We are delighted to invite artist Freyja Dean to answer some questions about her stunning work on the book bench for the National Literacy Trust’s ‘Books About Town’ project. The campaign raised money for their charity supporting children’s literacy in collaboration with Wild in Art. Freyja was asked by the Ian Fleming estate to illustrate the bench representing Ian Fleming’s James Bond books.
1. How did you become involved with the Fleming Estate and the James Bond Book Bench?
I got a call from a friend of mine who has been working on a graphic novel in collaboration with the Flemings. He said they were after an an artist who would represent Fleming’s Bond from the novels as opposed to the movies for the National Literacy Trust’s BookBench project. I quickly did as much research as possible on the Bond books and Fleming himself, put together a composition, they approved it, and so it began!
2. What were your inspirations for the bench and did you read any of Fleming’s novels to get inspiration?
I’m very hesitant to admit it, but I’d never seen a James Bond film or read any of the books so I was going in blind. My friend lent me ‘James Bond The Man And His World‘ by Henry Chancellor and I bought the whole Penguin set of Bond novels. I didn’t expect that any aspects of the stories would appeal to me, I’m not into guns or cars or women… in that way! And what I knew of James Bond I didn’t expect to identify with.
However, after flicking through the pages of Live and Let Die, a phrase caught my eye, then the page, then I suddenly realised I’d been reading for a couple of hours and not even noticed, it was fantastically compelling! His lifestyle was something I really enjoyed reading about too, I researched the gentlemen’s clubs, the drinks, the food and his general stomping ground, which was all rich inspiration. After looking at his lifestyle I wanted to make sure I had a luxurious and quintessentially British feel with aspects of the stories woven into the design.
I only saw Richard Chopping’s work for the first time when I was looking up the James Bond books. What I really liked about it was his attention to detail and the natural imagery. I studied Scientific and Natural History Illustration and I’ve always been drawn to work depicting flora and fauna true to life and that uses some kind of visual illusion.
I thought his work was very striking and many of my design ideas began with including many more natural history elements.
I would have loved to have gone into the detail he’d used, for the bench though, I felt something more graphic as opposed to illustrative would work better at that scale, also the time constraints didn’t really allow it.
4. Do you have a favorite Chopping book jacket for the Bond series?
I really like all of Chopping’s covers and there are three that are my personal favourites, his covers for ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘, ‘You Only Live Twice‘ and ‘Octopussy‘. The latter two for the beautiful flower and animal images and the former because I love the heraldry and composition with the hands- as an artist there’s something very satisfying and uncanny seeing another artist illustrating an artist working on an illustration.
5. Does the Trompe L’oeil style feature in your artwork?
I haven’t specifically used tromp l’oeil but I have made a piece that was a large triptych in the style of the dutch altar pieces. I wanted it to look like a kind of door to another world, in fact it was called ‘Door to IDoll World‘ based on a project I worked on looking at the theme of trans-humanism (scientific advancements in enhancing human capabilities) as if it were a religion. But otherwise, working on something public again, large, with a bit more time I’d love to create some trompe l’oeil making strange doorways or windows to other worlds around the city- that would be great fun.
Freyja Dean is an anatomical model maker for the Royal College of Surgeons and freelance artist and designer based in the UK. Her Design work has included costumes for opera, character design for computer games and various album covers. Her work has always been concerned with the natural world, our life cycles and our attitudes towards them.
At the auction of the National Literacy Trust Book Benches at the Southbank Centre, her James Bond themed bench raised £9,000.
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