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Robin Heighway-Bury

February 12, 2018

You may well be familiar with the graphic work of Robin Heighway-Bury if you lived in the UK  between 1991 to 1994, because he produced ALL  of the advertising – poster, press and animated TV ads for Heinz during that time. Which, when you think about a company the size of Heinz, is quite an achievement in itself !

I actually came across more of Robin’s wonderful work by spotting a new book cover (below) he had created for a republished book about the life of the Hare by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson. I contacted Robin to discover more about the man behind the work. He explained that he has produced two more covers in this series that ‘The Leaping Hare’ is from, but they won’t be published until April, so sadly he can’t jump the gun by showing us those just yet.

Hi Robin, your black and white work for The Family, Derailed and in the Eric Newby book (see below), reminds me of a 1950-60 style of working I’ve come across, also used by Graham Byfield (see here https://fishinkblog.com/2010/08/14/picture-this-the-artist-as-illustrator/ ) and Terence Greer ( https://fishinkblog.com/2014/10/31/terence-greer-mid-century-illustrator/ .)  Can I ask, when did you create your work and were you influenced or even asked to work using this style at all ? I’m curious if there was London Illustration ‘look’ that was popular at the time, as I guess the retro 60’s resurgence seems to be used a lot now ?

” I’ve been illustrating since 1985 (after brief stints as a lab assistant and electricians mate -that’s a job title, not a social status – and then a few years as an engineering draughtsman. So not a contemporary of the great Terence Greer, or Heinz Edelman, they were prolific when I was a very young boy. My contemporaries were starting out after college around ’85 but I somehow sidestepped that route and got a portfolio together after realising that a more creative application of my drawing skills may be more enjoyable as a career.

Those ’50s and ’60s influences that are evident in my work have appeared more in the last ten years, I’d say. Though I did see Yellow Submarine when it came out at the age of six, so maybe Heinz Edelman influenced me in my career choice early on after all ? ”

” I would say that the majority of my illustration over the years has been editorial, followed by book publishing (covers and one children’s book – Who Built The Pyramid, Walker Books) but I think I’ve covered most areas over the last 30 years or so. ”

Here’s a special glimpse into his sketchbooks. I’m always fascinated by other artists ways of working.

Do you work both digitally and non digitally ? and if so, do you have a favourite way of creating work that you find more inspirational or more personally fulfilling ?
” My work has been a combination drawing, painting and digital since the late 90s and my first computer – that is, each illustration combines those elements, as I draw or paint, predominantly in black (ink, pencil, paint) and then scan either a whole composition or separately drawn elements. In that case I combine them in Photoshop. All the colour is rendered in Photoshop using several layers. Generally l misaligned blocks of colour under line work to recreate the misalignment in many printing techniques. I would never want to work purely on screen with a vector-based programme as the drawing element is both the most enjoyable and personal and cannot be reproduced on a Wacom anyway. “

What’s your favourite piece of work or project to date ?
” It’s hard to say which would be my all time favourite piece of work but generally it would always be recent and therefore in the way I currently work and a piece or project I feel is successful. Such as my recent real-estate image for the Boston Globe, or my Hepworth Gallery project. My most high profile work though must be the Heinz posters and press from the early 90’s “
There’s a great range of styles and techniques in Robin’s work.

Who in your industry is producing work that you admire today and which other designers (not necessarily just Illustrators work) do you feel inspired by ?
” There are so many good illustrators out there working today that I wouldn’t want to name just one or two. Different ones inspire me at different times and in different ways, as do many from the past. Some of those past influences can certainly be detected in my work….. but I’m with Picasso on that one! ! “
I love this collection of birds and suns below.

When I looked though your work, I sensed a feeling of humour that’s important in your work (as it is with my own illustration, ceramics etc) and a strong eye for colour and line. What else is important to you when answering a commission or brief ? Could you talk me through a typical approach and way of working to get to the final piece, or is every beginning somewhat different to the last ?
” Commissions vary a lot but usually I would expect to be coming up with two or three ideas, after struggling for a while with blank paper syndrome, or very occasionally having to whittle it down from more. The idea stage is always the hardest and doesn’t seem to get much easier with experience, but I always get there in the end. Sometimes more successfully than others. But getting the drawing right is never easy either!…
It’s surprising how tough it is and how painful the process, when it must look from the outside like you’re just having fun drawing pictures all day! I think when I started all those years ago it seemed easy but somehow it’s harder now – I think you own personal standards go up and you always demand more of yourself. I’m half joking of course, it’s nowhere near as tough as most people’s work life and can be incredibly satisfying when you feel you’ve really come up with the goods on a job “

 

There’s a fab sense of retro that surfaces in Robin’s work.

What has caught your eye today ? Many thanks to the man himself for becoming a part of the Fishink Blog artists. Keep up the great work Robin.

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