Wednesday 6 June 2007

Barry Craddock – Master of pastiche

To an interested observer like myself, with absolutely no links with the advertising industry, Barry is one of the unsung heroes of commercial illustration. He has the skill to adapt to almost any idiom or style as required. I like to imagine him at work surrounded by an enormous reference library of the finest graphic imagery (Gebrauchsgraphik, Commercial Art, Graphis, Art & Industry) but the reality is probably very different. Here is a small selection of his output that gives some impression of the enormous range of his talents.

In the late 1980’s (or early 1990’s) there was a Shell poster campaign with a strong period feel, calculated to evoke the empty roads and unlimited speeds of mid-century Britain. Barry’s illustrations captured this to perfection with fonts and layout to match. These examples were photographed in London Road, St. Albans.

In my opinion, the wonderful faux woodcuts for Beck’s Bier in 1985 are the very best of his work. There are 3 variants that I know of: portrait format, landscape format and a Christmas themed landscape format. The portrait format is the strongest – a proletarian brewer holds a foaming glass to the light and subjects it to piercing scrutiny in the interests of quality control. Behind, a towering factory hall packed with cylinders, valves and gauges all dedicated to the brewing process. In the landscape image, our muscular worker-hero strides purposefully to the busy waterfront where barges line up to ferry the casks of ale to a thirsty nation. In the background, to the left a medieval bridge and cathedral and to the right a towering industrial facade and smoking chimneys. The style combines the robust immediacy of an Expressionist woodcut with the gravitas of Ludwig Hohlwein. Superb images but, did they work? Did consumption rise? Did the proletarian mood hold any appeal for the style conscious, conspicuous consumers of the Thatcher years?

Barry is still hard at work, to visit his website, click here. Perhaps, before too long, someone will produce a monograph on Barry’s work and collect his entire output into a single place. It would be a great asset to future generations of graphic artists and historians of design and illustration.


David Hughes said...

Barry's work for Beck's did indeed work. Sales certainly increased and the short-lived campaign co-incided with Beck's increasing association with 'Art' which ultimately changed the direction of their advertising here in the UK. The campaign was discontinued not for lack of efficacy but due to sensitivity about the imagery voiced by brewers in Bremen. The campaign never ran in Germany and was only ever intended for a UK audience, nevertheless..

There was actually a fourth iteration of the theme; a version of the portrait image but without the hat and it was the hat-less version that actually ran. You can see it here: Barry was asked to remove the hat because the client was worried that the man may be bald underneath. Luckily for everyone, when
Barry took the hat off the young man proved to have a healthy head of hair.

Phil Beard said...

Many thanks, David - this is fascinating. I wonder just what it was that concerned the Germans. Was the retro flavour simply out of synch with the contemporary image they preferred or did they detect some Third Reich association that would, understandably, give pause for thought. I don't see it myself but I can see how it might be possible. As for the idea that hats are no more than a device for concealing baldness - words fail me. But I guess that in your business you get used to these curious responses.

Anonymous said...

Explore Melbourne is illustrated by Paul Slater not Barry Craddock

Phil Beard said...

Thank you for the clarification.

Unknown said...

Hi Phil

glad I found your blog as I've been searching for an image of a Shell 'retro' poster featuring Wemyss Bay
similar to the ones you have sourced for Houston and Melbourne.

Unsure who the illustrator was but I remember thinking (when I saw it on a billboard near Weymss Bay..!) that the poster site wasn't chosen wisely as local residents had already 'discovered' the location...!



Anonymous said...

It is lovely to see such kind words for my fathers works ... he has done so much more ... and in my humble opinion he is far beyond good even great does not do justice to his skill.

He did pretty much every beer, booze, cig and matches advert aswell as Royal Mail stamp £10 plus numerous other ad campaigns.

Before the introduction of computers ... he is the last great artist that actually had the skill to draw/ paint / etch/ engrave with their hands.

You could ask him to paint a label in the style of Gustav klimpt and he could for say Johny Walker Gold Label ... and he did.

Or ask him to produce the most expensive stamp design in Intaglio which he also did.

Please feel free to contact him he would be more than happy to share images with you as an historical record.

Sadly he no longer has the eye sight to draw to such a precise level ... but does love his farm almost as much.

Again in grateful appreciation of you kind words for my farther.

Kind regards

Harry Craddock

Phil Beard said...

Harry, many thanks for your comments. It's my belief that illustrators of the pre-Photoshop generation will one day get the credit they are due for the quality of their work. Delighted to hear your father is still going strong. Best wishes, Phil