We’re super excited that Bookblock Editions’ latest collaboration is with Dorset based illustrator Paul Blow. You’ll definitely have seen his work before, either on TFL posters on the underground or gracing the pages of The Guardian, if not in a myriad of other publications, restaurants and websites. Graduating from Maidstone College of Art in 1992, and continuing on to complete an MA in Narrative Illustration in 1994, Paul has over 18 years of experience working as an illustrator.
Paul’s designs are full of charm and wit, creating a sense of narrative that pulls us deep into private worlds through mysterious characters, mesmerising landscapes or both. He cites his influences as David Shrigley, James Turrell and Erik Kessels, and this makes perfect sense when you look at the combination of intriguing humour, dramatic light and often small but poignant human elements. Colour is also key in all of Paul’s designs, the selective choice of hues only adding to the mysterious atmosphere.
Paul’s 4 Bookblock Editions notebook designs are available now in the shop, editions.bookblock.com, for £15 a piece. A perfect way to add some mystery to your everyday.
At the London Illustration Fair, we ran a competition for aspiring illustrators, designers and creatives to have their artwork chosen as the cover design on a limited edition notebook, to be sold on the Bookblock Editions website. We were inundated with incredible artworks, both internationally and closer to home. Some familiar Editions faces, Claudine O’Sullivan, Rob Flowers and Marylou Faure, had the hard task of choosing the winners – and they certainly selected some illustrated treats. Sophia Ward was our winner with a quirky, stand out artwork which has beautifully translated to an Editions notebook. Originally from Brighton, Sophia is a London based freelance illustrator and a recent graduate of Illustration and Animation from Kingston University. Sophia’s style is playful and vibrant. She owns the humble pen, layering colours and line with a painterly feel. Sophia’s sketchbooks reveal an intimate observational drawing approach, layering expression, form and shape with a clear influence from the tactility of printmaking.
Hattie Clark is a freelance illustrator based in Leeds who graduated in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Communication from Bath School of Art and Design. She was selected as 1 of 15 Art and Design Graduates for Creative Review’s Talent spotting initiative where her work appeared on over 1000 JCDecaux digital screens across the country. We’re really drawn to her use of characters in her work which are expressive and individual. Her drawings really translate to her fun, hand crafted ceramic works, which we’d love to have in the Bookblock office! Hattie told us: ‘I love to be playful with my work, creating simple, colourful character driven illustrations that maintain a hand-drawn quality. My influences often come from my own interests and experiences. I aim to seek out nonsense and fun in everyday life with the aim of making people smile!’
Joel Burden studied Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art. After graduating, his passion quickly shifted into Art and Illustration as a way of better expressing himself. Since the transition, he was commended at D&AD New Blood last summer and recently completed his first published works for Les Echos and Refinery 29. With a real eye for colour and a humour to his work, we really enjoy Joel’s exploration of bold and confident composition, which sits somewhere between digital and analogue, like a digital age Hockney. Joel tells us: ‘I’ve Recently relocated back to Leeds where I plan to further explore my practice, as it’s still early days, and absorb myself in the creative scene. Working towards positive things in the future.’
Sam Turff is a current Fine Art student at UCA Canterbury. She drew us in with her vibrant, 90s feel designs which have a certain saved by the bell aesthetic. Exploring architectural and interior spaces, she takes us on a journey of layers and worlds within worlds. Sam tells us ‘I’ve always drawn and I love working in pen the most but I’ve been teaching myself how to use illustrator lately and now I produce a lot of digital work too. I’m also a little obsessed with anything pink and yellow.’ We’re looking forward to seeing how Sam’s work progresses as she continues to develop and explore her practice.
Andreea Dobrin Dinu is a Romanian illustrator living in Hamburg where she opened her one-woman graphic studio, SUMMERKID, in 2016. She produces bright works inspired by everyday life, spontaneous sketches and a certain joie de vivre that only a kid knows in summer vacation.Andreea tells us ‘Educated both in Romania and Germany, I bring with me the eastern-european graphical heritage from the pre-computer era and immerse happily in the German graphical universe that I fell in love with. I like inventing visual languages and sharpen them until they become visual “poetry”. My process starts with hand drawings and sometimes ends up completely digital. I work on my humor like a comedian, sometimes ideas for a new drawing can be just text.
My graphic studio is fairly new, I work for some international clients and I am quite active in Romania, even though I don’t live there anymore. The most visible and new project I am working on is Art Safari Bucharest 2017, the largest art fair in Romania which will fill the city with huge banners, buses and buildings with the illustrations I made for them at the beginning of this year. My hope is to work more author graphic projects and illustration allows me to build more impact in this direction.’
Whether we like to admit it or not, the cover of a book can strongly determine our decision to either pick it up and read it immediately, or leave it on the shelf to gather dust. Something with this amount of power to influence our opinion of a book we haven’t even read yet shouldn’t be overlooked, and because of this we believe book covers are works of art in their own right.
Whether it be adorned with elaborate illustrations or touched by simple typography, each design has to be a unique representation of the book inside, effectively conveying its themes, atmospheres and genre. We want to appreciate the time and effort that goes into getting this right, so below we share three examples of where we believe designers have done just that.
MANUJA WALDIA – Pelican Shakespeare Series, published by Penguin Random House
Our first example isn’t a single book cover, but a new series of designs for Shakespeare’s works illustrated by Manuja Waldia, in collaboration with Penguin Random House. One of the things that drew us to the project is that something as well-known as Shakespeare’s stories have been given such a fresh new identity. As Manuja tells us, “it’s hard to escape Shakespeare as his stories are so deeply embedded in popular culture, even if they are diluted to a point where you don’t realise it’s his stuff.”
Some of the more subtle hints to themes within the books keeps the whole series interesting and it’s nice to see some of Manuja’s personal interpretations, who carried out a lot of research prior to the project. Manuja gives us an insight into the positive collaboration with publishers Penguin and it’s clear this was a key contributor to the success of the project, which won a Gold Medal at the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition.
“I start by reading and researching the material. Sometimes the editorial team provides me with some initial ideas of their own, which are helpful insights about which directions would work better over others. I explore those along with a few ideas of my own as wordlists, or quick pencil thumbnails. From these I blow out 6-8 enlarged pencil sketches, the art team selects one for the front and another for the verso. I digitize them on Adobe Illustrator along with a couple of icons for the spine. Next comes final thoughts from the Penguin team, selecting a spine icon, and polishing up artwork. I get complete creative freedom, and the inputs from Penguin just push the work to the next level (thanks Paul Buckley!)”
When choosing our favourites from the (pretty large) series, we gravitated toward the comedies which are grouped by a consistent light blue background. Histories are grouped by maroon, and tragedies by black. When asked about her personal favourite covers in the series, Manuja replied “The Tempest, and The Merchant of Venice are my favourites as I took risks with both the concept and drawing, and the Penguin team were awesome enough to let me do it.”
Manuja’s approach to illustration is very personal and she has allowed her style to develop organically. When asked what her favourite book cover designed by any other artist, she answered “believe it or not, I don’t follow book cover design as it dilutes originality while I work… As most self taught artists, initially I was learning by copying a lot of both classical masters (Indian and Persian miniature paintings, Matisse, etc) and also contemporary successful illustrators (Jessica Hische, Lotta Nieminen). But thankfully overtime I had the good sense to stop consuming illustration for inspiration.”
She insists this is how her personal style was born, and advises others to embrace the kooks and imperfections in illustration. In the future she hopes to design cover artwork for authors from the Indian subcontinent, intersectional artist M.I.A, and feminist poet Nikita Gill.
MARIE-LAURE CRUSCHI (AKA CRUSCHIFORM) – Cabins by Philip Jodidio, published by Taschen
This is a beautiful hardback book published by Taschen that caught our eye when it was released in 2014. It’s no secret that we at Bookblock are fans of illustration, and French illustrator and art director Marie-Laure Cruschi’s artworks played no small part in our attraction to the book, as one of many beautiful illustrations of a cabin in the forest adorns the entire cover, uninterrupted (just like the landscape that many of the cabins inside fit so perfectly into).
Marie-Laure tells us she worked closely with Taschen for 6 months and over this time created over 60 illustrations, drawings and symbols, but it was an early trial drawing that Taschen immediately chose as the front cover image. We find this illustration particularly atmospheric which may be why it was such a clear choice for the cover. The size of the book, (measuring just over 24 by 30cm with almost 500 pages) and this full bleed illustration complement each other wonderfully, creating an impression of the cabins and their environments being tangible when you hold the book.
The feeling of being able to engage with the environments was also important for Marie-Laure, telling us that “each illustration represents a contemporary cabin celebrated in it’s nature’s jewel box. I wanted to create dreamlike pictures between realism and fantasy. So I tried to make a glorified vision, to inspire, to invite in a virtual journey, while trying to convey each cabin’s unique character, and remaining faithful to the original cabin architecture.”
In that sense, this project seems to strike a nice balance between her work in children’s books, cultural magazines and graphic design, as she combines the feeling of child-like fantasy with accurate and faithful representations of the cabins which is key to the nonfiction book.
She also recounts a positive collaboration between illustrator and publisher and how creative freedom paired with guidance produced a result and experience they both enjoyed, “once I had a good grasp of Taschen’s requests and their goals, I had a lot of freedom on creating the illustrations. It was like a Carte blanche. Of course I shared with them my work in progress, showing them my sketches, pictures references, colour moods… and it went very well.”
JENNIFER CARROW – Against Happiness by Eric G Wilson, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Our final choice is this cover designed by Jennifer Carrow, a prolific designer of book covers. Her portfolio spans various styles and genres, each of her many cover designs appearing unique to the book in question. Against Happiness is an example of her more minimal approaches to design, and we think this was the perfect direction to go in for this nonfiction book exploring the advantages of melancholia, particularly in relation to creativity and expression.
The book explores two polar opposite themes; happiness and sadness. Jennifer Carrow presents this brilliantly and simply; the bright yellow background instantly connotes themes of happiness, while the simple shape of a down turned smile, formed here by the typography, is equally as recognisable as a symbol of sadness.
I don’t really have a specific process as such. When I started out I always thought it would be a good idea to have a routine, like when you watch that that programme ‘what do artists do all day?’ They always describe their day as ‘you know I wake up at 4:30am and I paint until 3pm’ but if I did that I’d just get depressed! I tried the routine thing and it didn’t work, so I don’t really have a system.
How do you create your work is it purely digital or do you work from drawings first?
Pretty much all digital and then maybe someone turns it into something physical. Although I’ve been doing some paintings recently and that’s been really nice but that’s not something I show publicly. I suppose I have an issue with these paintings not really being ‘my style’ as such, that’s sort of the problem with being an illustrator… because clients start going ‘I’m not sure’. I guess I’ll just have to sneak the paintings in, start to lose that line I have through my work so I can get away with them!
Are you still printmaking?
Not as much as I used to, I’m hopefully going to do a project with Peckham Print Studio soon. I did a fellowship at Kingston, where I was printing every day as the print technician there. I turned into a mad snob about printing and paper but when I didn’t have those facilities any more, I went digital – ipegs cost nothing!
But it looks like you have fun doing your commission jobs?
Yeah definitely – it is such a fun job. I keep having to tell myself that, for example when a client comes back with too much feedback. But as a day job all they’ve really asked you to do is to draw it at another angle.. you know, it’s pretty good, I can’t complain.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on quite a few different projects: a few editorial projects for some different magazines and books. One of the books is for a graphic design studio, it’s a more conceptual vibe. The project is called a 100 for 10, so they’re going to produce 100 different books but different artists – you’ve got 100 pages and it costs 10€. They just said do what you want so I’ve decided to do every page number is the number of lines I can use and then I’ll just create different images for each page and if you combine all the lines it’ll be 5050 lines. Another book cover I’m working on is a big monograph on postmodernism so that’s pretty fitting for me, pretty perfect really. And another is actually for boiler parts, which I thought was going to be a bit boring but I was so wrong – boiler parts are really beautiful!
And that’s almost like the imagery you seem to be interested in drawing, like say printmaking machinery, industrial environments (or boiler parts!)
Yeah exactly it’s almost like when you screen print and you’re registering images together, the thick black line is great, you can always hide behind it! That is why I started drawing with black lines. I realised I wasn’t good enough to a flat colour palette, because when you try to edition work like that you get say 4 good prints, but with the black line you can always make it work. I suppose that’s why I’ve carried it on in my work. I also loved that one off painting directly onto the mesh style of screen printing, but technicians always hated you doing that cause you just waste so much ink. You finish pulling the ink and it’s just brown at the end.
So aside from when I was printmaking, I kind of just have my formula and just choose a subject to work from. The way I work digitally is that everything is on a grid, usually just the default grid on illustrator. I tried the standard isometric but you have to build your own and snapping it and cleaning it is a lot of effort. But the default is just so much better. For example with my Legs project, that was just a table top again and again so yeah it has that easily multipliable thing.
What are your influences?
I’m obviously really into Paolozzi. I’m also interested in colour theory, people like Albers. I saw some of his work recently that was just all those yellow paintings, the yellow squares. I guess when you’ve only ever seen reproductions of the work when people are dealing with colour, you’d assume they’d be really flat – but his were so messy. I was thinking ‘what’s going on here?!’
I was also influenced by a recent trip to Cuba, I don’t usually take loads of photos but it felt a bit wrong to go to a place where there’s no wifi and just take photos on your iPhone. So that was a bit of fun. That place is amazing – if you ever get the chance go, it’s just the most insanely beautiful place. All the buildings are falling apart but they’re painted like bright pink and turquoise. There’s just so much 16th century Spanish over the top embellishment then you look through the door of these buildings and it’s just 6 people on a sofa watching baseball in their living room. All the cars are like how they look in movies, everyone’s got old Chevrolets – and it’s not just for tourists like they really use them – live music everywhere. Everyone tells you they’re in Buena Vista Social Club. It’s mad. Real amazing.
If time or money weren’t an object what would you make?
I’d like to have a full workshop and a printmaking studio, I’d just do that all day and fuck the clients off – sorry! But I think that would lead into like industrial design and stuff like that, I’d love to do that. If money weren’t an issue I’d do 3D, definitely – and a lot more painting.
Partizan is a South Bermondsey micro brewery, formed in 2012 by Andy Smith. Initially brewing hoppy American beers that weren’t available fresh in the UK, Partizan are now known for their ever evolving recipes, and their equally inventive label designs. If you’re not familiar with Partizan but feel the labels faintly ring a bell, it’s probably because they were designed by one of our great Editions collaborators, Alec Doherty. Andy and Alec have kindly shared some insight with us into their brewing and design process…
How much input do you have in the design of the labels? Or do you just leave Alec to it?
Usually just leave Al to it. I know what I’m good at and I know what he is good at. It’s incredibly rare I ask even for changes. I think it’s happened maybe 2-3 times in the 5 years we have been working together. We do meet up quite often and discuss “the brand” over a few beers so I think he just understands us as a company very well. In all honesty he’s helped shape our company a lot too so definitely doesn’t need any directing, it’s just a very natural partnership.
What sort of reaction have you had to your unique labels?
All very positive. There’s a fairly common thing we’ve had where people will tell us the illustrations remind them of something, like a book they had when they were a kid. If we don’t know the reference obviously the phone comes out and they start googling whatever it is. Quite often the pictures they pull up are actually nothing like Al’s. The pictures just seem to have this strange reminiscing trigger for people.
Why do you think Alec’s illustrations work so well with Partizan beer?
I think because Partizan is quite happy to change and wake up every day a new company we suit each other a lot. We’re both focused on challenging ourselves and evolving and getting better every day by trying new things and not being tied into a regimented aesthetic or ethos. It’s not quite anti-brand but a sort of brand apathy maybe? Neither of us are interested in creating something that is static and repeatable. We change our beer offering weekly to push ourselves to do better and also to engage people with something new, it’s really easy to disengage with an experience if you have been through it multiple times, so it really suits us perfectly that Al changes not only the labels but the style in which he puts the labels together, challenging himself and changing in the same way.
There’s some really nice detailed synergy that I doubt anyone’s even noticing too, like on the stout labels. We never really changed the stout recipe since day one as we really like it how it is. As a result, it’s the only label that doesn’t really change. Except it actually does, but just the hat of the guy who forms the T. I doubt anyone ever noticed his hat was changing… It actually got to the point where we’d just tell Al what we had been listening to and the hat would come from that. The R Kelly stout label is a personal favourite. 🙂
What’s your favourite out of the many fantastic label designs?
A tricky one. We were actually digging out some old recipes last week as we wanted to look at putting something new together for the end of summer based on something we had previously done. I don’t write the brewing logs myself anymore as the team has grown a bit now, but when I did I used to stick his labels on the backs of the fermentation records. We were flicking back through and looking at all the old labels as well and everyone was just like, ‘let’s brew that one again, the label’s so nice, I wanna get that label back on a bottle again’.
One that really stood out for me though was the Big Red Saison. It was just like these very electric colours on a black background with this pink horse that made it kind of look like neon lights somewhere in the dark, and it was at the time where Al would tell the story through building up lots of smaller detailed illustrations. I really liked that one. The recentish lemon and thyme one which was sort of again bold colours on black and quite surreal shapes defining characters and reminded me of what I think is a Miles Davis album cover that I’ve never been able to find (that memory trigger thing again) was a strong favourite too. The one he did with Keith Shore is a classic as well. Every time he sends the email through with the new artworks there’s a new favourite. Al knows I’m a big fan of the film Four Rooms with Tim Roth so did a rework on the Porter bottle based on that, that should be out very soon.
Are there any other breweries whose labels you admire?
Loads yeah. So many in fact. Keith Shore who I’ve already mentioned is doing a great job for Mikkel. Omnipollo is basically a big art project, beer included, Karl Grandin is doing some crazy good stuff there. Nick continues to kill it at Beavertown, very much enjoyed the recent reload. You get this vibe from speaking to any of the team there, that it is a constant discussion and something they are all very mindful and proud of too. Another one where the art maybe has influenced the brewery a little even as well. Actually I quite like the very old school Beavertown labels that Jona (one of the brewers at the Kernel and amazing illustrator) used to do too, really nice detailed line drawings with a macabre sort of edge. Brasserie de la Senne always have super pretty stuff going on which really suits them and where they are from.The Flying Dog stuff is really great as well with Ralph Steadman of course and Pressure drops labels are always varied, thoughtful and pretty. Too many to mention really. As long as it’s not contrived and designy and trying too hard to look artisanal but stay safe and have mass appeal then I’m in, anything with personality I guess.
How did you first get involved with Partizan?
Andy has been a good friend for years, he’s a Leeds boy and I met him when I was living up there. About 5 years ago when he was starting up the brewery he asked me to help him out with a little bit of artwork and we’ve been working together on it ever since.
Where do your ideas for the beer labels spark from? What is the process like?
I get ideas from all sorts of places, sometimes they’re inspired by the beer itself; the ingredients, the style or history of the beer. Other times it might be a significant date like a birthday or there’s been a new member of staff joining like the brewery cat Adina. I like to keep things interesting for myself and others so it’s a little all over the place.
Do you have any other favourite illustrated beer labels?
Yeah there’s loads of great beer art out there, my favourites at the moment would be Keith Shore’s work for Mikkeller and Jay Cover’s work with Camden Town.
What’s your favourite piece of work?
Partizan is my favourite bit of work. I like it because it’s very free. Beer bottle labels are kind of a similar to record labels – when I started out I wanted to design record sleeves – in that it’s a really simple format. The fact that it’s an indie brewery and run by mates also means I basically get to do whatever I want; sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.
Continuing our series on artists that inspire the Bookblock team, Designer Nicola shares her love of David Shrigley.
It’s hard to talk about who inspires me as I find it hard to be inspired without feeling some sort of ‘artistic guilt’ if it influences my own thinking too much, but of course it naturally happens, and when I am truly inspired (which is rare) it is usually because it has sparked a new idea or encouraged me to be more confident in my own thinking. Or in this case, my style of drawing – which is what David Shrigley has done for me. I started as an artist with two drawing styles, one that can take me days to complete and is structured, neat and often trying to represent reality in its true physical form. My other style exists similarly to Shrigley’s, bringing personality and humour to the work through confident lines and conviction in what my hand naturally wants to do. To some this style could be thought to be the opposite to what is classically considered beautiful or skilful, but to me Shrigley’s work is relatable, characterful and charming. I often remind myself ‘If you want to see an accurate portrayal of something then take a photo.’
I first fell under his charm back in 2012 during my foundation year at MMU, when he exhibited ‘How are you feeling?’ at the former Cornerhouse. Described as ‘art-therapy to help you cope with “an increasingly crazy and poorly signposted world”, the exhibition poster has followed me from home to home, doing exactly that. Reminding me that art needn’t take itself so seriously, and indeed neither should I.
His work seems to curiously pop up in many places, as though it seems to follow me around, with every occasional familiar glimpse of his black on white drawings appearing like a friendly face in a crowd. Once in the form of a recent collaboration with Tiger on a range of stationery, another as a piece of ‘Art on the Underground’, and most recently in the form of a large thumbs up on the 4th plinth.
It would be hard to pick a favourite piece of work by Shrigley, as there are just so many to choose from. But I could probably pick my top 5, though if you were to ask me again tomorrow it would likely be a completely different 5. I like to think that though Shrigley and I originate from, according to Wikipedia, the same ‘small market town’ of Macclesfield, or perhaps more notably the Times 2004 most uncultured town in Britain, something managed to slip through the cold grey cracks.
We feel this particular post encapsulates a combination of two of our favourite things at Bookblock; design and food. Chocolate, specifically. We love seeing other brands that put time and thought into their design so wanted to share three of our favourite chocolate packaging designs. It may be a cliché, but these really are a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Speaking of gifting, Love Cocoa is a chocolate company specifically tailored to ordering chocolate straight to your door to brighten the day of a loved one (or yourself). The packaging follows a consistent design across all the flavours which makes the chocolates look lovely both as a bundle and individually. Each bar is wrapped up in a small pattern on a white background which corresponds to its particular ingredients or flavour, for example the repeated cow motif signifies classic milk chocolate which is simple but striking. We were also drawn to the bright green bottle design for the gin and tonic flavour, which creates a vision of drinking a refreshing G&T on a sunny day.
Sweet Virtues are London based chocolatiers who produce truffles and thins which are free from things such as dairy, gluten, and added sugar. They’re designed to include restorative ingredients and make you feel better for having eaten them, rather than queasy and slightly regretful (just me?). We chose the packaging of one of their boxes of thins, which is a delightfully small box which it’s clear has been thought about thoroughly. Each product’s packaging is adorned with nature-inspired illustrations reflecting the flavours, and different colours depending on the ingredients. For example, we chose the Himalayan pink salt thins, housed in a padded pink box which makes sure the chocolate is well packed and looked after (this is very important to us). We also like the use of typography alongside the illustration.
Coco is an Artisan Chocolatier based in Edinburgh that “specialises in making ethically traded, organic and most importantly delicious chocolate.” It’s clear the same level of attention goes into the packaging design as goes into the hand crafting of their chocolate. Each flavour bar has a unique design, and the collection of 14 available to buy online spans various colours and styles. Some, such as the date and ginger dark chocolate, have more geometric patterns, and some are more expressive, as is the case with the gorgeous red and pink packaging we were drawn to which houses an equally enticing Artisan Roast Espresso flavour. It goes without saying that these make lovely gifts, and with this variety of designs, if you can’t decide on a flavour you can definitely pick a design that will suit your giftee.
Over the next few month, five creative members of the Bookblock team will be sharing one person that inspires them and their work. Keep an eye out for posts from Creative Director Stefan, Designers Sophie & Nicola and Product Designer Fran, but first photographer Sarah explains how Carl Kleiner inspires her.
When I was asked to write a blog on who inspired me and my work, one photographer sprang to mind straight away. Carl Kleiner is a prolific still life photographer based in Stockholm, who has produced advertising work for high profile clients including H&M, Ikea and Google, as well as editorial series for international publications.
As a relatively young photographer, his influence on still life photography and styling over the past decade has been prodigious, pioneering the bright, graphic aesthetic that’s become so popular in contemporary still life photography. I don’t at all hesitate to include myself in the long list of photographers he’s inspired.
Although his compositions are controlled and clean, his imagination and sense of humour also come through clearly in his work which is often styled in collaboration with Evelina Kleiner. I find that when browsing through his many projects and commissions, you can see his ability to communicate different messages and brand identities while maintaining his own recognisable style.
Carl shares behind the scenes videos, photos and sketches along with each series on his website, and these give a little insight into his shooting process. At a time when CGI is so prevalent in commercial still life photography, I admire the efforts Carl and his collaborators go through to physically produce the perfect photo, manufacturing their own props from various materials to fit the particular project. Due to the level of detail and the cleanliness of the finish, it would be easy to assume many of his images were completely computer generated at first glance.
It’s impressive to think that despite the quantity of photographs in the Flos series, not only is each image fresh and unique, and each product clearly tailored to, there’s still a degree of experimentation during the shoots, with consistency maintained through the carefully prepared and curated backgrounds and props. In terms of Bookblock photography, this is particularly inspiring to see, as we’re faced with the challenge of maintaining fresh imagery with many products of generally the same size and shape. It’s also reassuring to know that the best images can sometimes come to you during the shoot, and not every image has to be meticulously planned:
I tried to do sketches first, but found these got in the way of the process. I knew what I wanted to achieve in terms of composition, and the best way of getting there was to let the images come to me during the process of making them.” (Carl Kleiner talking to the British Journal of Photography about his personal project ‘There Will be Blood’ which was a development of his work for Google)
The final project I want to share had me transfixed by the behind the scenes page for about half an hour. This project, commissioned by Lärabar, involved a very fiddly–looking and painstaking setup which created a great effect without excessive post production. Overall I think this clever and practical use of materials and objects is what inspires me most about Carl Kleiner’s work, as it proves that planning, imagination and patience can produce a result to be proud of.
How did you start? I studied graphic arts at Leeds and then decided that I liked drawing pictures. I moved from Leeds to Liverpool, and was living there for a while. My sisters a graphic designer so I started working in that field to get some cash together and when I moved down to London and carried on working in design. I actually wanted to study in London originally but at eighteen I was a bit too scared being in London because I’m from a tiny little village so I was a little bit scared of it really.
How has your style progressed? It has changed a lot, the intrinsic things are still the same, so things I like and the things I find visually attracted, but I use different materials and my skills improve. And despite being a slower learner my abilities have developed and I think my style moves in flux with that. Actually a lot of people say my style varies a great deal, particularly my agent. But I struggle with a style because I do things that I feel in that moment. Like when you listen to a record and your like this record’s wicked, but then next week you’re like I’m not really feeling this now and you change it. I’m also trying to do more free hand work that’s simple in its foundation, making it a lot more simple and free from restraint. I think I was seeking perception before and now I’m looking for the imperfections in stuff, which I think is quite beautiful. And you know the world that you live in really affects that so if you’re living in an environment where everything is perfect that mass manufacturing market, and the computers there all the time everything becomes very boring. So whilst this attitude of being free from a style or common aesthetic is not great for selling your work, it’s good for your soul.
What’s your favourite subject matter? People are definitely a big thing, if you look throughout history artists have focused on people. I think the attraction is that there is so much expression in a human face and it’s interesting to try and pick out all the nuances. I really admire people who express a lot with just objects but i always end up just drawing people so I guess that’s the continual narrative in the work.
Can you tell us a bit about your use of colour? I think originally colours were a way of disguising the fact that i didn’t have a very formed style, but I’m still learning and using colours to be expressive as well. Being minimal is quite difficult because if you strip your style away and you’re not doing something that is very illustrative it can be quite hard to express something. So colours are a really good way to put that in there. It’s also hard to make a composition look really good in black and white so I guess colour was something that was practical form the very beginning, but is now integral to what I do. When i was in university i spent most of my time screen printing because i really loved it and loved the process. But you can’t afford to have loads of colours so I’d actually strip stuff back and only have minimal colours. Now I’ll use lots of different colours and have started putting grey in the work which is kind of nice because I’ve never really used that before. I’ll also find my palettes in different places. When I’m walking down the street I might find something and take a picture of it or see someone else’s work and try and take inspiration from it.
What’s your favourite piece of work? Partizan is my favourite bit of work. I like it because it’s very free. When I started out iI wanted to design record sleeves, I think we all did, it’s one of those things you want to do because that square format make it’s tangible and as music it’s very cool. But sadly the record industry started to dip when I left university and as I entered the industry there was no money in making it. Not to say that’s what drives me, but when it’s your profession it’s of course part of it. Beer bottle labels are kind of a similar to record labels in that it’s a really simple format. The fact that it’s an indie brewery and run by mates also means I basically get to do whatever I want; sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. I’ve now being working with them for a while and amassed a big body of work. From the start you kind of see the naive nature of my work and then as they have progressed my work and I have progressed. Its also very time relevant work so when Rik Mayall died for example we did a homage to him.
Sounds like you’re heavily influenced by music? Yes definitely, it’s a cliche thing to say but yeah everybody is really influenced by music. My brother runs a record label and always grown up around it. If I’m honest I’d really love to be a musician but I’m just not very good at it. Music’s like the thing isn’t it, it sorts you out when you’re a bit blue and it can really help you when you’re making a piece of work, sometimes it can lead you from one direction to another.
What’s your process? My first thoughts are usually a colour palette or a simple idea. But I always try and start in a sketchbook and then from there it could go anywhere. Quite often I will move onto a the computer because unfortunately I don’t have the time to colour everything by hand. We spend so much time on the computer now, it’s such a great tool but it wrenches at your soul sometimes. I do a day a week at the camberwell college of art as a technician, mostly workshops teaching people how to use computers. Working with illustrators, It’s amazing how many of them don’t know how to use computers because the reality is that when you go out into the big bad world of work you really need to learn how to use it.
What other illustrators/artist are you inspired by? I’m inspired by loads of people. London has such a massive contingent of illustrators and it’s great to be part of that community. People at the minute who i really like include Keith Shore form Mikkeller. We actually did a collaboration together and he’s a bit of a dude. Matthew the horse, my mate Jay and Nick over at Nous Vows. I love their stuff. Tom Slater, Rob Flowers, Rob Lowe. But beyond people within the industry I get inspiration from walking around and seeing sign painters, live music and even chefs. People doing interesting stuff basically.
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