Irish Times Illustration: Four Men in a Boat

It’s been a tough week. Whatever about the good weather outside; it’s been snowed-under here in the studio. Preparation, which is almost complete for my onslaught on France through the Marie Bastille Agency and projects for American clients have kept me slaving over my drawing boards. Then the Irish Times presented me with a mind-warping piece of financial text. Anyway, between the editor and myself we fixed on an idea over the phone, which I quickly scribbled onto a receipt. Whoever heard of an illustrator who had decent pads of paper handy?

That evening, on the settee in front of the telly, I worked up the idea into a more finished sketch and squared the drawing up for the following morning. Luckily, summer TV schedules determined that there was bugger-all worth watching on the idiot’s lantern [as my old French teacher, Mr. Dansie used to call the telly – Me: ‘What does ‘bateau’ mean, Mr. Dansie?’ Dansie: ‘It means you haven’t been listening, McSherry’ followed by, ‘I suppose you’ve been glued to the idiot’s lantern again’.].

Finally, I managed to get the final art into the old lady of D’Olier Street at lunchtime. Now, what’s on the lantern…?


Luvverly Dunmore East

Dunmore East, from the Waterford Tourism site

We’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Dunmore East -and once again, I don’t have a single sketch to show for it. This is a recurrent theme in my life, good intentions thwarted by indolence. It is a lovely, lovely spot, no doubt about it and kick-started another little ongoing theme -thoughts of relocation away from the big smoke. However, the reverie was broken at the long weekend by hordes of city heads, intent on relocating their rubbish onto the beach. Why do people do that?

But, hey -the water was goooood. I encountered a couple of good-natured jellyfish [they didn’t sting me] and we chatted about where to site the blue flag. There’s also a cave adjacent to the beach where there’s some of the best-carved graffiti I’ve ever seen. From as far back as 1823. Forget your black markers -a couple of these messages looked as if they had hired a stone mason to realise them.

Scanning the Horizon

Lately, I’ve been working on a few projects that have been over A3 in physical size. Notably a suite of illustrations for brand developers Island Bridge and for the Royal Canadian Mint [That’s money, not sweets; though confusingly it did feature a polar bear]. Confident in my reprographic background, I thought they could all go straight down to my local repro bureau for digitising on their high-end drum-scanner. Well, it seems that things have changed somewhat since I left my last full-time job in a repro house, 11 years ago. Apparently, most of the old scanning behemoths have bitten the dust, been sold to China or shagged out into skips. Imagine that! These things must have cost about half a million squid when I were a lad and now they’ve been drummed out, much like myself, [only they lasted longer]. All the Crosfields have gone to Hell, it might be said, and been replaced with tiny little desktop scanners that you can buy out of petty cash.

Ah, but there’s a catch…just try scanning flat-art that’s bigger than A3 -even in your A3 desktop. You’ll get a pain in your face stitching those files together. That’s why I was relieved when I discovered that Master Photo. still have their Crosfield 640 running -and I saw it today when I dropped in the art. What a beast. What reassuring solidity. What the Hell are we going to do when the old dinosaur finally lays down her old head and dies?

New Gallery for Kilkenny

Maestro artiste-turned-impresario Roger O’Reilly [AKA Rodge] is about to open his new gallery in Kilkenny city. He has been collecting work from many sources including a selection of McSherry prints. The gallery will open on Friday 19th May [so he’ll be sweating about now] and it’s at, 1 Saint Kieran Street, in Kilkenny City. If you’re down that direction…

Step by Step Movie

A Very Bouncy Project
I’ve just completed a small movie, tracking the course of a single illustration. It should go some way to explain how I work -at least once rough sketches have been approved by the client. I had enormous fun making it. Basically, it’s a series of still shots taken while the artwork was being hand-painted in acrylic on Arches watercolour paper [my preferred method!].
Click here for the movie
You’ll notice that I decided some way into the work to eliminate the background. It’s a decision I allowed myself as I had complete control over the final look; the final art not being created for a client.

The thing that really got me excited about the project was licencing the music. It’s the first time I’ve ever ventured into the whole area of licencing a piece of art as a client. Joanna at was wonderful, however, and seemed enthused about the idea. I was sad to learn of Simon Jeffes’ [the Penguin’s composer and founder] untimely death some years ago; it completely passed me by. I’ve loved his eccentric music since the early eighties, although I think he even arranged music for the absurd Sex Pistols film ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, so the PCO go back quite a bit further.

Enjoy the movie.

What a Strange Way to Make a Living…

So, purveyors of ‘visual assets’, Stockbyte have been sold to Getty in what must be the world’s blandest and most passionless corporate deal. Just imagine what the celebrations were like: Off to the charity shop to buy an old grey suit and shiny tie. Then down to the local greasy spoon for a slap-up feed of reheated leftovers and cola from the slop-catcher!

$135m? Double Take wouldn’t have given them yesterday’s chip wrapper for it.

Just to celebrate the deal [but not so much that we draw attention to ourselves] Double Take illustrates this article with an appropriate image. A typically charmless image of a pathetically grateful-looking handshake. That must be Getty on the left.

Mmmm – While I think of it, I have a bag of used batteries here… Mr Getty!… Mr Getty!

All Blacks versus Royalty Free Stock

Just a little observation about blandness. It struck me the other day that communications sent out from businesses should be like a haka. If ever there was a statement of intent, conviction, values and unity, it’s in the haka. It’s unequivocal and leaves no doubt about the serious drubbing you’re going to get, once all the gods and ancients tool up and join the rest of the team in the field. ‘You’re not only playing us, you pathetic fools’ it seems to say, ‘you’ve got several volcano gods and all the tribal spirits to deal with’.

Well, when you see the drab uninspired stock photography that populates corporate literature all around, think of the haka. Only illustration that you commission, that you collaborate on will tell your company’s story and call down your gods. Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei! The alternative? Taking the field with a reworked Westlife song [in other words a picture of two businessmen shaking hands -or any of thousands of other boring, mediocre pictures that may well already have been used by your competitors]. Your team will exit the field with its collective ass in a sling. Don’t do it. If you feel the urge to reach for a stock image, call me and, as your team coach, I’ll roar at you in the changing room. Au, au, aue ha!

This haka was first performed by the All Blacks versus South Africa on 27 August 2005 at Carisbrook, Dunedin. The All Blacks won 31 – 27. This haka was written by Ngati Porou’s Derek Lardelli. This haka will only be performed before special test matches. Sourced from

Kapo o pango haka:

Kapa o pango kia whakawhenua au i ahau!
Let me become one with the land
Hi aue, hi! Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei!
This is our land that rumbles
Au, au, aue ha!
And it’s my time! It’s my moment!
Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei!
This defines us as the All Blacks
Au, au, aue ha!
It’s my time! It’s my moment!
I ahaha! Ka tu te ihiihi
Our dominance
Ka tu te wanawana
Our supremacy will triumph
Ki runga ki te rangi e tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hi!
And will be placed on high
Ponga ra!
Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hi!
All Blacks!
Ponga ra!
Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hi, ha!
All Blacks!

Van Gogh: Tube to Isleworth

Van Gogh, yesterday

Turns out that Van Gogh […reverential pause here…] spent time at my old school, Isleworth Grammar in West London. That could explain the pointilistic patterns oft seen in the jacks. He taught grammar [would you believe] and French. Not at the same time as I was there, obviously. Curiously, I don’t remember any mention of the Great Impasto, so perhaps he became an embarrassment after laying it on a bit thick once too often.

So I have the right schooling, then.

Turas go Chill Rialaig arís

I’ve been kindly invited to take a residency at the Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat in beautiful west Kerry. It’ll be this time next year but I’m already looking forward to it. It has to be one of the remotest spots in Ireland, with a hamlet of ancient cottages clinging to the side of a cliff, refurbished by Noelle Campbell-Sharpe and the Cill Rialaig Board [The hamlet, that is; not the side of the cliff]. I spent a splendid week down there in December 2002 with some other members of the IGI painting and exploring new artistic techniques -for keeping warm! Note to self: Remember to bring camera, flute [for sessions] and woolly socks [for flute]. The photograph was taken by illustrator Brian Gallagher [also taking a residency].

Wall Street Journal Illustration

The Art Editor from the Wall Street Journal rang me last week and laughingly told me that he had an article ready to serve up to me. In his own words, he “…couldn’t make head nor tail of it”. I don’t blame him; it was one of the driest morsels of indigestible text I’ve ever eaten. Only recommended eating for the most ravenous, the only way of saucing it up was with an illustration, pictured here. Writer; can I please have the bill now…?