Category Archives: Illustration & design

Artwork. Commercial illustration, private commissions, etc.

Observational Comedy Illustration

Here’s the artwork I created for the cover of this years Last Laugh Sheffield Comedy festival, being held up by the very funny Phil Jupitus  who asked why the acts had no eyes…

I was about to tweet back with an answer when I realised I didn’t have one. Why did I draw all the acts with no eyes?  After tracing it back to 2012, or thereabouts. I remember took over from another artist on the festival who drew everyone with no eyes, so I was just continuing on the tradition.

Festival acts banner from 2012

It still didn’t feel like an excuse, so even though it’s not on the brochure I thought I’d oblige…

Can you guess who is who?

Illustration, inspiration & Design

illustration, print design, web design
I’ve been an illustrator and designer for as long as I can remember. Working with people in businesses of all sizes in all sectors, providing them with design ideas as unique as they are.

Good illustration design aids good business, providing  the confidence to present a public image with integrity and verve, and also win new customers. It’s my passion to engage people with good design across all media, whether providing an illustration commission, animation or a cross branded print  campaign with online marketing and website.

With over 18 years industry and design studio experience and a dedication to researching the latest design trends and web technology, it’s not just about creating a look and feel , but solving design problems.

Illustration commissions.

I often get asked to do artwork to very tight deadlines, mostly to get artwork to the printers and meet submission deadlines. You might think commissioning original illustration work on a quick turnaround might sound a little crazy, but it really depends on the brief.
With a tight deadline, preparation is everything. From the concept design to final piece, it’s easy to fall into certain traps.

Stock photography can sometimes be a workaround, but equally, with so much choice on offer from stock websites, an hour or more can be lost sourcing images that almost-but-don’t-quite get the right message across. Also, if they then need to be approved by another person, it’s more time lost.

I started illustrating commercially back in the early 90’s, when the rise of websites demanded images. Illustration offers a greater level of flexibility than stock photography. Sketch proposals can be generated quickly, then refined to get a very specific message across.

Full figure drawings, detailed backgrounds and tight accurate light and tone all take time to get right, there’ no arguing that. There is no shortcut for good artwork.

Creative and resourceful thinking on the other hand, (that elusive part of the process that looks very much like sitting still and doing nothing) can really save time. Again it’s in the prep.

Check out JCU (John Cooper Unlimited) my design website.

Restoring the Past

Here’s a page from  ‘Magic Lamp Boy’ 1997, showing the process of retouching the original artwork, it was a ‘mini-comic’ so all the artwork was A5. Most comics were produced ‘half-up’ or ‘two-up’ (working big then reducing the original) though I really enjoyed working small with a really fine brush.

Before and After.

Before and after.
The original still has a lot of ‘printers blue’ on it. This is artwork and lettering done with a blue pencil that doesn’t show up when the artwork goes to print (or photocopy).  To be honest this page is in a bit or a state, and I even found food crumbs on some pages (yuk). Image on the right is the touched up hi-res scan, the blacks have all been evened out have, ghost lines removed and lettering re-done. I would eventually learn how to letter like the pros’  Tom Frame or Dave Gibbons, but not yet. Going back to old work, I’ve tried not to ‘do a George Lucas’ as my mate Sean put it, so I kept some of the original imperfections, cleaning up lines and scuffs.

Detail Comparison

Detail Before & After.


1980’s Time Machine – Comic Archive #1

Lots and lots and lots of years ago I made a comic. Actually a made a few comics… a lot of comics. I love comics. My brother got me into it when he started drawing them. He always did  stuff first, and I copied him. Comics, comedy, moving to Manchester, he did all these things, and I copied him because he was a lot cooler than me when we were young ‘uns.

He started with ‘the adventures of Mark Mushroom and Tom Toadstool’, fun stories of two anthropomorphic fungi, followed by ‘Blogford Town’, about a footy team. I started reading Marvel UK reprints of Transformers and Punisher, watched loads of 80’s action movies  like Aliens and Robocop. I came up with loads of random ideas for comic characters,  some were good, most were rubbish, some were really cool but had really crap names like ‘ The Night Law’. I was 13 and just wanted every character to the Punisher (but better than the Punisher because I had drawn them).  My bother drew some as  strips which are as hilarious as they are violent. I just kept churning out ideas, it would be a while before I settled on a character and draw ‘proper’ comic strips, but I loved drawing, and still do. Today in 2013 I have fancy posh graphics tablet, back in 1988  just an A5 drawing pad and an HB pencil and too much fizzy pop, all I needed.

Virus,  Kristoff, Buying the Farm, Facade, Virtual Obscurity and Magic Lamp Boy – these names mean nothing to any but me really, but between 1988 (where this archive starts) and 1998 I got drawn into comics big time, drawing till midnight on school days and going to small press conventions in far away towns with no idea where I was going to sleep that night. I’m getting ahead. It was 1987.