Monday, 14 May 2012

Steven Appleby

Steven Appleby - As ice-breakers go, a 20 something Steven Appleby clad in full cat-woman costume is a unique way to go about it. This photograph was to set the tone for the rest of the morning and make some quite compulsive viewing. Obsessions featured as both the title and context through which we were guided through the life, work and philosophy of Steven. These included influences from a very early age such as science fiction, which began when his mother introduced him to the work of Philip K Dick, and the more personal of fixations such as secrets, sex, transgender, a fascination with death avoiding it and staying young.    

“I always felt like the world was deceiving me. I try to look at things beyond what they appear on the surface. We all have hidden layers. There's this huge part of us isn’t seen." 

We learn that Steven uses his characters as an outlet for his obsessions. He believes that the key to his success is that he follows personal interest when creating work on a commercial basis. He creates work that he would enjoy reading himself. One of his most renown successes was envisaged whilst day dreaming of an alien invasion. Captain Star was created for new music express in 1984. It received a cult following and made Steven's name in comics. Within 10 years a Tv show had been created and produced and aired in Britain and Canada. The process was hard. Drawings had to be sent backwards and forwards from steven to the animators. Steven would draw the initial sketch, and the animators would have to produce the scene in their best like-for-like ability. The show became a large success and forwarded Steven's career to a new level.  

“One thing I found is that my work is about ideas and creating worlds. Im not limited to drawings. It can be a stage performance or an animation.”  

Steven’s work has appeared in innumerable newspapers and magazines; currently the Loomus comic strip in the Guardian.; he has written over twenty books, The most recent of which is The Coffee Table Book of Doom. He has managed to stretch his capabilities to allow his work to appear on stage in musical play Crocks in Frocks. He is currently working on an art installation and his first novel.  


MiniaturesThe Miniatures exhibition has been organized and hosted by Cupola Gallery. A challenge was set to create work no larger than a £20 note. A total of 87 artists were chosen to display their work, amounting to around 200 pieces from recent graduates and those still studying. With submissions coming from as far as the 'States. 

The body of work on display is staggering. Intricate paintings, engravings and drawings make up around a third of the space. Work from Uclan Illustration's own Ritwik Das sits proudly on the wall and appears to be one of only a few illustrators in the exhibition. 

Much of the display is made 
up of sculpture, carving, craft, glass and ceramics with the remainder being abstract art of photography. There's such a wonderful variety. Not every artist manages to stand up against their neighbor on the wall, but one can tell that each artists has been selected for a reason. This is a display of work that spans disciplines, and tries to represent the young artists about to emerge from the woodwork.

Without engaging each exhibiting artist in review its somewhat difficult to surmise the standard or quality of work. However, I did enjoy my visit. I like the fact that the pieces are small, it encourages the viewer to get up-close and explore the quality of craftsmanship that has gone into the work. Personality flows through gallery, even the wonky floor plays to the honesty of the space.  I should expect that all who visit should find something to spark their imagination and hope for the  creative talent which is clearly very diverse and alive.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


re·port·age• n ( style of) reporting events• a term for an eye-witness genre of journalism: an individual journalist’s report of news, especially when witnessed firsthand, this style of reporting is often characterized by travel and careful observation

For hundreds of years artists and illustrators have had the responsibility of informing the reader/viewer through drawing. The emergence of the photographic journalist has left a large chasm where once illustrators flourished. The severed limb that is reportage took some time to recover from this almighty blow, but over the past decade illustration has witnessed a resurgence. We now operate in a field that is cool, sought after and in vogue, from underdog to top-dog. Reportage is back. 

Spearheading this mighty charge forward has to be Lucinda Rogers. Her work has now appeared in The Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, New Yorker Magazine and Esquire in addition to having worked for Penguin Books, Shakespeare's Globe and so much more. Lucinda has shown the world how versatile reportage illustration can be, and what it offers above photography. 

Lucinda works commercially and exhibits the work which she creates when traveling in galleries. In 2003 she was offered an exhibit and having worked primarily in New York up until then she turned her focus closer to home and worked around the east-end with a focus on the Spitalfields area. Primarily to capture people working. 

This is one example of the work which made it to the exhibition. 'Night in the kitchen at the Beigel Bake, looking out towards Brick Lane'. The mixture of the bold thick lines and the intricate finer lines create this astounding depth when seen through the perspective of Lucinda's keen eye. The detailing isn't overwhelming to the slightest extent. Everything feels necessary. Excluding any strong colour other than that of the warm paper just sets the drawing alight with energy. Lucinda creates the entire image on location, in one go, over a period of hours. The drawing succeeds in recording an event. Her work goes beyond capturing a scene or a location, but instead records the day, the time. Lucinda comments about her work "You are making something that’s less factual and more subjective... Everything that I draw changes…”. It is because of Lucinda's ability to capture atmosphere and the senses that she works so successfully as an exhibitionist and a commercial illustrator. 

Oliver Kugler works in a way so different from Lucinda it could be interpreted as a different discipline all together. The reportage of Kugler, acts as almost a comic book. This piece taken from a string of Guardian G2 supplements entitled 'Kugler's people', in which he travels around and talks with people. He captures people we could walk past in the street in these vivid roughly paneled spreads, and scribbles their stories in between the lines of his drawings. Filling every millimeter of spare space with information including entirely separate drawings taken from mismatching angles and placed in because we need to see and hear these things! Kugler communicates with us in a much different way to Lucinda. Emphasizing important information with colour and in fact designing the pages as well as he illustrates them. Kugler goes beyond capturing an image with a pen. He captures a sequence of images and formulates them with his text to inform us. 

Now for a stark contrast. Times artist Gabriel Campanario a.k.a 'The Seattle Sketcher' works in a much looser fashion. Combining his articles with sketchbook book pages, he adds a new dimension to the field of journalism. Now we the reader visit the scene with the writer. Though Gabriel's illustrations are very simple and quick they show character and charm. Much like Lucinda, Gabriel tries to draw with atmosphere, through his use of colour and by controlling the care taken with his line he emphasizes areas. 
This is one of those circumstances where it would be all to easy to take a camera, but the journaling is what makes Gabriel's column so fascinating. Its a much more personal experience to read the article which for most of the time consists of what read like journal entries, documenting the people he meets and places he visits and evens local to the readers, when accompanied by the signature scribbles of his travels. Like watercolour memories. In this respect his finished article is much like Kugler's. A snippet of these peoples lives, illustrated by themselves, it feels much like peering into someone's diary. 

"On the most basic level it is to make some sort of record of the conflict. On a higher level it is a way of interpreting a conflict. A lot of artists feel moved to create art as a way to exploration of the emotions of war." - Richard Slocombe, a curator at the Imperial War Museum

 Jules George trained as an artist, but has always had a desire to join the army. With his training complete Jules approached the MoD about visiting the battlefront as a war artist, and was accepted. After hostile environments training he was sent to patrol with the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. I wanted to include the work of a war artist specifically because of the tradition in reportage illustration within that environment. Quite like the commercial world, the governments have only just began to use illustrators again. The importance of recording the wars to show those back home, and to preserve for the future has become an important factor in the resurgence of battlefield art.

The work created by war artists often serves no other purpose than to inform. It is displayed in galleries so that all are free to see the truth of war from the first person perspective. Jules work varies from sketchbook drawings like the one I have chosen to include, to more elaborate sketches and even oil paintings. Within two weeks Jules had filled 5 sketch books. There's something much more honest about the pages of these books than the oils. Out of any environment I've sited thus far this has to be the most challenging to work in. There is no time for staging poses, or waiting around to catch figures in the same position to finish the drawing, these are real life hostile environments.  Things moves and happen fast, and that communicates in the fluidity in Jules drawings, and the simplicity of his essential colouring, using his sketchbook like any other would use a camera. "I rely very much on the power and energy of the initial drawing." The focus is very much on recording, and often his works display a lot of emotion though capturing the posture or expressions of locals or soldiers. Like those above Jules is documenting his story to share with others, and although there's often no time to tidy up sketches, I still love and admire them equally. 

Contemporary reportage is in a great position. We can see work of all styles and media being commissioned by clients from Boots to the MoD. Reportage illustration is clearly being recognized as more than a cool quirky alternative to photography, and we know this from seeing the quality of the commissioned work from the past decade.