Good Fruit, Bad Fruit. Limited edition screen print for Jealous Gallery 2014
How do you keep inspired?
This is an odd answer but recently I re-vamped my studio. I had a massive clear out, got rid of the wobbly desk that I’d had since I was a student. Put in new flooring, sorted out proper storage and gave the shelves a fresh coat of paint. Last week I was in the pub and I suddenly remembered that my paperclips are all in order in the third drawer down and this filled me with an unusual delight. Somehow, this clear space and work environment has cleared out my head and it seems that a Scandinavian storage solution is what is inspiring me.
As for a more regular answer, there are too many things to list of what and who inspires me, the latest thing that sent my heart and art passion into a flurry was a visit to an exhibition about Australia in The British History museum- it was the section on aboriginal art that got me. I really love unselfconscious, raw art.
Less about inspiration but more of what is motivating me is that I have a desire to connect with the person that sees my artwork and reads it. I hope to make a human connection and make someone laugh or reflect or for them to see themselves in the picture. In a personal way making the artwork helps me to discover truth and beauty and that’s what makes making artwork so compelling.
The Pitcher and The Crow (three panels from a comic story in an anthology). Fable Comics, First Second 2015
Your work ranges from editorial to publishing and advertising. What do you feel is the key that makes your work so adaptable?
I think that when I’m commissioned it’s usually via a route where people have seen my comics so they’re aware that there is potentially a package deal of pictures/words and ideas wrapped in a certain kind of humour. With my work, I think that the strength is in the ideas and this is what makes it adaptable.
You recently started creating a weekly strip for The Observer based on things that you’ve learnt. Can you tell us more about your process? How do you generate your ideas and what challenges do you face when creating the comics?
The strip is quite new. At the moment a lot of the ideas generated are from ordinary and everyday occurrences, little things or annoyances that when looked at objectively make me chuckle. I keep a notebook or e-mail myself thoughts and observations and then I’ll roughly sketch that idea out before drawing up to final the week before publication. Before the strip was being published I did a lot of writing to get a feel for the direction that I wanted the strip to go in. My preferred environment for writing is in busy cafes or the library; I put in earplugs or headphones to block out the noise. I don’t know why it works but being in a bustling environment helps me to think and be productive. When I’m stuck I’ll either walk, cycle or start vacuuming. Perhaps the brain needs to be in momentum to kickstart the creative ideas section.
The initial challenge of the strip was finding a way to tell a succinct story and finding my voice in it. It’s been a new process to write short form narratives and I’m still finding my way as I go along.
Extract from ‘houseplants’. The Observer 2015
What importance do you put on your personal work and how does this influence your commissioned work?
It’s really important for me to do personal work and that’s how I generate a lot of the ideas that become commissioned projects. There is a blurred line between my personal work and the live projects. But as I’m writing this I’m thinking that when the work does become a commission, such is my desire to communicate with an audience it is easy to fall in to the trap of being too cerebral. It’s a balance to pull back and make the time to simply play with the artwork without being concerned about what the imagery is communicating. There are times when I have a ‘workshop’ day, when I get out the art materials, paint, paper scissors and whatever else I can find and make art without thinking. I like what comes about from this. Some of those colours, shapes, patterns and characters feedback into the commissioned projects.
Insane Stunts #freerunning. A photo from Fluffy Pulcicnos Instagram stream 2015
What is next for you?
The projects that I’m working on alongside the strip are a children’s book with Walker books. This has also been a new and really fun challenge: to write a book for older readers. It’s from the point of view of Marcus who is a worm who makes a really unusual friendship with a bird. Marcus has got quite a strong personality and I hope that readers will enjoy this. I’m making the drawings at the moment and have returned to my illustration roots using a dip pen and ink.
I’m also working on a follow up graphic novel to Fluffy. The main character Fluffy is a teenager now and among other things, he enjoys photography. He has his own Instagram account under his name Fluffypulcino.