Thursday, 12 April 2012

Painters! ... Look Away Now! :0))

In an earlier post I explained how, in 1983, I was given a large commission to design in Pen & Ink, three sets of aircraft drawings and one of vintage cars. The drawings were then (industrially mass produced) etched onto metal plates and framed  by the company who were then going to retail copies across the country.


The Company who had commissioned me, displayed my work in the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK, where they were approached by a Northern Irish company who asked who their artist was. They explained I was freelance. In due course the NI company contacted me concerning a commission.


 Pat went to discuss the commission with them (no good being married to an actress and not using her skills), as I was designing philatelic stuff in a London Museum (see earlier post).


I should explain at this stage that I was no famous artist who could live off the sales of originals, rather I was/am a jobbing artist who lived off the margins. I opted for 1000 copies sold at £5 profit each, rather than one original at £1000 - like everything else I do, I discovered all this by accident, and in hindsight! Further, at that time I would take any work offered - we had to live!


When I got home Pat explained that she had won the commission! 25 + designs at a price that made me sit down and have a stiff drink.
'We've really fallen on our feet," I declared punching the air.
'There is one problem though.'
'What?'
'You're only allowed to use five colours!'
'Colours ... but I don't do colours ...I'm strictly mono!' 
It was true I had never painted in my life.
'At these fees ... you're going to have to learn to paint quickly.'


I don't know if Tea Towels are international - however, a tea towel is a rectangle of linen, approximately 24" x 18". It was designed to dry cups and saucers, but over time it became an object of memorabilia - a souvenir of places visited, collectable ... alas, rather down market artistically. I had to design 25, for different locations in the UK. They were to be manufactured in their 1000s. 


Pat went to an art suppliers where she acted the part of a mum who was supposed to buy a whole lot of stuff for her son. "He's got a school project to design tea towels, but I've lost the list of what materials he needs."
The old gentleman said, "Leave it all to me madam." And so Pat left the shop laden with 'poster' paints, brushes, boards etc.


I started by drawing in pen and ink, and filling in the spaces with poster paints! The first one was, London



I followed that with one of Royal Homes:



and so on and so on. Finally I was finished the 25 +.... but the Duke of Wellington's Estate asked me to do one for them




But it didn't stop there - the Red Arrows - the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team commissioned me for one.


Then one from the USA, for the Confederate Air Force !!!(http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/b17/confederateairforce.html)


There were others ... but ... I have never painted since!!



22 comments:

  1. Beautiful drawings John. Poster paint worked out more than fine. I always appreciated the details of these renderings. I did perspectives of interiors as part of my architectural spacial design presentation. I'm done with that uptight work. Now I want to loosen up and celebrate spontaneity. I know when you look back at this work, you must feel like I do--did I do that? Wow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linda ... I know what YOU mean by uptight work/loosening up ... but I don't feel uptight by my drawing technique. In fact as a relaxation I draw old world sailing ships to scale ... it's almost like building them, but they are far more demanding than my normal drawings.

      PS I'm a Virgo!! Perhaps that explains it :0))

      Delete
  2. I love the story, John. Wow, did you learn colour application in a hurry! And the souvenir tea towels are wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kathryn - glad you liked them

      Delete
  3. wow, what a fantastic story - it sounds like things really took off (no pun intended) from you aircraft work. You certainly picked up the skill of a painter pretty quickly. These tea towels are amazing - your attention to detail is amazing - and I'm sure I've seen these in souvenir shops in London at some point in my life! I love hearing how you came by all your commissions and as my blog post today is about the tricky businss of pricing, this is perfectly apt for me too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I shall nip over and visit your blog later, Nicola. I agree pricing is always the hardest part of any 'commercial' venture. The London tea towels were reprinted a number of times - so you may well have seen one (all made in your neck of the Woods NI). The two Cornish ones and York were also very popular - sadly no royalties on commissions

      Delete
  4. Hmm... John, I am sure I recognise the first two tea-towels! I wonder if I have seen them before in a shop? So, since you have such a way with colour, why have you not painted since? You are clearly very good at it :0)
    It's funny, I was just about to suggest visiting Pointy-Pix to see if you could advise her on pricing, since I have just read her own post - but then I realised she has commented above! So she has also seen the towels! I am guessing they must still be on sale then in that case! Your stories never fail to fascinate me. What an interesting life you have led! :0)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reason I don't use colour, is because that would be arty, and I'm not really an artist ... somewhere between art and artisan. I would never find time to learn to paint - I start at 6-30 am and finish at midnight because I have so many interesting things to do - I never stop!
      The first two tea towels were very popular and ran for years - so you may well have seen them.
      Going to spend time with your long post this evening - keep smiling!

      Delete
  5. I'm so impressed with this wonderful post and these tea towels are SO BEAUTIFUL!. With all the details you put into it, I'll have to come back later to see it again.! You are one talented man!!! Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You really are too kind to me, Hilda. Compared to your artwork and that of all these really clever and gifted artists around here, I feel a bit like a tradesman! I was a little reluctant to put up the tea towels.
    Have a nice weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow - I am so impressed! The tea towels are not only well done but show so much creativity and originality. What a fantastic project.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It was the strangest course of events, which my granddaughter (the writer) has chronicled for the family archive :0)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Your life certainly has been interesting, John! Tea towels, he. I think I recognize the London one too. They are very creative and the colour work is great!

    ReplyDelete
  10. The London one was very popular, Judy, and ran and ran ...alas a one off fee and no royalties.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Holla John,
    very beautiful posts!
    Congratulations

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ciao John.
    nei tuoi lavori si mescolano tante anime; architetto, disegnatore, pittore, progettatore, costruttore...
    Chi ti ha commissionato i vari lavori ha visto tutto questo ed ha avuto ragione! Un'esperienza come la tua è davvero esaltante!
    Ciao, ciao, Floriana

    ReplyDelete
  13. We have a saying, 'Jack-of-all-trades and Master of None' :0)) That's me (Hope that translates, Floriana.)

    I Loved your picture of those trees in winter.

    Ciao.

    ReplyDelete
  14. John these are absolutely stunning. I cannot believe that you have never painted since...that's a shame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never have time to learn; I get up earlier and earlier and go to bed later and later and still don't have time to fit everything into my playpen!

      Delete
  15. These are fantastic! I know I have seen the one from London. I love how colorful and complex they are. Just wonderful draftmanship! The splashy color and the fact they were printed on fabric makes them extra-appealing. They had to be so much work, no wonder you didn't do more..I bet these just about killed you! LOL! I can imagine the pressure involved, the deadlines, etc. wow.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks, Celeste. The London one was so popular because I 'revolutionized'the design of tea towels. Until then they had been cartoony and amateur. From these 25 designs onwards, others copied that layout. (Imitation the most sincere form of flattery?). You got it exactly right - the deadlines!!

    ReplyDelete