A graphic designer and illustrator, David Mackintosh’s distinctively anarchic style is characterised by his bold layouts, animatedly scribbly line and sensitively depicted characterisation layered with cultural references. Here, David Mackintosh explains the thinking behind his latest picture book The Frank Show.
The Frank Show looks at the generation gap, relationships and the extended family through the eyes of the young narrator. He observes his grandad Frank’s peculiarities and differences and compares them to his friend’s relatives, and I try to comment on self awareness and how others perceive us.
Frank lives at his grandson’s home and the boy finds himself in the unfortunate position of having Frank as the subject of his class talk. To him, Frank is just his grandad and he’s concerned that his friends won’t be impressed. The text alternates between the boy’s observations of Frank and his concerns about the quality of his show and tell.
I’ve drawn Frank in monochrome to reflect this. He exists in a world of colour, but is an oddity. I remember the first time I saw colour photography from a period I always imagined as ‘black and white’. It was almost overwhelming to see flesh tone and colour in clothing, having been so familiar with the colourless past in newsreel and photography.
The duality of the text allowed me to setup the oppositions between old and new. The picture of Frank as a boy is filled with things of Frank’s youth, including a dinosaur and some antiquated places, people or characters. The tableaux aren’t accurate to any specific period and are a hash of things I thought would just jar with a younger reader whether they have ever seen them or not. They were an amalgam of images conjured up by Frank’s vivid storytelling, so they appear as a cast of thousands slowing creeping across the page. I wanted it to be a little spooky and weird, and to feel like it was from another time and place. I drew most of this picture with a carbon pencil, and pasted extra drawings afterwards until it felt right. The watercolour is quite desaturated and I like its dullness.
The picture of Frank’s car is an important one in the story. It is when the boy has done his assessment of Frank and is resigned to the fact that he’s stuck with a terrible subject for his talk. The monochrome Frank and his grey car have engulfed him. I remember the feeling of being defenseless when as a child you are in a car being driven somewhere you don’t want to go, like a family outing for example. This is part of this picture, but I also wanted it to show Frank’s understanding of the boy’s anxiety. I drove a Humber Vogue and it was a pile of junk, but Frank keeps his running fine and rotates the tyres when he should.
The Frank Show by David Mackintosh (978 0 00 736400 8) is published by HarperCollins at £10.99 hbk.