Category Archives: semester 2 lectures
A member of the royal british society of sculptors.
Frequently asked questions
I regularly receive enquiries from students who are interested in my work, but I do not always have time to assist students in their studies. The following is a selection of answers, to frequently asked questions, about my practice and is included on the website to help enquirers.
- Which subjects most interest you?
I am drawn to universal issues which have a political and social value. Levels of consumption of natural resources, food and material possessions are indicators of a society’s status and value and therefore are particularly intriguing. I have also investigated; image and identity issues in office environments (see ‘Office Politics Collection’), rites of passage (see ‘Barbie keeps her appointment with Womanhood’ Tullie House Museum commission), ethnic cleansing (refer Bankfield Museum response) and war (see Barrow schools memorial commission).
- Which perspective do you adopt when dealing with difficult environmental issues?
The dialogue I intend with an audience is open-ended for I am not wishing to deliver a polemic or one that is morally redeeming. My perspective is one of a curious mind reflecting what is observed: a world without a sense of equilibrium.
- What are the most difficult aspects of your practice?
I struggle with the concept of making more stuff in an already over-stuffed world. Material objects have a value that I recognize but those that just ‘sit’ seem superfluous, so part of me is anti-thing. Yet tangibility is seductive and often leads to an intriguing creative journey that I relish making this paradox difficult to reconcile.
- Do you think titles are an important aspect of your work?
Titling the work is an important stage, to me as it starts to open up the private discourse to others. The balance of how much to reveal and ‘explain’ weighted against intimacy and abstraction.
- Is involving humour in your work important?
Humour is a useful communication tool and it is often employed to connect with an audience. Many of the issues I engage with are sensitive and political and therefore careful handling is particularly necessary. Sometimes blatant and sometimes more obscure, I find employing wit and humour a delight that enlivens and imbues the work with a sense of the ridiculous that reflects the human condition.
- How do you measure success in your work?
I measure success in two ways.
My work feels like a series of conversations. Initially it is a private dialogue with the issue – where I explore through research and questioning what I know, what I learn, what I feel, what I want to say and how I want to say it and finally in which media and medium I want to use. Success at this stage is intuitive.
Secondly, if the conversation is expanded, by being invited to share the work with others, I gauge success by observing stimulating interactions, debate, motivation and reaction in the audience.
For example, by influencing the way people perceive waste, a difference can be made to the problem. Evaluation reports and surveys about the residencies, workshops and exhibitions have assessed their impact to be powerful and sustaining. The participants in the Personal Baggage project were all surveyed to assess their experiences and the individual value of the project. Most felt better informed about waste, and valued the opportunity to express themselves to others, which they hoped would in turn make other communities feel different about the subject. (For more information refer to Residencies pages – Personal Baggage and follow the link www.copelandbc.gov.uk/personalbaggage )
- A significant amount of time in your practice is spent as a mediator. How do you manage this within your practice?
Over the years the role as a mediator has grown until it is now an important part of my practice. For an artist the role of mediator has different demands whether I work with organisations or individuals. Entering the domain of an organisation or community, as a creative filter, is a privileged position. The engagement necessitates that a respectful dialogue is developed and nurtured.
For example, in Personal Baggage the liaison between industry and the community of Distington was challenging. The activities devised were there to let the villagers have a voice about living with landfill and other people’s rubbish. The workshops engaged all sectors of the community and the responses were wide ranging and reflective of the situation. The aim was not only to let the community air their views but also to let their neighbours in Copeland and Allerdale boroughs consider the impact that their waste habits had on others. The exhibition toured around the council areas in locations that were accessible to a wide range of the public. Venues included; village halls, civic halls, heritage centers and schools. Local groups and schools were invited to visit the exhibition and engage through a series of talks and workshops held at the exhibition venues. Visitors were surveyed and an evaluation document was produced which measured the impact on visitors. . (For more information refer to Residencies pages – Personal Baggage, and follow the link www.copelandbc.gov.uk/personalbaggage )
- Why do you often choose to work with waste material?
The creation of beautiful objects is not the goal of my practice. Materials that have had a previous life I find to be the most creatively challenging as it is the journey of transformation that keeps me stimulated. It often calms my conscience about creating more ‘stuff’ as it seems less invasive than utilising virgin stock.
- Do you find that you are drawn to a particular material?
There is not a palette of materials that I adopt repeatedly, but instead materials are selected as appropriate to address the issue. Consequently, no type of material is excluded for consideration – the palette to date includes compost, old plastic, recycled and scrap metal, discarded foam, scrap cardboard and paper, wood scraps, discarded textiles and recycled glass.
- Are there any problems in working with waste materials?
Working with old materials presents many problems and developing ways of managing and overcoming these has become essential. Firstly, an expectation that the finished work should be perfect is unrealistic because the materials are usually damaged, soiled and irregular. Source and supply is a major challenge, especially for work which employs multiples of materials. For example, in the chesterfield sofa for ‘Wasted’, “Are you sitting comfortably?” 15,000 old plastic carrier bags were sorted through in order to find 10,000 suitable to use. Negotiations were made with Safeway supermarket in order to collect enough old bags left by customers. (For more information refer to Residencies pages – Wasted)
- Which aspect of the waste problem most interests you?
The reluctance of acceptance of a personal responsibility by the individual, for their own waste, is an issue that particularly intrigues me. This is a major facet of the waste problem. We all toil to purchase possessions then tire of them so easily and bizarrely bury them in the ground! Ironically, in the end we are all buried in the earth.
- Do you enjoy working on collaborative projects?
I happily embrace the notion of working collaboratively on projects and often choose to engage other artists in order to add another dynamic to the work. The interaction can work on many levels and is often invigorating and challenging.
For example I have a lead artist role with several Creative Partnerships schools where my philosophy of reaping the manifold benefits of incorporating other art forms into projects is practiced. (For more information refer to ‘Projects and Residencies’ pages or for more information about Creative Partnerships follow link www.creative-partnerships.com ).
- Why did you decide to write a book about sculpture?
The rationale for researching and writing ‘Textile Perspectives in Mixed-Media Sculpture’ arose out of a personal requirement for a distillation of thought that sought to situate my practice in the world of contemporary art. The nature of most artists is to resist categorisation and it is only those outside the immediate practicing circle that demand, for their own convenience, a naming of what artists do and in what context they practice. Knowing that my own idiom balanced on the interface of sculpture and textile art – the opportunity to research a book presented a way to not only discover other practitioners who were also in this position, but also to give precious time to contextualising the work in a wider discourse.
The absence of any publication that discussed these crossovers further awakened my interest to investigate and document a burgeoning area of art. (For more information about my book refer to Publication pages and visit www.crowood.com )
- Stroke association 2010 – life after a stroke art club project – leading a group looking at expressing themselves through a wide range of artistic media after suffering a stroke. Focus on drawing and painting with some experimental work in clay and plaster.
- Youth Re:action team 2006-2009 – the idea of regeneration init a wildest sense is embraced in projects focusing on both inner and outer worlds that individual experience through reflective and tangible means. This manifests in dynamic interfaces between different age and aspiration groups.
- Creative partner ships-
- 2009-10 Dowdales school,dalton, cumbria
- 2010 Henshaw first school and whitfield first school, Northumberland
- 2008-10 Caldew lea primary school, Carlisle
- 2008-09 viewpoint project,penington primary school, ulverston
- -2008 Montreal primary C of E school
- -Lead creative, creative [artneships cumbria 2005-07 regeneration projects
- creative partnership north and south Tyneside health initiative 2007-07
Jac has been invalid with many more projects, reading through she should be proud of her achievements and how much she has helped other but as a designer her business dent really inspire me or motivate me to knowing how to go about making a career out of my design skills.
Another one of my lectures was about industrial designer, Amos Marchant. I say industrial designer as this in one of the terms he uses to describe his work.
He started life as a young boy taking things apart that his dad brought home, looking at how things where put together and the mechanisms that made it work. Following this he went on to study furniture and product design. He couldn’t choose between the two as he was unsure where his career path was going to take him and Kingston Polytechnic, where he studied was one of few places that offered this merge of disciplines. But here he learnt more about how things work and how these parts and mechanisms could be used to solve problems.
Whilst studying the use of computers was very limited and therefore alot of his designs had to be hand-drawn using drawing boards. Today he uses AutoCAD and solid works alongside his hand-drawing skills to achieve his designs, and he believes the days of modelling and free hand drawing are over, but still very important.
He later went on to be self employed setting up a company with a friend. One of their first projects was to design a bar stool, which has now led to be one of their most famous designs. The ‘Luna’ as the stool is called has a clever mechanism where the stool legs, go through the footrest to become a fixing mechanism. This was later exhibited at 100% design and was picked up by Allermuir, a Blackburn based design company, and it has now been in production over 15years and has also led them to designing a stacking chair alternative.
Over the years Amos has participated in and design many exhibitions as he felt this enabled him to get known as a designer and to also access funding and sponsorships. Over the years he has exhibited many of his designs at 100% design and for the last 12 years has also been on their selection committee.
Amos has also done some teaching in his time, working at Ravensbourne College for 14years. He originally started teaching the furniture design course, but later moved on to teaching the product design course. Whilst teaching he tried to drive as many live projects into the college as he could, as he knew the importance of these to students. One of the projects he completed was ‘Please be Seated’ in which he worked with design student Julian Slattery to design a series of park benches designed for London Architectural Biennale and sponsored by Bloomberg. The design was a wooden bench, with a dropped down section at a lower level, ideally for a child or elderly person.
One of the issues and problems Amos found was that many exhibitions had to be constructed compact and modular especially for touring around. He had to create leg structures that were able to be dismantled but on the other hand where still strong. He also tried to design exhibitions that where so compact that they could easily fit into a standard vehicle to enable reduction in costs.
Amos also refers to himself as a ‘problem solver’ commisioned to design solutions to problems that people face. An example of this was when he was asked to reduce the furniture costs by ½ for a conference centre that had to travel around. When he was analysing the project and looking at ways he could reduce costs he found that the 2 technicians who assembled the conference centre had to wait for an electrician in the specified country to help them connect the centre up. This was a very time and cost consuming exercise and therefore Amos turned the project into a product & furniture concept to solve the problem.
Many of his problem solving issues came from exhibitions already knowing he had to make them compact and modular to reduce costs, other issues started to come into the frame. One issue he tackled was for the Jerwood moving images awards, 2008. Here he had to design a solution that would allow 8 video artists, exhibit their work discreetly with no distractions to others, in also a very compact space. Here therefore created two large cubed structures, suspended within the space displaying the videos.
One of the largest exhibitions that Amos has designed was the Brit Insurance Designs of the year exhibition. This exhibition took place in the Design Museum, London, 2009 and presented the most significant achievements in design from the previous 12 months. One hundred designs where exhibited from many disciplines including architecture, fashion, furniture, graphics, interaction, product and transport design. With most of the exhibition being constructed off site, Amos had to find solutions to the problems and most of these ended up being of modular construction. Another issue Amos faced was the lack of audio equipment and space and therefore he imbedded screens into surfaces with glass overlays to increase space.
Another one of the innovative designs that Amos has created is the upside down chair. Reflecting on his own family lifestyle and his children he understood there needed to be a happy medium between a child’s and adult’s chair. He then created a solution to the problem which ended up being the upside down chair. This chair enabled the child to be seated at the table at the correct height, but once the chair was overturned the chair then became the correct height for an adult.
Overall Amos struggles to communicate his designer role, as he feels it’s never really just product or furniture designs. He seems himself as a ‘problem solver’ and most of his work comes from people wanting him to solve their problems. He is a self employed, freelance designer and never really completes any private commissions, he finds most his of projects somewhat lead from one another. After the lecture had finished he quickly spoke about how his passion for design and problem solving began, stating that as a child his Dad used to bring him home old office equipment. This could be anything from a phone, chair or even typewriter but Amos used to take them apart and see how they go together. This sparked his imagination, but it wasn’t until he got to college that he understood more of how these parts/mechanisms worked and how he could use them to solve problems.
A few short words from Amos describing his bio – I am an independent industrial designer and design consultant. He designs a wide range of products and works with clients to develop design strategies. He is also principle designer for one-or-more which provides additional manufacturing support for clients.
Amos graduated in 1987 from Kingston polytechnic with a BA honours degree in furniture and product design and went on to complete a MA in design studies from central of martins college of art and design.
After working with several design consultancies designing everything from trains to office furniture systems Amos established a London based design studio. He is perhaps most known for the ‘Luna’ ,aluminium furniture range designed for Allermuir lTD.It has been in production since 1996 and has been specified all over the world.
Have you always known that illustrating, cartooning and writing was what you wanted to do?
Not exactly. I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I liked to draw as a kid and I loved cartoons. I think I wanted to write first. After that I wanted to play in a band. I went to art college for about a year and got into a band. We tried to make it for a couple of years, without any success.
When did you feel you’d found your drawing style and how did it develop?
I went back to art college after the band, I was doing graphic design and it includedillustration. I was trying to find a style. I wanted to do expressionistic, dark, disturbing, scary work. I remember doing one brief and instead of finding it disturbing, everyone just laughed. I thought I was trying to tap into some kind of primal psychological thing and they all just laughed! So I think my work is inherently humorous somehow. Trying to do that sort of expressionistic, dark, scary work, I didn’t like the way I drew – I didn’t like my natural way of drawing. But eventually I realised you have to sort of live with your own handwriting. The weird thing is – I was looking back at some work I’d done at school, where I’d made this animated film and the style is amazingly similar to my style now.
How did you get into illustrating and cartooning?
When I got to London I ended up doing freelance illustration work for people, like the New Musical Express. They asked me to do a strip [which would become Captain Star] so that’s where becoming a cartoonist started really, kind of by accident.
What would your advice be to people hoping to build a career in cartooning, illustration or the creative fields in general?
Go for it. Follow your instincts. Don’t imitate anyone else. You have to deliver when people give you an opportunity. When your luck arrives you have to deliver something good, on time – and if you’re reliable and do something good on time, I think you can make a career. There is luck involved but you can kind of help the luck along by sending out work and promoting yourself.
Tell us about your creative processes…
The process is to try and get myself in the right frame of mind. There are things that help, like going to a cafe, sitting there daydreaming. Another thing I do when I’m writing is to go up to a cottage on my own and lie in the bath. With commercial jobs there’s often not the time to do that, so I come to the studio and I sit there and I kind of rotate the jobs in my mind. I’ll think about one and if nothing’s coming I’ll move onto another. The morning is best for me. I try to relax, have a cup of coffee and to daydream the ideas more than anything else.
Steven Appleby is a cartoonist and illustrator based in the UK. Tutored by the eminent illustrator Quentin Blake, Steven has become internationally acclaimed and his works have been published in newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph; in addition much of his work has been exhibited and published in over 20 books. His work is observational and humorous and his influences range from artists such as Andy Warhol to writers such as Philip K Dick and musicians and songwriters.
My influences are the people who helped me learn to think. Some are visual artists, like Edward Gorey or Andy Warhol, but many are writers, such as Philip K Dick or Kurt Vonnegut, filmmakers like David Lynch, or songwriters like Black Francis of Pixies. Thinking and ideas are vitally important to me because without them, what would the visual be about?
I ended up being a cartoonist because cartoon strips allow me to think, write and draw whatever I like (almost). I can create my own little world in the corner of a newspaper, bring it to life and use it to inflict my philosophical, observational or just plain silly thoughts on whoever happens to let their eyes fall upon it.
I still work in the traditional way, although nowadays I scan my cartoons and email them rather than delivering by post, by bike messenger or by hand. I sit at my desk using a dip pen and Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink decanted from the biggest bottle I can buy into the smaller, flat-sided ones – with the grinning spider still on them. I love that the design hasn’t changed since I was a student.
I ink in my rough drawing using a lightbox – a method suggested to me by Quentin Blake when he was my tutor (see: How To Draw With Steven Appleby) When the ink is dry I colour the drawings using Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour in half pans which, having tried many makes, and the tubes, has been my preferred choice for the past twenty years.
Stevens quirky nature definitely coms out through his work and joining forces with Linda Mccarthy both are doing well with success. Steven was kind to answer some questions to help get a better understanding of how he developed into the artist he is today.
1. What were you like at the age of 18?
Oh God, at 18 I must have been really invisible! I was shy, hopeless with relationships, hadn’t had a proper girlfriend – or boyfriend. I was very unconfident – though somehow, in a contradictory sounding way, beneath that unconfident outer layer I had belief in myself, which is what propelled me forward in the early days. I wanted to be in a band, and I think I was quietly pretty arrogant without, of course, having done anything to justify imagining I could be the next John Lennon or David Bowie. I was writing songs about things I hadn’t got a clue about – such as love! I remember there was one about a man who turned into a typewriter and ‘typed his stories in his head’. Sounds more interesting than it was.
2. What are you most proud of?
That’s difficult. I’m very proud of my two boys, and my stepsons, and how we’ve all somehow managed to make our rambling and unorthodox extended family work, what with my transgenderism, and so on. But I guess you’re talking about my work! Well, I’m proud of having managed to make a living out of thinking and drawing – and finding a way of putting my obsessions and interests into it. And I think that’s the key thing. You have to do what comes naturally to you. You have to be true to yourself and follow your instincts.
As to particular things I’m proud of… Well, I’m most proud, I think, of the worlds I’ve created. Captain Star and Small Birds Singing, in particular. If you can create a world then you’re not stuck just drawing, or writing. The world can be realised in film, animation, soft toys, teapots, cushion covers. Anything!
3. I remember you telling me about being taught by Quentin Blake. You’ve clearly retained an interest in him. What was it like to be taught by such a legendary figure, and who else inspired you as a youngling?
When I was 18 I don’t think I was aware of Quentin Blake, though I may have seen his drawing in Punch magazine, which my grandfather subscribed to. I certainly didn’t grow up with the books he illustrated. I got to know and love his work later. He was fabulous as a tutor at the Royal College of Art. He was interested in the students, and encouraging and inspiring, but left you all the space you needed in order to become yourself. I learnt from him that rather than inventing a style of drawing, you have to discover your own ‘handwriting’, as it were. And he introduced me to the way of working I have used ever since, using a light box. I describe it in ‘How To Draw with Steven Appleby’ on YouTube.
As a teenager one of my biggest influences was writing. I loved science fiction and particularly the work of Philip K Dick. I loved – and still love – the ideas in his books. ‘Only one man could save the world. And he was dead. Again.’ That sort of thing. What appears to be reality in a Philip K Dick book very often isn’t. That’s one of the themes in my work, too.
I also loved cartoons when I was growing up. My parents had cartoon books by people like Ronald Searle (St Trinians and Molesworth), Charles Adams (The Adams Family) and James Thurber, who wrote wonderful stories and drew crazy, surreal drawings. The worlds of all these people influenced me. Then, at art college, I discovered Edward Gorey, and his dark, sinister little books were a huge eye-opener. I realised that I could write and draw for adults, rather than having to be a children’s illustrator, and from Gorey I learnt that you can tell stories in dislocated fragments, rather than having to use a narrative that goes from A to B to C and so on. His books go A to P to D to Q… and it works brilliantly. He was a huge influence on Rockets Passing Overhead.
4. Do you prefer doing daily strips for newspapers etc, or the freedom of creating an entire book?
Because I wanted to write and draw and have ideas, becoming a cartoonist was perfect for me – in both strips and books. Newspaper strips, I’ve found, give me a huge amount of freedom. Every week I have a little oblong box I can fill with my own thoughts about the world. I can think, write and draw pretty much whatever I like – although if I go too surreal and weird I might get an email asking me to be a little less obscure next week. Books are also wonderful to draw, design and hold at the end of the process, and similar to the strips in terms of freedom… though, of course, in both these areas you have to please your editor as well as following your own path . Nothing is complete freedom!
5. Describe your daily routine.
These days I get up at 6.30 and have breakfast with my two boys, who leave for school at 7.30. Then I go round to the studio for about 8.30. My studio, which I’ve had for 12 years now, is an old shop two streets from my house, which is very handy but also separate from home. At the studio I try and work in the mornings until about 1 or 2 before I start looking at my emails, making calls, browsing eBay, and so on. But of course the best laid plans… I probably manage the morning working thing less than 25% of the time and usually phaff about answering email, having meetings and so on, and at the end of the day (which is 5 most days) I invariably think ‘Oh God, I’ve done nothing today!’
6. Practicality or aesthetics?
Aesthetics. High heels over trainers.
7. Animation or illustration?
Ideas over everything.
Actually, I’m not fond of the word ‘illustration’ to describe my work because it suggests (to me) the illustrating of someone else’s ideas. I sometimes AM an illustrator in that sense, but more of the time I’m writing and drawing my own ideas, so I tend to prefer being called a cartoonist. Or artist. I love animation, but as nearly everything I’ve done in animation originated as a strip or book, I’d have to say I prefer cartoon strips because they are the beginning. If the idea, or script, of the cartoon is good and works, then the animation will work.
8. Any advice for someone looking to break into illustration? (I might keep this answer to myself) And how did you get your break?
Um… Things have changed so much since I started that I’m not sure how it would be best to break into being a published illustrator these days. But I guess the main thing, as it always has been, is to get your work seen by the right person. The person who loves your work, and who will give you that vital first commission after which (so long as you do it well) others will follow. My work has been published a lot in Germany over the years, and that was completely due to one person, at one newspaper, who loved it. It was very lucky that he saw my work in the first place.
I’ve had lots of lucky breaks, but I think the crucial thing is to recognise when luck happens along so that you can grasp hold of it and not let go! My first commissioned illustration was for the NME (New Musical Express) when I had just moved to London a week before starting at the Royal College of Art. I was visiting a friend who designed record covers and showing him something I had recently done, when the art editor of the NME called. In the course of their phone conversation the art ed said he needed a drawing for the letters page by the next morning, and my friend said ‘I have just the person standing right next to me,’ which was how I came to end up working all that night and got my first drawing published. I could have panicked and said ‘no’, or I could have messed it up, but instead the NME was happy, which was the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Eventually they published my first cartoon strip, Rockets Passing Overhead, which has since (as ‘Captain Star’, been seen on TV and published in many countries).
So – the first thing you need to do is be an individual. Be distinctive. Follow your own path. There’s no point in being like other people. Then you need the right person/s to see and become aware of your work (lots of internet ways to do that as well as the good old ones like phoning up, making an appointment and showing your portfolio). Finally, you need some luck.
I once heard writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce say on the radio that he had lost count of the number of times he had watched people walk right past their luck without noticing it. So don’t walk past your luck!
Do you prefer to be called a cartoonist or an illustrator?
I prefer cartoonist. It’s unpretentious and it suggests (to me) that I write and think as well as draw.
Have you ever woken up and found you’d drawn loads of things all over the place in your sleep?
I’ve sometimes scribbled all over the inside of my head.
What’s your favourite ever piece you’ve done? Ever?
Oh, er, um… I think Captain Star. He’s such a hero and such an asshole. What on earth is he doing, just sitting there in that wheelbarrow waiting for orders which never come? Look him up on YouTube.
Ah man! I love Captain Star, that takes me right back to 6th Form – How did Richard E. Grant end up as the voice of him? Did you have him in mind all along?
Captain Star is a strange character. He appears to be calm, controlled and in command, but this is a façade. In fact, he’s utterly repressed and beneath the cool exterior seethes a boiling cauldron of ego, delusion and – frankly – insanity. We wanted someone to play him who could convey this clipped, arrogant and confident outer character, while somehow allowing the viewer know that beneath this very thin crust madness lies – something Star doesn’t realise himself. Richard E Grant did it absolutely magnificently.
Initially we were thinking of casting Richard O’Brian (who wrote The Rocky Horror Show and presented the TV show Crystal Maze) but he wasn’t available, I can’t remember why, and someone suggested Richard E Grant, who seemed perfect. An actor friend of mine went to a wedding a few days later and, lo and behold, he was one of the guests! So my friend said ‘You’re going to be approached about doing the voice of Captain Star. It’s great and you should do it.’ I’ve no idea if that had any bearing on the fact that Richard agreed to be Captain Star, but that’s what happened.
What was it like working with The Pixies on the cover art for Tromp La Monde?
I worked with the designer of all the Pixies graphics, Vaughn Oliver, not the Pixies themselves, but it was fantastic. I’m a huge Pixies fan and it was incredibly exciting to be even a small part of their history. Vaughn asked me to draw him a sheet of rockets of all shapes and sizes which he could pick from. He used them as little decorative, typographic elements on the sleeve. Seeing the finished cover was amazing. The curved silver rocket on the CD disc blew me away.
Where did the inspiration for The Coffee Table Book Of Doom come from?
Just from watching the world, day by day, going to Hell. We’re all horribly fascinated by doom. That was the start. Realising that I secretly want to hear on the news that a plague is getting worse, or an asteroid getting closer. Of course, it’s a relief when a potential doom scenario peters out… but it’s also disappointing. Now, why’s that? That question started the book. That and Art Lester coming up with such a great title.
Where can we see more of your work?
In The Guardian Family section every Saturday, or on my website, or go out and buy a copy of The Coffee Table Book Of Doom!
NOTES ON MYSELF
No matter how surreal or obscure my work might appear to be, it always starts from something in real life. Something I do, or have watched, or someone has told me about. Often it’s something pretty mundane, like making toast, or cleaning your teeth, or even loading a dishwasher. For example, Captain Star (my intergalactic hero who has appeared in comics and on television) is obsessed with hoovering the corridors of his spaceship, the Boiling Hell, and washing the windscreen clean of squashed meteorites.
My influences are the people who helped me learn to think. Some are visual artists, like Edward Gorey or Andy Warhol, but many are writers, such as Philip K Dick or Kurt Vonnegut, filmmakers like David Lynch, or songwriters like Black Francis, of Pixies. Thinking and ideas are vitally important to me, because without them, what would the cartoon be about? (see: How To Think With Steven Appleby http://www.youtube.com/user/smallbirdssinging#p/a/u/1/fUk5mrlIVIM)
I ended up being a cartoonist because cartoon strips allow me to think, write and draw whatever I like (almost). I can create my own little world in the corner of a newspaper, bring it to life and use it to inflict my philosophical, observational or just plain silly thoughts on whoever happens to let their eyes fall upon it.
I still work in the traditional way, although nowadays I scan my cartoons and email them rather than delivering by post, by bike messenger or by hand. I sit at my desk using a dip pen and W&N Black Indian Ink (is it now called just Black Ink?) decanted from the biggest bottle I can buy into the smaller, flat-sided ones – with the grinning spider still on them. I love that the design hasn’t changed since I was a student. I ink in my rough drawing using a lightbox – a method suggested to me by Quentin Blake when he was my tutor (see: How To Draw With Steven Appleby http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Vz7gTh1VE). When the ink is dry I colour the drawings using W&N Artists’ Water Colour in half pans which, having tried many makes, and the tubes, has been my preferred choice for the past twenty years.
Steven Appleby is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Britain. His work first appeared in the NME with the Captain Star comic strip, and other comic strips have since appeared in The Times, Sunday Telegraph and the Guardian. His work has also appeared on album covers.
What made you realise you are a writer?
When I found I had stopped drawing in the sketchbooks I always carry around and was filling them with writing instead.
What was the last book you read?
I just finished In Search of the Missing Eyelash by Karen McCloud. Lovely, thought-provoking book. Now I’m reading Death At La Fenice by Donna Leon.
What achievement in your life are you most proud of?
Am I meant to say, ‘Having two gorgeous children?’ OK. Yes, that… But also I’m really proud of managing (along with my brilliant ex and all the rest of them) to somehow hold our rambling and extended family together so everyone is secure and essentially happy.
If you were stranded on a desert island which three fictional characters, who would you like to be there with and why?
Kurt Vonnegut. He’s in some of his own books. If I’m not allowed him because he’s too real, then his character Winston Niles Rumfoord. I want to hear about being trapped in a chrono-synclastic infundibulum – what it’s like and what he’s seen as he spins through the universe. Also Gene Runciter from Ubik by Philip K Dick. I don’t think he’d moan quite as much as some of Dick’s other characters, but he’d be pretty interesting to talk to about death. In the background, wandering in and out of the edges of my vision, I’d like there to be one of Edward Gorey’s bizarre creations, such as The Doubtful Guest.
What phrase do you find is the most played in your head?
As I walk along I often find nonsense words bobbing to the surface of my mind. Usually made-up words which I suppose my subconscious must like the sound of. Often they sound like the names of unborn characters. Things like: Rancepool McAlpine; Randibus Throtmonik…Of course, put on the spot like this I can’t remember the regular ones and new ones are shy of appearing.
Have you ever wanted to do anything else with your illustrative skills, besides cartoons?
I have always felt that my skill (if that’s the right word) lies in imagining and inventing things. Maybe it’s the way I look at the world. All of which means it can be applied to anything. So with that belief in the back of my mind I’ve done anything that comes along, including exhibitions of paintings, ceramics, sculpture, writing a radio series for Radio 4, cartoons strips, animated TV series, books, a stage play… Ignorance and inexperience of a medium means I have no fear of having a go at it!
Has the way you work changed as we move into more digital times? Do you still use a pencil and paper?
Yes, I still draw and paint on paper. But nowadays I scan my own work, perhaps tweak it or colour it using a computer, then I can email it anywhere in the world. That delivery part has been a huge change.
Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
The successful ones spring out of thin air. From some subconscious place. They are fuelled by what interests me and shaped by people I’ve met or seen on television or the bus. But unless they come to life in my mind in some mysterious way, then they don’t work. They don’t become real. They remain merely flat. Like drawings.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I’m working on a novel which doesn’t quite have a title yet. Perhaps it’s called The Pointed Girl. I’m also working on an exhibition – part installation, part set of paintings. And I’m musing/playing with ideas for a graphic novel. Finally, Art Lester and I are talking about ideas for a follow-up to The Coffee Table Book Of Doom.
How did you get involved in the Book Swap night?
I went to D J Connell’s first Book Swap night and had a brilliant time. Afterwards I met and chatted to Scott who invited me along.
Linda McCarthy is a filmaker specialising in stop motion animated films. She has made and exhibited ceramics, written and preformed marionette shows and is now writing and making animated films. After graduating from Glyndwr University in 2007 she formed her own animation company, Tiny elephants. Linda is currently calibrating with Steven Appleby in making a series of films adapted from Stevens cartoon trip, Small birds singing.
About Tiny elephants – Tiny elephants is a little company which makes animated films in stop motion. It was formed in 2007 by Linda McCarthy, who up to now has made four short films adapted from the cartoon strip small birds singing by Steven appleby, small bird singing is a country state somewhere in england, in which lives a dysfunctional family, their masked butler and a herd of tiny elephants who dust under the furniture. The cartoon strip appeared in the times magazine for eight yard. Loomus, Steve Applebys current cartoon strip can be seen in the family action of the guardian on saturdays.
“I started my animation studies in 2003 as a mature student. Already experienced potter, and a marionette enthuses. I was naturally drawn towards stop motion animation. I enjoy all aspects of the process from the puppet and set making to the filming and post production.
- Small birds singing 2007
- A traditional christmas at small birds singing 2009
- The grand easter egg hunt 2010
- Hinterland 2010
- How to think within Steven Appleby 2011
- Bradford animation festival ident 2011
- The little circus 2006
- The performance 2004
I think for animation Linda ha done very well and her business is growing, the same as with the light designer Linda first studied another subject before getting to her career choice in animation, this is proving to be a very good technique for these designers as it gives them a more open mind. Giving them more creative techniques so that they can stand out in business.Linda was very kind to answer a few questions to help with this post.
1. What inspired you to make animation filmmaking your profession?
I came to animation and film making by a rather circuitous route. Ever since childhood my mother encouraged my sister and I to be creative and make things. Memories of childhood include writing, making and performing puppet shows, particularly during holidays shared with my cousin Steven Appleby. During Foundation Art studies my interests extended to include film-making and ceramics. I then obtained a diploma in studio ceramics, planning a profession as a ‘potter’ and subsequently created a ceramics studio at my home. However, my obsession with marionette performance and film-making resurfaced in 2003, and I went to West Cheshire College and enrolled on a Media Studies Course. I enjoyed the animation module and decided to do a Degree in Animation at Glyndŵr University. With my love of puppetry, I naturally gravitated towards ‘stop- motion’ animation.
2. Please could you describe your work and what inspires your work?
I approached artist Steven Appleby to see if I could animate one of his cartoon strips. He agreed and I chose Small Birds Singing, which had appeared in The Times for eight years and had always been a favourite of mine. It was a challenge to adapt his black and white, line drawn cartoons to a three dimensional environment and maintain the essence of his bizarre world. Steve gave me access to approximately 400 strips from the series. This stimulated many ideas for film stories. The first Small Birds Singing film was made as my graduation film and screened at many festivals worldwide, including Annecy in 2008.
3. Please could you describe the process you follow in creating work.
Once the script is finalised the dialogue is recorded. Kerry Shale is a professional voice artist and speaks for all the characters. The voice is crucial in portraying each personality, and Kerry is a master of his art.
Using the voice recording and storyboard I produce an animatic, which allows me to plan the timing for animation. While the script and storyboard are being resolved, I begin to create the puppets, props and sets. I model the character’s head in clay, make a plaster mould and then reproduce many heads. Then I model an individual mouth shape or expression on each head, which is finished with an oxide wash and high fired in the kiln to 1260˚C. The bodies are made from foam latex, which is baked over an armature. The hands are made from silicone over a wire armature.
Wherever possible, I make props out of clay. This has become my trademark. The ceramic props are also made in a loose and wonky way, to reflect Steven’s style.
I have space in my studio for one set at a time, which is a consideration when deciding on the order of filming. I make and assemble the set and then my colleague Joe Dembinski comes to work his magic with the lighting. As animating progresses, I edit and build the film over the animatic, lining up the voice and adding sound effects. Fortunately, as an independent film maker, I set my own time constraints and can re-animate a shot until I am happy with it. I enjoy this way of working – flaws and gaps can be spotted as the film is growing.
When I have finally finished the edit, I contact the composers, Verbal Vigilante Music, and the music is conceived.
Roger Law was born on 6 September 1941 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, the son of a builder. He attended Littleport Secondary Modern School, but left at fourteen to go to the Cambridge School of Art – where he was taught by Paul Hogarth and met Peter Fluck. In 1959 he was expelled.
With his future wife, quilt designer Deirdre Amsden, Law art-edited six issues of Granta and became an active CND campaigner, designing posters and pamphlets for the cause. He then moved to London, where he produced illustrations for Queen, and was resident artist for Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, designing weekly fourteen-foot murals. In 1962 he also began contributing to the recently-created Private Eye, and collaborated with Cook to produce the strip “Almost the End” for the Observer. Law’s work also appeared in Town, Topic, Sunday Times, Nova, Men Only, and Ink. As he later recalled, “I was quite prolific, doing cartoons and illustrations for newspapers and magazines. I wasn’t loaded but had enough to get drunk and look after my family.”
Law became discontented at the Observer, and in 1966 moved to the Sunday Times, along with the magazine designer Dave King and the photographer Don McCullin. He was hired as an illustrator, working both for the Sunday Times Magazine and for the newspaper, where he drew court scenes. He also began creating Plasticine caricature models for Nova, which in 1967 won him a Designers’ & Art Directors’ Association Silver Award. In the same year he co-designed record covers for Track Records, including the famous deodorant and baked beans cover of “The Who Sell Out”, and the cover for Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love”, which was inspired by Hindu art and became a bestselling poster.
Law then went to the United States, where in 1967 he was artist-in-residence at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, and produced his first puppet film. In 1969 he moved to New York and worked for Bush Bins Studio, Esquire and other publications. Law returned to London in 1970 to be Features Editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, but in 1976 left to work freelance with Peter Fluck and the photographer John Lawrence, producing three-dimensional satirical models from a Cambridge workshop. The “Luck & Flaw” partnership began with three-dimensional caricatures for the New York Times in 1976, followed by National Lampoon, Sunday Times Magazine, Economist, Men Only, Marxism Today, Der Spiegel, Panorama (Holland), Stern and Time. They also produced Thatcher teapots, and huge carnival heads of Hitler and others for an Anti-Nazi League rally.
In 1981 it was suggested that Fluck and Law should produce a satirical puppet series for Central Television. The show, originally titled “Rubber News”, reached the screen as Spitting Image, produced by John Lloyd and directed by former Muppet Show director Philip Casson. The pilot was screened in June 1983, and was a great success, leading to a series entitled “Spitting Image”. As Law recalled, “we had a team who were much better caricaturists than Peter or me”: “My role was running the workshop and making the puppets. Peter and I wanted to do nothing but political satire, which didn’t go down too well, but John [Lloyd, the director] brought in very quick sketches – maybe 30 sketches in 30 minutes – and a lot of that was spread out over sport and the media. That made it really take off.”
The audience for Spitting Image rose from an initial five million to a peak of over twelve million in 1985. By 1986 Spitting Image Productions – Fluck and Law’s production company – had an annual turnover of £2 million, and built itself a new workshop in London’s Canary Wharf at a cost of almost £500,000. Law remained in charge of the workshop, which he described as “the first hi-tech caricature sweatshop in history.” The political element in Spitting Image was still important. “At first we were stupid enough to think we were going to make a difference with our humour”, Law recalled, “but I don’t think, in retrospect, that it did make a difference. It was hugely successful, but probably more as a safety valve than anything else.”
The Conservative Party was in power during the whole of Spitting Image’s run. “We had a terrible time making Mrs Thatcher”, Law acknowledged in 1986: “After about ten attempts it got to be like writer’s block. The trouble is that she really looks like any housewife you might find in Sainsbury’s. In the end we made one of what she’s like rather than what she looks like.” The Thatcher puppet went through several transformations before finally being dropped as a regular character in April 1991. As Law observed, “we tried all sorts of things with her puppet”: “By the end, we had it in a straightjacket, with flashing eyes.”
By 1994 the audience for Spitting Image had fallen below eight million, and it was wound down over two years. It finally ended in February 1996, Law observing that “the royals out-satired us; they made us redundant.” As he added, “it’s a pity that we never got around to having a Labour government.” Spitting Image Productions was closed down the following year, and Law recalled that he “went off to Australia for a year and two months and lived like a student on £9,000 a year”: “I went to the National School of Art as a kind of artist in residence.”
Law cites his influences as George Grosz and the artists of L’Assiette au Beurre. He has lectured at the RCA, the Central School of Art, and Hornsey College of Art. In 1983 he won the Society of Illustrators’ Award for Consistent Excellence, and in 1998, with Peter Fluck, received the Cartoon Art Trust Lifetime Achievement Award.
“ The art of theft – originality is an illusion… Its not where you get it from…its where you take it to….”
Roger laws eccentric bio :
Roger Law used to be famous. He was the evil genius behind he making caricature puppets of spitting image. The award winning tv series ran for twelve years, with Law master minding the corruption of an entire generations respect for authority and institutions. When the satire bubble burst, Law found himself too young for retirement, to old to be retrained and with out any discernible talent for domesticity – in short, very thoroughly rinsed up. Law did what some people thought was the only decent thing he could do (possibly ever had done?) – he transported himself to australia.
There he bought himself paint and brushes and began chasing rainbows. A growing interest in ceramics inevitably took him to Jingdezhen, Chinas ‘porcelain city’, where the chinese have made porcelain for over 2000 years, Law now splits hit time between Australia and Jengdezhen. The ceramics he makes are as witty and beautiful as his caricatures were rude and ugly.
I do like Roger Law in his eccentric ways and designs. I do like the humour from the caricatures and the delicacy of the ceramic designs shows complete different sides of Roger Laws personality
i did write up a post about the lecture and about my thoughts on claire’s business, however she asked me to remove the post as she didn’t want this information public.
- Facts that were featured
- first X-ray was preformed at preston hospital.
- Winckley street, first to get gas lighting other than London.
- Edith Rigby founder of the suffragette lived on Winckley square.
- Leo Baxindale created sketches for bean comic
- Joseph livesey was from Preston
- Nick Park creator of Wallace and Gromit
- river ribble: 1648 final battle took place here
I love this idea branding an entire city and bringing in a walk as if an outdoor museum is genius. My favourites are the street of shutters on the shops keeping them all one colour scheme and individual designs on them brand each shop individually and keeps them all tied into together creating a inspiring visual collage on the street.Also the peal back chair, it looks as if the flag stone has been peeled back and bent into a curve as a seat and script written on the floor. i love this it really is an imaginative idea and creates a great over all design effect.I believe inspiration is a huge key to a great designer as for is there is no inspiration then where did your idea spring from and what has it evolved from? This brand is a genius idea as they use history as their inspiration and create a whole design used throughout historical influences tied from the city to create a new look, all past should influence present and future wether its to return to your roots or know what went wrong and how to impend these ideas. City brand has done a magnificent job or tying history and influence and making a great design.
- She attended Kingston university london – 1983 – 1984 foundation course, thought about going into sculpture after this but was swayed more to the course of furniture and product design between 1984 – 1987.
“befriend students, lecturers in the year above….they’ll help you to get work when you graduate.”
- She then freelanced for ferguson and fairfield – displays, lighting – 1987 to 1989 wired for two companies, David Stone lighting design London, Eric Marshall Associates, London.
- 1st job PSD Associates – 1989, joined Paul Stead working fro home, junior designer and right hand woman to MD became Associate Director within 5 years.
- PSD projects
- tube station frontages for london underground.
- new concept for Britannia building society
- on board catering trolly for intercity
- street furniture for JC Decau
“think outside the box with regards to job hunting… i got my PSD role by reading ‘Design weekly magazine'”
- 2nd job Carte Blanche
- 1995-1997 head hunted by ex employee of PSD
- Looked after interiors company whilst MD had a baby
- baptism of fire with Arcadia
- Topshop flagship store
- 3rd job Arcadia Group
- 1997-2000 head hunted by Arcadia, involved to set up in house design team, client role from ‘poacher’ to ‘gamekeeper’
- Arcadia projects – Topshop Oxford circus store design new departments; cosmetics.
- Arcadia’s introduction to injection moulding.
- 4th job bwd
- 2000-2005 now in the North West set up as sole trader under bad continued to work for Arcadia as a consultant
- new store design for Dorothy Perkins ‘wave’ cash desk to tie in with wall features.
- 5th job Broome Jenkins
- 2005 – 2008teamed up with ex PSD director
- 6th job bwd limited 2008 – to present 2nd times a charm the business took off
What does bwd do?
“Our strength is our ability to help our clients deliver outstanding schemes.
bwd relishes a challenge and we like to be involved from brief initiation through to the project’s completion. However, we are realistic and realise that some clients don’t need or require a full solution, that’s why our services are available individually or as a package to meet specific client and project needs.
We work as a part of the client’s team, helping our clients achieve agreed goals. We can work alone or can bring in other specialist resource to deliver the project objectives. We have a pool of partners who understand our creative values and are professional skilled consultants like ourselves who work alongside us to achieve results.”
NETWORKING IS ESSENTIAL ALL OF BWD’S PROJECT WORK HAS COME FROM A RESULT OF NETWORKING….
here are some of bwd’s projects…
- cheshire oaks information centre
- Blackburn visitor centre
- Lancaster visitor centre
- Liverpool john lennon airport
- Chester visitor centre
Bev has created some great designs and contacts, the one main thing i have learnt through his designer is that contacts and networking with people are essential for business, however i would of like to hear more on inspirational and why choose the projects she has, other than being asked to.