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A History of my Archive in 10 Objects. No.9: Bag of Portfolio artwork, 1984

The penultimate item in this series of 10 objects from my dad’s loft is a bag of unpublished portfolio material from circa 1984.

There was a lot of material from London in my dad’s loft, when I left my studio just before I flew off to Japan it was the natural place to just shove everything, my entire output from 1983-1986, and it’s pretty well all been preserved, waiting for me to reclaim thirty years later.

I moved to London in 1983, encouraged by two children’s book commissions, but finding more work wasn’t easy, a miserable, barren year went by with precious little interest before I reconnected with an old friend from Manchester Andy Royston and eventually joined a couple of other illustrators and designers to set up Façade Art Studios in Crouch End, N.8.

I’ve blogged about Façade Studios before  (here, and here). The aisles of an old church on Crouch Hill had been converted into studio space and were rented to us by animators Bob Bura and John Hardwick (of Camberwick Green/Trumpton fame), whose studio was in the adjacent church hall. On the other side of the church New Statesman cartoonist John Minnion had a studio, while the old nave between the two sides was renovated and used for Sunday services by the Eternal Sacred Order of Seraphim and Cherubim. Bob and John retired soon after we set up the studio, selling the old church hall to Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox (The Eurythmics), who converted it into their recording studio. Cherubim and Seraphim then became our landlords. With such a hotbed of activity all around I found myself spending most of my time in Façade, the studio was my second home, it seemed to turn me into a full time illustrator almost overnight.

When I look through the piles of old artwork now there’s so much material it’s hard to choose any particular piece, but this bag of unpublished portfolio images from the very early days of the studio sums up the renewed focus I had on illustration. It was a very productive period, especially for editorial work, I experimented in all kinds of directions, from very tight to cartoons, though my ultimate target was always children’s books. These were all aimed to grab real paying jobs, I was hungry for commissions and had nothing to lose – no back up plan, no more signing on, it was either make it in London or run back to Norwich and get a day job, and I was certain that wasn’t going to happen. I was still gunning for children’s book commissions, but magazine work paid the rent. Here’s a few…..

Saxon versus Viking, A drawing aimed at the historical non-fiction niche, circa 1983

This drawing and the one above are the oldest from this era, I realised very quickly that there was a limited market for tight penwork, and soon changed tack.

Two early experiments aimed at picture books

Bloody Mary – Part of a series on visualising cocktails


Give us a job! Self portrait in desperation – it probably wasn’t such a good idea to show this to potential clients!

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