A.Richard Allen
Lucky Jim
My last Folio Society book, Brat Farrar was a highlight of my recent commissioned illustration work. When Sheri Gee called to commission me to do another book I gladly accepted. The book in question was the slightly better-known, Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis's post war comic novel of provincial university life. The eponymous protagonist is a passive and indolent chap. I'm not entirely sure that I enjoyed the book- I'd read it many years ago- but it provides many visual, humourous set pieces and an interesting cast of grotesques. The challenge of pacing the illustrations, showing the characters whilst not giving too much of the narrative away was very satisfying. The feedback from the publishers has been positive. I'm assuming- having just received my complimentary copies that the book is soon to be released and that I'm not jumping the gun in showing these here.

The obligatory gazillion thumbnails

Cover designs. Pub signs and match, cigarette packets were dismissed since there's no need for including the title. I tried to suggest numerous figure free, atmospheric and decorative solutions.


Another piece for SooJin at PLANSPONSOR. This is about wholesale scepticism/ cynicism from the US public as far as Health Care reforms are concerned. HERE'S a link to the digital version of the magazine
Roughs for the above. The glass half empty solution seemed appropriate for the scepticism-bordering-on-pessimism theme

A belated L'Shannah Tovah! This piece- commissioned by John Belknap- is for a special New Year supplement in the Jewish Chronicle with a roundtable discussion by some notable British Jews on (national/ cultural/ religious) identity.
Steve Wacksman, my go-to guy for all things kosher (for all things, period) told me that his own Rosh Hashanah motifs included 'Itchy wool trousers, cloyingly sweet kosher wine, clouds of cigar smoke, and the mothball-and-cough syrup scent of my aged great aunts'. Figuring I'd need something a little more generic I did some further research and found apples, honey and blowing the shofar (ceremonial horn, not- like, heh- the chauffeur) to be the cornerstones of ushering in the Jewish New Year. As a godless sort- I declare that with wistful resignation rather than militant pride- the rituals of religions generally fascinate me. As a child I used to serve as a boat boy (not to be confused with 'the boy in the boat') in the high Anglican church services. I simply remember being backstage in the freezing vestry huddled over an electric fire whilst the thurifer rolled cigarettes.
First round of roughs- I was all for breaking out the repeat patterns but the feeling was that a central figure was needed.

Since the supplement featured a discussion of contemporary British/ Jewish identity, John Belknap suggested the duality of a playing card might be appropriate. It proved a little too clever-clever and was dropped in favour of a simple Rabbi trumpeting

Krystal Method
Illustration accompanying a review of Arthur Krystal's 'Except When I Write' in the NY Times Book Review.
Shannon Robertson at The NY Times Book Review commissioned me to do an illustration for a review of a book of Arthur Krystal's essays. Mr Krystal writes on literary/ cultural matters for Harper's and The New Yorker. On the Friday I had roughs approved with a Monday deadline. The only snag was that the piece involved employing something of a likeness. And there was absolutely nada online as far as headshots of the author went. I checked with the NY Times, Harper's and the New Yorker and none could find a byline photo. When I got beyond my frustration I was rather impressed that a published author could have fewer pictures of himself showing up on a Google image search than a certain Arab prophet.
With a growing discomfiture (was I going to have to cheat with a silhouette? Or crop to the figure's hands?) I contacted friends in NY to see if they could flush out a likeness. Gumshoe Steve Wacksman turned up an Upper West side address and phone number for an A.Krystal and I duly left a rambling message on this fellow's ansaphone, blurting, 'I'm a great fan of your work' as I signed-off.

Now I had enjoyed what I'd read by him but I've no idea what possessed me to to fawn so. Particularly as, for all I knew, this might've been the number of- say- Aaron Krystal, Notary (although I liked the idea of such a person picking up a message from a stranger raving about his largely unrecognised work on affadavits)
Remarkably- given the creepy voicemail- Mr Krystal (yes, Mr Arthur Krystal) called me back that evening and we had a very pleasant chat- both perhaps tickled by the absurdity of the task. In time honoured police artist-fashion he gave me a description of the suspect.

The following day, when I'd almost finished the thing Mr Krystal came up with a somewhat inconclusive snapshot as additional reference.

I turned in the piece late on the Sunday and the Times Art Director seemed happy. However, Mr Krystal was less impressed and wanted three rounds of revisions ('I'd add hair to the temple and thin out the jowl. My mouth is fuller, as is the chin'). A narcissist after my own heart. And yes, he did have a point. Version one, the smaller image here, is rather tuberous of head and playdoh-y of nose.
Other assignments intruded and my whittling had to cease, much as I would've liked to've arrived at subject-approved verisimilitude.
Bringing my stalker-ish utterances full circle, in my last email to Mr Krystal I promised to dust off my long-stashed oil paints and attempt a better portrait of him should I ever fetch up in Manhattan. I bet he's steeling himself for a sitting even as we speak. Or moving upstate. What can I say? I don't get out much and find myself gabbling inanely.
Still, having read a collection of his essays since the assignment I can thoroughly recommend Mr Krystal's work, even (or especially) when he's writing of his cultural disaffections, and personal regrets.
The roughs

Here's another piece in my whimsical dip pen and wash style, a section cover for the Guardian. I wasn't too sold on the conceit (propsective employees advertising their presence to Big Game Hunter employers via social media networks) but the AD/ Editor seemed set on that solution and I had no better suggestions.
Camping vs deluxe camping. I urge you to seek out the Mike Leigh 1976 TV play, Nuts In May. Wonderful.

Another Paul Betts piece for the FT. Mr Betts, has a rare old time, filing dispatches from an enchanted realm where he hobnobs with the Great and the Good, bathes in Krug and has cherubim lob grains of Ossetra into his ever-open maw.
But is he happy? Blissfully so, I reckon.
At his holiday retreat Mr Betts and his Yorkshire terrier are confronted by porcine intruders...

Paul Betts in Tuscany
For the FT Weekend (not to accompany a PB piece this time)

Detox teas roughs
For an FT magazine. Shockingly I forget the name of the title and the topic.

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