Tag Archives: illustration

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.

Bee-ing Seen. Logo Illustration for the Greater Manchester Fringe

The Greater Manchester Fringe wanted a new logo for their festival and I was only too happy to oblige. The brief to create a bee illustration, the bee being a popular symbol of Manchester.  This year they wanted a female bee, and were open to new ideas.

I started by looking at the original logo as I always want to respect previous versions. I wanted to keep some brand recognition to, even though we did move radically away from what was done previously.  Thinking it though for look and feel I sketched out a lot of ideas. I didn’t want it to look like a children’s illustration – not too cute, but also not too exaggerated either, keeping to the shape of a bee as much as possible.

The mascot had to be interpretation, but not too broad. It’s representing the festival and shows that can be anything from comedy, drama or poetry.  I noticed the previous illustration had a microphone and I consciously took that out as its more a music and stand up comedy device, but not something you’d see in live theatre.

You can maybe accuse me of overthinking it –  but it’s my job to overthink it,  and make sure that the final result can be used effectively.  As for the character, she doesn’t have a name yet but I think the guys at the Manchester Fringe Festival I working on that right now.


Illustration design for the Greater Manchester Fringe

ADDITIONAL – 4/06/2018

So back in late April I was asked to draw the new bee mascot logo for the Greater Manchester Fringe. (The Bee is the symbol of Manchester) Oddly enough I’d already started drawing a bee for the fringe. Not intentionally. It started as a procrastination doodle while I was meant to be working on my show, and just took me ages and ages to finish as I wanted to represent as much as I could in it.


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