Today the Illustration Cupboard open its doors for their latest exhibition, The Iliad illustrated by Neil Packer. So now seems like a very appropriate time to also spotlight the much-loved Neil Packer.
Born 1961, in the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, England. At just 11 days old, he and his family moved to Trinidad. Due to his father’s occupation they would continue to migrate throughout Neil Packer’s youth. Living in Libya, Scotland, Wales until finally settling back in England. All the while, the books of Alice and Martin Provensen and Richard Scarry would happily occupy his time and imagination. They helped him form a vision of the world outside of his North Africa home. They would continue to be a considerable source of inspiration for Packer throughout his life.
After university, Packer found work as a graphic designer for small London advertising agencies. In 1984 he decided to dedicate his career to illustration. The fresh freelancer approached a publisher with an idea for a children’s book based on an obscure Victorian music hall song. To his surprise, the publisher took it up and so his very first book, The Rest of the Day Is Your Own, was published. Such an experience would later emerge to be a rarity, as it would take 22 years before he would get a chance to illustrate his next children’s book.
What did he do in between that time? Quite a lot really. Packer would illustrate for packaging and advertising as well as a bounty of books. Including versions of I Claudius and Claudius the God, The Name of the Rose, Catch 22, The Satyrica, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Labyrinths, most of which, for the illustrious Folio Society. In 2013 he finally had his second children’s book published, The Odyssey. Written by the award-winning Gillian Cross and published by Walker Books, it is a retelling of Homer’s epic story. Packer’s vivid colour illustrations and graphic silhouettes breath new life to the millennia-old story.
Which brings us up to the present. The triumphant combination of author and artist of The Odyssey worked together again tirelessly to bring it a follow-up and companion. The Iliad, released earlier this month, transforms the tale of Homer’s tragedy. It is easily some of Neil Packer’s best work and wholly deserves the fanfare of a dedicated exhibition.
The Iliad illustrated by Neil Packer will be running from today until the 24th October 2015. You can find all the details on the Illustration Cupboard website.