1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I’m from Leeds, in the North of the UK, though I now live in London with my beautiful and talented wife and our lovely (though admittedly less talented) cat Sylvia. I didn’t do great at school, mostly due to a lack of attendance in the last couple of years. I kind of fumbled around for quite a few years after that, working in terribly paid retail jobs and bars for quite a while before eventually training to become an electrician, and consequently spending quite a few years wiring things in people’s houses in Yorkshire. In my late twenties I realised that I needed to change something and do something creative with my life. I enrolled on a film production degree and graduated when I was 30 (which was a strange experience in the uni environment with people so much younger than me). I worked in video editing and post production on some really great projects over the next few years, but a couple of years ago I found that I was beginning to spend more and more of my free time on personal animation and illustration work, and not feeling like I got the same satisfaction with editing anymore. I kind of resolved to try to make that stuff into my day job, and thankfully it has begun to work out in the way I had hoped, and I haven’t yet ended up in the gutter or anything.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I find this quite hard if I’m honest. I think the things I end up making often have elements of silly abstraction, surreal narrative moments and bright or very dark colours. I have a growing love of how light and contrast work in images, and the aesthetics of print techniques, so I keep trying to get better at putting some of this stuff into the things I make. I also really like to add patterns and some kind of roughness, texture or other tactile quality to the things I make. In some ways it’s odd that I do a lot of digital work, when I have a bit of a preference for things where imperfections are an important design element.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
As much as I would really like to be better with traditional materials, I find I get more out of working digitally for the most part. I only got properly into drawing things in the last couple of years really, and as I was working a lot on animation stuff, it kind of made sense to use the iPad or photoshop. I’m quite scatter-brained too, so it lets me change how I am approaching things repeatedly using the same tools. I really value being able to turn off layers, drastically change colours, or strip out all but a few elements to get something unexpected. I think a lot of the time those happy accidents are a really big source of inspiration for me. There’s also something still a little like magic to me about how it works, and I think there’s a bit of a childhood technology fascination with that stuff. In general, I think it takes away the pressure of screwing things up half way through, which for me helps with the “fear of failure” procrastination a bit. It does allow for the “letting yourself not make a decision” procrastination in its place though….
4. What is your artistic process like?
When it is going well I tend to see something, like how shadows or light fall on architecture, or the overlapping shapes in a crowd, and it sticks in my head until I can find a way to represent that in a slightly different way. When it is going badly (which is often far more frequent…) I have developed a weird way of trying to get out of a creative block or frustration, by scribbling and drawing shapes and the stupidest, most childlike sketches, until I almost forget that I was trying to make anything at all. It seems like if that happens, the results will very often contain some happy accident of shape, colour or texture that sparks me in a real direction. I think the real problem that these tactics are trying to solve is self-doubt or imposter syndrome that creeps in makes you overthink everything. It can sometimes take me a really long time to shake that off. It definitely works better for me to force myself to keep going no matter how frustrated I feel, than walking away and hoping for inspiration to bring me back to it though.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
Like with everything, I find it hard to remember things like this when I need to. There are a quite a few contemporary illustrators like Tom Haugomat, Gosia Herba, Jon Klassen, Brecht Evens, Dahlov Ipcar, Icinori (and a load of others…) whose work I really love. Also, the animators Chris Anderson, Conor Whelan, and Henrique Barone are intimidatingly talented, and I love seeing what they are up to. Yukai Du creates some lovely animation and illustration work. I have friends in the animation and illustration world who are constantly inspiring too, and I share a studio space with some really amazing creative people, including the Wednesday Studio folks. There’s a book called The Night Watchman by Jeremie Fischer and Jean-Baptiste Labrume that I absolutely love and find myself looking at a lot. Also, I find a lot of the older picture books really inspiring. Particularly some of the Russian ones.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
It sounds really false to write things like this I think, but it really has become something that just relieves stress and pressure to spend my time doing. I still suffer with depression and anxiety (though to a much lesser degree), even though in reality a lot of things have changed for the better in the last few years, and drawing and creating things has become one of the few things that can make me feel better when things are a little low. My wife is the kindest, and most supportive person you could hope to have around, and I know for sure I wouldn’t have shifted careers, or had the validation to pursue a lot of the things that I am now. It’s pretty clichéd, but I really don’t know where I would be without that support. It helps me so much, and I think helps me be a little more present in the moment, and pay more attention to what is around me.
7. Where did you study?
I studied Film and Moving Image Production at the Northern Film School in Leeds. I was learning about live-action film making for the most part, and gravitated mostly towards editing, though I did direct a couple of things there too. I’m kind of still quite proud of the effort everyone put into those things, and some of them do look quite nice looking back at them. Like a lot of uni projects though, they are quite flawed in terms of narrative. I got loads out of uni despite getting pretty stressed, and struggling a lot with depression and anxiety, and some of the tutors there were amazing about that stuff. I think in hindsight, I went in not feeling capable of much creatively, and came out realising that it would just take work to and perseverance to change that. Unfortunately, it turns out that it is actually a lot of work and perseverance…
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t know if it’s exactly where I see myself, but I hope I am just a lot better at the animation and illustration work I am doing to be honest. I feel there is so much to learn, that I really wish I had figured out what I wanted to do way earlier than I did. Seeing such talented (and often much younger) people around places while freelancing is a real motivator to want to get better. I’d like to have made some projects with my wife too (including one about mice that we have been chatting about for ages), and generally work on giving myself less of a hard time about not feeling satisfied with my work. It’s a fairly bad habit, and one that it seems a lot of people have to some extent.
9. What about in ten?
Things get pretty hazy when I try to think this far ahead. I’m not the most forward thinking person in the world really. I can imagine maybe moving out of London at some point but other than that, I am just hoping to keep making things and paying the bills.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I kind of don’t know what I hope to achieve outside of the personal benefits. It would be nice to create things that somehow promote more ethical projects as time goes on, but I will have to work on exactly how to start to achieve that. It would also be nice if I can get myself to be more connected within the creative communities. I am quite an introverted person, so through making and sharing things definitely helps and gives me reasons to reach out to people and get to know them in a natural way. People in these industries do seem far more welcoming and humble than perhaps you would expect, and it would be really great to build more of those relationships.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
I like Indian, Thai, Mexican and Moroccan flavours in general. Although I’m not strictly vegetarian, I really enjoy finding interesting vegetarian food too. Actually this is way too vague… maybe I will just go for the black bean Dahl at the Indian restaurant Dishoom. This is subject to change though, I’m sure.
12. Favourite book?
Oh dear, I haven’t been reading much for a really long time, though I do keep insisting on buying second-hand books and not getting round to reading them. Panther by Brecht Evans is a really good recent one. I remember really liking The Innocent by Ian McEwan when I was younger. Not sure if it would hold up to re-reading. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is amazing and funny and beautiful and too good. My wife and I continue to read this to each other quite frequently despite it nominally being a children’s book.
13. Favourite genre of music?
Probably some kind of noisy rock music. I think I have more varied tastes than I used to, though I have been listening to more podcasts than music for a while. I guess some genres I like in no particular order would be krautrock, metal, afrobeat, 80s synth stuff….. I really like the band Goat… And I’ve been listening to Big Business a fair bit recently… And I loved seeing Yann Tierson. I’m rubbish at remembering these things when someone actually asks me though. I’ll undoubtedly think of loads of better stuff later, and want to add things on. I’ll probably email you. You can ignore that email though.
14. What are your hobbies?
Weirdly, I think my only real hobbies are related to drawing and animating stuff. It’s generally all that I find myself wanting to do with my time. My wife and I both enjoy sitting on the sofa and drawing and watching (mostly) sub-standard TV. It always seems to be shows where cops with attitude problems are trying to solve some heinous crime though. I need to find some lighter background viewing material. I play the guitar reasonably well, though I haven’t picked it up and played it for quite a while now. I did start learning the piano too, though that seems to have fallen by the wayside too at the moment. I should really pick those things up again.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I am mostly pretty scared of referring to myself as an artist. I think it’s because I spent a lot of years telling myself that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Although, I do think that if I wasn’t making these things, I would just go back to being a frustrated artist, wishing away my time thinking about how I should be more creative. 🙂