Ten years ago, a weekly e-zine called Le Cool dropped into the mail box of a number of early adopters. Over the next six years, it forged a bond with can-do creators in showcasing their undertakings to a wider audience. We reached out to a number of cover artists who were invited to interpret Le Cool into their work and asked them to reflect upon it.
On May 14, 2009, Le Cool Dublin sent the first of 299 weekly mails to its subscribers base. It was a curated take on culture in the city which documented gigs, DIY culture, exhibitions, collaborations, street art, guerrilla knitting and everything else the city was offering. It championed a fuse board of friendships and supports at a time when, at recession level, Dublin never seemed weaker yet also fertile with possibility as spaces and opportunities arose and risks were taken. There was little left to lose.
Le Cool also invited illustrators, photographers, stylists, street artists and graphic designers to showcase their talents by creating unique covers for the e-zine. Along with my co-pilot Ciaran Walsh and fantastic flight attendees such as Kate Coleman and Amy O’Connor, we moved into South Studios to join an eclectic crew of creatives. We threw parties there and in the RHA, collaborating with festivals, spaces and brands in the process. We launched a walking tour for the ‘culturally curious’ before that term was coined in tourism circles. Of course, the arrival of other social media outlets, the rise of the instagram generation and the fad of clickbait meant our slightly more considered take ended up having a somewhat diminished impact on the cultural landscape over time. But the ‘class of Le Cool’ made its mark and burned brightly, playing its own small role in supporting all those who endeavour to make Dublin a better place.
Ciaran Walsh, who co-founded Le Cool Dublin adds: “It was real privilege bringing Le Cool to Dublin in 2009 and it was an honour working with so many people who were invested in showcasing and promoting the city, despite the grip of recession. It was also heaps of fun. Michael was the perfect partner and is still a great ambassador for the city.
We worked hard at it and being digital gave us great freedom, which we ran with. To have it well received was a bonus. It wasn’t a craic house, it was a craic home.”
Ten years ago I was honoured to design the first cover for Le Cool. At the time in Dublin, the economy was in the gutter, politicians were assholes and unemployment had risen by 96% in a year. Le Cool was a beacon in this puddle of poop, and I wanted to do a cover that was a lighthearted look at Dublin past and present.
We’re all children at heart. Age demands our responsibility. Our inner child finds comfort in what we know and trust…LEGO…where step-by-step instructions result in a feeling of completion, that of a structural engineer or qualified architect…but with plastic. If only life came with step-by-step instructions! 🙂
Alan Nagle / Yellowhammer
Paths to the Pale: In 2013 I had to travel to Dublin on buses, trains and automobiles, (horse if I had to), to complete a post-grad. At the time every avenue seemed to lead to the the Pale, sometimes it did, like the competition Le Cool ran to design their cover. Looking back it seems I was reluctant to give up entirely on my architectural past but was already embracing a new future. Winning this spurred me on to travel a little further. be.net/yellowhammer
Sean Bryan / Konk
This was when I was trying to hustle and didn’t have my own company. I painted in this spot for a few years in the inner city and was luck enough to not only do one cover but two!
This was created as a December cover and I wanted a festive theme, so portrayed Dublin as a child’s game. I drew on mid-century toy advertisements, with flat, graphic illustrations in a vintage colour scheme. But it is the excitement lines around the boy’s head that really make this image.
Ah! – a blatant homage to the Bisto adverts of old. My illustration from the 2012 Food Issue, with it’s two Dublin hipsters enraptured with the tantalisingly delicious scent of the newest issue, was an absolute joy to work on and to have featured on the cover.
I remember being inspired to base my cover on the atmosphere in Dublin at the time – it was about a month after the gay marriage referendum in Ireland had passed and around the same time that Clery’s shut its doors. I stumbled across the song Under Clery’s Clock about a man meeting his male partner underneath the clock in secret as homosexuality was illegal in Ireland when it was written. I knew instantly that it’d be fitting to pay homage to it.
For Christmas 2013 I created some Le Cool currency. The One Million Yule ¥o- ¥o note, showing the O’Connell monument covered in snow, was inspired by notgeld, German currency issued locally during the hyperinflation of the early-1920s. Amazingly, the notes were actually accepted in a number of Dublin businesses. cargocollective.com/hitone
Louise Gaffney and Catherine Robinson
This cover was more about the process around creating a cover with the aim to document this process through video. A screen based solution wouldn’t have made for great video content so we chose a design solution that would be tactile with different techniques and stages. It was like a mash of different skill sets at the time. I was just out of college and had a fondness for paper craft and hand cutting (sure there’s machines that do that for you now.) I was also reading a the original Brothers Grimm stories. Louise was exploring embroidery and lettering. The entire piece was made in one day in South Studios. /
The Stone Twins
Issue 195 is an update of an iconic John Hinde postcard photo, that was taken in the west of Ireland in the early 1960’s. The reinvention of this image points at the transformation of Ireland from a poor backwater to the Celtic Tiger, and to its debt-ridden, yet resilient, current state. It also celebrates the obsession of today’s youth with shopping, brands, online-connectivity and non-stop music.
I took this picture in the summer of 2010 (maybe). My mate gave us a boost over the wall into the abandoned baths there at Blackrock – how he got in though I can’t remember but anyway we spent the afternoon taking pictures of the graffiti and enjoying the general state of the place. I thought the diving board over the derelict sandy pool was interesting in a ‘Jaysus-you’d-break-your-neck’ kind of way…At the time I was into augmenting characters into photographs. I guess it’s supposed to be some chap playing the flute, coaxing curious creatures out of their holes with his music – only to kill them with his gaze.
The work is about connections; one thought gets tangled with another, one street merges with another, one action sparks another, in a small city like Dublin they all relate to one another.
Around the time this image was shot, I was really interested in the work of director Michel Gongry… I loved the work he did previously with Bjork and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a favourite movie of mine… so I though it would be a cool image to look as if the Le Cool came from the models’ mouth… if we shot this now it would be so awesome as a GIF. emilyquinn.com
I really like this image and have a fun memory of making it. I think we lied at the time saying we taught the dog to do a cursive wee-wee. I had just been to Berlin and taken the photograph of the little dog in the snow. I liked the composition and just needed to somehow get the Le Cool name in there. It was snowing in Dublin, I made up a bottle of wee-wee from water, Lucozade and a Berocca and went into Stephens Green and spray wrote it into the snow and photographed it again from the right angle. Back in the studio I just ’took the piss’ and added it to the doggy photo. Hey presto ‘DogPiss Sans’ was born.
I was making characters called Comet Riders… I’m a big sci-fi nerd, and have always loved working with a vintage aesthetic… I made a few prints based on these guys and so thought it would be fun to have them summoned by Le Cool!
I think the magic monkey represents the inner soul of many an illustrator when dealing with a demanding client – grimace and bear it… on the inside the symbols are smashing as a demented, screeching, thunderous echo around deep chambers while the outer self calmly agrees to yet another change – otherwise Le Cool were brilliant to work for!
It was amazing that my artwork was chosen as a Le Cool Cover and it was huge boost when I needed it most at the beginning of my illustration career. I was reading a lot of folktales at the time and they inspired the colourful woodland characters in the piece.
I had just moved into a studio in the city, it was halloween and outside my window the local kids were in a daily turf war over valuable bonfire materials, gangs of fearless, industrious kids would clash on street corners over palettes and tires. There was so much high stakes drama, it was better than any matinee creature feature.
So many thoughts run through my mind when I look at this piece. I was in my final year in college when I worked on the cover for Le Cool issue 46 and I’m realizing the detailed, confusion of this illustration probably reflects what was happening in my mind during that time! The feeling of being excited for a new chapter, but scared and definitely overwhelmed with deadlines and emotion. If i had to illustrate another cover ten years later, it would probably be way simpler.
Will St Leger
It was at the beginning of the recession, so the idea of turning the spire into something useful like giant doner kebab free-for-all seemed fun and silly. What better way to represent a Dublin city landmark than turn it into a vintage style postcard.
Words: Michael McDermott
Feature Image: Annie Atkins