Monday, 16 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013


Here's an illustration from a few months ago. This was to accompany a review in Nature of Margaret Atwood's latest novel Maddaddam.

The piece went through a few changes as the art director, Barbara Izdebska, checked details against the review copy of the novel in the Nature offices.

I wasn't totally in the dark as Maddaddam is the third book in a trilogy and I had read the first novel in the series Oryx and Crake a few years ago and was able to speed-read the second book After the Flood while I was doing roughs for the illustration.

I was pretty happy with how it turned out in the end and Barbara very kindly sent me on the review copy so that I could finish the trilogy!

The trilogy is a captivating and terrifying depiction of a world after a pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. A handful of human survivors manage to cling on to a perilous existence, along with the Crakers, a tribe of bio-engineered humanoids bred to populate this brave new world (on the left in my illustration). Both groups must contend with the pigoons, ferocious and intelligent creatures who are the descendants of genetically modified pigs bred as human organ farms.

The whole trilogy is great but Oryx and Crake remains my favourite. Start there and see how you get on.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The difficult second issue

Well, it took the Stone Roses and Elastica five years each, right? So, we're not doing soooooo badly.

Yes folks, Hitsville UK issue 2 is finally with us.

It's colourful, it's psychedelic, it's funny, it's sad, it's strange, it's even better than issue 1, it's 36 pages long and it's yours for just £3.50 in print or 69p(!) digital from Great Beast comics.

In issue 2, spiv-hop pioneer Jack Spatz competes in the local rap battle, Gerry comes to blows with his eccentric genius producer Greg Pastis, and The Dreadnoughts and Carrie Nation's Revenge face down neo-nazi agitators Aryan 51. Meanwhile, Greg sends Gwillum on a dangerous mystical mission to find THE SONG.

Forbidden Planet International's Richard Bruton described Hitsville UK 1 as "a bloody great accumulation of inspired madness, musical insanity and general chaos... a pure, unadulterated hit of a comic".

Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier said it was "a riotous, frenzied whirlwind of a comic book. I'll be pre-booking my tickets for the next gig!"

And cult comics writer David Hine wrote simply "Hitsville is a hoot!"

You can order issues 1 & 2 from the Great Beast store.

While you're there, check out other ace new comics from (deep breath) Robert Ball, Dan Berry, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, John Cei Douglas, Isabel Greenberg and GB's founders Adam Cadwell & Marc Ellerby.

Monday, 14 October 2013

AOI Illustration Awards

I'm currently living in a small igloo made of half-drawn comics pages, but I thought I would crawl out from under the Bristol board for a few minutes to write about the AOI Illustration Awards.

I won the New Talent (student and recent graduates) prize for the Editorial section with two pieces from my MA project Capital City. Here's an excellently composed picture by Sally Kent to prove it.

Tuesday night was the awards night so Sally and I went along to Somerset House to hobnob with other illustration types and I picked up my certificate from John O'Reilly, editor of Varoom magazine.

We had a great time and met some lovely people, including Edd Baldry, who won the Professional prize in the same section as me, Anna Cattermole, who won the Professional prize in the Self-Initiated section for her beautifully observed drawings of boat building, and judge, cartoonist, illustrator, author and new dad Stephen Collins.

It was all a bit of an enjoyable blur and as ever with private views I was too busy talking to people to properly take in all the art. My two pictures are in the first room, sharing wall space with Anna's afore-mentioned boat pictures and some striking digital collages illustrating The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by the sartorially impressive Nate Kitch (he's the one who loos like Jarvis impersonating Elvis Costello in the picture below). I only got a chance to have a quick whiz round beyond our room, but I saw enough to tell that it's a well put together exhibition in a beautiful space, and (as you'd hope) there's a fascinating variety of approaches to contemporary illustration on display.

We're going back to have another look at the weekend and I'm really looking forward to it. Below is a picture of all the winners taken by Sara Thomas. As ever, I appear to be arseing about!

More info on the AOI Awards to be found here and here.

Right, I'm off to draw comics again. The long awaited Hitsville UK 2 is on its way!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bullshit Jobs!

David Graeber's article on Bullshit Jobs for Strike! magazine seems to be getting a lot of attention all of a sudden, and deservedly so. 

Though I'm a big fan of Strike! and was very flattered to be asked to contribute something to their Summer issue I was up to my eyes in comics and other stuff and so had to turn them down. Then Strike!'s editor cunningly dangled David Graeber's article in front of my face. I read it and couldn't say no. 

It's a thought provoking piece and, as someone who has more than once suspected that their current mode of employment was ultimately (whisper it) a bit pointless, it really struck a chord with me.

It's much better and more persuasively written than I can manage but allow me to quote one of my favourite passages: "A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.)"

It's also really good on the 'psychological violence' that results from our situation, the frustration, boredom, anger and shame that comes from that niggling feeling that you are literally wasting your time on this planet. It was this aspect of the piece that led me down the route I took for the accompanying illustration, that sense of feeling trapped, helpless but also angry. (Appropriately, there's definitely some Francis Bacon in there.)

You can read the full article here and you can buy a copy of Strike! from the same website.

David's impressive looking tome Debt: The First 5000 Years is on my bookshelf and is next on my reading list.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Hitsville UK from Great Beast comics

This is a belated post to announce that Hitsville UK has been relaunched by Great Beast Comics.

Appropriately we launched in the very musical surrounding of Manchester at the MCM Comic Con on 20 July, and you can now buy issue 1 as well as some classy Hitsville UK pop art prints from the Great Beast online shop. I'm really excited that for the first time you can buy an instantly download-able digital version of our comic.

You can also pick up Hitsville UK issue 1 from Gosh! Comics, Orbital Comics, Foyles books and Sister Ray Records in London, as well as OK Comics in Leeds and Gnash Comics in Devon, with more shops to follow.

(If you're a comic, record shop or indeed any shop who would like to stock Hitsville UK then please let me know.)

As some of you know we originally brought Hitsville UK out at the tail end of 2011, so it's taken us a bit of a while to get here. It's basically my fault for going off and doing an MA in Illustration after issue 1 and getting swamped by the workload. Dan and I are pleased as punch that we're getting to relaunch and continue the series with Great Beast. To those of you who have been stoically waiting for issue 2 to materialise (yes Alex, yes Camila) I promise promise promise that issue 2 will arrive in November in time for Leeds' Thought Bubble festival.

Why are we so excited to be with Great Beast?

Comics and graphic novels appear to be on the rise in blighty and beyond. Existing publishers and newer upstarts have released some great books at the artier, more literary end of the comics spectrum over the past few years. I think Great Beast could fill what has so far been a gap in the comics landscape (at least in the UK). GB's comics are intelligent, sophisticated, produced with great craft, but also crucially they are POP!

GB's founders, Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby have published their own comics under the imprint, notably Adam's vampire slacker comedy Blood Blokes and Marc's droll Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter. They've also published collected editions of their autobiographical web comics The Everyday and Ellerbisms. I just finished Ellerbisms and am still reeling from the subtle but emotionally devastating storytelling contained therein!

Then there's Robert Ball's stunningly beautiful Winter's Knight. Im a bit angry about Winter's Knight. The artwork is so flipping amazing I don't actually think it should be allowed. It makes the rest of us look rubbish! Robert is teaming up with the equally talented Warwick Johnson-Cadwell on Dangeritis, which you can see taking hilarious form over on its Tumblr and which will be published in book form at Thought Bubble in November.

Just announced from Great Beast is Isabel Greenberg's Tall Tales and Outrageous Adventures, witty retellings of classic fairytales. Isabel won the Observer/Comica competition a few years ago and has a graphic novel coming out from Jonathan Cape soon. She also has a piece in the V&A's current exhibition Memory Palace, which I wasn't sure whether I would like but is BRILLIANT! (Go see it).

And then there's us... continuing the tale of Hitsville UK, the indy record company with the weirdest, coolest, freaks in pop music; the best (though possibly only) musical-pop-art-soap-opera in comic form.

Now published by Great Beast.

Which is why we're a bit chuffed.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Did this piece last week for Times Higher Education mag. It illustrates an opinion piece by John Kaag on juggling the responsibilities of being an academic and a dad to a toddler.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

AOI Awards

I'm delighted to report that I've won an AOI Illustration award!

I won the New Talent Award in the Editorial and Social Comment section for these two pages from my MA project Capital City, a graphic poem about the City and the financial crisis.

Here's what the judges had to say about my work: "We really liked the sense of narrative and social comment in this work. The words are written by the illustrator and so the text and image work together rather than illustration responding to a text. It is a very impressive piece of work, the spreads are stunning. It has real impact and has a lot of atmosphere. "

I'm very excited about being part of the exhibition at Somerset House 2-27 October, and I believe there will be an awards ceremony shindig, for which I may buy a new shirt.

You can read more about the AOI Illustration Awards here

Friday, 24 May 2013

Bowie Odyssey (oddity?)

Was it really back in January that David Bowie released his surprise single 'Where are we now'?

At the time it struck me that despite knowing the hits, and having some Bowie-obsessive friends, I'd never really listened to any Bowie albums. Right, I thought, I'll listen to the classic albums in order and see how far I get. 

Around this point I stumbled upon the amazing blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame (named after a lyric in Queen Bitch), that dwells on each Bowie song more or less in the order that it was recorded, and it got a bit obsessive.

Well, it's the end of May now and I've just started on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Not sure how much time I'm going to dwell on some of the 80s albums - my understanding is that it all goes a bit pants after Let's Dance, but it's been a great journey so far.

It's a tough question what my favourite album has been so far, but at a push it's probably the wonderfully unhinged Diamond Dogs, which led me to create this illustration, inspired by the Guy Peellaert album artwork, but with a schoolboy humour, Aladdin Sane twist.


Ps. David Bowie - Five Years on BBC Two tomorrow sounds like it's going to be dead good.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


I have a couple of pages in the Spring edition of the brilliantly titled STRIKE! magazine.

These are exerpts from my MA project Capital City, a phantasmagorical take on the City and the financial crisis.

I'm dead keen on STRIKE! This is only their second issue but it's a compelling publication so far. It wears its lefty politics on its sleeve but it's not po-faced about it and it chucks interesting, provocative ideas about rather than preach a party line. It's also wittily and beautifully designed and has attracted an impressive collection of writers and artists so far, including Ralph Steadman, Mark Fisher, Alain de Botton and Stanley Donwood as well as less famous names, myself included.

The Spring edition includes articles and polemics on Blair and Iraq, Indian cotton farming, the Occupy movement and anarchist economics, all accompanied by brilliant illustrations, including this terrifying Tony Blair by Edgarr.

I'm still getting to grips with a lot of the stuff in this issue and this is what I really like about STRIKE! For only a quid an issue you get a hell of a lot of food for thought for your buck.

You can see a list of stockists or order issues 1 & 2 from the STRIKE! website and find them on Facebook here

Friday, 26 April 2013

Mud, football and Readers Digest

I just illustrated this entertaining piece for Readers Digest by James Brown about the perils of the football pitch in your late forties. I was commissioned by Martin Colyer, who was a pleasure to work with from start to finish.

This commission presented two problems: 1) the unusual shape, across two pages of text, 2) I don't know the first thing about football. However, the closest I ever got to an interest in the beautiful game was reading my brother's Roy of the Rovers comics when I was a kid, so I hit upon the idea of contrasting James' youthful footballing dreams with muddy, squelchy reality.

Thanks to Matt Dooley for the lend of the football comics book.

Below is my original sketch and how the final piece looked in the mag.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


World, I give you... Meditato!

S/he is of course a committed Spuddhist.

(This might be my favourite picture that I've done so far!)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


You might have seen last week's very exciting announcement that our comic Hitsville UK is joining the roster of Great Beast comics, home of the UK's best independent comics and creators!

Great Beast is the brainchild of Adam Cadwell (Blood Blokes, The Everyday) and Marc Ellerby, (Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter, Ellerbisms) and their ethos fits with ours like a sexy, pink glove: "Our comics will be brimming with pop culture, but still retain their heart" and "We don't think pop is a dirty word". Amen to that!

Great Beast will be re-releasing issue 1 of Hitsville UK in July, and publishing brand new issue 2 in November, in time for Thought Bubble comics festival. There will be physical and DIGITAL versions of each issue.

The other artists on the Great Beast roster are Robert Ball and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, whose amazing Dangeritis will also be published in July. We are in fine, fine company.

To celebrate this great news, here's a picture of the other great beast Aleister Crowley enjoying issue 1. Spooky!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

One from the vaults

Far be it from me to jump on the bandwagon that is currently whipping a dead horse, er Prime Minister up and down the street* but here's a vintage William Blake, Taxi Driver strip  that seems relevant again.
This was originally published in Time Out in 2008, when there was a speculative brouhaha about whether Mrs T would get a state funeral.

*Apologies for some seriously muddled metaphors

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Art, Science, Bacon

I was asked to design the poster for an art exhibition at the Science Museum in London.

The exhibition was a chance for staff at the museum to show off their creative pursuits. I work part-time at the museum and, as a friend of mine pointed out to me, most staff have their own 'slash', as in Exhibition Facilitator / Illustrator or Front of House / Designer.

The exhibition featured all sorts of artsy goings-ons, taking in fashion design, painting, comics, fiction and music, and it was fantastic to find out what my various colleagues get up to in their non-museum hours.

I rather stupidly forgot to take any photos, but here's the poster.

That's Francis Bacon lurking in the bottom right outside the museum. As it happens the next week I went to Dublin and saw his studio, recreated in all its chaotic glory at the Hugh Lane Gallery.
I feel a little bit torn about this. On the one hand they've made Frankie's studio into a really interesting exhibit. On the other hand, I can't help but feel that the act of minutely reassembling an environment that was a testament to bloody minded chaos is supremely missing the point!

Anyway, when I fancifully put Francis in the picture, I hadn't realised that his studio was in fact around the corner from the Science Museum in Reece Mews, South Kensington.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

O to be in Beijing!

I am exhibiting four pictures at the O Gallery at Ogilvy Beijing.

This is part of the Image Makers exhibition, all helmed by the amazing Fei Wang, leader of the Flotian collective, mainly but not exclusively made up of artists from my Illustration MA at Camberwell. I'm very happy to be on show in such great company.

I wish I could go see the exhibition in person, it looks suitably swanky. Check out the chandelier!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

10 minutes with...


I spoke to Chatham House's current affairs magazine The World Today about my graphic poem Capital City. See below for a (hopefully legible) scan.

Thanks to Agnes Frimston for being interested, asking great questions and making the piece look so nice.

You can buy Capital City at my online shop.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Brave New World

Last week I entered the House of Illustration/Folio Society's competition to illustrate Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I kind of presumed that I'd read the book at school but upon actually reading the novel I realised that we can only have read a chapter or two. It was a good excuse to finally read it, and I was surprised at how early it was written, 1932 if I remember rightly.

Below are my three illustrations and my idea for the cover design. I tried to incorporate an element of 'technical' drawing into each to get across the idea of a society that has become biologically and ideologically mechanised.

Chapter 1. The incubation room.
"The bulging flanks of row on receding row and tier above tier of bottles glinted with innumerable rubies..."

Chapter 2. Fanny and 'Pneumatic' Lenina in their changing room.
"'Perfect!' cried Fanny enthusiastically. She could never resist Lenina's charm for long. 'And what a perfectly sweet Malthusian belt!'"

Chapter 14. The Savage in hospital, at his mother's deathbed.
"The Savage violently started and, uncovering his face, looked round. Five khaki twins... were standing in a row, puggily goggling at him."

Idea for the cover.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year from me and Storyhands!

Me and my chums at Storyhands (Natsuki Otani, Jenny Robins, June Sees and Martyn Warren) have made a set of illustrated postcards on the theme of New Years Resolutions.

We're sending most of them out to illustration commissioners but we have a few left. You can win a set by telling us your own New Years Resolution. Head on over to the Storyhands website for more details and to see more artwork: