Saturday 21 December 2013

yule frog eats mince flies holiday pun shocker...

Nothing says festive celebration more than weak word play for comic effect ;-) Well that and poor handwriting on a card (it's been years since I wrote this much in longhand). Pull a christmas "croaker" just hopped to mind too (lucky I didn't use that then). Puns and poor penmanship aside, "Hoppy holidays to all and to all a cracking new year!" See you in 2014 folks.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Napoleon in America book cover and frontispiece artwork

Well it's been a while in gestation (and I've hinted at it in an earlier sketch) but I'm very pleased to be able to finally post the work for a commission I got recently to provide both the cover illustration and design for author Shannon Selin's epic historical novel "Napoleon in America".

Now I will admit that I didn't know a whole heap about Napoleon save for the odd factoids regarding hands in waistcoats, distinctive headwear, "not tonight..." comments and death by wall paper (look this last up, very intriguing). That being the case it's been an interesting journey reading Shannon's fascinating book and researching a little myself into the short guy (not at all the case... look up British propaganda and Cruikshank's cartoons...) with an abundance of character. I also learnt a fair amount on nautical accoutrement (ratlines, belay pins, bulwarks and such...) along the way.

Shannon and the folks at Dry Wall Publishing left the cover brief wide open, but gave some very handy pointers on geography and the world of 1820's America for me to get a hook on things. From there I pitched in with several possible approaches and, pleasantly they all liked a runner up cover concept enough to use it as a black and white frontispiece image alongside Napoleon surveying his new dominions atop a texas cliff on the cover.

There was even to some 'frankenstein forgery' to be done on Napoleon's signature for the title treatment. For this I created a cut and paste of the great man's (it has to be said, untidy) signature from several of his actual chicken scrawls. I then used this as my reference to rewrite it in ink for the cover. Ah, if only I could find Napoleon's cheque book.... he must have been good for a franc or two ;-)

Thanks to Shannon and Dry Wall for the inspiring brief and being a delight to work with. All I can say is if you already know something of Napoleon and would like to add to this with the alternative history of his exploits beyond St Helena (and all this based on an actual escape plan that was never set in motion... look that up too) or, you know little about him but love a good historical yarn (and you might just learn stuff along the way as I did...) look out for Napoleon in America, available in hardback, paperback and ebook early in 2014. Shannon has a pdf extract of the book on her own website if you would like your appetite whetted.

Incidentally I typed all this with one hand tucked in my coat ;-) The stereotypes still persist.

chupacabra ... "the goat sucker"

December's creature for a little bit bunny blog is the chupacabra, and I wanted to get my submission in asap before the silly season blows up proper. To be honest this weird, fantastical cryptid creature didn't really inspire me (interestingly, it seems to have now been identified as being coyotes with mange... not a ideal illustration subject though) but, in translation of it's Spanish name into "goat sucker", a scenario did come to mind. As a happy accident I was able to continue a theme started with last december's ALBB creature goat and a follow on post from that with Joseph and his technicolour milk float! OK, so I'm a little off model in my new goat but it's nice to continue the story. Incidentally I still have a third Joseph illustration I want to tackle... it's only been a year since I thought of it!

I hope you all have a merry multicoloured slurrrrrp or two this christmas folks :-) Cheers!

 As usual, just sketches and a cropped detail of the illustration here. Pop onto ALBB for the full image.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Alice consults the (Cheshire) cat nav on which way she should go...

"Silly me", thought Matthew to himself. "I completely forgot to blog (part of) my picture of the Cheshire cat and tell the 'curiouser and curiouser' people to look for the rest on a little bit bunny blog. Honestly dear blog, the more time I spend illustrating the stranger it all gets. And now, I wonder, if a raven is like a writing desk what manner of creature is like a drawing board...? Perhaps a beaver... and sometimes a sloth?

Monday 2 December 2013

"Jet ! I thought the major was...." (ahem, not that jet)

Boy, my neglected blogger dashboard coughed and spluttered and belched out gritty smoke as I logged in. High time to squirt some fresh oil into the engines, remove the chocks, pull back from the terminal and push the throttles to full power (why the clumsy jet metaphors...?!). Well I've been busy with various things, a lot of which are ongoing and will see the light of day ASAP but, for now, here is a post on some work from a few months back which I can finally, at long last, show.

To begin with I was commissioned by the extraordinarily talented dutch photographer Arthur Mebius to provide a graphic for his latest personally directed photography project "Jet Six Settings." Given my penchant for all things aircrafty this was a project right up my street. Arthur had seen a concorde illustration I'd done for fun way back when and felt it would be a good fit stylistically for his own series of 1960 'the gloss and reality of airline advertising' (my words not his you understand...) photographic scenes. If you look on the image below showing an internal spread from the book you might just see one application of my simplified concorde graphic on the wall of the crew rest area in Arthur's stunning photo. And it goes without saying ©Arthur Mebius for all the internal photos in the book.

From the logotype for the airline we moved onto advertising that airline with a poster cover for the Jet photos book. Arthur wanted that glorious late 50's through the 1960's heyday of jet travel feel to the graphics so, "I riffed on that theme man", and here is the end result.

internal & invite photos Copyright © Arthur Mebius

On a quick aside I've recently been getting my latest Mad Men fix, mainlining all the latest visually and narratively stunning episodes from season 6. I could almost fool myself into thinking I'd got to work on the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce "Jet account" (Stan Rizzo I ain't though ;-) And while I'm on the subject has anyone else noticed that Peggy has bought some more David Weidman prints to go with last seasons decorations ... she has very good taste! I'm very pleased to see such a great illustrator and print maker get exposure like this... even if you do have to have eagle eyes to see it. (can you tell I like both Mad Men and David Weidman... :-)

Mad Men photo Copyright © 2013 AMC Network Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.

Back to Jet. Not to let a graphic go to waste, along side the book the artwork was also applied to an 'airline baggage tag' invitation to the opening exhibition which, very sadly, I was unable to attend. If you are in the Amsterdam area anytime up till December 11th I'd recommend you check out Jet at the Gup Gallery. If you do make there it I'd love to hear what you thought.

This really has been a cracking project to work on and Arthur has been wonderful, highly creative and colaborative client. Thanks to him and I strongly suggest you check out his website and marvel at his work.