Tag Archives: Comedy

Book illustration for Arthur Bostrom

Actor Arthur Bostrom ask if I’d like to be the book illustrator of his new  French phrasebook ‘Good Moaning France’. He’s written the book in character as Officer Crabtree, the role he made famous in sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!  Of course I said yes.

 

Arthur has a list of acting credits a mile long, but is probably best remembered as Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo.  The character’s poor grasp of the French language was the source of many gags, as well as his introductory catchphrase ‘Good Moaning’ which also the title of the book, recapturing the style and humour of Crabtree’s verbal mangling.

Officer Crabtree by book illustrator John Cooper
Arthur Bostrom’s Officer Crabtree in illustrated form.

There was a long lead time on this project, permissions for usage and suchlike, which was an advantage for me as book illustrator, as it meant I had a bit time to think about the style and sketch ideas. Looking back at the early concept illustration now, my style, technique and tools have changed a lot. Even in a short space of time.

Arthur knew I could work in a few styles and wanted something a little more animated than the original concept sketches.  I cast my ideas net wide, looking at the European ligne claire style popularised in the 50’s and 60’s by book illustrators like Herge, Bob de Moor and Joost Swarte.  I’m a big fan of that illustration style and in context of the character  and French origins of ‘Allo ‘Allo! it looked right. Also I was probably overthinking it.

The character of Crabtree really lends itself to this clean dynamic style, and in illustrated form I could easily see him rubbing shoulders with the Thompson and Thomson, or Agaton Sax.

Creating the cover was a good touchstone character reference for the other ten black and white illustrations which appear in the book. Details were referenced from photo stills, making sure the lapel buttons, badges and cloak all matched Crabtree’s Gendarme costume as worn on screen.

The finished cover was realised first as a series of separate images. Handdrawn, scanned,  then moved around on layers in clip studio to find the right composition, then digitally inked and coloured using a wacom intuos  tablet. This technique is less time consuming that it looks, as it allows for experimentation in the composition. If the text title graphics overlap any elements, they can be shuffled around for clarity. Here’s the cover composition:

You can order Arthur’s book at the Waterside Press website, here.

What do Google analytics and a stand-up comedy skills workshop have in common?

While helping a business client increase traffic to their website, I remarked how their Google Analytics marketing reports weren’t so different from taking a stand up comedy skills workshop.

That might sound like an odd thing to say – but the more I thought about it the more the comparison holds up.

Google Analytics reports feedback what’s happening on a website, what people are looking at and responding to. How long they stay engaged, and if they connect…becoming a customer or a fan. You can even see it in real time.

For that particular website, we added some recent case studies and removed technical jargon. By doing that we changed the language – the website’s voice – and added relatable stories (short case study videos) to draw people in and acquire new customers.

I used this metaphor again this week quite fittingly, at my first workshop at the Google Digital Garage in Manchester. They were really supportive in providing me with a space to lead my all elbows ‘Present Yourself!‘ comedy workshop, which mixes stand up comedy with presentation skills, team games, improv, public speaking tips and interpersonal skills all rolled together.

It covers the same ground as analytics, but with less artificial intelligence. It’s for humans instead of websites. It’s all about understanding your audience. How to stay engaged and avoid attention span ‘bounce rate’, and the language we use tell stories and connect with others. Again, all in real time. I guess you might call it the discussion points we have as  ‘human analytics’.

Human Analytics (in front of an audience) :

  • Audience. Make eye contact with them, this will give you all the data you’ll need.
  • Behaviour. Be aware of your body language, relax and be comfortable.
  • Engagement. If what you’re saying isn’t working experiment off script with a different approach  -this is where the scary fun learning happens.
  • Acquisition. Don’t try too hard to be funny. Just be yourself. Let your audience, or customers, come to you.

The feedback since I started running these sessions in 2015 has been great. Together with the help of the  Business Growth Hub  it’s evident that business leaders across the North West are really keen to integrate this kind of skills workshop into their own team training programmes.

Contact Rocket Steps to discuss how this training can help your business.

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Email: info@rocketsteps.co.uk