James Dawe designs cover for Creative Review

Sat 07 Jul 2018

James Dawe recently created the cover for Creative Review's June/July issue 2018: How I Got Here and Creative Leaders 50

Housed in a spectacular three-part collage cover, the June/July issue of Creative Review features the inspiring stories of How I Got Here from eight brilliant creatives. Plus they announced this year’s Creative Leaders 50.

James created one large collage combining the work from all of the subjects of CR's How I Got Here series of profiles which was then split across all three covers.

The How I Got Here interviews are inspirational stories from a variety of creative types. They have illustrators Hattie Stewart and Rob Ryan, director Ringan Ledwidge, 4Creative’s Alice Tonge, graphic designers Aaron Draplin and Tom Kingston, architect Amanda Levete and photographer Jonas Bendiksen. Each tells the story of their career to date, including failed degree courses, personal tragedies, business disasters and sheer persistence.

We asked James Dawe a few questions about this wonderful project...

So James, first thing's first - how did you approach this brief?

The concept of making 3-4 covers from one detailed panoramic collage was inspired by a series of front covers I created for Bloomberg Businessweek’s Year End issues in 2011-12.

I therefore dug out this work as reference, but the difference being that I was to make the CR core mostly by hand, whereas the Bloomberg ones were a digitally created montage.

Firstly it was a case of seeing what imagery was available from the artists/creatives themselves or direct sources linked to them. This was filtered through gradually which gave me time to think about structuring the composition based on what was coming in.

I tend to start from the middle with a strong character or shape and work outwards. It was important for me to keep the different types of work interspersed throughout so the composition had a balance and didn’t lean too heavily to one individual in a certain section.

Did you have much creative freedom with this brief?

Yes, aside from having to feature the work of the Creative Leaders across the length of 3-4 covers, the rest was open for me to go wild.

What materials were you provided with to get a feel for the topics/case studies/people in the magazine?

I was fortunate enough to visit Rob Ryan at his Ryantown studio for a cup of tea and to select off cuts, stencils, proofs and original drawings to use in the artwork.
Alice Tonge (head of 4Creative) also sent me a small padded case containing the blocks of the Channel 4 logo (used in their programme fillers) which I incorporated into the final piece.

Other batches of images, photos and stills from adverts were sent to me to print out - and I could read the relevant articles on the CR website to familiarise myself. There were a few issues with rights which meant Jonas Bendiksen’s Magnum Photos weren’t useable. A lot of mount board, removable tape, blue tack, scape blades & glue sticks came into action.

What's important to keep in mind when starting a project like this?

The fact that the whole artwork would be split up into 3 covers, so there had to be a clear focal point and composition in each crop as well as overall. In the end I made sure there were 3 clear faces for the reader to connect with in each cover. Aaron Draplin’s portrait in the middle cover, the C4 Jockey from the Nation Portrait awards (far right over) and the clown from the Ringan Ledwidge’s Audi Ads.

The style of work had to be balanced throughout and carefully considered. For example, using Amanda Levete’s dynamic architecture as a based structure to weave the finer details such as Rob Ryan’s throughout.

What was your creative process for this project?

Partly answered above: Image sourcing and selection. Hand cutting print outs and collaging directly onto mount board Only tacking down for the final photoshoot, then adding some detail and vibrancy on the computer. The process was documented in time-lapse (see video), going through 3-4 different tripods as the artwork grew and spread across my desk.

Then after delivering the final artwork I had to physically stick down the whole collage which almost stretched to 2x1 metres. This is now being framed and will hopefully be exhibited.

How tight was the deadline?

I had about 3 weeks to deliver this, but it took almost a week for all the images to come in and for me to plan the layout.

How different was your initial idea to the final, approved cover?
It’s always quite an organic process but the final piece was almost as I intended with the addition of some 3D layers at the end really bringing it to life.

Originally myself and Art Director @Studio (Paul) Pensom had intended for the colours to be monotoned but as the artwork took shape it was evident that it should be kept in full colour.

Did you have any setbacks / difficulties?

I was slightly limited with the material that was available in the time, which meant creating 3 covers from 1 whole piece instead of stretching to 4.

Shooting the collage proved challenging as it became hard to get the full montage in. My desk space is on a split level so I had crane like tripods and some with legs hooked onto the sprinkler pipes. The overall piece was stitched together on photoshop and refined.

Did anyone or anything particularly inspire you for this?

Having the chance to work on a front cover with such inspiring people’s material was motivation in itself. Although I did have landscape works of famous artists in mind too, such as Picasso’s Guernica  and even Pollock’s composed splatters.

The cross discipline collaborations encouraged by social media resulting in a variety of different outcomes is also a source of motivation.

My visual language is quite diverse as I am in terms of the material I source, so being able to use a mixture of creative’s work really satisfies my eclectic approach.

How would you describe your artistic style generally?

Photo-collage combined with digital manipulation and 3D experimentation.


What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?

I’m fascinated buy the possibilities of 3D (visual) programs and motion graphics - but also macro photography of abstract textures, light and material reactions. 

The Shape of Light exhibition currently at Tate Modern showcases experimental photography from it’s beginnings up until the digital age and is definitely worth a look.

I believe by surrounding myself with a wealth of visual material from all aspects of life - and spending time to look at things and learn how they are made all feeds into my psyche when working on any type of project.