For the Autumn issue of Printed Pages we sent Liv Siddall out into the field to investigate the extraordinary world of niche magazines. She trawled the expansive shelves of London’s largest WHSmith to seek out the most weird and wonderful titles that mainstream publishers have to offer, returning to the studio with a bumper haul of titles for us to pore over. They had names like Military Modelling, The Searcher: The Informed Voice of Metal Detecting, Practical Sheep, Goats and Alpacas and Today’s Railways. We got pretty hooked!
Sadly, despite being full of exciting content, very few of these peculiar periodicals offered much in the way of design values, so we were loth to simply photograph them. Instead we got our old friend Oscar Bolton Green to illustrate each one in his signature style reducing each cover to a bold image of bright colour palettes and strong shapes. Oscar, as ever, was a pleasure to work with and we were delighted with the final images, so we asked him a few questions about this commission and his process to better understand how he works.
How do you go about starting a commission like this?
It varies. If I feel comfortable I’ll start drawing straight away, but if there needs to be more of an idea I like to take a bit more time. Sometimes it’s better to not think about it too much and go for a walk in the park or something.
Did you read Liv’s piece before you started working?
Yeah I did and it made me smile. I don’t always think it’s necessary to read the whole article I’m working on, but I was really drawn to the idea of this one.
Do you sketch by hand or go straight to the computer?
I always sketch by hand. I went through a period of just drawing on the computer but it got boring. I like the collage way of working on the computer but nothing beats the feeling of putting pen to paper.
What materials do you use?
I use lots of different pens and pencils, with varying flow and thickness. It keeps it fun and encourages me to draw a bit differently for each project. Sometimes I draw big and sometimes I draw really small. And then I also have a big pile of loose paper, which is good for pressure-free drawing.
We sent you loads of strange magazines for this commission, which one was your favourite and why?
I enjoyed flicking through Today’s Railways as it reminded me of my graffiti days, but my favourite was probably Military Modelling. I especially liked the process photos of how to make a super-realistic model of a rusty wall.
Tell us how you’ve chosen to represent the covers in this feature.
The actual illustrations in the article are either based on the existing covers of each magazine or a specific article in it – like the Kindred Spirit drawing, which is based on an article about when The Beatles visited India. Just before this project started, I was working on some really tight graphics and I thought it would be nice to be a bit looser for this one. So some of the drawings are from imagination or memory and I also used a thick, splodgy line which allowed me to be a bit freer on the computer.
What else have you been working on recently?
I’ve been working closely with Bloomberg Businessweek for the past year, creating weekly illustrations for them, which has been such a pleasure. I’ve also just finished a couple of big commercial projects, including an Emoji library for an instant messaging app. And then on the side I’ve been making a series of big poster drawings, which would be nice to show at some point.