Radio Times is the long running UK television and radio listings magazine originally published by the BBC Magazines from 1923 until 2011 when it was appropriated by Immediate Media. The magazine is very much a British institution and being very biased is my listings magazine of choice. Although they use a large degree of photographs within its pages they have a long tradition of using illustration of many different styles and since 2007 I've had the pleasure to illustrate a few pieces for them in their radio section.
Kind Hearts And Coronets: Like Father, Like Daughter
The 1949 Ealing comedy film 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' is one of those films that gets repeated a lot and is especially good viewing on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Louis Mazzini (played by Dennis Price) is a distant relative of D'Ascoyne family and he plans to murder his way through the family tree to receive what he believes is his rightful inheritance. The magical part is that nearly all of the family members he hunts down are superbly played by Alec Guinness, a masterclass in comedic acting.
The brief from the Radio Times was for a radio drama sequel to the original play the film was based on, this time with all the major family members portrayed by actor Alistair McGowan. My first thought was to do something based around a family tree graphic but I put that aside based on the size of the illustration, 38mm wide by 71.5mm deep is a quite a small area to work in but not impossible to convey a lot of information and detail. So I headed down a different route but kept the 'family' theme by showing a section of a wall with family portraits, all of course portrayed by Alistair McGowan*. To add to the murderous side of the story I added in various weapons that might be used to 'bump off' each member. The pencil rough was quickly accepted and the painted final illustration was a lot of fun to work on. Briefed on a Tuesday morning, deadline noon Thursday, printed and in the shops by the following week!
*I decided to do a little homage to the Ealing film and the bottom left portrait is based on one of the eight family members as portrayed by Alec Guinness, it could of course pass for a bald Alistair McGowan :)
"In this original science-fiction adventure by Mike Walker, five lost souls are recruited to travel to an abandoned planet where all they know is that they are to retrieve the only known sample of an ore left over from an old mining operation. But their task becomes considerably more complicated when one of their party has a close encounter with the indigenous plant life – plant life which seems to have some very odd, very powerful properties. Soon they are battling not only to stay alive but to hang on to the very things that make them human."
The main things to highlight for this illustration I felt was the mining operation, the sinister/odd plant life, five characters and the fact its on another planet. I instantly thought of some great sci-fi imagery like the desolate research operations in John Carpenter's 'The Thing', the mining operation in 'Outland' and a few other elements from 'Aliens' etc. I could see it being very 80s sci-fi-esque. A barren planet surface with an eerie desolate but illuminated mining operation. Snaking out from the mine are the tangled roots of some kind of plant life with the shadows of five characters approaching.
Journey into Space: The Host
"Jet Morgan and his crew, Lemmy, Mitch and Doc, are woken from cryo-sleep in their ship, the Ares, by a distress call from an abandoned freighter. When Jet and Doc go on board the abandoned ship, they find no organic life forms but, instead, discover the personality of JJ Andreev – a previous associate of Jet's who was reported dead – locked inside the dying ship's computer system."
The brief called for an 'episode specific' illustration rather than a generic representation of Journey into Space, so we have the main character, Jet Morgan, and his crew mates in cryo-sleep about to be awoken by the distress call from a mysteriously abandoned space freighter, oooohhh! A lot of fun to draw.
"Stephen Mangan and Alistair McGowan star in this radio comedy by writers Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta. A fantasy novelist and his dog are whisked away to a parallel universe by a dwarf, an elf and a warrior princess. There they must battle against the evil Lord Darkness for possession of The Sword of Asnagar, 'for whoso'er wields the sword shall rule all of Lower Earth'."
"The year is 2099. Professor Nebulous returns with his team of inept eco-trouble shooters in the second series of this hilarious sci-fi sit com. NEBULOUS 3 continues the adventures of K.E.N.T. - the Key Environmental Non-Judgemental Taskforce in their struggle against alien threat and eco-logical disaster."
Very much enjoyed working on this illustration as it featured not only Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen) but also writer Graham Duff whose work on TV with the series Ideal and Hebburn I love.
43 Years in the Third Form
This illustration broke from the standard size that the radio section usually commissions and was used as a larger promotional piece for the show.
"A dramatisation of the great girls’ comics from the 50s to the 80s. We set each dramatisation in the context of the comics being read by a child in a household at the time. We begin with GIRL and SCHOOLFRIEND from the 1958, then BUNTY from 1968, JACKIE from the 70s, MISTY 1983, and in the final episode our child from the 50s is now grown up and returns to reading the GIRL and BUNTY annuals.
The programmes celebrate the comics, which in the earlier years provided strong aspirational and motivational stories for girls, but transformed in the late 70s and 80s into purveyors of beauty and fashion tips – but also gave some good advice in their agony columns about the social and sexual problems girls experienced, problems undreamt of in the 1950s."