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.’
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.
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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