Ten years ago Nobrow Press sprung onto the comics scene taking sequential art into new and exciting arts-based directions with work that embraced a strong sense of graphic design, challenging narrative styles and a willingness to experiment with the perceived boundaries of sequential art. In that past decade highlights have included Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, their expansion into children’s books via Flying Eye, the internationally renowned ELCAF festival and their showcasing of the practice of creators like Dilraj Mann, Lorena Alvarez, Hamish Steele, Jen Lee, Andy Poyiadgi, Alexis Deacon, Jamie Coe, Jon McNaught, Joe Sparrow and so many more.
And in what has become almost a UK comics cliché they also have the market covered in the best smelling graphic novels on the shelves.
To mark this auspicious occasion, this past April Nobrow breathed new life into their eponymous anthology-style “magazine” in the special Nobrow 10: Studio Dreams. Missing in action for some time, the publication gave a themed spotlight on stunning work from across Nobrow’s list of established creators and beyond. Nobrow 10, as the title suggests, invites artists to present images of their dream studio spaces and is focused almost exclusively on illustration work rather than comics per se, but is crammed full of names familiar to regular Broken Frontier readers.
The diversity on offer of both the stylistic and thematic approaches to the given topic is summed up in the first two offerings in this handsomely packaged book, with Jan Van Der Veken’s calming sepia recreation of an idyllic quiet space followed by James Wilson’s surreal and representational dreamscape (top banner image). It’s indicative of how interpretations to the theme swing back and forth between the practical and the fantastic throughout the book’s pages.
In that first category (of sorts) there are those artists who envision their ideal architectural workspace retreats – the placid colours of Bianca Bagnarelli’s studio seen from afar, Eleni Kalorkoti’s pensive space (below) or Keith Negley’s remote locale evoking a sense of escapism and soothing solitude. Others take a more slice-of-life perspective that will no doubt connect with many of their artistic peers – Rebecca Crane’s vision of coffee shop creativity or Vance Lump’s simple but elegant notion of the perfect studio being the great outdoors.
Of course, there are other less sedate interpretations. Fantasy elements abound, often representing the artist’s imagination as it seeps into every square foot of their fictional studio environs. A Sendak-ian merging of the domestic and the world outside from Alexis Deacon, the hypnotic hues of Izzy Ward, or Katja Spitzer interacting with her own characters. Sometimes that’s taken to brilliantly bizarre extremes as in the case of Andrew Rae’s sci-fi mechanical trousers/studio combo and on other occasions visual metaphor takes centre stage as per Ben Newman’s depiction of his thought processes being his true studio area (below).
The comics content is indeed at a bare minimum (though Daniel Locke provides a lovely two-pager that meditates on the outlandish and the unlikely before reminding us that the familiarity of home comforts is what we really dream of most of all) but there’s so much to pore over in so many of these images that you’ll find yourself constructing your own narratives around the bustling, lively worlds created by the likes of Drew Millward, Dustin Harbin, Joe Todd-Stanton and so many others. Nobrow 10 is a gorgeous curation of top illustrative talent and a fitting celebration of ten years of Nobrow’s distinctive contribution to the graphic arts scene.
Anthology – Various creators • Nobrow Press, £18.00
The ELCAF Season Studio Dreams exhibition at SPACE Studios run from today June 14th to Saturday June 16th. More details here.
Catch up on all our ELCAF Fortnight articles to date here. ELCAF runs from June 22nd-24th. Full details on the ELCAF site here and you can also follow the festival on Twitter here.