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Alan Baker 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 42

BLUE DRAGON SEASIDE KINGFISHER PUMA HARE POLAR ICE CAPS MOON MICE BLUE AARDVARK BLUE DRAGONS SCREAMER CAT PAN STOAT POLLUTION ORPHEUS KIPLING ALIEN LANDSCAPE TREE DRAGON LONDON 2042 MEDUSA WITCH WILD BIRDS ICARUS TOWER INSECT SPECIMENS GREY SQUIRREL MOUSES CHRISTMAS SPIRAL BUG BANNED MAMMALS FOX WREATH AUTUMN MICE DRAGON AND CITY PHOENIX OCTOBER FIGHTING DRAGONS SNAKE MONSTER RAM ANIMAL MONTAGE PINE MARTEN RABBITS IN PAINT POTS FANTASY WORLD

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INTRODUCTION

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ome of my best memories from childhood are of colour. One of my earliest, is of a blue toy plastic car. I would take it to bed with me just to look at the colour - something to do with the mix of the yellow artificial light and the blue of the plastic transformed it into a deep and rich green/blue. Even thinking about it now can bring back that wonderful feeling that colour can give. I also remember a Rupert the bear annual from 1956 and the strange magical world that Frank Bestall created with his beautiful illustrations. Those books were packed with detail. It is often the small things that change your life. Whoever gave me that book, helped change my future direction. I didn't really know that being an illustrator existed as a career, until my elder sister Jeannie started art college in the late 1960s. It was seeing the work she was producing that made me yearn to explore the same path. I didn't dare propose the idea to my mother, as in those days, art was not really thought of as a very secure way of making a living. Jeannie, being a girl, would obviously soon settle down to domestic bliss and art would become a nice hobby. That didn't happen; Jeannie went on the become a very successful children's book illustrator. For me, being male, the plan was a more secure conventional path, after all I would one day become a bread winner. Although it was the 1960s, enlightenment in terms of male/ female roles, in reality, was still some years away. After taking Physics, Chemistry , Zoology and Art 'A levels I went on to read Zoology at Hull University. Although I loved science, after one year at Hull I knew that my heart was

not in it - I was beginning to struggle. I would steal revision time and use it for drawing fantasy landscapes inhabited by dragons and elves. I was very influenced by the lyrics and melodies by Marc Bolan of the duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. One of my main influences was the cover of their first album, a montage painted by George Underwood. This in turn was heavily influenced by Gustave Dore. I would become totally immersed in this fantasy world. After a year at Hull, with the remains of my grant [£35.00] I took the cross channel ferry and hitch-hiked through Europe, with no real plan of where I was going. My route depended on the destinations of the vehicles that stopped for me. On such a limited budget, it was tough going. I slept rough and was forever hungry [my budget for food was 10p per day about £1.00 in todays money]. I carried as little as possible, a change of cloths, toothbrush, water bottle, a sheet of plastic and a map torn from a school atlas. I was determined to suffer. After several weeks, things began to go wrong, and I found myself hospitalized with Dysentery in Afghanistan, where I used up the last of my budget. With no money for a visa, I illegally crossed the Afghan/Iran border and a couple of weeks later was smuggled out the other side by a sympathetic lorry driver. In Turkey, I spent a night in a prison cell in Trabzon near the Soviet border. I jumped board a ship on the Black sea, sleeping in one of the lifeboats at night and drawing portraits to earn money by day. It was a life changing experience. Three months later I was home again feeling exhilarated and determined to pursue a life as an artist. Someone once said to me that you are an artist not because you want to be an artist, but because you have to be. I thought it pretentious at the time,

but there is a truth in it. If you feel that drive, then life can be quite miserable without the outlet. I enrolled at Croydon art school, where I was suddenly amongst some quite bizarre, but like-minded people. It opened my eyes to a world that I knew nothing about. I felt I had come home. I was quite split, I had a real interest in conceptual art as well as a love for illustration. The following year I took the sensible route- a degree in illustration at Brighton Art School tutored by Raymond Briggs, where I gained a first class Hon’s in Illustration.  Since then I have worked as a freelance illustrator, writing and illustrating over forty children’s books, receiving awards for eleven of them, including such obscure ones as ‘Best Bug Book’ for illustrating Joni Mitchel’s ‘Both sides now” [ Y.E.S. award of excellence 1992 USA], plus two IRA/CBC Children’s choice awards [USA. - White Rabbit’s color book and Grey Rabbit’s Odd One Out].I have illustrated books for Michael Rosen [ Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes -{ No 1 best seller– 1985}. I also illustrated Philippa Pearce's [The battle of Bubble and Squeak- Whitbread award winner in 1979} and Louis de Bernieres [ Red Dog {-V&A Illustration award nomination in 2002}. For Freelance illustration, in 1984, I received the Benson and Hedges illustrators gold award, and also won the Gold creative circle award and Silver Campaign Press awards for advertising in 1990, and was the creative match Flair illustrator of the month in November 2004. I now live just outside the village of Telscombe in East Sussex on the south downs overlooking the sea. Over the years I have worked at various Art Schools, including Brighton University and Northbrook college, Worthing teaching Illustration. www.skillism.com

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BLUE DRAGON

Blue dragon- the main part of this image was produced for a paperback book cover. I later added a splattered background of bleach and paint to give the image more drama and movement. 4

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SEASIDE KINGFISHER

I love old fashioned English seaside environments . I wanted to do something retro. The kingfisher was the focus. I wanted to suggest a scene viewed through a telescope. Kingfishers are magical, and with all of that colour, not very English. www.skillism.com

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PUMA

From ' Look who lives in the desert'. From a series of a book where I produced one large painting. Each page was made up of a section of that painting, and each page focused on a particular animal. 6

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HARE

From my book Two Tiny Mice. The most recent edition had a section at the back to give the readers a little information about each of the animals. Each animal had the honor of having it's portrait depicted by way of introduction. 7

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POLAR ICE CAPS

The world is shrinking, the ice caps are melting, the rain forests are being cut down and there is nowhere left for the polar bear. 8

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MOON MICE

Even the mice are apprehensive and inquisitive when the sun emerges from an eclipse and the world is bathed in that eery light. www.skillism.com

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BLUE AARDVARK

As a child, I was always very frightened of dead trees. I use them in my work to invoke mystery and unease. I am a great fan of Frank Bestall's Rupert book illustrations. I stole the grey blue colour from his magical night time scenes. 10

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BLUE DRAGONS

The end papers of my proposed bestiary that never was. A parade of various sized dragons announce the contents within.

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SCREAMER

These parasitic creatures have sucker-like feet or claws and move like caterpillars, using their teeth to grip, they then contract their bodies whilst at the same time releasing their suckers. They let out a high pitched scream when threatened. 12

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CAT

The cat was produced as a self promotional piece. It was originally to be seen rummaging in amongst a rubbish tip - it had just spotted a mouse. However, as an illustration it was 'too busy', so I stripped it right back to a flat green background. It became an urban cat caught in the headlights. www.skillism.com

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PAN

This was from a project where I was trying to create a bestiary which would include the usual mythical creatures plus a lot of my own invention. It was an ongoing project for a number of years, but it never really came to anything in terms of publication. I would loose myself in this strange world. 14

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STOAT

Another re-worked image from 'Two Tiny Mice'. Painting all that fur acts as a kind of therapy for me. I sit listening to Radio 4 plays, or if it's gardener's question time, I put on a CD and drift through the afternoon. www.skillism.com

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POLLUTION

There is a strange beauty in scenes of large industrial sites pouring poisonous smoke into the atmosphere at the end of a long day. 16

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ORPHEUS

Cerberus, the three headed dog, guarding the gates to Hades as Orpheus plays his lyre. From a children's book on myths and legends. www.skillism.com

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KIPLING

I was asked to choose one of the 'just so' stories to illustrate -The butterfly that stamped- not the best story, but the best imagery. They gave me the wrong page size, so in order to make it fit, I added the border strips. The mistake was a fortunate one. 18

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ALIEN LANDSCAPE

The monster came from a science fiction book cover that I was asked to illustrate. The landscape from a children's book about dinosaurs. The sky a large paint splatter when I was trying to be Jackson Pollock. The combination worked well. www.skillism.com

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TREE DRAGON

An illustration for a book called Dragons and Monsters. This was the cover illustration. Half way through the project the publisher that had commissioned it was swallowed up by a larger publisher. As I had a contract, the book still went ahead, but without any art direction. ... Heaven! 20

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LONDON 2042

this was my vision of the London of the future. The old historical buildings have been kept whilst new skyscrapers have been added. The community is policed by armed teenagers. Entered for the London transport poster competition. www.skillism.com

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MEDUSA

The brown stripes [enlarged wood grain] seem to follow the contours of her face. The green eyes give an other world quality. This is not the beautiful Medusa that we are used to. 22

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WITCH

An amalgam of fantasy images from a book cover and a poster. I like the complexity and the dark atmosphere of the piece. www.skillism.com

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WILD BIRDS

Wind birds cannot fly. The closest they ever come to flying, is by facing into the wind during a strong gale. Standing on each others heads gives them height and helps with the illusion. 24

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ICARUS

An isolated figure from a sheet music cover. I liked him cut to black and falling out of the frame. The original image had a aerial view of the minotaurs maze as a background and was too busy. www.skillism.com

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TOWER

Painted for a greetings card. I have always liked tall trees, mysterious houses and gardens. The design of the tower came from a house close to where I live. I drew it as a student with the intention of selling the illustration to the owners. I have since incorporated towers of a similar design into my own house. 26

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INSECT SPECIMENS

This was produced as a promotional piece using existing artwork that I had produced for a national newspapers free poster handout. Those victorian cabinets found in museums that have draws that slide out to reveal specimens, have always fascinated me. www.skillism.com

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GREY SQUIRREL

On this image, I used a very limited palate, mainly green and brown. The flat green background makes it work. Anything else would have been one colour too many. I love squirrels. Living high on the south downs, we don't see many- everywhere you look there are rabbits. 28

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MOUSES CHRISTMAS

A page from one of my Children's books, 'Mouses Christmas'. Mouse searches for Owl, who lives in a gnarled old tree. Mouse feels that he needs to remind owl that it's Christmas day. Poor mouse is feeling forgotten. Of course it ends happily. www.skillism.com

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SPIRAL BUG

These quadrupedal insects have a double helix shell and are able to rest and balance on a pseudo fifth leg. They have evolved a sort of builders boot for wear and tear. 30

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BANNED MAMMALS

A joke on one of a series of newspaper posters that I produced called 'Land Mammals of Britain'. With modern day genetic manipulation and modification, this is where we might be heading. They probably would be banned. www.skillism.com

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FOX WREATH

Christmas is quite a tricky season to illustrate without being cliche, but then if you ignore the cliches it is not really Christmas. By putting the fox as the focus I was able to move a short distance from the usual pedestrian Christmas illustrations. 32

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AUTUMN MICE

From my book 'Two Tiny Mice Explore' the further adventures of two mice coming across the animals that they had failed to meet in the first book. Once again, all ends happily and no one gets eaten. www.skillism.com

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DRAGON AND CITY

This was produced for an illustrated book on Myths and Monsters from around the world. This city has been ravaged and burnt by a fierce fire breathing dragon. 34

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PHOENIX

The mythical bird that rose from the ashes. As with most of my work it is done using mixed media - watercolour, airbrush, crayon, bleach, Photoshop and pen and ink. www.skillism.com

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OCTOBER

I was once commissioned to produce an illustration for autumn. I was given a free hand - no art direction! I decided on the autumn of our lives. Time is running out, the end is in sight whilst all around us the world appears to be dying. 36

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FIGHTING DRAGONS

From 'The story of king Arthur' where the red and white dragons battle it out. This was never quite right in the original book illustration. I re-worked it, adding the circular flower border which gave it added dynamics. I also simplified the colour. www.skillism.com

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SNAKE MONSTER

Snake monster could swallow blue whales and galleons in one gulp. I liked the idea of a flower frame, giving it a victorian feel, as if it were from an old fashioned book plate. Only really two colours here. 38

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RAM

The original painting of the ram was produced in the 1970s and was commissioned for a calendar on Farm animals. It was to replace the un-pc 'girly calendars' that could be seen in most garages across the country. You can imagine the macho outrage when that years calendar arrived through the post. www.skillism.com

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ANIMAL MONTAGE

This montage was produced as a promotional piece soon after my first agent went into liquidation. Work was scarce and I needed to start to generate something. If you just draw a mouse, you become the man who can draw mice. Hence the number of animals and plants. 40

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PINE MARTEN

Part of the ‘new man’ calendar set for car repair garages. The pine martin was later re-worked for one of my children’s books called ‘Two Tiny Mice’. A story about two mice encountering various wildlife. After a minor threat from a Tawny Owl it all ends happily. www.skillism.com

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RABBITS IN PAINT POTS

A series of images from 'White Rabbits colour book', in which white rabbit jumps in and out of various paint pots turning every colour you can imagine. It is a teaching book as well as a fun story. I liked the simplicity of the images. I won't spoil the ending by telling you what colour he ended up as. 42

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FANTASY WORLD

This is an amalgamation of several illustrations. The main part was done for Mayfair mens magazine - an article on aphrodisiacs. I combined that image with a book jacket illustration. Neither really worked on their own, but work well together. www.skillism.com

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Alan Baker