Interview by Vicky Pearce What drew you to illustration/design?
Drawing, creating and making have been the only vocationally activities I have ever had the inclination to pursue. It feels less like I ‘want’ to create and more like I ‘need’ to create. The externally imposed restrictions of design and illustration have always appealed to me.
Do you have any formal design training? If so which University/Polytechnic/Art College?
BA Graphic Design and Illustration at Kingston University and MA in Communication Design at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Where are you originally from?
Where do you live now & what drew you there?
Bramhall near Manchester. Schools, friends and family have informed our decisions to settle here for now, it’s deeply suburban but is close to the Derbyshire countyside and Manchester city centre so it’s a practical compromise.
Where is your studio and can you describe it for me?
A large oblong room at the front of the house. This along with my workshop in the cellar are my sanctuaries. I'm obsessively tidy and organized which I realize isn’t particularly compatible with family life, so I tend to confine by obsessions with tidiness to these two rooms. The studio is full of drawing equipment, 1950s ceramics and furniture. I have two desks one for digital work the other for the messy stuff; drawing, collage, ink painting etc. Shelves full of inspirational books, journals, a cup of coffee, some music and I’m set up.
Describe the view from your studio window?
Roofs, gardens and trees, typically suburban. Some nice sunsets if I’m working late.
Who or What is your biggest inspiration?
As you can imagine I’m not a massive fan of clutter, but I like to have inspirational images such as photographs or design work I admire around me. So I have a large digital photo frame which cycles through hundreds of inspiring images, I can update it as I find new stuff and if its too distracting I can just switch it off. Music I find very inspiring also, maybe I’ve got a mild form of synesthesia as I seem to see abstract compositions when I’m listening to certain music.
How do you get your ideas?
Think with paper, pencil and inspirational stuff like scrapbooks and reference materials in front of me.
Do you collect anything?
Too much, which is at odds with my obsessional tidiness and organizational traits. 1950s ceramics, knitting needles (totally irrational collection) and Post War furniture.
Do you keep a scrapbook?
Yes have done for about 28 years now, so have lots of them. I sometimes refer to them if I need inspiring or if I’m feeling nostalgic (but the latter doesn’t happen often!) They are a great barometer of your influences, obsessions and interests across the years.
What are your interests outside of illustration?
- Playing badminton
- Going to the gym
- Post War Man made Subterranean structures
- Post War design and architecture
What is the first record you brought?
Sparks Beat the clock 1979
Tell us about a favorite project you’ve recently completed.
Recently completed some promotional work for a Jazz Festival in New York. This is the second Jazz festival project I’ve been involved in, (previously worked on Pori Jazz Festival in Finland) both have been creatively rewarding as I find music so inspiring anyway.
What would be your dream job/commission?
I enjoy working on science, technology, architecture and music projects, so something of that nature.
What is/are your art hero/es?
- Mark Rothko
- John Piper
- Eric Ravilious
- Barbara Hepwoth
- Joan Miro
- Hap Grieshaber
- Bernd and Hilla Becher
- Alexander Calder
- Grayson Perry
Who is/are your illustration hero/es?
- Jim Flora
- Robert Stewart
- Saul Steinberg
Who is/are your design hero/es?
- Robin & Luciennce Day
- Otl Aicher
- Alan Fletcher
- Design Research Group
- Festival Pattern Group
- Max Huber
Who is/are your musical hero/es?
I’ve been honest so there are some potentially embarrassing inclusions:
- Depche Mode
- Gary Numan
- Vince Clarke
- Esbjorn Svensson Trio
- Five Corners Quintet
- Elliot Smith
- Bobby Darin
- Tune Yards
- Robyn Hitchcock
- Fleet Foxes
- Johnny Cash
- Julian Cope
- Stevie Wonder
- Beta Band
- Dolly Parton
- Michael Nyman
- Talk Talk
- Richard Hawley
- Philip Glass
If you were not an illustrator, what would you be?
A Personal Assistant or an Organisational Coach.
How do you think a friend, or professor who knows you well would describe you?
A thoughtful, hardworking, impatient, organized, obsessive, competitive, perfectionist.
Would you still illustrate if you were stranded alone on a desert island?
No. I expect I might have some other more pressing matters to attend to.
What do you say to people who say illustration isn’t really “Art”?
I’d agree, it’s an applied art more akin to graphic design than art. But that’s not to say that illustrators can’t make art.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
- Run your own race.
- Measure twice cut once.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into illustration?
Be prepared not to just sit thee waiting for the phone to ring, get involved, be proactive.
Do you think anyone with Photoshop can be an illustrator these days?
Do you have a method for dealing with the feeling of having no ideas?
Oblique Strategies Widget or see notes on inspiration above.
What about when you hit “the wall” with an illustration? How do you cope with that?
I do any or all of the following: get out of the studio, go for a walk, make a cup of tea, use Oblique Strategies Widget on my Mac or look through a scrapbook.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Have you any hidden talents?
No, what few I have are on display.
What is the funniest thing you have ever done?
Funny for other people: Falling in dog shit whilst trying to get a poster off a wall in Amsterdam (no drugs were involved)
If you could live anywhere, where would you go?
If you could take a holiday leaving tomorrow, where would you go & what would you do?
Go to Japan Tokyo and Kyoto with a camera and a sketchbook.
Do you have any pets?
Two white oriental cats called Munchie & Mungo.
If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?
Depends how much. Put some in a fund for my daughter post 18. Buy some land and have a house built to my own design. Travel. Put some away for a rainy day. Give the rest away to charities I contribute to already. Is that too Miss world circa 1970?
Would you continue to illustrate?
If you could travel back in time which period would you visit & why?
1950s or 1960s as long as I could bring lots of stuff back with me in a kind of cosmic check in luggage service.
If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet?
What do you have bookmarked?
Amongst hundreds of others:
What is your favorite graphics programme?
Based on use, Photoshop.
What is your favorite game, computer or not?
I‘m not that keen on games, I like playing chess with my daughter, but she’s better than me already! I prefer puzzles such as nonograms.
Who would you like to have as your muse if your were painting their portrait?
Kirstie Allsop, not sure I would be concentrating on the painting though.
What’s your favorite scene or line from a film?
The section in Billy Liar (1963) where Billy imagines himself machine gunning his family after unsuccessful trying to explain to them what a script writer is and why the writer is interested in his ‘material’ Makes me laugh every time. Though I love them dearly and owe them everything it reminds me of the frustration of trying to be creative in a family with no creative lineage.
What’s your favorite quote from a song or book or someone?
‘To do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.’ Samuel Butler
‘The world is nothing but you.’ Hsueh Feng
Who would you have play you in a movie?
Why do fools fall in love?
Only a fool would, it’s so irrational.
How do you picture the afterlife?
I don’t believe in an afterlife.
Which is the best Carry-on in your opinion?
Photo-finish between Carry on Screaming and Carry on Spying.
Cafe Einstein Berlin http://www.cafeeinstein.com/
Kemistry gallery always have well considered shows. http://kemistrygallery.co.uk/
Propelling pencil porn: OHTO-Super-Promecha-1500P http://www.cultpens.com
Quorn beef, soy sauce, spring onions and brown rice.
More pipe and slippers than Rock & Roll: Horlicks made with Soya Milk
Planet Vintage Empire House Antiques Warehouse Oldham Road & Wrigley Head Failsworth, M35 9BL http://www.planetvintagegirl.com/
David Allen GTD (Get Things Done) guru this taps in to my OCD tendencies. http://www.davidco.com/
Nice source of retro inspired design and illustration. http://grainedit.com/
For aspirational voyeurism: World of interiors http://www.worldofinteriors.co.uk/previous-issues.aspx
I’m not a goth but: Whitby http://www.whitby.co.uk/