Dreams or nightmares? Kristian Jones’ visions appear in debut exhibition and in print.
The dreams of youth are rarely recounted in polite company, being the stuff of surreal or awkward projections of innermost fears and desires. West Midlands-based illustrator Kristian Jones’ interest in childhood dreams brings viewers face-to-face with innocence lost during juvenile slumber, and the corrupting effects of commercialism, in his debut exhibition. Now open at Manchester’s creative community hangout, Common – functioning not only as a prominent bar/club/eatery but also the city’s most progressive illustration and graphic design exhibition space – Kristian’s exhibition Lost in Youth (until February 2012) explores the distinct gap between the gentle nurture and play of our early years and the wild, free flowing visions that occur during sleep.
A selection of wall drawings, paste-ups and framed prints see anonymous figures of children being joined in their blank landscape by imaginary, hovering creatures and indistinct apparitions. These little monsters haven’t hidden under the bed this time, but are so strangely out of place that their threat quickly becomes benign. The adult mind offers a rational filter, and humour becomes equal to initial feelings of trepidation.
Kristian says: “The theme of childhood dreams and their often unsettling nature has been developing for some time now, with the subject matter providing endless possibilities. The results have been purposely restrained style so some ambiguity remains around what people are supposed to be seeing. Dreams, especially those of our childhood, offer so much confusion that it would be strange to provide too much narrative. You could be unsettled or find the playfulness in them, because both reactions are normal when you wake up from a vivid dream that has little or no rational explanation.”
“The reality of many children’s lives these days is that they are as bombarded, if not more than adults, by the wills of commercial organisations, especially junk food companies. So many of the so-called ‘monsters’ in these pieces are not necessarily the smiling blobs, or the floating demons. Food packaging is present in many of the illustrations, which makes the theme ever present.” A limited edition print, I Feel Sick, has also been produced by Kristian in collaboration with The Aesthetic Trust, a Manchester-based organisation committed to the promotion of regional British artists, illustrators and graphic designers. The high-quality, colour print is limited to just 50 signed and numbered copies.
Visitors to the exhibition at Common also have the opportunity to pick up t-shirts, tote bags and limited edition prints of the work being exhibited. Kristian Jones – Lost in Youth Exhibition runs until 2nd February 2012 at Common, Manchester. More information: www.aplacecalledcommon.co.uk
Words: Rob Allen, Photos: Manox Photography & Kris Jones.
‘Unclear ground/ Terrain vague is an installation currently on view in Niort (Fr) at the Pilori Museum until the 29th of October. This show is curated by Winterlong Galerie, and is a collaboration between Kid Acne and Ema.’ The installation takes inspiration from creating something out of nothing and seeing beauty in the mundane. From derelict factories, to abandoned wastelands and disused railways – for the past 2 decades both Ema & Kid Acne have utilised these forgotten spaces to create their art, injecting them with a splash of colour and giving them a new lease of life.
This collaborative installation mixes various media including painting, silkscreening and sewn fabrics. The title refers to the uncertainty experienced in creating a new piece of work – exploring the unknown to find something new. Combining influence from graffiti, science fiction and comic books, this exhibition invites us to explore the world around us, proving the age old saying – “seek and you shall find”.
Middleboop is the moniker of London based illustrator and designer Gordon Reid. A good friend of ours; Gordon is one fourth of The Publisher’s Club alongside Bec Brown (Blanket Magazine), Dave Hughes (AMMO Magazine) and Julian James (NewSugar). He’s just re-launched his brand new website, showcasing a collection of his best artwork from over over the last few years. We caught up with him earlier this week to find out more about his creative background and how he developed his unique illustration style…
Your illustration style is very distinctive; Can you describe your process for creating a new piece and what sorts of materials you prefer to use?
My process has changed quite a bit over the last two years, as has my approach to a new brief but it generally goes something like, a lot of researching the target market, client, etc, then a bit of mind mapping (or brainstorming, which ever one you’re meant to say now) sketching and development. Basically as much research as you can possibly do to really get the thought behind the work. Then I take things onto the computer. This is the stage where my artwork really develops from an idea to final application.
When are you most creative… – time of day? When are you working on new work?
I seem to get most of my ‘bright’ ideas from when I wake up to when I’ve just had breakfast, that time when you’re not properly awake and still in a bit of a trance. I then to put them into practice properly in the early evenings but pretty much after I’ve got the idea down on paper and screen I actually create the main bulk of my pieces in the standard 9-6 kind of timeframe. I’m generally always working on something new, there literally hasn’t been a point over the last two years when I haven’t got something on, I start the week with a long, over ambitious list of tasks which generally never get done as quickly as I would like.
Your site Middle Boop Mag features a lot of music and gig reviews.. how does music inspire your design work?
Music always has some part to play in my work, be it the fact I’m actually working for a client in the industry or purely having something playing in the background, I literally always have music on. I suppose depending on what I’m listening to, it can help shape the mood I’m in and therefore affect the final piece. For instance, if I’ve got a few deadlines I need to meet, I’ll always have something fast paced and loud on the go, if I’m working late at night, developing ideas I’ll have something a lot more chilled playing, either way, music definitely has a big influence on the final outcome of my work regardless of how much I must piss off my neighbours.
Best gig of the year so far?
Wowzers, that’s a really tough question as there’s been so many……I literally couldn’t name one, so I’ll list a few of my favourites, probably top of that list would be Mogwai at playing their intimate show at Hoxton Bar and Grill. I think the capacity is about 200 so was a really small one but such a great gig with such a big sound. Flaming Lips at Alexandra Palace, Explosions in the Sky at the Roundhouse, Battles at Heaven and my friends also put on an all day festival with Portishead at Alexandra Palace a few months ago which was absolutely fantastic, beautiful views of London, such a great lineup including Grinderman and Godspeed playing in a pitch black room. Just wish I could remember more of it…..
When did you start to really make a living from what you do? What was your work like in college?
My work in college was pretty dire! I was a bit of a late starter in terms of design and illustration and didn’t really know too much about either until I saw the work an older friend had been doing at a graphic design course and I realised that’s exactly what I wanted to do. So I was really still finding my place in the world of illustration at college. I toyed with collage for the first time at uni but every time I completed a brief with collage as a finished product I got dodgy marks, so I started trying to do work that I thought my lecturers would like only to continue to get fairly average grades so by the third year I decided to do my own thing regardless, really mucked about with collage only for my lecturers to turn round and say ‘why haven’t you done work like this before!?’ My work back then was a lot more hand rendered but I’ve completely re developed my style over the last two years, incorporating a lot more colour and vector into my work.
I suppose I started making a living from what I was doing about a year ago. I started off in 2009 creating limited edition short runs of prints for gigs (which I’ll talk about more in the next question) to which, most of the time I earned a reasonable amount of money from but it was so inconsistent. Freelance became more of a career option when I started actually receiving commissions. The first ‘proper’ commission came in late 2009 and since then, it’s been a really steady progression and I’ve thankfully ticked off a number of people I could only have dreamed of working with back when I was a lowly uni student.
How did you get into design for the music industry?
Basically when I first started out, the Middle Boop Mag was a way of promoting my work before I had a proper design portfolio site and I also used it to talk about albums that I had bought. Somewhere down the line people started reading it and the blog quickly became a popular starting point for new bands and some of the major independent labels. I approached these newfound contacts to create limited edition prints for some of my favourite bands and specific gigs. These prints have always been created digitally using indigo printers as the quality is fantastic and you’re able to print on some really beautiful paper stock. The gig print is a really popular format of merchandise in America but it never seems to have made it over here as successfully. Either way for a lot of shows I made a bit of money and had some great fun doing them too. Although I did have to change my printers as the first people I was using were terrible. I had instances where they didn’t produce the work on time, sent out poor quality print and the worst was when they lost the email I sent out with the final PDF, didn’t tell me in time so instead of sending them down all nicely printed and couriered, they had to beg for the suppliers of their actual printing presses who worked ‘fairly’ close to me to print them and I had to pick them up, he couldn’t stay later so left the prints in between two bins…Needless to say I didn’t pay for those. Although I’ve worked in the industry for two years, I still haven’t actually created decent album artwork for a band I like yet. So that’s still very much on the to do list.
Birmingham Royal Ballet – Coppélia
What’s been the best thing you’ve done so far in 2011?
Hmm, workwise, I would probably have to say the Birmingham Royal Ballet piece. I’m quite proud of it, the brief was great, so much so I really took time in developing my style for it. I definitely want to create more work like this too. In terms of general ‘things,’ although it’s biased, I have to say my week in Berlin for Pictoplasma was one of the best things I’ve done in my life, let alone 2011. Great artwork, brilliant people (obviously) and such a unique event in such a beautiful city. Having worked with you guys during the Character Totem tour, it was also great to see the whole exhibition come together so brilliantly! Also the first Publishers Club event in Manchester with your good selves was great too.. Here’s hoping we can do some more fun events soon!
And finally, whats next?
I’m thinking world domination. But in the meantime Middle Boop Mag are doing a load of work with Supersonic Festival this year in Birmingha, this October; we’ve also helped put on an event at the Camden Head recently called get Up!; an indie/rock/pop disco playing songs with female vocalists, which was awesome! I’ve also just re-launched my portfolio site, so I’ll be investing a lot more time in self promotion and getting my new site out there! I’m planning on launching a new T-Shirt range soon too.. watch this space!
Check out more of his work here: www.middleboop.com
Get the party poppers ready and your gladrags on: The Feed is one year old! They’ve had a fun-packed year making all sorts of things for people – from recording singing tweetagrams to serving up ice cream wherever your tweets took them! Now, they’re celebrating by bringing back a couple of all-time favourite ideas. Secret Portraits marks a return to their tailor-made Twitter profile pics, designed by talented emerging illustrators. Now you too can get involved!! Tweet a description of yourself (hashtag: #secretportrait) and they could make one just for you!
Later this month they will launch another project, so stay tuned! Enter Secret Portraits NOW through the Feed site, or simply tweet your description along with the #SecretPortrait hashtag for your chance to get picked! More info here – http://thefeed.orange.co.uk/2011/10/5/happy-birthday-us/
Drawing on local talent ‘Drawn in Bristol‘ provides its clients with high-quality illustration work produced by experienced Bristol-based talent. An exciting new illustration collective showcase, BIG BOAT, little boat is a brand new exhibition of illustration at the Grain Barge in Bristol, featuring a wide diversity of work from commercial to children’s illustration to the down-right beautiful. A talented selection of artists and illustrators from Bristol and beyond have created new work especially for the show, which runs until 29th October.
Artists and illustrators exhibiting include: Hannah Baber, Dave Bain, Alex Bertram-Powell, Carys-Ink, Natalie Hughes, Everly Dark, Ben Goodman, Simon Mills, Loch Ness, SPZero76 & Slumber Bean. Check out the Drawn in Bristol blog for more information & a full line-up.