The best design work, especially with regards to logo design, is the stuff that is simple.

It communicates what it needs to without clutter; it’s memorable; it shrinks down well. A simple logo is basically vital for today’s cross-platform and cross-social media environment.

That said, creating simple work can be deceptively tricky when fighting the urge to ‘add more’, and it also sometimes requires a degree of experience and confidence to get your client onboard in understanding the value of keeping things simple.

Anyway, I came across a video by designer Aaron Draplin who is not only great at talking about why simplicity is key but also takes you through some of his iterative process of trying out lots of different ideas along the same theme. It’s a great example of how trying out one thing will suddenly lead onto another version, and another version, and another… and before you know it, it’s like you’ve sculpted your final logo out of lots of other abandoned ideas. He’s really enthusiastic about design and I think this sells the process to clients as well as designers.

This iterative process, right down from the crappy initial paper-and-pencil sketches is almost exactly how I approach logo design myself, so it was honestly a joy to watch someone working the same way.

Whether you’re a client or a designer, I hope you enjoy it.

Four Mountain Challenge

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Scafell, England’s highest mountain – photo by me

This year the wife and I decided to set ourselves a bit of a goal.

As most of our friends already know, we enjoy a bit of fell running – i.e. racing up and down hills and mountains. While it can be quite hard at times, it’s also a lot of fun and there is usually loads of cake at the end.

It’s also improved my geography no end. By visiting various wild places in the UK, it’s amazing how you get a feel for how each place differs; the feel of the ground, the rocks, and even the colours and smells of that particular landscape give it it’s own individual character.

Obviously, there are the well known landmarks of the UK – the highest peaks: Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Scafell, and the slightly lesser known Donard in Northern Ireland. They’re each quite amazing places in their own way and draw in thousands of visitors year round.

As you would expect, there are also officially organised mountain races for each peak, where a few hundred competitors of all ages race to the top and back down.

Since we got into this fell running lark, there’s always been an assumption between Rach and I that these were races we’d get round to ‘at some point’. No need to rush. That said… earlier in the year an idea took form and crystallised:

Let’s run them – each of them – this year.

And let’s do the Yorkshire Three Peaks as well.”

Why not? Sounds like a good adventure!

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The Mourne Wall running over Slieve Donard – Photo by Philip Milne

 

HOW I STRUGGLE WITH THE IDEA OF RUNNING FOR CHARITY

 

Now for the charity bit. Oh god, not another one, I hear you groan. Just bear with me…

Some people are really good at publicising challenges and using them to leverage raising money for great causes. They can talk eloquently and effortlessly in a way that comes across as humble and inspiring rather than conceited and, at worse, patronising.

For me, honestly, I find that side of things tricky. While many of the races I’ve done help to raise money for the needs of the specific communities that host the race, I’ve never actually attempted to raise money for a specific charity. Not once.

I don’t run for charity, I run because I enjoy it. And because I enjoy it, it doesn’t quite seem like an appropriate thing to ask people to dig into their pockets for.

Most of my friends know, I do these daft races all the time. Rach and I are always off away in the hills. Why would I ask for money for something I do most weekends anyway – it would be like asking to be sponsored for going down the pub on a Friday night.

But, I’m a bit of a cynical, curmudgeonly man at times. I know this. And while I might not be able to raise money for chaaaridee with a straight face, I can at least try to do something positive; pass on something from my experiences to others which might ripple on to do some wider good.

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Snowdon – photo by Jimmedia

THE MOUNTAINS

 

Indulge me while I describe what we’ve done (are doing), and then I’ll finish off with something I hope people will feel like getting involved in.

Tomorrow Rachel and I are running the Scafell Pike fell race – Scafell Pike is up in the Lake District and it’s the highest mountain in England. It’s also the last of the four major UK peaks which we’ll have run.

That’s right, we’ve already done the others. No mucking about. Just to summarise:

  • Slieve Donard (2,785 ft) – Highest mountain in N.I. – Race took place in March.
  • Snowdon (3,560 ft) – Highest in Wales – Race was in July.
  • Ben Nevis (4,409 ft) – Highest in Scotland and whole of UK – Start of September.
  • Scafell Pike (3,209 ft) – Highest in England – race is 20/09/14 (tomorrow!)

Oh and the Yorkshire Three Peaks Race comprised:

  • Pen-y-ghent (2,277 ft), Whernside (2,415 ft), and Ingleborough (2,372 ft) – although the total climb over the 23 mile race route is 5276 ft. This was back in April.

I won’t bore you with the details of each race. They were amazing experiences but obviously still tough in their own ways. Especially Ben Nevis, where I managed to fall over about a mile from the finish line… All the rocks up there are sharp buggers. Along with bruised ribs, I really gave my left thigh muscles a good smashing in. Barely able to walk for a few days and I am still sore now…

So, if I am grimacing when I run up Scafell tomorrow, it’s because part of me is still trying to conquer Ben Nevis…!

Anyway. I said I wouldn’t bore you.

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Ben Nevis – Photo by Bart van Dorp

 

THE GOOD STUFF

 

Rach and I have bought a nice bottle of wine to celebrate completing our own challenge, something that we set out to do together, as husband and wife (not to mention along with many of our wonderful running friends). I won’t lie: It has been great fun.

However, to personally mark the end of the challenge I also decided to do something charitable: to represent each of the 4 Highest UK peaks, I have donated a modest amount to four different charities. Not much at all but something.

I liked the idea of it being 4 and it prompted me to want to share an idea. Nominating people for charity challenges was all the rage recently, so here goes:

I nominate you – each of you – to do four good deeds in the near future.

You don’t have to give money to a charity if you can’t afford to do so, you could do something else instead. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so you’ll know best. The only thing is, it has to be something you’d go out of your way to do. On some level, small or large: a challenge.

Four things. One good deed for each of the mountains I dragged my scrawny, tired legs up and down (and which my wife gracefully ran).

There is no page to record your deeds. Nothing to sign up to. You don’t need to share them with anyone, and I don’t want you to tell me about it. There is no hashtag.

Just do them, mentally tick them off, and then have a nice cup of tea or coffee or even a beer to personally celebrate.

You might already do good deeds all the time. In which case this will be really easy for you (and also, sincerely, good on you).

That’s it.

I wish I could write more eloquently – and could succinctly add something inspiring about life being short, the value of challenging yourself, the importance of wild places, some rubbish about getting fit, secrets of peace and harmony, and all that jazz.

But honestly, I just like running about on hills, so that’s all I got.

I would really be chuffed if it was enough to inspire some genuine good.

Four things. Off you go.

Sincere thanks for reading.

-G.

INK & PAPER BRISTOL – May 16-17

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Bristolians! There will be a positively grand exhibition happening in your city THIS WEEKEND, organised by the UKPA, and hosted by the warm and wonderful folk of Jacknife Studio.

It features work by some of the best gigposter and print artists in the UK today (and a rather special US guest artist) – and even some of my own work to boot. If you were present at the first Ink & Paper exhibition, which was hugely successful, then you’ll know the sort of quality to expect. If you’re around the Bristol area, definitely try and make the trip and enjoy some of the fine hospitality of the Jacknife guys and gals.

See the Facebook event page here.

Giclée Prints Now Available!

I’ve been overwhelmed with the kind words about my ‘Work Hard & Be Humble‘ screenprint. I’ve also had quite a few inquiries as to whether I have smaller versions of the design, as the original is a fairly large print at A2 size.

I am now happy to announce I have a few Giclée prints of this design. These are printed on 255gsm Somerset Velvet Enhanced lightly textured paper to a Fine Art Trade Guide approved standard, and at A4 size they’re easier to frame and a little more affordable for those on a budget.

Obviously this doesn’t quite have the unique, hand-crafted aspect of a screenprint – and it’s actually taken me a while to find a fine art printer able to produce the quality I wanted  – but it’s a different item and as such I think these came out beautifully.

They are priced at a very reasonable £15+postage and are available on my Etsy shop now.

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Fantastic Mr Fox – 2nd Edition

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Very happy to announce that a second edition of my Fantastic Mr Fox print is now available. This is an edition of 60 in a new set of colours, hand printed on 260gsm Context paper, which is a high-quality recycled paper with a really nice natural colour and fiber to it.  They are £50 + postage and are available on my shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ArmyOfCatsPrints

Work Hard & Be Humble

I’m very pleased to be able to show my latest print, entitled ‘Work Hard & Be Humble’.

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This is an A2 sized, 3 colour hand-printed screenprint, in an edition of 45.  I’ll write a little more about the idea behind the print and share some of the process when this goes live on the shop on Monday.

Laynes Espresso – Leeds Coffee Shop

 

Fans of great coffee may be pleased to know that a small selection of my framed prints are now on the walls of Laynes Espresso, in Leeds. It’s run by some great guys and gals, who really know their stuff, and they serve the best coffee you will find in Leeds — if you’ve not paid them a visit before, they are very close to the train station – have a look at their site for the address which you can no doubt convert into an interweb-magic-map.  www.laynesespresso.co.uk

The prints themselves are all for sale at very reasonable, ready-framed prices. Interested parties should simply get in touch with me and swift arrangements can be made. Cheers!

Fantastic Mr Fox – sold out

Both versions of my Fantastic Mr Fox print are now officially* sold out.  A huge thank you to everyone who picked up a print either from myself or from Galerie F in Chicago, or from Outre Gallery in Australia, as well as for the very kind words – it’s genuinely appreciated.

People have been asking if there will be a second edition of this print. I generally don’t like to do this but in this instance there has been so much interest I am considering a small extra run. If printed, the 2nd edition design will differ slightly in some way to the 1st edition.

* I may have a couple of each print remaining in my archives. If so these will go up on the shop at a random day and time on a first-come-first-served basis! Sorry I can’t reserve anything or do special, secret deals – I have to try to be as fair as possible!

Thanks so much once again for the support.

Stay Fantastic!

Fantastic Mr Fox prints go onsale today!

Friends! Just to let you know my remaining Fantastic Mr Fox prints will be going onsale in my shop at 1pm GMT today*:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ArmyOfCatsPrints

I have been both humbled and overjoyed at the amount of interest in these prints. As a piece of art, it’s something I’m very proud of and into which I invested a lot of thought and energy in order to try and capture the right mix of Roald Dahl magic, storytelling, and Englishness.

I’m really pleased that this seems to have resonated with so many folks. The prints completely sold out at the exhibition in Chicago and I expect the remaining prints to fly out also — I hope everyone who would like one for their wall can get one, and thanks once again for the very kind support.

* EDIT — this will be a limited number of prints initially, so I can re-stock the shop later in the evening when US and other far away dwelling friends can have a fair chance of picking up a print.

Fantastic Mr. Fox Print

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My Fantastic Mr. Fox print is done! This was one of those projects where I felt like I had to discard a lot of ideas and start down a lot of dead-end paths before ending up with the right idea in the end. It can sometimes be hard work but I’m really pleased with the final result so it was worth it.

Some thoughts on the decisions I took during the process: I knew I wanted the print to feature the famous tree which has graced the illustrations of both Donald Chaffin and Quentin Blake. Mr Fox under his tree is just one of those enduring images which rather beautifully crosses over from the book into the Wes Anderson film adaptation — it was also a real tree near where Dahl wrote his books, so I knew it had to feature prominantly in my illustration.

My initial composition sketches were just a bit too stiff and ‘designy’ – I really wanted to capture some of the looseness and painterly style of Quentin Blake’s fantastic watercolour work. I also came across a rather wonderful bit of writing by Dahl himself on what makes a good children’s book and I wanted this ethos to apply to my own illustration. Essentially, it had to bright, colourful and engaging.

I initially had the title text on there as part of the design itself but removed this as I wanted the image to be less like a poster and more like a page from a picture book. This approach also informed my decision to make these prints smaller than my usual A2 poster size – I’ve noticed people are drawn to smaller prints more frequently these days as they are easier to frame. At A3 size, I also feel like these are more ‘child friendly’ in order to be framed in a kids’ room.

This is an A3-sized, 4 colour screenprint; signed, numbered, and titled, and available in two variants: 40 in warm tones (as above) and 20 in a cooler colourway.

These will be available from Galerie F in Chicago when the exhibition launches on the 18th July, and also from my Etsy shop.

You can also see more sketches and process images on my Flickr set here.

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