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: Pick Me Up Selects Review

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-MaricorMaricar donut
Banana vs Donut by MaricorMaricar.

Each year I look forward to exploring new graphic art and illustration talent at Pick Me Up, and so it was that I trundled along to Somerset House this Sunday, skirting the Marathon on the Embankment to enjoy a relatively quiet visit. First up, some of my favourite pieces from Pick Me Up Selects, the opening section where new talent is given a brilliant showcase.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-MaricorMaricar banana
MaricorMaricar are twins who work out of Sydney in Australia – I loved their beautiful typography created with delicate embroidery, but my favourite pieces had to be their tiny artworks featuring surreal images and puns. A banana doing a somersault through a donut? Why not?!

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-Tom Edwards lion
University of Brighton graduate Tom Edwards displayed a whole wall of domestic cats and wildcats – a big hit with Snarfle, who likes to growl at anything that could potentially be a lion.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-Katie Scott Snake
I instantly recognised the intricate work of Katie Scott, who I first spotted at her graduate show in 2011 – she makes delicate patterned artworks that remind me of old fashioned classroom anatomical aids. I’m glad to see she’s had a busy few years, creating artwork for the likes of New York Times and Phaidon.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- Malarky
Malarky is an interesting choice for Pick Me Up, best known to many as a street artist who paints bright big toothed animals all over walls and shop fronts in east London. We couldn’t resist a little print titled Hotpot Snottini, which features one of his beasties inside a 70s casserole dish. Strange and wonderful.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- PingsZoo
Ping Zhu goes by the very apt moniker Ping’s Zoo – loved this jungle scene, erupting with animal activity. As a follower mentioned on instagram, I love how you don’t see all the beasties straight away.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- Hattie Stewart
We will be posting an exclusive interview with self confessed professional doodler Hattie Stewart shortly. Hattie channels the spirit of pop artists such as Keith Haring to transform glossy high fashion magazine. The likes of Vogue, Pop and Love are given outrageous makeovers, the models acquiring colourful leopard print skin and cartoonish eyes.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- Daniel Frost
I was struck by a wall of marvellous miniatures by RCA graduate Daniel Frost, who works his stick figures in bold primary colours. Each little vignette and model is a part of his imaginary Frostville, where the strangeness of everyday life is celebrated.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- William Goldsmith
Delicate watercolour people populate narrative illustrations by the Glasgow based William Goldsmith – these are a sneak peak at pages which feature in his upcoming graphic novel The Bind.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review-Rob Flowers squid king
The popularity of risograph prints shows no sign of waning, and their instantly recognisable muted neon colour palette was present throughout Pick Me Up. We were so smitten with this Squid King that we bought him, a bargain at £10. Rob Flowers (above and below) is inspired by mythology, folklore, early fast food merchandising and the surreal. His wall was a riot of monsters and mushrooms in a zingy range of colours.

Pick Me Up London 2013 review- Rob Flowers mushroom
Above I have covered the artists whose artworks I captured reasonably well in photos (not easy, when trying to carry a squealing baby at the same time, I’ve discovered), but there are many more of mention: fabulous Kama Sutra inspired typography by Malika Favre, surreal 3D installations by Anna Lomax, brilliant crayon portraits by Damien Florébert Cuypers, stunning retro style minimalist art inspired by everyday activities (such as painting toenails) from Sarah Vanbelle and delicate dreamlike fantasy environments by You Byun. Coming soon: my round up of the best of the rest of Pick Me Up. Make sure you catch the last few days if you haven’t already been: full listing hereRead last year’s review of Pick Me Up Selects here.

Categories ,Anna Lomax, ,Damien Florébert Cuypers, ,Daniel Frost, ,Frostville, ,Graphic Art, ,Hattie Stewart, ,Hotpot Snottini, ,illustration, ,Kama Sutra, ,Katie Scott, ,keith haring, ,Malarky, ,Malika Favre, ,MaricorMaricar, ,New York Times, ,phaidon, ,Pick Me Up, ,Pick Me Up Selects, ,Ping Zhu, ,Pings Zoo, ,rca, ,Risograph, ,Rob Flowers, ,Sarah Vanbelle, ,Snarfle, ,Somerset House, ,Squid King, ,sydney, ,The Bind, ,Tom Edwards, ,University of Brighton, ,William Goldsmith, ,You Byun

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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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