Feature

My Creative Inspiration

I remember it like it was yesterday. I must have been five or six years old. Me, my brothers and sister were playing upstairs when my Mum shouted up: "Quick! Jim Jams on!"

Like a flash, we all bundled downstairs and into the front room, the telly switched on and we plonked ourselves in front of it expectantly.

Now I didn't know she meant us to put our pyjamas on, and sharpish. I naturally leapt to the conclusion that Jim Jam was a puppet or, even better, a new cartoon character whose show was now on the TV.

Of course, I was gutted. You see, I loved the telly as a kid and my programmes of choice were mostly cartoons. I not only remember the obvious Hanna-Barbera shows such as Pixie and Dixie, Quick Draw McGraw and The Flintstones, but also British classics such as Halas & Batchelor's Foo Foo and Goo Goo. You also had Warner Brothers stuff such as Tweety Pie, Bugs Bunny and my absolute favourite, Droopy Poodle.

Even the ad breaks were choc-a-bloc full of cartoons with characters such as the Farrows Peas Crow, The Glenryck Pilchard and the (Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom) Esso Blue Man.

Yes, I loved cartoons, and they didn't necessarily have to move. I loved comics too, and I had access to a lot of them.

I was lucky because my Dad was the Non-Ferrous Scrap Metal King of Peckham and as a result he had a few bob that he was quite happy to invest in his kids' education.

Therefore, I didn't only get one comic a week. I got The Beano, Dandy, Valiant, Beezer, Topper, Sparky, Wham, Sunny Stories and Bimbo. (Okay, so the last two were technically my sister's.)

I studied the classics too, such as Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights and Robinson Crusoe, but all in comic book form. After reading each comic several times over, I'd grab a pencil and try my best to copy the drawings.

Throughout the 60s, my Mum and Dad would go out most Saturday nights. I remember them getting dolled up, Mum with her beehive and mink stole, and they'd be off to somewhere exotic such as the Beaverswood Country Club or the Talk of the Town.

The girl from across the road would come over to babysit for us. Occasionally, she'd bring her boyfriend and he knew I liked comics. One week he brought me a treat that would have a profound effect on my life. It was the Eagle Book Of Careers. Now, I was a long way off school-leaving age and at seven I hadn't given my future profession much thought outside of the usual cowboy or astronaut fantasies.

But because the book was in comic form, I couldn't resist it. I read the different sections, "I want to be a Civil Engineer", "I want to be a Chartered Accountant" etc, until I came to one that sent my head into a spin: "I want to be a Commercial Artist."

Now, I hadn't seen the book for more than 40 years and I've only recently secured a copy but I've always remembered the smiling hero's face in the last frame as his boss holds up a layout and says: "Congratulations, Adrian! Your designs for the 'Nodert Soap campaign' are splendid."

It was beyond my wildest dreams that you could have a paid job that involved drawing pictures. I wanted to be Adrian more than the Engineer, Electrician, Accountant or even the Engine Driver.

My love for comics continued over the following years, but my taste matured a bit and the Beano and Dandy were replaced by the likes of MAD Magazine and Metal Hurlant.

I was still keen on advertising and I can remember seeing the Heineken "refreshes the parts" posters for the first time. I couldn't believe it. What were they if they weren't giant three-frame cartoon strips?

I never imagined one day I'd be fortunate enough to create a Heineken poster campaign of my own. One of which was definitely influenced by the Shakin' Stevens gags that were a regular in Viz at the time.

A few years back, when the UK was thinking of adopting the euro, I thought: if this country doesn't want the pound, I'll have it. So I designed myself a pound sign logo.

It seemed only natural to do what Richie Rich did with the dollar sign and have the logo emblazoned on my carpets, my wallpaper, even my clothes.

There's no doubt that comics have influenced my work over the years and I've been lucky enough to work with loads of famous artists and animators.

I still read the occasional graphic novel and channel-hop to Cartoon Network now and then, but nowadays my inspiration comes from all over the place. Like reading about the lives of great people: Churchill, Brunel, Jordan and Peter Andre (all cartoon characters).

Or architecture, such as the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gehry or Pugin (they've all produced buildings that wouldn't be out of place in cartoons).

My favourite architect, Morris Lapidus, had a saying that didn't quite take off the same way Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" did. Lapidus used to say: "Too much is never enough."

It neatly sums up the exaggerated essence of cartoons that have inspired me over the years.

I'd just like to end this ramble by saying thanks to my Dad for supplying the comics and to my Mum for never switching the telly off.

That's all, folks!

- Mark Denton is a director and the creative director at COY! Communications.

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