I’m posting this in response to a conversation I had yesterday with Vanessa Barklay from the group ’60’s Glory’. It concerns a number of issues, including copyright and here’s the backstory:
This is an illustration I did about 25 years ago for a Thomas the Tank Engine book for Heinemann UK entitled ‘The Thomas Noisy Book’. Probably out of print for years, but some of you might have a copy somewhere at home stashed away in a box in the attic, cellar or garage. The painting was done on paper, predominantly in gouache, using airbrush extensively. There might have been some colored pencil used.
It shows Henry ( the Green engine) pulled up at a typical UK country station as seen in the 50’s and 60’s, with an ambulance being repaired by a mechanic who looks a little different from the other characters, mainly because of the hairstyle. That’s because it’s Frank Zappa. I am a HUGE Zappa fan and was determined to get FZ into a Thomas picture sometime and this pic screamed out for him. Those of you who know anything about him will know that one of his most famous works was entitled ’Joe’s Garage’ a kind of ‘Rock Opera’ about a garage band. So, I needed a mechanic and Frank was it, and of course he would advertise his business on his tee shirt. I avoided being sued because I don’t really show Frank’s face and as far as I’m aware the name ’Joe’s Garage’ isn’t copyrighted. There must be a million REAL ’Joe’s Garages’ around the planet, so they can all sue me if they like! In fact, I actually emailed Frank’s widow Gail and told her about this and didn’t hear back from here or her lawyers so I guess I got away with it. I haven’t denegrated Frank in any way either. Moral of the story is, if you’re going to pay homage to your hero in a piece of work, make them ‘ambiguous’ in some way. The other point I’d like to make about this pic is that I think I’m right in saying I was the first Thomas illustrator ( hopefully not the last) who introduce ‘non-caucasian’ human characters. I thought that as well updating Thomas’ ‘look’ it was my role to update attitudes as well in some small way. I hope you enjoy it. Of course, it’s NOT for sale, unless you manage to track down a copy of the book on eBay maybe.
Not sure if 60’s Glory will accept this, but I’ll give it a try…
Incidentally, you may be interested to know I did things like this in a number of kid’s books I illustrated and I may post some more from time to time as they are quite fun and some would be almost impossible to spot unless I pointed them out.