Friday, 5 December 2008

Vodka with Gennady

The fall in New England is, with good reason, regarded as one of the great natural sights, and sure enough I was not disappointed when I was fortuante enough to witness first-hand the the iridescent foliage at the peaceful dwelling of Gennady Spirin. Delighted to be invited once again for tea to the home of this awe-inspiring artist I headed by train out to the New Jersey countryside to be welcomed with black tea and several hearty Hа здоровье!

Feeling slightly light-headed a most pleasant afternon was spent surveying Gennady's stunning artwork which is featured in our current Winter Exhibition at the gallery here in London. The Night Before Christmas and Jack and the Beanstalk show the sheer vituosity of this classically trained Russian and are worthy of a trip to see these alone. I recall the words of top illustrator Michael Foreman as we studied this artwork on the gallery walls at the opening night. 'Proper stuff that' he muttered. With or without vodka, I can little more than concur. (Photo courtesy of Tatiana Popova)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Exploding Brian

Just in case many of you (myself included) were wondering what the BBC license fee was for I have some good news. Casting my mind back to the start of our busy calendar schedule for 2008 we began this year with our single artist showcase and first exhibition in the UK ever for Brian Wildsmith. The reception was terrific. We still have visitors coming by to acquire the highly colourful editions of Noah's Ark and St Francis.
During that event a sleek car with darkened windows pulled up outside the gallery and whisked this eminent illustrator off to some unknown subterranean destination for interrogation. Heroically Brian survived this experience the product of which can be view on BBC 4 tomorrow night November 5th at 9pm. Entitled When We Were Very Young, this is the first of three programmes exploring book illustration and will continue on the two following Wednesdays 12 and 19th November. Knowing Brian's eloquence and experience these are sure to be programmes not to be missed. Instead of exploding Guy Fawkes Night rockets, why not stay in and experience some exploding colour in the warmth of your own home.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A fragment of an underdone potato

There’s more of gravy than there’s grave about you

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most iconic fictional characters, so much so that his name not only evokes the spectre of miserly self-interest but has effectively fallen in to the canon of common parlance as an utterance of denigration. For this we love him.

I recall well a scratchy crackling record that we would play as children on my parent’s gramophone (literally) every festive season. Hearing this atmospheric recording is one of my earliest memories and has given me a life-time attachment to this old humbug and his ghoulish tale of morality and destiny. As such Robert Ingpen’s freshly-released artwork for the new publication has superbly tapped into the essence of this story. His page and double page spreads are a fantastic evocation of a Dickensian world through which glide Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas past, present and future.

These pictures display Robert’s enduring interest in things scientific and architectural . He is in his element. The watercolours display a virtuoso handling of architectural and perspectival drawing, and coupled with the impressively detailed research into our nineteenth century metropolis, its architecture and fashion we are presented with an unrivalled almost theatrical presentation of Victorian London. As with all great illustrators there is more. With his imagination Robert has infused an eerie other-world quality which gives the artwork such vibrancy. It is immediately engaging and draws the viewer into silent contemplation of this by-gone era. The spectral luminosity of the unfortunate Jacob Marley is all too real. If Munch’s Scream is an evocation of existence then Ingpen’s seated Marley is its opposite. The seemingly quivering figure is a horrific vision of a ghastly unresolved fate, reminiscent of Bacon’s Screaming Pope currently on view at Tate Britain.

But there is humour too. ‘I fear you more than any spectre’ moans Scrooge in the presence of the ghost of things to come. Yet when confronted by his own cold and lonely death we see Scrooge cringing from behind the ghoul, peeking around like a child as the pale light illuminates the increasingly inevitable amongst the gathering gloom. This is one of my own favourites for sure.

In almost fifteen years of The Illustration Cupboard this is surely one of the best books I have had the pleasure to work with and exhibit. It has been enormous fun for us all here at the gallery. The artwork does not disappoint and I warmly invite and encourage any and many to visit. See for yourself or share this with those who, like me, will gain and enjoy a lifelong friendship with this loveable curmudgeon - the wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Lord of all he surveys

I was much looking forward to Tuesday morning with a visit by the masterful John Vernon Lord and the prospect of seeing the original artwork for his new version of Alice in Wonderland to be published by Dennis Hall in January. The excellent recent article in Illustration magazine gives us a tempting and fascintating insight into John's work, and this further opportunity was manna from heaven.
John's original work is superlative. We spent a happy morning turning the pages of his portfolio viewing this extrordinarily imaginative and detailed drawings. As a further bonus John had also bought along his sketchbooks and pouring over these revealed fascinating view into the, dare I say, brilliantly eccentric creativity of this truly great artist.
We are wildly excited as we will be working with John on exhibiting his work for the very first time in the new year and showing this unique work from Alice.
Apart from anything it sounds like a great excuse for a tea-party.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Rays of sunshine

To sit on the shores of Capri with the ever-lovely Jane Ray is surely more than any mortal can dream of.

Sitting beside my desk passing books across whilst Jane signed them can only be regarded as a close second. Taking time out of her busy working schedule it was a pleasure to catch up with Jane as she signed, amongst others, our copies of the king of the aforesaid island.

Furthermore we discussed future plans and laid some ground-work for some interesting projects in the new year. A happy ending for sure.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Caper to Cutter

From Paper Caper to Paper Cutter - the work of Jan Pieńkowski is some of the most inspired. It is one of the pleasures at the cupboard to be fortunate enough to visit such leading artists in their natural habitat - the studio. As such I recently found myself once again in the airy top floor of Jan's house idly surveying the fascinating array of images and drawings which abound. The overwhelming sense of calm creativity is a tonic for the soul, and after chatting in the kitchen to the cello accompanist who had arrived for the morning musical ensemble we thrashed out, over mugs of tea, plans to exhibit stunning new paper cut out silhouettes taken from his exquisite new book The Nutcracker. A highlight of the forthcoming winter exhibition these pictures have never been assembled before and will offer fans of Jan's work a truly unique opportunity. Jan will be signing his new book at the gallery on November 22 at 2.30pm.

Friday, 3 October 2008

A ball for Cinderella

There were to be no pumpkins at midnight with the glittering evening reception of Niamh Sharkey's exhibition for her new book Cinderella.

A livley evening was had by all with a tremendous turnout of well-wishers, fans, supporters, family and publishers. Author Max Eilenberg was in attendance, and publisher David Lloyd of Walker Books said a few well-spoken words in praise of this talented illustrator which echoed the thoughts of everyone present.

Last seen heading for a buzzing Mayfair cocktail venue with family and friends we look forward to Niamh's return to the gallery on Saturday for her workshop and book signing. Needless to say she left her slipper on the stairs ...

Friday, 26 September 2008

Biscuits with Bruce

Tea time is always an important part of the day here and Wednesday afternoon was especially enjoyable with a surprise visit by Bruce Ingman who arrived in perfect time, fold up bicycle in hand, as the kettle whistled into life.
We find hobnobs of great inspiration, and whilst partaking as such we enjoyed hearing Bruce's lively anecdotes of working with the great Allan Ahlberg on their terrifc new book Pencil. Being no such things as a free tea we swiftly put Bruce to work signing copies of this excellent new publication for our bookshelves here at the gallery. The icing on the cake was Bruce's kind offer to enter some of this superb original artwork in our forthcoming winter show in November! Clearly this calls for the chocolate-covered digestives.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


Nuffin Like a Puffin.
Three cheers to The Book People and their re-launch of Puffin Post!
This iconic magazine and the equally enthralling Puffin Club was an exciting feature of my early childhood and I remember the zest and enthusiasm with which their events were regularly held. Nicolette Jones in researching her recent article for the Daily Telegraph kindly informed me that I myself had by a Puffineer prizewinner in younger days.
Last night's reception was inspired, and the re-launch of this worthy magazine at swish Kensington Roof Gardens had all the buzz and pazazz I remembered. Superbly supported, it was great to see a host of top names including Shirley Hughes, Jan Pienkowski and Claudio Munoz in attendance with rising stars like Emily Gravett alongside their generous contributions to the blind auction of artwork. We wish Puffin Post every success!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Who do they think they are?

What do you like?

Congratulations to the House of Illustration with their new exhibition entitled What Are You Like? at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Inspired by a victorian parlour game many of the best-known illustrators and some interesting celebrities have drawn images expressing themselves and their favourite things. I particularly enjoyed Brunce Ingman's colourful representation and was intrigued to see Eric Clapton's graphic artistic talent.

Hosted by the superbly elegant Dulwich Picture Gallery I would heartily recommend a visit to this fascinating show. How refreshing to see our leading illustrators sitting cheek-by-jowl alongside many of the most stunning old masters of the past five hundred years!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A great paper caper

What a Caper! Oliver Jeffers is clearly a man of some clout. After weeks of sunless skies the unexpected arrival of Oliver through the gallery doors was accompanied by a burst of sunshine across the streets of St James's.
In a flying visit to see family and friends Oliver kindly sat and signed 50 copies of his excellent new book The Great Paper Caper for our bookshelves here, and over chocolated cappucino we enjoyed a rare quiet moment to catch up and make plans. We look forward to his return in December from his new-found home in NYC. We had a nice day.