johnminnion.com

Music

I have done more drawings relating to music – especially classical music – than to any other subject. You can see several hundred of my music-related images at Bridgeman Images who negotiate occasional modest fees for their re-use all over the world. For that reason I don’t post too many of them here.

Musicians are best to listen to live, not least because it’s a chance to draw them. Nowadays I always bring an A6 mini-sketchbook to a live concert and try to grab a seat with a good view. Here’s a few pages from music sketchbooks

The Listener

In the early Eighties I started drawing a weekly composer caricature for the Listener magazine. I went to them first with a proposal for a regular single-column head-and-shoulders caricature of Radio 3’s Composer of the Week. When Nick Kenyon took over as music editor I was given more space and linked with articles. It was a very enriching process for me because drawing a composer usually led to me listening to their music.

The drawings I did for the Listener were republished regularly in the New Zealand Listener and also in Classic CD, one of those monthly music magazines which came with a free CD of sample tracks – a perk much appreciated.

Naxos

One day the studio fax machine juddered into life and delivered me a list of a couple of hundred composers with a request that I provide drawings of them. The sender was a record company called Naxos and the drawings were to be used on a CD Rom – an early version of a website.

In those pre-Google days hunting down references for these composers – some very obscure – was a real challenge. I hardly ever actually spoke to anyone from Naxos (or Faxos, as I thought of them) but their requests dominated a year of my life and, since they paid a flat fee for unlimited use of the images, these drawings are still cropping up on CD covers and promotional stuff. You can see a few samples here.

Books of composer caricatures

There’s a typical selection of composer caricatures in my book Uneasy Listening about 20th-century composition. I also put together a book with Rob Ainsley called The Sideways Guide to Composers, an introduction to 100 of them which, alas, is out of print now. And if your bent is for 20th century British composers, there’s another bunch of caricatures in Composing Mortals by Terry Hiscock.

And if you speak Dutch, check out Aldo Druyf’s comprehensive guide to classical music Klassiek In Zicht, the result of years of single-minded dedication to making classical music accessible. It comes with extras like a calendar of composers’ birthdays and a fascinating map of their birthplaces, and it’s a pleasure to have so many of my drawings reused in that way.

I think this drawing was first commissioned by the London Philharmonic for their childrens’ concerts in the 1990s.
Erik Satie in the Chat Noir cafe, Montmartre, playing to support his absinthe habit

Black and White Nocturnes

I can’t resist a Chopin nocturne. I’m sure they contain a bit too much sugar, but they taste so delectable and I am sure they are good for my soul. So I decided to do a set of 21 black and white pictures, one for each nocturne. See a selection here.

Schott

For many years I illustrated music education books for Schott. Here are some of the colour pictures from Schott publications:

Music in five/four time
Frog march
Alt Text
Chasers
Flamingophone

Schools Proms

For a decade, I was privileged to draw the programme cover for the Schools Prom, an annual performance event for musical schoolkids from across the UK. As part of the commission my family and I were given a box at the Albert Hall from which to enjoy the show.

…and the real Proms

Once a year the focus of arts pundits turned its gaze upon the annual musicfest called The Proms. And the eyes of discerning art directors fell upon me. Here’s a selection of Proms related commissions

Programme and leaflet design

Most musicians make very little money but they need a lot of publicity. This is a problem, but an even worse problem is that they can’t afford graphic designers to make their publicity look as professional as their performances. And an even worse problem than that, is that they don’t always realise how amateur their own efforts look.

In recent years, access to a range of fonts has made many musicians feel they can ‘do design’. So that’s all right then. Except no, it isn’t, and generally they can’t.

But enough grumbling. I have had a lot of pleasure working with musicians over the years, and designed stuff when they asked, usually cheaply, sometimes for free. And always enjoyed the concerts.