Meeting Dave

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Sitting here in a cafe in Bali, I have my first real chance to reflect on the whirlwind that has been the past 18 months. Blasting down the door to the European football world after 10 years of searching for a tiny crack to squeeze a toe into. And then... It all happened with a rush as 5 clubs said "Yes" at almost the same time. This was after 5 trips to Europe to personally present my work and concept.

And meeting Dave.

It has been a very steep learning curve apart from the mountain of actual artwork I've had to create in this time. I've had to get my head around writing business plans, refining the Dream Scene concept, pitching and presenting, negotiating global licensing contracts, social media marketing, website building (and rebuilding), print production and distribution out of the U.K. and Spain, dealing with uncertainty and risk ... ... and jet lag!

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There have been several times over the past few years where this concept looked like not making it. I'm pitching an abstract concept to global organisations who have much bigger things to think about. Getting and keeping their attention long enough to understand what I am proposing is tough! 12 months of discussions can evaporate in an instant as other concerns avert their focus.

Transporting large oil paintings across the globe and overseeing print production with new printers is challenging and nerve racking. Just about everything that could go wrong has, and it has all been overcome.

But the best moment in all this for me was meeting Dave. 

I divise, design and create these Dream Scene projects to tell a story to the people who they relate to, the community of a Club. These "Clubs" are about so much more than Football. They are a family, a community thats unites generations of people.

I met a Liverpool fan who'd lost a family member during the Hillsborough disaster. People's connection their club is often about much more than just a game. Being commissioned to create an image that encapsulates that history is a task that I don't take lightly.

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So when I arrived at Liverpool FC's home at Anfield with a 3 metre oil painting, I was suitably nervous as to it's reception by the club officials. The painting was stored out in a holding room where it was guarded until the CEO was ready to view it. When I went to check on it I was stopped by Dave the security guard.

Dave was, from the look of him, in his 60's, a tough old bugger and determined that 'no man shall pass'. When I told him I was the artist, the transition in his eyes said everything to me. He was one of the only people to have seen the painting at this point. As we stood in front of it he became like a young boy, sharing with me his love for all these players that were now alive again on the canvas. He was born a few streets away from the ground in a working class suburb and had the club ingrained in his DNA for about 5 generations. 

I could see the memories pour out of him, with joy and pride and... connection... to the Liverpool community that is his life.

This was the highlight of the entire project for me.

My reward.

I wasn't so worried what the CEO might think now.

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The grand unveiling at Anfield

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NOVEMBER 17th 2017

A very special night at Anfield to present the Liverpool FC Dream Scene to the family members and players depicted in the painting along with a select few fans. What a pleasure it was for me to share this private unveiling and to get the warm feedback from those close to this image. I am always nervous until the people who it means a lot to, have seen it.

It is amazing to know that this painting will now remain at this great club for all their fans to enjoy. It has taken 4 years of planning and work to bring this project to life and it has now finally happened.

We had a perfect wrap up to the project on Saturday when I spent a few hours in the Club's Superstore in front of the painting talking to the fans, before being wined and dined in the Executive Lounge prior to a 3-0 win against Southampton. Best seats in the house too! It was great to experience the unique Anfield atmosphere as the crowd broke into their anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone".

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This has been an an incredible adventure. The two weeks here have been a whirlwind. From 4 days of production of the paper and canvas prints, to delivery of the painting to the club, last minute production emergencies, to the unveiling and the day at the game. Keeping up with the frenzy of a social media campaign and trying sleep with so much adrenalin in the system!

And just like that... it is done.

Time to make the long trek home to my family.

Clearing the hurdles, one by one.

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14th November 2017

This journey is teaching me some valuable lessons.

So far, everything that could go wrong... has.

4 days of madness getting all the prints made was exhausting but we overcame all the hiccups to get a great result.

Because I have no choice but to deliver on such a big project, I have had to be completely solution focused. There has been no time for pointing fingers or feeling sorry for myself... just fix it. All hurdles have been jumped to date.

After the printing process in Coventry I drove back to London to set up this gallery space at a BIG licensing show in London where clubs from the UK and Europe come to see what's new in the merchandise world of sport. The booth looked fantastic after set up on Sunday afternoon. When my UK colleague Andy and I arrived on Monday morning for the show, the booth was in pieces. Almost all the canvases and framed prints had fallen down. Broken glass everywhere and one frame had almost gone right through the back of one big canvas. DISASTER. The show had already started!!

A frantic clean up and about a kilometre of velcro got us back up and running to enjoy a great day... although I had to spin around at the first sound of crackling velcro to catch a couple of canvases as they came loose! We had lots of great responses to the work and the Dream Scene concept. Well worth the effort as we have a few exciting new leads.

At 6am this morning I was on the road for a 5 hour drive up to Liverpool to greet the original painting as it arrived at Anfield (Liverpool FC's home ground). The photo below might seem like a boring shot but it is by far my favourite!! The painting in the storage room at the club's museum. It has travelled a long way and is now safe and sound at it's new home.

All is in readiness for the grand unveiling in front of 80 or so of the Liverpool FC family. All the members and descendants of the players in the painting have been invited. I can't wait.

The promised land

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OCTOBER 12TH 2017

I have clawed my way up the far side of the ravine. Several times over the past few days I have been lost in the fog, almost derailed by the unseen hurdles, but I am now rolling about in the metaphorical green grass of the promised land.

After 4 solid days at 3 different printers scattered across the midlands of the UK, I’ve overseen the production of 6500 lithographic prints, 5000 (13 page) booklets, 600 smaller sketch lithographs, 75 event gift reproductions and 11 large canvas reproductions.

I’ve had to quality control colour on all products and make sure all canvas stretching was done to within a 2mm accuracy. Also had to organise couriers to deliver all products to 4 various locations in Liverpool and Sheffield by the deadlines required.

It is a real challenge to stay true to what I am trying to achieve. I entered a work place involving dozens of people and lots of expensive machinery that doesn't like too be kept waiting. I basically walk in and have to utilise several staff members for a couple of days. And I have to stay right on their shoulder to make sure all details are correct. This naturally creates some friction which I have to try to not be distracted by, as it is easy to start apologising and start to accept a near enough will do attitude. 

The reality is that my client, in this case one of the biggest football clubs in the world, isn’t aware or concerned with any human dynamics at the printers. All they care about is receiving a perfect product which they have paid for. So that is all I can be concerned with… the result.

From the outside, this all very boring to hear I’m sure, but for me, this is the biggest opportunity I have ever had in my professional career. My dear partner Jenn and I have worked our guts out AND put ourselves on the line financially to make this all happen. We built a website, set up International distribution, engaged in a global social media campaign, signed contracts with 4 big European football clubs, painted 3 of the bloody things and transported them across the planet… all since January, this year.

AND… It’s my daughter’s 10th birthday today and I am 15,000 kms away.

Anyhow… I'm very proud of team JCAP. The production stage is complete for the Liverpool FC Dream Scene and everything looks great! It’s time for a glass of champers followed by a big steak and glass of red!

Now the hard work begins

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OCTOBER 17TH 2017

Now that I've safely got the 3 metre oil painting across the globe… the hard work really begins.  The printing process. 

It’s like standing on the edge of a ravine looking across a foggy chasm from which emanates strange noises from unseen dangers. Across the void is the chosen land, with its lush, perfectly colour balanced, CMYK green hillocks, dotted with frolicking, not too cyan heavy in the neutrals, lambs and bunnies and a few farm wenches that are deliberately saturated with a rose hue… I digress.

20 years of reproducing artwork still presents a challenge each time. Getting colour balances right from a piece of artwork is a juggling act, particularly when the image is being printed onto different materials (canvas and paper). 

I am your classic pain in the backside client who wants a million adjustments. ‘A bit to the left, bit to the right, up a bit, no too far, down again…actually it was better at the start” etc…

But I have to be and make no apologies.The amount of hours and effort that have gone into creating each canvas, agonising over each detail and subtle colour variation, can all be destroyed if I accept a near enough is good enough posture. It's such a fine line that turns a beautiful reproduction into a cheap looking photocopy.

I’ve got 4 days of production ahead of me, producing a lithograph of the painting on paper, a lithograph of the pencil sketch, a 16 page colour booklet, 3 different sized canvas reproductions, a smaller print for special guests coming to the unveiling and a screensaver for the website.. Then all have to have to be hologrammed, barcoded, packaged and in Liverpool by next Tuesday. Oh…and the original painting needs to be carefully re stretched.

Into the ravine I go.

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THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD.

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October 6th 2017

 

Why would any huge European football club answer an email from some Artist from a far corner of the globe, to listen to some left field, arty farty idea? 

Well, generally they don’t!

Me: ”But I’ve got this great idea that I know you and your fans will love. Something that no one in Europe has seen before… and it’s really cool!?”

Global Football Club: “Hmmm… sounds interesting… but what is it? A painting of players from different eras hanging out together telling stories? Every fan’s dream come true? The thing that they discuss passionately over a beer at the pub… brought to life. Marketing campaign. Fan engagement. Revenue generation potential. Interesting idea. Sounds complex. Too busy.”

This happened with several clubs via email over the space of a year or so. I realised that to have any chance I needed to have these clubs stand in front my work. Easier said than done.Then I heard of a licensing show in Hong Kong. A show where global brands come to access the Asian market. Amongst the exhibitors were several of the large European football clubs. Businesses usually come to this show to exhibit to local Asian clients who might distribute their products. Each business has a booth to show their products. Kind of like a gallery space!!

I saw an opportunity.

I could take large scale prints of my work on canvas and create a mini art gallery in a 4 x 2 metre booth at the show. I would have access, not to the local businesses who come to the show, but to the licensing people at several big European clubs who would be fellow exhibitors.

Several birds… one stone.

So.. at some expense and effort I lugged several large canvases across the world and was able to drag these unsuspecting folks to my booth to explain my idea in person.

The Liverpool Football Club representative I met there had the vision to see the potential of the idea. It was a complex concept that required the involvement of several departments of the club. So it was a challenge for my Liverpool FC colleague and I to help the rest of the team at the club understand what we were proposing. 

After numerous productive emails over a 12 month period it was decided it would really help for me to bring my artwork to the UK and present in person to the entire team. The 125th Anniversary was coming up so the timing was right.


So I was off again across the seas with several large canvases, along with a full business plan to explain how the Dream Scene concept could roll out.
I explained how we could create a scene that brought together people and stories spanning more than a century that have shaped the club. To have them live and breathe together in one moment in time where they swap stories that have become part of club folklore. The current day dressing room would be filled with people from many generations leaving us to wonder, what they might say to each other.

And so now after almost 3 years in the making I am writing this Blog on a plane somewhere over  Turkey (ish) with the 3 metre oil painting in the hold underneath me.

I am very honoured that such a proud club has shown faith in me, to give me the responsibility to create an artwork that describes its rich and illustrious history, its present and future, on this significant milestone.

The painting will be unveiled at Anfield on the 16th of November.

In the meantime, I will be looking nervously at the baggage carousel at Heathrow to see my baby appear in one piece!!!

It's officially time to take off - to Europe that is!!

                                             Scene of Champions - Escena Del Campeon

                                            Scene of Champions - Escena Del Campeon

After much determination, perseverance and hard work, my dreams are beginning to materialise. This year has confirmed my belief in the Dream Scene concept as I begin my first large scale projects in Europe. After 10 years of working on expanding into this brave new world... the saying "be careful what you wish for" is ringing in my ears... but it is most definitely, music to them. After all this time, 3 clubs have said YES  and want them as soon as possible (with possibly one more to come)!!

So... it is nose to the creative grindstone for me for the next 12 months.

The year 2017 started with a BANG, creating a painting for one of the biggest clubs in the world of football. I have just completed this Scene of Champions (Escena del Campeon) for Spanish giant, Real Madrid C.F. It celebrates the current squad that have achieved so much over the past 12 months. They are depicted in an imaginary moment of victory, celebrating together as the final whistle blows. 

A big part of the joy for me, is pulling together 100's of images to create a scene that does not exist, but which strikes a chord with fans. This scene takes the supporters out onto the field at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to share the moment with their heroes. 

Sheffield Wednesday FC celebrate their 150th Anniversary this year and have commissioned a Dream Scene painting project to tell their story. They have just handed it over to their supporters to come up with the players and memories that are to be depicted in a dressing room scene that will warm the hearts of all Owls fans. They are one of the oldest football clubs in the world and I am humbled to be given the opportunity to help them share that rich history through my artwork.

Manchester City are also on board as they see the exciting opportunity to engage their fans in a new and unique way. I had a great chat with club captain Vince Kompany when I was in the UK recently to get his insights into the players that he shared the dressing room with. Some of these stories will be woven into a Dressing Room of Dreams, depicting 28 players from the entire history of the club, due for release in October this year.

It's going to be a big year!! Come along for the ride with me.

Score - Cooper's First Try in the UK!

Celebrating 135 years of the Hull Kingston Rovers RLFC! A heartwarming introduction to the world of English sport. 

The Hull Kingston Rovers have been the first club in the UK to take up the Dream Scene concept. They threw the idea out to the fans to choose their greatest players and most memorable moments, from the club's 135 year history. The response has been overwhelming with a flood of input from enthusiastic fans.

The painting and the stories were then shared on the club's website and social media platforms so the fans could watch their Dream become a reality. It was avery proud moment for me to be at the unveiling at in November 2016 and see the reaction to the painting. former players, family members and the fans were moved by the stories told within the scene.

The power in this idea and the real joy for me is that I am able to say to them as they are congratulating me...  "No... this is your doing, these are YOUR stories. i have just brought them back to life for you.

The club even had a young fan included into the painting, as it is the youth of today that are the lifeblood of the club tomorrow. The rest of his family barrack for the local opposition side but  were all in tears.

The print run quickly sold out and the painting is owned by the club and hangs proudly in their main function room at the stadium.

While I was there I presented to a couple of the big EPL clubs and also exhibited at the Licensing show at Chelsea FC. It was a whirlwind tour!!

Build it and they will come... 
 

Dream BIG - The world is a blank canvas

I've always believed that my world is what i make of it, its' potential defined only by the limits of my imagination. Add a mixture of determination, self belief (even when it is squeezed out under protest) and hard work and watch how it creates all kinds of so called "luck". I'm not so sure that the meaning of the word luck is so simple. On most occassions I've experienced it has been accompanied by the other two aspects mentioned above. 

So... After almost 10 years of proposal writing, showing up at licensing shows around the world with my work, making contacts and endlessly refining what I am offering, I've just landed my first Dream Scene commission in the UK - to be announced soon.  I'm also in discussions with 2 of the biggest Spanish football clubs, 4 EPL clubs and 3 big MLB clubs in the U.S.

This has been the result of almost 10 years of hard slog and risk taking to catch the eye of some of the largest sporting organisations in the world. Countless emails pitching my ideas, dragging myself and several large scale canvases to a licensing show in Hong Kong followed by 12 month long negotiations with various departments of these big clubs. Then recently a 5 week trip in the US and UK making personal presentations. 

I have no idea if this will work BUT... I can't wait to see where this will lead me!

 

 

Tasmanian Cricket 150th launches a busy 2016 in the studio

 TASMANIAN CRICKET 150TH ANNIVERSARY

TASMANIAN CRICKET 150TH ANNIVERSARY

2016 has started with a bang! The summer was spent finishing off a highly detailed tribute to cricket in the Apple Isle. Over 80 figures and numerous ground scenes were compiled to tell the story of 150 years of cricket in Tasmania. This was a very challenging composition, to get so much information into one scene with out it being becoming congested. It ended up being an around the clock, 6 days a week schedule to meet the deadline. It seemed just grow and grow as it went along.

Every time I start a painting I have an idea of what it will take to complete, but invariably it takes on a life of its own, throwing up challenges (and unexpected pleasures) along the way. The detail and shadowing in white clothing is soooo time consuming.

I'm very pleased with the result and was delighted to be there for the unveiling at Bellerive Oval in February. Prints are available from Cricket Tasmania.

 PENDLES PRELIMINARY SKETCH

PENDLES PRELIMINARY SKETCH

I've also finished off the 2016 AFL Magic Wildcards for Teamzone-TeamCoach which are a lot of fun. These are a great break from my more traditional portraiture work. Above is a preparation sketch of Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury. The range has just been released from Teamzone.

JAMES HOPES - CENTURION ROOM PORTRAIT

In between this I produced a portrait of James Hopes for QLD Cricket, as the latest edition for the Centurions Room at Allan Border Oval. Each player that plays 100 Shield games for QLD has a portrait done and added to the collection of greats already there. Hopes joins an elite group containing names such as: Hayden, Symonds, Rackerman, Law, Hohns, Trimble, Maher and others.

Next on the easel... well one that has been on the back burner for almost 3 years!! A really interesting commission from a collector in the United States. He has chosen his greatest collection of MLB (Major League Baseball) players from throughout history. His greatest All Star group of 24 are being gathered together at the site of the first ever All Star game at Comiskey Park, Chicago in 1933. The stadium will be meticulously brought back to life as it was in that year, with players from several generations "hangin out" in the dugout waiting to be photographed by famous sports Photographer, Charles Conlan. I can only show a sneak peak at this point.

I will be delivering this personally to the collector in San Francisco, in May. I hope to catch a Giants game while I'm there. I could send the painting off via an international art courier, but instead I will roll it up, take it myself, and have it re-stretched and framed when I get there. There are a few reasons for this. One is... I would get no sleep wondering if it has made it in one piece. The main reason is that I would like to personally deliver this painting. It is a very personal piece for him and it has been a  genuine collaboration between us in it's conception and  design.  

This is where I feel so lucky to be doing what I do. It opens up so many opportunities for adventure and interesting experiences with interesting people. 

 

Lastly... stay tuned for the potential release of my tribute portrait of WEstern Bulldogs 300 game champ, Robert Murphy in May.

I'm excited AND tired already... and it's only April!!