Tuesday, 31 December 2013

London Stories: The Blitz

Recently there has been the Serco Prize for Illustration which is a yearly competition by the corporation that runs Transport for London. The winning illustration is displayed on a London Transport Museum poster which, for any city lover, is an honour for this is the oldest underground network in the world. Unfortunately, I didn't win but here's my submission. 

This year's theme was London Stories. Participants where encouraged to produce a vision of London inspired by fictional or historical narratives set in London throughout its long history. In my case, the main inspiration is a fascinating photo taken during one of Nazi Germany bombings in World War II in December 1940, more commonly known as The Blitz. The image shows St Paul's Cathedral dome still standing behind a massive smoke column while London is ablaze.

Thanks to the lives of many firefighters, St Paul's survived more than 50 days of consecutive bombing and still stands today as a symbol of British endurance in a war that back then must have seemed impossible to win. The fear of a Nazi invasion of Britain was very likely at a time when much of the European continent was under the grip of fascist governments. London Underground played a major part in this story not only in guaranteeing commuters getting to work during the war but in setting up improvised air raid shelters in its underground stations. 

Thus this illustration shows a busy London running under the shelter of St Paul's Cathedral encouraging its people to keep calm and carry on. 

Further down there's the poster version I submitted to the competition without the explosions – to make it more palatable. Could all these bombs falling from the sky and the overall Dantesque look have put the jury off?

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Map Of Clerkenwell

Slightly North East from Central London, Clerkenwell is plenty of history and probably the most central area to join London's recent mass gentrification. Named after the Clerks' Well that still stands nearby –albeit enclosed within a building and behind a glass window– the area is linked to a long forgotten monastic past. A backdrop for historic characters of the likes of Oliver Cromwell –he owed a house there– Charles Dickens– a scene of his Oliver Twist is set in Clerkenwell Green– and Vladimir Lenin, who used to work at number 37a, now the Marx Memorial Library. 

This map stems off a commission that fell through, but that allowed me to explore and investigate the rich history behind an area that best reflects the old-village-absorbed-by-Victorian-metropolis feel. Find out more about Clerkenwell's living landmarks, starting clockwise from Angel. 

The clock tower built by J.D. Smith and Sons marks the entrance to The Angel in the Borough of Islington and its long strip of shops recalling an era of clockmaker business. 

Further down South there's Northampton Square where City University's main campus is. It houses the prestigious Inns of Court School of Law.

Due to being built on marshland St Luke's church laid abandoned for 40 years until it was refurbished into a music hall operated by the London Symphony Orchestra. 

Densely populated with web-based companies, Old Street Roundabout has been nicknamed Silicon Roundabout and is infamous among cyclists. 

Flanked by elegant early council housing, Whitecross Street livens up every Thursday and Friday at lunchtime with food stalls serving all sorts of delicious take aways. 

Hidden away off Moorgate, there's the Honourable Artillery Company's grounds, the second oldest military organisation in the world, now a charity. 

Designed by the same architects, the Golden Lane Estate is the forefather of the Barbican, notorious in its darkest times for suicides from the rooftop and now sought after 60s property. 

St John's Gate reminisces Clerkenwell's monastic past. It was the entrance to the priory of the Order of St John, the Knights Hospitaller

In Victorian times Smithfield Market, London's main meat market, was described as the most pestilent place in the capital. It still serves its original purpose, being the last surviving historic wholesale market in Central London. 

Next to Chancery Lane station still stands one of the few Tudor buildings to survive two of the toughest moments in London's history, the Great Fire and The Blitz. The Staple Inn, currently the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. 

When Farringdon Station opened in 1863 it was the terminus of the Metropolitan Railway, the first underground metro line in the world. 

The Medieval City of London had business organised in different quarters by trades. The area around Hatton Garden was and still is the jeweller's quarter and centre of the UK diamond trade.

Lively Leather Lane with its daily food market and its Edwardian tenement blocks, the Bourne Estate. When the working day is over cycle couriers gather up around the repair shop/cafe Full City.

The spiritual centre of Clerkenwell, the Green, is presided by the Old Sessions House, a Classical style building that was the centre of the judicial and administrative court of the County of Middlesex, mostly part of Greater London now. 

St Peter's Italian Church was built for the growing Italian immigrant community that settled here in the mid 19th Century and made this area London's Little Italy.

For centuries the ground of the Sadler's Wells theatre has been dedicated to performing arts and it is currently one of the UK's foremost dance venues.

A photo of an A4 print.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Walkie Scorchie

Do you see that thing looming over the river? Does it get bigger as you look up? That's 20 Fenchurch Street the only skyscraper in London that does not block sunlight off the streets but reflects it back on several times brighter. Get your sunglasses. 

Designed by Rafael Viñoly, its unique shape stands out amongst the new breed of high rise that are sprouting over the City of London financial area. Apart from concerns raised by heritage groups about its visual impact on nearby historical sites it has also drawn mockery and been renamed the Walkie Talkie because of its distinctive shape. Some people even call it The Pint which I find even more appropriate.

But last summer the situation escalated when a car was found damaged in nearby street Eastcheap. Investigations followed and it was found that the reflection of sunlight on the Walkie Talkie's concave facade was generating a beam of light capable of frying an egg or even melting parts of a car's bodywork. This beam is 6 times brighter than direct sunlight shining onto the streets beneath! The media immediately came up with new names for the building, the most successful being 'Walkie Scorchie' or even better... 'Fryscraper'. Apparently, a building in Las Vegas by the same architect has a similar reflection problem and locals have dubbed it the 'Death Ray Hotel'. 

After reading the article in The Guardian, I could only see the Walkie Scorchie as a laser-equipped robot on a barbecue mission roasting cars and turning them into sausages. A bit like the War of the Worlds meets Bad Taste. However, there's more to that after what Viñoly himself saif after being questioned about the building's burning impulses. 

 "When I first came to London years ago, it wasn't like this. Now you have all these sunny days. So you should blame this thing on global warming too, right?"

Environmentalists have pointed out that the Walkie Scorchie's problem demonstrates the principles of solar power tower technology and would make a useful power source. Is the Walkie Scorchie in an environmental crusade for zapping cars off London streets then? After news like this, it definitely should. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


This is a collaboration I did a while ago for Soho-based animation studio Seed for a project proposal for MediaCityUK, a media village built on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal that hosts organisations like BBC or ITV. 

Originally part of the former Manchester Docks, MediaCityUK site Salford Quays became one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK after the dockyards closure in 1982. In a bold decentralisation move the BBC chose to relocate facilities from London to Northern England. This is only a small part of the ambitious Atlantic Gateway project that by 2030 sees Manchester and Liverpool linked in a strong 50 mile long trade corridor along the Ship Canal. 

For this job I was asked to produce a few quick visualisations of the site brought to life by the 'spirit of the city', imaginative and dynamic. Working straight onto image references I was given, I came up with an array of 'architectural fauna' born out of urban elements and buildings imbued with personality. These were to inspire 2D animations that would be combined with CG in the final product. 

These illustrations draw a great deal from Ralph Bakshi's work and Disney's Silly Symphonies. 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Tate Modern

Who does not remember the first visit to the renowned modern art museum standing at London's Bankside? Going into Tate Modern's turbine hall fills one with an awe similar to entering an ancient cathedral. In these places people once expressed deep unexplainable emotions towards God. But for the modern day man they have lost much of their original meaning. In a similar way, that's what I think when I go into the old Bankside Power Station, that is a symbol of a bygone age of industry and power. 

Times change. I become very aware of that when looking at buildings. And I love the idea of transforming architecture rather than destroying and rebuilding over it. An art gallery out of an oil-fired power station? Oh yes. Originally born out of the drawing board of Giles Gilbert Scott to supply London with electricity in 1952, the building mutated in the hands of architects firm Herzog & de Meuron and in 2000 became the iconic South London landmark we see today. 

This illustration carries on with the series of architectural creatures unleashed over London with dubious intentions. Once more I dwell on the relationship between this building and its opposite counterpart St Paul's Cathedral, one that highlights like any other the urban tension between North and South London. After polluting London for nearly thirty years, Tate Modern now goes 'action painting' actoss the Thames. The hipster looks because it's modern after all...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Website Redesign

I have redesigned my website to make it a bit more graphic and –hopefully– appealing. The major change is that I have stressed the difference between my architecture illustration work and commercial illustration commissions –like storyboards– by creating two distinct sections.

For the main menu illustration I wanted to make fun of this dichotomy by juxtaposing the old quarter of a city with the more modern sky-high financial districts that are blooming in European towns. They lie beyond the mountains at the opposite ends of one long and winding road. Here's the roll-over illustration.

The about page sees a house character powered by a human being running on a mechanism/hamster wheel. Better insulation makes it a lot hotter in the summer.

For the contact page I thought it could be fun literally putting in touch the unmistakable communication antennas seen in London and Barcelona; the BT Tower and Torre de Collserola respectively talking over an old-fashioned device such as two plastic cups linked by a cord.

The redesign is not over yet. There are still a couple of things I want to do –for example an illustrated commercial illustration menu page. But will get that done when I have more time.

In the index page there is Homie once again welcoming you.

See it all in action HERE

Monday, 13 May 2013

AOI Illustration Awards 2013 Shortlist

Good news! My work in Mark Magazine has been shortlisted for the 2013 AOI Illustration Awards in the Editorial – New Talent category. Luckily the creature didn't set his paw on Somerset House!

Title - The Circle!
Client - Frame Publishers
Published in Mark Magazine #39 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Have a look at this illustration I did for The Destroyed Room's new batch of tees featuring Minnesota a pug dog named after the band's eponymous EP. They'll be on sale at The Destroyed Room's website soon!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Poirot's Florin Court

These days I'm working on a series of postcards for Clerkenwell based estate agent firm Hurford Salvi Carr. The first illustration is based on Florin Court, an icon of British Art Deco. It dominates Charterhouse Square, in my opinion one of the most interesting squares in Central London, at the very edge of Islington and bordering the City. It is also known as the Whitehaven Mansions, the fictional residence of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, created by Agatha Christie.

When architects Guy Morgan and Partners built it 1936 they imbued it with a total Art Deco style so when I was invited to visit the interior I was able to appreciate its fine details; railings that resemble clouds passing by, curved surfaces, and the distinct type used throughout the building.

I played around with these design features to produce a portrait caricature of Poirot himself, elegant and stout. I drew on period Art Deco posters to portray Florin Court as a modern efficient building in the thriving London metropolis. 

Have a look at the original building here.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rock the Boat

I finally received my paper copy of Rock the Boat, the graphic novel I spend most of 2011 illustrating for Banter Publishing as their first publication. With a radical approach Banter takes great works of literature and updates them into modern day narratives on a graphic novel format. This way they seek to connect young readers to classic literature.

For Rock the Boat, scriptwriter Tim Lay took Jerome K. Jerome's Victorian hit Three Men in a Boat and set it in present day England where an amateur rock band sets off on a journey up the river Thames from London to Reading festival with the intention of becoming the next instant viral sensation.

My work was to take Tim's satirical vision of England's social fabric and turn it into images while at the same time staying true to the original novel's descriptive spirit. In the end this meant spending nine months stoaryboarding, pencilling, inking and colouring the 92 pages that make the graphic novel.

To top it off illustrator Paul Shinn worked on the lettering and make it actually readable.

Will let you know as soon as Rock the Boat is published, hopefully soon this year.