‘Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds’ by Jim Stoten

'Mr Tweed's Good Deeds' (2014)

‘Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds’ (2014) (via www.flyingeyebooks.com)

It’s a new month and with it brings another new picture book to my postbox! This time it’s Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds; a delightful new title from the London based illustrator Jim Stoten. Published by Flying Eye Books, the book tells the tale of Mr. Tweed; an anthropomorphic dog who with a penchant for formal-wear and a talent for helping friends.

Inside 'Mr Tweed's Good Deeds' (2014)

Detail from inside ‘Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds’ (2014) (via www.flyingeyebooks.com)

We first meet him as he sets out on his afternoon stroll, but he soon finds some friends in need of help. Thankfully Mr. Tweed is more than happy to oblige and, with each new encounter, the reader discovers a new challenge to help with. Combining counting activities with the challenge of finding hidden objects, the book is sure to offer plenty of fun for young readers.

Jim’s artwork is perfect for this type of book; think Where’s Wally re-imagined by Richard Scarry with an ample dose of Yellow Submarine. It’s rich in vibrant colour and his charming psychedelic illustrations are bound to entertain both kids and their parents.

Detail from inside 'Mr Tweed's Good Deeds' (2014)

Detail from inside ‘Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds’ (2014) (via www.flyingeyebooks.com)

I really enjoyed reading about Mr. Tweed’s good deed, particularly as it served as my introduction to the wonderful world of Jim Stoten’s work. His whimsical and quirky style lends a timeless quality to the title and his highly detailed illustrations are a pleasure to explore.

Detail from inside 'Mr Tweed's Good Deeds' (2014)

Double page spread from inside ‘Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds’ (2014) (via www.flyingeyebooks.com)

More information and pictures about Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds can be found on the Flying Eye Books website. Go check it out!

The Jörgits & the End of Winter

Jorgits - The End of Winter Printed Book

The Jörgits & the End of Winter

Early last year Finnish illustrator and toy designer Anders Sandell got in touch with me wondering if I’d like to check out his Jörgits app for The Fox Is Black. I happily did and was delighted to discover his app was a terrifically fun interactive novel for kids.

The Jörgits & the End of Winter tells the tale of the Jörgits, a group of furry aliens who travel to earth when their home planet grows too cold to live on. At the root of the tale is a message about the dangers of global warming, yet Anders never allows this to over-shadow the fun of his story. Instead he finds the perfect balance between adventure and insight; creating a story that warns children on the causes of global warming through a great host of characters and with a playful sense of mischief and adventure.


Illustration for The Jörgits & the End of Winter (via www.thefoxisblack.com)

After the success of the app, Anders decided to turn to Kickstarter to adapt his story into a good old-fashioned book. It recently reached its target and now the app is a full length 250-page novel filled with great illustration and beautiful design. Anders sent me on a copy and I can tell you that he’s done a wonderful job of adapting it from screen to page!

The Jörgits & the End of Winter on iPad

The Jörgits & the End of Winter on iPad (via www.thefoxisblack.com)

While the first print was only available to Kickstarter-backers, a new print run of books may well be in the works. If you’re interested in finding out more you can sign up to the Jörgits mailing list, and they’ll let you know when the next batch is ready to ship.

Jorgits - The End of Winter Printed Book Inside

Inside ‘The Jörgits & the End of Winter’

The Jorgits app can be downloaded from the Apple store website.

‘My Things’ – A Series by Hong Hao from the 2014 Prix Pictet

'My Things No. 7' (2004) from the series 'My Things'

‘My Things No. 7′ (2004) (via www.2luxury2.com)

I recently headed to this year’s Prix Pictet at London’s V&A. First started in 2008, the competition operates on a cycle of roughly 18 months with each one focusing on a single theme. Now in it’s fifth cycle, the judges have turned to the theme of Consumption and created an exhibition highlighting our life as consumers from the shortlisted entries.

Of all the work on display I was most impressed with that of Beijing-based photographer Hong Hao. His project My Things looks at the objects that he uses in his daily life. Started in 2001, Hao has been putting every single object he consumes into his scanner at the end of each day. He has continued to do this for 12 years and has gone on to create a series of giant collages that highlight the terrifying scale of our contemporary consumer society.

'Bottom No. 4' (2009)

’Bottom No. 4′ (2009) (via noticias.uol.com.br)

For Hao the process of taking these objects, scanning them and categorizing them has become a daily habit. There’s a real ritualistic nature to his work and the objects that he scans become a large scale visual diary of his life. “I believe that this action will stimulate a desire for self-reflection within us” he says, “and an attitude to questioning the logic of consumption and development”.

'My Things No. 1' (2001)

‘My Things No. 1′ (2001) (via www.theguardian.com)

For me Hao’s work stood out the most, but as always the standard of work at the Prix Pictet was very high. To get a better insight into the other work on display (and see more from Hao) you should take a look at this video produced by Monocle earlier this month:

The Prix Pictet ran at the V&A from 22 May to 14 June. Venues for upcoming shows can be found on their website.

Wall hanging by Gunta Stölzl

Wall hanging (1926-1927) by Gunta Stölzl

Wall hanging (1926-1927) by Gunta Stölzl © Victoria and Albert Museum, London (via collections.vam.ac.uk)

Over the weekend I headed to the V&A for a look around. It’s one of my favourite places and on every trip I seem to come across something new that I love. This time it was a wonderful wall hanging by the German textile artist Gunta Stölzl. Made from jacquard-woven silk and cotton, the hanging still boasts strikingly bright colours and I love the combination of abstract geometric shapes weaved in amongst the colourful horizontal stripes.

Stölzl began as a student at the Bahaus’ Weaving Workshop in 1921. This wall hanging was designed five years later after she had become a technical director at the school. You can find out more details about this work on the V&A’s website or visit Gunta Stölzl website to discover more examples of her amazing work (I’m particularly fond of the picture book she made for her daughter).

An Evening With Laura Carlin

"Animals' - Illustration for a mural (2011)

“Animals’ – Illustration for a mural (2011) (via lauracarlin.blogspot.co.uk)

During the week I headed along to the House of Illustration’s new home at Kings Cross to take in a talk with the wonderfully talented Laura Carlin. Based in London, Carlin is perhaps best known for her illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man (2010). A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Laura has won several awards including winning the prestigious Quentin Blake Award for two consecutive years. Last year she illustrated Nicola Davies’ The Promise and this September will see the release of a new book called A World of Your Own. Designed to encourage children to unleash their creativity, the book features text and illustrations from Laura with ideas on how children can find inspiration in everything around them.

Ceramic 'Black and White Tiger' and 'Floral Plate'  (2013)

Ceramic ‘Black and White Tiger’ and ‘Floral Plate’ (2013) (via lauracarlin.blogspot.co.uk)

Painting, drawing and ceramics are the focus of her practice. In the past she has created commercial illustrations for publications such as Vogue, The Guardian and The Independent. Currently she holds an advisory role at the House of Illustration while also acting as a regular visiting lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts at Maidstone.

Inspired by the work of people like Edward Ardizzone, André François and Clementine Hunter; Carlin’s style is unique. It’s playful and bold with a sense of expression that tips beautifully into childlike naivety. For her, this approach isn’t about imitating how children draw or even about creating folk-art. Her work is about trying to capture a sense of energy and asking viewers to come and see the world as she sees it.

Laura Carlin - Spread from Nicola Davies' The Promise 2013

Spread from Nicola Davies’ ‘The Promise’ (2013) (via blaine.org)

When speaking about her process she does so with a great sense of humbleness; always eager to point out that what she does is not “rocket science”. Yet despite this, it’s clear that she approaches everything with real thought and consideration. “Work needs to be honest” she stresses. “In illustration there’s a big difference between making something and communicating something”. And while she may feel like she learned this distinction quite late, it is something which clearly plays a crucial role in her work.

Illustration for 'The Sins of the Fathers' - a feature in the Guardian (2006)

Illustration for ‘The Sins of the Fathers’ – a feature in the Guardian (2006) (via www.anglonautes.com)

In speaking about creating illustrations for The Iron Man she talked about how she initially struggled to find a reason why the words needed pictures. For her the book didn’t need illustrating. It wasn’t until she realized that Hughes had real empathy for his Iron Man that she found her personal connection with the text. In response, Laura chose to depict the central character with a shadow, highlighting Hughes’ empathy towards him and creating a sense that this was a ‘real’ being. In contrast, the pencil drawn villagers only receive their shadow at the end of the tale – once evil is overcome and the villagers realize that the Iron Man is not a creature to be feared.

Laura Carlin - Spread from Ted Hughes' The Iron Man 2010

Spread from Ted Hughes’ ‘The Iron Man’ (2010) (via bletheron.wordpress.com)

This sense of connection and empathy is central to her work. “You need to live in the world you’re creating” she says, “[you need to] believe it exists”. As an illustrator it’s as important to know what you’re not showing as it is to know what your are. Laura loves the power of editing and is drawn to the fact that in illustration you only get to see what the illustrator wants you to see.

Restraint is something that she seems to love and during the talk she mentioned how inspiring she found the writing of Richard Yates. “He creates characters” she says “and then he stands back [...] he never patronizes the reader”. Yates has a wonderful ability to create a world and then just allows it to become something of its own. For Laura, this is a quality that she aspire for in her own work. She thinks similarly about Quentin Blake and John Burningham; two writers who – she says – never put on a voice when writing for children.

Laura Carlin - Alain Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes for the Folio Society 2009

Illustrations for the Folio Society’s edition of ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ by Alain-Fournier (2009) (via www.thomasriggs.net)

For me, Laura is an inspiration. Her distinctive style and delicate restraint is wonderful and the expressive quality of her work is endlessly appealing. Hearing her speak about her approach to visual storytelling was a real treat and hearing her talk about writing for children has me excited about the release of her first book later this year… I’ve a feeling it’s going to be great!

A World of Your Own will be relesed through Phaidon this September. More events at the House of Illustration can be found on their website.

A Trip to Pick Me Up

Entrance to Pick Me Up at at Somerset House

Entrance to Pick Me Up at at Somerset House (via https)

Yesterday evening I headed along to London’s Pick Me Up in a rather tepid humour. It had been a long week but I knew that if I didn’t check it out I’d more than likely regret it. Now in its fifth year, Pick Me Up is a graphic arts festival unlike anything I’ve visited before. Taking place at the beautiful Somerset House, the event has become an annual pilgrimage for illustrators, artists and designers; offering a perfect opportunity for the creative community to meet up and chat about their work. On top of this it also serves as a wonderful introduction to the graphic arts for the general public, giving them a glimpse into the world of illustration while also offering them an opportunity to get their hands on some great affordable art.

Split loosely into three main sections, Pick Me Up offers lives events, an exhibition and a series of spaces dedicated to studios and collectives. This year the main exhibition took place on the ground floor and featured the work of 16 specially chosen artists; amongst them (one of my current favourites) Thibaud Herem (below). The floor above was then dedicated to 17 spaces, with each one presenting the work of a studio, gallery, agency or collective.

London by Thibaud Herem

Illustrated London for TFL by Thibaud Herem (via thibaudherem.com)

This eclectic mix of exhibitions and exhibitors leads to an interesting hodgepodge of things to see and do. Wandering through it becomes hard to know exactly what to make of it all. It’s part exhibition and part trade show; yet it also feels like a networking event, a gallery, a shop and a craft fair. In its best moments it resembles a more polished art school degree show but at other times it dips excessively close to feeling like a summer camp for hipsters who haven’t yet grown up; offering drawing tables and spaces for you to do “a bit of colouring in”. Despite all this, it’s a combination which they just about pull off – offering a fun and informal event for the graphic arts community and also the general public.

A display by Best at Pick Me Up 2014

A display by Best at Pick Me Up 2014 (via www.facebook.com)

While there is some merit in the event’s hodgepodge aesthetic, their “cover all bases” approach does mean that the quality of the work suffers. Exhibitors seem eager to smother their spaces with as much work as possible and this means that a great majority of what is on show consists of trend-followers rather than trend-setters. I understand that the aim is to showcase new talent but you can only look at so many illustrated grizzly bears before you realise that you might as well have just visited a local Urban Outfitters and saved yourself the admission price.

Fortunately Pick Me Up has enough on offer that a hardened cynic like myself doesn’t feel too hard done by. One standout was attending a Crowd Talks event which aimed to question why graphic design and illustration are increasingly being exhibited in gallery spaces. The event offered a little more edge over the more carefree side of the festival and posed some interesting questions about the future of graphic arts (and more specifically where graphic arts may be going). The panel touched on Lawrence Zeegen’s recent opinion piece on It’s Nice That which wished that the work on display could be “more political, more active and more subversive”. It’s an interesting point and one which brings into question what relevance Graphic Arts should have when operating in a gallery space.

'Rendez Vous' by Thomas Danthony

‘Rendez Vous’ by Thomas Danthony (via www.handsomefrank.com)

Ignoring the live events and putting the derivative work aside Pick Me Up did have some real talent on display if your were willing to track it down. I was particularly impressed by the work shown by the illustration agency Handsome Frank (home to the likes of Hey, Jean Jullien and the aforementioned Thibaud Herem).

Amongst this impressive roster is Thomas Danthony, a French born designer and illustrator based in London who was recently the inaugural winner of the agency’s Handsome Future Award. Given last year, the prize offers Thomas a year with the agency helping him shape his portfolio and develop his practice as a commercial illustrator. It’s a nice idea and Thomas’ work is particularly strong.

'Caps Lock' and 'Hash' by El Horno

‘Caps Lock’ and ‘Hash’ by El Horno (via www.unlimitedshop.co.uk)

I also loved the work of Richard Horne (aka El Horno). His series of prints featuring QWERTY – a character made from different keys on a keyboard – have great personality and they really raised a smile. You can see more work from El Horno on his website here.

'Market' by William Goldsmith

‘Market’ by William Goldsmith (via pickmeuplondon.com)

Also raising a smile was the work of Glasgow-based illustrator William Goldsmith. His delicate paintings have a great sense of energy about them and I love how balanced and restrained his work is. I especially love this picture at the flee market, it captures the feeling of the place just perfectly.

Swimming Pool by Cachete Jack

‘Swimming Pool’ by Cachete Jack (via cachetejack.tumblr.com)

While a lot of the work on display at Pick Me Up consisted of brightly coloured hand-drawn illustrations with a simple (almost naive) quality, Spanish duo Cachetejack managed to stand out from the crowd. The duo have been creating illustrations for books, magazines, newspapers, clothes and walls for a number of years and I particularly loved their Swimming Pool print. The composition is great and I love the simple two-colour pallet! You can see more from the London-based pair on their website here.

So, if you get the opportunity and haven’t been before I do recommend you check out the festival. Admission covers access to the exhibitions and also allows you to attend the majority of events that are taking place. If you are thinking of going I’d certainly ensure I got to see a live event or talk while there. More details on Crowd Talks can be found on their website while information on Pick Me Up can be found here.

Pick Me Up runs at London’s Somerset House until Monday May 5th 2014.

My Favourites from Design Museum’s Designs of the Year 2014

Design Museum - Designs of the Year 2014

Design Museum – Designs of the Year 2014

Earlier today the Design Museum announced the seven category winners of their annual Designs of the Year Award. Covering architecture, digital design, fashion, furniture, graphics, product design and transport; the nominations form an exhibition of 76 works which run at the museum until the 25th of August 2014. I headed along over the weekend to check it out and was really impressed by the quality and variety of the work on display.

To mark the announcement I thought I’d share with you seven of my favourite nominations from the show. If you’re in London between now and August I highly recommend you go check it out.

St. Moritz Church, Augsburg, Germany, Interior Renovation – Designed by John Pawson

St Moritz Church, Augsburg, Germany, Interior renovation by John Pawson

St Moritz Church, Augsburg, Germany, Interior renovation by John Pawson (via afasiaarq.blogspot.co.uk)

I discovered the work of John Pawson nearly four years ago at an exhibition at the Design Museum. I find his attention to detail and the clarity of his vision really inspiring and seeing it applied to the renovation of this church in Germany just feels perfect. His delicate and minimalist approach to the space transforms it into a room of light and by paring away the unnecessary elements he successfully manages to find the right balance between something which feels quite modern and also something which honours the history and tradition of the space.

Citymapper – Designed by A. Yusuf, G. Wedam, J. Hughes, N. Skehin, E. Vaughan

Citymapper for iPhone

Citymapper for iPhone (via blog.citymapper.com)

Of all the designs on display Citymapper is undoubtably the one which I use the most and the piece which would get my vote for design of the year. Described as the “ultimate transport app” I can’t imagine navigating London without it. In a complicated world already filled with too many choices and complications, this design makes everyday life so much easier. It’s innovative, useful, understandable and unobtrusive – pretty much everything a good design should be!

Tracey Neuls Bike Geek – Designed by Tracey Neuls

Bike Geek by Tracey Neuls

Bike Geek by Tracey Neuls (via www.dezeen.com)

Tracey Neuls’ Bike Geek is a smart design. Her shoes are a hybrid of a dress shoe and a casual shoe yet they offer all the performance of sportswear. Combining a hard wearing sole with reflective ‘cat eyes’, these shoes are ideal for cyclists or city walkers and their smart appearance also means that you won’t have to bring a change of shoes with you ever again. I think they look great!

Pro Chair Family – Designed by Konstantin Grcic

The Pro Chair Family by Konstantin Grcic

The Pro Chair Family by Konstantin Grcic (via www.domusweb.it)

A category winner, Konstantin Grcic’s Pro Chair might not look that impressive at first sight but their state-of-the-art ergonomics means that these are some of the best designed chairs out there. Inspired by a recent German study which found that dynamic sitting in schools was the most important condition for physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing; the Pro Chair is designed to actively stimulate its sitter and promote healthier sitting. As someone who can still remember how uncomfortable school seats were I think that this is a worth category winner.

Building Stories – Designed by Chris Ware

Detail from a page of Chris Ware’s 'Building Stories'

Detail from a page of Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ (via www.nybooks.com)

Last August I was lucky enough to attend a talk with Chris Ware about Building Stories, a ground-breaking graphic novel that follows the lives of the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment. The ambition and scope of his work is just incredible and its wonderful to see it amongst this year’s nominations.

GoPro HERO 3+ – Designed by GoPro

The product design section of the exhibition had some great nominations but I think I was most taken by GoPro’s Hero 3+ camera. The quality of the video and the surprising affordability of the camera (you could be lucky enough to pick one up for less than £200) makes it a really attractive camera and a piece of equipment I’d love to play around with. Check out the video above to see it in action.

XL1 Car – Designed by Volkswagen

Volkswagen XL1

Volkswagen XL1 (via www.volkswagen.co.uk)

I’m not really much of a car guy but seeing this XL1 really did catch my eye. If you ask me, car design really hasn’t moved forward that much over the last two decades but this catagory-winning design by Volkswagen really does look like a car from the future. Boasting the title of “world’s most fuel-efficient car” its hopefully a glimpse of what the future of car design has to offer.

Designs of the Year runs at the Design Museum from 26 March 2014 – 25 August 2014

Thirty of My Favourite Sites

Animated GIF for The Fox Is Black

Animated GIF for The Fox Is Black

Yesterday I shared 30 of my favourite single-serving sites over on The Fox Is Black. I also made a GIF! Go check them out here.

The Last Few Months

'Isle of Mull' (July, 2013)

‘Isle of Mull’ (July, 2013)

I recently got a roll of film developed and thought I’d stick some of the photographs up here. I’ve been foolishly ignoring my camera for the last couple of months but there have still been the occasional moment where I’ve remembered to bring it with me.

There’s nothing quite like going to a photolab and suddenly being handed a small collection of fragmented moments from the last couple of months of your life. Looking through these photographs has really reminded me of how busy my life has been of late. This roll contained images from my holiday to the Scottish town of Oban and to the Isle of Mull, it had photographs of my trip to the West of Ireland with friends at the start of the year and it also included images taken more recently as part of my new life here in London. While the last few months might not have been easy, looking through these photographs really reminds me of the good things have been too and it reminds me to take my camera with me more often. Anyway, I hope you like them.

'Isle of Mull' (July, 2013)

‘Isle of Mull’ (July, 2013)

'The Mullet Peninsula' (January 2014)

‘The Mullet Peninsula’ (January 2014)

'Victoria Park, London' (February 2014)

‘Victoria Park, London’ (February 2014)

'The Barbican' (February, 2014)

‘The Barbican’ (February, 2014)

'The Mullet Peninsula' (January 2014)

‘The Mullet Peninsula’ (January 2014)

'Dan Flavin's Monument for V. Tatlin 1969:70'

‘Dan Flavin’s Monument for V. Tatlin 1969:70′ (October, 2013)

View from Hackney Wick Station

‘Evening at Hackney Wick Station’ (February 2014)

'The Mullet Peninsula' (January 2014)

‘The Mullet Peninsula’ (January 2014)

Illustrating Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man

'The Iron Man' (1968) by George Adamson

‘The Iron Man’ (1968) by George Worsley Adamson (via www.georgewadamson.com)

If I was somewhat more organised in life I might have written about The British Library’s Picture This exhibition before it had closed. Unfortunately I’m the type of person who leaves things to the last minute and so I only managed to visit it during its final day. That said, I really enjoyed the exhibition’s small collection of illustrated children’s classics and so I thought I’d share a little bit of what I saw.

Consisting of original artwork, rare editions and personal correspondence, the exhibition was based around a small collection of classic children’s books such as Paddington Bear, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit. For me, the shows strongest aspect was the variety of work that was on display and particularly the variety of different editions that exist for each title. I found it very interesting to see the different interpretations of each title and it was very insightful to view what each illustrator brought to the text.

While I would love to share all the interpretations from each of the books on display, I thought it best to just pick one and so I’ve brought together a collection of images from Ted Hughes’ 1968 novel The Iron Man. Published in the U.K. by Faber and Faber, the first edition included illustrations by George Adamson who many still consider to have provided the definitive illustrations for the book.

'The Iron Man' (1985) by Andrew Davidson

‘The Iron Man’ (1985) by Andrew Davidson (via www.fastcodesign.com)

In 1985, a new Faber edition was released, this time with illustrations by Andrew Davidson. Davidson single wood engravings are particularly sticking. Often described as the commission that launched his career, Davidson had just graduated from The Royal College of Art upon undertaking the project. He has since gone on to illustrate other works by Hughes such as The Iron Womam and Tales of the Early World.

'The Iron Man' (2005) by Tom Gauld

‘The Iron Man’ (2005) by Tom Gauld (via www.cabanonpress.com)

Twenty years on from Davidson’s edition, Tom Gauld was asked to provide illustration for a new edition. Drawn once again in sticking black and white, Gauld’s simple images manage to convey the emotion of the book perfectly, somehow giving the robot all the feelings it needs.

'The Iron Man' (2010) by Laura Carline

‘The Iron Man’ (2010) by Laura Carline (via www.heartagency.com)

The most recent incarnation of The Iron Man has been from Laura Carline (conceitedly the third consecutive RCA graduate to illustrate the book). Published by Walker Books in collaboration with Faber and Faber, Carline’s work is bright and colourful – far removed from the black-and-white illustrations of previous editions. It’s a beautiful edition and my personal favourite of the lot!

‘Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics’ ran at The British Library from 4 October 2013 – 26 January 2014.