Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Heroes Of The Night Sky – book review

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

By Tom Kindley

Published by Cicada Books ISBN 9781908714329

Review by Peter Allen


The popularity in recent years of the Book Fair in all its forms; Graphic Art, Art Book, Comix, has greatly benefitted young, unknown graphic artists wanting to show their work, meet people, create a network; to make all the contacts necessary to provide a living from illustration. As the occasions become rarer to physically meet up with clients, public and contemporaries, so the making of runs of fanzines, comics, prints, short graphic novels and distribution of them in Book Fairs has come to replace the hauling of portfolios from publisher to publisher – the standard way before the internet made it all so effortless. It is a very effective means of meeting the people you work with or hope to, enjoyed by both clients and artists, and through the sharing of ideas new collaborations frequently begin.

Tom Kindley has been doing just that. Since graduating in Illustration at Edinburgh University in 2013 he has been doing the rounds and selling his fanzines, comics and concertina books at various book fairs. Commissions from independent publishers have led on from this, but the most important opportunity for him so far came at a Book fair when he met Ziggy from Cicada Books who invited him to put forward some ideas for a book. He decided to combine his longstanding interest in Greek mythology and the natural world, particularly stars, to create Heroes Of The Night Sky, which he describes as his biggest achievement to date.


The collaboration was bound to succeed. Cicada Books has specialised in publishing highly illustrated books since 2009 for both adults and children. They focus on emerging talent, beautiful packaging and fresh content, with the aim to produce books that delight and inspire. Tom describes working with Cicada as being struggle free and as they share similar tastes in book design and content they quickly worked out the concept together. When Ziggy first approached Tom she was making a conscious move towards the older boy audience and found that his style lent itself well to comic and action works. He feels however that the subject matter is so poetic that he thinks the book “will transcend its placing in the ‘boys’ market and that it will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in mythology or the constellations”.

I first looked at the book with my son Elis aged 13 and we felt we were the book’s ideal audience and very capable of giving it a balanced opinion. Elis had done the Greeks at school and knew the tales of the gods off by heart so he was off straightaway opening up the flaps and trying to spot all the different characters. He’s not however the most avid of readers, but when inspired will read non-stop a comic or manga from cover to cover. (He also had Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or (The Mysterious Cities of Gold) a French-Japanese cartoon series on permanent repeat, as he did with any one of Miyazaki’s animated films. We also had the original version of Godzilla in b+w among the piles of videos.)


Furthermore, on our summer holidays in the Pyrenees we take sleeping bags into the garden on the nights leading up to the Ascension, le 15 Août, and watch the shooting stars. During the intervals I attempt to point out some of the constellations that my dad had taught us as kids, also on our holiday in deepest France. Likewise for Tom, “as a young boy scout we would go camping in Northumberland’s Cheviot Hills, sleeping in a shepherd’s hut miles from civilisation; at night there wasn’t a light for miles and miles, the only light from a fire, the moon and the stars. I would just lay back and dream, thinking about what stories the stars had to tell”.


The fact that Elis put the book down after 5 minutes and went back to his iPad says less about this book’s qualities, than it does about the difficulty that books have nowadays to engage with readers who can turn on a screen and gain immediate access to an endless choice of full-on, moving images and sound. I’ll admit that the first read didn’t get me very far into the book, like a new album from when one of your favourite groups that you can’t help feeling disappointed with the first time you play it; the one that ends up becoming your favourite album by that group. I also didn’t quite know what to make of the pictures. Everything was well done, the book was lovely to hold and read, the printing was beautiful, the paper stock well chosen, but with Tom’s pictures I stumbled at first. I wasn’t sure how the illustrations were viewed, as accompaniments to the text or as separate friezes that make a clear break with the classic form of comic books?

Tom explains: “I always wanted the illustrations to work as stand alone pieces. If I’ve succeeded then the viewer’s eye should be drawn across the page as the narrative advances”. The strong stylisation of the characters is almost cartoon-like, but not quite, and the pastel colours and decorative filling of surfaces made me think of Art Deco, West Coast Psychedelia and early 70’s album covers that gave you a fleeting glimpse into sensuous worlds conjured up from a heady mixture of nostalgia, Nature, heroism.


But this wasn’t even half of it. The real source of inspiration for this book was something I owe to Tom for making me aware of. He describes how he “was brought up on a diet of Ray Harryhausen movies… a lot of which are inspired by or stolen from Greek mythology. Jason and the Argonauts and The Clash of the Titans were biggies too, but one of my favourite films that has informed my style is Princess Mononoke, a gorgeous film based on eastern mythology and it was what I was trying to achieve in terms of tone for my book”. He cites as further influences Jesse Moynihan’s book Forming and the concept album Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell, that chronicles Orpheus’ journey into the Underworld.


In Ray Harryhausen’s films there is that stiffness and awkwardness of action so typical of stop-animation at that time. A world that existed before colour TV became the norm; Bill and Ben, Pogles’ Wood, Magic Roundabout, children’s programmes that got swept aside by Tiswas and Swap Shop and cartoons on loop. Tom’s figures become figurines, superheroes repeating over and over their roles in the eternal dramas that are played out above us whether we watch or sleep. The dominant pastel-tones of his colour palette mirror the dream-state in which we hold these gods and goddesses, however invisible or forgotten they might have become to us they are present despite our neglect or ignorance and visible when we make the opportunity to seek them out.

Tom’s book needs to be read and reread in order to appreciate its qualities fully because it seems to me that it contains so much subtle detail that is only revealed when you can examine it closely and enter into its strange and magical aura. As having time becomes increasingly a luxury for us in our brim-full lives so will Heroes of the Night Sky gain in value, to discover and rediscover like all good things that are passed on down from generation to generation.

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

Dismal Incantation

Drawing People – The Human Figure in Contemporary Art

Pictoplasma Conference NYC 2016

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Contemporary Character Design and Art

4 November, 2016
Parsons School of Art, The Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall, The New School, 66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

PICTOPLASMA returns to with a program of inspiring artist talks including illustrators Jean Jullien, Martina Paukova and You Jung Byun, state of the art animation screenings and lively panel discussions to celebrate the next generation of character design and art.


Taking place November 4  at The Tishman Auditorium of renown Parsons School of Design, the conference invites all creatives and producers, trailblazing the face of tomorrow’s visual culture, to network and exchange strategies for tomorrow’s figurative representation.


Laura Carlin: Ceramics

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

13 October 2016 – 11 January 2017

House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London N1C 4BH


The first major public exhibition by acclaimed illustrator Laura Carlin which explores the narrative possibilities of ceramics.

In the exhibition Carlin uses archetypal ceramic forms such as the vessel, the tile, the object and the plate to explore ceramics and storytelling.

It will include a 650-tile mural exploring the history of London which combines a sequential storytelling format, typically associated with ephemeral comics and zines, with the permanent solid form of the ceramic tile. There will also be an installation of 20 illustrated plates, a ceramic Noah’s ark complete with animals, a theatrical installation with ceramic figurines and a large illustrated vessel.

Laura Carlin says: “While many illustrators are limited in the scale and nature of their work by the market, this exhibition will enable me to create something bold, ambitious and on a large scale, thereby demonstrating the potential of contemporary illustration when it is outside these constraints”.



Ardizzone: A Retrospective. Until 22 January 2017

Laura Carlin: Ceramics. Opens 13 October 2016.

Quentin Blake Gallery: The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. Until 26 February 2017.

Contracts Masterclass

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

with Robert Lands, Matthew Dench and Miss Led


Providing an accessible insight into contracts, this master class will offer a general overview of contracts before focusing on motion contracts more specifically.

AOI advisor, Robert Lands, will take a look at illustration contracts in depth. Areas covered will include the clauses that most often trip people up, the essential clauses that should be included to ensure the contract is fair and he will also touch on recent trends.

Matthew Dench will then take a closer look at media contracts. With illustration increasingly becoming a cross-industry discipline, Matthew will cover the ins and outs of these often weighty and financially heavy contracts.

Lastly, we will have a word from long standing AOI member Miss Led who will give the illustrator’s perspective on negotiating and standing fast using examples from her past.

Practical examples will be drawn from publishing, TV, film and editorial and there will be ample time for Q&A with the speakers.

This session would suit agents and illustrators who are currently, or are hoping to work across a range of commissioning areas, providing concrete skills as well as building confidence.

Find out more about our speaks and purchase your tickets here!

Shaping the View: Understanding Landscape through lllustration

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

7th International Illustration Research Symposium

Edinburgh College of Art

November 10th and 11th 2016

The 7th annual Illustration Research Symposium takes the idea of ‘landscape’ as a starting point. Academic papers, visual presentations, interventions and excursions will explore, map and interrogate the ways that landscapes are conceptualised and understood through illustration, both in contemporary practice and historically.

This is a 2 day event being held at Edinburgh College of Art. Visit the site for more information.


Illustration Research is a network of academics and practitioners with the purpose of promoting the cultural sugnificance of illustration, and to create opportunities to share research into and through illustration.

Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories – book review

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

A Children’s History of Art

Written by Michael Bird Illustrated by Kate Evans

Published by Lawrence King Publishing Ltd ISBN 978-1-78067-614-2

Review by Andy Robert Davies


This book does two things very well, it condenses 40,000 years of creativity into comprehensible periods of time, and it also includes examples from around the globe, which gives a truthful overview of how human creativity has evolved. English Medieval illuminated manuscripts, Chinese landscape paintings and Cambodian temples are all used as the setting and focus for a variety of stories. Painting, printmaking and architecture are just some of the forms that are correctly introduced to the reader as art.


Each story begins with a full-page reproduction of a particular piece that gives the supporting narrative a context. Bird tells each story with a steady pace and engaging dialogue, and is able to create the world within which the artist lived and worked. Evans’ illustrations use energetic, scratchy line with loose watercolour to help convey the main focus of the book, the story behind the artworks. Through the use of well-researched depictions of people and places as well as detailed maps, the reader gets a sense of the artists’ life and motivation for creating. A glossary of terminology (such as ‘patron’, ‘scribe’ and various ‘isms’) can be found at the back of the book, which helps to demystify the art world and to engage the reader.


This “Children’s History of Art”, has a format that should appeal to young readers and enough variety to hold their attention and to inspire. It should also appeal to teenagers and young adults (especially art and history students) or indeed those older readers (I include myself here), who enjoy discovering about the lives of key figures in our history and value inventive combinations of text and image, of which this book is a fine example.


You may also be interested in these book reviews:

This Is Bacon

This is Gauguin


John Riordan book launch

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Thursday 13th October at Gosh! Comics, 1 Berwick Street, London W1F 0DR

AOI member John Riordan will be at Gosh from 7 until 9, signing books, drinking free booze and listening to music.


VaroomLab Journal Issue four – Visionaries

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016


Like to investigate illustration in depth? As a subject illustration is looking forward and exploring what it can be, and this Journal gives plenty of food for thought. Issue Four investigates the way visionary approaches are able to expand the way we perceive the world, and also how influences from the past continue to resonate today, and contains papers submitted and peer reviewed for the Visionaries call for papers. Download from here.


Topics include the illustrated map as a mode of communication, tracing the link between visionary J.G. Ballard and the cultural and virtual fabric of 2015, drawing and the digital networks of the contemporary urban landscape, and imagining an alternative future for arts education. A film on the manifestations of vision in contemporary illustration practice is also included.

Peer Reviewed Papers:

Matthew Richardson: Myths of the near Future: Ballard, Crusoe and Google

Richard Hudson-Miles: Illustration; Education; Revolution

Andy Davies: Visualising Spaces: The Illustrated Map as a mode of communicating Fact, Fiction and Feeling


Fiona Strickland: The Vital Moment

Friday, October 7th, 2016

In October 2016 Jonathon Cooper will be holding the gallery’s first solo show of leading botanical artist Fiona Strickland.

Venue: Jonathan Cooper, 20 Park Walk, London SW10 0AQ

Opens 20th October – 12th November. Mon – Fri: 10am – 6.30pm and Sat: 11am – 4pm. Free entry.

strickland flower 1

Painting in watercolour on both Fabriano Artistico paper and Kelmscott vellum, Strickland seeks to engage and surprise viewers, often depicting flowers from an unusual viewpoint or at turning points in their life cycle, and her striking and dramatic works challenge perceptions of botanic art. Although botanically accurate, her paintings move beyond pure scientific representation, and are inspired by an emotive and artistic response, making each work a portrait that vividly captures the spirit of her subject. Including over twenty new paintings, Fiona Strickland: The Vital Moment will over visitors a unique and unmissable insight into a remarkable contemporary artist.

strickland 2

Work from the exhibition will also be included in the publication Plant: The Art of Botany, which will be published by Phaidon Press in September 2016.

OFFSET Sheffield

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Dublin’s Creative Conference is coming to Sheffield

21st & 22nd October, 2016
The Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk St, Sheffield, S1 1DA


Following a successful first UK edition last November in London, OFFSET is taking the 10th edition of its creative conference series in Sheffield at the Crucible Theatre.

With over 2,500 attendees to its Dublin event each year, OFFSET has fast become one of the worlds most inspirational, educational and vocational conferences for the design and creative industries. Since 2009, Offset has hosted many iconic creatives such Sir Peter Blake, Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, Kyle Cooper, Marian Bantjes, Stefan Sagmeister, Micheal Bierut, Morag Myerscough, Shepard Fairey, Emily Oberman, Tomi Ungerer, JR, Lance Wyman, Neville Brody, George Lois, Louise Fili and many more.

OFFSET will be part of the Sheffield Catalyst Festival of Creativity (running until November) as well as a key element in Sheffield’s Design Week (22nd – 30th October 2016). Both have an exciting and varied programme, including exhibitions, workshops, talks, design conferences, installations, product launches, open studios and walking trails joining together venues across Sheffield.


The 2-day event will bring an invaluable opportunity for emerging designers as well as professionals to get the best tips on how to reach the top in this industry and to foster their talent in North of England.

For more information on OFFSET visit their website.

We’ll be running a competition this Friday on social media where we’ll give away a FREE ticket to attend the conference in Sheffield! Find @theaoi on twitter and keep your eyes peeled.