(He/Him) • Stroud, England, UK
Motion design reel
Originally from Liverpool, Joe Magee studied Graphic Design at London College of Communication and now lives in Stroud, UK. His work has a strong graphic sensibility, tending towards bold compositions and iconic solutions, and employing photography where needed. One of his notable strengths is in coming up with ideas, and turning complex written or verbal ideas into simple images. Magee has won 2 D&AD awards for illustration, and works regularly with publications like Time Magazine and The Guardian.Read more
Time Magazine, The Guardian, University of Liverpool, BBC, Johns Hopkins University, Wall Street Journal, Royal Anthropological Institute, Quercus Publishing, NHS, Pentagram, Courrier International, Financial Times, The Reader, Meredith Corps, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Metal, NBC Universal, Glassbox Productions, University of Bristol, Condenast, Nature Magazine, Saatchi & Saatchi, Watershed, Harvard Business Review, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Read more
An interview with
Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
When I was at school, aged 8, my teacher held up a painting for the class to see and pointed out how she liked how I’d placed the figures in the composition. It involved Jesus and the disciples on a hillside: Everyone else had lined them up in a row, but I’d positioned them at different angles in various locations. From that moment I a hundred percent wanted to be an illustrator! And never deviated from that!
Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I remember getting into Aubrey Beardsley and William Heath Robinson, and surrealism, especially Salvador Dali. I was very impressed by graphic work, and bought books on art in advertising. Later I was influenced by Peter Saville’s record covers, especially those for New Order.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
My dad taught me how to draw 2 things when I old enough to hold a pencil: A horse; and a ship sailing directly towards you! (He was a sailor and liked riding horses in his youth!)
Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I only wanted to be ‘an illustrator’. So I do print making, film making, sculpture too. Illustration seemed like a great way to earn money producing artwork – and it took off for me when I left art school. Because of the volume of work I was eventually doing it became my primary visual language.
Did you study art in school?
I studied BA Graphic Design at London College of Communication, and MA Communication Design at Manchester Arts School.
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
With illustration the impulse derives from the client as they request your services and give you a brief! But in the personal practice that I strongly maintain I think the creative impulse is deeply embedded and instinctive.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
I love coming up with ideas and it’s really rewarding to see images come to fruition.
Do you have a favourite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I have a bunch of favourite illustrators – it’s so difficult to specify one. If I was forced to choose one it would, boringly, be Picasso! I went to see an exhibition of his prints a couple of years ago and I could have spent a whole day in there. I find an untold depth to his work – I never get bored of his images.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I like gardening! And writing! And playing football (soccer).
Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
I remember saving up and buying a set of ‘poster paints’ – about 20 small pots in a box. Before I had even used them my little sister got to them and, not one for washing brushes between colours, she got bits of wrong colour in all the different pots. I went ballistic!
Do you have a favourite illustrator supply, a favourite method, or favourite location, where you like to create artwork?
I am quite good at working anywhere, studio, train, other places. I always start any piece of artwork the same way – sketching out ideas in a sketchbook, developing the idea that way.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I used to try to explain my work a lot but now I’m of the opinion that the art should speak for itself.
Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
The public are the consumers of illustration, but they might not think too much about it as ‘illustration’. For example a book cover would and should hopefully make you think about the story inside, not the illustrator who created it.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
The creative act is such a big contribution to my wellbeing, and those of many others. Creativity and art should be always encouraged.
If you could look back or forward 100 years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
100 years ago art was probably more preserved for those who were financially secure. Canvas and paint were, of course, too expensive for many people. Filming and photography was even more out of reach. Today anyone with a phone can make films, take photos, edit images and share them instantly, and maybe illustrators go viral. So in theory that meritocratizes art. At the same time it makes it more difficult for illustrators financially because there are so many!
Illustrating the future
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