Tuesday 10 May 2011

Following Rupert (Part 1)...

A small diversion from felting, and it's back to the day job...

Around this time of year I make a start on the artwork for the Followers of Rupert Annual get-together that takes place each summer. My pieces of artwork are used for all the printed matter for this weekend event - from T-shirts and badges, to programmes, menu cards, committee badges & lunch tickets. Here are some from previous years, click on the photos to enlarge…

I've already discussed ideas with Tony Griffin, the Annual organiser, and this year we're using one of Tony's favourite Alfred Bestall illustrations  "Rupert photographing The Chums" from the 1964 Annual. I've used it for the button badge design and now I'm drawing it up for the programme cover. I'm also using the 1964 cover as a starting point for the second piece of artwork.

I only draw Rupert once a year, and then just copy and re-work Alfred Bestall's existing illustrations. I start by working out a rough sketch for the new design and try and capture the style as best I can. It's not an exact copy as I have to alter and move various elements to fit the new A4 formats, plus leave space for headings & text. As you can see it's just pencil and rubber at this stage.

When I'm happy with this sketch I then trace it down, onto a smooth Fabriano watercolour paper, refine the pencil line and then ink in with Rotring pen line. The drawing is then coloured in using Dr Martins watercolour inks.  My colours are much brighter than the original, after all I'm copying an old printed book cover that is faded and discoloured with age. 

As a child I was bought up on Rupert annuals and they are very much a part of my visual memories. I have a sizeable collections of the old annuals going back to the 1930's and this particular 1964 annual was mine as a child. All the Magic Paintings have been done I'm afraid - and not very neatly - first steps towards a career in book illustration! Years later I studied AB's drawings & pen work with a different eye, marvelling at his imagination, skill and continuity in drawing Rupert for almost 40 years. I even wrote to him to tell him of my admiration, and received a very shaky reply, written on Boxing Day 1985 two weeks before he died. It's one of my most treasured possessions.  

With this particular cover the more you look into it, the more bizarre it seems, even for the 1960's!  Rupert rock climbing with The Chums, most unsuitably dressed in formal jackets & bowties, although Rupert is looking remarkably casual in his red 'sweatshirt' . Poor Edward Trunk just hasn't got the paws for climbing, nor has the Fish! But I love the colour and the elements of design - the elegant Japanese style trees, the blossom and the rock formations.

You might notice that my Rupert has a white head as opposed to the brown headed version on the 1964 cover. Why? Well Rupert and The Chums are traditionally drawn with white faces, hands and boots in all the story strips and incidental drawings throughout the annuals, and only appear completely coloured in on the covers & endsheets - so I've decided to keep them white in keeping with these drawings.  

These pieces of A/W will now be scanned before I send off the originals to the Followers. (They have been used as Raffle prizes in past years!) We will use the scanned images to create the designs for all the printed material, which will be put together in a couple of months time. With items like the committee & guest badges and the table place cards I will be handwriting all the names…  so I'll be practising my calligraphy! 

And you can catch up with the next stage of the production here

in the meantime there's more info' on the Followers of Rupert website and if you want to join the Followers there's a fantastic offer at the moment for new members - in the price of a year's membership you will get over £30 of extra Rupert goodies for FREE…

For more details contact the Membership Secretary : agriffog@btinternet.com           

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