Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know that I wanted to be an illustrator. I’ve been making images for as long as I can remember. My early childhood memories are pretty faint. Having said that, there was usually a crayon in my hand in any murky reminiscence from the 70s.
Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I was always in awe of 70s and 80s images on film posters, particularly by Drew Struzan. Computer and video game artwork such as the early Atari game covers influenced me too. I used to copy them as closely as possible as a child to build my skills and fire up my imagination.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
I don’t remember my very first artwork but it probably exists somewhere in my parents’ attic. I remember making knock off copies of film posters during pre-teen years; a Highlander spin-off, and early attempts at Tintin comics created in the Hergé style.
Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I’ve always loved cinema and find it very inspirational, I dabbled with film-making as a teenager but I’ve always been drawn to creating single images. Illustration, as a discipline, fulfills an urge. It’s satisfying both artistically and in a commercial way.
I like having the relative freedom to experiment with a variety of styles, mediums, and themes in short creative bursts. Animating my illustrations for short film, music promotions, and digital magazines is where I get my ‘motion’ kick.
Did you study art in school?
Art was the one subject at school I was good at and was one that I was always excited about. I scored straight As in my early years and went on to earn a foundation diploma in an art & design course at Stourbridge College in the West Midlands. After trying my hand at a range of artistic pursuits, I focused on illustration as the field most suited to my talents. Finally, I earned a BA in Illustration at Portsmouth University.
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
My inspiration comes from many sources. Most are unrelated to illustration. The aforementioned cinema is a major inspiration. Music, photography, a random visual impression or thought; all can create a spark. I love the excitement of being on a creative roll; of being ‘in the zone.’ When an illustration is coming together, a sense of satisfaction fuels the impulse to create more. Honestly, it’s a bit of an addiction.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
My process is usually a haphazard journey that starts with a vague visual image in my mind followed by a very rough and unintelligible scribble on a page.
After a hefty caffeine injection, I’ll start to throw digital imagery at the Photoshop wall until something sticks that I think has potential. I then try to get into a nice work groove to experiment with colors, elements, and layers at a rapid pace and with wild abandon; incorporating happy accidents along the way. Hopefully, the final piece resembles my initial mental image somewhat. With any luck, it exceeds my expectations.
Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I’ve had many favorite illustrators over the years: Hockney, Bacon, Warhol, and a contemporary fine illustrator I admire, Peter Doig. I love Doig’s paintings. His use of color and his obsession with recreating photos and film stills is something I can relate to. He also happened to be a tutor at Stourbridge Art College during my time there though, unfortunately, not my tutor.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I’d be pretty lost so I’d have to become a nomad, I guess.
Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
I remember crayola crayons quite fondly.
Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
My favorite location to create artwork is in my studio near London Fields in Hackney. I’ve shared space with fellow illustrators and animators for the past ten years and love the exchange of ideas and all the nonsense. I mostly work on my iMac in Photoshop and have a number of trusted methods in my digital bag of tricks. When I draw, I’ll pick up my supplies from Cowling & Wilcox in East London.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I wouldn’t want to presume to influence anybody’s understanding. I like to think my work is self-explanatory when it needs to be and if it’s not meant to be then it’s an open invitation to the beholder to fill in the rest.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
Being creative is just about all I can do. It’s pretty much a survival thing for me. Art will always matter to the world because it’s an essential way of processing and documenting life in all its majesty and misery. There’s also the fact that pretty pictures look nice too.
If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
I think the illustrator’s lot has improved over the centuries. Society is much more receptive to the arts today and there are many more practicing, successful illustrators than a hundred years ago. In the future, everyone will be an illustrator of one sort or another while robots will be the ones taking care of graft.