The Double Crown Club


Recently I was invited by the renowned illustrator, Christopher Brown to attend the Double Crown Club supper at the Savile Club in London’s Mayfair. This is a long established dining club, founded in the 1920’s, it has provided a meeting opportunity for Designers, Typographers and illustrators to meet and discuss their subjects.. The gathering usually starts with a reception in the Ballroom of the club, a three course meal is followed by a lecture/talk with the opportunity for questions afterwards.

This was an enlightening evening as the guest speaker was Robert Dalrymple, who is currently based in Edinburgh and was known to me prior to his talk as the designer of the book Ravilious and Wedgwood. It charted his journey from working at the Westerham Press to his current projects and pretty much referenced many of the significant artists and designers associated with the DCC during the last Century.

Members I met during the evening included, David Fickling, Brain Webb, Simon Rendal, John Lawrence and several ‘living legends’. David Gentleman and Shirley Hughes.

What did i take away from the evening, well it allowed me a chance to listen to some stimulating conversation, to participate in an informative and well presented talk and to be part of design and typographic history. The menu was a rest and a nice collectible item, there were a few to collect and pass on. DCC menus are highly collectible.

Thanks go to Chris, Brian and the Dinner Secretary, Clive Richards. The evening was chaired by Alan Powers. It remains to be seen if I get asked to attend another dinner but this was certainly a special occasion.

photo 1photo 2


Review of Visible Signs, David Crow

The third book in my ‘Back to College’ reviews is the Level 5 Illustration core reader, Visible Signs by David Crow. This is the second edition and builds nicely onto the Level 4 core reader ‘Illustration’ by Andrew Hall. 

When choosing a suitable book for second year Visual Communication students we became aware that we needed a book whose material would take readers to a new area of consideration. Visible Signs really starts to ask questions about how we read images and what they represent to other people. Here is whats been said of the new edition

‘Concepts such as signs and signifiers, and language and speech are all explored within the framework of graphic design and fine art. The 2nd Edition features new and revised content from the author, and includes 200 visuals created to illustrate the ideas discussed within the book.Visible Signs tackles this problem by explaining semiotic terms and theories in relation to visual communication, with illustrative examples taken from contemporary art and design.’

I think you’ll find this book an invaluable addition to your library and its certainly stood the test of time because much of the content is relevant in day to day practice.

Review by Andrew Kulman

Visible Signs by David Crow

Visible Signs by David Crow

Workshop Opportunity : NID India

Recently I’ve been asked to come up with ideas for a workshop proposal for the International Open Electives at NID in India. 

I’m looking at running a workshop/s based on Narrative and Sequence and considering the idea of a wordless book or comic strip. This would have universal appeal and could be seen as a challenge in getting people to think in completely visual terms. Here’s an outline brief

Overview of the workshop

The workshop aims to deliver a series of achievable outcomes. Participants will consider the opportunities and limitations of the wordless narrative, they will be enabled to use their drawn imagery to express emotion and drama without the need of explanatory text. The workshop will be open to new ideas and there will be a chance to explain and test out innovative approaches to the tasks given.

These workshops are meant for interested groups of people who are keen to learn ways of developing their visual story telling skills; they may or may not come with a formal background in creative arts, but still look forward to engage themselves with hands-on, skill-based creative activities. Besides providing a platform for participants to gain hands-on experience, the aim is also to enhance the participants’ familiarity with the universal language of sequential art. All practice will be complimented by theoretical lectures and discussion.

nid image

Explosions: an exercise in Print and Paper, Part 3 printing

When it comes to printing, I’m very much from the ‘Kitchen Table School’ of working, no reliance on big presses mentality, the DIY methods that mean you can do printing at any hour of the day, even when most print workshops have closed their doors. Its something I learnt the hard way asa graduating student and have professed to my own own students since.

For those who enjoy the technical details, I’ll use TN Lawrence oil based inks, ( I’ve had white spirit and aquatint dust coursing through my veins since 1982 so I’m sticking to solvent based ink. I use a ticketed sheet of glass for rolling out ink, hand burnish with a wooden burnisher, sometimes aided with a hard rubber roller….and always wear an apron, can’t afford to keep ruining my best clothes. Its amazing how many students pass on the apron only to get ink over their expensive white D&G shirt.

As the wood engraving blocks are relatively small I’m able to ink up and print in a confined space and with minimal fuss, larger work I’ll tend to print in the University work shops, it has its advantages, space for one but also others can see how you work and that you do actually work.

Its interesting that my friend Chris Brown and before him, his friend, Edward Bawden favoured the home DIY approach, what worked/worked for them is good enough for me.

I’m also preferring to use Japanese tissue ( of varied thicknesses. Justin Sanders advised I use Gampi, but I find it too flimsy, gossamer thin) I prefer Shoji or Chinese rice paper.)

Here are two of the four images. Note the one has had colours applied. These are pantone/pro marker additions just to try out colour variations. Im quite keen to use bright primary colours to give a contemporary ‘Pop’ feel to the otherwise earnest subject a result of this trial, I’m sticking to one colour for the back grounds.

Wood engraving

Wood engraving

B/W Wood engraving

B/W Wood engraving

Varoom Symposium: Interpretation

Earlier his year I was fortunate enough to be selected to speak at the Varoom illustration symposium in Bournemouth, UK. I wrote a proposal on the theme of Error. Here is my proposal

Errordite [sic]: seeing is not believing


“ …I’m out of step.’’

Philip K Dick


A hurriedly delivered text message, sent without due consideration for grammar/spelling and intervened by insistent predictive text often leads to bizarre conflated words and sentences…this can lead to amusement, annoyance and embarrassment. However it does not seem a world away from Breton and automatic writing where nonsense and irrationality become desired alternatives to conventional communication.

My proposed presentation seeks to examine visual communicators who deliberately set out to ‘tamper’ with our sense of the real, they purport to serve us alternative visions of our universe. The most familiar expressions are the worlds depicted on the covers of Science Fiction novels but also we can see how graphic artists such as Guy Bilout, James Marsh, Pierre le Tan and George Hardie are able to twist around reality to present a quite believable alternative proposition.

I would like to posit that audiences are prepared to suspend belief and rationality and invest in a new understanding and arrangement of what they see before them. The world of communication today has opened up possibilities for error to become an accepted norm, my paper will present the audience with a set of case studies to question how we pre judge what we see before us, it will involve some misleading examples but I will seek to convince the viewer/listener that what they are seeing is in fact intentional. I will cite Philip K Dick and Raymond Roussel who presented alternative worlds and questioned our perceptions of reality.

I hope to leave the listener wondering how we might be able to incorporate the unintended ‘error’ of what we see before us into our accepted understanding of communication and to find a fitting place for visual mistakes in everyday situations.

Varoom poster

Varoom poster

Explosions: an exercise in Print and Paper, Part 2 engraving

The anticipation that goes alongside cutting a highly polished pristine piece of wood is hard to convey, imagine the first blank page of a sketch book, the virgin weave of canvas yet to be marked…

My friend and Master printer Justin Sanders who works at BC, across two schools lent me sharpened tools, which made so much difference after having used relatively blank implements. The names spitsticker, scarper, multi tool…what on earth do they do, its hard to explain the precise marks as each individual uses the tools in their own way. Many how to books try and explain, they talk of angles, how to handle tools, pressure but these fade into insignificance when you actually start to engrave.

I sometimes refer to the recognised masters of 20thC engraving such as Ravilious, Paul Nash and  John Farleigh, its useful to study their graven marks. In fact Farleigh’s auto biography was called ‘The Graven Image’ and has plenty of useful insights, I particularly admire his book ‘The Black Girl in her search for God’ by George Bernard Shaw, at one time it was possible to find this book but like so many, relatively scarce now.

Advice to novice engravers, try the tools out on a piece of lino first and then move onto wood, lino being softer is more forgiving but does not convey the experience of actual hard wood

.woodblock 2

Explosions: an exercise in Print and Paper, Part 1 ideas

I’m in the process of doing a collaborative project with Sara Kulman, see her wonderful website using print and paper. 

The theme I chose was explosions based on the symbolic representations that were incorporated into the dynamic wood cuts of Paul Nash, the lithographs of David Bomberg and the general energy seen in the work of Italian Futurists and British Vorticists. Why?..well partly I wanted to find a theme that would seem appropriate when I began engraving lemon wood blocks, the intention was to create something vast and dynamic on an impossibly small surface, how to capture an explosion on a 2.5 inch surface. The beauty of wood engraving lies in the very fine incisions that the razor sharp tools offer. 

I decided to produce small B/W drawings using ink and charcoal in order to understand the limitations of the space and the marks required to convey the explosive images. My images need to be pared down and stripped of unnecessary detail as i intended the lines to be the principal focus of intention.

In part 2 I’ll discuss the process of engraving and the difficulties encountered.

Drawing of an explosion

Drawing of an explosion