GDP: An Explanation

I’ve spent some considerable amount of time delving into the world of economics, also known as, ‘The Dismal Science’. Here’s my explanation of the term, ‘Gross Domestic Product’. It’s gross; there’s a lot of it about; it’s all true. Just walk down the street and you’ll see the little bags of GDP left around by Generous Dog Proprietors. It is dismal.

You’re welcome.

Gross domestic product an explanation

Future Past

Lately I’ve been looking though past blog posts to see how things were once. I haven’t ever done much for the children’s book market but I did try to promote myself in that area. This is a self-promotional piece in acrylics from 2006. I enjoyed the painting and also making up the little rhyme to go with it. I don’t think I’d do it this way now and would be far more likely to work digitally:
Once for the Childer. From 2006

My good rep in Toronto Three In A Box., produces a themed promotional book every year aimed at certain segments of the market. These books are branded as ‘Box Lunches’ and the current one is the fourth. Anyhuff, the theme this time is ‘Childhood’ and the attached pic is my contribution. I never saw myself as a children’s book illustrator so when I told Denis Goodbody of Adept Advertising he expressed surprise. He’s right, of course. Certainly what I do engages with the child inside of the reader -even at the level of the business/financial work that I do. Furthermore, my own lovely wife consistently points out my childish behaviour. Consider that we all grew up in our pre-school years with picture-books being our chief means of getting the sense out of print. We all have these absurd self-images and it’s about time we burst them. Perhaps we can meet up and burst each other’s absurd self-images. Say, next Wednesday? Good. see you then.


I enjoyed this project immensely. Obviously, you can’t have too many robots.


Kevin the Magnificent,
King of all the ‘bots,
He has multitude of them
(that means lots and lots)


They spring out of his picture-books,
And from amongst the toys,
To do their monarch’s bidding,
(That means lots of noise).


Who knows; it may go on to form part of a book itself…hmmm…

(It never did…)

Digital Vector Illustration: Moggles – Ready for Takeoff!

A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. Made in Affinity Designer.
A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. 

Yes, yes, I know. I’m late for my flight.  There are a couple of reasons why I’ve taken so long to enter the world of digital illustration. For one thing, I love to paint and get my hands dirty and smell the paint and feel the brush in my hand. I became an illustrator to be a painter who gets paid properly from time to time.

Another thing is, I did already try some years ago. For a while I used a program called Painter which promised to give painterly results but I struggled with it before giving up on it as I just couldn’t get the results I wanted.

Then, Adobe introduced their subscription by the month, which is fair enough but it banjaxed my chances of using it.  That’s when I discovered the Affinity suite of products: The software company, Serif, obviously saw an opportunity provided by Adobe’s move to subscription and the resultant flight of irritated users. They’ve introduced two extremely comprehensive and professional applications that are developing apace. It’s true that neither of the programs have the complete set of bells and whistles provided by the standard-setting Adobe products but if you know what you want to achieve in your work, there’s almost nothing that a photographer or illustrator can’t do. Add to that, Serif’s Affinity Publisher, which is due for release in about a year’s time to compete with Adobe’s InDesign, and it will be possible to move away from Adobe and still produce industry-standard results.

A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover. Moggles & The Ninth Life. Made in Affinity Designer.
A digital vector illustration artwork for a book cover in Outline Mode. Moggles & The Ninth Life.

So, illustrating this little ode to Affinity, is a cover illustration I did for a non-existent (as yet) children’s book. It’s made entirely in Affinity Designer and is a vector image. You can see something of how a vector image is made up in the above screenshot. I won’t go into the details of what that means  except that I can reach into any part of this image and refine it, change it or remove it at will. Imagine trying to do that with a hand-painted illustration! This is the way things work with today’s illustration clients who have become used to making ‘after the fact’ changes, and I must change my way of working accordingly. Over and out.

Illustrators Guild of Ireland Show at Luan Gallery. Press Release


The Luan Gallery is delighted to announce its winter exhibition for 2016 entitled Without the Words. Celebrating the art of illustration, Without the Words is a group exhibition selected especially for Luan Gallery which showcases the brightest talents of Irish Illustration today.
Showing works by a variety of artists, Without the Words includes samples by both established and high profile illustrators as well as emerging creative talents and forms a celebration of visual storytelling and the imagination.

Without the Words
 is an exhibition inspired by a line from Emily Dickinson’s well loved poem: ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’.
Margaret Anne Suggs, Illustrators Ireland Promotions Officer says:

‘In most circumstances an illustrator will respond to a brief which is communicated either through written or spoken word. As supporters of visual literacy, Illustrators Ireland propose to tell our visual stories, putting the pictures first- without the words. Here we tell our stories; visually stimulating the imagination to respond by creating an individual narrative, not a prescribed story’.


Illustrators Ireland is a community of professional illustrators working together to actively promote the craft and art form that is illustration. Members offer a wealth of combined experience and amongst those exhibiting include Kate Greenaway Medalist and current Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch, former Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey, and 2016 CBI Book of the Year Nominee Lauren O’Neill. With over 40 members’ work on exhibition, visitors are invited to find their own narratives within the original works.

The show combines computer generated imagery with traditionally executed drawings to present an assortment of colourful scenes and images to ignite imagination and discussion.

Aedín McGinn, Luan Gallery says:

‘We are thrilled to present this exhibition and showcase the wonderful variety of works by Illustrators Ireland. Throughout the course of the exhibition, Luan Gallery is offering up its River Gallery space to a participatory project entitled ‘The Big Picture’ in conjunction with Laureate na nÓg PJ Lynch. Here, visitors to the exhibition will be invited to add their own illustrations directly to the wall, responding to the works on show and resulting in one large evolving time based mural. So come one, come all and draw on the gallery wall!’


Speakers at the official exhibition launch include: Aoife Murry from Children’s Books Ireland, Margaret Anne Suggs from Illustrators Ireland and PJ Lynch, current Laureate na nÓg.

The exhibition will open on November 5th at 6pm with a wine reception to which all are welcome and continues until 27th January 2017.

The Manhattan Fish Project

There’s an Illustrators Guild of Ireland group show coming up soon (I’ll keep you posted). It’ll be in the Luan gallery in Athlone to begin with but will then swim around the country. The IGI has done quite a bit of that kind of thing; it works a treat to get the membership known more widely.

I had the presence of mind to film part of the process of making this painting only at the outset -as usual, I then became embroiled in the little world I was creating and forgot about the camera. Still, that makes for a short, easy to view movie. It’s only a minute long although the artwork took about twelve hours to complete. There’s a bit of lively, upbeat jazz to help you with your viewing, so if you’re at work, do turn the volume down!

An acrylics on paper absurdist painting of a fish for an exhibition with the Illustrators Guild of Ireland and Luan Gallery in Athlone.
An acrylics on paper absurdist painting of a fish for an exhibition with the Illustrators Guild of Ireland and Luan Gallery in Athlone.

I painted a complete underpainting in monochrome first, which is a technique that I’m currently teaching in my art class (it’s the friendliest and best art class in the entire world!). The method is very popular with my students as you can provide yourself with a lovely ‘safety net’ before you ever embark on the colour work.

Speaking of nets; this art is for a curated show, so everyone has to submit their work for review, so there is the possibility of rejection and being thrown back in the lake. Fins crossed.

You’ve probably noticed that the background isn’t New York or London -I made it up, but it does have the big city feel about it. I fancied that the fish could be some kind of Don Draper figure, arriving in Manhattan to his ad agency. A big fish in a huge pond. After all, the piece does have a kind of fifties retro feel.

Le Retour de PencilBoy

We just got back from France on a late flight last night. A long journey to Beauvais airport from Merlimont in 30º heat and back to half that in Dublin. Still, it’s great to be home, whatever the weather. A few weeks ago, I slammed the seat of my motorbike down on top of my lovely smartphone and, wait for it…then rode off for about twenty miles before I needed to call home and couldn’t find my phone. After going through the usual process of patting my pockets and shuffling around in small circles looking in the grass at the roadside, I realised what I’d done. There was my phone, wedged nicely at the hinge end of the seat. I stared at the mangled phone and made tiny sobbing noises for a while. I also uttered very many oaths and curse-words but to no avail. 

The upshot is, I was mostly offline for the week in France, which turned out to be a good thing as I wasn’t peering into the screen looking for signs of work projects which weren’t there anyway. I used instead, an old Nokia phone which we keep as a backup for my frequent phone mishaps.  I find it amazing how I’ve been seduced by the promise of always-on connectivity. I felt bereft because I couldn’t post anything to social media. Pathetic.

So, I’ve made a decision and it’s final: I’m going straight out this afternoon to buy another smartphone.

Below is a drawing from my sketchbook. It’s cross-hatched using a fine-line pen. I was leafing through a French copy of Graffiti Art Magazine and came across an artist from Catalonia who calls himself Popay. It’s difficult sifting through another language for details when you’re standing in the middle of a newsagent’s shop reading the magazines when they want you to actually buy one.  After seeing the €7.90 price tag, I spent some time pretending to browse other magazines and then patting my pockets as if I’d forgotten my wallet, I exited the shop, replete with half-learned information. (The things I do for research, honestly: I should be awarded with l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur for services to art.) There were some drawings of Popay’s reproduced amongst all the colour work. I really liked them and that sparked off a series of sketches in my sketchbook.

Snake Oil

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’ve been working for some time on a series of illustrations to be produced as prints. It’s an avenue that I’ve been exploring as a way out of the drudgery of ‘jobbing’ illustration. This is how I’ve been feeling for more than a year, now. Working for those who either lack the imagination to extrapolate from a simple sketch or who see artists’ skills as merely a way to realise their own ideas has palled. None of this is their fault, since they’re paying for a start and I’ve colluded in this state of affairs myself [I’ve willingly bought the snake oil salesman’s promises] but it is a strong indication that I’m really in the wrong end of the business.  

Producing my own art for my own products is also fun, which is the bit that has been missing, of late. All art has to have a LARGE amount of the artist invested in it, if it is to be any good. If it doesn’t, it enters the world still-born; a lifeless conjoined monster of conflicting personas, likely to be shunned. You can’t, as many people seem to believe, micro-manage an artist’s work and expect it to shine. This is absolutely the very worst aspect of being an illustrator. I suspect that the same applies for designers and advertising creatives, copywriters or any ‘applied artist’.
 
So, this way if the idea fails, then it will have failed on my terms -because of my imagination, my drawing skill, my own efforts. So be it. If the idea succeeds, then I’ll reap the benefit -on levels much more important than the mere accrual of money. For me, illustration has been like a bottle of balm sold by the credible-sounding man in the white suit -just buy this and all your art troubles will be over! Become an illustrator and be an artist who actually gets paid! Strangle that snake oil salesman who lives inside your head -he’s full of empty bottles and unkeepable promises. Here’s my advice to any young artist thinking of becoming an illustrator: Think very very carefully -do you really want to make your much-loved hobby into your job? Perhaps, before embarking on your career, read ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael E. Gerber, then at least you might approach it with a plan in mind.
 
This wasn’t meant to depress -I’m excited about my art these days -but only art that is truly, or even largely, mine. I get more joy out of a small sale from my little still life studies than I ever did from a big illustration project because I know that a beautiful, personal connection has been made and that the love invested in the small painting generated love in return. As Paul McCartney wrote; In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

A eBook Guide for Beginning Illustrators and Client Meetings

After working with many students of illustration in mock interviews and role-plays, I’ve compiled this useful guide to meetings. It’s aimed squarely at those who are just starting out, to give them a good grounding in what they should know BEFORE meeting -and hints on how to present themselves when they do get face to face with a client.  It will help in wasting less time and seeing the incredible value in illustration for your client AND you. This explains all the business stuff that we really don’t like as artists.

There’s information on how to come up with a price, why having a daily rate is a good idea, notes on contracts and rights assignation. Plus, what to do after these meetings. GET IT NOW. It’s downloadable from iTunes (for iPad) and Amazon (as an ePUB file for everything else).

Just under 40 pages, It’s written in a witty and engaging way that’s more like a conversation in a pub than a textbook. I sincerely hope that this will fill in some of the blanks that face all of us when we embark on our careers in applied art.
Best of luck!
Kevin

Saturday 23 April: Children’s Books Festival Lismore Castle

As part of next weekend’s ‘Towers & Tales’ children’s books festival at Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, several Irish artists and illustrators have been invited to show work on the theme, ‘ Meet the Family”. 
Each artist has been given a personage who has stayed at Lismore over the centuries to depict. I was given Edward VII, and that’s him above. This piece is titled: “HM Dirigble, The Curragh Wren”. Acrylics on Arches Hot Pressed Watercolour paper. 25cm x 35cm. Framed behind glass.

If you want to get a look at how last year’s celebrations looked, watch this video. I hope the weather is as good this year. 

bookimage_cropOnce again, the castle & historic town of Lismore provide the magical and inspirational setting for a celebration of books, stories and illustration for young audiences. As well as ticketed events featuring a line-up of best-selling Irish & international writers and illustrators, there are lots of free activities for families. So come along – listen to stories, meet the Gruffalo, hang out at the Woodshed Café, eat cake, eat more cake, don’t fall into the chocolate fountain, bring a book to swap, meet the authors & illustrators, visit the Book Doctor, or just wander around and soak up the ambience.
Towers and Tales was borne out of our shared vision that all children in Ireland should be gifted a book, a literacy fostering initiative that is successfully being delivered in over thirty countries worldwide, but not yet in Ireland. To reflect this wish, and thanks to Children’s Books Ireland, all young visitors to the festival will receive a book as a gift.