‘Darwing Reliquary’

I spent a lot of time adding little decorative pieces to the cabinet, and a lot of gold leaf…over £300 of gold in fact. It’s amazing stuff to use, but it depends heavily on the way it’s illuminated. (Gold looks incredible in candlelight), the little marble pieces are…well…little marbles.

Details of cabinet

Details of cabinet

I enjoyed making these little pieces, such as HMS Beagle and this tiny bird carved from balsa (only 12mm high)

HMS Beagle

HMS Beagle

Tiny Bird

Tiny Bird

Here are some of the crows that are perched high up in the museum, quite crude but Louise and I had great fun making them.

Crows, freshly stuffed

Crows, freshly stuffed

So there you have it, the finished piece, some 6 months of work, and just a part of the installation which also included a number of wall mounted illustrations. A LOT of work, some serious stress, but I’m glad we did it. It’s the first 3-D piece I’ve attempted as a commission, I’d like to try another, perhaps smaller, cabinet in the future. Thanks to the V&A staff who installed it too, they were brilliant!

The 'Darwing' reliquary completed.

The ‘Darwing’ reliquary completed.