I’m extremely happy to announce that my ‘Hello & Welcome to Leeds’ mural has been shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards 2017! The huge mural project which I recently talked about on BBC Radio Leeds has been shortlisted for the professional ‘Site Specific’ category in this years competition.
A year on from my first interview with BBC Radio Leeds, I was invited back to speak to Andrew Edwards and discuss peoples varying opinions on “street art”. I was also given the opportunity to respond to both positive and negative feedback from the general public on my own ‘Hello & Welcome To Leeds’ mural, which has been shortlisted for the World Illustration Awards 2017.
“Just to encourage anyone to pursue something they are interested in and give them the kind of backing to suggest that it’s a positive… That’s how we should be handling all kinds of art forms in my opinion.”
This broadcast aired on Monday 8th May 2017 (12:35pm). All audio copyright belongs to BBC Radio Leeds.
Jonny Akers is a screen printer by trade and I’ve known him since we met in Leeds a few years back. I’ve witnessed him at work in his print studio and know his attention to detail is impeccable, so I knew this exhibition would have that same high standard that he achieves in his printing. Once he listed some of the amazing artists involved and mentioned that all the work was inspired by MF DOOM, I was in.
The theme of the show was perfect for me. I had already produced a series of hand lettering based on MF DOOM lyrics with my MF DOOM Typog-RAP-hy series. I usually like to produce new work for shows, but in the build up to this exhibition I had a small skateboarding accident that took my drawing arm out of action. I decided to re-colour two of the original pieces from my MF DOOM Typog-RAP-hy series and produce one off art prints, especially for the show.
On Friday 5th May 2017 after some last minute plinth painting, a little curating and some super quick hanging of the work, the exhibition was open to the public. It didn’t take long for the space to fill up and before long the the gallery was full of people taking in the work. I always find it’s a good sign if you turn up to an exhibition and it’s too busy to be able to stand in front of the work.
Steve Gumm of Two’s Company Studios was the DJ for the night and provided a real nice Hip-Hop soundtrack, which really strengthened the viewing of the work. When I wasn’t standing at the bar trying to win a limited edition t-shirt on hand-made MF DOOM scratch cards, I was cruising around chatting with people and meeting some of the other artists showing work.
The air was filled with discussions about which pieces were peoples favourites and why. Asking people what they think about the work is what I love about opening nights and they’re usually honest because the booze is flowing.
I also like to share my own opinions, so here’s some of my favourite pieces in the show…
I’ve always had a huge fascination with bootleg toys and Trap Toys create amazing Hip-Hop inspired custom action figures, that just make you want to own them. This MF DUFF piece is no exception and when I heard that they had produced 130 and hand-painted each one individually, I was blown away.
RichT & 45RPM
I’m a sucker for detail and RichT’s illustrative comic book influenced ink work is full of it! You can spend an age exploring the various intricacies within his line work and this piece didn’t disappoint. I’m a big fan of 45RPM’s strong simple graphic cartoon style too.
As soon as we hung the work I was strangely drawn to the amazing spaced out laser beam Alleykats piece. It’s not the kind of work I’m typically drawn to but after some deliberation I figured out that the colour scheme along with the overall feel that the print was giving me was a winning combination.
Last but certainly not least, the Eko piece. An exciting moment for me was accidentally meeting Eko the day before the show whilst he was dropping off the original artwork he produced for MF DOOM’s limited edition Danger DOOM album. He’s worked on multiple MF DOOM album covers in the past, so I had a great opportunity to geek out a little and ask him some design questions about some of my favourite albums. To have my work alongside the original artwork of one of my favourite MF DOOM albums feels pretty amazing.
This brilliant collection of work from a selection of seriously talented artists will be on display until mid June 2017. So if like me you have a love for illustration, or you’re a big MF DOOM fan, head down to Two’s Company Studios and check it out. There will also be a closing wrap party on Saturday 10th June 2017 from 10am to 11pm.
Thanks to everyone involved and to all those visiting the exhibition and showing their support.
Trap Toys, 45RPM, Tony Riff, RichT, Philth, Cheba, Aero, Greg (Alleykats), Eject, Nathan Evans, J.A.P.P, Idle1, Lukas Wigflex, Electric Mustard.
I was recently invited by James from The Gallimaufry to be part of ‘Brothers, Sisters’ – a group illustration exhibition in support of the American Civil Liberties Union. Myself and 9 other Bristol based artists and illustrators were asked to create a piece responding to the theme of equality and diversity.
I always aim to get involved in at least one charity project a year and this cause was something I personally really wanted to support. I chose to focus on the recent ridiculous ‘Trump travel ban’, producing a bold hand lettering piece carrying a strong positive message of ‘Unity In Diversity’, utilising an American flag inspired colour palette.
Each artist print is available to buy, with 50% going to the illustrator and the other 50% going to the ACLU Nationwide: protecting civil liberties & fighting against discrimination. The collection of work will be on display in The Gallimaufry throughout March 2017. If you are interested in buying the piece and supporting the cause, you can drop in to The Gallimaufry or contact them.
Anna Higgie, Dave Bain, Hana Sunny, Lisa Rose, Loch Ness, Marj Newnham, Nathan Evans, Tabitha Panter, Tommy Parker and Sam Rowe
During my involvement as a guest speaker at the AOI Discusses: Making More Money event, I met fellow illustrator Dave Bain. We shared similar views on a range of topics and following on from the discussion, he invited me to present a talk to a group of Falmouth University 2nd year Illustration students. The subject Dave asked me to explore was one very close to my heart,
‘Working outside of the studio and going big with your work’.
I arrived at Hamilton House on the day of the talk and Dave introduced me to the tutors from Falmouth University. I’ve always been fascinated to find out about the different ways universities are teaching their Illustration courses, so I spoke to the tutors and a handful of students to get a good sense of their course structure. I felt like knowing this beforehand would help me tailor certain parts of my talk, ensuring the students got the most value from my words.
Once everyone had arrived, we moved upstairs into event space. There were a total of five talks scheduled for the day, from a diverse bunch of talented illustrators.
Harriet Lee-Merrion was the first illustrator to take the floor, giving a wonderfully structured insight into how the world of editorial illustration operates. I particularly enjoyed Harriet’s story about when she was commissioned by a German mattress company, who alongside her payment also offered to give her a free mattress. It was a wonderful example of one of those obscure yet beautiful moments you encounter as a freelance illustrator.
Anna Higgie and Sarah Dennis spoke as a duo and delivered a high energy presentation about the power of social media, offering the students some practical tips on how to get the most from it. Anna also referenced a project where she had successfully turned around 30 portrait illustrations in just two weeks, which certainly impressed the entire room! I’m a big advocate of the importance of a strong work ethic and Anna’s story was a beautiful example of that.
Hana Sunny Whaler covered the same topic as myself – ‘Working outside of the studio and going big with your work’. Hana spoke about her love for lettering, creating the work you want to be known for and not being afraid to try new things with your work. She also touched on the more practical aspects of painting on-site for clients and some of the problems you encounter as a result. As a muralist myself, I could definitely relate to her chilling tales of painting outside in the winter months!
Following on from Hana, it was time for me to present my talk. I was very excited to get started and to share my ideas with both the students and the other guest speakers.
I started by talking about the sense of escapism and separation from my desk that working outside of the studio has provided for me over the years. I then spoke about how working on a large scale can open up new avenues for learning, opportunities for being commissioned and also allow for an organic approach to collaboration between artists. I went on to stress the huge importance of personal projects, referencing some of my own experiences where my own self-initiated work had subsequently resulted in client commissions. My favourite of which was the time I painted a self-initiated mural in a Leeds sewer. Through pure chance an art director saw the painting from a photography studio window above the sewer, contacted me and commissioned me for my Elmwood Studios – Yorkshire Welcomes Le Tour project. This gave the students an important insight into how commissions really can come from anywhere and highlighted why it is useful to apply your illustration to a larger format.
Dave Bain also explored the same topic as Hana and I. Dave referenced his recent project for the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, concisely guiding the students through the entire project process. It was a truly brilliant project and his talk gave the students a great sense of the steps required when taking an idea from initial concept to final execution for a client.
Once the individual talks were over, there was a Q&A session for the students. The focus of the Q&A was to try and demystify the often overwhelming subject of transitioning between university life and the professional industry after graduating. The best advice I gave to the students was to not get worried about the fact they don’t yet have any ‘real client work’ in their portfolios. I told them to instead focus their time and energy on producing high quality personal projects which showcase their style. I remember when I graduated I had a huge misconception that I needed proven client work in my portfolio in order to be commissioned, but it’s simply not the case. I also touched on my theory of a sliding scale when pricing commissions. This involves considering both budget attached to a project and your own personal interest in taking on the project.
My main aim that day was to hopefully inspire the students and make them feel more confident about their futures in the industry. This was realised when one of the students approached us and said:
“Thank you all for your advice, I feel a lot better about graduating now…”
Image credit: Marianna Madriz
I was contacted by The Association of Illustrators and asked if I’d like to be a guest speaker at their ‘AOI Discusses: Making More Money’ panel discussion at the Arnolfini in Bristol. The aim of the event was to explore topics around pricing illustration and how to move your career forward financially, giving an insight into best practices and how to conduct yourself not only as an illustrator, but as a business.
Recently I’ve really started to appreciate the value of sharing my knowledge with students and other illustrators at an earlier stage in their career than myself. I’ve learnt many things through trial and error over the years, but it would have been amazing to have someone offer me the advice I needed at the time. If I can provide useful advice for other illustrators now, then I’m more than happy to do so. I wasted no time in replying to the AOI and confirming I would love to be one of the three guest illustrators on the panel.
After a few weeks working on various bits of client work, the night of the discussion arrived. I was a healthy amount of nervous, but the predominant feeling was certainly excitement. These topics are things I’m constantly discussing with my creative friends, so I was really looking forward to sharing and exploring them further with a wider audience.
The Arnolfini is just a short walk from my home studio, but I still made sure I set off with plenty of time. I make a real habit of arriving to meetings and events early. I feel it allows me to settle any nerves that might be bouncing around my head, become familiar with my surroundings and most important of all, locate the nearest exit just in case! On this occasion it provided me with an extra little bit of thinking time to prioritise the things I wanted to discuss, ensuring the audience would get the most value from me being there.
When I arrived I was met by AOI Membership Manager and illustration knowledge oracle Lou Bones, who would be chairing the discussion. Lou introduced me to the two other guest illustrators, amazing paper-craft artist Sam Pierpoint and the brilliantly playful illustrator Dave Bain.
Image credit: UWE Illustration
After chatting amongst ourselves for a little while and waiting for everyone to arrive, Lou started the discussion. The conversation began with Lou introducing everyone and presenting the purpose of the event, highlighting some of the topics we would explore. She then went on to reference real life situations that the AOI had encountered whilst providing support to their members in the past. The other guest illustrators and I were then invited to respond with our own relevant experiences, sharing practical advice on how we had overcome similar challenges.
I really enjoyed sharing my stories from past commissions with everyone and it was brilliant to listen to Sam and Dave talk about similar situations they had encountered in their own work. As creative people I think we can sometimes get a little caught up in the creation of our work, often forgetting to take a moment to reflect with fellow creatives who are in similar circumstances.
It was also great that we explored the sometimes negative aspects of client work without the discussion turning into a rant about how ‘clients are difficult’. I see too many creatives who have this childish ‘us versus them’ attitude when talking about clients and this totally contradicts how I feel about my relationship with clients. It was refreshing for me to hear that there are other illustrators who really appreciate the value of strong client relationships like myself.
As much as I enjoyed the main discussion lead by Lou, I was most excited about the Q&A session at the end. It was the perfect platform for good honest organic conversation and allowed me to drill down, giving more specific advice, tailored to individual audience members. I also personally feel a lot more comfortable with the Q&A format and it comes a lot more naturally to me. In my opinion Q&A is really where the magic happens and I believe it provides the most value to an audience.
The discussion went on for a little longer than planned, allowing for more questions to be answered. I got the sense that a lot of people would have happily stayed longer, but the venue was closing so we had to bring things to a close. However, that wasn’t the end of the evening and Lou invited everyone for a drink to continue the discussion at No.1 Harbourside.
The meeting in the bar afterwards was just as insightful as the initial conversation. It allowed people from the audience to ask any questions they didn’t have a chance to ask previously and gave me the opportunity to expand on some of the points I had raised in the discussion. The conversations were definitely a lot more personal, making the advice more valuable to the individuals I had the chance to speak to. It was also great for me to ask a few of my own questions and find out what advice resonated with people the most.
After a few glasses of Rioja and many great conversations with an eclectic bunch of interesting people, I thanked everyone and said my goodbyes. A common topic of conversation seemed to be that people felt like this kind of meeting should happen on a more regular basis. The sense of camaraderie in the bar was amazing, a group of like minded people all striving for the same goal. So I exchanged details with a few illustrators and agreed I would be happy to get involved in more illustration gatherings in Bristol.
A huge thanks to Lou Bones and the Association of Illustrators for inviting me to be involved in this wonderful discussion. Also, thanks to everyone who attended, with an even bigger thanks to anyone who asked a question and made the conversation as interesting as it was. Knowledge is power!
I feel honoured to have been interviewed by the University of Leeds’ School of Design. I’ve had quite a lot of students contact me recently for advice and I really appreciate the importance of creatives at all levels supporting one another in the industry. I discussed how to get your work commissioned, gave my advice on how to price illustration work and offered some personal words of encouragement for art students. Most importantly of all, I got the chance to discuss my obsession with the structure of letters and how that obsession developed over time.
“There’s a sweet science to typography and each letter has it’s own set of rules on how they’re assembled.”
I was recently interviewed by Intermarketing Agency for their new ZINE. They wanted to know about the projects I’m currently working on, my musical influences, the process behind the ‘Hello & Welcome To Leeds’ mural and the role I played in helping East Street Arts with the launch of the Art Hostel.
“Choice is a real luxury as a freelancer and I’m currently able to really enjoy that luxury and be selective.”
You can read the full interview on the Intermarketing Agency website. Alternatively, you can read the shorter print version and see the beautifully designed spreads by downloading the Intermarketing Agency ZINE.
Following the success of my ‘Hello & Welcome To Leeds’ mural project, I was invited into the BBC Radio Leeds studio to be interviewed by Liz Green about the work.
Liz and I discussed how the ‘Hello & Welcome To Leeds’ project came to fruition, my artistic background, education in illustration and my current mural and illustration projects.
“Anything takes hard work and dedication. I’ve always had a passion for art and been able to draw, but repetition and applying myself has developed my practice”
This broadcast aired on Tuesday 12th April 2016 (8:46am). All audio copyright belongs to BBC Radio Leeds.