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Family fun (for everyone)

Categories: Events, Nice stuff, Our work

Last weekend I popped along to the IDFB Family Weekend which happened at the MAC.

Despite being child-free, I had a great time watching a world premiere dance perfomance, Spill (touring playgrounds of the West Midlands and beyond this summer; catch it if you can, it really is worth a watch) …

Spill - a playground of dance; a world premiere dance performance at mac birmingham

… nosing at what 'home' means to people over in The Hub …

Home at The Hub - scribbles on the walls

… and seeing teeny kids having brilliantly messy fun decorating the billowy white shapes I'd drawn out for Peg-a-Cloud.

Peg-a-cloud at the family weekend.

It was a pretty good feeling to see lots of the designs I've been working on for the past few months all in one place, out in the wild, and being well-used – by loads of people. (The Family Weekend was a sell-out.)

It's one of those events which may appear effortless to the folks popping along to enjoy a nice day out, but from working on the IDFB print, I've got a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the festival workings, so have an idea of the huge amount of effort and planning, and the looooong days, which go into getting these things to come together and run smoothly; not to mention making sure people know what's happening, when and where, when there's a jam-packed programme of events.

So hats-off to the smiley, friendly, helpful and seemingly tireless lot who made the Family Weekend ace for this big kid – and plenty more besides.

My IDFB adventures this coming weekend promise to be altogether more grown-up: Bombay Beach (part of the Light Fantastic film season) and the Digbeth Shuffle.

Change is afoot – Part II

Categories: Extra-curricular, Nice stuff, Our work

Following on from that cliff-hanger of a teaser post the other week, here's my contribution to the Pointe Blank project; creating a poster for Birmingham Royal Ballet's Hobson's Choice.

For last year's Coppélia I spent quite a lot of time on illustration and layering and, though I wanted to do something similar this year, I didn't have quite as much time to spend on it, so needed to keep things simple.

To that end, a repeating pattern of the same ladies' Victorian-style boot made for a good start. I placed this pattern over a leathery-looking background – another little nod to the shoe-making trade – using a transparency and a kind of golden glow. (No special reason for the glow; it just looks nice.)

leathery texture, some boot silhouettes and the poster title

Another element I wanted to include was a zero – that being the precise number of choices Hobson's presented with in the production. I tried a few different ways of incorporating this but in the end, the simplest way was to replace all the incidents of the letter 'O' with the number '0'. B00m!

As Hobson's Choice is a comedy, I thought it was appropriate to use slightly cheeky copywriting, so composed the tagline "A thoroughly amusing allegory of Victorian cobblers." C'mon - it is about Victorian cobblers!

The final thing I was adamant I'd feature somewhere or other were the pink rodents Henry Hobson hallucinates following a particularly heavy night out. Oh, yes siree, they're in there somewhere. Spot 'em if you can.

Photo of the Pointe Blank exhibition launch

That's enough about what I did. You should totally go and have a look at the 26 other designs which were unveiled last night. Just as with Coppélia, there's a huge range of styles, concepts and takes on the subject; it's everso impressive and I'm very pleased to be part of it: www.pointeblank.co.uk

You can find out more about BRB's production of Hobson's Choice, which starts tomorrow, over on their website.

Coffee mourning

Categories: Extra-curricular

Montage of Likeminds from the past few years

Would it be an exaggeration to suggest that today marks the end of an era?

Absolutely, yes - but today is a little bit special. This morning was the last time Supercool hosted Birmingham's Likemind coffee morning; an event which started in New York and now happens in over 50 cities around the world, on the same day and at the same (local) time each month.

Having hosted the Birmingham version for nearly five years, we decided it was about time someone else had a go, so we've passed the coffee-soaked baton to Likemind regulars Rickie and Tim.

As a completely open-to-all and agenda-free event, we weren't sure what sort of reaction Likemind would get when we held the first one way back in 2007. Granted, things got off to a bit of a slow start (there were only three of us on one occasion – including two hosts) but over the years Likemind's grown hugely in popularity and, dare I say it, become something of a local institution.

We've met so many lovely people (many of whom are now friends), chatted about all sorts of subjects, introduced folks who'd otherwise never have met, downed countless coffees, and even raised a bit of cash for charities at the occasional fundraiser.

It's been fun. And interesting. And productive. But it's time for a change.

All the best to new hosts Rickie and Tim, and thanks to everyone who's come along over the past several years for making it worth our while getting up extra early! Finally, an extra-special thank you to Geoff, Lucie and all the staff at our venue Saint Caffe for being great to us. (And always letting us rearrange the furniture!)

Likemind Birmingham is dead. Long live Likemind Birmingham!

The next event: Friday 16th March (follow @likemind on Twitter for details)

Change is afoot – Part I

Categories: Extra-curricular, Nice stuff, Our work

Repeating silhouette of Victorian-style ladies' boots

Last year I took part in the first Pointe Blank with 26 other designers/illustrators. We each created a poster for Birmingham Royal Ballet's production, Coppélia, and those posters were subsequently displayed in one of BRB's studios at Birmingham Hippodrome, and over on the project's website.

Now the time has come for Hobson's Choice to get the Pointe Blank treatment.

Mindmap of ideas

So, this time the brief is to visually represent the tale of Hobson; the drunken owner of a boot shop in Salford, who refuses to allow his three daughters to marry … until the eldest offers him a choice which is, in fact, no choice at all. That's the hugely abridged version – there's more detail about the Hobson's Choice plot on Wikipedia if you're interested.

One of few stipulations in the Pointe Blank poster design brief is that there must be some sort of reference to the Victorian era, as that's when the story's set.

My initial idea was to incorporate some Victorian language in there somewhere, so I set about researching such things – meaning that part of my brain will forevermore store the fact that Victorian slang for shoes was 'crabshells' and boots were known as 'trotter cases'. They had a way with words, those Victorians.

Handwritten note - 'trotter cases' is Victorian slang for boots

The slang didn't make the final cut but I can confirm that the design will include an illustration of a boot – a Victorian ladies' boot to be precise – and ten zeros.

I attempted to shoe-horn (!) in the puntastic phrase "It's a story of the well-heeled and the well-oiled" too, but it wasn't quite right … so an equally groan-worthy play on words will be included instead.

All will be revealed – at the launch exhibition and online – on 20th February, along with the work of the 26 other designers/illustrators.