How and when did you know that you wanted to become an illustrator?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to ‘make pictures’ in some way when I grew up, as I’d been drawing and painting for as long as I could remember. I only realized there was a possible vocation for me called illustration much later on during my Foundation in Art course at Stourbridge College in 1991. It was here I began to focus on illustration, which I enjoyed the most after trying my hand at a variety of creative disciplines.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Absolutely everywhere really, I like to throw a lot of things into the blender to see what happens. I tend to draw visual stimulus from film, music, photography, unusual ephemera or found items. Of course I have my favourite artists and illustrators but I try to avoid looking to them for direction or stylistic cues, I prefer to fumble around experimenting until I get excited about where a piece is heading.
What is your earliest memory of creating art? (or drawing as a child)
I can’t remember the very early years, but I was probably scribbling in the womb somehow. I used to absolutely love recreating my favourite film posters and creating my own comic strips, usually unfinished, as my patience would run out very quickly. I was obsessed with sci-fi and fantasy as a kid so everything tended to be insanely over the top. Some might say it still is.
What type of environment do you prefer to work in? At home or in a studio? Listening to music?
I’ve worked at home and in a studio and ultimately I prefer to be in a studio with a creative group around me for support and inspiration. I find it helps to keep me sane separating the home and work environment, I could stay indoors for days when I worked at home which got too freakish. Music is a constant whether I’m at home or the studio, although there’s more Spotify infighting at the studio.
As a working illustrator, do you still find time to create art for yourself?
I’ve found it pretty frustrating over the last year or two trying to find time to create personal work. It’s really great that I’ve been busy, but it’s good to shake up your style now and again to keep it fresh for yourself and clients. I’ve made a point of sketching and doodling a lot while working on commercial jobs recently and will make as much time as possible this year for personal work.
What type of transition needs to be made between creating art for yourself and creating art that is commissioned?
I don’t find that there’s a huge gap in thinking between my personal and commercial work. I enjoy the freedom of working for myself and truly experimenting, but I also enjoy working to a tight brief and/or deadline and making a client happy. For me the two differing disciplines inform and spark off each other and I’ll apply what I’ve learned from both to my overall approach to the work.
When you are creating commissioned work, how do you take yourself out of the project and focus on the idea that needs to be conveyed?
With a commissioned work I’ll read the brief and/or article and I hope to get a mental picture of where I want the illustration to go while I read. I’ll generally have a vague grasp of the theme, composition and colours, which I scribble down in a very basic way then I’ll do some visual research and flesh out the concept while I create it, welcoming any happy accidents along the way. I tend to work up the first idea I get fired up about as it’s generally the strongest, if I think too long then I start to dither and waste time.
What type of artwork do you have hanging in your home?
I am the world’s worst handyman and have nothing hanging in my home at the moment but I do have lots resting against walls if that counts. Mostly illustration work by people I admire. At the studio I have personal framed work and works in progress hanging around the desk to mark my patch.
What accomplishment so far in your life stands out as most important?
So far it’s managing to make a living out of what I love and marrying the love of my life, Liz.
Who was the first illustrator that you noticed and admired?
Difficult to pick out just the one. As a youth I was hugely influenced by visual futurist Syd Mead along with sci-fi/fantasy artists such as H R Giger and Chris Foss. I then discovered the greats like Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Andy Warhol followed by contemporary illustrators such as David Hughes, Ralph Steadman and Joe Magee as I began to study the discipline.
Are there any other current illustrators that you feel you identify with or share a similar style?
I’m a big fan of a lot of the AGM illustrators and have a number of friends in the field who I admire, but not many who I would say I share a style with. I exhibited with my friend Tim Marrs and found our styles gel together well. I’ve also been a part of British illustration collective Black Convoy in the past and worked with the likes of Mcfaul, NCC, Andrew Rae and John Burgerman where the creative clash of different styles generated the excitement. I currently collaborate on animations with illustrator Mark Taplin under the banner of Action Stations and always welcome the opportunity to work with others.
Do you read criticism done on your work?
I haven’t really had the opportunity to read much criticism of my own work but I’m sure I would as I think it can be valuable and I’m incredibly nosey. I did read a blog recently with a mild critique of some of my work and I found it quite funny, but I’m sure too much of it would, no doubt, bring me down.
How do you deal with negative criticism?
If it’s constructive then I take it on board, otherwise I let it go… or run at them screaming with a hatchet.
What is your favorite way to get out of a creative block?
Physically remove myself from the situation (usually the monitor) and drown in a vat of coffee.
If you had to describe your body of work in one word, what would that word be?
Is there any one publication that you still have aspirations to see yourself in?
I aspire to be in every publication, I’m easy.
What magazines do you personally read?
I read 3×3, Varoom, Creative Review – the usual suspects.
What are your goals for your future as an illustrator?
To keep on keeping on. I’m always trying to develop the illustration work to keep it relevant and of a consistent quality. I also want to expand the mini-empire by continuing to move into animation, art direction and focus a little more on personal projects. That would mean figuring out how to delegate work so maybe I need to clone myself at some point or build a time stretching device.
What question do you wish an interviewer would ask you?