Rickmansland Calling

It’s a slow process, but I’ve been trying to get myself out to more portfolio reviews when I can get them. I’ll usually give people cat stickers or post-it notes, but I had an idea recently to use the tiny letterpress to make some calling cards. Not business cards- I’m far too independent and self-depreciating for them – just something to give someone, to hopefully remind them they met me.

Letterpressing alone would make for a nice and somewhat-unique thing in this world, but I had an idea for how to make them more interesting. I’m constantly drawing robots doing mundane things, which I’ve combined into the cards – along with my name, I’ve letterpressed in a template for a robot, which I can fill in for the recipient based on the mood of the encounter.

As I was printing something as small as intended with my little letterpress (for once), it gave a really good deep impression on the paper stock.

Check out the tiny video I made about making these tiny cards!

Now let’s hope I can find some interesting people to give them to.

Freezing in a Heatwave

A new record cover I created is released today! It’s the debut single for a new signing to Med School Music – a chap called Lakeway. Aside from the title, I was kind of given carte blanche with the direction for this project, so I ended up creating some artwork intended to feel ‘connected’ like nerves, which I then physically froze.

I made it by hammering some carefully-placed nails into a surface I painted, then winding cotton thread between the nails (it’s all one continuous piece again!) to form the letters. I was happy with the design at that point, but it needed to represent the frozen part of the title too, so (obviously?) I put the whole thing in my kitchen’s freezer. I sprayed it with water at intervals until the ice had built up enough around the cotton threads for the lettering to solidify satisfactorially.

It hung out with the frozen peas for a couple of days while we got final approval, then for a little something extra, I timelapsed the ice melting away from it again and reversed the result, so it was becoming frozen again. Harry at Hospital Records then swept in and edited the timelapse into some nice motion graphics to accompany the track uploads to YouTube.

It’s nice to have a bit of ice-cold artwork for this long hot summer we’ve been having in Britain!

Odyssey Oddity

Exciting times arrived in Rickmansland this spring, bringing a small commission from a big company. Red Bull asked me to design a T-shirt for a music event they were hosting in June. Named The Odyssey, the event took place on a small armada of boats on the Thames.

I was asked to come up with a design that I felt represented Drum & Bass music, and being me, I wanted to steer away from the hoodies-and-graffiti visual cliches of the genre. Instead I tried to illustrate what the music does – offers a place to escape into something totally different to other stuff we have on our planet and sink into a different dimension.


Red Bull were also kind enough to post a brief interview with me onto their website, which you can read here. I am thankful that even with the tint of hindsight, I don’t sound too ridiculous in the article. If you like the T-shirt design, you can order yourself one here!

On Line

I’ve been feeling good about a lot of the record covers to come out of my brain-hands lately, but the cover for New Blood 018 deserves a spot of text to go with it – perfect for the blog.

New Blood 018

This artwork was inspired by a visit to my brother, who managed to break his leg while taking his kids to the park, and was in real-hospital as a result of the accident. One of his ward-mades was getting a transfusion while I was visiting, and I found the vividness of the blood running from the bag and through its tubing partly fascinating and partly humbling as it squiggled all over this poor chap’s bed.

NB018 CD Reverse

The image stayed with me, so I took the idea of the constant line to the typography for this artwork, and designed a suite of artwork around the concept. My original version was just as bold as the blood I saw in the hospital that day, but the creators of an album series called ‘New Blood’ insisted that it was too bloody, so I changed the palette entirely to some classic clinical teal shades.

Sweetpea - Closer - custom typography

Ox7gen - Trinity - custom typography

As well as the typography that made the cover itself, I also sweated the details with the entire tracklisting, with every artist and title drawn in the same single-line style. I was really pleased with how it looks, but we all agreed it wasn’t the most legible, so we compromised and I created a design that had transcriptions too.

NB018 Digital booklet label copy

I continued the single-line concept through all aspects of the design, including all of the label copy, which I snaked on single weaving lines through the artwork on all formats. With most of my indulgences approved in the end, the album went off to press, and is out on Med School Music this week.

NB018 Vinyl LP back cover

Chimney Christmas

While I understand the conventional wisdom that Christmas cards are a postal-service-propping hassle, my good lady Lilly and I do like the annual excuse to put our tiny letterpress through it’s paces.

Like every year, we try and make the card vaguely thematic to an event from our own past-twelve-months, and this year’s standout event was Lilly showing how excellently she does something when she turns her hand to it – she won the World Bread Award for her home-baked wild-yeast bread this autumn!

Alas, we don’t even have a garden for a wood-fired stove, but Santa’s affinity for chimneys made it a good way to link the season with the achievement. Like one of Lilly’s loaves, the card came out great!

More Pandas Than China

Lilly and I went on a summer holiday to Sardinia this year, and while we were there, we were astonished by the amount of Pandas everywhere. Of course, I’m not talking about the Chinese bears, but the Fiat manufactured in the 1980s and 90s.

It was almost as if Sardinia is where Italy sent its Pandas not to die but to just keep on living.

We were both charmed by these boxy little powerhouses, so it was a good cue to make Lilly a new piece of artwork for her birthday. I began researching the materials that were used to sell the car during its original run, but there was no escaping this being a car of the eighties:

As magnificent as those are, I was looking for something that spoke a bit more to how thirty years later, the cars were still so happy rattling through the dusty landscapes of the Mediterranean. The native Italian materials weren’t any more inspiring with their woefully stretched typography, but France proved to have some more playful typographic ideas for selling these little Fiats:

The only trouble is I had no idea what the French typography said, and online translation wasn’t being much help to me either. My first few attempts of running the full slogan ‘Les Voitures à Malices’ through the internet tried to tell me it meant ‘The Cars With Malice’ or ‘The Malicious Cars’, and I couldn’t imagine even the French would try and sell a car on the idea that it would harm you.

Instead I decided it must’ve been idiomatic, so I asked a French friend to help me (her response: ‘I’m so French it’s beyond belief’), who explained that it meant ‘cheeky, facetious, witty all at once’, and was like boite à malices, ‘a box with lots of stuff that would be fun for kids’; a box of tricks. That sounded perfect to me, so I had to get back into the other hard part, illustrating the car in a way that captured its humble boxiness.

My first couple of attempts looked too boyish, and like something from a video game. Definitely not the right flavour. Instead, a basic profile shot proved to be the winner, and when combined with a bit of the mountainous terrain of Sardinia and a little more of the French marketing materials, everything came together just right.

Of course, the most important thing in all of this is that Lilly loved the artwork, so we immediately put it up on the wall!

Somewhere Between The VCR Heads

Another record cover I designed recently has been getting a surprising amount of love… Nu:Logic’s second album ‘Somewhere Between The Light’ has been out for a couple of weeks now, and is my first Instagram post to not just reach but blow past 100 likes!

The design is a homage to old VHS packaging, which was an idea suggested by Nu:Tone and Logistics themselves. It was down to me to turn this idea into a record package, which tied together nicely with a retro thumb-hole cutout, printed inner sleeves for the records, and a solid black jewel case for the CD version too.

Even the shrink wrap looks good with the thumb hole design. Nice!

My Favourite None-More-Black Client

Critical Music marks its fifteenth anniversary and hundredth catalogue number today with the release of a super-limited-edition boxset I designed.

The design is intended to be part fanzine, part ultra-minimalist blackness, and contains five (!) pieces of black vinyl, in black sleeves, with a black booklet and black poster, in a matte black box with a gloss black print on it. Short of being made of vantablack, it’s like how much more black could I make this artwork for Kasra, and the answer is none… None more black.

To celebrate the blackness (and to torture myself photographically), here are a load of photos of black objects from the package, set against a black background.

 
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