Simon Prades was asked by Bloomberg Businessweek to illustrate a powerful cover story by a North Korean defector. Distinct from their usual style, Bloomberg opted to use conceptual artist Simon Prades to illustrate in his complex and moody technique.
When you think of children’s illustration, it’s only natural to think picture books, but the exciting thing about illustration is just how much you can do with it. Children’s illustrators do, primarily make picture books, but they’ll often do more where their schedule allows. They take part in all sorts of events, up and down the country, and they often share their skills closer to home — in their own community. This is exactly what Fred Blunt has done, and even better, it involves his local library:
FB: It all started when an artist friend of mine got in touch and told me that South Swindon Parish had taken over the Old Town Library, and were planning a renovation project. What’s more, they wanted large scale, fun murals for the children’s area. He thought it would be relevant for a children’s book illustrator to pitch for the job.
Fred’s rough drafts before the final artwork, and the final designs below.
At first I didn’t intend to pitch. The idea of taking the time out of of my picture book schedule to design and paint a mural seemed way too time-consuming. But the idea of creating something just for children, in a library, on a big scale was very exciting to me – especially in the present climate of library closures.
[Read more about library closures in an article by The Guardian here]
I then thought, if I could find a company to install it using vinyl print, I could save a lot of time and potentially make it work. I did a little research and contacted local print company, Signs Express with my proposal.
Much to my surprise, they got in contact the very next day, enthused about the project and eager to be onboard.
So I pitched my vision of a vibrant wall design, installed in vinyl print, instead of a traditionally painted mural. The Council library committee were quick to get in touch and discuss my ideas – all of which were enthusiastically received.
I went away with a vague notion of creating a bold and vibrant mural, which was going to be based on reading – showing the joy of books, and how they take you out of the everyday, and into the extraordinary.
Hot off the printing press!
I wanted the design to be appealing over the age groups, bright and fun for the very young, but also to have enough design elements to be considered cool for the older kids (and hopefully enjoyed by their parents too).
Early on, I wanted to achieve a ‘pop art’ look for kids . . . a cartoony version of those bold Peter Blake designs, with the contained boxes of colour. I also wanted the characters to have a retro appeal, so they would be timeless.
Famous artwork by Peter Blake.
It was great fun designing each individual box, using limited colour, so that together, they would hang nicely as a bunch of interlocking, contrasting colours – creating an overall unity.
The committee were very open to my ideas. They gave me free reign to do exactly what I wanted, which was wonderfully liberating! I even got to choose the colours of the walls and new carpets to compliment my designs.
The installation itself, took only a day for the print team to complete, and I have to admit it was a nerve-wracking wait to see if the result would live up to my expectations — but quite honestly, they exceeded them.
The vinyl finish is great! No need to worry about mucky fingers and the colours are more vivid than I imagined — or could have ever achieved with paint. Exactly the bold graphic look I was after.
It’s been a great project to be part of, and hopefully many children will enjoy the murals as they choose new books for a long time to come.
Fred pictured next to the finished mural, and his children enjoying the books in the new space.
So if you live in the Swindon area, be sure to visit your local library!
With huge thanks to Fred Blunt. If you’d like to know more about Fred’s illustration and picture books, you can do so here:
Picture Book Funny Man: The Art of Fred Blunt
Fred Blunt puts the funny into children’s books, with his humour making both children and adults laugh. There’s something nostalgic about his style; animated, playful and with a warm palette, his pictures and characters tell the story, making his books an all inclusive experience. Here he talks about his journey, starting out as a working illustrator, covering a broad range of markets, to the present, where he works solely on picture books, much to the delight of his readers… [Continue reading]
If you’d like to work with Fred, you can get in touch via his agent, Arabella Stein here.
Andrew Davidson worked with Sibling & Co on the stunning Christmas 2017 packaging range for Crabtree & Evelyn.
Mark Boardman was commissioned by WPBrand Studio to create three immersive 360˚ illustrations for their client AT&T.
Mark mastered this increasingly popular technique to create a series of impressive visuals. To see the 360˚ illustrations click here.
An illustrator with a back catalogue of fantastic books to his name, not to mention other exciting creative projects, we were delighted to welcome Aaron Blecha to The Bright Agency back in March of this year. With an exciting creative project currently under way with the Sea Life Centre in Brighton, and a forth-coming exhibition of his work at the Hove Museum and Art Gallery in February 2018, he is not only a successful working illustrator, but he is exploring the boundaries outside of children’s book illustration.
Where did it all begin – in terms of becoming an artist?
From an early age, I was always drawing and working on projects of my own — lots of castles, pirates, monsters, and Star Wars aliens. I was a student with pretty average grades so luckily I had art to carry me through and keep me interested. I had an inspiring art teacher in high school who let us explore our style rather than demand you stick to specific rules (Captain Calamari was the title of my comic book senior project). After university, I worked as a graphic designer and then a 2D animator, but I’ve now been a freelance illustrator / character designer for over 12 years.
What possessed you to leave sunny California to come to the mostly grey UK?!
Ha ha! Well, after living in San Francisco for many years I met a nice English woman there that talked me into moving to London with her! I have always been interested in the European lifestyle and backpacked around here a bit, so I was up for a new adventure (although I didn’t realise how grey the summers could be)! That nice English woman is now my wife and after five years in London and wanting to start a family, we moved down to Hove. We love it down here — lots of creative people/events around, all surrounded by inspiring coastal and hilly scenery everywhere — a little like San Francisco!
You’ve worked on projects for companies like Disney – are you able to talk a bit about that and what you’ve worked on there?
Sure — sometimes I’m hired to help design characters for television development pitches for studios (Disney TV, Cartoon Network, Curious Pictures, eOne Family). There’s usually a cartoon pitch already written and they need an artist to bring the characters to life. I enjoy the process of working with a team of writers and creative people to find the personality of the show. Like many development projects, none of the pitches I worked on made it to production but they are still super fun to work on.
I also work on other fun side projects like creating zombie, dinosaur and monster-filled art for stickers, cards and temporary tattoos for a variety of companies.
Can you talk about your influences in terms of style, other artists you like – say from books or comics from your childhood to present day.
I’d say my influences are mostly Mercer Mayer’s early monster books, Sendak’s seminal Where the Wild Things Are, Paul Galdone’s scratchy, creepy folktale stories (Tailypo) and Richard Scarry’s fun creature-filled worlds are still influential.
I would especially say Mercer Mayer has a lot influence on me as an artist. He created such a rich world of goofy characters and monsters that still live with me to this day.
I have two young daughters so I now have extra incentive to keep up on new picture books and their creators too. I love the humour and characters in Mo Willems’ and Jon Klassen’s books.
I’m also influenced by a lot of other creators and concept artists outside of children’s publishing — Marc Davis (Disney Imagineer), Jim Henson (Muppets genius), Ralph McQuarrie (original Star Wars concept artist), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight), Charles R. Knight (vintage dinosaur artist), Gary Larson (The Far Side) and Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) to name a few.
Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show
UK and US markets differ quite significantly sometimes in terms of trends in publishing: Do you find that working as an illustrator in the Uk means a change in perspective in terms of what publishers are looking for?
Yes, definitely. The majority of my projects have been from the States, but I’m gradually now working on more UK books. I’ve been told I have an American style, which I think comes from my years working in animation and what entertainment I consumed while I was growing up. As time goes by, I’m still keeping true to my outlook and style but I’ve been altering some character proportions and mixing up the media I use to create my art. I think my style works well with middle grade books and I’ve been lucky to work on several long running book series in America: George Brown, Class Clown (Penguin) and Shark School (Simon & Schuster). I have just started to work on the super fun series, Dino Wars, here in the UK. I’m looking forward to engaging more with readers and book stores here rather than being far away across the ocean!
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
I absolutely love the initial spark of visualising new characters and their undiscovered world. I’ve authored and illustrated two books for HarperCollins that follow a bear named Grizzle Grump on his adventures to find a quiet place to hibernate (Goodnight, Grizzle Grump!) and then when we finally wakes up, his journey to find a springtime snack (Good Morning, Grizzle Grump!)
The problem solving on how an illustration creatively fits on a page is a fun challenge too. I also enjoy the last few days of project where I add finishing touches like shadows, highlights and textures to my illustrations.
I also love a good cover design project- I just finished one titled Margot & Mateo Save the World!
What are you looking for in future projects?
I’m interested in projects that are fun and funny that take place outside of the normal events of day to day life!
I’m busily working away on my upcoming exhibition at Hove Museum titled Aliens, Zombies & Monsters! The show starts in February 2018 and will run for six months. My sketchbooks and illustrations showing the process of creating children’s books will be displayed alongside 3D models of my aliens, zombies and monsters – there will be strong emphasis on interactivity and fun for all age groups. Stay tuned for more news and hope to see you there!
My huge thanks to Aaron, and we recommend his exhibition if you’re in the south of England, it’s going to be great fun!
If you’d like to work with Aaron, you can get in touch via his agent Arabella Stein here.