A grand assignment for the legendary SJB at PLANSPONSOR. The brief? 'Exploring the criteria underlying 130/30 benchmarks. Measurement theme. Olympics will be over by the time this comes out, but you can still explore athlete performance angle.
Or do something totally different.'
I’ll get back to posting something less work-y but for the moment, it’s another batch of editorial assignments for your viewing pleasure.
A thankyoukindlyma’am to the Association of Illustrators for another gold in their annual Images awards (for the Self-Promotion and my gat-packing Cat image). No photos yet online of me mugging to the camera and clasping the hand of the prize-giver (the marvellous Quentin Blake- a hero of mine). I’m grateful as always for such accolades and the show itself and the assembled throng were all lovely. Every last one of them. Hey, studiobound hermit that I am I welcome any opportunity to leave the house for a few hours these days.
Yes folks, I have added to the Landfill-the-size-of-Rhode-Island that is already overflowing with fish-predating-other-fish illustrations. I humbly beseach your forgiveness. It won't happen again
For 'Parenting' Magazine. Dads in Charge. A subject close to my heart right now as I've been left with the kids for two weeks while my wife does a stint at her London employers. I really should go and check on them in a bit. Or oder them a pizza
The Greenification of Honda for DB at BusinessWeek
A self-prom image- chucking meds to chooks
A Section Cover for the Guardian Newspaper on capping your Natural Gas bills (does the steam as feverline work?)
Interesting theme about the US and how right wingers when in power actively set-out to destroy the apparatus of government
Another extended absence from Drawger and not much to show for it but a collection of illustrations (hey, what more could you want?) and a suntan. I took another vacation the other week, conscientiously taking with me my laptop, wacom tablet, scanner etc. My plans were scuppered by The fates making me forget my mains cable. The tiny Channel Island tax haven of Guernsey didn't have a spare on the whole island (I went door to door asking) but it was probably just as well. I don't much enjoy working away from the comforts of my studio and it gave me a chance to switch off for once.
Guernsey- my family holiday destination for most of my childhood is a bay-oo-tiful place and I'm glad to've had the chance to take my own kids there. My parents came along too for a nice piece of added continuity (and some welcome child-minding). If I had several million to hand, I'd rather like to set up home there amongst the portly tax exiles.
...and these were only one of three lots of roughs...
Portrait of author, Flannery O'Connor
For your favorite and mine, SooJin B at PLANSPONSOR, on someone siphoning off money from a fund and claiming to be investing it in a second hand submarine
Another version of the sub piece
roughs for the PLANSPONSOR ones
Jewish Living- 'Forgiveness 2.0'
Roughs for the JL piece (originally a full page)...
...but downgraded to a half page
A regular spot I've just got for UK Women's Mag, Red. This one's on- what?- slobbish, complacent male partners?
'Don't Have Kids, I'm Telling Ya!' or something similar (for Utne Reader)
'Keeping Up With the Joneskis' (London Magazine). How wealthy metropolitan types can adjust to the credit crunch without feeling inferior to their megarich (Russian) neighbors (I know we can all relate to that, right?)
For Pete Hausler at the WSJ. Nicely AD-ed. Amusingly I ended up doing three versions with the rocket at different angles as- during the course of the day- the Dow Jones rallied
For fDI Magazine (UK). It's hackneyed imagery (going against the flow, etc) but I rather enjoyed doing it
And finally, of course you're dying to see some holiday snaps. The obligatory Guernsey cow
A Guernsey landmark. The tiny, kitsch, concrete and broken crockery shrine, The Little Chapel
Some more busy editorial pieces from recent weeks (I will try and dig out some calmer, conceptual images to contrast)
The rough for the above
Spots to accompany the above piece ('Why Wont Drag Die?', 'Why are LGBT films so bad?' and another one I can't quite remember the idea behind)
'New Statesman' Magazine- Young People (unconcerned about) drowning in debt
Guardian Newspaper Section cover about UK rail fares being simplified
Roughs (1) for the above- tried to go for something simple to represent reduced fares (train cutting through banknote/ £ sign)...
...but they were adamant they wanted a crowd scene!
CiB Magazine- Access to information
SMT Magazine- Surveillance of employees
Roughs for the above piece
Jewish Chronicle- Secrets of reaching 100 years. AD-ed by the great (and exacting) John Belknap. The formula for longevity, apparently is
2 Good food
3 A sense of belonging to a group
6 An ability to adapt to change
I reckon I've got three out of six. Plus pretty good genes on both sides
Who can resist when an AD says, 'I was thinking of maybe a giant robot destroying a city'? The subject of the article was the UK newspaper the Daily Mail. For my sins, I've done the odd illo for this right wing, 'upmarket' tabloid in the past. I was young, I was naive. Actually, I worked for them last year so that doesn't wash. All the same, I relished doing my bit to put the boot in. The Mail's politics really are pretty ugly. It's paranoid, bullying and bigoted and its hateful self-righteousness is not so easily laughed off as the bs pedalled by the 'red tops' ( the cartoonish sex/ sport/ celebrity obsessed downmarket tabloids) because it seems to exert a huge influence over politicians of all hues who increasingly tailor their policies to the paper and its semi-mythical constituency- 'Middle England'
A few personal pieces to lighten the mood. Kind of.
I did a lot of storyboarding for advertising five or six years ago, I made a conscious decision to let that side of my work slide in favour of editorial.
Storyboarding can be well-paid but involves a lot of pressure, sailing close to deadlines, churning out 30+ keyframes a day, the sort of pressure that- ahem- caffeinated ad creatives in their twenties thrive on but that just doesn't suit me. It's not that I'm not fascinated by advertising, I love the faux showbiz (fauxbiz) buzz about it and the collaborative, improvisational nature of the creative process is incredible to observe. And for me leaving the house and interacting with people other than my immediate family was also good. I suppose as much as anything, I always felt very self-conscious as a storyboarder having people looking over my shoulder, chipping in with suggestions (kind of how a police sketch artist must feel). I felt especially conspicuous when working alongside real pros; my style was neither Marvel comics-slick (an old hand described it as Picasso-esque which in any other context I'd've taken as a compliment) nor was it idiosyncratic and quirky enough for my own liking.
So it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I took the call earlier this week from an ad agency- my first for a few years- wanting twenty keyframes. I was curious about how I'd approach the assignment and what my work would look like without having the luxury of time to whittle away at things. I've been looking at Gipi's sublime art in Notes from a War Story this week and was wondering if I could bring some of that scratchy assuredness to my storyboarding work. I was hoping maybe even to post a few things here.
Inevitably, the project got canned. Another aspect of working behind the scenes with ad agencies that I'm not crazy about- there seems to be alot of hanging around followed by either frenzied activity or being summarily dropped.
So the storyboard preamble here was all a bit irrelevant...
In lieu of the any frames to show you (and, nope, I don't have any of my old ones to post) here are some portraits I've been working on. They're for a European project called 'Football Heroes' that I was invited to take part in: it's a book to coincide with this summer's Euro 2008 football tournament. Previous versions of the thing are at http://www.footballheroes.org. I guess it's a nod towards old soccer sticker albums- our schoolyard equivalent of baseball trading cards.
They've curbed illustrators' excesses with the latest edition by demanding that depictions are 'respectful' and don't include 'animals' or 'gross injuries' . I didn't want to spend too long on it as it involved 14 pictures + a self-portrait so I condensed it all into a couple of days. Whilst the pics are all pretty straight forward and mugshot-y (despite the fact that they're taken from various references and aren't just straight lifts from photos) I'm quite pleased with the results.
ZZ and DB
In case you're wondering the ones on red are the Bulgarian football (soccer) team (some amazing faces in there) whilst the other two are headbutt specialist, Zinedine Zidane and my own favourite footballer, Dutch master, Dennis Bergkamp.
The avalanche of gifts one is for a Guardian (UK newspaper) section cover on why Xmas can be hellish for personal assistants. I'm pleased that they went for this solution. There were a few more jokey options proposed (PA as Elf Santa as boss, etc.) but (as is always the case these days) I wanted a more graphic result.
The others include another tribute to HBO's glorious, 'The Wire' here featuring Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell (as played by Wood Harris and Idris Elba) and a crowded escalator scene. The rather understated background-y gag/ hook is a wide eyed kid mistaking a homeless guy for Santa.
Some good news to relate, I found out recently that I won a Gold Award in the Society of Illustrators of LA Illustration West 46 Annual Uncommissioned section with this and got a few other pieces in their show too. Over on the East coast with the SoI I won a Silver for Uncommissioned for my portrait of John Updike and I got the beach scene and my pic of Dashiell Hammett into the annual. Many thanks to both Societies and all the jurors. Looks as though I'll be heading over to see Drawgers for one if not both shows in the New Year.
Music themed portraits for your viewing pleasure. First up we've Brazilian muso colossus, Chico Buarque. His 1971 Long Player, Construção is, im[ns]ho, one of the greatest albums ever.
Next up, it's everyone's fave West Coast arthausers, Deerhoof.
The third one doesn't really relate to music (I guess there might be a reggae subtext) but this one's a snapshot of a killed job. It was to accompany an article about changing political allegiances amongst Black Britons. A fascinating article about how most West Indian and West African immigrants have tended to favour the Labour party (our Democrats) but that how many from the ethnic minorities find themselves drifting towards the Conservative party (our GOP) although the Conservatives still have to shake off a common perception that they're a party of bigots.
My initial feeling on reading the text was having an image of a black Conservative candidate being elected to government with multi-ethnic voters in the election hall. Various ideas were knocked back and forth before the concept of a rasta with a blue (Conservative) rosette was suggested by the AD. It's easy to say after the event but I had some real misgivings about the rasta. It wasn't that it seemed racially insensitive, more that it was a clunky, slightly dated piece of iconography that spoke more of a specific subculture than it did about multiculturalism and shifting psephological allegiances. I worked up the image but at the 11th hour the Ed and Dep. Ed. spiked it because of reservations about the concept (not the execution, I hasten to add). With hindsight I can't say I was surprised and whilst the AD (a great guy, v experienced, creative and professional) was contrite about having led me in the wrong direction, I felt that I was equally to blame for not proposing alternatives, not voicing my doubts about the imagery and blithely going along with things for an easy life. Ah well, I still think it's a nice pic.
A scathingly candid way to turn down a commission if nothing else. In many ways it chimes with my own weary, despairing view of advertising. Although if ever I get into a debate on the subject (as I recall doing with an ad creative once) I fold pretty easily and admit that, since I've not gone to live in a croft in the Outer Hebrides I can't feel in any way superior and that technically, yes, I too work for The Man. Coming home from a drunken night out in London many years ago I tried to make it all the way through a tube station without subjecting my brain to any poster ads. Of course, I (literally) bumped into someone I knew and had to explain what I was up to making me look a right tool.
Sorry no pics to accompany this one. I had a foie-gras goose being force fed but didn't want to make anyone queasy.
family illness to peg a post around so I guess I'll have to focus on worky stuff.
A few weeks back, a client that I really wanted to work with commissioned me but then my illo didn't run; then I hear that I won another illustration award, to be announced next year. Yin and yang, yo. To be honest, both things left me a little ambivalent. I know for the award that might sound a bit blase- but maybe constant tiredness has blunted my emotional responses a bit.
Here are a few recent bits and bobs. The ice fishing on the Rockefeller rink one's a wintery-themed possible self-prommer. I just can't help myself doing crowd scenes although here I've tried to make things a bit better composed than I might've in the past.
The red carpet one is for an airline magazine on the subject of The Four Hundred- a club for highrollers that- for a mere seven Gs a year- lifts the velvet rope for you at lots of exclusive events and puts you in touch with all manner of movers and shakers. Naturally if the Allen Learjet weren't out of action right now (we're having it reupholstered with albino gazelle hide. Inside and out) I'd be heading straight over to the US to make the most of the complementary membership that this pic will no doubt be earning me.
Something from my recent archives and this time I’ll spare delicate readers the vomity anecdotage that stank out my last post (though I have got a story about someone’s dog yacking on my kids’ clothes at the beach if anyone’s desperate to hear it)
Here’s a picture of Steve Heller Or St.Heller as he’s occasionally known. And here's a link to Zina's interview with the man himself. I’ve done him framed by some of his collection of figurines, here forming a gang of mini Steves. It may or may not form part of a show of funfty-thousand Heller portraits by people he’s worked with in the past that’s on at the SVA from October 22 put together by the SVA’s Kevin O’Callaghan.
Still lost on my extended portrait riff. The attached image is of Dashiell Hammett. Tried to avoid too many Noir-ish props and make it more of a character study.
It's been a wearying few weeks away from the drawing board. To kick off, instead of the planned wedding anniversary meal à deux we had a blood-soaked visit to the local hospital with my son. Apparently he's decided to start notching up scars to give his face character and impress future ladyfriends. Gushing but superficial forehead wound superglued, the trauma dovetailed nicely into a kindergarten-incubated gastic bug that whipped through the Allen house. This in turn segued into colds all round, with the kids taking it in shifts to keep me awake through the night with hacking coughs. My wife gets both kids all the live-long day so I shouldn't gripe, she tells me.
My daughter really milked it when I was on duty the other night. At 11pm she needed the toilet, 1am she wanted a drink, 3 am she was jonesing for cough medicine, and at 5am she had- and here I quote- some 'dust in her eye'.
little excuse for not showing my face round here for over a month. I could blame it on the fact a belated summer has finally arrived and that I've been devoting alot of time to working on some more portrait-based things.
Went to a rather grand party in London last night for the New Statesman magazine at the Whitehall Banqueting House the great and the good (and myself) were in attendance and I ligged for all I was worth stuffing my face with doll's house food and chugging champagne. Gordon Brown was there but I didn't get a chance to gladhand him (nor did I Will Self whom I spotted across the room and meant to accost). Hobnobbed with a few media-types and strangely, for a left wing magazine party I spent some time talking to an unapologetically Conservative City lawyer. Thoroughly affable guy (as Old Money, British public-school boys often are)
Decided that drunkenly knocking a champagne flute from the first floor banister to the lobby below was my cue to call it a night. Mercifully, the glass didn't even smash. The only person who'd witnessed the incident started bizarrely berating me, 'Why did you do it?' as though I were some sort of thrill-seeking sociopath. Said my goodbyes and sloped off to get a $10 sandwich from the railway station to sober me up.
It's not that great a leap for me as it might seem (or might've seemed a few months back before my stylistic noodlings). At one point in my distant past when I first started painting all I wanted to be was Lucian Freud. Naturally at art school I had such perverted notions beaten out of me. I remember a technician deriding Freud, as merely an 'illustrator'. I got to meet Freud some years ago at my favourite London restaurant, Moro. My wife pointed out someone at the bar who had a bit of string holding up his trousers. With great excitement I told her that it wasn't, as she's first suspected, a vagrant and that we needn't summon the Maitre D and have him ejected (that makes it sound like we inhabit a Peter Arno cartoon).
A bottle of wine later I went over to Lu (as I like to call him) and covered him with spittle and praise. He was gracious, but demured when I asked him to do me a stack of napkin sketches (not really, though having a bunch of Freud doodles to flog might help with putting the kids though college). As an homage to LF, my poor, unfortunate son carries the middle name Lucian. Or Lucy-Ann as the playground wags will have it. Still, it'll toughen him up.
Last year an art director asked me to do a pic of John Updike which I fretted over endlessly trying to achieve a likeness from various sources without making it obvious that I'd used photographic reference. The job was killed- possibly because the pic in question was so weak and ever since I've been meaning to revisit the subject.
So recently I did just that. Along with a scene from ace HBO series, The Wire. Plus a pic of Richard Ford.
As I've mentioned when running these by friends, I did worry that they'd taken a worrying Alex Katz-like turn (all sun-dappled and rather vapid) but whatever my misgivings, I'm pleased with the direction in which they're taking me.
On Thursday I went up to London for the first time in eighteen months. I traipsed around in the rain walking from Tate Modern to the West End to kill a few hours and I found that, much as I still like the place, I wasn't as wistful about it as I'd thought I might be. The very fact that I wandered the tourist trails means that I'm officially a parochial tourist now.
I was up to attend the UK Association of Illustrators 'Images' show, the organisation's annual juried competition. I'd found out some time ago that I would be collecting the Gold award for the Editorial section- my first prize in six years freelancing and six years of getting work in the book.
I may drone on here endlessly about myself but I'm really quite a diffident person (at least when sober) so I wasn't really sure what to make of it all- I was naturally pleased at the recognition but the idea of picking up an award felt odd. Sorry to sound so infuriatingly English about it.
I did my best at schmoozing but I wasn't exactly In The Zone: Early on in the evening I went to say a forced, breezy hello to someone I'd not seen for a while. Despite claiming that she knew who I was, she reacted with such bewilderment and discomfiture that anyone watching might've surmised that rather than saying, 'hello Janet, it's Richard Allen- you used to be a lecturer on my Masters course' I'd infact said, 'Hello Janet, may I relieve myself in your purse?'
Thwarted charm offensive notwithstanding, I had an enjoyable time with some illustrators and ADs that I knew. The awards ceremony wasn't particularly daunting although the official photographer's flash failed and I had to keep grinning and shaking the prize-giver, Adrian Shaughnnesy's hand for about forty three minutes
Gumby and Orang Utan to scale
The trophy itself is a lethal looking perspex brick doorstop (pictured). Despite its heft, its transparency means that I keep losing the thing round the house. The illustration that won is the first image in my Drawger gallery, 12 Drummers, done for the Guardian newspaper back at the start of 2006. Ithangyouall!
Embracing the coastal life, we decided to rent a beach hut for the week. For the unitiated, the beach hut (or the twee 'beach chalet' as the local authority insists on calling it) seems a uniquely English phenomenon, much like the allotment (a small patch of land that suburban gardeners rent from the council ostensibly to cultivate vegetables but mainly to provide a pretext for avoiding the wife and children). The beach hut is essentially a tiny piece of territory to nurse, a small shed, right on the beach promenade equipped with four deck chairs, a camping stove and a fold-out table.
It's for sheltering from the sun, or rain, changing into a swimsuit, and brewing the thrice hourly cup of tea without which English life would collapse. Sleeping overnight in one's a no-no. I'm sure that running your business out of the hut or using it for carnal relations (or-heaven forbid- combining the two) is against the local by-laws too.
I'm not big on kitsch and nostalgia, nor am I into hanging out in a glorified garden shed so the whole ritual left me a bit nonplussed: old folk going leathery in the sun sat outside a 3 yard cubed shack? On the busier stretches of promenade Hut-ites look particularly curious sat out front of their plot: it's a bit like that other (apocryphal) British practice of picnicking in the lay-by of a busy road (I've tried to translate lay-by to American but the nearest I get is 'highway pull-off' which- to my double entendre tuned ears- sounds a little smutty), hut dwellers determinedly relaxing in their deck chairs, home comforts (radios, cups of tea) to hand while all the beach traffic, cyclists, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, rollerbladers, pedestrians pass on the tarmac a few feet in front of them, obscuring their view of the sea.
As you can tell, I'm an inveterate observer and am wont to turn into Dr Spock or an amateur Alain de Botton (or 'joyless prig' as my wife might put it. At least I think it's 'prig') ruminating over the sociological and philosophical aspects of such rituals rather than actually enjoying the moment. Over the weekend with the family I managed to switch off my Vulcan tendencies and really enjoy the experience. Our hut's on a very quiet stretch of the beach and the weather was glorious. The kids, needless to say, lapped up the beach (the boy literally chowing on vast amounts of sand).
I was something of a cliche of an Englishman on holiday (no, not the string vest/ knotted handkerchief on my head; nor the drunken lout, starting fights and refusing to engage with the local culture)- I fell asleep in the sun and ended up sunburnt. I've now got what I believe is known as a 'farmer's tan': naked, I still appear to be wearing a white t-shirt. It seems as though the glow of my computer monitor is no preparation for hours spent in the sun.
The image is old but I thought I'd post it (it's already kicking about my gallery here and on illoz) cos it's a bit twilighty (though not moody ultramarine) and it's a recent postcard (hopping on Wax's promo tip).
As I mentioned to Wax, I had real misgivings about this one: I winced on receiving them from the printers (again Vistaprint- ok results) so god only knows what ADs will think: what seemed like a nice spare, graphic and witty image on screen looks empty and flat in card form (and 1000 of the things have already gone out via ModernPostcard to ADs' wastebaskets across the US).
To make your life more complete. Ok I don't usually get hung up on material possessions but lately I've been obsessing about these. The first is a beautiful light from UK designer homestore, Habitat. It's supposedly designed by Buzz Aldrin and it's a transluscent, resin moon (40cm diameter). I cannot begin to convey how cool I think this is! A miniature moon! (the photo here makes it look like a poppadom but trust me it's a beaut). Unfortunately when I went to collect the thing having put it by I found out that it weighed about as much as the real thing and worried that it might bring the roof down or start affecting tides in my local area I decided against buying it. So that's not exactly an unequivocal recommendation is it?
The second thing could mark me down as being a leetle bit affected (that's what the A stands for, btw). It's a dandyish old style handset for a mobile phone (prototpes were called 'Pokias' but ran into trouble with a certain cellphone company and changed their name to the Hulger ). I like the thinking behind this: cell phones get smaller and smaller and we're all being ushered into a Star Trek type world of ultra functional design. Ok maybe I can't see myself walking down the street looking a right charlie carrying one of these army field telephone type things but I quite fancy one for Skyping. The fellow in the photo is designer Nik Roope (someone I once worked with- interesting, funny guy) who delivers a cogent, witty rationale for the whole concept
Another question for NY Drawgers (again relating to that project I'm desperate to finish). Can you think of any monuments/ landmarks in NY (preferably Manhattan) that relate to pigs? It doesn't have to be something tourist-trail-y or cliched. Maybe a prominent sign or somesuch in the Meat Packing district featuring a porker?
Other than monkeys dressed as bellhops tip-tap-tapping at the window (see fig.1), neck pain and wrist ache, nightmarish assignments ('I know we approved the rough and you've inked it up but can we have have a slight tweak? Can you completely redraw all of the six main figures? And can we have a checkerboard tile pattern on the floor?') right now it's wondering what is the background music in this tv trailer.
I'm thinking the Yellow Magic Orchestra but all my CDs are still boxed up 8 months after moving into my house.
Of course 'football' means something completely different round these parts...
Can anyone tell me which of the two NY (gridiron) football teams is most synonymous with NYC? Do both teams (or does one in particular) have that connection with the city that- say- the NY Yankees/ Mets or the Knicks have? Or does the Giants/ Jets playing in NJ make them geographically/ spiritually apart from the city?
I'm trying to finish off a NYC-centered project that I've had on the back-burner for longer than I care to remember . What I thought was a killer concept/ possible winning kid's book a few year's back has become a millstone and I'm just desperate to chalk it off and get on with my life. And I just need a little local knowledge as one of the possible images was to be set in a football stadium.
Maybe stopping doing doodles like this all the live-long day might help my neck get better...
Ok, so I didn’t go toe-to-toe Graeco-Roman wrestling with the guy (what a story that might’ve been). But I’ve majorly hurt my neck since I got myself a (beautiful but not-terribly-ergonomic) Herman Miller Eames aluminum seat as my work chair.
Actually (sensing the HM lawyers bristling) let me backpedal further: it could be down to me sitting at 45 degrees to my monitor, crossing my legs, never taking any breaks and fundamentally flouting all health and safety recommendations. It could also be to do with me lugging a double mattress about first thing yesterday morning.
Whatever the cause (and despite the sensationalist headline, under legal counsel, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the fragrant Mr Eames and his comfortable chairs) I’m in pain, people.