Thursday, November 26, 2009

But what will he evolve into ..?

Up above the streets and houses ...

Three photos of a magnificent rainbow over central London today, photographed through a plate glass window on the 15th floor of an office block in Earls Court. Nature still has the best toys.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Talking heads

The new QI G Annual is out in the shops now. In case you were wondering (but probably weren't) which bits I did this year, I did two double page spreads of Glossoplegia; illustrated vox pops and bon mots by the show's stars popped onto strange little Punch and Judy bodies. Here's a sample.I also did a strange little illustration of Sean Lock as a goatherd which, incidentally, he really was at one time.

Get the annual from Amazon now! Oh, and don't forget the new 'G' series starts on Thursday at 9.30pm BBC1.

All illustrations copyright (c) QI Ltd and Faber and Faber Publishing.

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas

During yesterday's whine about the Oxford Street lights, I mentioned Carnaby Street. Well, here it is in all of its kitsch glory. Last year it was giant snowmen you might recall. No? Then look here.

So much more Christmassy than the vulgar commercial displays elsewhere. Yeah baby.

Fakin Cnut

My best friend Huw Williams is a commercials director. He spends much of his working day coming up with innovative ways to sell us things that we probably don't need but very much want after seeing one of his ads. And, once in a while, he comes up with something so irritatingly clever that I want to simultaneously beat him around the head with a Dyson vacuum cleaner and buy him a beer for being so damned creative.

This is one such occasion; his brilliantly clever flyer for the new British 'gangster' film 44 Inch Chest. It's out in January and stars Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Stephen Dillane and Joanne Whalley. Want to know more? Check out this site and/or this.

Blinding work mate.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Commercialised

I drew this cartoon in 1992 and the caption was 'You Dude! I am the ghost of Christmas commercialised!' It was back in the days when my son, like so many young lads, was obsessed with ninja amphibians named after Renaissance painters and when parents would happily have gouged each other's eyes out to get the last Shredder or Splinter off the shelf in Toys R Us. Or, as I insist the store should be called, We are toys. Ah, sweet satire! Little did I realise back then just how far down the road to perdition we'd travel in just 17 short years.

These photos are of the Christmas lights in London's Oxford Street. And yes, they are one huge commercial for the new CGI version of A Christmas Carol. The lights were even turned on by the film's star, Jim Carrey. Am I wrong to hate this? For me, putting up the Christmas lights is a simple pleasure, a sign that winter is well and truly here and we can all look forward to some truly rubbish telly, an enormous turkey and dollops of goodwill to all men, women and small furry animals. I really really hate the idea that the lights are nothing more than a cynical last miserly grasp at making rich people even richer.

Want my advice? Go and see the Carnaby Street lights instead. Much more fun with huge pink reindeer and groovy 1960s inflatable hearts proclaiming love and peace. That's my idea of Christmas decorations and, incidentally, my idea of what Christmas is all about.

Oxford Street? Humbug.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Last night I was at the Albert Studio Gallery in Battersea for the launch of an exhibition by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey 'Po' Powell - better known to us kids of the 60s and 70s as design company Hipgnosis.

In 1968, Thorgerson and Powell were photography students looking for a direction. The arrival of exciting and innovative LP covers such as The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper and the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers made them realise that there was potential to develop the 12" by 12" LP cover into an art form. The fact that they shared a flat at the time with maverick Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett led to them creating their first few covers ... and an almost lifelong association with the band.

Apart from designing almost all of Pink Floyd's covers - including the iconic Dark Side of the Moon and Animals - they also did covers for Marc Bolan, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and Wings, 10CC, UFO, Styx, Black Sabbath and many more. Between them and Roger Dean, they probably defined the look of LP cover art for a decade.

The exhibition runs until 18th January and signed giclee prints are on sale at the gallery. In addition, the lads have produced a book (see here) called For the Love of Vinyl that catalogues their 40-odd years in the business with behind the scenes notes and essays by people like Nick Mason of Floyd. I'm loving my copy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Top Tips: Get invited to a Viz party and drink all their beer

Last night I was very lucky to be invited to the opening party of the VIZ exhibition at London's Cartoon Museum.

The show marks 30 years of the UK's rudest magazine and features lots of original artwork. And, as you can see above, it's on until late January.

Simon Donald, Andy Colman (Golddust Comics) and Joel Meadows (Tripwire magazine) ignoring each other

It was a boisterous and busy affair with around 100 of us crammed into the gallery drinking Old Speckled Hen, decent wine or - for the dieters like me - apple juice. Sob. The exhibition boasts a lot of original page art plus quite a few of the fully painted covers to the magazines and the hardback collections.

I first came across VIZ in the early 1980s. I still remember buying my first ever copy - it was printed on tatty paper and had one colour (red) only but what it lacked in paper quality it made up for in gag quality. As I was introduced to the joys of Sid the Sexist, The Fat Slags, Buster Gonad (and his unfeasibly large testicles), Spoilt Bastard and so many others I thought I was going to burst. It was just so funny. And the accompanying features and spoof adverts were the best I'd seen since the old Python Papperbok and Big Red Book of the 70s. A few years later I made regular submissions to the 'Top Tips' section, usually under the pseudonym of Mr S Goblin. At the time, I was working with Chris Hale and he had a few published too.

Paul 'Little Britain' Putner gets taken roughly from behind by Davey Jones

Simon Donald and Sid the Sexist sizing up the interviewer's shirt potatoes

John Brown - the publisher who helped make VIZ at one time the third best-selling magazine in the UK (after the Radio Times and TV Times) - gave a rousing and very funny speech despite constant heckles from Simon Donald. One story involved original VIZ editor Chris Donald who had a run-in with the W H Smith chain over the amount of swearing there was in an issue featuring a new character called Sweary Mary. Eventually, in order to get published, Donald was forced to compromise by placing black squares over the swear words on the cover. However, in the following issue, Sweary Mary was depicted using semaphore flags in several panels. Had anyone bothered to translate it, the message was very, very rude and aimed at a certain High Street magazine retailer ...

Andy and I score with a couple of local birds who seemed up for it

Simon Donald and Graham Dury - they have immatured with age

Charlie Brooker smiling because he got my allocation of wine

Most of the VIZ mainstays were there including Simon Donald, Simon Thorp, Graham Dury, Davey Jones and Alex Collier. A notable absence was Chris Donald who started the magazine but then retired from it 2001. However, I did meet Chris earlier in the year after a recording of QI's The Museum of Curiosity. Already having a signed copy of his fantastic VIZ memoir and autobiography Rude Kids, I asked the others to also sign it. Here's the finished result:

A great night for a great magazine. Here's hoping for 30 more years.