Another hand-drawn animation experiment that harks back to my previous design career at the Mercury newspaper in Hobart.
I’ve always loved animations and cartoons. I have dabbled with a few little things over the years, but have recently been studying a few more techniques and processes online. This is an early effort with a hand-drawn animation that is based upon drawings by Preston Blair. It’s a very challenging art form, but tremendously rewarding and interesting.
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Australian decimal currency banknotes have a fascinating design history. A 1968 Penrose Annual article by renowned graphic designer Alistair Morrison provides a detailed account of the working methods of the team of graphic designers who collaborated on Australia’s first decimal currency banknotes.
In early 1963 the Commonwealth Government announced that a new decimal currency system was going to be developed to replace the imperial system of pounds, shillings and pence, and accordingly new bank notes were to be designed and begin circulation by February, 1966.
The design committee
The Reserve Bank of Australia was responsible for the design and printing of the new notes, and assembled a team of seven leading Australian graphic designers to ensure that the design was of the highest possible standard. The seven designers were: Gordon Andrews, Douglas Annand, Richard Beck, Max Forbes, George Hamori, Hal Missingham and Alistair Morrison. The design team’s ambitions were very high and Morrison wrote:
We wanted the notes to be better designed than any in the world; we wanted to justify the bank’s confidence in us; and we wanted everyone to see that this was the way things should be done – that if creative people are consulted early enough and given a free hand they will produce infinitely better work than if they are asked merely to be the executives of decisions already made.”
How the committee worked together
Annand, Missingham and Morrison assumed advisory roles to lead designers Andrews, Beck, Forbes and Hamori. The full committee, together with Russell (‘Tass’) Drysdale, the Reserve Bank’s artistic adviser, met regularly to review the developing ideas and designs. Therefore the design process became partly competitive and partly collaborative, and when each designer submitted ideas, he had the benefit of the knowledge, skills and experience of six other designers. As Morrison explained:
Each designer’s work from the first preliminary doodles to the finished designs … was submitted to the full committee, and we all said what we thought and made suggestions. Some of the criticism was ruthless, but it was all constructive. The designer was free to accept or reject it, but he could hardly ignore it, and it was fascinating … to see how the work of each designer was improved by this treatment. Each of us had some knowledge, or skill, or had had some experience, which the others lacked; so each designer, without having to spend days in perhaps fruitless research, could draw on this sum of knowledge and advice. One of us would see something; some subtle misplacement of an element of the design, or some minor imbalance of tone or colour, which the others had not noticed; particularly the designer himself, who is always so close to his own work.”
The design proposals of Andrews, Beck, Forbes and Hamori were all submitted to the Reserve Bank in March, 1964. Four sets of designs were delivered, one by each of the four designers. Each set was a series of eight designs – both sides of each of the four denominations required: one, two, ten and twenty dollar notes. Whilst all the designs were thought to be highly commendable, the Reserve Bank Committee selected Gordon Andrews’ designs as the best. To gain a greater appreciation of the quality of the entire teams’ efforts, some of the beautiful work by the other designers can be seen here.
The committee successfully delivered four sets of designs to the Reserve Bank, one by each of the four designers. Each set was a series of eight designs – both sides of each of the four denominations required: one, two, ten and twenty dollar notes.
Gordon Andrews was then commissioned to proceed with the working drawings and to supervise the production of the new bank notes. The Reserve Bank website has more information, and explains that during 1965 the Bank’s Note Printing Branch produced close to 153 million new decimal currency bank notes, and that these were joined by new decimal coins that had been designed by Stuart Devlin.
Monday, February 14, 1966 became known as ‘C-Day’ (Conversion Day), with a prominent education campaign running during the lead-up to prepare the public for the introduction of the new currency.
I have a real interest in design history and I often find inspiration from early styles of graphic art. I recently acquired another copy of The Penrose Annual from a second-hand book store and as usual it contains a treasure trove of images and designs.
I love this old advertisement for Kodak in the style of an ancient map. It’s a fun, imaginative way of illustrating the problems and technical issues that are found in colour print reproduction. From the Jungle of Technical Difficulties, the Abyss of Exposure and the Development Deeps, we are carried on an wild adventure through the Labyrinth of Lost Time, the Sandstorms of Dusty Chemicals and the Quicksands of Dimensional Instability to finally arrive safely at the City of Satisfied Customers.
The map was designed and drawn in Kodak’s own art department, using a 1575 lithographic map of Christopher Saxton’s map of Somerset as reference. It was reproduced and printed in six colours by Colour Reproductions Ltd of Billericay, Essex, using Kodak materials exclusively.
The finished artwork as it appears in the Penrose pages is gorgeous, especially when one is able to feel the texture and quality of the paper onto which it is printed (Penrose Annuals always included many different weights and types of paper and card bound seamlessly into the one volume).
The astronaut/space theme that I have adopted for my website is a fun way of expressing a number of related ideas. I was born in 1965 – halfway through the decade that culminated with Neil Armstrong’s first “small step” upon the Moon.
I have many early childhood memories of watching the first televised images of rocket launches, the Earth from deep space, and of astronauts walking on the lunar surface. This all sparked my childhood imagination and led to the creation of many space-themed drawings.
Many years later, I discovered the drawings, plans and artwork for many of NASA’s rockets and spacecraft, and these inspired me to create my own rocket in which to explore the creative cosmos.
What’s this button for?
As a graphic artist and designer there are many computer programs, interfaces and production systems to master, and driving my computer with its myriad of switches and buttons often feels like working the complex controls of spacecraft. While working I’m on a creative mission to pilot an idea from an initial concept to a successful, finished conclusion — it helps to know which buttons to press and how to work the controls!
Adrift in space
Art, literature, music and creativity in general free us to new ways of seeing and thinking. Personally, when my imagination is stirred, or when I find the solution to a creative problem, I feel an opening of possibilities and a freedom from the gravity of tired thinking. In this weightless state new ideas can be born, explored and developed. A 1941 poem titled High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr that has been well-loved by both aviators and astronauts seems to encapsulate this feeling:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
A fresh perspective
At first, my space theme may seem far-removed from my other creative interests, particularly my work as a natural history and wildlife illustrator, but to me it all ties together neatly. Living in such a beautiful place as Tasmania has made me realise the critical importance of environmental conservation on a global scale, and the photographs of Earth taken from deep space by the Apollo astronauts famously emphasise the fragile nature of this shining jewel that hangs suspended in emptiness.
My design for the cover of the Mercury‘s guide to the 2018 state election owes everything to the brilliant work of Mercury photographer Richard Jupe.
Richard’s great talent for putting his subjects at ease, coupled with his extensive experience in lighting, composition and staging is clearly evident in this stunning combined portrait of Labor party leader, Rebecca White, and Liberal party leader, Will Hodgman.
I hope that I was able to combine the typography and layout for the cover of the election guide in a way that branded it clearly and strongly, while also letting Richard’s photo take centre stage and shine on its own merits.
The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was a large native carnivorous marsupial that was driven to extinction in Tasmania. The tragic story of the animal continues to fascinate many people both in Tasmania and overseas, and although many unverified sightings have been reported since the last one died in Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo in 1936, no concrete evidence of its survival in the wild has ever been found.
While growing up in Tasmania, and spending a great deal of time in the bush and wilderness areas of our island, the mystery of the Tasmanian tiger was often the topic of conversation around late-night campfires. As a young art student during the early 90s, it featured strongly in a series of preliminary drawings that I completed for a proposed book on Tasmanian wildlife. I later went on to complete detailed studies of the animal from the preserved specimens in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, and the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.
This research helped me to complete the illustrations that were published in my first book Animals of Tasmania: Wildlife of an Incredible Island, (2009), which was written by wildlife ecologist Dr Sally Bryant.
Since then I have continued with my research and artwork, and am presently working on a new book to visually document the animal with a more comprehensive series of drawings showing anatomy, appearance and behavior in greater detail.
In 2017 I became a featured artist at the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery, and contributed a life-sized digitally created print for display in the Gallery’s newly developed Tiger Room. My artwork was also used as a key image for a range of Tiger Room and Wilderness Gallery promotions.
Prints of that artwork, titled Alert Thylacine, are available from the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery shop, and from my online gallery at Redbubble.
ARTIST Tim Squires admits he probably falls on the “obsessive” side when it comes to tigers. I have seen him spend hours pencilling minuscule hairs on the pelts of his thylacine drawings. It is yogic stuff that requires immense concentration and a steady hand, but the results are beautiful, with a textural accuracy rarely achieved in a sketch. — Simon Bevilacqua, Opinion Editor, the Mercury.
As an art and graphic design student I often pored over the Penrose Annual collection in the art school library. They were a treasure trove of printing techniques, typeface designs, advertising artwork and illustrations, and I would be enthralled as I turned the pages.
I couldn’t believe my luck recently when I found a copy of the Golden Jubilee Penrose Annual in a second-hand book store, and I gladly parted with the $10 needed to call it my own!
The Penrose Annual was an acclaimed graphic arts journal that was published in London
The Penrose Annual was a printing and graphic arts journal that was published almost annually from 1895 to 1982. A London-based publication, it documented an incredible range of printing and design techniques, and remains today as beautiful source of design inspiration.
Steve Hare at Eye Magazine describes the Penrose Annual as a publication “by printers, for printers” that was “a one-off, in every sense”. Every edition was fastidiously approached as a unique creation. Steve Hare writes:
Its design and production needed to be planned with military precision; it was a complex and demanding publication that drew on, and demonstrated in its pages and inserts, every innovative technique, material and idea that had emerged in the course of the previous year. Sections to be bound in would arrive throughout the year from printers all over the world. There were tip-ins, fold-outs, different paper stocks, inks, artwork and processes to dissect and present, and advertising copy that more often than not needed binding in separately. And as a showcase not only for the printers themselves but the whole international industry, it had to be immaculately presented, printed and bound. A small staff spent the entire twelve months planning, compiling and producing it; and the printers, who were also its publishers, Percy Lund, Humphries & Co, would dovetail its production into their normal schedule . . . the industry would eagerly await its appearance and make investment decisions largely on what Penrose advised.
In the preface to the Jubilee edition, editor R.B. Fishenden also emphasises the team-work that went into each edition, and writes that “the shaping and fabrication of every volume is an adventure. Each is the outcome of a wonderful co-operative spirit . . . Our authors and our many friends bring fresh enthusiasm each year to help in giving the Annual its stamina and momentum”.
Examples of design and artwork from the Penrose Annual Jubilee edition
Animals of Tasmania: Wildlife of an Incredible Island is a book that documents and describes a host of Tasmanian species, including the iconic Tasmanian Devil, the mysterious Thylacine, the magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle and the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. These animals and many more have their own stories of survival, tragedy and hope in one of the world’s last remaining wild islands. Tasmania is a very beautiful island in south-eastern Australia, and with the artwork I wanted to pay tribute to the animals themselves, but also to the long tradition of fine natural history illustration that began with the arrival of the first European explorers to visit Australia and Tasmania.
Many of my drawings move between a range of styles and approaches, all of which try to salute the various techniques of lithography and engraving that were often used to illustrate zoological journals of this period, and the lesser-known but equally beautiful drawings and watercolour paintings that were prepared in art studios as guides for the completion of finished illustrations.
It was a pleasure to work with author Sally Bryant, whose lively and engaging writing covers broad themes that greatly enrich our appreciation of this incredible island’s unique wildlife. Evolutionary theories, continental drift, island biogeography, Indigenous and European knowledge, conservation, wildlife ecology, and exploration and discovery, are just a few of the topics covered by Sally’s engaging text.
Sally and I hope that Animals of Tasmania will be a valuable souvenir for visitors to our island, and with the strong themes of ecology, the environment and conservation, that the book may also assist teachers and parents to educate children in Tasmanian natural history, wildlife preservation and ecological science.
Animals of Tasmania was published in 2009 by Quintus Publishing. With design and production by Tracey Allen, and printing by Focal Printing in North Hobart, Animals of Tasmania went on to win gold and silver medals at the state and national Printing Industry Craftsmanship Awards. With the enormous care taken by all involved with the project, we hope that the book will be welcomed by all who love art, natural history, and the very beautiful animals of Tasmania.
Many thanks to all at the University of Tasmania, Quintus Publishing and Arts Tasmania for their support and encouragement.
Many thanks also to Kathryn Medlock at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for her guidance, advice, assistance, and for providing access to TMAG’s collection of Tasmanian wildlife study specimens.
Title: Animals of Tasmania: Wildlife of an Incredible Island
Date of publication: December, 2009
Author: Sally Bryant
Illustrator: Tim Squires
Designer: Tracey Allen
Dimensions: 21.5cms x 26.5cms
Illustrations: 74 colour, 9 black and white.
Text: 10-page introduction detailing key points of interest on Tasmanian natural history, plus profiles of 30 iconic Tasmanian species.
Publisher: Quintus Publishing.