Sam & Dave Dig a Hole – book review

September 17th, 2014 by Special Projects

Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Published by Walker Books, 2 October 2014  ISBN 978140637769

Review by Juliet Harris


From the team that created ‘Extra Yarn’, the new picture book ‘Sam and Dave Dig a Hole’, offers the same deadpan humour that Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are known for.

When one Monday, Sam and Dave embark on the mission to dig a big hole and find ‘something spectacular’, the reader is taken on a journey underground.

The book draws on the nostalgic notions of a childhood full of curiosity, adventure and imagination. It is this that makes the story accessible and enjoyable for both young and adult readers.


There is a powerful relationship between the text and the illustration, whereby both are given space to reveal different elements of the story. The text’s focus is on Sam and Dave‘s viewpoint, whereas the illustrations allow the reader to see the amusing, broader picture as the two boys search for something marvellous. This creates a humorous reading experience, as the reader can see the giant gems hidden in the earth, but the books characters remain oblivious.


A charming highlight of the story is Sam and Dave’s dog, whose intuitive eyes tell the reader that it senses there are treasures hidden within the ground. But, without the ability to communicate, it’s left looking on, like the reader, as the two boys continue to go the wrong way.

However, all is not lost, as the dog does not walk away unrewarded…

Other book reviews you may like

The Messy Monster Book

The Glass Mountain

Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists – book review

September 12th, 2014 by Special Projects

By Marion Deuchars

Published by Laurence King ISBN 9781780672816

Review by Sarah Gordon


The new release from AOI Patron, Marion Deuchars, ‘Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists’ follows on from her ‘Lets Make Great Art’ series. The book provides a playful and inspiring way to get creative, using various methods including painting, printing, collage and drawing. It seeks to engage the reader and encourage them to discover through experimentation, whilst simultaneously learning from eighteen established Artists of the past.


With its educational undertones, historical details, and instructive encouragements, this book would be perfect for any young reader, particularly those who aspire to create their own masterpiece one day. That said, ‘Let’s Make Great Art’, (Marion Deuchar’s first activity book) sits on my shelf alongside adult design books and novels. Why? Because for me part of the book’s appeal is simply it’s delightful design. The pages are packed with her signature hand lettering, splashes of colour and illustrated Artist portraits that also appear in Marion’s latest release. Although I haven’t put an ink stained hand or paint brush remotely near the original book, the complete aesthetic is a joy to any individual with a keen eye for design.


So whether you’re a creative child, a young aspiring Artist or just an adult who enjoys the aesthetically pleasing, this book is definitely one to get your hands on.


Other book reviews you may like

Illustration Now! 5

Understanding Illustration

100 Cats exhibition

September 9th, 2014 by Special Projects

An exhibition featuring 100 pieces of feline themed artwork.
11-14 September 12-6pm at Aside Bside Gallery 9 Amhurst Terrace London E8 2BT


The show features themed artworks from 37 illustrators. Below is one of curator, AOI member Laura Hughes‘ contributions, ‘Jumper Cat’. AOI member Sandra Dieckmann is also taking part.


Illustration Now! 5 – book review

September 8th, 2014 by Special Projects

Editor Julius Wiedemann

Published by Taschen ISBN 978-3836545280

Review by Flora Cox


In a vivid, beautifully illustrated (of course) paperback, Taschen brings us the ‘latest, groundbreaking work from the world’s most exciting illustrators’: Illustration Now! 5.

The heavy-duty publication is bursting with a vast collection of practising illustrators from across the globe, covering a multitude of styles, medium and applications. The text is written in three different languages which reflects the multicultural artwork that features.


The simple, consistent design of the layout compliments both the copy and images, guiding the reader pleasurably through the extensive list of creatives from A-Z. Whilst profiling each artist, the text also outlines clients, agents and commissioners giving the reader sufficient information without overwhelming it’s audience. At the end of the day the majority of us want to look at the pretty pictures, right? Well I know I do. A great example of a well executed DPS is the Noma Bar pages (p46/47). The print layout compliments the illustrations impeccably, an easily readable typeface working harmoniously with intelligent, inventive image making.


As well as the numerous featured illustrators, both Julius Weidemann and Steven Heller have each produced a short essay to lead you into the issue. Weidemann comments on the selection of artists, as a ‘powerful mixture’ and Heller explains the functions of illustration and its development over the years. A favourite part of the book for me has to be where Heller has analysed the trends and where he’s noticed connections between illustrators’ draftsmanship, ‘Goofy Simply, well goofy: Jon Burgerman, Jules Le Barazar’ and ‘Cleverosity Humorous juxtapositions that trigger double takes: Christopher Brown, David de Ramon’. I couldn’t help but flick through to compare one with another.

Combining new talents with more experienced artists, the publication highlights the popularity, diversity and competition that is continually developing within the illustration industry. Editor, Julius Wiedemann comments that ‘illustration is more used now than ever’. To be able engage people who are less interested in illustration is really some achievement. Wiedemann should be confident in the fact that Illustration Now! 5 is a beautiful format in which creatives and non creatives can access and appreciate the ever growing specialism.


Other book reviews you may like:

A Life In Illustration

Understanding Illustration

Illustration: meeting the brief


The Glass Mountain – book review

September 5th, 2014 by Special Projects

The Glass Mountain: Tales from Poland

By Jan Pienkowski

Published by Walker Books Ltd  ISBN: 978-1-4063-4865-1

Review by Jennifer Leem-Bruggen

TGM layout 1

Inspired by the captivating stories from ‘the lady next door’ Pani Kobuszewska, Jan Pienkowski’s ‘The Glass Mountain’, a retelling by David Walser, revives a collection of eight enchanting traditional Polish fairy tales. Jan’s introduction sets the historical backdrop for the book, giving us insight to his childhood in 1940s Poland. Turnover and a list of ‘How to Say It’ Polish words and their English meaning adds a piece of educational entertainment and a humorous lesson in pronunciation.

The collection of stories range from wagers with the devil, a Princess banished to a castle guarded by a fearsome dragon to a Prince finding a frog for a bride.

TGM layout 2

Using a traditional form of Polish folk art, introduced to him as a boy, Jan’s signature silhouette paper-cut illustrations bring to life a magical world of castles, mythical creatures, wicked devils, evil villains and heroism. Intricate silhouette cut outs in a vibrant array of bold colours and textures placed on predominantly white backgrounds stand out, whilst the frenzied battle scenes and swooping creatures command the full breadth of the double page framing the text. Rough, jagged lines portray the demonic nature of the villainous characters and use of cleverly constructed layers of colour creates interesting shadows and depth.

Fast-paced narrative of sorrow and triumph, betrayal and trickery engages immediately. Fluent and strong compositional elements of energetic illustrations and text throughout do not leave the eye to rest. Slanting angles and text hugging around the illustrations intensifies the theatrical nature of these fables. Large decorative initials opening each story again pay homage to the traditional fairy tale history.

TGM layout 3

Children and adults alike can appreciate Pienkowski’s revival of his childhood Polish fairy tales with comical illustrations complementing the moral undertones of each fable. ‘The Glass Mountain’ encapsulates Jan’s imaginative youth married with effortless illustrative skill in charming us with captivating images.

TGM layout 4

Other book reviews you may like

The Messy Monster Book

Archi Doodle

Sharing Possibilities EIF

September 4th, 2014 by Special Projects

This year the European Illustrators Forum (EIF) will be holding an international congress for illustrators associations in Oslo 29th – 31th October. Sharing Possibilities will include attending organisations presenting their group’s ‘Best Case’ – a project or initiative that they are most proud of. AOI will present Varoom magazine as one of our major achievements, and below a few of the other European organisations reveal what they’ll be sharing.


Best case, Kuvittajat, Finland

Kuvita! Helsinki Illustration Festival,2012 was the first festival of its kind held in the Nordic countries. And was something quite out-of-the-ordinary.


A full line-up of Finnish illustration was on display during the three-day festival. The jam-packed programme included appearances by illustrators, numerous workshops, illustrators at work, and much more. The festival showcased over 100 illustrators from different fields.

Best case, Grafill, Norway

From Norway and Grafill, the best case of promotion of illustration has without doubt been the association’s gallery and project room, R21. Opened almost two years ago it has quickly become an attractive meeting ground for both designers and illustrators alike.


So far it has hosted exhibitions, workshops, launches, social activities and presentations from both national and international practitioners. This spring David Carson came to visit and in July R21 presented illustrator Magnus Voll Mathiassen’s (MVM) first solo exhibition.

Wesley Merritt – Going Wrong…

September 3rd, 2014 by Special Projects

The Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street, 

29 September 2014– 4 October 2014

9am – 6pm Monday – Friday

Wesley Merritt has had a lifelong love of the Western, as well as picaresque tales of adventure, and an affinity for amorality and double-bluffs.


Going Wrong Ain’t The End Of Things is the culmination and exhibition of Wesley’s recent work. A selection of images from Wesley’s regular Saturday Telegraph Review’s book section will be shown alongside unpublished illustrations and drawings for Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. Myriad sketchbooks and ink drawings will be on display, as well as a series of Polish-influenced-Dadaist-by-way-of-Wesley-Merritt film posters.

A Life In Illustration – book review

September 2nd, 2014 by Special Projects


A Life In Illustration: The Most Famous Illustrators and Their Work

Editors Robert Klanten and Hendrik Hellige ISBN 978-3-89955-485-4

Review by Derek Brazell

A life in illustration is made up of many things; dedication to craft, occasional struggle, fortunate breaks, frustrations and satisfactions, and all these all combine to make for an intriguing path to follow.

Adding to a (slowly) growing number of books on illustration and illustrators which are reaching beyond merely displaying, albeit interesting, illustration work, A Life In Illustration seeks to delve into how a selection of excellent illustrators from around the world make a living, offering background to their careers from their education and early working life onwards.


Divided into sections, including Commercial Illustration and Informative Illustration the book’s examples cover a pleasingly broad area of illustration and its applications. Eschewing the merely fashionable, the chosen artists work runs from the info graphics of Jan Schwochow –‘You feel like an archaeologist or a detective at times’- to the dazzling patterns of Catalina Estrada and the thought provoking artwork of Henning Wagenbreth – ‘Illustration per se is uninteresting. Like good art in general it must have social relevance…’ Each artist is given a substantial part of the book, enough space to reveal in depth their background, approach to their artwork and commissioners and the realities of juggling ‘portfolio’ careers or family life and the age old joys of self promotion, ‘Today you can’t just call up a publisher,’ says Olaf Hajek, ‘as they get thousands of portfolios emails.’


Featured illustrators include Christoph Niemann, AOI members Peter Grundy and Jonathan Burton – whose work graces the cover – Andrea Ventura, Jan Van Der Veken, Liselotte Watkins, Jessica Hische and AOI Patron Oliver Jeffers. Their combined contributions give a valuable insight into the highs and lows, challenges and delights of a life in illustration.


Other book reviews you may like:

Understanding Illustration

Illustration: meeting the brief

New Illustration conference – Interpretation

August 28th, 2014 by Special Projects

Interpretation is the theme of the latest VaroomLab symposium on illustration, this year held in partnership with Arts University Bournemouth.

18-19 September 2014


Interpretation will explore ways in which illustrators, interpret, re-interpret and misinterpret information through illustration practice. Illustrators, students and academics are very welcome.

This event aims to celebrate and investigate the potential exciting creative strategies and possibilities for practitioners to move minds, challenge norms and influence the ways in which we the see the world and connect with it.

The symposium is held 18-19 September 2014. Guest speakers are animator Cyriak and illustrator Marcus Oakely , and speakers include Chris Campe, Joel Lardner & Paul Roberts, Paul Burgess, Mireille Fauchon & Four Corners books, Andrew Kulman, Gary Embury and Thomas Barwick- more details here You can register for tickets here and special offer accomodation can be sourced here.

Tickets for Interpretation are now on sale, priced as follows:

£35 Students

£90 Standard Ticket

£50 VaroomLab Members (Limited availability)



Collector’s Edition – book review

August 28th, 2014 by Special Projects

Innovative Packaging and Graphics by Stuart Tolley

Thames & Hudson ISSN 9780500517574

Review by Cher Pratley

Front Cover Close-up

Collector’s Edition is an informal visual survey that compiles examples of 180 innovative graphic and product designs created for special collectors, limited or deluxe editions across a range of industries.

Written by Stuart Tolley, the founder and director of Transmission, a creative agency and editorial consultancy, Collector’s Edition is intended for an audience with an interest in collectables, packaging or graphic design who are looking for inspiration from some of the most celebrated works across music, book and magazine design.

Collector’s Edition is a beautifully bound and constructed book, with a methodic grid layout and quality photographs displayed on gloss paper with simple black and grey text to complement the wide variety of highly visual work. The front cover design is nicely emulated throughout the book with personalised boarders crafted for each section, continuing to add a consistent design aesthetic throughout.

Topic Introduction Page

Organised into four sections – Boxed, Multiples, Hand and Extras – it features a broad range of formats and genres across current and past products and designs with each example individually photographed and accompanied by a brief product description, a reference system for the reader to identify the format, materials and finish used in the design, plus credits for the client, record label, publisher and designer behind the work.

Each section begins with an interview with a leading creative, then delves deeper in to the creative process behind the featured project and give insight in to the artists’ and designers’ creative concepts and practices. This book aims to highlight the link between the creator of the item to the collectors and intended audiences who buy these limited editions items, as much as it is about the beautiful design and production of them.

Flaming Skull Interview

As mentioned, this is a rather informal exploration of packaging and graphic design. The first sentence of the introduction states that it does not want to be misinterpreted as ‘anti-digital’, which I would not go as far to say that it is, but in my opinion it does have a slight inclination towards more traditional methods of design and product production, as can be noticed in the slightly romanticised view of the ‘pre digital era’. However, this topic is broached in the interviews, with many of the interviewees seeming to be rather unswayed by the developments within digital design, merchandising and production. There is more precedence given to the creative possibilities that print offers, but it is agreed that the future of design and packaging is most exciting with both technologies coexisting to create ‘mould-breaking formats’.

The in depth interviews give a detailed look in to the processes, inspiration and ideas behind the creation of the featured products. Some of these ideas have hidden meanings that would possibly be missed without previous background knowledge of the product, artist or brand. Collector’s Edition lifts the lid on some of these double meanings. For example, Stanley Donwood, best known for his work with Radiohead, created a collector’s edition for a special ‘newspaper’ for The King of Limbs, Radiohead’s eighth studio album. The idea behind the design was that the music would outlive the packaging, in-fact the very point of the packaging was that it would degrade and relay a message, “It mirrors our own decay, the way we become more wrinkly. It’s a collector’s edition you cant collect.” It is this type of hidden message, process and outcome that makes the Collector’s Edition such an interesting read.

Radiohead Interview

Many of the concepts and processes taken to develop the initial ideas for the products follow very open briefs, which allows for substantial creative freedom. This is usually due to relationships between the people involved or through an artist’s reputation. I would not say that these briefs are the model for newly graduated or aspiring artists and designers looking to research their current industry, or at least if they do so, that it is done with a certain degree of understanding.

The Collector’s Edition has a slightly traditionalist feel to it, but this is clearly a view widely shared across this current generation, and one that will surely continue to grow with the increasing interest in vinyl records, Polaroid cameras and luxury collector’s products. In my opinion the Collector’s Edition is not a direct view in to the current market of packaging and design but it is a celebration that provokes an interest in the innovative design of packaging and graphics. Hopefully, this book will be the inspiration for many more such projects to come.

As the title indicates, this book is a collector’s edition of collectors editions, it is a visual gallery of some of the finest works within the industry.

Fuel Interview Spred