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    Nov 2015

    Interview with Dan Ungureanu

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    To celebrate the release of the first book in the Sir Foxley-Fox series, General Falconius Fox and the Roman Invasion of Britain written by Andrew Lauder and illustrated by Dan Ungureanu, The Lounge was given the wonderful opportunity to interview Dan about the book and his process.

    Can you tell us about your path into professional illustration?
    My first attempt to illustrate a book was in 2010, when I was invited to work on a small poem book for children and I couldn’t refuse the challenge. Before that project I had worked as a storyboard artist and character designer for an animation studio, so I found it very easy moving from one field to another. Also, in the past few years I had the chance to experiment different techniques and mediums, from painting (my bachelor degree) to graphic design and app design.

    In 2013 I decided to enrol in the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, feeling the need to learn more about the field. It was one of my greatest experiences as I learned a lot from the great tutors and colleagues. During the course I found the courage to write my own stories. My first written and illustrated book will be launched in the spring of 2016, called “Nara and the Island” published by Andersen Press. During the two years I spent in Cambridge I entered several contests for illustrators. I was highly commended in 2014 at The Macmillan Prize, my work was exhibited at the Cheltenham Illustration Awards in 2014, and I was 2015’s V&A Illustration Student Award Runner-up.

    What was it about the Sir Foxley Fox stories that attracted you to the project?
    The first thing that attracted me was the idea to illustrate a novel for kids, as I had never had the chance to work on such a project. Then the idea of animal characters along with humans in the same image stimulated my imagination, and when I found that the story was historically based, I knew I had made a good decision. Considering the non-fictional aspect of the text, I really researched the clothes, architecture and landscapes for the project, which was something I really enjoyed doing.

    With many memorable Fox characters throughout history, what steps did you take to make Sir Foxley Fox unique?
    As the story is based on true facts, I couldn’t stylise the characters too much, so I tried to have a more realistic look at both the fox and human characters. The process of creating the fox character was easier as the description in the text gave me enough details. I immediately envisioned the look of both Sir Foxley-Fox and Falconius from the first reading.

    Can you describe your creative process for the book?
    Andrew sent me the prologue in order to familiarize me with the characters and the text. I drew the first page, the one with Mr. and Mrs. Foxley-Fox sleeping and holding paws, where I tried to set the character’s appearance, the Victorian age by clothes style and all the other details. We agreed on these aspects, so I started sketching the full page images and the vignettes. As the text describe all the scenes so well, and is based on historical facts, it was pretty easy to put together each image.

    Can you describe your working environment and the main illustration tools you use?
    In almost all of my projects I mix techniques. I like the complexity of pencil marks, from soft lines to dark shades. I like to emphasize these tangible effects with limited digital colour pallets. So my main tools are pencils and Photoshop, but for other projects I’ve used watercolours and coloured pencils as well.

    What has been the most satisfying part of the project?
    Working on this project was a joy, from the first drawing right to the last one. I think the most enjoyable part was the research and the wide range of scenes I had to illustrate. So, with each image I had to work on different aspects, things that made the process very diverse and complex.

    What are some of the new things you have learned?
    Besides the historical facts from the text, it was a good challenge to match the images with the text. The pacing of images is different in novels than in picture books for instance, so I think I’ve learned how to adapt illustrations to a novel book.

    What was the best bit of creative advice given to you?
    Draw, draw and draw. The first part of my first year in Cambridge was marked by the observational drawing, and then I learned that the best created images are rooted in observation. After a month of daily observational drawings, new characters and situations came to me much easier than usual.

    We love sharing inspirations and likewise hearing other people’s. Can you tell us 3 of your favorite illustrators and why?
    The list is very long and various, and is very hard to find just three illustrators. But if I must, I would say Shaun Tan for the lyrical and silent images, Alexis Deacon for the storytelling of his compositions and the quality of his work, and Emily Hughes for the playfulness and childish approach to the illustration.

    Are there any illustration projects would you love to do in the future?
    I would love to work on a classic novel like “Wind in the willows” and I would like to finish my non-fiction graphic novel about my friend Eli.

  2. 4

    Nov 2015

    James Gillray (1756 – 1815)

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    Today marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Cartoon Museum called “Gillray’s Ghost: James Gillray and his influence on political cartoons”. As such I thought it was about time, perhaps even overdue, to look into the inspiration of the exhibition and countless illustrators.

    James Gillray was born in Chelsea, London on August 13, 1756 (or 1757). He was sadly the only child of five to survive infancy. When Gillray was five years old, he was sent away to be educated at the Moravian Academy, Bedford. He left education when he was eight and became an apprentice to a letter engraver, Harry Ashby. After learning the trade, Gillray got bored and decided to join a group of strolling players traveling England, putting on theatrical performances.

    In 1775, Gillray returned to London. He started to sell his engravings to local print shops. When he was 22 he entered the Royal Academy where he studied under Francesco Bartolozzi. He supported himself by selling his engravings. He may have even been submitting a number of caricatures under pseudonyms. The first caricature that is definitively a Gillray is “Paddy on Horseback,” published in 1779.

    In the early 1780s, Gillray set up a small portrait studio on Little Newport Street in Soho. It was not met with great success, garnering very few commissions. Gillray was forced to keep producing etchings. At first they centered around social subjects, but by 1782 he was producing more political caricatures. Around the same time, he began to sell his etchings exclusively to publisher and print seller, Miss Hannah Humphrey.

    Gillray helped Miss Humphrey become a leading print seller in London and in 1793 he moved into a room above the shop in Old Bond Street. Humphrey moved to new premises twice after, the first to New Bond Street, then to St. James’s Street, and twice Gillray accompanied her. In fact, Gillray lived with Miss Hannah Humphrey throughout his period of fame. Humphrey would always have a Gillray in her shop window. Gillray featured Humphrey in at least two of his prints. “Very Slippy-Weather” shows Miss Humphrey’s St. James’s Street shop in the background. In “Twopenny Whist,” the older lady with spectacles and a bonnet is presumed to be Miss Humphrey.

    The regular publication of his etchings in broadsheets both contributed to their popularity and spontaneity. During the height of his success, he took a trip to France and Flanders with fellow artist Philip James de Loutherbourg. In 1805 he published arguably his most recognisable work, “The plumb-pudding in danger.”

    Sadly, just a year later Gillray’s eyesight began to weaken, even with spectacles he could not match his previous high standards. This terribly affected Gillray, being unable to work drove him to depression and drinking. He produced his last print in September 1809. He suffered from gout and further declined mentally. Miss Hannah Humphrey looked after Gillray up until his death on 1 June 1815.

    Strangely, even after producing an enormous body of work and mingling with many influential people in his lifetime, his death went almost without notice. Which is made stranger considering today Gillray is regarded as one of the most influential political caricaturists of all time and has even been called “the father of the political cartoon.”

    Being such an important historical figure there is no shortage of places you can find out more about him and his work. The British Museum has a huge collection of his work. If you are looking for a tastier alternative, perhaps you should check out Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar. There are many published books that feature his work, two of the more sort after being James Gillray: The Art of Caricature and The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray.

    Of course you should also check out the “Gillray’s Ghost: James Gillray and his influence on political cartoons” exhibition. It will feature almost seventy works by Gillray as well as the works of artist he has inspired, including Leslie Illingworth, ‘Vicky’ (Victor Weisz), Nicholas Garland, Peter Brookes, Steve Bell, Peter Schrank, Dave Brown, Martin Rowson, Chris Duggan, and Morten Morland.

    The exhibition will be starting today, 4 November 2015, until January 2016. You can find all the details on the Cartoon Museum website.

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    Nov 2015

    Raina Telgemeier

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    Raina Telgemeier is a multi-award winning American cartoonist and comic artist. Most famous for her New York Times bestsellers Smile, Drama, and Sisters. Born in 1977 San Francisco, when she was 22 she moved to New York City. There she studied illustration at the famous talent factory, School of Visual Arts (SVA). In 2002, she walked out of Univesity with a BFA and stepped straight into a career of a freelance artist.

    Even before graduating Telgemeier was producing and publishing webcomics. Often short, two or three pages, they were snapshots of her life and experiences. Her highly-praised and award-winning Smile actually started its life as a webcomic. Many of her webcomics were compiled and self-published in Take-Out.

    In 2006, Telgemeier met the editors at Scholastic, who were launching a comic imprint, Graphix. At the meeting, they fell onto the idea of adaptating Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-sitters Club into a graphic novel. The first issue was picked by Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) for their “2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens” list, and the American Library Association (ALA) put it on their “2007 Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth” list. Thus beginning a pattern of producing, publishing and praising. Her next project Smile, written and drawn entirely by Raina Telgemeier was an autobiographic tale of the trials and tribulations on a sixth grader battling with friends, insecurities and braces. Published in 2010 it was New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, Children’s Choice Book Award Finalist, and an Eisner Award winner for Best Publication for Teens. Furthermore it was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor title, which it went on to win.

    The pattern continued for her two follow-ups, Drama (released in 2012) went on to win the 2013 Stonewall Book Award Honor from the ALA. Sisters (released in 2014), the sequel to Smile won the Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist. Extremely difficult to achieve but not so hard to believe on May 10, 2015, Telgemeier’s graphic novels took all of the top four spots on the New York Times Best Seller list for paperback graphic books. Her next project, Ghosts, announced earlier this year, it is set to be released in the fall of 2016. If the pattern continues, which I am certain it will, Ghosts should be making its appearance on next year’s New York Times bestsellers list.

    Telgemeier is incredibly good at sharing her knowledge and process. Some that you should absolutely read are How A Graphic Novel is Born (And Raised), Graphic Novels: The Tools of the Trade, as well as her one page webcomic 5 Things to Know about Cartooning.

    To find out more about Raina Telgemeier you should check out her website, and watch her interview with Comics Are Great!

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    Nov 2015

    Manga Mondays ~ Kato Miki

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    Following last week’s Manga Monday, there was another illustrator featured in the Ephemeral ~ Territory of Girls exhibition that really caught my eye, Kato Miki.

    Born in Saitama, Japan. Miki studied BA Painting at Joshibi University of Art and Design. Joshibi has a rather interesting history. Founded in 1900, it is a Women’s art school and the oldest private art school in Japan. The two founders opened it as a reaction to other art schools whom were denying women membership.

    After Miki graduated in 1996, she worked for two years before deciding to become a freelancer. She has kept busy working on mangas, children’s books and book covers, among other projects. She has also regularly exhibited at solo shows throughout Tokyo, Japan. Her work is largely influenced by the tradition-inspired Nihonga style. Artist such as Tsuchida Bakusen, Kiyokata Kaburagi, and Jakuchu Ito. Miki has also cited European artist Paul Delvaux and Alphonse Mucha also as major influences.

    You can find more of Kato Miki’s paintings on her website.

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    Nov 2015

    The Achilles Painter (flourished c. 470–425 bc)

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    Here at the Lounge, we often like to look to the past for our inspiration. Abandoned techniques, trends and limitations of a bygone age are often a necessary stimulus. With that said, I believe, today we are looking further than we ever have before. Over 2,400 years ago, to Classical Greece.

    The Achilles Painter, is certainly not the birth name of the famous Athenian vase painter, but the one he is known by. Named for an amphora attributed to him with a painting of “Achilles and Briseis.” Between 200-300 vase paintings have been attributed to the Achilles Painter, on the basis of style of the “Achilles and Briseis” amphora.

    He was a pupil of the Berlin Painter and decorated vases using the red-figure technique. Which was essentially the reverse of the dominant black-figure style, and went on to replace it. The new technique allowed for better internal details, as they were applied with a brush. Whereas the old technique, painters had to scratch in the details, which was far less accurate.

    For much of the Achilles Painter’s red-figure pottery, he would illustrate the classical characters of Greek mythology. Clean lines and clear forms offset by a black background captured the drama. Among many others, he depicted the aforementioned Achilles and Briseis, Oedipus and the Sphinx of Thebes, the death of Orpheus, and Zeus, often pursuing a female figure.

    He later moved on to using, and developing, the white-ground technique. Clay free from iron oxide burns white. This special clay was applied on top of the common reddish clay to give a white ground to paint on. Making it more similar to painting on panels and walls. This technique allowed the Achilles Painter to draft pure outline drawings and permitted the use of some colours. His white-ground pottery depicted contemporary events, often in the home. Notably “Youth Bidding Farewell to Wife”, “Warrior Arming”, and less commonly painted scene such as two women visiting a funerary monument.

    As was very much the style of the time, he always represented faces in profile. However in contrast to many, his delicate paintwork portrayed figures in a pensive and almost melancholy way. No matter what the scene, there is a sense of calm between his figures. This is both true in the death of Orpheus, and Zeus’ pursuit of females. The Achilles Painter’s style was extremely influential. He took over the Berlin Painter’s workshop, and began to teach students of his own. Many of whom later became prominent painters themselves.

    Just taking a moment to study his work you quickly start to see how much you can learn from such an ancient master. The best place I have found to see some of his work online is the Boston Museum of Fine Arts website. You can even take a trip to the British Museum, who have just over a dozen objects attributed to the artist.

    If you are interested in finding out more about ancient Greek art, I highly recommend watching Alastair Sooke’s Treasures of Ancient Greece. A couple episodes can be found on YouTube, but with any luck the BBC will put together a “Treasures of Ancient” DVD.

    I will leave you with the words of art historian, Sir John Beazley, describing the Achilles Painter:

    “He is the great master of the white lekythos. His red-figure vases nearly always have a sober beauty, but few of them–like the pointed amphora in the Cabinet des Médailles–reach the height of his best white lekythoi, which are among the masterpieces of ancient drawing.”

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