I won the V&A prize on 16 May- scooping the best Editorial category and the overall winner- the Moira Gemmill Award for Illustrator of the Year 2017. The trophy- bookends inscribed with the museum's logo are carved into a wooden cube.
The V&A (Victoria & Albert) is- according to its website- 'the world’s leading museum of art and design' and its annual illustration prize is 'UK's most prestigious annual illustration competition'.
My thanks to all involved- particularly the judges, trustees and the staff of the V&A and all at the Telegraph.
Here's a little more information about the process behind the artwork...
I have worked on the Sunday Telegraph’s weekly Money section cover for a number of years, originally being commissioned by the Telegraph’s Head of Design Jon Hill, whom I had worked with on a number of magazine re-designs early in my freelance career. Typically I will receive a precis of the headline article on Thursday evening from the section editors, Richard Dyson and Richard Evans. Both are usually busy putting the finishing touches to the Saturday paper edition at this time. I usually submit a number of roughs and, once approval is given, work up the chosen illustration for delivery by email in digital form within the space of a few hours. Sometimes I work things up before getting a green light- testament to how much I still enjoy the assignments and how much confidence I have that the editors trust my instincts. The absolute deadline for the artwork to be ‘off stone’- with the printers- is Friday afternoon although it’s rare for the assignment to spill over into Friday. I have an excellent working relationship with Richards Dyson and Evans and they tend to have faith in my ability to provide reasonably original visual metaphors for topical financial issues. The problem-solving aspect of editorial illustration, providing apt solutions to sometimes unpromising subjects is something that I still enjoy. Having been briefed over the telephone about the subject for this assignment on Thursday 10 November- in this instance the potentially dramatic ramifications of Trump’s election victory the previous day on financial markets- I set about producing a number of roughs on the concept of markets bracing themselves for impact. My two roughs explored the theme of shockwaves, employing an oblique likeness of Donald Trump. The roughs- heavily pixellated scans of back-of-an-envelope scribbles- were sent by email at around 5.30 with the annotations ‘1: Trump’s hair as Hokusai’s wave looming over a small boat, 2: shock waves radiating across the Atlantic, eastern seaboard of the US resembles Trump’s profile’. The reply from Richard Dyson at 6pm indicated that they liked both. He went on to say that it was hard to envisage exactly the tone / appropriateness of the first, although it was the one that he I preferred, signing off with the caveat that they didn’t want the illustration to be too lighthearted or trivialising. I began working up both of the pictures in parallel in Photoshop to see which I preferred. Inevitably the Hokusai pastiche won out: the frozen moment of anticipation built in to its instantly recognisable composition with the wry reference to Donald Trump’s equally recognisable hairstyle providing a visual solution that was sophisticated, not too obvious, and, despite the wave metaphor, avoided partisan editorialising. I built the image in Photoshop from my original sketch, resizing the scamp to the print proportions (169mm x 199mm- figures that are etched on my brain). I draw using a Wacom graphics tablet and apply colour in layers digitally, selectively employing line work to anchor certain pictorial elements without allowing the image to become dominated by the line and become too cartoonish. Texture comes from scanned, acrylic-painted sheets that I piece together within the Photoshop file. The final image was sent digitally at around 8.30pm. I was told that the image had been well received at the paper and, whilst I intend all the images I produce to be conceptually astute and aesthetically appealing, I knew that this was a rather special set of circumstances and that the illustration worked particularly well.
Having plumped for the wave I began working over the low res rough in Photoshop
...further blocking in colour...
...applying (and selectively removing) the linework
The V&A Museum have just announced their shortlist for the 2017 Illustration Award; I am in the running in the Editorial category for my Trump Tsunami image. I get to hear if I won at a glitzy gala on May 16 with category winners in contention for an overall award. I hope to drink my volume in fizz whatever the result (much as I did schnoring on Harper Collins's dime at the V&A a few years back). Press release here.
Here's a picture of the trophies up for grabs. No idea of scale. Not tea chest size, one hopes
Since Drawger is an illustration blog, I am hoping to post some more about illustration soon. In the meantime here’s a coda to my Landscape Artist of the Year 2016 win - my first solo painting show at Petworth House in West Sussex started on 25 March and runs until 21 May. If you happen to be in England during this time do call in. That makes it sound like I'm permanently on hand. I'm not. It’s a beautiful location, a favourite of Turner's. There's a mansion housing a huge collection of old masters, with rambling deer parks and formal gardens. And there are my paintings, of course. A cross section of my work from the last five or so years- all presented beautifully. There’s a catalogue on my website (prices of works still available on request, hustle, hustle).
I’m aiming to keep the momentum going with shows scheduled in Henley-on-Thames, Shropshire, London,and Cumbria over the year.
It's been a curious year for all of us. I've had the distraction of taking part in a tv show. Painting landscape. The show, Landscape Artist of the Year 2016, (on Sky Arts in the UK and to be shown at some point in 2017 in the US and Australia) pits seven artists against each other over four hours to paint a particular view. Winners from these six heats plus one Wildcard made it through to the semi-final. From there three progressed into the final and did an additional commission piece in the meantime. This piece along with the final four hour piece was used in judging the winner. And that, friends, was me.
From not exhibiting my work in any meaningful way over the last four years of painting to taking part in a series of timed, judged, competitive challenges, all the time being filmed for tv, was perhaps a little perverse. Particularly as conventional landscapes and painting en plein air simply haven't been part of my practice.
Right now I'm still reeling at the affirmation of the award (and from having to watch myself on telly). Taking part in the show has led to an abiding love for painting landscape, though perhaps not up against the clock or with a tv crew charting my every brushstroke. I've met some lovely, talented people along the way (not least amongst the production staff).
As a condition of winning I undertook a commission for the National Trust of the magnificaent Petworth House, home to a wonderful collection of art (including pieces by Turner, Gainsborough, Bosch, Claude, and Titian). I've been offered an exhibition of my work to take place from March 25 2017 at Petworth itself.
Do have a look at my paintings over at richard-allen.com
A recent piece for the Telegraph newspaper's Money Section cover on- what else?- recent events and their potential financial impact here in the UK plus a handful of other recent editorial illos...
For the Wall Street Journal on making a leap of faith- I think (?) (AD Pete Hausler)
Telgraph Money Cover- Tech stocks' growth potential
WSJ- accepting that one is no longer cool (AD Orlie Kraus)
Telegraph- parched financial forecasts
Telegraph- knock on effects of sterling's fall
Reader's Digest Deutsche- Nobel Prize quiz (AD Markus Ward)