BitDepth 512 - February 21

Illya Furlonge-Walker was my friend Ian's son, but he grew into my friend as well...
Illya's tale

The mischief-maker in his early teens and the husband and father in 2004. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

On reflection, it wasn't the most auspicious of meetings. Thirty years ago, I was visiting my new friend to talk comics and his young son ran up to me, looked me up and down and kicked me in the shin.
"I don't like you," he announced, and suddenly realising the disparity in our sizes, ran off again at top speed. I stood there speechless.
This was largely to be my view of Illya Furlonge-Walker over the next few years, a brown blur of ceaseless energy, sometimes bouncing (literally) off the walls.

Over the three decades I knew young Master Furlonge-Walker, our relationship improved and he slowed down a bit.
Eight days ago, he slowed down for good. He died quietly in his sleep, ravaged by brain cancer, just 38 years old, and I feel compelled to share his story.
Because the arc of his life so closely followed my own efforts to become a photographer, I see our shared history in the broad segments between family photo sessions.

There's an early image of a geeky looking Illya, all wide Michael Jackson lapels and big glasses, the scholar who read his father's books and sketched. This was the explorer, a wide-eyed child eager to absorb everything the world had to offer and often quite drunk with enthusiasm over the abundance of learning before him.
Here's the young teenager, with much smaller, neater glasses, as tall as he would ever get, leaving behind the look of the scholar to channel his energy into the disciplines of the athlete. I couldn't keep track of it all. Wind-surfing, rugby, rock climbing in England, his hands dusted with chalk gripping the handholds in a dizzying high rock face.

Again, he had to slow down after a rugby tackle broke his leg so badly that it had to be pinned back together and he limped around the house for months on crutches.
After a stay in England where he became smitten with industrial design, he came home and invested that passion in graphic design and it was here that he would find his greatest success.

There he is again, hunched over a draughtsman's board criss-crossed with vivid hues of paint, immersed in his first commercial endeavour as an artist, hand painted T-shirts done on commission.
Here Illya began to find his voice as an artist, or at least one of them, declining to airbrush the Lion of Judah and faux Rastafari images that were so prevalent then in favour of an artist's interpretations of client descriptions. There were wild caricatures, sketchy explorations of scenics and for me, surrealistic renditions of the photographer's world, with slightly spooky light stands and umbrellas drawn over a surrealist's colour scheme.

But he would soon purge the caricatures in favour of a bold interpretation of commercial art.
I'm going to take my pips here and note that he did his first piece of commercial graphic design for me, rubbing down Letraset type for a poster to promote the Repertory's production of "She".
But I'm also going to be realistic, because Illya would be mortified that I mentioned it. Between that poster and his revamp of the corporate identity for Central Bank in 2004, he did something that only the best students do. He evolved and grew to the point that I could no longer understand how he did what he did. He became an exceptional graphic designer.

The confidence of his work and the designs produced by his company defied the easy solutions offered by software and hearkened back to the elegant simplicity of Herb Lubalin and Saul Bass, with bold, definitive typography and stark imagery that commanded attention.
His work on the CLICO art calendar for AMPLE turned a record of days and months into a cherished keepsake.

But for all his style and taste, all his mischievous charm, there was a part of Illya that kept those thick glasses on and remained a tech-geek. When he began using Macs to realise his designs, he immersed himself in everything that technology could do for him. Whether it was consulting his Palm PDA or doodling 3D industrial designs using Sketch Up, the work was one thing and the adoration of high technology was quite another.
I have so many fond memories of working with, working for, goofing off and hanging out with Illya that it's hard to single out one, but I have to end this somewhere.

When Illya decided that he had to have a 17 inch PowerBook, allegedly to take his work to the next level, he decided to explore the possibility thoroughly.
So he downloaded Apple's images of the new laptop, cut two slabs of foamcore exactly to size and mocked up his own, complete with masking tape hinge, to see how it would fit into his life.

I'll always remember when he showed it to me, pulling it off a shelf with proud pomp and opening it on his desk, placing his fingers on the picture of the silvery keys.
"Well," he said, "what do you think?"
It was just one more time that I didn't know what to say to Illya.
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