Friday, 16 December 2011

St Jude's Random Spectacular

St Jude's Random Spectacular, Issue 1
 The brand new journal from St Jude's is spectacular but far from random. Yes, it is eclectic, but with illustration by Mark Hearld, Emily Sutton, Angie Lewin, Jonny Hannah and other artists from the St Jude's stable it is a rather wonderful exposition of the Lewin house style. Open at random and you're transported to the world of energetic natural forms, retro typefaces and exquisite patterns that have made St Jude's so successful.

The cover could have been conjured up by Bawden or Ravilious for a 1930s book jacket. Seeing it made me wonder why it's taken so long for this rediscovery of all things mid-20th century to happen. It's a necessary and long overdue riposte to self-congratulatory conceptual art, computer-generated illustration and the kind of mind-numbing mass production that makes a Habitat mug look like a work of art.

Elisabeth Frink, Wolf & Crane 1968
You can see the influence of lots of artists at work. Last summer I walked into a room of lithographs by Elizabeth Frink and my immediate thought was 'how contemporary!'. In fact these characterful studies of birds and mammals were made in the 1960s, but the style - that sense of nature living and in motion - has echoes in the work of artists like Mark Hearld.

When I look at Emily Sutton's paintings of shop fronts I can't help but be reminded of 'High Street': the cafe shown in 'Random Spectacular' has the strange luminosity, stripped-down colours and exquisite lines of a Ravilious shop, but in the picture of a hat emporium on the opposite page Sutton has come up with a composition that is both tightly controlled and loose enough to let in some human warmth.

Angie Lewin, The 1953 Coronation Mug
Ravilious haunts Angie Lewin's work too - as she admits freely in her lovely book, 'Plants and Places'. By chance I was looking through it yesterday, and there's something fascinating about the way she works Rav's coronation mugs into some of her compositions. Her interpretation of his designs, with the lettering spilling off the mug into the 'world' of her print, suggests how influence works: you start with images made by another artist you love, build on them, and take off on your own...

The journal itself suggests old publications like 'The Saturday Book' - there are some nice examples here - with articles and photos relating to nature and the countryside. I love the way these cycles go: Ravilious and his generation adored Edward Thomas, Richard Jefferies and - above all - Gilbert White, whose 'Natural History of Selborne' was reissued numerous times during the 1930s. Ravilious was cock-a-hoop to be asked to illustrate one of these editions; perhaps the artists gathered together so thoughtfully by St Jude's could collaborate on a new edition. Now that would be a spectacle.

Gilbert White of Selborne, Nonesuch ed (from Bow Windows Bookshop)

By the way, there are only 750 copies of 'Random Spectacular', issue one. It isn't very expensive, and proceeds go to charity. Get yours here.


  1. it looks really nice, but sadly the website rejected my two attempts to pay by two different cards. Hey ho!

  2. Oooh noooo!!! It is sold out and my heart has broken just a tiny bit.

  3. Waiting eagerly for mine to arrive...darn this Christmas post delay!

  4. Dru - I think it must have sold out already...

    I have never in my life managed to buy a ticket or anything else before it sold out, so I must have got copy number 748

  5. Oh, sold out! missed the boat again.