From Bowie to Nick Cave, Costello’s teddy to Morrissey’s chin, Simon Cooper captures rock icons in caricature at Pocklington show

Chin up, Morrissey: The Smiths, as portrayed by Simon Cooper

EAST Yorkshire illustrator Simon Cooper has worked for NME, Time Out, the Radio Times and Punch magazines.

Now, he has launched an exhibition of original art, illustrations and prints at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) that will run in the Studio until January 6.

On show are many of his commissions for NME (New Musical Express, as was), inspired by Simon’s lifelong love of music. 

“Music has always been an important part of my life,” he says.” For as long as I can remember I’ve immersed myself in records, live shows and the music press. When I got my degree in illustration and started to work for Sounds and NME, it was my dream gig.”

Knuckling down: Elvis Costello teaches teddy a lesson, by Simon Cooper

He ended up working for the two rock music weeklies for almost 20 years, producing hundreds of illustrations during that time. 

“The first two pictures were of Malcolm McLaren and the Beastie Boys and the last two were of Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers,” he says. 

Simon, who lives in Everingham, near Pocklington, had graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, in Dundee, before moving to London to pursue his career as an illustrator.

“My four years at art college, surrounded by like-minded creative types, were particularly inspiring and motivating,” he says. 

Beastie Boys: Simon Cooper’s first illustration for New Musical Express

He worked almost exclusively for magazines before going on to illustrate many children’s books for Pan Macmillan, Penguin and Oxford University Press, among others.

Simon names Chuck Jones, Ronald Searle, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall among his artistic inspirations, alongside his penchant for comic books. “I’ve always had a love of comics and cartoons and consequently my style usually errs in that direction,” he says.  

His latest piece, The Owl And The Pussycat, is his favourite new work among the collection in PAC’s Studio. “It’s got music, romance and a dreamlike quality,” reasons Simon, who now focuses on independent projects, creating artwork and illustrations for sale at galleries, art shows and through his online shop at 

Illustrator and caricaturist Simon Cooper

Here CharlesHutchPress puts quick questions to Simon Cooper for sketch-quick answers.

Why did you first choose musicians for your subject matter as opposed to film stars, comedians, politicians?

“Because music was my first love and it will be my last. Music of the future and music of the past. [Editor: Spot the reference to John Miles’s grandiose 1976 top three hit Music]. 

How did you settle on your distinctive style of illustrations? Trial and error? Gradually? 

“A bit of both. My style develops all the time. I’m inspired and influenced by new things every day.” 

Has your style changed over the years?

“My style, the way I work and the way I see things, has changed a lot over the years. These days most of my work has a digital element but when I started, I only used pencil, ink and paint.”

Cave art: Simon Cooper’s illustration of Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave

What do you like most about black-and-white caricatures?

“I’m so old that when I first started working for the music press they were only printing in black and white! I had to develop a style that looked bold in newsprint. I still enjoy doing the occasional black-and-white image – like my recent Nick Cave picture – although most of my work now is in full colour.” 

What do you like most about colour caricatures?

“Working in colour allows me to use more textures and take a more painterly approach.” 

What source material do you work from? Moving imagery? Photographs?

“It would be nice to have the musicians come and sit for me but I have to make do with looking at their photos while listening to their music!”

Rubberband girl: Kate Bush, at a stretch, by Simon Cooper

What have musicians said about your depictions of them? Have you had face-to-face encounters with any of them?!

“Sadly no face-to-face encounters, unless you count seeing them in a live performance, though I have had positive feedback from musicians via magazine editors and one or two phone calls and emails from the artists themselves.” 

Your tone is generally light-hearted and humorous? Why?

“It’s perhaps what separated my work from everyone else’s at art college. I’ve always preferred to include humour or visual puns in my work rather than any lofty narrative.” 

How did you first land commissions with NME and Sounds?

“I left Dundee College of Art and headed to London with my portfolio under my arm. I knocked on doors and asked for appointments with art editors of my favourite magazines. I’m probably making it sound easier than it was, but I think my timing was right and the humorous element worked to my advantage.”  

Space odyssey: Simon Cooper’s David Bowie

What have been the career highlights of your other illustrative work?

“I’ve won a couple of awards for children’s book covers for Pan Macmillan. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of commissions over the years from high-profile magazines such as Punch, Radio Times, Time Out. 

“I’ve worked for the British Film Institute’s magazine Sight And Sound for the past ten years. That’s been an absolute pleasure as film is another of my passions.”  

How have Chuck Jones, Ronald Searle, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall inspired you? Humour? Playfulness? Artistic style?

“Chuck Jones and Ronald Searle’s humour, Magritte’s playfulness and Chagall and Matisse’s artistic style.” 

Do you have a favourite among your music portraits? If so, which one and why?

“Tom Waits, because I’m a huge fan. Years ago, I was commissioned by Sounds magazine to produce a picture of him. I happened to have tickets to see him that night at Hammersmith Odeon. I went to the gig, which was magnificent. I went straight home, feeling very inspired, finished the picture and delivered it to Sounds the very next morning.” 

Tom Waits: Simon Cooper’s favourite among his music portraits

What are you working on at present?

“I’m just finishing a Led Zeppelin picture. Another of my all-time favourites.”

How would you sum up your Pocklington show?

“Plenty of aesthetically pleasing images, a hint of quirky humour and a slice of rock’n’roll nostalgia for music fans.” 

This feature runs to 1,034 words. Can a picture say more than 1,000 words?

“Yes, give or take a few hundred words.”

Simon Cooper: Art, Illustration & Prints, Pocklington Arts Centre, until January 6 2022. Admission is free during opening hours only. For more information, visit or call the box office on 01759 301547.

Simon Cooper’s poster for his Pocklington Arts Centre exhibition

No concerts in 2020 but Shed Seven are live on new album and back gigging in 2021

The artwork for Shed Seven: Live, Another Night, Another Town

SHED Seven’s live album, Another Night, Another Town, is out tomorrow

“We had to put back the release date by a fortnight, because under Covid guidance, we hadn’t been able to sign the signed copies,” says lead singer Rick Witter. “But last Thursday the warehouse delivered them and we sat in different rooms in the Gillygate pub to sign them, so everything is ready now.”

Specially curated by the York Britpop luminaries and available exclusively through the Sheds’ store, Another Night, Another Town “captures their dynamic live performances and anthemic songs over 21 tracks”.

As trailed on the website, Sheds’ followers can pick up a limited-edition coloured gatefold vinyl edition, a special double CD set, a 180g heavyweight triple vinyl version and a download, plus a selection of new merchandise.

Another Night, Another Town is Shed Seven’s fifth “live” album after Where Have You Been Tonight? Live, in 2003; Live At The BBC, in 2007; See Youse At The Barras: Live In Concert, 2009, and Live At Leeds 2007, digital download only, in 2009.

“But we hadn’t recorded a live album since we returned as a five-piece in 2007 and we certainly hadn’t released one as good as this!” says Rick, 48, reflecting on the new album, mixed by Chris Sheldon, who produced the Sheds’ 1996 album A Maximum High and 1999 single Disco Down (whose lyrics have been raided for the Another Night, Another Town title).

“We’re delighted with the results, which we think are as close as we can get to capturing the Shed Seven live experience on record.

“We’re playing better live now than ever, and with Chris Sheldon mixing it, it’s a good memory of great times. There’s brass on there as well, and because gigs with big crowds still aren’t coming back in the imminent future, this is the next best thing to a gig. At this time in our lives, it’s the best thing we can do.”

Shed Seven’s five-piece line-up since 2007: bassist Tom Gladwin, left, lead vocalist Rick Witter, drummer Alan Leach and guitarists Paul Banks and Joe Johnson

The decision to release a live album was made in the hiatus of the pandemic lockdown. “We were thinking, at the beginning of Lockdown, ‘we’re not going to be able to do anything, so how can we do something to stop us going stale?’.

“We’d recorded a lot of the last Shedcember tour in 2019, so this was a good time to go through those recordings and the 2018 Castlefield Bowl show [in Manchester] to curate the best live album we could.

“Listening to 18 different versions of She Left Me On Friday…we spent a lot of time doing that, then picking the best, so there are songs from lots of different gigs, which should please Shed Seven fans that were there.”

For the packaging, the Sheds have drawn inspiration from their favourite live albums, among them The Smiths’ Rank and U2’s Under A Blood Red Sky. “We also had a little bit of idea, from the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, such classic imagery, not copying it, but paying tribute to it,” says Rick.

“We must have grown as a band because we now have four photographers following regularly on our tours, with lots of logging of our gigs. We got in touch with three of them to ask if we could cherry pick them for album artwork and it looks great.”

Another Night, Another Town’s arrival coincides with tickets going on sale for the Sheds’ rearranged Live After Racing’ @ Doncaster Racecourse gig, now moved to May 15 2021.

“We should have been playing there this August, as well as about 12 big festivals and The Piece Hall at Halifax that we were headlining,” says Rick. “Thankfully, we’ve re-scheduled most of these gigs.

“The bonus for us is that usually in a year when we do a Shedcember tour, we’re not allowed to do those outdoor shows in the same year because the promoters like to push the Shedcember shows through the year, but because of what’s happened this year, we’ll now be doing both summer and winter shows in 2021. It looks like being a busy year.”

The poster for Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire line-up at The Piece Hall, Halifax, next summer

Shed Seven’s diary for outdoor engagements in 2021 is taking shape: Don 21 Music Live, Doncaster Racecourse, May 15; Neighbourhood Festival, London, May 29; Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, June 18; The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26; Corbridge Festival, July 3; Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beaufort, July 31, and Watchet Music Festival, Somerset, August 29.

The Piece Hall concert will be an all-Yorkshire event embracing Shed Seven, up-and-coming anthemic York band Skylights and Leeds groups The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present. “We wanted it to be a Yorkshire celebration, thinking, ‘who could we ask?’, ‘ who would be up for it?’, and it was a real delight that The Wedding Present said ‘Yes’, as I love them but haven’t seen them for a while,” says Rick.

Impeded by the unremitting Coronavirus pandemic, The Sheds have ended up “taking a rest this year. “But being savvy, I thought, ‘we’re going to be able to play next year but loads of bands will be looking to do the same, so we better not sit on our laurels’. We structured the 2021 Shedcember tour as soon as we could, getting the gigs organised,” says Rick.

The dates will be announced in due course but he did confirm Shed Seven would play the Leeds O2 Academy, rather than Leeds First Direct Arena, where they made their debut last winter. “It’s just too stressful!” Rick reveals. “We’re set in our ways and we just know what we’re doing in front of 3.000, 4,000, whereas with 10,000 you have to concentrate so much more to make it work.

“It’s like a big step-up to play arenas, especially when we’re playing ‘normal’ venues for the rest of the tour, with that gig in the middle. We ended up with three set builds, trawling stuff around for the tour where we wouldn’t use half of it on most nights!

“So, we’re going to revert back to our comfort zone, but with plenty of big cities on there, as I kinda let the cat on my radio show.”

Rick Witter’s Disco Down has found a new home at Jorvik Radio from 7pm to 9pm on Sunday. “I did show number three last weekend with [York singer-songwriter and erstwhile Seahorses frontman] Chris Helme as my guest,” says Rick. “Mark Morriss [from The Bluetones] did an earlier show, so I’m working my way through my contacts book!”

Tomorrow, the focus will fall on the launch of Another Night, Another Town. “We hope this album provides just a little bit of the live experience we’re all missing before we return in 2021,” says Rick.