2009 – new ideas, new work and a new artist

This has been a year rich in new work, busy with new demands and satisfying as a result.

Alan Lynch’s visit to London for the annual artists’ gathering certainly bore fruit. In talking to Gordon Crabb, their mutual interest in film has led to a new direction for Gordon’s US book covers where the publishers often use film references as inspiration.

Adding more of John Harris’s SF originals to the website has led to many sales to new buyers, and John’s exhibition of landscape held in his new studio in Devon has introduced him to new clients both for private commissions and for sales of his pastel drawings inspired by the dramatic colours and moods of the Exe Valley outside his door. Some of these are included in his illustration portfolio.

Fred Gambino has mostly been involved with film and also illustrated a book about the world of Eragon for Templar with his old friend Ian Miller. This apparently joined the top ten in the NY Times immediately after publication.

Jim Burns has completed another major private commission, more work for Gillian Wearing and also produced new paintings for sale on the Worlds of Wonder website. These are all departures from the old world of illustrated science fiction book covers but we were all taken aback by the sudden death of the much-loved SF writer and friend, Robert Holdstock, and his funeral was a hugely moving event which ironically brought us firmly back in touch with the clan of writers and artists from the world of SF and fantasy. Jim’s tribute on behalf of the artists was well-received.

I’m delighted to now also work for Jim Kay, a very original and skillful artist who’s currently working on the Storyworld project for Templar. We’re currently considering offers for his own story, which will either be a graphic novel or a “hybrid” and hope to see that making progress in 2010. “Pilot”, the dog in the story, is shown above.

The edition of Peter Pan illustrated by Paul Hess is now in its third reprint just four months after publication, and Paul has now virtually completed the illustrations for The Wizard of Oz in the same series.

My work for Arena has been well rewarded with many prizes for Neal Layton for his non-fiction series for Walker Books, and huge success globally for “The Story of Things” pop-up book which takes us swiftly from the cave man to the present day in eleven spreads. Also the Emily Brown series, the fourth of which will be produced this year, and his series of young fiction, Mammoth Academy.

Simon Bartram has also charmed us all with his series of books about Bob, the Man on the Moon, who faithfully visits the moon each day to show the tourists around. (Must tell Richard Branson.) Bob’s recent adventures are in the form of 80-page books for early readers and life’s getting fairly busy for him – and for Simon.

Helping to present Mervyn Peake’s work for the exhibition at Maison d’Ailleurs in Switzerland this year was a huge privilege. The organisation by the Swiss team was faultless and the exhibition quite spectacular. Mostly illustration produced in the 1940’s, it has attracted a large audience and I am so pleased that these beautiful originals can now be seen by a 21st century public who may have previously only known Mervyn Peake for his Gormenghast books.

So, what about 2010? As busy a year as 2009, I hope. Certainly so for the first half of January as I return to Arena to help out while the two directors visit John Howe in New Zealand. John is currently working there as concept artist on the new film of The Hobbit.

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