Gary Neill Illustrator Interview

Gary Neill

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
Yes. I dropped out of university where I was studying business to take a one-year course in art despite never having studied art before. I never looked back.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I wasn’t really interested in art when I was young but I loved reading a series of books entitled, The Adventures of Asterix, if that counts for anything.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
My first commission was for Time Out magazine. The illustration was for a wine guide, and yes, it lurks somewhere in my archive.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I chose to become an illustrator rather than a designer because of the freedom, independence, and creativity that being an illustrator offered. I also chose to work in a warm studio because my dad was a scaffolder. I knew just how hard other types of work could be.

Did you study art in school?
Yes, I earned a BA in graphic design at Nottingham Trent University.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
I love the clarity and simplicity of great advertising. I often look to Bob Gill for reassurance that it’s okay to create simple work.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
Draw, write, scribble, read, draw, gather, collage, gather, collage, read, check, send.

Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
David Hockney, for his sheer optimism and the variety of approaches he explored in his work.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I’d love to play the piano and would like to find more time to travel.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I believe a work of art, literature, or music shouldn’t need explanation.

Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
In my opinion, the industry is in good shape. Maybe too many illustrators are referencing other illustrators due to the internet but on the whole, I think there’s a good appreciation for the power of illustration.

Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
Art to me is an opportunity to express myself uniquely, live a life independently, and to avoid the feeling that every day is Groundhog Day.

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?
The fees offered for commissions now are nearly the same as they were twenty years ago. The internet has allowed me the freedom to work globally. That didn’t exist twenty years ago. I guess I have mixed views on the subject.