Illustrators Nobody Knows

I remember a couple of illustrations from childhood: firstly the spikey characters of Quentin Blake that peopled Dahl’s wonderful stories. My parents would pass each other the Doonesbury strip and I would peer at the strange figures, wondering what the hell was so funny. As for actually drawing anything myself that resembled, well anything, I never could crack it. I have much admiration for anyone who can make marks, connect lines and make you feel something. There’s a faerie tale book I had as a child and I can still feel the wildness of Baba Yaga’s hair turning into brambles and the quietly menacing skulls, on the gatepost of the witch’s hovel. I.N.K. Illustrators Nobody Knows is the title of the Illustration show at HSAD this year. After the show, it will also be the name of the artists collective set up by the students. I am indebted to Sam Ripley for showing me around the studio.

Each student had to respond to a negotiated illustration brief that allowed each to explore ideas, advance their own skills and understanding. In many cases to move away from a more commercial response and input something of themselves in to the work. This freedom built into the brief, allows for much more variation and imagination in the show.

Looking at Hayley Hyuga’s fantasy based work I’m drawn to a single figure, standing almost as a beacon against the dark background. I recall an animated short of Hayley’s I saw sometime ago about obsession. I don’t see it here today though.

Classic faerie tales and literature also form part of the inspiration. I’m drawn to the Gothic horror themes explored by Jess Lofthouse – reworked book jackets for Frankenstein and Dracula. There’s a laser cut wood engraving depicting the world of Edgar Allan Poe with intricate detail and skilled illustration. And the two piece bookmark depicting the characters of Jekyll and Hyde is neat indeed.
 ‘Comics and superheroes are not solely the domain of geekdom and fanboys any longer. In recent years strong female characters have emerged and there are more women writing within the comic/graphic novel genre.’ Sam explains.
Image by Sam Ripley

Image by Sam Ripley

She shows me her creation ‘Bad Sally‘ partly inspired by the roller derby film ‘Whip It‘ Sam has created a heroine who must make her way in a post apocalyptic world, on a journey of self discovery, filled with zombies and demons, whilst dealing with the tragic loss of her roller derby teammates in said apocalypse.

Apparently the zombies and demons will form teams and go up against each other in Issue 2. I liked the roller boot with dismembered leg. (pictured) Sam tells me one of the local roller derby teams have been in touch with her, about doing some publicity posters.

There’s a material called Super Sculpey, a sort of clay plasticine from which some of the students have made 3D models of their characters. I like the physical objects in the show as well as the drawings, it just adds more life to the space and fleshes out the ideas. The enterprising Joe Dixon has created the models for his video games using 3D printing technology: Mechanized spider tanks created from the special polymer employed by this arguably, revolutionary technology, line up ready for action.

Digital art features fairly heavily in the show: a graphics tablet with a digital pen, is the digital equivalent of a sketch pad. ‘After using it for a while it becomes just like drawing on paper,’ the students assure me. Adobe Photoshop and not surprisingly Illustrator are also employed in myriad ways just like any other tool in the paintbox.

I’d seen an image of Harry Alman stood beside his sci-fi creation on my newsfeed, days before the show, and the six foot standee from his comic book ‘Space Couriers‘ demands your attention. I noted with interest he had created another comic title. This one seemed to be more news based, more issue led and used Anonymous style imagery.

More issue-led inspiration is to be found in the work of Taslima Taratda. In the succinct message surrounding the resurgence of extreme corsetry, a rich vein of dark humour is to be found; in one of the images the corseted individual, has resorted to carrying her organs in her handbag.

Also pricking society’s conscience the environmentally aware Natasha Saini. Not only has she designed a series of wildlife conservation posters, she’s also created an E-book called ‘The Big Clean Up‘. I particularly liked her bark and branch sculpture called ‘They Come As One.’

I spoke with graduate Declan Jay. He has used the framework of urban myths to showcase his comic creations. He regaled me with an unsavoury tale called ‘The Choking Doorman‘ The  retelling reminded me of the ghost stories we’d tell around the campfire. I liked the representation of London, the defined layers of colour, but the piece that really spoke to me, was the subtle tryptic he’d called ‘Affection‘. ‘The simplest ideas are often the most powerful,’ Declan says.

There were any number of highlights in the shows, the bananas as canvasses by Jade Anderson, Laura Steenoven’s tropical birds skateboard design, Laura has switched from creating her work on paper or digitally, to painting in water colour and pencil crayon directly onto wood surfaces to great effect.

A confectionary range by Eve Gough, I felt echoed the saucy seaside mentality. Then more sweet scents from Betty Silburn’s cosmetic range of packaging and promotional materials inspired by Lush. The soaps scented of parma violets and lovehearts immediately transported me back to childhood.

Denzil Kwabi’s album cover, inlay and poster designs jumped out at me. He’d taken the South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela and created an entire range of branding and publicity materials, for an album launch. Perhaps he could design something for Residents Association?

There a plethora of publications and related merchandise: Totes, Tees, stickers comic books, so get out there and bag yourself a bespoke piece and support the Illustrators Nobody Knows. Follow show online Illustrators Nobody Knows

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