In 1976 I was given the task of redesigning the covers for Anthony Powell’s
epic, A Dance to the Music of Time. This twelve-novel sequence
chronicles the lives of more than 300 characters in a unique evocation of 20th-century
life in England. At the time I was working as the art director of Fontana
Paperbacks and Powell's books originally had photographic covers like this:
Not my cup of tea but they did their job. Anyway, what to do? Powell had
created such an array of memorable characters that I thought we could select
key individuals for each cover. And that’s where Mark Boxer came in.
Not only was he the art director of Queen magazine, the founding editor of The
Sunday Times Magazine and the editor of Tatler but he was also a formidable
cartoonist, with a very endearing minimalist style:
Noël Coward by Mark Boxer ink and coloured crayon, 1983 NPG
Boxer's witty Prince Charles mug
He also cut a very suave figure: tall and swathed in hand-tailored suits and
often seen in the company of Anna Ford, a highly desirable newsreader at the
time (whom he later married). The pair cut a very attractive couple:
Anna Ford and Boxer
Boxer loved the commission and spent a lot of time perfecting each character
for the covers, with a lot of consultation with Anthony Powell himself.
The upshot was a wonderful set of classic covers, which I made into a double
boxset. They won a D&AD Silver Award in 1978. Sadly I haven’t got the boxes or a full set of the covers. But here are
a few that I have tracked down:
They continued to be used for many years after I left Fontana but were slowly
degraded by increasingly insensitive typography. Sadly Mark Boxer died of a
brain tumour in 1988 at the very young age of 57: a great loss.
Looking back over my blog I am horrified, and embarrassed, to discover just how
few women have featured. Men have always dominated the world of graphic design
and even now there are still very few design groups formed or headed up by women.
Marriage and children tend to curtail or compromise their creative pursuits. A
sad loss to the world of design.
During my many years running a design consultancy I witnessed so many talented
female designers fading away the moment they had children. The demands, both
physical and emotional, took them on another path, never to return.
But in the world of illustration there are many supremely talented female
practitioners beavering away, often with children tugging at their skirts.
Here are three such women (two of whom I know well) who are hugely gifted, leaving
highly personal fingerprints on everything they produce. They also share
commonalities with one another. All three attended the Royal College of Art.
All use hand-drawn lettering and collage as integral parts of their work, and
all have won the V&A Illustration Award.
Sara doesn't like being photographed
Above is the wonderful Sara Fanelli, winner of many accolades including two V&A
Illustration Awards and two D&AD Silvers. She also has the unique
distinction of being the very first female illustrator to be made an Honorary
Royal Designer for Industry, presented by the Royal Society of Arts. And this
5 million people file past Sara Fanelli's Tate Modern Artist Timeline wall
The cover and spreads from her book, Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I am
Millennium stamp for Royal Mail
Above the cover and spreads from her recent book, The Onion's Great Escape
The cover for Pinokkio
Experiencing Sara’s work is a tiny glimpse into her highly imaginative,
eccentric and magical mind.
This is Laura, I think she likes being photographed
The second of my trio is Laura Carlin, another V&A-awarded illustrator. She
was also awarded with the Quentin Blake Award two years running and the 2004
National Magazine Award, amongst many others. Her work is thoughtful,
sensitive, inventive and always beautiful:
Spreads for Journal newspaper with Studio Dempsey
For The New York Times Magazine
For The Guardian
Cover and image from the award winning Iron Man
Above assorted images from Laura's prolific output
I have had the pleasure of working with Laura on many occasions and the
experience has always been sublime. In addition to her beguiling illustration
work, she has, over the past three years or so, thrown herself into making
ceramics, producing a wonderful array of pots, dishes and figures.
Above Laura's foray into the world of ceramics
Complete book Le Grand Meaulnes
Laura's work has
a highly sophisticated naivety, which directly touches 20thcentury
British art and 1960s illustration, a period that she finds very inspiring.
The final member of this talented trio is Marion Deuchars, another winner of a
V&A Award along with a mantelpiece more. As with Sara and Laura she has
made hand lettering a part of her work, and in Marion’s case it’s a very big
part. I think her unique calligraphic style has been exposed to more people
than anyone I know - well, apart from Sara's.
The distictive handwriting that is Marion Deuchars
Just four of many book covers and jackets by Marion
Above, the windows of Cass Artand drawing pad designs below
Marion is the closest of the three to a graphic designer in her approach. She
knows exactly where to place a seemingly random mark or splat to create impact,
and when to use space to engender tension.
Marion's hand lettering graced the Shakespeare stamps, in collaboration with Hat Trick
In recent years Marion has embarked on engaging with children through her two highly
successful books Let’s Make Some Great Art and Let’s Make Some Great
Fingerprint Art. They have a wonderful immediacy through her handwriting
and bold brush illustrations.
Above: the two highly successful books to get children away from the TV and towards the drawing pad
So there we have it. Three women. Three distinctive styles bringing enormous
joy to our lives. Long may they continue.
I bought this book back in 1964. It
is one in a terrific series published by the now long defunct publisher
Studio Vista. Design writer and historian John Lewis edited the series. This
one, on illustration, is principally a visual book featuring the many different
approaches and styles of the subject. But what struck me
is this last statement by Messrs Gill and Lewis - more a manifesto really – on
how illustration should, or rather should not, be taught in schools...
Back in the late 1960s, I found myself working in publishing. Nestled in a
small office at the very top of a building on Queen Street, Mayfair, I was
installed as the art director of William Heinemann at the tender age of 24.
For me, it was the beginning of a wonderful decade of education. I came into
contact with not only some of the world’s greatest authors but
also many of the best designers, photographers and illustrators working at that
time. One of these was an illustrator who visited me to show his work. His name
was Justin Todd and I was instantly smitten by the sheer originality and
quality of his approach to illustration.
Book jacket for a Georgette Heyer novel around 1972
Following that meeting, he was constantly on my radar and became a regular
collaborator on many of the book covers that I was responsible for, both at
Heinemann and a little later when I moved onto William Collins’ Fontana
Paperbacks in the mid-1970s.
At my original meeting with Todd, he left me a copy of a calendar that he’d
illustrated for Midland Bank. Now, 44 years later, I still have it. The
quality of that work still moves me…
Lombard Merchants for Midland Bank 1970
My admiration for Todd was such that I edited and designed a large format
illustrated paperback of his work, published by Fontana in 1978. Here it is: Todd worked (and I’m sure still does) in a painstakingly laborious way, using
gouache paint and a collection of extremely fine brushes. He slowly works from
one side of his watercolour paper to the other within a predetermined grid in
which he has meticulously planned his image.
Todd at work sandwiched between two anglepoise lamps. 1978
Each illustration takes many, many days, if not weeks, to produce and must have
taken its toll on Todd’s eyesight. But he has been labouring away now for
almost 6 decades and his later, exemplary illustrated bookwork earned him many
awards and much praise.
The Wind in the Willows 1987
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 1996
The Wind in the Willows 1987
Throughout his working career he also taught illustration. A large part of this
was spent at the Brighton School of Art, where he encouraged and guided
hundreds of students; I’m sure many are now flourishing as illustrators
themselves. They owe a great debt to Todd’s dedication and enthusiasm.
Cover for The Journey East 1972
Cover for Tolkien's World 1975
Trial painting for The Legend of Tetuna 1977
Cover for Good News in Letters of Paul 1975
Christmas Witch card for the V&A
I have enormous admiration for any individual who spends their life adding
nourishment to our world by creating things of beauty. They rarely earn a
fortune for their labours, unlike those in the world of banking or equity
management who give nothing and take everything. It is so unfair.
Justin Todd is a hero in my view, with a body of mind-bogglingly beautiful work
that shines far brighter than any gold ingot.
Above published in 1961 The General was Michael Foreman's first illustrated book. Below just a sampling of his prolific output since those early days. To date he has 300 books to his name.
He is one of Britain's most successful, lauded and loved children's book illustrators. Since the publication of his first book in 1961 he has had over 300 titles, for both adults and children, published. I recently made an RDInsights recording with him. Born in 1938 in rural Suffolk during the second world war his creative journey is fascinating and surprising. To hear it click here. Enjoy.
I attended the launch of the book, London You’re Beautiful last night in the bustle of London’s Bond Street where the good and the great came to celebrate David Gentleman’s tour de force of illustration stamina.
Over the past year, come rain or shine, each day you would find Gentleman lurking in the nooks and crannies of London recording daily life with his uniquely distinctive pen and colourful wash style. 365 days later he has given birth to this beautiful book...
In its introduction David points out that, “Drawing anything makes you look at it harder and more intently, whether it’s a leaf, a building or a person; even if it’s a whole city”. The results of his marathon task is every bit as moving as a Betjeman poem.
To listen to an interview that I made with David Gentleman in 2010 about his life and work click here.
Last year I posted a piece about one of my favourite haunts – the second hand bookshop. I showed this paperback cover from the mid 1960s, unearthed from the cavernous bowels of Skoob Books…
I mentioned that it had been part of a very nice Corgi Books series illustrated by Ken Sequin. I asked if anyone had other examples from the set. Who should contact me but Ken Sequin himself and he sent me these missing covers from that set which all feature his lovely work…
John Piper - Gorgi Book’s then Art Director - designed them. I think the typeface used is Standard Black (Akzidenz Black). But Ken believes it was a bastardised version of Helvetica. Whatever it is, it works and I love them. They still look so fresh.
A little bit about Ken Sequin. At 15 he attended Wimbledon Art School where he absorbed himself in graphics, stain glass and painting. Just three years later in 1960 he was exhibiting his work at The Young Contemporaries show. That led him on the Royal College of Art where he studied graphic design and illustration under the influential typographer Anthony Froshaug (1920 –1984).
These were the nursery slope years of what were to become the heady days of the 60s when all things creative were beginning to converge and the RCA was the perfect melting pot.Sequin found himself exposed to many creative talents and disciplines including Marie Rambert of Ballet Rampart and the poet, Gregory Corso who read some of his work at the RCA. His own illustrative leaning was focused across the pond and particular the extraordinary collective Push Pin Studios whose output was astonishing and varied. Among them Milton Glaser, Paul Davis and Seymour Chwast. Through their influence and no doubt others like Bob Gill, Paul Hogarth, Jack Larkin, Roger Law, Julian Allen and David Hockney who were all employing a conscious naivety in their work with very sophisticated results, Ken Sequin carved out his own particular take on this form of illustration…
Sequin fuelled himself on jazz, – for which he produced posters for the RCA –
European literature from Camus to Calvino, concrete poetry and the constructions of Ian Hamilton Finlay. In 1963 he was awarded an RCA scholarship and went to Poland to research polish poster art and cinema. Throughout this he was illustrating with very little input from RCA tutors who seemed few and far between. Examples of Sequin’s work appeared in the 1966 D&AD annual …
Above two spreads from the RCA magazine ARK winter 1964
After graduating he freelanced for publishers, weekend colour supplements...
and he hada brief spell in television design, working on ABC TV’s arts programme, New Tempo produced by Mike Hodges (he of Get Carter fame). Sequin eventually left London and pursued full time teaching, where he spent a considerable amount of his life. He returned to London in the early 90s and now concentrates on painting, and no doubt reflects on his interesting life. Here is some of his recent work…
Doing a little survey of illustration recently, I am very heartened to see resurgence in Britain and the best place to see it happening is in your local bookshop. As in the past, it is the humble book cover that is trail blazing a new dawn in innovation. The magazines and the advertising agencies mop up the talent many months later.
Lastly if anyone out there knows what became of John Piper, Gorgi Books Art Director in the 60’s, I’d love to hear from you.