Canteen Culture

Today saw the launch of the Chilli Pickle Canteen, a deluxe new takeaway service from – no prizes for guessing – the fabulous Chilli Pickle Indian restaurant in Brighton.

Back in early October last year I received an email from the restaurant, which I initially assumed must be confirmation of a booking I’d made the previous day. Lynn and I had been intending to go there for months, having heard rave reviews from several friends, and I’d finally booked a table for the following evening. But no – the email, by a strange twist of synchronicity, was inviting me to pop in to discuss a possible job related to their website.

The next day, having never previously visited the Chilli Pickle, I duly went along to meet the owners Alun and Dawn together with their PR guy Tom to talk illustration, and returned a couple of hours later as a paying customer. And of course immediately saw (and tasted) for ourselves what all the fuss was about.

The meeting concerned a dedicated website for the soon-to-be-launched takeaway service. Here there would be menus, an ordering and payment page, plus a bit of backstory. This was where I came in. In a nutshell, the idea was to crystallise a number of loose factual threads into some sort of clear narrative and present the results as a comic-strip. Easy, right?

Actually, not really. The strip would need to be simple enough to be easily digested on the website, hang together as a story and also, hopefully, have a bit of humour to it. The miscellaneous jumble of notes and reference photos I had at my disposal did not initially fill me with optimism and I went down a number of conceptual dead-ends before arriving at the idea of having Alun and Dawn’s discussion about the feasibility the project (from early misgivings to eventual enthusiasm) as the central storyline, with side details added at the appropriate frame. There was just time to knock up a very quick storyboard version to take along to our next meeting, which by then was only a few hours away!

Here it is – as I said, very hastily produced but the salient details are all in place.

Drawn on the Cintiq with SketchBookPro6. Click to enlarge.

As for the finished artwork, that took considerably longer. I decided to produce the whole thing from scratch in Illustrator, without first producing hand-drawn line-work, a relatively recent technique for me that I’m keen to develop and for which this job seemed ideally suited. I’m not sure I’d have tried this in my pre-Cintiq era but the new device does seem to encourage a more ambitious approach and is slowly but surely influencing the way I work.

The Chilli Pickle Canteen website went live today and the whole strip can be found on the ‘In the box’ page. I’m going to post it in episodic form here on the blog however, just like a real cartoon strip, one section per day. Here’s part 1:

Basic CMYK
Click to enlarge

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