Notebook: 29 August 2015
As a graphic design student at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) we had a terrific tutor called Mike Felmingham who organised a number of talks from visiting illustrators including the cartoonists Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe and the illustrator (and designer) George Hardie. Hardie was, and still is, probably best known for his album cover designs for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Presence but it was a small illustration (pictured above) that he had drawn for a restaurant menu card, that made me such a big fan of his work back in the late 1970s. I was taken in by the Art Deco design and the black, orange and green shapes which at first glance I took to be a Manhattan street scene. Looking more closely, I suddenly realised that the illustration was, in fact, an axonometric projection of four people sitting around a restaurant table – one person holding a menu, another with wine bottle in hand, a person smoking a cigarette (with wisp of smoke that rises through the centre of the drawing) and the fourth with a wine glass. How clever was that! Much of Hardie’s work had this clever or hidden ‘twist’ to it including this illustration below (apologies for quality) which he drew for a Sunday Times ‘Sacred Cow’ article (in about 1977-78) on Le Corbusier. You’ll see that the modern apartment blocks set amongst the suburban houses are actually figures on their hands and knees worshipping the great architect.
George Hardie later went on to teach on the illustration course at Brighton and here’s an article that Brighton Uni published upon his retirement last year. In the late ’70s Hardie worked for NTA studio (Nicholas Thirkell Associates) along with the illustrators Bush Hollyhead, Malcolm Harrison and Bob Lawrie, and and you can read more about this period in a blog written by Mike Dempsey in 2011.
Where the Blythe Spirit restaurant was, and how long it ran for, I do not know, but I still have the front of its menu card, given to me by Hardie on a student visit to his Covent Garden studio in 1977, carefully saved in an old shoe box.