Archive for April, 2015

Varoom 29 – the Politics issue

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

The latest issue of Varoom is now available – and with politics currently heavy in the air, it’s a pertinent theme.


Varoom 29 highlights new directions in tackling the idea of politics, from the expanding platforms for American political cartoons in the 21st century, to politics and images presented together in the Graphic Design Festival in Breda and the challenges certain children’s books face when attempts are made to remove them from libraries – including And Tango Makes Two which is in America’s top ten of banned books of 2014.

Lol: The Changing Formats of Humour

In a frank series of interviews, Jen Sorensen, Liza Donnelly, Mark Fiore, and Molly Crabapple tell Varoom about the changing forms and contents of the political cartoon in the 21st Century.

solitary2_550Molly Crabapple – Why Solitary Confinement is modern day torture (see film)

Illustrators, Designers and the Social Imagination

From The Drone Survival Guide to role-playing an immigration officer in a video game, Dennis Elbers talks about innovative ways of engaging the public with design and new directions in politics and the image.

Banning Children’s Books

You might be surprised at the extent to which children’s books are removed from US public libraries. We hear the reaction from illustrators and writers, including Tony Ross and Jeanne Willis, who didn’t even know Big Bad Bun had been challenged.


The Radicals

In 1981, a group of illustrators edited a special issue of the AOI’s magazine, calling it Radical Illustrators. Paul Burgess hears from the creators of a benchmark publication, including Anne Howeson, Ian Pollock, Garolyn Gowdy, Robert Mason and George Snow.


Also in Varoom 29, Paul Davis gives a personal reflection on the theme, and Marian Bantjes delivers a uniquely crafted double-page image.

Varoom‘s cover image by Studio Stack moves Fight Club‘s Tyler Burden’s rage against the system into the digital age via the logos of the corporations that harvest our information and extract value from it.

Tomorrow: Stinking it up

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

A talk by John O’Reilly at Pick Me Up


In an A-Z of illustration, editor of Varoom John O’Reilly will be exploring how the ‘stupid’ in illustration and animation re-invents the idea of the ‘social’ – in an exclusive talk hosted by Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival in Somerset House.

The drop-in talk is free to attend with a festival pass and will start at 11:30am tomorrow (Friday 24th), with an approximate duration of 30 minutes following a brief Q&A session.

This event is part of ‘Points of Contention’: a series of daily talks and discussions about current issues within the graphic arts. Additional talks will include:

– Cartoons and Politics – Martin Ronson

– Life Death Letterpress – Catherine Dixon

– Look outside design – Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright (Graphic Design &)

– Material to immaterial – Graham McCallum (Kemistry Gallery)

– Beyond the screen – Fred Deakin

– Educate Agitate Organise – Catherine Flood (V&A)

– Sit-in 4 Art – Bob and Roberta Smith

– Guns for hire? – Lawrence Zeegen

– Resist Revolt Design – Noel Douglas (Occupy)

You can download the schedule and book tickets to Pick Me Up via the Somerset House website.

Pick Me Up: Graphic Arts Festival 2015

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Embankment Galleries, South Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Exhibition open until 4 May 2015, 10:00am – 6:00pm (last entry 5:15pm)
Late Night Wednesdays and Thursdays until 10:00pm (last entry 9:15pm)
Day Tickets £10, concessions £8
Festival Pass £17.50

t: +44 (0)20 7845 4600

Pick Me Up

Pick Me Up has returned to Somerset House for its sixth year, opening officially to the public today. The festival is showcasing emerging and established illustrators, graphic designers and animators, as well as an array of studios and collectives.

Pick Me Up 2015

The festival will be running for 12 days offering a variety of exhibitions, talks, demonstrations, workshops and screenings. Speakers will include Thames & Hudson, Studio Myerscough, Bob and Roberta Smith, between many others.

Pick Me Up

You can find out more information, download the schedule and book tickets via the Somerset House website.

Death of the Artist – book review

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

by Karrie Fransman

Published by Jonathan Cape ISBN 9780224099431

Paperback released 5 March 2015

Review by Marianna Madriz

Death of the Artist

The book opens up with a foreword/epitaph by the author herself: “This is the beginning but also the end”, she warns; and just like that Death of the Artist begins.

It’s a story told by Karrie Fransman about herself and four ‘friends’, who decide to retreat to the English countryside for a week of hedonism and drawing in an attempt to escape their thirties and regain their youth. A different character tells each of the five sections in the graphic novel, ultimately knotting the narrative together into one.


Fransman calls herself a ‘comic fanatic’ (TEDx, 2014) and this is clearly seen in her new book, where she proves that graphic novels can be a playground for uncommon mediums; from vibrant watercolours to photography, from doodles on coffee-stained pages to digital illustrations. From the delicate to the rough, it’s all possible. Fransman successfully uses each drawing style to give a strong voice to the characters, and to help represent the crude and twisted nature of the story.

Death of the Artist

While Death of the Artist may not resonate visually with some readers, its themes will do: the desire to remain young and creative, the companionship of old college friends, the depiction of the ‘artist’ as a destructive being. It’s a fresh and dark tale that leads itself into a more than satisfactory finale (sadly an uncommon feature in many comics). I only feel that the format lets the book down slightly – the rectangular pages fit for a picture book don’t seem entirely right for a comic that very well deserves to be in portrait hardback-.

Death of the Artist

Death of the Artist will successfully please avid comic readers, as well as introducing new audiences to the medium. It’s certainly a memorable read, and I’m sure it will inspire many out there to grab a pencil (or a camera, or a brush, or a tablet) and start creating a visual world of their own.

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Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole

Off Life issue 11

Six of the Best

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

‘Our selection of exciting illustrators’, as shown by the Illustration Cupboard

Exhibition open until 2 May 2015

Illustrationcupboard Gallery, 22 Bury Street, London, SW1Y 6AL

t: (+44) 207 796 1727

Opening times:
Monday to Friday 9:30am – 6:00pm
Saturday 11:00am – 5:00pm

The Illustration Cupboard currently presents an all-women exhibition of established and emerging illustrators, with works ranging from children’s books to reportage.

Participants include Anna Cattermole, Eva Montanari, Emily Sutton, Louise Yates, Helen Ward and AOI member Laura Carlin.

Anna Cattermole, published by Dovecote Press

Anna Cattermole

Eva Montanari

Eva Montanari

The display showcases original artworks from published children’s books. Examples include Monteneri’s recently released Pinocchio (Albury Books), Carlin’s A World of your Own (Phaidon Press) and Yates’ Dog Loves Books (Random House).

Laura Carlin

Laura Carlin

All artists’ exhibited work will be for sale throughout the duration of the event. These can be seen and purchased through the Illustration Cupboard’s website.

For more information, please visit

TAGallery Presents Stanley Chow

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Exhibition open until 10 May 2015, 10:00am – 6:00pm

TAGallery, 235 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4EN

To mark the opening of Manchester’s newest art gallery, TAGallery are currently presenting an exhibition of work from the Mancunian artist Stanley Chow. The showcase consists of a selection of illustrations representing the City’s local landmarks, and the personalities of its most famous inhabitants.


Stanley Chow began his career within Manchester’s music scene as a DJ designing flyers for his gigs. As an artist, he is best known for his colourful and simplified geometric designs of locations and celebrity portraits. Chow now works internationally through design, editorial and advertising, working for clients such as McDonalds, the New Yorker and Ted Baker.


Based within ManchesterEscalator, TAGallery is a new exhibition space aiming to help young businesses flourish in the City, showcasing and selling new original artworks in affordable ways.

Challenged Children’s Books?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

As Varoom does the last edits on our upcoming piece in Varoom 29 on Challenged Children’s Book, we hear this week that one of our featured books, And Tango Makes Three, is again riding high in the 2014 top 10 of frequently challenged or banned books in the USA. See LA Times article


And Tango Makes Three is the story of two male penguins who raise a chick at New York Zoo. Illustrator Henry Cole gives his views in Varoom 29, along side illustrators and writers of several other children’s books ‘challenged’.

‘A challenge is a formal written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.’ American Libraries Association

Varoom 29 is published at the end of April. Varoom is free to AOI members, and available to purchase at the AOI Shop.

Secret 7″

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Terrace Room, South Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Exhibition open until 4 May 2015, 10:00am – 6:00pm (last entry 5:15pm)

t: +44 (0)20 7845 4600


Secret 7″ returns for the fourth year, showcasing a selection of 700 designs responding to music by The Chemical Brothers, Rolling Stones, St Vincent and many more.

Contributors include established and emerging creatives such as Sir Peter Blake, Yoko Ono, David Shrigley, Sir Paul Smith, Modern Toss, Tatty Devine, Jean Jullien, Mr Bingo, Pure Evil and more, including many AOI members.

For the first time since its first appearance in 2012, the exhibition is currently hosted at the heart of Somerset House. It will run over three weeks, offering a wide range of events including workshops, talks and screenings, as well as the final sale of all exhibited album sleeves on the 4th of May. Each cover will be sold for £50 each, with all money going to Nordoff Robbins – a charity dedicated to aid vulnerable children and adults through music therapy-. All submissions are exhibited in fair anonymity until the final transaction takes place, where all creators will finally be revealed.


For more information about Secret 7″ visit their website at
To purchase tickets for any of their events, book through Somerset House.

Comica Festival – Pablo

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie in conversation with Paul Gravett

Comica Conversation at the Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Wednesday April 15th, 7pm. This is a free event but you need to RSVP by sending an email to: [at]


SelfMadeHero publish Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie’s four-volume graphic biography of Picasso, entitled Pablo. Taking in Picasso’s early life among the bohemians of Montmartre and his turbulent relationship with his model and lover Fernande, the book shows how the artist’s style developed in response to his friendships and rivalries and follows the artist’s career from his origins in penury to the advent of modern art.

This event is co-hosted by COMICA Festival, the Institut Français, SelfMadeHero and the London Book and Screen Week.

Off Life isue 11 – review

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015


Editor: Daniel Humphry Art Director: Steve Leard


The eleventh issue of Off Life is intriguingly eclectic, with cartoons critiquing consumerism (with chocolate covered rice cakes as the culprits), and the ‘war on terror’ transcribed to a war on magicians. There is a variety of different approaches from the contributors, and it’s encouraging to see unusual topics investigated in this form.


The individual comics are often untilted, taking the reader straight into the story with no preconceptions. Some are observational – such as a possible case of mistaken identity in a post office queue or reasons for shaving off a beard via the effect of inane radio DJ chatter. Others are a bit stranger, including one story tackling the moment before death.


There’s an interesting frankly-expressed interview with Ed Piskor, creator of Hip Hop Family Tree: “I’ve been gambling my whole life on comics being a respectable thing.” And Jack Teagle writes on illustrators being too liberal with their influences: “…it’s important… to set yourself apart from your peers”.


Off Life is available free of charge, and I can think of no reason why any lover of narrative art wouldn’t want to pick up a copy. Or read online.

Off Life are keen to feature new, up-and-coming creators and you can submit for their next issue here.