Amelia’s Magazine | Review: Tweet-a-Brief Exhibition at 71a Gallery and an Interview with Handsome Frank’s Jon Cockley

Handsome Frank Tweet a Brief

The Church of London Gallery 71a where Handsome Frank held their debut exhibition Tweet-a-Brief

If only all briefs could be confined to just 140 characters. Imagine that? The East London illustration agency, Handsome Frank, struck gold with their first exhibition and made this happen. How? Soon after seeking exhibition brief advice from their followers on Twitter, it was quickly realised, they’d found their answer. Handsome Frank watched as their Twitter account exploded with ideas, and Tweet-a-Brief was born. Plus, as a lucky follower to have had mine selected, I had to hear about the phenomenon that was #hftab from co-founder Jon.

Handsome Frank was co-founded by you and your cousin Tom, such a nice story that you named your company after your Grandfather. How long have you been up and running?
We set the company up in the summer of 2010 so we’re only two years old. A lot has happened in a short time!

What background have you and Tom come from?
I spent the last decade working in publishing for the design and advertising titles Creative Review and Design Week. Essentially it was media sales and I ended up as a Commercial Director at the company. So my experience has always been on the commercial side of things but within the creative industry.

The Handsome Frank logo as a neon light designed by Malika Favre for the brief All things bright and beautiful

The Handsome Frank logo as a neon light designed by Malik Favre for the brief All things bright and beautiful

Tom has a creative background working for advertising agencies such as Ogilvy, Chemistry and LBi as a digitial designer. When I had the idea to launch an illustration agency, I approached Tom to ask if he could build me a website on a small budget. The more we discussed the idea the more we realised it made sense to work together on it. Between us we had a good mix of skills with my business and publishing experience and Tom’s knowledge of the creative process and how agencies operate.

Sounds like an ideal creative pairing indeed. Can either of you draw?
I was the best drawer in my class at primary school but I don’t think that early potential really developed. Tom is definitely a better bet when selecting Pictionary teams.

Illustration by Stephen Cheetham in response to the brief 140 characters

Illustration by Stephen Cheetham in response to the brief 140 characters, very clever indeed

Who was the first illustrator on your books?
We decided we would launch the agency with ten illustrators and set about finding some talent. To our eternal gratitude we convinced the first ten people we approached to come on board and at that point we had little to show for ourselves apart from a lot of enthusiasm and ambition. Our first signing was Emma Kelly, who remains one of the most popular illustrators on our books.

How many do you represent right now, two years on?
We’re up to 26 illustrators in size and although we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a couple more signings, we feel we’re operating at an optimum size now. We’re big enough to offer a great selection for commissioners, but small enough to have strong relationships with everyone on our books.

You work pretty closely with Paul Pensom of Creative Review and the guys at Church of London. You work together to put on various talks and use the new 71a Gallery in Shoreditch. How were these relationships founded? Are they like mentors to you?
Paul is someone that I know from my CR days and a very talented chap. We represent his agency StudioPensom, who specialise in magazine and editorial design. The Church of London were actually our first ever client. They commissioned Tony Easley to create a portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat for HUCK magazine and that’s where it all started really. We kept in touch since then and when I saw their plans for developing the 71a gallery I was convinced it was the perfect venue for our first show. Rob Longworth and Paul Willoughby are a big inspiration and great guys to work with.

Handsome Frank Tweet-a-Brief exhibition 71a Gallery Private View

Handsome Frank Tweet-a-Brief exhibition 71a Gallery Private View

I have a Willoughby screen print I treasure very much. So #hftab, the Handsome Frank Tweet-a-Brief idea is genius. Was it one of those ‘on the back of a beer mat in a pub’ ideas or more a slow burner? I know you wanted to showcase the talent you had on your books, but how did you decide Twitter was right for this?
We’re big fans of Twitter. We’ve always had a strong following and we’ve always embraced it as a place to ask questions, seek advice and treat as a sounding board. We get a lot of musical recommendations from Twitter. When it came to doing a show, we bounced around a few themes but they were all a bit obvious… Olympics anyone?! One day I decided to ask Twitter and see if anyone had any bright ideas, so I tweeted “what should our exhibition be about?” Almost as soon as I pressed ‘send’, it dawned on me that that WAS the theme.

Did the name Tweet-a-Brief come easily? What others did you cast aside?
The credit for the name very much goes to Tom. My suggestion was probably something really snappy like ‘Send-us-an-idea-and-our-illustrators-will-draw-it’.

The legend that is Tim Burgess from the Charlatans submitted a brief. You must have been thrilled! Any other celebs as such? I hear you had over 200 briefs…
Yes, I’m a bit of an indie kid at heart, so I was chuffed when Tim got in touch. I knew he was really into Twitter so thought he was a good bet. A couple of other celebs were approached but to no avail. Shame on you Jonathan Ross!

Illustration by Emma Kelly for Tim Burgess of the Charlatans brief Blue Monday

Illustration by Emma Kelly for Tim Burgess of the Charlatans brief Blue Monday

Shame on Ross indeed. Heard that before. Was it more successful than you imagined? Handsome Frank #hftab was trending!
We trended? Wow, I didn’t know that. Chuffed.

Did you and Tom sit down and pick your favourites, or did you let your illustrators decide their own briefs?
There was a lot of debate as to the best and fairest way to distribute the briefs. In the end we decided to send a document containing all of the briefs to all of our illustrators and ask for their first, second and third choices. As it turned out there was not much overlap. Most of the guys had a very strong idea of what they want to do and thankfully most of them wanted different briefs.

Illustration by Alexandra Bruel of Kubricks brain

Artwork by Alexandra Bruel of Kubricks brain

Phew! I was so thrilled Helen Musselwhite picked my brief “a strong urge to see wallpaper coming to life in a doll’s house”. I was blown away when I saw it at the Private View. WOW. It was the star of the show for me.
I’m glad you liked what Helen did. It was a bit of a show stealer wasn’t it. Really lovely.

Artwork by Helen Musselwhite in response to my brief of wallpaper coming to life in a doll's house

Artwork by Helen Musselwhite in response to my brief of wallpaper coming to life in a doll’s house

Everyone obviously worked their socks off. Your collection of illustrators have done Handsome Frank proud. Are you already thinking up the next idea to get them all working together?
Funnily enough we had an idea on the day of the Tweet-a-Brief Private View. It won’t be until next summer though. We need to concentrate on some other projects first.

I’m sure Sunday will be a sad day when you have to take the exhibition down. Do you have to return the work back to the artists or will it stay up on the walls of Handsome Frank HQ?
The plan is to tour the exhibition around a little. We’ve had interest from a couple of agencies who would like to hang it on their walls. I’d also like it to move around the UK and possibly take it overseas.

The Tweet-a-Brief exhibition runs until this Sunday (22nd July) at 71a Gallery, Leonard Street, London EC2A 4QS.

Categories ,#hftab, ,26 illustrators, ,71a Gallery in Shoreditch, ,Advertising, ,Alexandra Bruel, ,Church of London, ,co-founders Jon and Tom, ,Creative Review, ,design, ,digital, ,East London, ,Emma Kelly, ,First exhibition, ,Handsome Frank, ,Helen Musselwhite, ,HUCK magazine, ,Illustration Agency, ,Jonathan Ross, ,Kubrick, ,Malika Favre, ,Paul Pensom, ,Paul Willoughby, ,publishing, ,Rob Longworth, ,Stephen Cheetham, ,StudioPensom, ,the Charlatans, ,Tim Burgess, ,Tony Easley, ,Tweet-a-Brief exhibition, ,twitter

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Amelia’s Magazine | Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival 2013: A Review of Illustration Collectives

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- day job victoria willmott
Bird by Victoria Willmott.

In the upstairs section of the Embankment Galleries at Pick Me Up are housed a plethora of hand-picked collectives, some of which have had a presence in previous years, some of which are new for 2013. The section begins with a superb display by Day Job, a collaboration between ten recent Camberwell graduates who share a studio in Peckham, South London, some of whom I recognised.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- Charlotte Mei
Charlotte Mei‘s idiosyncratic pottery was a stand out feature at her graduate show: for Pick Me Up she has created a whole fleet of cars, characterful naked ladies in contorted positions, a pizza with strange toppings and a host of other animals. Brilliant stuff!

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-Charlene Man
I loved all of the prints by Charlene Man, and I was also tempted by her pastel painted wooden blocks for Snarfle, but feared he might chew the patterns off.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review - human after all tshirt
Pick Me Up London 2013 review - Human After All
Human After All is the latest brainwave from Danny Miller and friends. As promotion for their newly launched creative agency they are hosting a space where you can construct your own #facestamp, to be applied to a t-shirt, with eye-catching results.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-zombie collective maggie li
Pick Me Up London 2013 review- frann preston gannon

Zombie Collective is five illustrators: their interactive cog machine is a splendid addition to the gallery, spitting out gifts for lucky punters. Maggie Li‘s beautiful house print really caught my eye, as did this politely sleeping fox by Frann Preston-Gannon. Also for sale, some sweet acrylic treats.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- print club london
Print Club London are hosting the main room with a chance to help create a ‘living wallpaper’ drawn by the likes of Fred Butler and Margot Bowman. It looks like the just the place to hang out with the kids: give Snarfle a few years and we’ll be there!

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- nelly duff dan hillier
Pick Me Up London 2013 review- nelly duff sweet toof
Pick Me Up London 2013 review- various and gould nellyduff
Columbia Road‘s Nelly Duff gallery have created perhaps the most spectacular room, where artworks and specially commissioned wall decals on a ‘flower show’ theme combine to stunning effect. Of particular note: Dan Hillier‘s foil blocked lady, curlicued skulls courtesy of Sweet Toof, and a skull print by Various and Gould (seen above in situ on a doorway just off Brick Lane).

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- soma gallery peskimo
Back for a second year running Soma Gallery are showcasing a wide selection of prints by long running collaborators such as Peskimo and Tom Frost, as well as newbies such as Telegramme Studio and Hazel Nicholls. I particularly loved these 3D wooden gum ball artworks by Peskimo.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-el famoso
Unlimited Collective is a print company based in Brighton. Taking pride of place in their busy space is a huge yellow tattooed man, complete with hipster moustache. All over tattoos continue to be the badge of the uber cool, but if you’re too chicken to go the whole hog yourself then artwork by El Famoso might be just the ticket instead.

Jessie Ford black bear on bike
I was so taken by a black bear on a tiny tricycle by Jessie Ford that I bought one on a whim – it will go up in Snarfle‘s room: something more to growl at.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- helen musselwhite
Pick Me Up London 2013 review-Emily Robertson
Pick Me Up London 2013 review-matt saunders
Pick Me Up London 2013 review- lesley barnes
Handsome Frank is an illustration agency that has done a great job of snapping up brilliant up and coming illustrators, including many that have featured in these pages (Lesley Barnes, Tim McDonagh, Sarah Maycock). Some of my favourite works on display at their interactive stand include a stunning paper gatehouse by Helen Musselwhite, a curious character by Emily Robertson, sleeping log gremlins by Matt Saunders and a wonderful knight on a horse by Lesley Barnes.

Read my review of Pick Me Up Selects here, and if you are unable to check out Pick Me Up in person make sure you check out all the talent above online. Full listing information here.

Categories ,#facestamp, ,2013, ,Camberwell College of Arts, ,Charlene Man, ,Charlotte Mei, ,Collectives, ,Columbia Road, ,Dan Hillier, ,Danny Miller, ,Day Job, ,El Famoso, ,Embankment Galleries, ,Emily Robertson, ,Frann Preston-Gannon, ,Fred Butler, ,Handsome Frank, ,Hazel Nicholls, ,Helen Musselwhite, ,Human After All, ,illustration, ,Jessie Ford, ,Lesley Barnes, ,Maggie Li, ,Margot Bowman, ,Matt Saunders, ,Nelly Duff, ,Peskimo, ,Pick Me Up, ,Pick Me Up Selects, ,Print Club London, ,Sarah Maycock, ,Snarfle, ,Soma Gallery, ,Somerset House, ,Sweet Toof, ,Telegramme, ,Telegramme Studio, ,Tim McDonagh, ,Tom Frost, ,Unlimited Collective, ,Various and Gould, ,Victoria Willmott, ,Zombie Collective

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Amelia’s Magazine | Pick Me Up London 2014: graphic arts exhibition review

Pick Me Up London graphic arts exhibition 2014 review

This year I went along to the Pick Me Up exhibition at Somerset House on a quiet weekday, giving me plenty of space to walk around the exhibits and chat to people along the way. In the Pick Me Up Selects area I was delighted to find many familiar names, including some recent graduates. Here’s a few of my favourites: there were many more so do check out this page.

Pick Me Up London graphic arts exhibition 2014 review Edward Cheverton

This cheeky airplane is by Edward Cheverton, a recent graduate of the University of Brighton. He specialises in deceptively naive collages and mini sculptures.

Pick Me Up London graphic arts exhibition 2014 review Billy

Billy (otherwise known as Alex Godwin) divides her time between the UK and Germany, creating distinctive iconographic artwork with a playful edge.

Pick Me Up Wibble Wobble by Jack Hudson

Jack Hudson graduated from UWE a few years ago. I love the way he plays with scale in images such as Wibble Wobble, above.

Pick Me UP Colourful abstraction by Linda Linko

Finnish designer Linda Linko mixes fine art with illustration and graphic design in large scale abstract artworks.

Pick Me Up Becky Liddiard horse plate

Pick Me UP Mushroom Botanic by Becky Liddiard

Moving upstairs, there were lots of exciting artworks to be discovered on the stands hosted by collectives and galleries. Works by Becky Liddiard caught my eye on two walls; firstly on this repurposed plate featuring a pair of horses, and then with her Mushroom Botanic risograph.

Pick me Up Margeux Carpentier elephantPick me Up Margeux Carpentier elephant

Pick Me Up Margaux Carpentier monkey

Pick Me Up pink leopard by Margaux Carpentier

Pick Me Up Margaux Carpentier squaw

I first discovered Margaux Carpentier at Pick Me Up in 2011 and more recently I’ve been following her on instagram, where she posts pictures of her highly patterned animals. At the Animaux Circus sign painting stand I admired her work in progress, a war squaw for the Puck Collective shields project.

Pick me up Doing the Dictator Dance, with Alec Doherty

Other works that I loved included Doing the Dictator Dance, by Alec Doherty, who is currently showing in 80s Youth, an exhibition curated by Printer of Dreams.

Pick Me Up Malarky at Beach london

Moving onto the next floor I discovered this gigantic artwork by Malarky at Beach London.

Pick Me Up - Paul Farrell

At the Unlimited stand a super sized gem print by Paul Farrell grabbed my attention.

Pick me up Hvass & Hannibal

Over at Outline Artists I was introduced to new works by Hvass & Hannibal – including this awesome jungle print.

Pick Me Up Andreas Neophytou

Andreas Neophytou produced this intriguing abstract print on lovely paper in conjunction with GF Smith.

Pick Me Up - Jessica Das roller girl


Isn’t this Roller Disco Girl awesome? Owner Camilla was kind enough to offer me a print of my choice, and I chose these Toucans, also by Jessica Das: she must be one of my favourite finds from this year’s Pick Me Up.

pick me up lesley barnes tiger

Over at the Handsome Frank stand I admired this lady riding a tiger, by the wonderful Lesley Barnes.

pick me up helen musselwhite

Skull, rainbows, clouds, stormy seas… papercuts by Helen Musselwhite are so damn clever.

Pick me up paul thurlby

I love to read Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet book with Snarfle. Paul Thurlby has an idiosyncratic ‘retro modern’ style that is brilliantly realised in this ace musical pussycat print.

Malika Favre bag 2014-pick me up

On my way out I was introduced to the delights of bag making with Sally Walton of Carry-a-Bag – a business she set up in response to the vast amount of plastic bags that are only ever used once. Thanks to the involvement of Outline Artists visitors were invited to choose a fabric design from the newly relaunched Heal’s Fabrics collection. Like many others I chose the fabulous Peacock design by Malika Favre. Since it was the end of my visit and I was unable to wait for the bag to be made up they kindly offered to send it to me and it arrived promptly in the post a few days after. What a delightful surprise.

Categories ,2014, ,80s Youth, ,Alec Doherty, ,Alex Godwin, ,Andreas Neophytou, ,Animaux Circus, ,Beach London, ,Becky Liddiard, ,Billy, ,Carry-a-Bag, ,Doing the Dictator Dance, ,Edward Cheverton, ,GF Smith, ,Graphic Art, ,Handsome Frank, ,Heals, ,Helen Musselwhite, ,Hvass & Hannibal, ,illustration, ,Jack Hudson, ,Jessica Das, ,Lesley Barnes, ,Linda Linko, ,Malarky, ,Malika Favre, ,Margaux Carpentier, ,Mushroom Botanic, ,Outline Artists, ,Paul Farrell, ,Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet, ,Peacock, ,Pick Me Up, ,Pick Me Up Selects, ,Printer of Dreams, ,Puck Collective, ,review, ,Roller Disco Girl, ,Sally Walton, ,Somerset House, ,Toucans, ,Unlimited, ,Wibble Wobble

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