Friday, 22 April 2011

I wish I'd done this

I know that we're only supposed to talk about one image, but I just love all of the illustrations Patrick Hruby created for the book 'ABC is for Circus'. The book celebrates the colourful and wonderful world of the circus through each letter of the alphabet. When I first saw it, I was mesmerised - it was so imaginative and beautiful. Each double page spread is completely different, with the composition of the pages changing each time.

The first thing that strikes you, in these images, is the colour. Patrick has a brilliant eye and although some of the images are packed full of different colours, it never looks too much. He knows exactly when to stop and which colours work best together. I also like how he adds black to a lot of the images - it makes the bright colours pop out of the page even more and adds a certain amount of depth to the pieces. Colour is very important to me and I am hugely influenced by Patrick's ability to control the colour in his illustrations. Although I have experimented with colour, I would really like to create a piece where all the colours are 'touching' each other and not separated by black - it would be interesting to see how I would cope with this technique.

Patrick produces most of his work on Illustrator which allows him to create a smooth line to compliment the bold shapes and colours. The circus designs include a lot of intricate shapes which are often layered over each other. Although I can use Illustrator fairly well, I think the next step in improving my work is to produce more complex designs. I love how Patrick uses lots of simple shapes but builds them up in such a way that the finished result is very elaborate. This technique is definitely something I could use in my own work, in order to add another level of interest.

Patrick likes to create his own fonts and I really like the one he's used for the circus book. It's fairly simple but I like this as it doesn't draw attention away from the main illustrations. I dabbled in creating a font when I did my James and the Giant Peach cover and I thought it worked rather well. In the future, I liked to try and create a font which combines my love of colour with shape. On his website, there's an example of Patrick doing this really well, by overlapping simple shapes to produce a really quirky font.

One of the things that I love most about this book are the background elements. On various pages, Patrick has created a black silhouette of a circus scene to use as a background. As said before, I think the black makes the bright colours of the main image stand out even more. It also adds another layer of interest and creates a sense of depth. One of the most successful images that uses this idea is the 'daredevil' page. I love the detail of the silhouette - he has obviously spent just as long on that as the foreground image. In future work, I'd really like to experiment with combining colour and pattern with black - I think Patrick's use of this idea is very striking.

The main reason I love Patrick's work is because of his use of shape. When you zoom into one of his pieces, you see a series of simple shapes - but he builds them up into intricate patterns that become figures and elements. I particularly love the 'acrobats' page in the circus book, it's so wonderful and quirky. Two of the figure's legs are almost perfect circles and all of their hands are created from triangles. The sharp edges of the graphic shapes really compliment the vibrant colours, all of which makes the finished designs really bold and eye-catching. It's such a clever technique and combined with his use of colour and pattern, really sets him apart from other illustrators today. I love how you can see a clear connection between all of Patrick's work, right through to his typography, where he also uses simple shapes.

Although you can view a lot of the Circus book online, I've ordered a copy for myself! In 'real-life' I think the images will be even more stunning than they are on the computer screen. Patrick's use of colour, shape and technique make him my favourite illustrator today and I can't wait until the book arrives!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hannah Firmin - Contact Report

I emailed the lovely Hannah Firmin and asked her a few questions. She emailed back and gave some really good answers:

I understand you have recently moved to Wales, does living there have an impact on your work?
Living in Wales will influence me I'm sure, it's a bit early yet as I haven't had time to produce work for myself, I am selling well in local galleries and have been invited to exhibit during the Hay Festival in a few weeks time. I am always inspired by my surroundings....I lived in a village with a windmill above my house....see how many times you can spot a windmill in my work!

Where does your love of bright colours and patterns stem from?
I have always loved textiles, and sew and knit myself. Patterns and decoration in everyday life are very important to enrich our lives. Travelling the world shows you this too, I loved the fact that in Bali even the road sweepers wear beautiful sarongs and head dresses!

What are your inspirations? Do any artists/illustrators inspire you?
Some of the artists that have inspired me are Picasso, Bonnard, Thomas Bewick the engraver, Edward Bawden, Edward Ardizzone, John Piper, amongst many others!

Are you ever stuck for ideas? If so how do you overcome this?
Usually I have to work to a deadline so I can't ever be stuck. I will look at books and other people's work, go to an exhibition or just go out and do some drawing of I can't proceed.

Would you be able to tell me about your working process? How do you get started on a brief?
If I am doing a book jacket I always read the book until an image stands out. If it's something else I will usually have a size to work to which helps me with the general design. If the subject is new to me I will research and do some drawing before designing a composition. Once the rough has been approved I have to transfer it, in reverse, to my chosen block, lino, wood or vinyl. I cut it with the engraving tools, print and then when dry I cut up and collage and then finally paint. A long and elaborate process, which I love.

When did you get into printmaking, have you always used this process in your work?
I have done linocuts since a small child and etching at college, so almost all my life! It is always my chosen medium and I have become known for this way of identity as an artist.

What did winning the Best Cover of the Year at the British Book Awards for the 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' mean to you? Did it increase your profile?
Winning the award was great as it did increase awareness of my work and a lot of work developed from A.McCall Smith's popularity and his choice to continue using me for his covers. When you work freelance and at home there aren't many chances to gain recognition and acknowledgement for all one's hard work (I have worked as an illustrator since 1981!) so it was lovely to win (I wasn't invited to the award ceremony though!)

Is there any advice you would give to an aspiring illustrator?
My advice is to work in a medium you love and develop continually as, if you are intending on doing this for your life, you need to love and enjoy it! Aim at developing your individuality and skills personal to you.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Maria Dahlgren

I went to Ikea last week and found these amazing postcards by a designer called Maria Dahlgren. The postcards feature five areas of Sweden and are very colourful and graphic in style. I love her use of lettering and the strong architectural angles are complimented by dazzling colours. There are so many different little elements and I really like the simplicity of the shapes and lines. Maria previously designed a tray and tea-towel which captured many of London's famous sites - her city designs have become very popular and fashionable. Recently, I am really liking Scandinavian art - I love the graphic yet patterned designs which can be inspired by a multitude of themes.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Jamie Brown

One of the briefs I'm working on at the moment is for a graphic design agency in Manchester called Music. Our task is to design a installation for a glass room in their studio. Ian gave us a presentation to give us some ideas for the project and one of the artists on it caught my eye straight away: Jamie Brown.
Jamie's illustrations are the sort of thing I envisage myself doing for this brief. His work is extremely bold and bright and full of different elements. I love the playful nature to his work - there are often little twists that you don't immediately notice. I really like how he uses fairly simple shapes to build up the image - this is something I will need to try and do if I'm going to use vinyl to create my design.
The song I've got in mind at the moment is "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' - which is a very psychedelic and has lots of brilliant imagery. In my head I see a really bold and colourful pattern covering the glass walls. I will definitely keep referring to Jamie's work to gain inspiration during this brief.