A Child of the Jago

The year is still young, and we're both sniffing each other out trying to see what we think we can get out of it. The one thing I do know  is that I have to start doing my own work again. The past two years I've been working full time at a print studio, and honestly I was too knackered most of the time to even think about doing my own work, but that's all going to change - startin' here - startin' now.

Having said that, the truth is I did manage to do a few projects in that time. One of them, the one I'm most proud of was being commissioned to do the art work for a book. Turns out I have a very talented cousin, Joe Ridgwell who is an incredible writer, and I was so pleased when he asked me if I'd provide some art work
for his latest collection of poetry.

The book ; A Child of the Jago is a collection of poems that describe his childhood in the East End in the 70's and 80's. It describes a part of London and way of life that seems to have disappeared. The pub features a lot, for of course in those days the local was the heart of the community. And now those same old beautiful Victorian and Edwardian pubs are disappearing as well, as Joe writes in Ode to the Lost Boozers of East London;

The boozer or public house was the lifeblood of the community
In the old East End
Two or three in every street and one on every corner...

And now

There's not much left
Just ghosts, phantoms and spectres
Abandoned by newcomers with a distaste for alcohol
And strange pale-faced goons wired to electric gadgetry
Hastening the disappearance of the
Boozer, rub-a-dub, and ale houses...

It was the image of the pub that struck me the most, and I knew I wanted all the illustrations and cover to be based around the pub, certainly people of my generation will remember vividly the afternoons sitting outside  those smoky dark buildings into which the adults had disappeared, occasionally your mum or dad would pop their head round the door and hand you a bottle of fizzy pop and a packet of crisps.

I knew straight away that I wanted the cover to have a boy framed in the doorway of a pub. I wanted the boy to be a gangly teenager, at that age where they don't  belong outside in the car park with the younger kids nor inside with the adults - in between both worlds.

It's funny how sometimes you get the image that you want straight away. Here's the first sketch I did for the cover. Everything that I put in to the finished art work is already there. That's not to say it was an easy process. When the image comes that strongly it can be a real pain to capture it on paper. I lost count of how many variant sketches I did before being able to nail it, but I kept a record of a few. I think it's sometimes interesting to see the process involved in reaching a final image.

When people say can you come up with a drawing for me, I think they assume that you just sit down and draw it straight from your head - if only !

These are more finished sketches, by now I realised I wanted the title of the book and Author's name to be on the glass, in a font that would be reminiscent of the lettering you would ( and still occasionally see ) in old pub windows.

The placing of the pint glasses didn't look right with the figure of the boy, later on I made the glasses much bigger so they were same size as the boy and that really worked.They somehow made the boy look extra vulnerable.

At the time I was commissioned to do this cover I was doing a lot of paper cuts in my own art work, and I felt that paper cut out would be ideal for these images, having the boy as a silhouette would make him more of a universal figure so that we could all impose our own childhood memories onto him.

And finally it sorted it's self out and I when I was happy with the image I then made a cut out of it on black paper using a surgical blade. this was then scanned with the lettering added and then printed off onto a transparent film. The film was used to make a Photopolymer plate, as the cover for the book were all hand printed by moi - fortunately it wasn't a massive edition!

Here's a link to an interview where Joe talks about his work, and this book over at Monkey Picks.