Saturday, 4 March 2017

Illustration A Theoretical & Contextual Perspective - Written by Alan Male

Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts 
ISBN: PB: 978-1-4742-6302-3
ePDF: 978-1-4742-6304-7
My Review
I am an Illustrator. I have been one for over 30 years. I was excited about reading this book, as I know of the author by reputation. It is quite dry and academic and the writing style doesn’t flow as well as it might. I persevered because my interest wasn’t diminished. I do wonder if some undergraduate students of design might be intimidated by academic writing. This book will be a challenge to the uninitiated and is probably more useful for post-graduate level study. It will also be useful for academics and practitioners of illustration. It explores the meaning of illustration through historical contexts and contemporary examples (many from tutors and alumni of Falmouth University) showing the vast array of topics tackled. This second edition includes an additional chapter that focuses on the inter-disciplinary nature of illustration practice and the potential for it to take the lead in the development of design. It is this that is the strength of Male’s argument.

For a book that is supposed to display the power behind visual media and the relevance of illustrated products the size afforded to some of the examples doesn’t really work. Poster sized illustrations shown at postage stamp size, why? Cartoon strips where you can’t read the speech bubbles, why? The layout of the book should allow the power of the illustrations to shine through as many art books do. This problem is not exclusive to this book. That being said the images are carefully and appropriately captioned to help the reader to appreciate the context for the work and the manner in which drawing is utilized to communicate value.

Alan Male states that illustration isn’t self-expression but self-expression does lie at the heart of visual curiosity. Illustration is a commercial enterprise that has managed to maintain its relevance and importance regardless of technological advances and changing social mores. The section on how illustrators collaborate with science is really engaging and points to several ways that the status of imagemakers can be enhanced. As a Professor of the subject Male knows his onions and fully embraces the variety of construction methods and complex applications used by those of us who channel image as our choice of visual communication.  

This book contains a broad range of approaches deemed illustration and how this work impacts on the wider society. Though dry to read in places this book is rich in description, breadth and scope of this subject. It is clear that the illustrator is at the heart of the destiny of this profession not industry. Alan Male advocates that illustrators should be consulted at the start of a commission and we are essential to the development of dynamic and significant work. We are most definitely not ‘colouring in technicians.’

19 February 2017


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Animation: The Global History - My book review on the AOI Blog

Written by Maureen Furniss
Published by Thames & Hudson
For my review go to this link 

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Hello Atlas - My book review on the AOI Blog

Written by Ben Handicott and Illustrated by Kenard Pak

Published by Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN: 9781847808493 

For my review go to this link

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Communication Design Insights from the Creative Industries – My book review on AOI blog

Written by Derek Yates and Jessie Price

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

My review of Printmaker Lynne Blackburn's Exhibition 'Celebratiing the Family' at The Cauliflower Pub Ilford July/ August 2015

I'm at the pub and I'm impressed. Love the screens of shop/building fronts the layers bring much energy to the subject. I like the way one is forced to consider the space within the compositions. Your 'Scary Steps' piece photography can't do justice to. I saw many literature references in those steps from Mr. Hyde to Jack the Ripper and the unfortunates of today’s urban living. 

Your circular pieces are my favourite as they remind me of Mandalas and kaleidoscopic images but with far more freedom. Love the titles of the pieces just like the warning signs on the roads 'Don't Drink, Don't Smoke.' The fish eye lens pieces made me reflect on my childhood memories half-remembered. 

There is a real sense of Noir for me with your stools and floor pieces the angles are like the late night stumbling of the intoxicated. Most apt for a pub. Finally 'Waits' is now in my pocket (I wish). I had a good look at this piece then I stepped back and the textures just popped out! 

I have a questions are there more Linocuts and was your work at the Olympic Park commissioned? Excellent job done and the venue really enhances the emotions your work stirred in me. 

Good luck in all you do. My only gripe is no real ale available but that's not the pubs fault, as the clientele don't drink enough real beer. Fabulous venue though, proper cushty.

NIGHT CITY - My review of this publication from March 2015

Night City by Ian Barraclough (Published by Brabazon Press 2014)

Thanks for the gift of ‘Night City.’ I've read it twice now and feel it works a bit like a documentary poem. For me the main power of the piece suggests many of the conventional things that people dislike about living or experiencing the big bad city, however I think the work is like the GRIT that gets into the oyster and aids the growth of the PEARL. I imagine your references come from you time living in London filtered through a commuter’s eyes.

I feel you are part channeling George Grosz 'The City' combining this with the aesthetic of a faded plastic carrier bag. Have you ever printed onto carrier bags? In the early stages of the story the graphic feel reminds me of Russell Mills 'More Dark Than Shark.' Your torn ephemera acting as flotsam and jetsam from the streets.

You use lights well nothing suggests grime and crime better than nighttime light. The blazing lights of the steel towers blinking carelessly down on those who will never benefit from 'trickle down.'

I love the Angel image the angle reminding me of my Noir favourites and Wenders 'Wings of Desire.' The Angel cannot save us, which was its original purpose.

The centre pages show a complex image filled with multiple elements but somehow every part is isolated and at odds with its surroundings. This is very effective.

The text works well and allows open interpretations in some cases but also punctuates with powerful meaning when needed - as with the 'swan dive' death of the man in the later pages.

I particularly like the words "office screen slaves" "like insects in matchboxes" "they got the job, now the job's got them..."

The final two pages remind me of the fatalism found in many a good Ian McEwan novel. I am the person in the window wishing to blot out the things I feel helpless to change.

One suggestion: the really dark pages might need to be printed differently so there is more contrast. Use truer blacks if possible.

I hope this is an okay review. I'm impressed by your output and rather saddened that I've not added to my own work for quite a while. The cover of the book works well for me. The overlapping lines like the red separation cell of the four-colour process.

Keep going my friend as your work is distinctive and shows what you are thinking about and what concerns you most.


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Cantankerous Crow - book review on AOI Blog

Written by Lennart Hellsing and Illustrated by Poul Stroyer

Published by Thames & Hudson ISBN-13: 9780500650790

For my review go to this link

Thursday, 15 September 2016

What Do Grown-Ups Do All Day? – book review on AOI Blog

For my review go to link

Sustainable Graphic Design Principles & Practices – book review on AOI Blog

For my review go to link 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Review of Exhibition at Safe House 1 & 2 Gallery 'Comfort for Combat'

I arrive at 7.05 pm and I meet my host at the door of a Victorian property on a wet Friday evening.

I am guided up one flight of stairs where the dark cloth acts as the curtain between a special place and myself. I enter the space and the whole room comes into view. The venue is in a house that has been stripped back so the wooden pallets on the floor don't look a bit out of place. I see three holes in the floor and I feel rather uneasy. Even feet as large as mine could go through these holes. I have to remain calm and really look after all I've made the effort to get here and engage with the work. Looking is something that you have to do in this space but your ears have work to do as well as one's sense of smell and balance. It is a total experience or at least that's my impression.

The 'holes' are square mirrors, this is confirmed when my host steps onto one of them. I heard several other visitors remark on the 'holes' so well played Joe.

The room is a former bedroom and bathroom. The white tiles that remain remind me of some scary places I've been to in my past (or could it be my future). In this former domestic space I find pallet seats and clothing adorning the walls. Fixed on wire coat hangers you half expect someone to come in and dress for an evening out on the town.

This installation is a curious thing. I sat down and watched the main event the short films offered by two young artists. There are no captions so the work cannot be identified with its author but this is no problem. The screen was a metal frame about 4 or 5 feet high with the cloth/canvas stretched across it like a sacrificial prophet who wouldn't make it to the end of the first reel. I heard that the cloth was the property of an exiled person and this really lent something to the content that was to dance across it on a loop.

I will start with the film that is a visual and audio collage/edit, it is rather direct and hard to watch if your have a weak stomach for such things. I felt this was an excellent piece of political satire. We are shown a terrible world where money and freedom are equated as 'Good' while children scream and blood, bombs and bullets reshape reality. The powerful touch is where major film studios logos or logotypes are emblazoned across this ballet of destruction. More powerful still was the sound at the end without image. The ripple in the cloth/canvas suggesting an exaggerated smile or grimace.

Next we have a video game film where the POV of the games protagonist plays out like Alan Clarke's 1989 TV film 'Elephant.' Simulated violence is real violence still as the imagination is where our greatest horrors truly live.

We also see three peaceful films the first showing the moon behind clouds perhaps at night or influenced by filters. It is compelling but the meaning was lost on me. The second a red disc against a bold background leads me to ponder national flags and causes that are always framed under the banner of right or wrong. This piece is the most dreamlike and left me to wonder if I would follow any flag waved in front of me. The raw visceral colours were unsettling but graphically powerful. The third film was without sound and seemed to depict the movement of life against the backdrop of life. We watch the hand to see what it will do next but we are less aware of the context that this movement is truly a part of. The cool blue filter of this film was the most restful of the pieces I saw and it gave pause for thought.

The space was busy with visitors coming and going but it was a place where conversation flowed and the sense of place lingers in the mind long after I explored the rest of the exhibition.

I never saw the means of projection or the source of the audio so I assume they were behind the screen. I don't know if acoustic tests were done in the space prior to the exhibition opening but the audio though dissipated to a degree depending on the number of visitors in the space did a great job of adding to my desire to find comfort from this combat.

Karl Foster - Wednesday 27 April 2016

PICTURA (Templar) my review of this new product editions 1 - 8 reloaded

This is an innovative new product that hopes to extend the historic interest of colouring in and creating artwork through technical drawing. Unlike the plethora of anonymous or basic drawings found in mainstream children’s colouring books PICTURA attempts to offer something that will extend this past time and encourage a more focussed development of craft skills using the work of artists who have distinctive styles and technical approaches.

Appeal – Who will enjoy this? I think this product will find a market with 8- 12 years old Children who might work on PICTURA with assistance from their parents. Teenagers working on them independently or in a group. In addition it might find an audience with:
• Students – Who already know the artists and like their work
• Adults – Fans of the artists and those that want to help their children with the  
   colouring, drawing and research
There may be a possible gender split for some of the editions. Anne Yvonne Gilbert’s work may appeal to young females. Levi Pinfold’s work may appeal more to young males. The natural history PICTURA will appeal to all genders. John Howe’s Dragon and Niroot Puttapipat’s Fairies have possible crossover potential. Shaun Tan’s work is more abstract than the others and might appeal to the more adventurous visual communicators. Tomislav Tomic’s Paris 1900 has great mass appeal. He should create a PICTURA for every major world city in the footsteps of Maurice Sasek.

Quality The artwork has been created by award winning artists, some with global reputations. Good high quality paper stock is used that can take a lot of punishment especially from those working with colour crayon and watercolours. The packaging is well designed, durable. The lovely embossed border on the covers evokes a feeling of class and quality. There is a strong Brand identity that makes the product easy to recognise. This is helpful for collectability and for positioning in retail outlets.

Functionality Sequential like its Mayan Hieroglyphic precursor PICTURA main artwork is printed banner width. The concertina fold (double-sided) format means you will need plenty of space to work on your PICTURA and this might present problems for those with limited space. However the upside would be it teaches users that you will need to use space carefully to be able to complete the exercises.
This straightforward no nonsense activity can help develop their interest and art working skills.

Collectability Some people will want to collect them all. Younger people might wish to collect the whole set, as objects in there own right. There is definite opportunity to market PICTURA as something special to collect. There are a lot of fans out there for the artists like John Howe and Shaun Tan these should be exploited to raise awareness of this product through fan base networks and social media.

Would I use this product? I would buy this for my God sons and young cousin (all boys). They are all under 10 so I would probably work with them and guide them closely. I would also introduce it to my students and get them to push the possibilities of working with colour theory and to remake the objects. The works by Helen Ward and Ian Andrew being based in the botanical world will encourage the user to investigate the science behind the images. The online world will be crucial to help users to connect with each other promoting a competitive spirit and an artistic community. The chance to review the work of others will help the continued interest in the product.

Templar Publishing have designed and developed a perennial favourite the colouring in book and taken it to a new level. This sophisticated product doesn’t present any barriers to the user. Anyone who encounters them will be charmed and might even decide that they wish to explore further the world of illustration and image production.

Karl Foster - Tuesday 4 February 2014

Friday, 21 November 2014

BA GMD Year 2 - Authorial Photographer

Another workshop that I co-delivered recently at LCC. This project went over well with the students.

“The camera is just the pencil we’re working with”

Stanley Donen Film Director and Choreographer
Tableau – Weegee, Stanley Kubrick, Nikki S. Lee and Cindy Sherman
Stage a photograph that tells a story in a single frame (camera/phone required). Can the photographs that you take show your personality and your passions? Can you find the correct photographic language to communicate this using the urban landscape/environment? Working in groups we’ll explore the relationship between objects, subjects and the stories they tell, intentionally or accidentally.

You will need a digital camera and the means to download the data

Tutors: Josh Trees & Karl Foster