Yesterday, I had to prevent the postman trying to stuff an A3 size envelope through my regular size letter box. I quickly opened the door and gave him a withering look and was about to chide him for not even bothering to look at whether the address was for the ‘Avenue’ or the ‘Crescent’. The amount of times I’ve had to go around the corner to the neighbour with their packages. Anyway, it was for me. No way ! Was this actually the physical proof I’d been waiting for?
Apparently I had been assured that an illustration of mine had been printed in an iconic magazine, but I wasn’t having any of it. Yes, I’d actually received a cheque in the post and been shown a photograph but I still refused to believe it. Things like that didn’t happen to me. Opening the package, I found that John Holmstrom had sent me not one but three copies. And yes, there I indeed was, on page 58 ( plus a mention on the Editorial page). I still couldn’t believe it though.
It all started at the beginning of my OCA journey when I had to choose a contemporary illustrator and one from the past to compare. The latter was easy as I’d just seen a documentary about John Minton and so chose him. For the contemporary one I didn’t have a clue. I found a list online detailing just about everyone you can imagine and helpfully had it categorised into genres. Amongst the few punk illustrators I noticed John Holmstrom and Bruce Carleton. I vaguely knew John Holmstrom’s name and then after a quick google, of course, he was responsible for Punk magazine, but who was this Bruce Carleton? After investigating his work and really liking it, I had the thought that perhaps he was on Facebook. I managed to track him down and sent him a message explaining that I had an OCA task to do and that I’d chosen him. I think he was rather tickled by the idea of a random Brit suddenly contacting him out of the blue. He also explained that he was good friends with John Holmstrom and was actually the Art editor for the Punk magazine back in the day. What? ‘Don’t tell me you actually met all those punk bands back in the day?’ ‘Sure’, he explained. Well this was turning out to be rather fortuitous indeed. He happily answered any questions I had and told me I had to send him the artwork I had to produce for the exercise.
I had to create an image in his style, but there was a slight problem. This guy is really good. He’s a craftsman. Not a throw it together in five minutes scribble merchant like yours truly. It was easy coming up with a concept, I’d decided to pastiche Munch’s scream, replacing the central figure with Minton himself in order to highlight the mental anguish Minton suffered. I also decided to replace the figures on the background of the bridge with Bacon and Freud, his so-called ‘friends’. I was happy with the overall result and even bothered to do it in pen and ink, but clearly I couldn’t come close to Bruce’s line work so I didn’t even attempt to. I sent it to him and he was thrilled with it anyway. Since then, we’ve become friends and I’ve adopted him as a mentor and he’s always been there to give advice. He belongs to an art group in California and I’ve even had some interactions with them, designing the odd poster for them etc.
Fast forward a couple of years, he contacted me out of the blue and asked me if I thought I would be able to do an illustration for him. ‘Sure’ I said, without even asking about it. ‘How long have I got?’ ‘By tomorrow night’. Gulp! He explained that an artist had pulled out and the deadline was near. Everything was soon going to the printers and I had to say if I was in or not. ‘Umm, what do you actually want?’ ‘Basically, I’ll send you a song, listen to it and illustrate it. You can do absolutely anything you want. Don’t worry about it. Just do it for yourself.’ I was intrigued of course and more than a little excited. When he revealed what was actually going on, you could have knocked me down with a feather. A cliche I know, but if you’ve been a life-long fan of Iggy Pop and you’ve just been told that you are going to listen to a top secret unreleased track by him, illustrate it and not only that, but get it published in the legendary Punk magazine, which had especially been revived just for him, then you will of course know exactly what I am talking about.
No pressure then!
I had everything done in about 20 minutes the next day.
I initially thought, how on earth am I going to do this and why on earth did I agree to do this. I have to teach tomorrow. When am I going to find time to do this? How can I concentrate on my classes when all that’s going to be going through my head during lessons is ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’. However, the idea came to me during a break. Just treat it literally. Respond to the song title. The image, if amusing enough will suffice. Iggy Pop, half naked, of course, dancing a jig as a Georgian dandy. The song was called ‘The Regency’ and I liked the juxtaposition of Iggy Pop, the epitome of punk rock cutting a rug amongst the gentry. I quickly drew Iggy in typical Iggy pose, placed him over a found image of some dancers of the period. Added a suitable speech bubble, found some Georgian style text and had one of the dancers utter the main refrain from the chorus. Bingo!
I sent it off and, to be honest, I was expecting that Bruce would like it, which he did, but the tricky part would be getting editorial approval from John Holmstrom. Bruce soon got back to me and told me that John thought it was perfect. So, mission accomplished! There was just a contract to sign and a promise to make not to utter a word to anyone. The record company obviously wanted everything to be a big surprise, and it’s quite possible that this will be his last album.
It was all done so long ago now that I’d kind of put to the back of my mind and it wasn’t until yesterday that it suddenly dawned on me what had actually occurred when I saw the magazine with my own eyes. After deciding late in life to start the OCA degree in illustration, I’d managed to achieve something I couldn’t have imagined ever happening. Unfortunately, this is probably not going to result in anything else. I don’t see hordes of people demanding I illustrate things for them any time soon and the magazine was only brought back from the dead at the bequest of the record’s producer as a celebration of Iggy’s career anyway. Which is a shame. Punk rock has become mainstream, which is also a shame, but surely this magazine deserves a full time revival. I would do it all again at the drop of a hat. Keep your fingers crossed for me. It could happen. Anything’s possible I guess.
I genuinely hope that any of my fellow OCA students get to experience something like this, or their equivalent version of a dream come true whatever that may be.
Serendepitously, opposite my page, I discovered that John Holmstrom is also a fan of animal rock n roll mash ups. I sent him my version of Piggy Pop as a thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear in the magazine.