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Roland Collins A forgotten Artist Part One

March 5, 2018

Roland Collins was born in Kensal Rise, NW London.

He showed artistic aptitude from an early age, winning at the age of eight a poster-colouring competition organised by the Evening News. He attended Kilburn grammar school, helped with scenery painting for the school’s annual Shakespeare play, and was encouraged by the art teacher to go to art school. This he did with the help of a London county council grant, spending two years at St Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins), where his teachers included Leon Underwood and Vivian Pitchforth. After college he worked as a studio assistant in an advertising agency, preparing layouts and designs.

In 1937 Collins first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of just 18, submitting a pen-and-ink drawing entitled Riverside, Chiswick, of two houseboats on the mud at low tide on the Thames (see above). The pen-work was masterly in its taut linearity and rhythmic arrangements of shape, balancing dark and light with satisfying authority. But black and white was not enough for the full expression of his essentially Romantic vision; he needed colour, and gouache (an opaque form of watercolour) became his preferred medium. He painted on paper, usually on sheets measuring about 15in x 21in, which he attached to a drawing board and worked on in front of the chosen subject.

Ever since those pre-second -World-War days, Roland Collins became an acute observer of the London and later the Dieppe scene. The Old London as we used to know it has disappeared, and it is with more than nostalgia one is taken back thirty, forty or fifty years. Roland Collins has managed to record the landscape of the time in a way the camera never has. it is not just a case of buildings destroyed by the war and the property developer, but the disappearance of items-all clues to what was a more leisured way of life-like the hand-pushed cardboard box delivery cart-massive but presumably light in weight. the old carriages and stable in Knightsbridge Mews; the Watney’s Lion and Shot Tower that became the South Bank Site for the Festival of Britain.

When the second world war broke out Collins registered as a conscientious objector, although a lung problem meant that he could have only undertaken light agricultural work in any case. He continued painting, discovered Fitzrovia in the West End of London (where he was to live for 40 years) and undertook the first of several mural commissions for a Greek restaurant. Artistically versatile, he relished turning his hand to other projects, working as a designer, photographer and even travel writer.

In 1945 he designed the sleeve for the first British LP issued by Decca: Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, also a self portrait below and a couple of commissions from over the years.

In 1951 he wrote the text for The Flying Poodle, a book for children with photographs by Wolfgang Suschitzky, and in 1956 illustrated another poodle book, the novel Fifi and Antoine by Charlotte Haldane. Meanwhile, in 1954, a series of lithographs, to illustrate Noel Carrington’s book Colour and Pattern in the Home, seemed to anticipate in their crisp design some of the 1960s pop-inflected interiors of the English painter and printmaker Patrick Caulfield.

Since his Royal Academy debut in 1937, Roland has continued to exhibit regularly since, though an innate modesty has kept him from the limelight. As a consequence, his delightful and unaffected paintings are less well known than they might be, and a talent which has been continuously in use for more than 70 years has gone largely uncelebrated.

“Eventually, my love of architecture led me to a studio at 29 Percy Studio where I painted for the next forty years, after work and at weekends. I freelanced for a while until I got a job at the Scientific Publicity Agency in Fleet St and that was the beginnings of my career in advertising, I obviously didn’t make much money and it was difficult work to like.”

Yet Roland never let go of his personal work and, once he retired, he devoted himself full-time to his painting, submitting regularly to group shows but reluctant to launch out into solo exhibitions – until reaching the age of ninety.

For me his work shows elements of Nash, Ravilious, Bawden and occasionally Degas and Dufy too.

Whether using gouache, watercolour, pastel or inks, Roland had a wonderful control of his media.

Hopefully the skies weren’t as grey as he depicted here as he often painted outdoors !

Beautiful observational work.

I love the simplified windows in the building below, they’re almost arrows pointing to the Lion above lol

And you can see why I thought of Raoul Dufy with this painting above. Don’t miss my second post, featuring Roland’s boat paintings and his work in France at the end of the week.

More images looking through the catalogue over at, The Portland GalleryBrowse and Derby or the Michael Parkin Fine Art Gallery.

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Miri Orenstein and her ceramic ladies

February 26, 2018

I spotted the work of talented designer Miri Orenstein, who’s not only a illustrator / photographer

but also and more recently a Ceramist. Look at her range of beautiful ladies !

Originally from Haifa Israel. In 2010, Miri completed her photography studies at Wizo Design Academy. Four years later she received her degree in Visual Communication from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Then she worked as a designer and Illustrator in a top branding studios in Tel Aviv.

Miri says, “In my job I was collaborating with leading companies and brands in Israel. In 2016 I made a change and moved to New York. This change has driven me to look for new ways to express my creative style. That is how I stepped into the ceramic world. ”

She has certainly developed some beautiful shapes and a striking style.

Add a touch of green, and her black and white pots simply zing!

Great work Miri, look forward to seeing how your work develops in the future.

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Elements of Design

February 19, 2018

I came across this book in a charity shop a while ago by Donald M Anderson. 

He was born 1915 in Bridgewater, South Dakota, and became an influential artist and designer, publishing such textbooks as this one (‘ The Elements of Design ‘) in 1961 and ‘ The Art of Written Forms ‘ in 1969, whil’st he taught art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  He also contributed some of his illustrations (above) to the book. He lived to be 80, and passed away in 1995.

There’s quite a fascinating mix of imagery from around the world, it’s interesting to dip into. I’ve pulled out the best to show you today.

Wind Patterns, designs from nature, repeat elements, etc are all discussed and featured.

Of course with it being a book from the early sixties, there are also some fab cartoon and advertising illustrations.

Olivetti appears a couple of times.

Some intricate designs and details.

More sixties, textural images.

Lovely shapes and scratchy, painterly work here.

Santa is looking very type-festive !

A very enjoyable mark-making ride I’d say : )

What do you think ? Does anyone have any similar books on their shelves they wold like to share with everyone ?

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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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Sheffield Fishink travels

February 5, 2018

It’s about a 40 minute train ride from Manchester to Sheffield, I’ve never actually visited, always just passing through during my student days, taking coaches between Nottingham and Liverpool. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to remedy this and go and see what the city had to offer. It was a bit of a grey January start.

Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough in South Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through it. The city is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines, 61% of Sheffield’s entire area is green space, and a third of the city lies within the Peak District national park. There are more than 250 parks, woodlands and gardens in the city, and Sheffield is estimated to contain over two million trees. (Wikipedia)

I had hoped to be in time for the Ravilious and Co exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, which came from the Towner Art Gallery to Sheffield and is moving onto Compton Verney Art Gallery in March this year. Sadly I was too late and it had finished, which for a free exhibition, I was feeling crazy to have missed, especially as the entrance fee for a non member at Compton Verney will be £25! There was however, a great gallery shop with a range of Ravilious products, I treated myself to this book and look forward to dipping into it when I get the chance. Opposite is a lovely scarf designed by Tirzah Ravilious (nee Garwood).

I was impressed by the Winter Gardens, attached to the Gallery and housing botanical plants and sculptures. It’s a lovely airy space.

There was a room selling a range of designer/makers work. These cheeky birds caught my eye from Felting for England.

A collection of ceramic scenes by Sarah Moss.

And a delightful mix of scenes and birds from Frances Noon.

In the 19th century, Sheffield gained an international reputation for steel production. Known as the Steel City, many innovations were developed locally, including crucible and stainless steel, fuelling an almost tenfold increase in the population in the Industrial Revolution. Sheffield received its municipal charter in 1843, becoming the City of Sheffield in 1893. International competition in iron and steel caused a decline in these industries in the 1970s and 1980s, coinciding with the collapse of coal mining in the area.

There’s a whole host of steel and silver artifacts on permanent exhibition at the gallery, I was drawn to the pieces with animals in them.

Beautiful, intricate work.

Forks, serving spoons, walking stick ends, door handles… the list goes on and on.

Does anyone know what this (above right) was used for ? Answer at the end of the post.

Some of the pieces were dated as early as the 16th century !

Outside I spotted this elephant, high above the Cutlers Hall.

Just around the corner from the Millenium Gallery is the Library and the Graves Gallery, where this exhibition of British photographer Dan Holdsworth was taking place.

The rest of the art gallery had a great collection of mid century paintings.

Quite a few familiar names but also a few new ones to investigate further.

Hard to appreciate the true splendour of some of these pieces, as they are behind glass with light shining on them too.

Beautiful landscapes from Paul Nash and Harry Epworth Allen.

All in all a great day out and a fab introduction to Sheffield with it’s not one but two Art Galleries. I will return, but probably not until it’s warmer ! Well done to those of you who correctly spotted that I’d forgotten to tell you what the mystery object was above … doh.. It’s a device to take the top off your soft boiled egg !

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Christopher Corr The bold and the beautiful

January 29, 2018

Christopher Corr was born in 1955 in London. He says that his work is all about joy, colour and a love of life and I would very much tend to agree. I’ve admired Chris’s bold style for many years now and was excited when I got in touch with him to discover that he not only liked Fishinkblog but was happy to be featured on my site. The rest (as they say) is history …

Hi Chris, what was your first memory of art / drawing for yourself ? Were your parents artistic and if so was painting positively encouraged during your childhood ?

I have always drawn and painted and I have early memories of scribbling with crayons and playing with paints. My mum really encouraged me to develop my arty skills and I can remember us drawing together. I was given lots of drawing materials to play with. Reading was important too and I joined the local library when I was about 5 and made weekly visits to get new books and return the old ones. I still follow these principals.

Have you any plans for more children’s books ? Textiles designs etc as I think your work would lend itself to these areas very well.

I like children’s books and I have worked on quite a few…..

It’s a tricky & a difficult area but I’ve enjoyed most of the projects I’ve been involved in. My latest book is called ‘The Great Race’ and it’s a retelling of the Chinese Zodiac story. It’s full of animals in a very Chinese hilly landscape. The world has lost track of time and so the Emperor organises a competition for all the animals to compete in. They have to swim across a big river and the first 12 will be the guardians for each year in the cycle of time. It’s quite cosmic.

The previous book was a big anthology of stories from around the world, 52 in total. I love folk art and folk stories and it’s a great way to see the world.

I’ve been working a big textile project which will be launched in the Autumn of 2018 and I can’t say much about it except it has a world theme too. I enjoyed the process a lot and I’d like to do more. Josef Frank is a huge inspiration. I like his playful approach to textile design and his love of colour and natural forms. His NYC map textiles are stunning.

He loves taking on rather large scale commissions too, the one above is of Wartburg, NY and the two below are painted from Parliament Hill in London and Thompkins Square Park in East Village, NY.

I’ve read that you studied Graphic Design in Manchester before you went to the RCA. At what point did your style and palette start to mould itself into the portfolio I see today and when did illustration and painting become important to you as a career ?

I studied art for 7 years, first at Manchester, a Foundation Course, a 3 year BA in Graphics followed by 3 more years MA Illustration at the RCA. I wanted to draw and experiment during my studies. It sounds like a long time but the time flew by. I started to travel and draw as a student, applying for scholarships and competitions to help pay my way. I realised that getting away to new places opened my eyes to new ways to see & draw. There is always so much to see and learn. In my 2nd year at the RCA, I went to the USA for 5 months to travel and draw and see what was happening over there. I drew every day, street scenes, city-scapes, lots of architecture, everything was new and so exciting. I’d seen Paul Hogarth’s urban American drawings and they certainly inspired me, Hopper too and Ben Shahn. There is nothing like traveling and seeing with your own eyes to open your mind.

Where do the colours in your palette derive from as they often look a little Mexican, Jamaican or Trinidadian ( somewhere warmer than the UK anyway lol) ? How often do you paint from life or do you prefer to sketch ideas from life, photographs etc and paint later once your plans for a painting are more established ?

I went to India in 1986 and I discovered colour. It was a truly wonderful and significant moment. A true revelation. Here was pure and rich beautiful colour! I had never seen such pure and intense colours before and it changed me profoundly. It was like arriving on a new planet and one where I didn’t know the rules. Everything was more vivid, more colourful, more crowded, more noisy and stranger than everything I had seen before. And how to draw it ?

I quickly realised that if I sat in an Indian street and started to draw I became a crowd magnet and drawing became impossible. So I started drawing super fast, on foot as I walked, in small note books, in buses, rickshaws, trains but never for too long. It was a good lesson: look hard, draw fast, don’t get comfortable. I tried to record everything I saw in my little sketch books and it changed everything for the better. Sometimes I found a good location to paint from, usually a rooftop or a balcony view where I could work in colour.

It ’s still a way I like to work and nowhere is harder than India to draw on location. It’s sketch book boot camp !

India taught me to love and value colour and to draw fast. I’ve traveled in Mexico and Guatemala, Brazil and Bolivia and Peru, in other parts of Asia and Australia and in Africa too, but nowhere has the intensity and vibrancy of India.

America is all about capturing the upward spaces as well as the ones on eye level.

And why not do that from the air !

What subject matter delights you most to paint ?

Cities are fascinating ! I think cities give me most inspiration. I like exploring and drawing new city-scapes. It’s all the ghosts and new energy, all the lives and all their stories that fascinate me. I want to be a world citizen.

When I was very small I had some of Sasek’s books about world cities. NY and London were my favourites.

Christopher certainly knows how to travel. I wonder how long he’s actually in the UK with all these world experiences lol.

Of course people play a large part in his work. This gardener looks very content in his floral surroundings and I like the texture that all the flowers add to the painting.

Faces, people, busy, busy, busy.

Where would we be without animals too.

Aren’t these big cats fab !

All captured in Chris’s wonderful sketchbooks too. You can just feel the speed at which he has to work to get the information before him down.

These figures are lovely.

Many thanks to Christopher for his time in answering my questions and for sending me some images to use.  I’ve very much enjoyed learning more about the artist behind the art too. You can find works by Christopher to purchase at the Rowley Gallery site. What do you find inspiring about the illustrations in today’s post ?

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John Minton A productive short life part 4

January 26, 2018

  John Minton Illustration by Fishink

Welcome to the fourth and final post about the work of John Minton. I hope you have been enjoying exploring his work as much as I have by telling his story.

I was extremely fortunate to obtain this copy of a new book (published last year) by The Mainstone Press and written by Martin Salisbury, called ” The Snail That Climbed The Eiffel Tower and Other Work by John Minton ” It’s a beautiful volume, with 350 examples of John Minton’s painting, illustration and editorial work, featured over 240 stunningly weighty pages. This book concentrates on John’s more illustrative pieces, covering book jackets, advertising, stamps, film posters, leaflets, magazine articles and even wallpapers.

Taken from the book… ” JOHN MINTON (1917—1957) may be best known today as a gifted post-war painter of the nee-romantic movement, but he produced some of his most inspired work as a commercial illustrator. Remarkably, even as interest in mid-twentieth-century art and design has grown considerably in recent years, Minton’s prolific output as a graphic artist — achieved during a working life of little more than a decade, has not gained the recognition it greatly deserves. One hundred years after his birth, this book gathers together for the first time Minton’s commercial graphic work, including many rare and previously unseen pieces, to celebrate a major force in the distinguished history of British illustration. ”

You can see from the contents page alone what a wealth of subjects are covered in this book.

I still struggle to appreciate just how much work, and such varied work at that, that John managed to produce during his short lifetime. It’s only recently that his portfolio is being both recognised, acknowledged and indeed triumphed.

Here’s a few poster campaigns that would have appeared in journals in the 1950’s.

The BBC, GPO, British Rail and numerous book publishers all sought out John’s work for their advertising campaigns and book covers.

A couple of film posters from the 40’s and 50’s created for Ealing Studios in London.

John had a very naturalistic, yet descriptive ability to portray a place or setting to a reader.

You can easily get a sense of what’s happening in these illustrations without even the need for an accompanying written explanation.

Even the post office wanted John to illustrate for their stamps.

He was said to be a hard-working perfectionist. Perhaps the comical study below portraying the young artist, reveals so much about John as an illustrator and determined creative.

I love this colourful piece for the Engravers monthly magazine ‘Process’.

In particular, this wonderful study of industrial Britain in the 1950’s. Such amazing colours and textures.

If you’ve enjoyed the images in today’s post especially then it’s well worth grabbing yourself a copy of the book, which you can order through the Mainstone Press here.

Now that you’ve seen an extensive collection of John’s work this week, what appeals to you the most and why ? Do leave me a comment, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on John’s work.

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