Varoom website

December 17th, 2014 by Special Projects

Unfortunately the AOI’s Varoom website has been corrupted with malicious content and has been taken down by the hosting company to prevent the spread of any damage.

We are working to restore the website as soon as we can, and apologies to anyone who has been trying to access the site.

The Varoom website will shortly be brought in-house to the AOI’s main site.

Payback pays out almost £5 million in royalties

December 17th, 2014 by Special Projects

DACS pays 23,000 visual artists and artist estates almost £5 million in Payback royalties

A record 23,000 visual artists and artist estates claimed almost £5 million in Payback royalties from DACS in 2014. Payments are currently being rolled out, with most artists expected to receive their royalties just in time for Christmas.

Once again, DACS is seeing more artists and estates benefit from Payback royalties than ever before. The royalties are an important income source for artists, and with individual payments ranging from £25 to £5,046, Payback supports vital expenses including studio rent, artist materials and equipment.

Photographer Robert James Maclese said on Twitter: “Thank you @DACSforArtists for the donation to my new camera fund #ChristmasComesEveryYear”

Whiteism tweeted: “Our #payback14 money came today from @DACSforArtists, nearly enough to pay our studio rent for three months!”

Fine artist Richard Stone tweeted: “Received my royalties from @DACSforArtists today, nice surprise, but more importantly, representing empowering recognition for artists.”

Daniel Rudd, Artists’ Services Manager at DACS, said: 

“The staggering increase in claims this year demonstrates the enormous reach of Payback, and the demand for royalties when so many visual artists and their estates are seeing their incomes cut due to financial austerity and reductions in public funding.

 We are delighted that, with the introduction of Payback membership this year, we can formally consult with Payback claimants on issues concerning their rights, and importantly, safeguard their existing and future royalties.”

Payback is an annual scheme managed by DACS. It is open to visual artists and estates for all types of published artwork, from fine art and photography to design and illustration.

Wilfrid Wood’s ‘Dogs’

December 16th, 2014 by Special Projects

Until 31 January 2015

Beach London
, 20 Cheshire St, 
E2 6EH. Open from 10-6, Tuesday through Sunday. By appointment Mondays


This show is made up of a new series of wooden sculptures by the Hackney-based artist. As well as portraits of a number of ‘celebrity’ mutts – such as Jiff The Pomeranian – the show will also feature a number of Dogs who bear a human-like resemblance…

Pictoplasma – Character Portraits – book review

December 16th, 2014 by Special Projects

Edited by Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke

Published by Pictoplasma Publishing ISBN 978-3-942245-06-7

Review by Maia Fjord


The newest Pictoplasma Character Portraits compilation book is out, and with more than 600 artworks and individual character studies by 200 international artists it describes itself as “The Ultimate Source Book of Postdigital Portraiture for Character Designers, Connoisseurs and the Creatively Curious”.


The books begins with an introductory conversation that brings the artists together with image theorists, cultural historians, psychologists, roboticists, cryptozoologists, media theorists and advertisers, which can also be found in Spanish and German at the back of the book. This lengthy interview-style conversation covers several fascinating points, and it is particularly interesting to read the opinions of professionals with different areas of expertise. These opening pages are filled with intriguing concepts that really make you think (and potentially further consider your own practice), such as whether or not a fictional character can have a soul.


After the opening text, the compilation of character portraits begins, and readers are free to flick through a huge collection of characters of all different shapes, sizes, colours and materials. I found the variety of mediums the characters have been created in especially interesting – the book covers character design in everything from paintings to installation pieces, street art to graphic digital art, toy design to drawings, and knitting to glass blowing. The featured characters vary from one end of the spectrum to the next – there are so many varieties that it would be impossible to attempt to sum up the content. Suffice to say, the book showcases a giant compilation of bright, expressive, colourful (or at times not so colourful) characters, all bursting with their own unique personalities. The last part of the book also includes a selection of ‘Character Selfies’ from this year’s Pictoplasma festival, which are all really distinctive and fun.

Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 11.35.35

Overall, this huge compilation is filled with over 400 pages of incredibly inspiring imagery and characters, and the variety in design and personality throughout means that there’s something for every aspiring or established character artist to enjoy. As I progressed through the book, I found that the urge to do some character design was building at an extraordinary rate, and by the time I had finished I was very enthused to immediately create something (or someone) of my own.

Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 11.35.15

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Can you help protect Payback income?

December 16th, 2014 by Special Projects

Are you one of the many illustrators who have recently received your annual Payback Royalties distributed by DACS? These cover secondary uses of your images, such as photocopying, and they may be under threat; resulting in a reduction in your income from Payback. But you can help.

Payback royalties derive from licences that are negotiated by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), and DACS shares these royalties with other parties such as publishers  - which amount to over £4 million per year for Payback claimants.

Payments are made as part of a long-standing agreement between DACS and the CLA, but CLA have told DACS that they believe that they are no longer bound by this agreement. DACS has insisted that the existing agreement must continue until its scheduled end date of September 2017, to help manage the transition to any new arrangements and protect claimants incomes in the interim. So far the CLA has not accepted this.  This dispute has the potential to affect Payback in 2015 and beyond.

To help support Payback please:

1.     Agree to be part of the sample group for AOI and DACS to collect all the data necessary to assert the rights of visual artists in a valuation exercise currently being carried out by the CLA.

2.     Send AOI any examples of where publishers may have pressed you to waive or sign away your secondary rights. These rights include reproduction by photocopying or scanning. This might have been in a contract or licence, or in an email.

Contact Derek Brazell Email at the AOI to let him know you would like to participate in the sample group, or to send on evidence of pressure to give up secondary rights (all treated in confidence).

Together AOI, Association of PhotographersEPUKNational Union of Journalists and DACS are fighting to protect your rights and the additional income Payback generates for you. We know how important this is for you; please help us.


Soonchild – book review

December 11th, 2014 by Special Projects

Written by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Alexis Deacon

Published by Walker Books ISBN 9781406344189

Hardback released March 2012, paperback released 1 January 2015

Review by Maia Fjord


Soonchild is a young adult novel recommended for ages 14+, and is one of the last books written by Russell Hoban before he passed away. The narrative is inspired by and based on Inuit mythology, and centres around Sixteen-Face John, a shaman from “the cold, cold north” who has lost his way in a modern world of magazines and coca-cola. When his daughter Soonchild refuses to be born because she cannot hear the ‘World Songs’ which coax unborn children into the world with their promises of all the beauty it holds, John must begin a shamanistic quest to retrieve them.


Alexis Deacon has provided expressive black and white illustrations throughout the book. His bold use of light and dark makes a big impression, and the colourlessness of the imagery invokes the coldness of the environment well. The illustrations can safely be considered just as important in forming the narrative as the text. Consequently Soonchild feels like a hugely collaborative effort- without Deacon’s imagery adding to the text, the story and overall feel of the book would simply not be the same. At times the book takes on an almost graphic novel-like quality, as illustration takes over completely from the written word to form sections of the narrative. These wordless sections are often left deliberately vague and thus very open to interpretation, which suits the dreamlike nature of the story.


This dreamlike quality is also reflected in the way that the illustrations are placed within the book. Deacon’s loose pencil and ink drawings flow across the page and interact with the text. Some pages are without pictures, some feature spot illustrations, and every now and then it is a joy to turn the page and reveal a full double page illustration.


The looseness of the pencil-work also tends to give the characters in Soonchild a certain vagueness, which allows the reader’s imagination to mentally add to and adapt their features and thus create a totally individual perception of them when reading. Throughout the book, this was a quality that I very much appreciated- it seems that illustrated books can sometimes steal the joy that comes from forming your own unique mental image of the characters and environments.


Although intriguing, at times the narrative of Soonchild may be hard for young readers to follow. A large part of the book documents John’s journey through a shamanistic dream, and so the story changes in the same way that a dream can suddenly shift. The unreality of it all is wonderful to experience, but it can be hard to keep up- but then again, that’s how John feels throughout his travels.


Overall, although this eerie and beautiful novel may be a difficult read for the young audience that it’s intended for, it’s definitely worth a try. The inherent strangeness of the story and the way in which it develops stands out in today’s young fiction market, and makes it an enjoyable read for an adult audience as well. With stunning visuals, the paperback edition of Soonchild is still a beautiful object, and a little more practical for those who want to read when out and about.


Pictoplasma Berlin 2015 – Form Follows Empathy

December 11th, 2014 by Special Projects

International Festival and Conference on Contemporary Character Design


Babylon am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, PLATOON Kunsthalle, Silent Green, Urban Spree and numerous art spaces throughout Berlin

Wednesday 29 April – Sunday 3 May 2015

Each spring, Pictoplasma transforms Berlin into the international meeting point for a diverse scene of artists and creatives. The annual Festival showcases latest trends in fine and urban arts, illustration, animation film and graphic design. Creators and producers meet for an unconventional conference, screenings bring the latest animation to the big screen, and exhibitions invite the general public to experience original works and character craftsmanship. For its 11th edition, Pictoplasma Berlin re-invents itself with an all new, five day programme of lectures, screenings, exhibitions and networking. Spring 2015 awaits with more than 40 artist presentations, 100+ animations and a carefully curated exhibition of character driven art. New is the addition of a forum to enhance networking between high-level producers from various industries and attending talents. Workshops, animation screenings, performances, exhibitions and presentations are clustered around a central conference, in which leading artists of today give insight into their creative process of perceiving and designing characters.

As an underlying motif throughout the Festival, the 2015 edition takes a fresh approach towards anthropomorphic fundamentals: the title Form Follows Empathy breaks with the modernist credo of functionalism and puts the empathic perception at the base of any interaction, inquiring if, and how images can direct the attention of the viewer to create a strong emotional bond with objects.

Great Sleeve Art and the Creative Fold of Sound and Image

December 10th, 2014 by Special Projects

Great album art sits between communication and the conceptual, it needs to deliver a commercial need but what great illustrated sleeve art also does is deliver to the fan the visual tools to understand the music.

For Varoom magazine’s Hermenauts issue, we asked illustrators Ellen Weinstein, Ian Wright and Olimpia Zagnoli, designers Mario Hugo and Silvia Sfligiotti and journalist and editor Mark Richardson to reflect on the interpretive power of great sleeve art. And from Eno and FKA Twigs through to Led Zeppelin and Beck, they did.


Go here for great insight into creativity, dreamy drifting on precious moments in time, and most of all a celebration of the power the image-maker and musician has to transport us emotionally to very a different place.


Call for submissions – Visionaries

December 9th, 2014 by Special Projects

Autumn 2015 symposium – Birmingham City University

An open call is made from the VaroomLab illustration research network for contributions that consider the theme of Visionaries and how this is manifested within Illustration. Successful contributors will be invited to present at the Visionaries symposium held at Birmingham City University in 2015.


Submissions can take the form of presentations or papers. VaroomLab is keen to involve practising illustrators and commissioners as well as academics and theory and practice-based researchers from within illustration and across disciplines.

Abstracts deadline 2 February 2015 to Jo Davies (What is an abstract?)


A Visionary is characterised by vision or foresight, given to apparitions, prophecies, or revelations. One who may have speculative but imaginative new ideas, envisioning things in perfect form, possibly having the nature of fantasies or dreams.

Submissions may reflect on some of these ideas or identify other areas in response to the theme of Visionary:

  • The Illustrator as visionary
  • Narrative developments
  • Pollination and Collaborative understandings across disciplines
  • Communication and Language
  • Anticipating the future
  • Mavericks and pioneers
  • Magic, invention or formula
  • Vision and Propaganda
  • Innovation, revolution and discovery
  • Crossing over into music/sound/performance
  • Working on the edges of disciplines
  • Breaking the rules/ making the rules
  • Looking beyond the obvious
  • Future thinking in educational or professional developments
  • Evolution – where are we heading?

The symposium will include a mix of academic papers, professional presentations, Pecha Kucha presentations, panel events and discussions to benefit a broad range of participants.

For more details go here


VaroomLab Journal

Contributions to the Visionaries symposium will be published in the VaroomLab Journal. Issues 1 and 2 are available for download here, and issue 3 on Interpretation will be published in early 2015.

Illustration Derek Brazell

The Promise – book review

December 8th, 2014 by Special Projects

Written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Published by Walker Books ISBN 978-1-4063-5559-8

Review by Rebecca Pomroy


We are introduced to the story of The Promise with the character’s broken view of the world with lines such as “Nothing grew. Everything was broken”. The main character lives by stealing. One night she tries to take an old lady’s bag and ends up bargaining with her to make a promise to plant what is contained within the stolen bag. This deed will end up changing her fate and bringing hope to others around her. The story is accompanied by illustrations by Laura Carlin, which bring the narrative to life.


Colour in particular was something I noticed as I turned each page. The illustrations at the beginning of the book, although rich in content, have a pallet of dark blues and browns, which adds to the sense of loneliness in the story. As the narrative progresses and a new life takes over the story, the illustrations become much more vibrant and rich.  I particularly like that the colour theme of dark blues and browns is returned to in one of the last pages of the book, creating a cycle to begin the good deed again and change another person’s life.


As well as the colours used, I enjoyed the use of white space in some of the images. Other pages contain full-page illustrations, and some are cropped which breaks up the images and makes each page different. The text is simple and easy to read, not overwhelming the illustrations.


The simplicity and relation to everyday life is what brings the whole story together, be it the urban cityscapes or the narrative, I think this book gives a clear message that can be enjoyed by many different people young or old.



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