Dead or Alive: Gangster Trump Cards – book review

August 23rd, 2017 by Special Projects

By Stephen Ellcock and Adriana Bellett (JeezVanilla)

Published by Laurence King ISBN 978-1-78627-028-3

Review by Spencer Hill


I am as obsessed with board and card games as I am illustrations and cartoons, so when I was asked to review Dead or Alive: Gangster Trump Cards I got very, very excited. Dead or Alive is effectively a game of Top Trumps using famous (or should that be infamous?) gangsters, gunslingers, goodfellas, felons, folk heroes and bad girls.


There are 34 cards in the box, 32 of which contain a unique villain to use in the game. If you have intercepted this blog from another planet other than Earth you may not be familiar with the concept of Top Trumps. Quite simply, each card contains a group of statistics and on your turn you take the top card from your pile, pick what you think is the most impressive statistic and read it out loud. Everyone compares statistics, and the player with the card containing the highest value of the statistic read out wins all the cards in play at the time, and so on and so forth. In this game there are some interesting facts about the infamous person, then six statistics to use in the game, including Body Count, Firepower and $$$$$.


The cards are well made and of a standard size with a pleasing satin finish and rounded corners, all packed in a neat little tray inside an illustrated sleeve. However, it is the artwork which elevates this from a typical game of Top Trumps, to something akin to a shuffleable portfolio for the illustrator Adriana Bellet aka JeezVanilla. Each card has been lavishly illustrated with a portrait of the featured villain, and they have all been drawn and coloured very stylishly. Pinks and yellows are used in profusion, and the style has a combination of tight line and both flat and washed out colour to create a really effective result. This should not be a surprise when you consider that JeezVanilla has a very impressive portfolio and has already got a growing list of accomplishments under her belt.


In this deck you will find villains of international renown such as the Kray brothers and Ned Kelly, along with many more I admit I had never heard of. It is an interesting and closely researched game, and will appeal to students of criminology as well as students of illustration. The likenesses are stylised but close enough to recognise who they are if you are familiar with them, although I expect my favourite Harukichi Yamaguchi never sported a blue hairdo in reality. He does have a Firepower rating of 93 out of 100 though, so I reckon that if he did nobody would laugh at him for it!

If you are a fan of Top Trumps, contemporary illustration or bad guys then this is well worth checking out. It is a well researched, well designed and beautifully illustrated product and a worthy addition to both my game and illustrators’ portfolios collections.

You may also be interested in these reviews

The Little White Lies – Movie Memory Game

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Panorama Pops

There and Back Again – exhibition

August 22nd, 2017 by Special Projects

29 August – 3 September

Espacio Gallery 159 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 7DG

The show will feature work by 30 illustrators and artists inspired by adventure, exploration and discovery in a range of mediums from traditional print, collage digital art, as well a virtual reality installation.

Nadine Schere

Nadine Schere

The diverse line up of artists include AOI Illustration Awards nominees Andrew Baker and Amber Cooper-Davies, Folio Society shortlister Zanna Allen, Threadneedle shorlister Ben Hendy, D&AD winner Nicole Cowan as well as Children’s book illustrators Martin Ursell, Ellie Snowdon and Daniel Duncan

Artists from the Drawn Chorus Collective will be taking part

Alex Moore

Alex Moore

Alongside the show there is a series of themed creative workshops such as bookbinding and lino printing which includes a complimentary glass of prosecco and a chance to visit the show after hours.

Lino printed tote bags Wednesday 30 August 2017 6:30-9pm – Learn to carve a vintage botanical design into lino and hand print your very own tote bag with Summer Du Plessis. Get inspired by vintage botanical illustrations to make a personalised tote bag, perfect for shopping or giving as a gorgeous and thoughtful gift.

Bookbinding with maps Friday 1 September 2017 6:30-9pm – Learn to make beautiful hand-stitched hardback notebooks with Amber Cooper-Davies. In this two and a half hour workshop, you’ll be guided through the process of building and stitching your very own unique hardback notebook, or giving as a gift.

Alice Parsons

Alice Parsons

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction

August 20th, 2017 by Special Projects

Until 1 September 2017

Barbican Centre, London

From the 19th century cabinet of curiosities, to the vastness of space. Through future cities, into the inner landscapes of human perception.

This exhibition uncovers the mysterious lands of Jules Verne and Ray Harryhausen where Science Fiction narratives first took root, and displays a wealth of illustration including vintage artwork promoting Soviet visions of space,  alongside immersive work by Soda_Jerk.

Courtesy of The British Interplanetary Society

Courtesy of The British Interplanetary Society

There’s also a gallery of aliens, alongside iconic spacesuits from a galaxy of blockbusters including Star Trek and Interstellar.


Women Who Kill – book review

August 16th, 2017 by Special Projects

Written by Anna Davies Illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones

Published by Cicada Books ISBN: 978-1-908714-41-1

Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster


Occidendum ex hominibus is an international past time that dates back centuries.

The title of this book is still shocking even by today’s standards. We are still convinced that killing is something women shouldn’t do if they wish to remain feminine. However, as this book shows, in 54AD it was all the rage for Roman nobility, and it’s a reminder that serial killers come in all shapes and sizes.


It’s a hardback book with a cover that nods at the direct graphic approach used by the great Sue Coe. The end papers are unusual as they cover three pages instead of two, each depicting the tools of killing against a red background – there will be blood! The format is also reminiscent of chapbooks.

The structure is simple, opposite the portrait of the murderess is a short explanation of the crime and in some cases the reason for it. I do like the inclusion of the penalty as a warning to all transgressors; unless you are the Roman Aristocrat Agrippina whose political connections saved her from punishment.


The illustrations are seductive and the women featured seem elevated by virtue of their destructive force. Tanat-Jones is working with a limited palette of blue, dark blue, black and red. She cleverly uses the white of the paper as a fifth colour. There is good variety in the portraits, each one depicting the location, weapon or poison of choice. Notable images for me are those of Ma Barker, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Phoolan Devi, Julia Fazekas and Pauline Parker and her friend Juliet Hulme.


The psychopathic killers disturb me, but those seeking revenge are more sympathetic. I think the pursuit of power is at the heart of most of the crimes, the power over life and death. The killings are treated in a matter of fact way without much bluster or sensationalism.

Now remember murder is very rare – don’t have nightmares…

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

Death of the Artist

The Animals Vegan Manifesto

Arrest All Mimics interviews Creative Review

August 15th, 2017 by Special Projects


Creative Review has been a mainstay of the creative industry for a long time. Undeniably a beautiful magazine with great journalism, where do we find them in 2017?

Ben Tallon meets with editor Patrick Burgoyne to talk about their transition into a bi-monthly print publication, why that decision was made and how digital plays an important role in them staying on top of the abundance of great work in all disciplines.

They also talk about their first ever course, ‘Mastering Creativity’ and everything you can expect from it.

Patrick provides many valuable insights and ideas, so hit Ben up over with your thoughts on @arrestallmimics now!

Listen now

Champagne and Wax Crayons – book review

August 11th, 2017 by Special Projects

Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries

By Ben Tallon

Published by LID Publishing Ltd ISBN: 978-1-907794-93-3

Review by Andy Robert Davies


This is a memoir, a brutally honest account of the struggle of a creative individual, with whom Illustration students and recent graduates will be able to identify. Tallon has an energetic writing style that reflects his signature loose drawings and inky compositions, which have been used by a host of high profile clients.

This book follows the usual format of an autobiography, giving an overview of the foundations of creativity during childhood, moving on to the challenge of flying the nest, entering university and then the struggle of cultivating a creative career. Tallon is a raconteur and is not afraid to poke fun at himself, but there is an underlining knowledge and desire to learn his craft.


The text is punctuated by commentary from a range of design and music professionals, most notably, Ken Garland, that help to give Tallon’s experience a wider context. The main attribute of this book to which readers will respond, is its honesty. When we look at the artwork of an artist we admire we usually only see the end product, maybe sometimes we will have the pleasure of observing a sketchbook or rough drawing, what we don’t usually hear or discuss is the day-to-day toil of an artist. Tallon discusses how to survive both practically and mentally through periods without any paid work and most importantly how to keep focused on self-initiated projects when times are tough.

This book does not just show the reader how to create a successful freelance business, it is a manual for how to live and survive as a freelancer. Living on reduced items from the supermarket, part-time job purgatory, finding free Wi-Fi and hot-desking in coffee shops are all discussed in humorous detail. There is a bag of tricks here that may help young Illustrators and Designers survive the hustle of the creative industries.


The term ‘Entrepreneur’ or indeed ‘the Entrepreneurial Illustrator’ has been discussed in great detail in recent years. Tallon is a good case study for this topic and this book should be seen as a practical guide of how to initiate the business from which to generate income. This will be most helpful to students and graduates as it is a map towards the goal of a creative career.

Tallon has many job titles including Illustrator, Art Director, and Writer. The latter is a role not always considered by those who have studied image making, but Tallon shows that by the very production of this book, he is an ever-evolving creative, with an eye for marketing and a new business opportunity – which are essentials skills for anyone who desires a career of this nature.

For any newly graduated Illustrators out there, chapters 4. Welcome to Freelancing and 5. Self-Unemployment, are a must read! The experiences the author discusses here have been shared by many before and will be endured by countless more in the future. But readers will take heart that in the end, the writer overcame his struggles to work for his dream client and hopefully this book will help the newly graduated do the same.

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

Becoming a Successful Illustrator

Illustration: Meeting the Brief

Jon Burgerman’s Daily Doodle – book review

August 9th, 2017 by Special Projects

By Jon Burgerman

Published by Laurence King ISBN 1786270404

Reviewed by Simon Whittaker


AOI member Jon Burgerman’s Daily Doodle is 118 pages of tips, ideas and inspiration for the reader to use as a springboard for their own doodling, to help them have fun and not worry about making mistakes or creating “perfect” drawings. It also acts as a sketchbook, with plenty of whitespace and Jon’s scribbbles encouraging you to fill in any space left blank on the page, before moving on to extra sheets and scrap-paper.


The ideas themselves start off simply with a mix of food-stuffs and animals – bananas and hot dogs, cats and dogs – through aeroplanes, monster trucks, houses to ghosts and goblins, and Christmas stuff, all accompanied by humourous descriptions and construction notes. As an added extra the book comes with over 40 stickers, around half of which are full-colour versions of Jon’s doodles from the book, the rest are just outlines waiting for the reader to fill in the details before sticking.

Reviewer SImon's try out doodles

Reviewer Simon's try out doodles

I’d imagine any fan of Jon’s work would enjoy flicking through this book – I am and I did – and it would be a great book for giving children ideas and confidence in the early stages of their drawing play/exploration, or for an adult who’s maybe been through some of the adult coloring books of recent years but who lacks the confidence to draw themselves.


More of Simon's doodles

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

The Inspirational Moustache

Hirameki – blotch drawing

Daily Funnies – exhibition

August 7th, 2017 by Special Projects

An Exhibition of Strip Cartoons

26th July – 5th November, 2017

Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London, WC1A 2H


The exhibition features examples of many well-known cartoon strips from newspapers and magazines from the past 100 years. The exhibition will show examples including Alex, Andy Capp, Biff, Bristow, Dick Tracy, Doris, Flook, Fred Basset, If… ,Jeff Hawke, Modesty Blaise, Nipper, Oor Wullie, Peanuts, The Perishers, Pop, Rupert, Supermodels and many others. An opportunity to learn, reminisce, or discover your favourite daily funnies.

Something Melty This Way Comes – exhibition

August 7th, 2017 by Special Projects

Solo show by New York Artist Buff Monster

4 – 20 August 2017

StolenSpace Gallery, 17 Osborn Street, London UK E1 6TD


Buff Monster says “For this show, I’ll be taking over the front gallery space, turning it into a hybrid gallery show / pop-up shop. I’ve always liked making small-edition collectibles; to me it’s a very natural extension of the work that I make. I recently refocused all the patches, pins, toys and other goodies under the Stay Melty brand. So we’ll have a bunch of those goodies in the shop there (and some new suprises as well).”

Slanted magazine: Helsinki issue – review

August 4th, 2017 by Special Projects

Review by Derek Brazell

This is the most recent issue of Slanted – the Helsinki issue. With a seductively gleaming blue cover leading the reader into a wealth of content, it’s an interesting magazine to engage with.


The focus of Slanted is on typography graphic design, but when investigating a city (as they do with each issue) they bring in many more elements, talking to creators from the city about much more than type. A questionnaire directed to a designers gives multiple views and attitudes towards their city and country (’Finns have a strong sense of national identity. What does it mean?’)


Not always expected in design magazine, there is the inclusion of short story fiction – stories which bring the reader into the Finnish experience in a way that straightforward reporting may not do so effectively.


Illustration is involved, with the regular section of Font Names Illustrated covered by nine illustrators visualising Nordvest, Suomi Kuvaa and others.


An interesting, eclectic approach to a city and it’s design friendly inhabitants. See more here