Mike Jupp is a British artist who creates fantastic humorous “busy” cartoon puzzles for Gibsons. His images are full of meticulous detail and crazy characters.
Hi, Mike! It’s a privilege to have you as a guest on our puzzle blog. I personally am a huge fan of your cartoon puzzles. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions.
JJ: First, please introduce yourself and tell us where in the world are you located.
MJ: Wotcha Jane! I live in Bognor Regis which is in West Sussex on the south coast of England, roughly between Brighton & Portsmouth. I live on my own… alone that is, except for my VERY large Doberman Pincer.
JJ: Your most well-known jigsaw puzzle series is “I Love…” with Gibsons. Can you tell us how this series came about and how you began working with Gibsons?
MJ: A long time ago, I designed a poster called ‘I survived Bognor Regis’…one of my Dutch clients (John Faber) saw it and asked me to do a similar design called ‘I Love Amsterdam’… Waddingtons saw those and asked me if they could reproduce the Bognor image. Waddingtons were taken over and they discontinued their puzzles. It such a long time ago, but I think Gibsons approached me…and I’ve been doing soppy images with them ever since!
Above: The original Bornor Regis image — done 40 years ago
Above: Mike’s first puzzle image “I Love Amsterdam”
JJ: Have you ever worked with any other puzzle companies?
MJ: Only Waddingtons…. as I just explained. (I’ve been headhunted…but I’m quite happy with Gibsons… even though they should pay me far more!!)
Above: Mike in the early years working in his studio. Photo provided by Mike Jupp.
JJ: What’s ahead for the “I Love…” series? We’re due an “I Love… Autumn” Since you already did Spring, Summer and Winter. Do you have any idea when we might see that? And will there be more past that one?
MJ: I’m currently about a third of the way through, ‘I Love Autumn’ the last in the ‘4 Seasons’. I’m hoping to do ‘I Love Flying’ after that (If I can persuade Gibsons!)
Above: A sneak peek at the work-in-progress “I Love Autumn”
JJ: The “I Love…” puzzles are so jam-packed with funny characters. It’s a trite question, but where do you get your ideas? Can you give us a specific example?
MJ: I watch! I watch people and animals.
JJ: Are any of the figures in your puzzles people you know in real life?
MJ: I’ve put a drunken version of me in ‘I Love Gardening’… and Mike Gibson in a seat on the top deck of the foreground bus in, ‘I Love Summer’. The rest I make up, in case they have good lawyers!
Above: A detail from Mike’s “I Love Gardening” puzzle from Gibsons. Possibly the ‘drunken Mike’ is at the base of the sunflowers. 😉
JJ: Have you ever drawn people into your puzzles on commission or because they won a contest or something like that? [Might be a nice way to get revenge on someone as well, I’d imagine.]
MJ: No…but I have advertised my mate’s garage on a couple of puzzles (on a balloon)..it doesn’t seem to do have done me any good…especially when I see the bills he gives me for car repairs! Mmmm?… I should ask Tesco or Rolls Royce…or maybe Donald Trump if they want to be included (for a modest fee!)
JJ: For the “I Love…” series, does Gibsons come up with the ideas for the general themes for those (like ‘pets’ and ‘gardening’) or do you or both?
MJ: No, I usually come up with the ideas… which are usually rejected. Eventually we come to an agreement!
Above: A detail from Mike’s “I Love London”, published by Gibsons.
JJ: Do you have a favorite “I Love…” puzzle image?
MJ: Any of them after I Love Great Britain. I finished painting by hand and learnt how to render in CGI…Anything I did before that makes me wince!
Above: One of the most popular of the “I Love…” series is “I Love Christmas”. You can read my review here.
JJ: Besides the “I Love…” series, have you done any other jigsaw puzzles? If so, what were they?
MJ: Yes, I’ve a series of 4 drunken animal for The UK Jigsaw Puzzle Club. They’re called ‘Rustic Revels’…and a series of aircraft & ghosts themed illustrations called ‘Silent Skies’ for ‘Jumbo/Falcon’
Above: The “Rustic Revel” images were published as puzzles by the UK Jigsaw Puzzle Club.
Above: “Silent Skies” published by Falcon
JJ: Outside of jigsaw puzzles, what other type of art illustration have you done?
MJ: I worked in Advertising and book illustration from the late 1960’s. But my major work was in Animation
I was commissioned as the Art Director, character designer, and storyboard artist on a couple of Dutch TV series . That resulted in me being sent to California where I had the good luck to work for Jerry Smith, the owner of The Mill Valley Animation Studio’. His great friend was George (Star Wars) Lucas. As luck would have it I’d taken the designs for my own TV series with me. To cut a long story short, Lucas was impressed and that resulted in ‘The Dreamstone’ being commissioned by ITV. It went on to broadcast 52 half hour episodes, making it Britain’s longest ever cartoon series. After that I created ‘Bimble’s Bucket’, again for ITV. I was then dismissed from the British Production Company (‘surplus to requirements’). They went on to produce out of copyright Hans Christian Anderson stories! Ho –hum!
Above: The Dreamstone poster
Above: Mike during The Dreamstone period
JJ: Tell us about the art projects you are engaged in currently.
MJ: For the last 18 months I’ve been Art Director and storyboard Artist on Mike Batt’s new CGI series of ‘The Wombles’. That has come to a halt…so I’m back to my new Jigsaw Puzzle design.
JJ: Are you an artist full-time or do you have another career as well?
MJ: Nope! I’ve been a cartoonist, illustrator designer, writer since I left Art College. Apart from going down the pub…I have NO spare time at all! Actually, that’s not quite true. I’ve been involved with some architectural design projects and organizing my own ‘events’. They all needed loads of artwork. In 1997 I spent about 6 months writing my first novel ‘Retribution’.
Above: A brilliant ad for Mike Jupp’s puzzle that Gibsons put together.
JJ: How did you get started drawing? Were you formally educated?
MJ: I was expelled from school at 16…I got a load of A Levels and Degrees at Art College…but I’m absolutely bloody useless at everything except being creative…and drawing!
JJ: Can you describe your process when you create a complicated scene for a puzzle. Do you start with pencils? Do you work from photographs or reference books? Do you color digitally or in the real world, etc.
MJ: I start by going down the pub, stare into my pint of cider and think, “Why the **** didn’t I train to be a plumber!?” I then stare into my imagination, where I see a large blank white rectangle and think. “Now what do I do?”
I start from the furthest point, the sky…and gradually work towards the foreground. First it’s topography, then buildings…finally the characters. As I said earlier, these days I render in CGI..but I still draw by hand, scan the drawings, render them and finally plonk them into the finished art. I work at 19” x 27” at 150 dpsi. I use Adobe Photoshop 6.1 and I draw with a PS2 mouse (the one with the rubber ball)
Above: Mike’s sketch-to-final on a witch character. (likely in “I Love Autumn”)
JJ: When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
MJ: Go down the pub. Faff around with my old Jaguar and the little Nimrod car that I designed back in the 1960’s! I used to compile and host pub quizzes, but I don’t have the time for that anymore
JJ: Do you ever work jigsaw puzzles yourself? If so, what kind do you like?
MJ: Neh!… Far too difficult!
Above: More sections of “I Love Autumn”
JJ: The type of artwork that you do is so high-detail. I imagine you would need to have a healthy dose of ‘right brain’, logical type, as well as ‘left brain’ artist type. What do you think enables you to do these kinds of scenes?
MJ: Sheer lunacy. A love of nature, a sense of humour and being totally useless at anything else!
Above: A ghostly character from “I Love Autumn”
Above: Mike’s “I Love Winter” — click for a very large view.
JJ: When was your first ‘busy cartoon scene’ created and what was your inspiration? Where you influenced by Jan Van Haasteren or early Heye puzzles at all?
MJ: It was the ‘I survived Bognor Regis’ drawing. If anything influenced me (apart from cider) it was Hieronymus Bosch and Richard Dadd
Above: A throw back photo Mike shared on his facebook page.
Above: Detail from “I Love Summer”
JJ: Who are a few of your favorite artists?
MJ: Caravaggio. Norman Rockwell, Winsor McCay, George Studdy, Mable Lucie Attwell ,Richard Dadd , Frank Frazetta. John Martin, William Hogarth , JMW Turner and Joseph Wright ‘of Derby
JJ: Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans?
MJ: Firstly, THANK YOU!..It’s NOT the money.. although it keeps me alive… ( I survive more than I thrive)…but knowing that folk actually get pleasure from my idiot drawings… is something that makes me both very proud…(and actually quite humble.)
Above: Detail of Mike’s “I Love Spring”
Above: Village parish boundary signs Mike made for his community.
Thank you so much for letting us get to know you a bit, Mike. Best of luck and we are waiting with great patience for “I Love Autumn”!
Jane @ Jigsaw Junkies