A.Richard Allen
July 2007
I've been itching
to test myself with a bit of portraiture.

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.
A couple
of recent assignments, posted, more than anything to bump that picture of my trophy down the running order on my front page.

the first is on the subject of testing how secure a computer network is by subjecting it to a dummy break-in.
The second's a more interesting bit of copy- a speech by director Wim Wenders where he suggests that European cinema has a vital role in defining European identity. It would seem that many Europeans are increasingly cynical about the role of Europe. Nationalist parties across Europe exploit the perception that Europe is nothing more than a bureaucracy with little relevance or cultural resonance to individuals. Wenders argues that there has never been a European equivalent to the American Dream (articulated and propogated so well through US cinema) and that European film makers have a responsibility to debate and define the European soul.

I'm not sure how possible or desirable it is to steer culture in this way but Wenders makes an interesting case (hey, and look, there's my pic again on their website; web use, eh? that's news to me;)

The AD initially wanted Wim Wenders to appear prominently in the illo. This was reigned in a bit (when the Arts Editor ventured that no-one would recognise him) but I still was really keen to include him (bottom right- but you all knew that, right?) as I get more and more keen on stretching myself with nailing likenesses    
AOI award
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!
A gift of an assignment from top-notch AD Etienne Gilfillan from Strange Phenomena/ Conspiracy Theory magazine, Fortean Times. The copy here related to accounts of a giant woman washed up on an Irish beach in the 10th century...

Etienne asked for something in a more graphicy/ print vein- which, as you all know- is the way that I like working right now. I tried to steer him towards a more cropped, top down view of the legs from the roughs below. Etienne had reservations about this not being the most suspenseful route and favoured a version from the point of view of the beachcombers who find the giantess. In the end I worked up two versions and, pleasingly, the legs version's the one that flew.

Interesting trying to suggest atmosphere in a spare, graphic way. Also rather novel working with rather gothic themes- not my usual bag but all very enjoyable.
Roughs batch 1 (spot the difference)
batch 2
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