How did you get started doing what you do?
I was obsessed with drawing since I was a child and eventually went on to study illustration at university. I didn’t quite know where I fit in with the art world, since I took inspiration from anything and everything. I just loved images. They could be from comic books to album covers to film posters, it didn’t matter as long as someone had created an image. I graduated from university and since then I’ve been a freelance illustrator and painter. Work was slow at first, but I tried to be as prolific and determined as I could and I started to get work and exhibitions when people saw my imagery.
What’s your inspiration?
I’ve loved ancient art and myths since I was a child. It’s something that’s always fed into my work. Specifically ancient Egyptian gods and carvings. I love the lack of perspective in work like this, as the artists were clearly just trying to tell stories and to display information as easily as possible. I find outsider art and naive art very inspiring because it’s work created by people unaware of the art world, and they’re creating purely for their own enjoyment and to make sense out of their own lives in some cases.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up quite late, go to the gym and then come home to make lunch. I start work in the early afternoon and work from home. I’m usually juggling personal work and freelance jobs, and when freelancing is quiet, I’ll work on new paintings and illustrations. I work very late into the night but sometimes take breaks to watch TV with my girlfriend or to read. Sometimes I’m forced to take a break if I’ve been drawing too much because of hand cramps!
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It depends on the piece. I’ve been working on large A2 drawings recently that I’ve been digitally colouring, and these tend to take me around 4-5 days to complete. It’s mostly in the detail and the cross hatching. My style makes it very easy to create bold characters and shapes, but refining these elements and backgrounds can take much longer.
Typically for a lot of drawing, I will work at A3 size for posters. These will take me a day to draw and colour if it’s a detailed piece. A comic page will typically take me a day to complete too, but lettering and writing and planning a story can drag the project out to take a little longer.
Paintings can vary. Sometimes I will produce very bold imagery with flat colour and these can take me a few hours.
Most of my paintings take around 2 days. I’m getting quicker with my process, and I’m finding that planning an image well can really help speed up the process of painting. I used to paint in really thick layers, but better planning has meant that I can speed up my process and now I try to stop painting over too many layers. Certain colours are hard to paint with over layers and can be quite time consuming.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Don’t focus too much on worrying about how an image is going to turn out. You will keep improving and making better and better work. Trust your skills and practice and plan well. Image making is almost an afterthought of your planning and practice. If you think you’ve made a mistake and want to start over, push through it, keep your momentum and see how the image turns out. Keep trying and see ideas through to the end. Don’t throw so much paper and half finished drawings away!
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Look at work that came before you. Don’t focus on current trends. Be aware of what’s going on around you, but focus on developing your own voice and read up on work that interests you. People now have a tendency to live through the internet and it’s easy to get sucked into trends. These trend bubbles can suddenly burst. Focus on making work true to yourself. Work on your personal strengths and develop a visual language you’ve created yourself. Don’t borrow from other people. Try to solve visual problems in your own terms.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I really enjoyed it. I made a lot of good friends there. It was one of the first times in my life where I didn’t feel strange. I finally met other people with similar interests to me. I don’t think art school is for everyone. If you want a lot out of your education, you have to put a lot in. You really have to treasure your time at art school, because in some cases fees can be costly. Use your time wisely and try to use the facilities as much as you can, you’re paying for it after all!
What’s your dream project?
I would love to work on book of paintings, just create an amazing catalogue of my painted work, and to focus on personal work that could also be displayed in a gallery. I wish I had the time and the opportunity to work on a published comic series. Any project really that would allow me to tie my personal work into it.
What art supplies do you use?
For ink work, I use Indian ink, dip pens and fineliners. Paper quality doesn’t really matter as long as it doesn’t bleed if I’m using dip pen. I usually colour drawings digitally with Photoshop, but occasionally I’ll also scan watercolour textures and shading to compliment the piece. To paint, I use acrylics. I paint on canvas, but I really enjoy painting on thick watercolour paper. When I scan my imagery, the paper gives the painting a really nice subtle texture.
What’s your process like?
I work in a lot of layers. At university I was in the print making room a lot, and I break pictures down in layers. This is very useful for making imagery in photoshop too. If I’m making digital work, I will usually draw shapes to form the image, scan them and then rearrange them to create the finished image. When I paint, I will often paint an entire background and then paint figures into the foreground, so working from the back to the front.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
I’ve worked with a lot of bad art directors and clients who don’t really know what they want from you. I would like to see better communication and respect. There’s a common misconception where people think that because you draw and paint for a living, it’s fun and they shouldn’t pay you for what you’re worth. There are also a lot of time wasters. I would like to see artists and illustrators work together to ensure we are all paid fairly, and for people to appreciate that art isn’t just a hobby, it can be a living.