Baked and Fried
What was your key motivation in becoming an illustrator?
I actually sort of fell into illustration. I’ve always drawn in a bold, graphic style but it wasn’t until I got my first break that I thought I could do illustration work. I still feel as if I’m visiting the Illustration world when I do illustration work, rather than being a permanent resident there.
Beijing Exhibition – Economies
What was your first break as an illustrator?
That is a good question. I was invited to pitch some ideas for a record sleeve by a design agency I sort of knew in Nottingham (where I was living at the time).
The agency knew I had recently graduated from university studying Fine Art. I had no idea what I was doing but I liked the idea of creating a piece of work in response to an album.
They really liked one of my ideas and that weekend I turned it into a painting. Within a few weeks the album was released, to great reviews and my journey of illustration had begun.
How do you maintain an ongoing stream of work?
Luck and being tenacious. You have to keep the momentum going during quiet periods. If you’re not always working, trying to make new stuff and pushing yourself, then what are you doing? You can not just sit and wait. I’m constantly making, thinking and researching. You have to be a ball of energy.
What importance do you put on your own personal body of work and how does this influence your commissioned work?
I think it’s really important as it will eventually direct your commissioned work. I find most commissioned work tends to be ‘more of the same’. Which is to say a client often sees something you’ve already made and commissions something similar.
If you don’t want to just make the same things over and over again (and some people do, which is fine) then you have to be the one taking a risk and changing things up once in a while. Then a client may see this ‘new’ work and commission you for that. Ultimately what you make is up to you. If you don’t like the work you’re getting commissioned for Change It!
You are renowned for your character design – how do you go about designing a new character within your illustrations?
I generally just draw and draw until I hit upon the right feel for a character.
I can make 100s of designs before realising they are all wrong and then making the right design. When I think of characters I think of people I know or have seen. I think about what I find interesting about them and try and distill that into something simple and recognisable and then put that into my design.
You draw on almost everything and anything but do you have a personal favourite method of working on?
Yes, it’s the most simple. I love drawing with a fluid, new black pen on a clean white piece of paper. Or even better, the first, fresh, new page of a sketchbook. It feels like the possibilities are endless. On the page and within the book, I could go anywhere and be anything.
Who and what keeps you inspired?
Stuff! Books and people, places and music, foods and friends, cats and dogs, dreams and ice creams… Everything – you never know what’s going to inspire you, so you have to keep your peepers peeled and stay vigilant. One thing that won’t keep you inspired is not going out and seeing things, staying insular and comfortable. Get off the internet and go and see things off-screen. (Although the internet can be fun too).