Friday, 16 December 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Well it's that time of year again! Man, what a year, I usually have a hectic period on the run up to the festivities here at McConkey studios, this was no different, still I think that's me pretty much done for this year, Yay!

So I thought i'd kick this posting off with some particularly festive offerings above is a full page illustration done for the TV listings section of Nuts magazine, this is actually a follow up to the one I did last year which was of a Celebrity Nativity scene, this time around a Grotto scene made up of some of Christmas Telly's finest personalities; Top Gear fellas, Alan Carr, Micheal Macintyre, Lee Evans, Doctor Who, Miranda Harte, Jimmy Carr and Chris Moyles.

Really fun one to do this, and it printed really nicely, this one was art directed by the great Simon Freeborough, check it out it's on the shelves now!
Ever wondered why Santa's cheeks are so rosy? This is another illo for the Christmas edition of Nuts, as part of the ongoing Celebrity Karma Sutra series, of course Santa had to get in on the act, really like this one out of the series, think the girl has the right amount of sexiness to her, this one and pretty much the entire series thus far have been art directed by Barney Hammond, this I can tell you is one of those rarest of things; a regular job that's a real joy to do!

On a side note, I read in the Metro paper the other day about people complaining about the Lads mag, it's an ongoing thing it would seem that raises it's head in a cyclical fashion; kind of like Video games causing violence, there's always something for every generation, we shouldn't forget that comic books and Rock n' Roll have all been targets of the PC brigade trying to be the saviors of a generation's morality.

Here's my opinion for what it's worth, and as someone that produces a large volume of work that appears mainly in men's titles, and as a by-product do in fact read various titles, I don't think there's anything in these magazines that you don't see on TV or elsewhere, in fact I'd argue that particularly with a magazine like Nuts, there's something intrinsically British, in it's humor and variety of subject that if anything in this day and age it should be celebrated.

The magazine very much taps into a market, and if you like psyche of a British man, so if you like TV programs like Top Gear, The Inbetweeners and pretty much any British Comedy or Comedian at the the moment, if your interests include music, film, videogames and football then Nuts is the mag for you, also it's got loads of boobs in it, everyone's a winner!

I'll get off my soapbox now, and on to another illustration, above is a cover for HR magazine, i've delayed in putting this up, as i'm not quite sure how successful this one is; it's one those where I was slightly out of my comfort zone, in that there was a crowd of people, a short deadline, and I was asked to draw them "Big Head"/ Caricature style... so different, in that I usually draw proportionately accurate.

It's maybe a job I should have turned down, as I was pretty busy, but it was a case of a bit of ego on my part and the fact that I get to work with the lovely Laura Hawkins at the title, who's a really good person to work with.

It was a bit of a sticky one this, lots of work over a weekend, only to have to change what pretty much everyone what everyone was wearing (they were originally in Tuxedos and evening gowns!) on the Tuesday, with final due on Wednesday/Thursday.

I'll probably be asked to do more Big Head/Caricature based work in 2012, in fact I can see Art Director's already seeing the above and making a note to hire me for something similar, and what I would say is that next time, because i've had this as my trial run-out i'll do some great work in this style, there's no reason why not, i'm a big fan of this genre and it plays to my more humorous side often which makes for my best work. Btw my favorite artist who works in this way is the great American illustrator Drew Friedman, check out his work online!

In the end the above piece was published albeit with some modification, as the powers that be at the title thought it needed to be a bit more serious in tone, why ask for them in this style then that lends itself to humor? Is the most obvious question, as I would have been more comfortable drawing everyone in correct scale.

Still I don't blame Laura the AD on this one, who despite the hiccups mentioned above was a delight to work with and hopefully i'll get the chance to make amends next year with a really great illustration.

So only a couple of weeks on from that last Big Head illo and I got another (these things come in groups!) I think this time with a bit more of a satisfactory outcome.

Graeme Sapsed at Men's Health UK got in touch to ask whether I fancied these big head illos, you can imagine my eyes rolling at the prospect, still I thought this was an opportunity to undo the hoodoo of drawing the cranially blessed.

Brief was this; Cluedo characters, three that actually exist Prof Plum, Col Mustard & Rev Green, and three that are to be visually created using my own feeble imagination based on the names Doctor Black, Mr White & Mr Bulk the Butler all doing a series of exercises.

Again I was busy while I took on this gig, but just about fitted it in, most difficult thing was trying to master how to interpret the exercises, as it wasn't a case of just "lifting weight" type scenes, but generally more difficult things to get reference for such as how to use the Bulgarian Bag, how to use a Grid Roller, in some cases even Google wasn't that much use!

Still got there in the end, and having just seen how Graeme did a great job in setting them out on the page (see above, sorry about the quality of the scans!) I think they came out pretty well.

So that's me for 2011, I couldn't post everything I've worked on of recent up on this blog, as some have yet to see print, so they'll show up early 2012 no doubt.

If you're a regular reader of this blog or one of my clients, I'd just like to give a big thanks to everyone who's made this a busy year for me, and this year has been a good one on the work front, and I look forward to making even better images, in fact roll on 2012 is what I say! I've got a few things up my sleeve... which I can't go into to much detail with, but er... some are a bit special, let's put it that way.

Happy Christmas and have a great New Year! See you in 2012..

Friday, 11 November 2011

Beards & Rude Stuff!

So here we go, late as usual, but as promised more recently printed illos, the above set of images are very much of the moment, this being "Movember" (if you don't know what Movember is then google it!)

Anyway Graeme Sapsed got in touch at Men's Health, to ask whether I fancied this nice little job of illustrating different varieties of facial fuzz, now I'd already in mind to do draw something similar as a personal piece, another one of those images that's on my already massive 'to-do' list of illos, so as you can imagine I was delighted to actually be assigned this job, and obviously getting paid for it doesn't hurt either.

Graeme very kindly sent over sketches (bottom) for me to interpret.. sometimes more difficult than you think this, as all art can be interpreted different ways, still I cracked on with it over a weekend, and here's what I came up with.

I'm not sure they're 100% what Graeme asked for, as I think he maybe wanted them to look more like Victorian drawings or etchings, whereas I think mine have a slight vintage feel to them, but generally have a modernity to them, regardless as a set of illos I'm actually really quite happy with them... and i'm very critical of my stuff.

Top are the drawings as I sent them to MH, and below that are the illustrations laid out in the magazine, lovely page design by Graeme I think on this.

More illustrations for Nuts, in the regular feature of Celebrity Karma Sutra, really is a great job this, I always look forward to who we'll draw next, and the fellas at Nuts always try and keep our "victims" as topical as possible, so be warned celebrities if you're in the papers for getting up to no good with someone you shouldn't, then know this you'll be the next one to be drawn in a compromising position.

Some of these drawings go back a couple of months, first up is the Guvernator himself Arnie, and below is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, I think this position was titled "The Berlusconi Bung Bunga", yeah that's right each drawing comes with a position name. Genius!

Mike Tindall here, getting up to some funny business, and fellow sportsman Phil Taylor scoring a bullseye so to speak.

Rio Ferdinand and Ashton Kutcher, maybe insert your own double entendres here.

Finally, Danny Cipriani, with tales of his recent tryst with Katie Price was next on the hitlist, and of course last but by know means least X Factor's Frankie Cocozza up to some shenanigans with a girl that curiously resembles the red head from Geordie Shore.

Always nice to finish on a high, I think the Frankie one is the best of the bunch so far... I was also very pleased to see in Nuts landmark 400th issue that these Celebrity Karma Sutra illos had made the magazines "50 best moments of Nuts" feature coming in at a respectable No.46 on the list...Yay!!

So there you lots of beards and boobs, some illustrators get all the luck!

Friday, 28 October 2011

More FD Spots!

Plenty of new illustrations completed, but I seem to have very little time to post these things up, hopefully i'll have this weekend off and i'll be able to some catch up postings.

To kick things off i'd thought i'd start with these recent spot illos for Financial Director magazine, as i've said before I absolutely love spots, you see people have all different kinds of views on what illustration is and should be, and everyone has their own skill set to match; for me it's all about ideas and concepts, always has been, always will be.

I'm an ideas man, what I love is getting an article through from a client and being asked to come up with an image that illustrates the point of article, and to do this with an interesting concept rather than a ho-hum scene.

With a spot illustration, you have to strip back even further so it's all about a great idea, simply because it's printed so small... the idea needs to speak even more loudly.

The top one is about the troubles with the Euro, I don't have to say too much the picture does the speaking on this.

The one underneath is about how technology continues to improve the world of business, or something along those ideas, an Ipad on wheels was originally suggested, which I duly illustrated from a variety of angles, and I threw this idea in on a whim, Richard Crump the AD on these ran with that, which was both cool and a bit of a surprise, as I thought he'd prefer one of the wheeled options I sent over.

Top illo is about the company TT electronics, and how it utilized some of the smaller companies and acquisitions under it's banner to strengthen the company.

One underneath is about an FD and a whole lot of airmiles.

Top illo is about the Cosworth car company, and how it's adaptive nature has seen them go from strength to strength, a chameleon made out of a car I suggested, and luckily for me Richard let me go with it, I actually really like that image!

The bottom one is about the decline of the service industry, this is not the first time i've drawn a waiter; they always turn out like Alfred the Butler from the Batman comics!

Top one is about the fear of public speaking, something I know only too well, i'm quiet and an introvert by nature, so nothing fills me with dread as much as either being the centre of attention, or indeed having to speak publicly, here's a microphone re-imagined as the plant from Little Shop of Horrors.. probably something profoundly psychological about that image and it's relation to me.

Bottom one is about the UK Government trying to find someway tax us on our computers, yeah 'cos we're not taxed enough as it is!

Right, that's it for now i'll put up further new stuff over the next couple of days.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friends of the Earth

I thought I better put these up, while i've got a rare bit of spare time this afternoon, above are a selection of images I recently completed for Friends of the Earth.

This commission came about, as a result of the portrait I did of John Grant for Mojo magazine last year (see a previous post) the creative director of FOE, Glen Colegate got in touch as he'd spoken to John at a gig, and was made aware of my work from the glowing review this awesomely talented musician had given the portrait.

To cut a long story short Glen was able to pass on a signed print of the artwork to John Grant himself on my behalf (thanks Glen!) and suggested that he's like me to produce some work for FOE at some point in the future.

Fast forward a year on, and such a job came available, a series of images for a magazine published by Friends of the Earth.

The above images were borne out of I suppose a bit of struggle and hardship, not everything runs smoothly in this game as anyone will tell you. I accepted the commission with a little hesitation as initially there was an issue with the budget being below where I need it to be, but an agreement was made, and I was told that this job would be overseen by FOE art Director Glynn Perkins, who would be in touch when a brief was ready.

Nearly a month had passed without any contact and I assumed the job had been killed, not that I was too worried as in the interim I'd signed myself up for lots of other jobs, and then just as you'd expect I got an email telling me the briefs were being written up, at this point it then becomes a real issue in juggling jobs, especially as the deadline on these images proved to be particularly tight.

For a period there I was pulling my hair out, because if FOE had hit me earlier with the brief, say not long after the initial email to check my availability which is how this usually works, then it would have been fine, and i've had had longer to create the artwork, as it turned out I think I had maybe just over a week to hand in roughs and produce the final artwork, on top of the mountain of other work i'd taken on because I assumed this job was a no-go.

Still these things happen in this job, Glynn proved to be really good to work with and open to ideas, although it's fair to say I occasionally gave him a tough time on this job, mainly because I was so stressed out on this side, I expect great things from myself on every commission, whether that be a spot illustration or a cover, so if circumstances arise that threaten the production of great images, then it's fair to say i'm not a happy bunny, and i've been in this profession quite a while now, so i'm not afraid to voice my opinion.

In all there were 5 illustrations, one of which got killed (as I was at finishing stage) as it was deemed by the legal department to be potentially a bit iffy for them, I see their point, but in reality it didn't actually need to be killed, a case of legal airing on the side of caution, which lets face it, that's how they always works.. I quickly replaced it with another illustration, which I haven't put here, it's a perfectly fine image, but just treads a bit close to a previous image i've done, and I hate repeating myself.

The image that didn't see light of day, may very well get finished as a portfolio piece as it had all the hallmarks of a really great image, perhaps i'll post it here on another occasion.

As a whole though I was happy with the above images, particularly the top one, which I always felt was a great idea, and i'd love to work with Glen and Glynn at FOE again, preferably with a less limiting time frame and/or budget, that'll allow me to de-stress and just get on with making great images, which is what it's all about.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

HR Magazine!

Here's a job I did last month which I think i'm now safe to post up ; the above image was created for a cover to a supplement given away with HR magazine.

This job came about from a chatting with the AD of HR magazine Laura Hawkins, who received one of my 80's Last Supper postcards (*see earlier post) and was I think if I remember correctly the first entrant in the competition to get all the names completely right.

Having got all answers correct, and receiving her goody bag through the post, Laura said that as soon as something suitable came up she'd drop me a line.. now often when an Art Director says things like that, or the classic line: "We'll keep your work on file!"... more often than not, and bearing in mind i've done this job for quite a while, well when you hear that, you never hear from them again and "keeping your work on file" is code for; we'll file that it in the bin... but there are exceptions, thankfully Laura was one of those exceptions and did in fact wait for an appropriate commission.

So the brief was; to show a car boot sale scene, with a business type selling items, several of the items were to be reused for an interior layout, and related to various things in the feature, so on the list we had an old cash register, an old phone, cars and a carriage clock, I was then able to pepper the table with other items of my choosing.

It proved to be an absolutely lovely job to do; I was able to go overboard with little details, such as a little ballet dancer in a snow globe, a vintage robot, russian dolls etc..

Must admit though the real icing on the cake was getting to work with Laura on this, who was personable, fun and professional... in fact I was hemmed in from being my usual approachable self, because at the same time I was doing about 4 other jobs.. bit of a stress head there for a while! Still I've said this before, but work is generally steady, and than BANG; I get 4 or 5 at the same time.. not that i'd ever really complain about being busy!

Hopefully this won't be the only time I'll get to work with Laura and HR mag, as I really enjoyed myself on this one, click on the top pic for a close up.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Catch Up!

Here's a much needed catch up posting, i've been incredibly this past month, and there's still a lot of images yet to see print, which is why I've been slow in putting up new stuff.
What I can show you at this time are a series of spots i've been doing for various clients, above is another Rise of the Machines illos for Men's Health, this time our Terminator's using a Smith Machine to work his upper body, this was art directed by the always ace Graeme Sapsed.

I was saddened to hear last week that MH Art Ed Rob Milton was leaving and heading for pastures new, Rob has been brilliant to work with and has really championed my work over the last couple of years.... I for one will miss working with him greatly, and was gutted that I was too busy with deadlines to send out a leaving gift.

I wish him all the best, someone of his ability will always land on their feet, and I hope i'm lucky enough to get to work with him again in the future.

Here's the first four in a new series of rather saucy spot illos for Nuts magazine, Simon the Art Director at the mag, asked me if I fancied taking up this new regular gig called Celebrity Kama Sutra, in which every week a celebrity is posed in a compromising position.. obviously I jumped at the offer!
The above images I've actually managed to put in reverse order here, Ryan Giggs was first up, then Heston Bluementhal was second, followed by Ashley Cole and the Tiger Woods.. i've said this before, but I love working for Nuts, these were art directed by the superb Simon Freeborough and Barney Hammond.
Even more spots! These were done for a new regular section in Financial Director magazine, these were art directed by Gavin Hinks and Richard Crump.. I can't remember what each article was about, certainly the top one is about security for Cloud computing, the second one I was asked to draw a head exploding, and the third one I was asked to come up with concepts for an article, which had something to do with certain people getting paid out less than others.. sorry if i'm a bit vague there, it's been a busy period, anyway we came up with the idea of someone getting a larger slice of the pie!
Here's some more spots from the same magazine, Richard at the title has been great to work with (in fact I'm working with him at the mo!) and allowed me to come up with my own ideas for an illo about the state of the Italian economy, really fun these and I went to finish on both, one's obviously the Tower of Pisa being propped up by the euro and the other is a Roman phalanx crumbling under an attack... i'm not sure which one they ran with in the mag.
Finally, on to other news I got an image accepted into Images 35: the Best of British Illustration 2011, there's an irony there as all the work was produced/printed and submitted in 2010!

Anyways, this is the first time i've got a piece in... having said that it's only the second time i've entered in the whole time i've been working (the price put me off for years!) Anyway I bit the bullet last year, and entered a selection of illos for inclusion, and the cover for the my booklet Kaleidoscope got chosen in the Self Promotion category... which was really nice, and i'm entering it this year too.

I received the annual through last week, but only got around to looking at it yesterday, and get this I get mentioned near the front of the book by none other than Bonnie Greer, who was acting as the judge for the prestigious Critic's Award.

Bonnie Greer is a playwright, author and critic and is perhaps best known for her appearances on the telly for Newsnight Review (which I used to watch in my student days!), anyway every year the AOI invite someone noteworthy to pick one of the entries out as I suppose a 'Best in Show", alas I didn't get it this year, that went to a young fella called Peter Strain, however I take heart in that perhaps I was on the shortlist with this honorable mention: "other outstanding work.. Bill McConkey 'Kaleidoscope', a cornucopia of what he likes to draw, his visual influences and stuff from his childhood"

Maybe one of these days, i'll pick up another award to sit with 2009's 'Wellcome Image Award' and School swimming certificate... I think I only ever got the one?!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


If you entered the 80's Last Supper competition, then your prize pack should have found it's way to you either yesterday or today via the postman... hopefully you Art Directors out there are not above a good bribe for extra work!

It became an epic undertaking just to get the print quality I was after on some of the items, in the end the printers at Carter & Jackson did a great job, they are the firm that have printed all my stuff in the past, but I just had to wait until they got a new machine in to tackle this job... and they came up trumps again!

One of the items in the bundle was the Harry and the Hendersons cut-out toy above, if you got one, I'd recommend making the slits for the arms a little longer than the white line, otherwise you won't be able to fit the hands through properly.

Here's a little fun we had with the toy at the McConkey House at the weekend... this was a joint McConkey artwork, the image above was created by Bethany McConkey, Matty McConkey and Uncle Bill.

As you can see we've customized our Harry's, the one on the left with yellow crown is called "Beario" and was created by young Matty, the middle one with the blue hat is called "Squario" made by Uncle Bill, the one on the right sporting the 3D glasses called "Hairio" was created by Bethany.

The babies were supplied by Bethany and put on a green screen (like they do in films) and we added the background with computer graphics!

You can see quite clearly in this illustration the Harry's are in a forrest teaching Babies.. I mean who else is going to do it?! Either that or this is a very odd nativity scene.

If you're a client and you want to play along, send me your photos of your Harry doing something with a story or caption.

To everyone that got a prize pack, thanks for playing along, and enjoy the prizes!

Friday, 15 July 2011


I rarely (if ever) post up anything not directly work related up here on this blog, but well if you're one of my more regular clients, then some time throughout the past year, you'll have missed me via phone call or email because I was at the dentist... Ha, I imagine some of you may have thought this was a porky.. I mean who goes to the dentist that much?!!, well as you can see from the above snaps me!

Over the past 16 months or so I've been on the long process of finally getting my teeth fixed
and my Dentist sent me the before and after pictures this week, now we've finished treatment.

As you can see from the "Before" pic I had a set of British gnashers that would put Austin Powers to shame, I mean look at that upper right one, what the hell's going on there?!

That was the first one we treated, my Dentist Fayaz, removed the tooth behind it, and using a contraption that fitted in my mouth like a gum shield, with a hook and an elastic band, that was able to lure the tooth down from way up in my mouth down to the correct position... I know, it's amazing what they can do with dentistry now?!

There were no veneers or crowns done throughout this period, all the above work was done with my own teeth, for twelve months or so we used various brace type contraptions and clear aligners (near invisible gum shields) to straighten and move my teeth in to the correct positions.

Look at them chompers now! The irony is that because i'm not used to giving it a big toothy smile, that er.. probably no one gets to see them anyway, still at least i'm not self-conscious about hiding them. Job done i'd say!

Just like to give a big thanks here to the Dentist/Genius Mastermind of this work Dr Fayaz Ladak and the girls who helped with the treatment Keeley and Sarah, and all at PR Jones & Associates for there time and hard work.

Also big thanks to all my clients for helping to pay for all this work, doesn't come cheap, so cheers for the work you've been putting my way.

Now i've done with the teeth, any takers for helping me with my breast augmentation procedure?!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Jobs Round Up!

Here's another selection of jobs that have seen print over the last few weeks or so, above is a cover for Insurance Age magazine.

The brief was this; have all the trademark characters from the most famous insurance companies, like Direct Line, Go Compare, Admiral, Compare the Market, and Churchill's looking a bit beaten up, with a two finger salute in the foreground.. this coming from the smaller independent insurance firms, or arguably it could be coming from everyone in this country that has to sit through their God awful adverts.

I think if i'd ever suggested putting a two fingers up on the cover, I can imagine a look of disgust appearing on most art director's faces, fortunately Iain Winfield (Formerly of Accountancy Age!) who art directed this and came up with the idea, is a ballsy fella, and is not afraid to come up with something that may stir up a bit of a reaction.

I'd argue perhaps that this is more tongue in cheek, and done with a good deal of humor as opposed to being straight out confrontational... it's something I wish other magazines would take on board. Where's that satirical bite we British made famous?!

Here's an interior illustration for Financial Director magazine, this was commissioned by the Editor Gavin Hinks, who i'd also worked for on Accountancy Age.

I can't remember what the actual article was about, but I was hired to create the illo above, legs walking away from a rather tarnished crown, as though it's just been stood dropped and stood on.

This was a quick one, and I remember being a little anxious about the perspective/viewpoint, and the fact that this was a very different kind of drawing from what I usually get, which is in most cases built around some kind of portraiture... in the end though I was pretty happy with the results.

This above image proved to be very taxing for both me and the Art Director, it was an infographic based image on the subject of a new targeting system on an Apache Helicopter, this saw print in Nuts magazine.

I'm not sure what threw me most on this job, whether it be the fact that I was at the time completely overworked, or in this case I had issues with the composition, which had been laid out by the Art Director Simon Freeborough.

I've worked to other people's compositions (Simon included) before and not had too many problems, it's just on this one, I had problems making the rocket work... also I completely overworked the original drawing.. perhaps it was a case of being tired on my part, and having to work in a more formal style with this kind of stuff.

Still after all the teething problems we had originally, upon seeing this in print I couldn't actually see what all the fuss was about on my side, it looked perfectly fine on the page, and I think it's all brought together because of the circular motif Simon used on the final image, my hat goes off to Mr Freeborough for bringing it altogether in the end.

That's it for now, more images coming this way soon!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Men's Health Illos!

As ever i've been slow in putting up new images, anyway to make amends here are a collection of jobs that have been commissioned by the top people at Men's Health magazine over the last couple of months.
Above is another "Rise of the Machines" illos, they are really enjoyable to do these... I do hope that this will become a bona fide genuine series, as i'd like to do a T800 Endoskeleton, or a T1000 working out... this one shows the Arnie T800 using a bit of gym equipment called the Power Rack, this was again art directed by the ace Kerem Shefik at the mag.

Art Editor Rob Milton got in touch to ask whether I fancied this job of coming up with a series of headshots/character designs, these as you can see were placed into the above photographs of the "Guess Who?" board game.
"Great, i'll do it!" I said without hesitation, the characters I had to illustrate should personify particular work identities in the office environment said the brief, these being; 'The safe pair of hands', 'The office light relief', 'The networker' & 'Ambition personified'
At this point I thought how do I make someone look like a reliable 'safe pair of hands' from a headshot?! I ended up basing this character partly on my brother Mick, the others came surprisingly smoothly. Another enjoyable job this, big thanks to Rob for sending this my way.

Above is another advertorial job for Promotions AD David Godfrey, this time for Nicorette.. this one proved tricky, for a couple of reasons; i'd just come off a series of jobs that asked for a more realistic drawing style, when it came to this job my drawing had become stiff and too realistic, and secondly I rarely just work in black and white, this is usually only at the start of the process in rough stage, then I colour and iron out any problem.. so in my head, when i'm working in B&W it still feels like i'm at the rough stages.
It ended up taking a while to get these anywhere near right, but we got their eventually, luckily David was very patient with me on these, and I think the one with the girls in particular works very well, believe it or not I was struggling to make my girls hot enough! I know criminal, this isn't an area that usually causes me any problems, I should maybe work on a series of pin ups to get a bit more practice.
That's it for now, another post will be coming up shortly that collects together another series of images i've been doing for various magazines.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Royal College of Physicians!!

I've felt terrible over the weekend just gone, I thought I had a bout of hay fever, but now I think i've come down with a Summer cold or some kind of flu... anyway enough of my woes.

Above is some work I produced recently for the RCP; that's Royal College of Physicians for the uninitiated, the two images above are just fragments of an A3 poster I created for the RCP's magazine called Commentary, the artwork will also be used on their websites, and various other printed material in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

As the poster won't be printed in it's entirety until a later date, I've stayed away from posting the entire thing here.

The commissioner of this artwork, is a rather lovely person called Emma Tennant, who is now Editor of the RCP's in-house material, now me and Emma go way back, are you sitting comfortably? As I can feel a story coming on...

Okay, so when I set out on this journey of becoming an illustrator many years ago now, in fact 2013 will officially mark a decade in the business, anyway when I started out I was lucky or unlucky (depends how you look at it!) to be signed to one of the UK's leading illustration agencies.

At that time my work was a very layered collage/photoshoppy approach to making images, very much in the mould of my illustration hero of the time Dave McKean, this style of work had been popular from around late 90's to 2001/2002.. although arguably stylistically it was already on it's way out by the time I became pro.

I suppose when you start out, you think you've made it just by getting a top agent, this isn't really the case, but in my first year i'd managed to bag a couple of top name clients via the agents, these being New Scientist and a book jacket for Egmont Books.

The reality is for the most part an agent won't be getting you work week in, week out... and as I found out in my first year often won't get you enough work to eek out any kind of living, luckily i'd bagged a series of jobs with a horoscopes magazine.. strangely enough doing horoscopes, by sending out mailouts, this helped me earn something which looked vaguely like an income for the first year.

Come my second year, and having already paid tax on the pitiful amount that I had earned, I had the task of trying to get new clients and finally try and make a living from this thing.. this proved to be at the time an uphill task.. i'm putting this mildly actually, as month after month went by without hardly any work.

I maybe had done about two paying jobs by the time August/September had come around.. two flaming jobs and there's me represented by the supposed top dog agents in the UK, i'd done an interview with Digital Photographer with them labeling me the new superstar of the field, and here was I with not a pot to pi$$ in! I simply couldn't get work.

Anyway, now i'd been told some months previous by another artist that I should get in touch with a subscription based partwork magazine, that had been heavily using photoshop artists, most of which were represented by my agents.. I'd stupidly thought that work was going through the agency, which is why I delayed getting in touch with the company publishing the magazine, thinking that it was only a matter of time before I got some work through.. this never happened.

Anyway just as I was thinking about jacking the whole profession in, and looking at least to get a part-time job to make ends meet, as a last ditch thing I emailed the company that published the title, this was a relatively small company called Summertime who produced the magazine Mind, Body, Spirit which was in published in partnership with the mega company in this field Diagostini.

A few days later I got an email through from the Editor, a Canadian lady called Jane Burgess, who said she was always interested in seeing new work and that I should email her some samples... which I promptly did.

And then I waited and waited, and nothing; this was despite my work predominantly at that time having been in the whole genre of horoscopes and spirituality.

I was a bit green at the time, and if I spoke to someone via email and had sent them samples, then I didn't necessarily feel inclined to send them printed samples also as a follow up.. in this case I was both desperate and I knew I was right for the title, so I sent Jane some tearsheets, postcard and CD by post.

Maybe a week later I got an email from Emma Tennant, who I think was then Assistant Editor, who asked me if I fancied doing half page images for her on the topic of witchcraft from around the world; I'd be paid I think about £200 for the image, and if it was good this would develop into a series of 12.

At the time I was into my last £100 of my graduate overdraft... I obviously jumped at the chance!

My fortunes flipped 180 degress in a matter of weeks, the other three Editors there; Jane Burgess, Sarah Burnside and Anthony Weaver all got in touch to offer me work... this was for a weekly title, which meant I was often doing three/four jobs a week; all on top pay at the time £4oo for a full page, £800 for a double etc... that series of 12 witchcraft ended up being a series of well over 20, if not 30 images!

Instead of earning probably less than a grand that year, I posted a profit of over 30k all of which, I earned in the last six months of the financial year!

At the time I couldn't tell you how big an impact these jobs had on me, not only the financial thing, but as a person, I got my self-worth back, and helped make me the illustrator and fella I am today.

It was such a amazing period for me, as I got to work with absolutely great people everyday out, also I don't think I could have got schooled better in this profession, working to that amount of deadlines and having to produce to such a calibre day in day out..

I worked with MBS magazine until it's demise some 18 months/2 years after that initial job.. baring in mind partworks generally don't even run past the year mark... it goes to show you how strong a title it was, may even be some kind of record, it ran for I think 3/4 years in total!

So there you have it, a bit of my history and you understand why I owe Emma and the Summertime team a great deal of gratitude.

When Emma came to me with this recent job for RCP, it seemed obvious that a different approach was needed rather than the linework style I now work in for this image to work.. I don't think I'd change my style for anyone else, but I made an exception in Emma's case, and came up with a more print based style of working, that I'd been working on in my spare time, with ink and rollers.

While i'm here i'll also give a shout out to Sarah Pridgeon, formerly Sarah Burnside who I previously mentioned as one of the Editors I worked with at Summertime... we still keep in touch, after all these years, she recently married her fella and moved all the way to Wyoming, USA to be with him, from London to Cowboy country... she's a great writer, I think she should write a book on this, it'd make a very good rom-com!

Next post, less writing..just lots of great illos!

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Pressures of Print!!

If you've entered my Last Supper competition, then you should have got a prize pack by now... I say "should" have, but.. er.. you haven't! Very sorry, but there's been loads of technical delays!

The deal is that most of said items in the prize pack are printed material, very much like the original postcard, however as I stated in the last post I was unhappy with the print quality of the last supper postcard, all my big print jobs are now handled by a printers in town.

I was hoping this was a one off blip with my printer's machines, as they've generally been brilliant over the past 18 month or so i've been using them, alas it seems they are having a few technical problems, and this has meant that yesterday I was out seeking a new printer in my neck of the woods.

It turns out that finding a great printers, ie; someone that knows what they're doing, someone that is easy to work with, and most importantly can deliver a perfect (or close to) print are as rare as hen's teeth!

Too many of the proofs I did yesterday, were just not right.. and y'know it's not the artwork this is the same artwork that has already seen print before, so I know how it should print.. it's just a case of everyone's machines printing different... and literally everyone's print of the same artworks is different.

My original printer, who still arguably does the best colour correct print, is in the process of getting a new machine, which should be in his hands over the next two week (I'm told mine is first job scheduled for it!) then it'll no doubt be a case of trying to get this one to print perfectly..although i'm told there will be teething problems initially... Gulp!

This whole thing with printing has driven me a bit loopy, I don't like things being taken out of my hands, also it's hard to get my head around as I know without fail when I give my artwork over to a client, and it sees print it 99% matches the work on screen.. Aaarghh, it's so frustrating!

I could go on, and on at this stage, but well after yesterday's debacle i'd be ranting like a mad man.. or of you know me, even madder man.

I do apologize to anyone waiting on a goodybag, but hopefully they will be with you shortly.. if not i'll formulate a new idea for a different set of prizes.

On the positive side, if you haven't entered (and i'm still sending out postcards) then you've still got plenty of time!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mac Format- Gestures Ganesh!

Here's an image that has just seen print in the latest issue of Mac Format, which came out last week.
Alex Thomas the Art Editor of the title got in touch last month during that dreaded double Bank Holiday/ Three day week, which was an incredibly busy period for me, in fact i'm still recovering from it.. I became a little burnt out for a while there!

I was initially worried that I wouldn't have time to do this piece, but as soon as Alex told me he wanted a drawing of Ganesh.. well what can I say I was hooked.

The illustration is for a feature about using gestures on Apple's range of notebooks and desktops, 'gestures' are like little keyboard shortcuts using multi touch hand gestures, the kind of thing you would see using trackpads.

Alex gave me the brief, around midweek and I went on to do a pretty comprehensive drawing for him to take a look at the day after one of the Bank Holidays, I should point out that I couldn't start this image because of other commitments until the weekend, so this was turned around in about three days.

Luckily for me, Alex loved what i'd done on this and only asked for a minor change with regards to the head being made a little larger and a removal of a decorative border, however Alex decided that the image worked so well that it went from being a single page image to being extended out to a double page spread... which.. er.. as you can guess meant I had to do a bit more work than I expected... tricky when you have more jobs on than days in a week!

This is what I would say with regards to changes and alterations, i'm not one to cause too much of a fuss over these things although in certain instances perhaps I should, because these things need to be done for the right reasons, not because an Art Director wants his/her thumbprints on an illustration.

Changes should really only be made on a final for two reasons; the first one being to improve the readability of the image, or to tweak details, the second is to make alterations so that it fits the layout better.

This is why Alex is such a great Art Director, the alterations he asked for served one purpose and one purpose only and that's to tweak an already great illustration and make it better, and to make it more cohesive with the magazine's layout... I hope other AD's are taking note, because the best Art Director's like Alex make these things look easy, I'm not questioning his decisions because they make complete sense, and at the end of the day you know you're on the same side trying to make the image the best it can be.

I think this is one of the illos i'm most proud of this year thus far, I think it came out well, because it plays to my strong points, first of all the brief is a good fit, it's fantastical and imaginative which are areas I work best in.
Second of all the composition is simple, so it allows me to be my most direct and bold, this comes across in both the linework and use of vibrant colour, it also frees time up to add to those little details.

Ideally these are the kinds of briefs I would get all the time, and I'd hope to produce work that didn't drop below this standard everytime... one day maybe!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

80's Movie Classics Last Supper

Usually in February/March/April i've already sent out my mail outs to existing and prospective clients, last year that was my 20 page booklet Kaleidoscope, and I had every intention of producing a second volume for this year, however since before Christmas up until now I've been too busy with actual jobs, in fact almost with a guarantee every time I've tried to start this booklet I've had an email or a phone call from a client.

Anyway here's a fun mail out postcard I've managed to fit in between jobs and over the last week or so when i've had my first real break... this should now be hitting the postboxes of Art Directors up and down the land.

This as you can hopefully see is an 80's movie themed tribute to Da Vinci's Last Supper, i'm inviting anyone who got hold of the card to tell me the films that each of the characters appear in and they'll get a prize... also bonus points for anyone who can name the film posters in the background, some of those are a bit tricky!

There's sixteen characters at the tables see if you can name all the films.

I must admit to being slightly disappointed with the quality of print on these when they came back from the printers, the card is a little more gaudier and grainier than I would have liked, above is how the artwork should have been printed... i'll be more vigilant in the future when it comes to printing matters... all things aside, they are adequate, just not the quality I demand.

You'll notice on the artwork above that I've put a little copyright stamp at the bottom, usually I don't feel a need to do this, but this is one of those images that goes walk-about online, and then it ends up on all manner of websites etc that I haven't given the thumbs up to; I don't mind if you're a client or you're writing something about my work, but i'm not cool with it just being used and abused randomly, which i've seen with one of my images.

Anyway not to dwell on negatives, the second volume of Kaleidoscope I have every intention of seeing in print either by the end of this year/early next; production values will be raised, the booklet will be bigger and I'll have 18 months of stuff to put in there.

In the meantime I have a lot more of these mailouts planned... keep your eyes on the mailbox!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Quick One's

I've been incredibly busy this past month, not that i'm complaining.. it's always the way for illustrator's, where either overworked or sat around twiddling our thumbs.

Above are some rather quick illos that have seen print over the past few weeks.

At the top is a cover for Accountancy Age, I'm not exactly sure what the article is about; the brief was to show a business type walking into a airport departure lounge, with his back to us and on his bag he has one of those airport label/stickers they put on your luggage with the words; 'Wish you weren't here'.

There are something's i'm generally not keen on drawing, one of those is the back of people's heads, in some cases you have no option, but I always try and give a 3/4 view , just so I catch some of the eyeline and cheekbone... reason I'm not keen is that by taking away the face, it's hard to invest the back of someone's head with any sense of character, alas because I wanted that perspective for this illo, just so it draws the eye in, I went for a flat back of head shot.

You'll notice i've stuck a plane in there, just so you know it's an Airport.. i'm subtle like that.

This image was art directed by the great Dan Parker at AA, I was saddened to hear that this would be my last cover for the title as this issue would be the last print edition, it's unfortunate also because i'd had to turn down two really cool covers prior on the grounds of my work schedule... they'll be remembered as the two that got away!

On a more positive note I was honored to be asked to provide the final cover, and hopefully i'll work with the AA fellas; Dan, Iain and Gavin on other things at Incisive Media... they've been great clients over the past 12 months or so!

That brief was sent on a Friday evening, and the final was sent in on the Monday, with some changes made for the following day.

The two illustrations below are for a feature that ran in Nuts magazine; about the tallest buildings in the world.

The top image, is the main feature artwork; Big Ben, Empire State Building, along with the new Skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, The Shard in London etc.. and the biggest being 'The Mile High Tower' that is under development in Kuwait.

The bottom image is an insert for the feature.

Simon Freeborough AD at the magazine asked me on the Wednesday evening if I could fit this image in (deadline being Friday) at the time I was up to my eyeballs in other deadlines, luckily because he'd already set out the layout and scaling (final feature has a measurement guide on the right hand side) it was a case of me just providing a tidy drawing.

I got up early the next day and the artwork was created by that afternoon.

Now I actually like the simplicity of the drawing, in fact I have a leaning sometimes to my more info-based imagery, however my brother on seeing it said; "That can't have taken too much work".. The cheek! I can assure you while this image may be quite simple to look at, it proved tricky in areas (all those windows, making things readable etc) not helped because of the mountain of other work I was doing at the same time.

Luckily I think Simon and the fine folks at Nuts appreciated the work i'd put in on this, and in under 24 hours no less!

That's it for now, i'm waiting until other images see print before I post them up; one's a real beauty though, but more on that when it hits the shops.. right back to work!