Remembering John Hanna


If you were reading this blog in 2009, you may remember a post appealing for information about illustrator John Hanna, who created a series of beautiful covers for Country Fair magazine in the early 1950s. Remarkably little information existed about him online, but thanks to a few plucky commenters we managed to track down more information about his life and work.

Now designer-maker Jenny Duff has been in touch to say she’s been given permission to create a series of table mats reviving those original illustrations. The illustrations were offered to her by the family of journalist and publisher Macdonald Hastings, who edited Country Fair. According to Jenny’s website, the family remember using copies of the magazines as table mats when they were children, so it’s fitting that they should be reincarnated in this way.

They make for a lovely collection. Maybe it’s proof that good work will always be rediscovered eventually, however long it takes.

Poetry and Music

Manchester design company Music are smart people with great work. The type who get asked to do covers for Creative Review.


They got in touch over the summer asking if I'd like to write a Corpoetics-style poem to fill a guest slot on the home page of their website.

The only text I had to work with was their client list, which at the time looked something like this:

Allermuir Furniture Manufacturers
Bolton Council Carbon Footprint
Chester Performs
Chester Summer Music Festival
Flip Flops
Flowerburger Records
Fruit Tree Books
Joly Good TV
Kevin Boniface
Matthew Beardsell Limited
MCFC Press
MCFC Stadium
Manchester Independent Economic Review
Place Space & Identity
Tamewater Developments
Where Are You? A Postman's Diary

The resulting verse isn't strictly a 'Corpoetic' as I've taken the liberty of adding some words and generally being looser with the whole thing. For some reason, I imagine it being read aloud by Ian McMillan.

15 wishes

I'd like to eat a flowerburger back to front
in a land where flip-flops leave no footprint.
I'd like to head woodward to water a fruit tree.
I'd like to review an identity
for MCFC, appear tame on TV,
and do joly well at D&AD.
I'd like to sell beards to a man named Matthew
and manage an independent economic review
of a girl called Kelly from Bolton Council.
I'd like to press for a postman's festival
to take place in Chester every summer.
I'd like to become part of the furniture
and have a front seat when Kevin performs
a stadium version of his CSR Report.
I'd like to have my own place and space,
change my name to Allermuir Boniface,
and live in Bolton – but then I'd like to shift
Bolton to nearer where Manchester is.
Given one last wish, I'd probably use it
to turn myself into a piece of Music.

Thanks to Craig and Anthony at Music for the invitation.

Copies of Corpoetics are available for £5 plus p&p, with all proceeds going to the National Literacy Trust.

The Art of Persuasive Writing

A good definition of copywriting is any form of writing designed to persuade you to do something (usually involving parting with money). The most common advice is to keep it brief, remember your target audience and have a clear 'ask'.


It turns out bank robbers are natural born copywriters. Banknotes365 is a brilliant collection of notes pushed threateningly across counters in banks around the world – all juxtaposed with photos of their authors.

It would make a great case study in a copywriting workshop. Here are a few examples:


Good, effective, precise – although possibly focusing too much on the negative.


A subtler approach – the threat is implied rather than stated, and the writer is keen to get his audience on side (please... thanks...)


Possibly the most creative of the bunch. The unconventional construction of the phrase "A dye pack will bring me back for your ass" lodges it in the mind successfully. "Do exactly what this says" would make a good all-purpose opening for almost any press advertisement.


This needs a good editor. Note the strange use of quotes around the word 'explode', which turns a literal threat into a more figurative one.

What's most striking and touching about the notes is their politeness, even in the briefest examples:




That last 'Thanks' almost makes you well up.

The blog is by Ken Habarta who has just brought out this book collecting all the notes together.

Buy a copy. Do it now.

Thanks to One Floor Up who mentioned this on Twitter.

This article is now on Creative Review, complete with comments.

Creative accounting

Just been perusing The Guardian's gallery of MPs' expenses claims, which includes receipts for everything from garden plants to the Tesco weekly shop. Many of them are partially or almost entirely blacked out. It's striking how interesting they become purely as pieces of graphic art. Someone should blow them up and sell them as limited-edition screen prints. Naturally, they would have to be extortionately expensive.

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Hannanother thing


So the mystery is (almost) solved. Gretel Parker has emailed in a copy of an article in the August 1955 Country Fair, celebrating John Hanna’s fiftieth cover illustration. It’s nice to know he produced at least fifty – we’ve only got five, so there are obviously plenty more to discover.

It also seems he is the same John Hanna cited in the link that Adam posted in the comments – an Australian who arrived in London in 1947 and made his living as a commercial artist and cartoonist. So we now have the full biog and background. Only remaining mystery is why his works aren’t more widely available, or indeed available at all. Reading the article, it seems he was extremely popular in his time. Strange the way people can drop off the radar like that, leaving barely a trace on Google. There seems to be a fan site for everything these days, so it's a surprise when you find a gap like this. Or maybe it’s just the modern mindset: if it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist.

Anyway, thanks to those who have put us out of our ignorance. Look forward to hunting down more cover illustrations in years to come.

Desperately seeking Hanna

Country_fair5 We found these Country Fair magazines a few years ago in a shop in Lewes and have had the covers framed on our wall for a while. They’re signed with a single name – “Hanna”.

We really like the pictures, in a sentimental, anthropomorphic kind of way.

One day we thought we’d Google “Hanna”, hoping to buy some larger prints. We expected thousands of results to come up, but could hardly find any. So we forgot all about it for a while.

Then, a few weeks ago, we came across this book from Prion Books – a compendium of articles from the magazine. We bought it, hoping to find out more about the illustrator, but there was no mention. We even emailed the publisher about it and got no reply (boo).

However, this sparked off another bout of Google detective work, and we’ve finally established that he’s called John Hanna. He was obviously quite respected in his day – there’s a photo of him in a National Portrait Gallery collection (which also gives the helpful clue that he was Australian).

Thing is, we still can’t find out much more about him. Let alone where to get hold of his work.

Can anyone shed any light? We feel like we must be missing something obvious.