Well hello ladies, gentleman and others that are either in between or both (no not Nicole Kidman surely...),
As you’re all aware the London 2012 Olympics arrived and the atmosphere in the big smoke was absolutely electric! If you had listened to the news and media (neither of which I give the light of day) for the last 2 years, this was going to be the biggest embarrassment this country had seen since Peter Crouch put on an England shirt!
It seems for once this ‘Great’ Britain of ours dropped the over the top negativity that has seeped into every pore of society for the last 20 years (apart from the financial world who have been having a ball at our expense until recently). But even they have been put through the mill in recent times... well that’s if being put through the mill is a Senior PwC partner’s wife writing a blog about having to let go of the nanny!
This is GREAT Britain and I’m loved every minute of the Olympics! The opening ceremony was amazing and exceeded all expectations. Ok… rant over…. actually one more thing … BORIS for Prime Minister!!!!! Now back to the main programme.
The Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival came round again in August and it is one of the most amazing experiences you can ever have. You can pretty well immerse yourself in 24 hours of comedy non-stop for a month; supplementing sleep for copious amounts of alcohol, deep-fried mars bars and pizza. I was lucky enough to be introduced by my very talented friends SHIRLEY & SHIRLEY who are doing there 4th year this year (see a link to their site opposite and go and see them as they are sweet as a nut in a bag of sweet nuts and my Cantona shirt from the 1992 season makes an appearance! Not to be missed).
I have made my way up to the Fringe, imposing myself on the Shirley’s, for the last 3 years and I have had some very memorable moments… nothing can beat randomly ending up on the razzle with Hunter the Gladiator, him trying to set you up with his co-star Abi Titmus! He wasn’t able to find her, got smashed and then he was thrown out of the bar = AWESOME night!
It was through these visits that my latest commission came about (yes.. your deductions are correct Sherlock… I have only just managed to get to the point of this blog post!). During my time in Edinburgh I am lucky enough to meet and be surrounded by people doing what they love every day for an entire month – working hard every day to fill their venues and perform day in day out and party like beeeaaatches every night. I was and still am in awe as the buzz is better than any drug ….. a friend told me about the comparison obviously!
In 2009 and 2010 ‘Comedy Bitch’ went up to Edinburgh festival. With their surreal mix of dark, yet oddly naturalistic humour they had some fantastic reviews and I was lucky enough to get to know all 6 of them. I was approached in early 2010 by the troop to put together some concept sketches for their 2010 show
Unfortunately, their management team vetoed the gang’s idea and went with a photographic montage (L…Hooooooo…Ssssss…Heeeeerrrrss).
This year though Mr Tom Cottle (one of the Comedy Bitch performers and writers) decided to go out on his own and take a little jaunt into the world of one-man shows. He created his own unique mix of oddball characters, with an array of human insecurities and was in need of a poster to convey this dark League of Gentleman-esk world.
The initial brief was indeed that, brief, as our interaction was through a few emails. Tom sent through some example imagery, something I always request, so I can start to understand the type of picture a client has in their head. It is my job throughout the project to continually draw out what the client has in their conscious and subconscious, as only then will I succeed (like a parrot without a beak) to exceed their expectations. He also sent through the working script for the show and the fact he would like some homage to Quentin Blake, Tim Burton and the poem from funny bones, ‘On a dark dark street, there was a dark dark house, in the dark dark house…’. Do any of you remember this children’s program?
The main character of Tom’s spectacular show was born with baby girls hands, has extremely long appendages (see images below), was disowned by his parents and went to live in a circus as a toddler tight ropewalker, had an affair with the ring masters wife, became an airline pilot, is now 82 wheel chair bound and lives in a block of flats below a family of blind glass blowers and to the right of 3 heads (that’s right just heads)…. It has similarities to a plot straight out of an East Enders Christmas special no?
At the time Tom approached me with the commission, I was just finishing Dante’s Inferno and there were some strong ecclesiastical symbolism from this classic text that I felt might work in the composition. Although in hindsight I may have made the classic error of trying to shoe horn current influences into a new project. You can see from the initial sketches below how I worked in hell and purgatory (as I presumed from the initial information that this was what the show might but subtly referencing), burning souls (yes a little to deep me thinks) and the journey to paradise (ah…that’s better).
Following our first meeting, I was able to gain a clearer understanding of what Tom was looking for. He took me through the play in more detail and I imbibed the dark comedy vision he had and developed further concepts sketches:
a. Working with silhouettes’ to play with Mr Twist’s body position;
b. Bringing in the elements that will have been described above (e.g. baby girls hands and the wheel chair);
c. Developing my idea of the twisted sperm as a subtle reference to his twisted birth/past and how the hill he is positioned on could be the egg;
During our second face-to-face meeting we discussed the draft concepts in more detail and on reflection we felt they were to close to a Tim Burton moive poster. This was mainly due to the twisted tree on the left of the poster but also the main character himself (Mr Michael Twist) resembling the characters body from ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’. Although we wanted to keep some reference to this style, so further thought development and greenhousing was carried out (no negative closing of ideas were allowed) and we were able to shape and mould the concept over some Sunday Guinness’s in a bar opposite Mornington Crescent tube station.
The circus big top was an element Tom felt we needed to bring out and I was intrigued to use the toddler tight ropewalker to lead the eye to the central characters face. The composition was now coming together; I felt all the elements were in place e.g. they all framed the specific focal points and ultimately led/drew the viewer subtly to the centre of the poster. For example the twisted swirl of the moon/sperm, the smoke and tail, the twisted path to the two supporting characters in the show played by Dan Lee and Marny Godden (bottom left and bottom right of the composition). With the top signage also reflecting the colour of the Underbelly banner, something I wanted to do to balance up the composition as I haven’t seen this on other posters over the years in Edinburgh (perhaps for good graphical and illustration reasons but I am a rebel!!).
Now this is where the course of the project took an unexpected detour outside of my comfort zone! While discussing the commission with my friend and Mr Miyagi of the animation world, Mr Andrew ‘I will demonstrate how to deep fry a Mars bar on youtube’ Morgan. He encouraged me to use the Wacom Cintiq graphics pad I had bought 10 months previously and had only used to-date for touching up the images for my ‘Growth’ photography project.
The transition from the comfort of my pencil, ink, paper, and acrylic to a completely digital media was not easy. I had to absorb skills and tricks like a sponge as Andy kindly did some initial demonstrations. Luckily I am reasonable up to speed on Photoshop and although I hadn’t used it extensively since the Growth project, I was able to pick it up quickly. Once I was able to grasp the under drawing elements needed in order to build up the illustration I was hooked. Unlike completing the illustration on paper you are able to correct elements easily and experiment with colour schemes and positions throughout.
Due to the somewhat high expectations of myself in everything I do, this was a steep learning curve, as I wanted the final piece to stand out in Edinburgh. After many late nights, incorrectly saved files, lost layers, lost scruples and many journeys from A to D to C to Z to eventually get to B, I had a final composition I was reasonable pleased with.
Although the project was not yet complete as there were still a few final additions that needed to be made. I made some final colour amendments and we also had to build in the Comedy Bitch ratings, as well as produce a back for the show flyer. During the Sunday Lunch and Guinness meeting mentioned earlier, we hit on the idea of using the flyer as an invitation to the party Mr Michael Twist was hosting every night throughout the Fringe. I felt this would allow Tom and his fellow flyerers to add something more personal to the street interactions (writing the individuals names on the invitation etc) that would hopefully improve the attendance to flyering rate. We also had to include some information about the show and more quotes from the Comedy Bitch shows.
Following a few minor technical issues in getting the final images to the printers, the posters and flyers arrived in Edinburgh in good time. I made my planned pilgrimage to my beloved Fringe on the 16 August! Mr Cottle himself kindly allowed me to crash on his sofa, for which I am very grateful. I can only apologise for the smell of vodka redbulls and half eaten chicken kebabs. My 2012 adventure was too short, 3 nights just isn't enough to see all my friends shows, party it up in the Loft Bar/Abbatoir/Brooke's bar, see the 'Peat Bog Faeries' Live (see video below), etc, etc..... that said it goes down in the Edge history files, as yet another amazing comedy extravaganza !!
I was very proud to see the poster on the wall in the Underbelly and around the rest of the fringe (as can be seen from the cheesy grin-ster above), I was caught trying to post them all over Edinburgh castle and Arthur’s Seat! My argument of ... 'I still think it belongs to the English' ... didn't go down to well ha-ha. The local fast food outlets also refused to hide them inside their deep fried mars bars/pizzas/chips/sausages/lettuce (you name it it gets fried up there!) like a Wonka golden ticket and the locals would not carry them around in their sporrans!! My gorilla marketing needs some work :
If you made it this far I hope you enjoyed reading about my latest commission. This was one of most rewarding and enjoyable commissions to-date, I look forward to many more in the future. I have opened up the blog for comments so any feedback gratefully received.
… KIRK OUT ……
PS – Check out the Shirley and Shirley’s link to the right of this article and one of their many great reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe ! Four stars baby !!! http://sgfringe.com/2012/08/07/shirley-and-shirley-unleashed/
The cathartic musings of a CRE8IV mind, living at the EDGE of chaos.