Finlay Cowan 2011

Photo copyright Lou Smith

After playing a couple of gigs as bassist for ex New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders, Finlay Cowan arrived in London and began his creative career around 1987 as a freelance storyboard artist in the capitals flourishing advertising industry working sporadically at most of the big London agencies. He provided the set design for Franc Roddams famous Uniroyal tyres ‘Orangutan’ ad and also dabbled in metal sculpture designing and building a distressed copper door for advertising wunderkind Graham Finks office at GGT in Wardour Street and an installation exhibited on Hampstead Heath and at ‘The Garage’ in Kings Rd.

He was introduced to Storm Thorgerson  in 1993 and has worked with him for many years as an ‘ideas man’ and illustrator contributing to album sleeves for Pink Floyd, Muse, Audioslave, and many others. He designed Pink Floyds ‘Back Catalogue poster which is said to be the groups most popular image and has become a global pop icon. He also worked on animations for the bands ‘Division Bell’ stage show and storyboarded the ‘worlds most viewed internet animation’ for the band in 1999.

During this period he also designed and executed several photographic bookcovers for Bloomsbury publishing including the first edition of Will Selfs ‘Grey Area’. He worked on numerous interior design projects with his wife Janette Swift and in 1998 designed and founded the famous Café 1001 in Brick Lane, the interior of which was inspired by his interest in Middle Eastern art and culture. During this time he met the musician Talvin Singh and the two collaborated with the ‘Master Musicians of Jajouka’ (Singh producing the album and Finlay designing the album sleeve) and Finlay also performed a spoken word piece at one of Talvins celebrated musical soirees.

In 2000 he left the coffee business to concentrate on animation and developed series’ for the BBC and other production companies in the UK and US. In 2003 he worked as an armour designer on Oliver Stones production of ‘Alexander’ during which time he met the costume designer Marlene Stewart (once Madonna’s stylist) who became an influence on his subsequent illustration work.

In September 2003 he met his  business partner Bill Bachle who, in a career spanning four decades, wrote Bob Kennedys presidential campaign ads amongst many other notable achievements. Bachle and Cowan founded Endless Design Ltd to undertake diverse creative assignments for a wide variety of global clients.

In 2003 Finlay was asked to write and illustrate a ‘how to’ book on the subject of Fantasy Art. The book, titled ‘Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures’, became a bestseller in ten languages, reached no 3 in the Uk art books chart and spawned an entire genre of copycat titles. ‘Drawing and Painting Fantasy Worlds’ followed in 2006 and three more books in 2007 and 2008, and 2009, all published by David and Charles and reaching markets in 20 countries including China and Korea.

Finlay believes the success of the books may be due to his efforts to avoid the clichéd limitations of the genre and absorb influences ranging from surrealism, the classics, mythology, folklore and the traditions of storytelling, encouraging his readers to immerse themselves in culture and history from ancient times to the present.

Finlays fifth book ‘Fantasy art expedition’ was published in 2009.

In April 2009 he moved  with his family from Italy to Oxfordshire in the UK.

He began a storytelling project with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, writing illustrating and performing stories based on items in the collection. A video podcast of the first four stories is due to appear on the museums website by 2012.


He worked on various corporate design (CNN, Luxuria Awards, The Luxury Marketing Council, The Responsible Business Network) and new work for Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar, Pink Floyd and others.

He designed the set for Selfridges Christmas Grotto in Oxford Street, London and an elephant for the ‘Elephant Parade’ in London.

He designed weapons for the new film from the director of District 9. He designed costumes with Marlene Stewart for Famke Jannsen and Jeremy Renner on the Paramount studios film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters‘. He produced the illustrations for a new edition of the book ‘The Greatest Gift’ – the novel on which Frank Capras film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ was based.

In 2012 he began working with Jane Mc Gonigal after reading her book ‘Reality is Broken’ and deciding he wanted to join her in her ‘vision of creating a better world through games’. He began producing illustrations for the online game ‘Superbetter’ designed to help people achieve their personal health goals.

In 2011 he returned to his long term graphic novels and music project, Subway Slim, and brought all his storytelling and music activities under a single banner. He began working with his long time collaborator Wes Maebe on new music for the project and teamed up with Matt Barr and Tom Harvey to create the web and merchandising arm of the business.

February 2nd 2012 sees the launch of with new music, graphic novels and merchandise releases scheduled every 8 weeks.


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