Amelia’s Magazine | review – Cycling in London at the London Transport Museum

ross crawford TFL-PENNY illustration aoi london transport museum
You don’t have long left to visit the Cycling in London Exhibition at the London Transport Museum!

mark taplin cycling

Bike by Mark Taplin

Sorry about that, sale it is in the listings, cheapest possibly you are even reading this after the exhibition has closed in which case HELLO IN THE FUTURE (look out for flying cars, in the London Transport Museum, which would be the appropriate place, just don’t pay the £10 entrance fee in hope of seeing illustrations if they have already gone.)

This is the second collaborative competition venture the Association of Illustrators and the Museum have undertaken. Due to some factors, possibly such as their acquiring of a twitter account since last year this one was considerably more competitive than the last. I have it from the actual woman whose job it was to count them that there were over 3000 entries for the 50 places in the exhibition. Am I still a little bitter that I didn’t get in? Only a little, as the standard of the work that did get in is in general very high indeed.

kevin ward cycling

Life cycles by Kevin Ward

It’s a beautiful show that really exemplifies the amazing wealth and variety of Illustration talent around. Not all of the work was to my taste but given the breadth of styles included that’s not really surprising; the AOI on typically excellent form at celebrating the medium.

Amidst the variety of work from established and unknown artists some trends are discernable; many illustrators have worked in animals either using the London Zoo as an iconic destination or including pigeons or dogs to help out with the green association as this is after all an exhibition exonerating the environmental benefits of cycling in the city (woo – go bikes).

Some pieces like Jove’s beautifully designed utopian poster, Jessid Ford’s gorgeous graphic colours ‘A to B and all the sights in between’ print and Mark Taplin’s lovely single colour classic screen print style image echo the classic transport posters which the London Transport Museum has long loved and displayed and sold on postcards.

Courtney Lee Boardmay cyclingthe only way to see London by Courtney Lee

Although this was my first visit to the Museum it does seem to have this dual personality. The visiting tourist children who must surely be its main market come for the fun interactive displays, the chance to get photographed driving a routemaster, and apparently the chance to run around and collect holes punched in a gotta catch em all style transport treasure trail. A brand new Boris Bicycle is the centrepiece in the tucked away gallery space where the show is housed and while I was there families and older children in groups often came in, checked off the bike on their list and left again with not more than a passing glance at the art on the walls.

I hope there are people like me and the other lone visitor giving a significant amount of time to the exhibition that also come to the Museum for its other angle – the amazing wealth it has in its association with artists both in projects like Cycling in London and other initiatives like art on the underground which has been going for years and features inspiring new art on underground station walls and in their outstanding collection of classic advertising posters which London Transport has commissioned over the decades. Many of these can be seen adorning souvenirs and postcards in the Museum shop – which happily can be accessed without paying the entrance fee. Perhaps more people would be likely to see this exhibition if it could be accessed separately from the Museum proper at a reduced fee.

rachel lillie leaf

Rachel Lillie’s first prize winning entry

Perhaps they could have also chosen a different image other than the winning illustration to use on their posters advertising the show which have been well spread across the city. I don’t wish to say anything against the judges choice or Rachel Lillie’s beautiful piece but as an eye catching image with a wide appeal I think there were many pieces in the show that would have been a better choice.
Evgenia Barinova’s awesome striking poster like piece on wood for example which dominates the far end of the room with its inspirational message ‘if Super Heroes couldn’t fly they’d ride a Bike!’ or Laura Callaghan’s fantastically serene flying cyclists setting a joyful example and clearly having more fun than their tube riding counterparts.

Laura Callaghan

Freewheel by Laura Callaghan

There are things that make illustration itself, rather than fine art, and things that make it great. Looking at their selection of winners the AOI clearly are big fans of the medium’s capacity for a sort of dualistic immediacy – a leaf which is also a map, an aerial view which is also a bicycle and nature and cyclists incorporated into a beautiful decorative inclusive layout in the tradition of a William Morris wallpaper. (I’d quite like a Mia Nilsson wallpaper actually – anyone from Habitat buying reading?). They seem to have favoured visual sense and simple dense colour over drawing or realism. This is an ideal in illustration that I think some people seem to put on a bit of a pedestal but as I said before it is far from the only style on show.

amelia's magazine - AOI - Mia Nilssonclose up of Mia Nillson‘s winning artwork

Another quality of illustration – it’s relationship with and commentary on popular culture is also much in evidence here; Jamie Wieck’s hilarious the joy of cycling being an obvious standout with subtler cultural references in Patrick O’leary’s mods on push bikes instead of scooters and Ross Crawford’s lovely cockney rhyming poster combining the classic and bang up to date cultural takeoff (blessedly does not actually include the over used ‘keep calm and…’). ‘Many Artists Who Do One Thing’s awesome circus graffiti style poster is cheeky but to the point – cycling is fun, and a little bit revolutionary.

jamie wieck joy-of-cycling-2The Joy of Cycling by Jamie Wieck

ross crawford TFL-PENNYLook after your Jam tart by Ross Crawford

Also present are our gorgeous children’s book style contingent with their universal appeal; Kevin Ward’s fantastic animal charactrers in retro colours(?) and Courtney Lee Bourdman’s happy happy tourists on their double decker bicycle bus (clearly uniting the Museum’s selling points perfectly); Catherine Denvir combines digital techniques for a more tongue in cheek surreal childish quality.

ignat reljic bicylclingSpeed Cycling by IGnjat Reljic Djuric

The strong classic illustrative style of simple expressive drawing is exemplified by Ignjat Reljic Djuric’s perfectly balanced piece where the cyclist seems like a plucky underdog to the epic red buildings; old favourite Belle Mellor provides a fantastically idiosyncratic interpretation although not the only illustrator to use London landmarks as hats (make of that what you will) – David Hughes also does this with as ever lovely ink lettering and layout. Judit Ferencz’s hand drawn image makes excellent use of space and Alex Bitskoff also uses layout magnificently (although not simply) with his richly coloured city wave erupting into the clean environmental space.

judit ferencz leisurely

allways leisurely with Bicycle by Judit Ferencz

One of the things I like about illustration is that in this medium quick simple execution and epic complex work are equally as valid. What matters in an illustration is the impact and the joy and the communication. And illustrators can be amazingly skilled at thinking of new conceptual and exciting ways of presenting the same idea – their bread and butter work is often sexing up the figures in business magazines after all. Some of these pieces clearly got in to the final 50 for the idea used, others for the execution.

amelias magazine - jenny robins - cycling

what’s that? you’ve snuck in your own unsuccesful entry to the competition Jenny Robins? cheeky bint.

I’ve not even talked about my very favourite school of illustration present in Cycling in London! – I love me some collage and there are fantastic examples in the work of Alison Bell whose lovely retro collage and print techniques clearly echoes the recent Varoom feature on the resurgence of the medium (how could they not include it then?); Lianne Harrison makes cool creepy bus-stop characters and Tracy Long’s tiny magazine faces on fancifull animal cyclists stole my heart, although I don’t think St Paul’s in the background adds anything. I imagine she added it to fit the brief about Cycling in London but looking at what else has got through I think she could have got away without it.

lianne harrison cycling

Goodbye to the Hustle and Bustle by Lianne Harrison

Tracey Long 222303_eye-eye-cycle-round-londonEye Eye around London by Tracy Long’

I was running out of time before closing but just had time to check out Georgina Brookes’ awesome cutouty graphic layering and Clayton Junior’s ace layout and colours employing a classic illustration immediate impact swap technique.

I had to leave through a secret staircase and the Museum employee waiting to lock up behind me smiled beautifully saying “interesting exhibition isn’t it?”
Well yes, it most definitely is, but the wording of the comment shows the attitude that this is something unusual is still the norm. I go to more illustration exhibitions than fine art ones, and in this world it’s easy to forget that to most people it’s still a bit of a non-concept. (you’re an illustrator eh? Cartoons? No? Book covers then? – sound familiar?) And good on the LTM for putting on projects like this but the way it’s presented on the posters and tucked away at the back of the museum still seem to me to reinforce it’s esotericness. Which is just a little sad. But let’s not end on a down note. Maybe illustration is like the poor relation of art – but is not the bicycle the poor relation of the car? And which is cooler, greener more, you know, government endorsed?

On your bike kids.

Categories ,art, ,bicycles, ,Climate Change, ,cycling, ,cycling in london, ,earth, ,environment, ,exhibition, ,illustration, ,Jenny Robins, ,london, ,london transport, ,the AOI

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Amelia’s Magazine | London Stories: The winners and my favourites from the Serco Prize for Illustration 2014

Gill Bradley, Monkey Band

Gill Bradley, Monkey band at large in Notting Hill 1927.

It’s official: I am a twit. Despite being invited by The AOI to sit on the judging panel for this year’s Serco Prize for Illustration I managed to entirely miss the actual exhibition at the London Transport Museum. Doh. This I put down to my current inability to attend evening events such as the preview night (I keep telling myself that these difficult toddler years won’t last long…) combined with the fact that I completely misread the end date of the show. Double Doh. So, despite my best intentions to see the artworks in reality before I blogged about my favourites, in the end this is a very late post, based on the same images we were asked to chose from as judges. It was a tough choice, with such a high standard to choose from and so many entertaining tales to learn along the way, but here are the winning choices, and below them some of my favourite London Stories:

Designer and animator Gill Bradley was declared the unanimous winner with her depiction of a not so well known story of an escaped monkey jazz band (see above) – chosen for it’s vibrant and unusual subject matter, with the added bonus that the event took place on London Transport.

Nicholas Stevenson_Frost Fair

I particularly loved Frost Fair by runner up Nicholas Stevenson, featuring curious characters at one of the famous Frost Fairs held on the Thames when it froze over.

Eric Chow_ Lady Bridge

Third prize went to Eric Chow for The Lady Bridge, a technically brilliant and evocative interpretation of the rebuilding of Waterloo Bridge by women during the Second World War.

Erica Sturla, The Menagerie in the Tower

Erica Sturla’s The Menagerie in the Tower shows the famous Royal menagerie in the Tower rendered in chaotic contemporary style. You can buy a variety of items featuring this design here.

london stories, Long Wolf and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show - Melvyn Evans

Melvyn EvansLong Wolf and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a popular artwork, depicting an infamous occasion during the reign of Queen Victoria, when a Sioux Chief brought his show to the American Exhibition for Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. There were 300 performances and 2.5 million tickets sold but sadly Long Wolf contracted pneumonia and died in London, forgotten until 1991.

Oranges and Lemons - Eliza Southwood

Eliza Southwood’s Oranges and Lemons riffs on the well known song (which was a popular theme for many illustrators) and features a glorious graphical representation of the actual churches from the tune.


Everyone loved the tapestry inspired River Pageant 2012 by Sue Prince.

London-stories-Richard Williams Wide Boy

There were many more idiosyncratic notions of London to chose from, such as Richard Williams’ illustration Wide Boy, with many of London’s most iconic attractions stowed away inside a capacious coat.

Elisa Cunningham Pelican Lunch - London Stories

Pelican Lunch features a pelican attacking a pigeon (apparently based on a rather upsetting incident found on youtube), by Elisa Cunningham.

London-Stories-White Bear - Paul Garland

I was most taken with the striking image of a White Bear by Paul Garland, based on the story of the polar bear kept at the Tower of London by Henry III, with a chain long enough that it could swim in the Thames and catch fish. In a nice decorative touch London transport signs make up the links of the chain.

Nathan Reed The Guardians of the Tower

Nathan Reed’s playful image of The Guardians of the Tower was one of many images that focused on these famous birds.

Gog and Magog - Helen Lord

According to the tradition, the giants Gog and Magog are guardians of the City of London, depicted here asleep under the bustling city by Helen Lord.

Starlings on the clock, Sonia Poli

Finally, Starlings on the Clock by Sonia Poli is an intricate papercut collage based on the moment in 1995 when a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand of Big Ben and put the time back by 5 minutes.

There were many more images that I loved, so do check out the London Transport Museum website, where you can still buy your favourite in poster form.

Categories ,Elisa Cunningham, ,Eliza Southwood, ,Eric Chow, ,Erica Sturla, ,Frost Fair, ,Gill Bradley, ,Gog and Magog, ,Helen Lord, ,London Transport Museum, ,Long Wolf and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, ,Melvyn Evans, ,Monkey band at large in Notting Hill 1927, ,Nathan Reed, ,Nicholas Stevenson, ,Oranges and Lemons, ,Paul Garland, ,Pelican Lunch, ,Richard Williams, ,River Pageant 2012, ,Serco Prize for Illustration, ,Sonia Poli, ,Starlings on the Clock, ,Sue Prince, ,the AOI, ,The Guardians of the Tower, ,The Lady Bridge, ,The Menagerie in the Tower, ,White Bear, ,Wide Boy

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