My good friend the writer and performer Billy Spakemon approached me early in 2018 about an idea he had for a children’s story about Black Country artist Charlie ‘Chas’ Grigg and asked if I would illustrate it.
I’d already been involved in a creative project about Chas called ‘Our Best Kept Secret’. A group of fellow Black Country artists, writers and musicians contributed work about Chas for a series of live shows to raise funds to get a blue plaque which was installed at Rood End School where Chas had attended as a boy. Read the article.
Me, performing at one of the fundraising events for Charlie Grigg's blue plaque
Dream to reality: Creating the book
Billy knew I also did graphic design and illustration and so asked if I would illustrate a new story he’d written which tells Chas’s story for a young audience, about 6 years old and up. The message is an important one, that young people CAN feel that if they have a dream (like being a professional artist) then they should follow their dream, put the effort and tenacity in. Of course I said yes and then began the task of bringing Billy’s handwritten script to life.
I began by drawing outlines in pencil, then inked them and combined elements to make the required image. This example shows MY hand(!) drawing one of Chas's actual characters, Bloop (see above).
I then scanned the drawings and coloured them on the computer using Adobe PhotoShop®.
It took a lot longer than I originally imagined. I have empathy now for Chas, having to produce drawings for comics for strict deadlines, it’s a lot harder than it looks. I wanted to use a style that resonated with Chas’s own work – bright, colourful and full of wit and charm – and I hope I have done him justice and that people of all ages enjoy the story and images.
The finished book is 48 pages, 210x210mm in size and printed on gloss art paper. Please Contact me if you’d like a copy @ £5.99 each. Early indications are that the book is selling well.
Dementia and Dudley 'Me Myself & I' Support Group
BOOK LAUNCH SEPTEMBER 21st 2019
I was an artist on the Wolves in Wolves public art project in Wolverhampton in Summer 2017.
I designed and painted 2 5ft tall wolf sculptures: one called 'Old Gold' for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club featuring facts and figures about the club and one called "Support Life" about suicide prevention and mental well-being in association with University of Wolverhampton. You can scroll down this page to read an earlier blog post about the ‘Support Life’ wolf.
The workshops that I held with various groups for vulnerable people (see various logos below) led to me reforming my community arts workshops company which you can visit here: Real Arts Workshops.
One of the things that was important to me was that the story behind the wolf was told via the dibond panel attached to the plinth.
Through the workshops for Support Life I was able to talk with professionals who work in this field and I was able to ask some of my questions. I gradually came to accept that even if Rich had been ready to talk (and he wasn’t) each person is a unique being with their own set of complex issues and my situation is different from his. See below for a list of these agencies with links to the work they do.
When Support Life was installed at University of Wolverhampton early in 2018, I noticed that the information panel wasn’t there. It bothered me that Rich’s name was missing when he’d been so important in the thought process behind the wolf design and painting. So I designed a new information panel and got in touch with the University about getting it installed. David Wedge from the Alumni office was really supportive throughout and I’m pleased to say the panel is now in place on the plinth and I hope people take the time to read about it.
Alex Vann is a true all round creative. As well as owning Alex Vann Design he is the founder of the community arts group: Real Arts Workshops, a portrait artist and a gigging musician.