Friday, 13 March 2015

Collage: Graphic Play

Collage is a great medium to explore fresh and unexpected compositions and themes.

#collage #collageart #papercollage #creativeplay #wip

A photo posted by Tim Bones (@mrtimbones) on

#collage #creativity #collageart #creativeplay #papercollage #fox #glasses

A photo posted by Tim Bones (@mrtimbones) on

#collage #collageart #wip #workinprogress #creativity #creativeplay #papercollage

A photo posted by Tim Bones (@mrtimbones) on

#digitalcollage #collage #collageart #surreal #creativeplay #art #nonsense

A photo posted by Tim Bones (@mrtimbones) on

#collage #montage #surreal #art #collageart #design #graphicart #graphics #creativeplay #digitalcollage   A photo posted by Tim Bones (@mrtimbones) on

#collage #collageart #creativeplay #art #surreal #nonsense

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

How to Get into Graphic Art (A Q&A Session)

L-R: Ed Hammond of Panini, Matt Stokes of Gingermonkies, and yours truly.
Dark jackets weren’t compulsory! L-R: Ed Hammond of Panini, Matt Stokes of Ginger Monkeys, and yours truly.

This week I was kindly invited to participate as a panel member in a Q&A session about ‘Getting into Graphic Art’ held at Tunbridge Wells Museum. Lead by Jeremy Kimmel, the museum’s Audience Development Manager, the panel consisted of Panini’s Comic Editor, Ed Hammond; designer and illustrator Matt Stokes of design agency Gingermonkeys, and finally, me, representing the educational perspective.

The discussion was held in the gallery space which is currently displaying an impressive retrospective of Dave McKean whose oeuvre includes film making, music and of course, graphic art.

The talk maintained a lively pace throughout and covered many topics such as copyright, the growth of graphic novels, approaches to comic design, whether or not comics are an art form, and how the graphic novels differ from media such as books or film. I found the latter theme really interesting, with Matt mentioning that graphic novels are perhaps something of a “sweet spot” between the written word and film. I would agree. Though parts of the story are presented to you, the power of imagination is still required to form voices in your mind, and as as Ed added, it is your imagination that decides what’s happening between panels.

Ed gave an interesting insight into the development of the production of comics, and talked the audience through the processes such as the Marvel Method.

There was a lengthy discussion that centered around copyright and how budding artists can confidently self promote whilst simultaneously protecting their work and ideas. In response Matt and I discussed organisations such as the Association of Illustrators who provide good information about this and other professional matters.

We concluded the talk discussing a rather big question, that of whether or not comics and or graphic novels (perhaps we need to differentiate?) are art. Does the framing of McKean’s work—much of which was made for graphic novels—have a different or greater cultural value when viewed in a different context, being framed and hung as works of art in an exhibition space? Either sits comfortably with me and I would perhaps argue that it really doesn’t matter.

However, sadly it was said that there were those within Tunbridge Wells who objected to an exhibition of Graphic Art.  I mentioned that graphic art was often looked down upon by some who see it as a poor cousin of ‘fine’ art. Both have their price; there’s a commercial value to both, but interestingly there’s a cultural value and common perception attached to both too. I mentioned that it was the one art form that as a design student in the late 80s we were very much discouraged from pursuing. This was not always because it was seen as non profitable, but because of a snobbery. When I mentioned this, a young member of the audience said that this was still something he was encountering. I found that slightly disheartening. The panel we’re obviously more encouraging. I mentioned that in terms of of graphic art being taken seriously, we’re seeing graphic novels win prestigious book awards, and organisations such the BBC and The Guardian use this graphic/comics journalism as a legitimate means of reportage. This is something that I discussed in a recent post.

It was a great evening and I was very pleased to meet some nice people, including Chris Burke, an illustrator whose worked I’ve liked since I was a student.

Hopefully the people of Tunbridge Wells will see the exhibition, and similar ones, as something that will attract a wider audience to their public spaces and in turn raise the cultural profile of the town. I for one would like to say well done Tunbridge Wells Museum— a job well done.

I very much look forward to sitting in on the next talk which looks at Women in Comics.


(Many thanks to Sarah Bond and Jeremy Kimmel)

Friday, 31 January 2014

Comics (Graphic) Journalism & Visual Reportage

The Graphic 3
The war at the Cape-Fingoes viewing the dead body of Sandilli the insurgent Gaika Chief. From ‘The Graphic’, 1878


raphic Journalism, or what is sometimes referred to as Comics Journalism is no new thing. One might, for example, consider that Trajan’s column or the Bayeux Tapestry are elaborate, one sided renderings of actual events. And, prior to photography, journals and newspapers were simply illustrated. The Graphic—An Illustrated London Newspaper is one such example. Many of the engravings within these papers were incredibly detailed works depicting the glories of Empire, etc.  During World War II the cartoonist Ronald Searle, creator of the St. Trinian’s School books, was a serving soldier when he was captured and interned as a POW in Japan. Searle—an uncommissioned war artist—documented his war years making many drawings detailing what he had witnessed. At the time he risked his life by secretly drawing the harsh realities of internment, torture, disease and starvation.

These are all forms of reportage but as means of reporting the news for large news organisations—and it might be this commissioning by such media outlets that possibly distinguishes it as being journalistic as opposed to general illustrative narrative. Visual journalism is still a relatively unusual way of reporting events. However, this format appears to be increasingly employed within mainstream UK journalism with some using it to cover a variety of topics. (See: The Guardian: America: Elect! The action-packed journey to US election day in graphic novel formand the BBC’s (Drawing the News)It is a very visually engaging method of drawing to people’s attention certain events whilst simultaneously ensuring anonymity when circumstances require the safety of the people being discussed.

Sergeant Shot at R.A. Barracks, Newtown, Wales, 1941. by Ronald Searle. © Ronald Searle 1941

It is perhaps up for debate as to whether the sometimes ‘comic’ rendering in anyway reduces the power of the message or events conveyed, given that we’re largely conditioned to viewing the comic medium as being a form of entertainment. Also, there is the issue of authenticity; a perennial concern of all reportage. Photography can and is sometimes physically manipulated or used in a way that presents a situation that is out of context as these examples demonstrate, and again, arguably comics journalism may be able to paint an entirely biased, even invented version of events. Either way, judging by the numerous positive twitter comments that followed one of The Guardian’s graphic novel styled news articles I suspect that we’ll be seeing much more of this medium in mainstream press, and I for one welcome it.

(Below) Dan Archer, a leading practitioner of comics journalism gives an interesting insight into his approaches to the medium.

Further Reading
Stein, Daniel; Denson, Shane; Meyer, Christina, 2013, Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives : Comics at the Crossroads

Also worth watching is this interview  with Joe Sacco, one of the most well known practitioners of comics journalism.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Friday, 1 November 2013

The AOI Illustration Awards 2013 at Somerset House

Kristen Stewart © Paul X Johnson from the cover of
Little White Lies magazine

Last week I took my HND and BA Graphic Design students to the ‘AOI Illustration Awards 2013′ held at Somerset House.  Overall, I found the work of this year’s exhibitors as equally impressive as last year’s. The awards are “the only independent jury selected illustration competition in the UK…that recognises exceptional work ” and which promotes “illustration as an essential contributor to global visual culture.” The exhibits certainly were exceptional and I believe these works addressed that latter aim too.

It was a genuinely refreshing exhibition with some unexpected approaches. For me, most noticeable was the absence of some of the clichéd styles of illustration that have hung around for some while now. This was a strong and mature show. By that, I’m not just referring to the high quality of the work in terms of technique and compositional skills but also its content. The work was genuinely engaging and that’s arguably been missing from certain genres of illustration for a while. Before anyone takes umbrage to the last comment, I should couch that by acknowledging that there’s room for all types of illustration, and that illustrators often have to do whatever they can to eke a living. I simply felt that it was refreshing to see illustration with substance dominate this exhibition.

Many of the pieces were placed into context to show the illustrations functioning as intended. It is so important for students of illustration to see illustrations working as pieces of visual communication, supporting a text rather than just pieces of image making. An image is not an illustration until it illustrates something. That might sound like I’m stating the obvious, but I am surprised at how often I find myself reminding students to consider that.

Most of my favourites came from the shortlisted pool; and of particular interest were the lively and well observed sketches and drawings of commuters by Steve Wilkin, captured with great character and then set within text as drawn without apparently being tweaked. Again, it was good for students to see that illustrative solutions often reside within the sketchbook. As a process to learning illustration, there can be a stultification of the work when taken from the freedom of the sketchbook and then overworked into what the student might view as a neatly polished final. One can ‘kill’ an illustration with too much tweaking. Knowing when to leave it alone is a skill in itself.

One of my favourite works had to be Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations for the Folio Society’s ‘The Box of Delights’ by John Masefield. I found these simply engaging and intriguing. They are illustrations to be pored over which is exactly what I did, returning to look at them several times.

Also intriguing were the beautifully drawn works of Jun Cen (see below). These graphite book illustrations possessed a slightly surreal, dreamlike quality. The images gave me the sense of having stumbled into a scene whereby one has to quickly determine what’s going on. The illustrations were sensitively drawn, yet the dark graphite gave them a density and contrast that creates a powerful presence. It would have been great to have seen these set within their intended book. (Perhaps I missed this if they were.)

Some of the work reminded me of the styles that were familiar to me from being a pre-digital student of illustration—22 years ago in my case—when many of us at my college would use just gouache or acrylics to produce painstakingly detailed works. I’m thinking particularly of Simon Bartram’s incredibly detailed acrylic works for the children’s title Bob, The Man of the Moon.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and already look forward to next year’s offerings. My students on the other hand, seemed to favour the appropriately titled ‘graphic art’ of ‘Pick me up’, the annual exhibition that also takes place at Somerset House. Perhaps because it’s more trendy, for want of a better word? However, I got the impression that they felt that the standard of work produced at the AOI Awards was a product of skills unobtainable to them, but they appeared not to consider the enormous journey that each illustrator has likely taken to attain such standards. With that in mind, I think perhaps the visit was in itself a good lesson in highlighting the importance of sustained practice, particularly as we live in such a culture of immediacy.

The category winners can be seen here, and those shortlisted here.

L’Abbracio © Giulia Ghigini
Jonathan Burton © 2012 from the Folio Society
edition of playing cards Odd Bodds
Nate_Kitch_Lost Mariner (Re- Oliver Sacks)
Lost Mariner © Nate Kitch
Entrance/Exit © Jun Cen
Anna and Elena Balbusso © 2012
from the Folio Society edition of Eugene



Sunday, 20 October 2013

Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted (Crawhall, Tuer & Field)

Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted

Some while ago I was fortunate to purchase an original copy of an intriguing book illustratrated by Joseph Crawhall II of Newcastle. The book is called ‘Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted: Enryched with all ye ancyente embellyshmentes’ and it was published by Field & Tuer of the Leadenhall Press in London in 1883. The book comprises of a series of folk ballads from chap books, and its styling sits somewhere between parody of, and a homage to, book design and illustration of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The book is printed on coarse, fibrous paper, making for a thick and weighty book, and the type is set in several different typefaces including a blackletter. It is the illustrations that are particularly curious and they set a certain quirky tone throughout. The images are woodcuts rather than fine line engravings and have a fairly crude, dense and yet striking presence on the printed page. Some of the solid, staring faces of Crawhall’s subjects can on occasion appear slightly eerie, as this advert for Pears’ Soap illustrates.

You can read more about the life and work of Joseph Crawhall II at the site of The Joseph Crawhall Society.


Andrew White Tuer. Proprietor of the Leadenhall Press.


Joseph Crawhall II
Joseph Crawhall II
Title page for Olde Tayles Newlye Relayed
Title page for Olde Tayles Newlye Relayed
The Leadenhall Press
Printing from The Leadenhall Press, London.


Love conquers all.
Love conquers all.


Olde Tayles Cover
A new cover was added whilst in the possession of Ealing Library.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tintin at the Château de Cheverny

The entrance to the Tintin exhibition at the Château de Cheverny
Window beside the entrance to the Tintin exhibition at the Château de Cheverny

As with many people, Tintin and his associates are some of those cartoon characters from my childhood that I recall finding intriguing. The appeal was largely Hergé’s bright and lively drawings as much as the unpredictable plots of adventure. I hadn’t given Tintin’s simple and upbeat character much thought in recent years, but an exhibition that I chanced upon whilst on holiday in France rekindled my interest in Tintin and appears to have captivated the interest of my children. This permanent exhibition is set within the outbuildings of the Château de Cheverny in the Loire Valley, and it was this building that was Hergé’s inspiration for Captain Haddock‘s country house, Marlinspike Hall. (Le Château de Moulinsart in French). The exhibition is a wonderful mixture of well curated interactive sets and scenes and comes highly recommended if you’re in the area.

Blistering Barnacles!
A bathroom scene with Captain Haddock
A bathroom scene with Captain Haddock
The exhibition has numerous cabinets throughout, each of which contain illustrations and props from various adventures.



Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Depiction of British Rural Life: Book Illustration Between the Wars

“Friday was St George’s Day. St George for England. I suppose the ‘England’ means something slightly different to each of us. You may, for example, think of the white cliffs of Dover, or you may think of a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe, or perhaps a game of cricket at Old Trafford or a game of rugger at Twickenham. But probably for most of us it brings a picture of a certain kind of countryside, the English countryside. If you spend much time at sea, that particular combination of fields and hedges and woods that is so essentially England seem to have a new meaning. I remember feeling most especially strongly about it in the late Summer of 1940 when I was serving in a destroyer doing anti-invasion patrol in the Channel. About that time I think everyone had a rather special feeling about the word ‘England’. I remember as dawn broke looking at the black outlines of Star Point to the northward and thinking suddenly of England in quite a new way – a threatened England that was in some way more real and more friendly because she was in trouble. I thought of the Devon countryside lying beyond that black outline of the cliffs; the wild moors and rugged tors inland and nearer the sea; the narrow winding valleys with their steep green sides; and I thought of the mallards and teal which were rearing their ducklings in the reed beds of Slapton Leigh. That was the countryside we were so passionately determined to protect from the invader.”

— Lieutenant Commander Peter Scott, 1943.
From the forward of Richard Harman’s ‘Countryside Mood’

No doubt that like Lt Cmr Scott, many Britons living during either world war felt threatened by the very real possibility that their country, along with their liberty, could be snatched from them, and that their lives, together with their much loved countryside could be irrevocably changed. A sense of insecurity that fortunately most of us find impossible to imagine now. This anxiety, coupled with an awareness that rapid changes were taking place within farming and its technologies meant that many traditional ways of country life were rapidly changing and in many cases disappearing altogether. It would seem that many artists and illustrators felt the need to record and to express visually, similar sentiments to those expressed by Lt Cmr Scott. These national concerns of a disappearing Britain may go someway to help explain the proliferation of books produced between the wars (and shortly after) that graphically depict the subject of ‘the countryside’ and rural living. What’s striking about these titles is that the books were mostly illustrated rather than photographed, and more specifically they are mostly illustrated by means of wood engraving and to a lesser degree, scraperboard.

A sample of my own collection showing just some of the many beautifully illustrated books on the theme of the countryside.

On looking at images such as the book cover of ‘Countryside Mood’, one might argue that these depictions of rural life are—and probably were at the time of publishing—a somewhat romanticised vision of Britain’s rural living. However, despite the nostalgic qualities that we might associate with the images, when one compares some of illustrations with the then contemporary photographs, it is clear to see that some of these images were not unrealistic snapshots of what one might see in going on in the busy, more heavily human powered, pre-WWII countryside. After all, despite advances in farming technology there were many more people farming the land than today and as such, the rural populace—particularly those who worked the land—would have undoubtedly had a far greater knowledge of country ways, possessing a sensitivity to the land and its seasonal rituals that most of it current inhabitants have—if only because it was necessitated by both war and the dictates of technology.

This rise in popularity of these depictions of rural life—particularly in the form of wood engraving—appears to be attributed to two British* born artists: Claire Leighton and Agnes Miller Parker. Selbourne (2001) notes that, “By the mid-1930’s, largely due to the success of the countryside books of Clare Leighton and Agnes Miller Parker, wood engraved illustration had indeed increased in popularity, the demand for accurately rendered rural and domestic scenes reflecting the conservative taste of the British public which looked nostalgically back to [Thomas] Bewick“.  Selbourne adds that Leighton “revived the British pastoral tradition for wood-engraved illustration.”

Eagle Owl. Thomas Bewick, 1797
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

On this peculiar hankering for a romanticised vision of Britain, Hickman (2011) adds that “As a result of the increased importance of the countryside in English culture, publication of books on rural life for a middle-class urban readership reached its height during the inter war years. Concurrent with the popularity of rural themes was the revival of wood engraving in England as a form of creative expression, in which Leighton played a central part, bringing about a brief “golden” era of fine and popular illustrated books on country life issued by commercial and private presses.” Hickman also adds that “Leighton’s wood engravings of interwar English country life portray a rural culture barely touched by modernity, a domesticated landscape in which robust farm workers maintain a close relationship with the soil and its associated values of simplicity, stability, and diligence.”

Due to copyright issues I am unable to reproduce Leighton’s printed works. However, this image shows Leighton’s work on a Josiah Wedgwood and Sons’ ceramic from 1950, and depicts a rural scene typical of that created by Leighton and her contemporaries.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From the mid 1950’s it would appear that there was a distinct and fairly rapid decline in the production of this genre of illustrated countryside books.  One can only guess at why this happened. My guess is that the market simply became over saturated, ultimately causing interest to wane, and as illustrative themes and techniques move in and out of fashion, this genre simply ran its course and became outdated.

Yet despite the rapid growth of digital illustration and the trend for depicting all things urban in recent years, I have noticed that there is something of a revival of the rural illustrative genre taking place. Perhaps once again, with the increased threat of our countryside disappearing, this time at the hand of would be green belt developers, we’ll see a resurgence in artists, illustrators and photographers wanting to record images of the country for posterity. Certainly the rural themes expressed as black and white illustrations are experiencing a certain amount of renewed interest, with some publishers wanting to echo the styles this bygone era. Some of the illustrated titles from Snake River Press echo these past styles of illustration whilst adding a contemporary twist.

The incredible work of prolific Irish artist, sculptor and author, Robert Gibbings—another contemporary of Leighton and Miller Parker—has also seen his countryside titles reprinted in recent years. And as recently as 2009, Richard Harman’s ‘Countryside Mood’ was once again republished for a new generation to enjoy.


Harman, R, 1943
Countryside Mood

Blandford Press

Selbourne, J, 2001
British Wood Engraved Book Illustration 1904-1940
A Break with Tradition
The British Library & Oak Knoll Press

Hickman, C.M, 2011
Clare Leighton’s Wood Engravings of English Country Life between the Wars.

Hickman, C.M, 2008
Clare Leighton’s Art and Craft; Exploring Her Rich Legacy through the Pratt Collection.