London’s annual graphic art and illustration festival is back again; this year with with a focus on the inclusive and interactive and bringing in a broader audience than ever. Downstairs are Pick Me Up’s 17 chosen ones: artists whose work is humming with personality and flair, ranging the usual giclee and screenprint staples to more surprising embroidery and installation works.
This year there was more a focus on intricate technique, compared to the playful naïve style that has dominated previous fairs: attracting close attention were Katie Scott’s surreal animal prints, Ugo Gattoni’s unbelievably detailed scenes and You Byun’s imaginative and joyful pastel dreamscapes. Anna Lomax took the back wall of the show with a collection of strange assemblages – a full English lit up in neon, plastic and faux stone monuments, and bizarre text works – which are heavily influenced by folk art and challenge the common idea of what is valuable. Although somewhat removed from illustration, this was a fascinating addition and provided a thought-provoking contrast to the otherwise delicate works of Pick Me Up Selects.
Upstairs was the regular hoard of innovative and eclectic stalls from various collectives, but this time coupled with a new addition – a handful of slick pop-up stores designed by illustration agencies and complete with flower gardens, pumping music and walls appearing to have been decorated by a particularly talented toddler.
Although downstairs’ Pick Me Up Selects presents some seriously diverse and impressive skills, and the agency booths upstairs are a trendy feast for any pair of Rayban bespectacled eyes, the true soul of the fair is sandwiched between: the mezzanine floor populated by amateur collectives who clearly adore their craft. Although Print Club London’s upstairs stand offered visitors the chance to print, or decorate, a screenprint for a small fee, the mezzanine was chiefly occupied by collectives offering workshops out of the kindness of their hearts – a welcome addition amongst an otherwise pricey fair! The enthusiasm of these start-out collectives is contagious, with parents, children, artsy and ordinary folk able to take part in a huge array of workshops.
Occupying more space than any is one-year-old Coffee Club Collective: Joe Taylor, Jasmine Hortop, Chloe Cook, Lucy Kenny, Katie Bennet and leader Tris Tolliday, six BIAD graduates who may be dotted about the country but are undeniably close-knit, holding crits and encouraging one another via good old Facebook.
This long distance relationship may seem like a disadvantage, but as Jasmine Hortop explains, it allows the group to form a wide circle of contacts which has already led to exhibitions in Leeds, London and Bristol. Live in the same city and you might meet for crits on a weekly basis, but post your latest work online and it’s there for your collective to see instantly – providing a daily dose of creative discussion and the essential motivation which recent graduates can often lack.
So how exactly has this collective, still in its infancy, secured such a huge space in London’s original graphic art fair?
Well, firstly this year the fair is clearly all about getting the general British public involved and with a traditional strong-man cut out board for photo opportunities (which I very much enjoyed!), tombola, Sketch O Matic live-draw and hoopla stands, as well as a further three workshops to try – including How To Make an Eight Page Zine – Coffee Club have got it covered.
The slim tented booth that is the Sketch O Matic sees one member of Coffee Club use their expert penmanship to fulfil the line-drawing desires of visitors – an idea which has proved so popular that last week one woman waited an hour and a half for her piece! The tombola, meanwhile, tests the skills of fairgoers: draw an image, pop it in, and take one out (mine was a lovely little duck standing in the pouring rain).
Also contributing to their success is the diversity of this group: this is a collective who are not stylistic clones, but instead each has a distinct style with 2D works ranging from giclees of delicate drawings to vibrant, almost neon, screenprints.
Coffee Club’s diversity is not just in their differing styles, their plethora of designs being available anything from a simple print or framed piece to a zine or book, from a kitsch card or cushion to a hoodie or tee. With such a multitude of skills, it’s unsurprising that Coffee Club are steaming ahead.
A few pieces which I particularly enjoyed were their Almanac The Circus, a delicate book created by the whole team; Joe Taylor aka Lumber Jack Joe’s tiny resin axe sculptures, which he’ll be sending out to agencies alongside a printed book – a genius alternative to a CV alone; Jasmine Hortop’s cheerful greeting cards; and Lucy Kenny’s bold, atmospheric pen and wash prints.
With the huge amount of publicity and agency interest gained through Pick Me Up, the Club’s success seems set to spiral out even further – who knows, next year maybe the entire mezzanine will be their own!
Pick Me Up finishes on Sunday 28 April so get yourselves over to Somerset House, and prepare to be inspired whilst sketching, scribbling and screenprinting your way through London’s hottest graphic arts fair.
1. Untitled © Fatherless.
2. Coffee Club, courtesy of Chloe Hodge.
3. Relocated © Anna Lomax.