Andi Best Freelance Designer

Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder


  • Published 21-01-2017
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Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
Doing my bit for charity alongside Simon Pegg
Twitter is an awesome platform. It is by far my favourite digital social network (do follow me if you're not already). It's helped countless brands, clients and users engage with me and my services and vice versa, more so than any of the other social networks I use. For instance, during my THREEHUNDREDANDSIXTEEFIVE T-shirt wearing challenge I received scores of T-shirt donations from Twitter users who were following its progression and were keen to get involved. By simply being vocal on the network I received immediate support for my cause and established worthwhile new connections; that's the beauty of Twitter. Because the entire populace is instantly connected to one another the moment they join (privacy settings permitting) it's true that anyone could reach out with a new idea or project at any time.
Just like Hannah.
A few months ago I received a very intriguing tweet from Hannah at Art Affirming Life - an organisation using the sale of both artwork and exhibition tickets to raise funds for Sue Ryder charity. She tweeted...
...in response to an illustration from my portfolio called Menagerie which I'd promoted in a tweet several weeks earlier. It turns out that Hannah was reaching out to artists and illustrators across Twitter on a mission to source creative works to be donated to a Secret Charity Auction, and my Menagerie image had caught her eye. She explained that attendees at the forthcoming event would bid on the work they liked and that all money raised from successful bids would be donated directly to Sue Ryder charity. The identities of the contributing artists would remain anonymous to ensure that bidders were only influenced by the face value of the artworks, and therein lied the secrecy element. This was of particular importance as nearer the date of the Auction, Art Affirming Life announced via social media channels that a number of well known celebrities including Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, Emma Samms and my personal hero Simon Pegg would also be donating their imagery to the cause, meaning that unsuspecting bidders could well be walking away with artwork of even greater status.
Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
My illustration wasn't suitable
I was more than happy to contribute to the Secret Art Auction but my Menagerie illustration wasn't going to be suitable. For starters, there was no way its portrait orientation would scale comfortably on the perfectly square 5x5 inch canvas without creating gulfs of dead space either side of the art and making the finer details of the illustration impossible to see. Moreover, Hannah planned to post me the physical 5x5 canvas upon which my submission had to feature. Menagerie, though hand drawn in origin, is a digitally composed piece and therefore only replicable in print. To attempt to print on Hannah's very particular canvas would be no easy task. But rather than turn down participating in the project altogether I was keen to offer something for the cause, so I told Hannah to post the canvas anyway and that I'd see what I could do...
Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
A week later an envelope arrived at my door and inside, within a veil of tissue paper, was an unspoilt, 5x5 beveled cardboard canvas, as blank as the stare I had trained on it. It was wholly intimidating. The next time Hannah had to see this tiny square of card it needed to be filled with unique, attractive illustration that would fetch millions of pounds (probably) at auction. I had no fixed brief, no plan of my own, and only a matter of weeks to come up with an original, saleable illustration, alongside tackling my regular client workload, juggling my new born daughter and trying to get some sleep. This was definitely going to be a challenge.
Menagerie is a deregistered isometric grid interspersed with organic illustration. Given that that was what attracted Hannah to my work in the first place, it seemed like a good place to start, so I decided to produce another grid-based composition of fragmented illustration. This time I wanted to introduce a contrast of some kind; a juxtaposition of matter interwoven among the disruption. I settled upon representing two opposing forces capable of causing such a destructive aesthetic; the brittle and beautiful composition of butterflies and the brutal, calculated complexity of machinery.
With the grid sized and sketched I began to ink in the delicate, curved lines of the wings, ranging from high-detailed close-ups where I needed a sense of weight, to full wingspans breaking free from the composition where I needed to balance the negative space. Next I blended machine parts into the gaps between, focusing on gears and cylindrical pieces to compliment the curvature of the butterflies. I also included a lot of straight-edged components to run parallel with the initial grid lines and keep the flow of the piece moving.
Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
Illustrating for Charity Sue Ryder
The completed artwork took around six hours to produce and has a vintage diagrammatical look about it, upholding the same gritty and haphazard aesthetic as Menagerie. Overall I'm pleased with the final result, albeit a little dark and perhaps overcrowded owing to the miniature canvas dimensions. It's the kind of image best appreciated through exploration of the finer technical details, but a worthwhile contribution to the cause nonetheless.
A few days later a message from Hannah confirmed that the postal service had managed to not lose my artwork and that it made it to her in time for the event. She, and all the staff at Sue Ryder and Art Affirming Life who had seen the piece before it was sold have since been in touch to share their approval and to thank me for taking the time to get involved.
So how did my piece do?
Now that the Secret Art Auction is over I've been offered some stats from Art Affirming Life about how it went. In total the event raised £1500 for Sue Ryder with some pieces among the 148 donated fetching as a much as £60 each, which is a big win for the charity. As for which pieces were crafted at the hands of celebrity talent - that is a closely guarded secret betrayed only by the winning bidders who explore the reverse of their art where the signatures lurk. But the biggest question of all is how well my piece performed at auction...
Unfortunately, like the celebrity input to the project, the final bidding amount tendered for my illustration will also elude me forever as my requests for such information have gone unanswered. At the time of writing I've not heard back about the fate of my illustration which can mean only one of two things; one, it was snapped up for a sum of no less than a couple of hundred thousand pounds ensuring the staff not only fulfilled their charitable quotas but also used the excess to skirt around the Earth's most extravagant beach spots for the rest of time, or two, the image never made it to auction as Simon Pegg nabbed it to display proudly in his lavatory. Either is fine with me.
To find out more about the Secret Art Auction head over to the Art Affirming Life website.
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