1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Neil Hampshire, and I’m a London-born social anthropology student and freelance illustrator currently based in St Andrews, Scotland. In 2016, I graduated from Central Saint Martins’ Graphic Design programme, and embarked on a year of freelancing as an illustrator and graphic design consultant. I’ve worked primarily within an editorial context, but have produced work for a range of clients from high fashion retailers to advertising firms to science publications. I’m not too keen on settling or specialising in one particular area, and as such decided to begin my postgraduate studies this year in a very different area, so as we speak I’m splitting my attention between the spheres of illustration, journalism and academic writing. Things have to be just perfect for me to get really settled into one single thing–I’m not too into compromise.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
During my younger years, and right up until my graduation from CSM, I had worked purely with traditional mediums. I made the move to digital in order to free myself to work more rapidly and dynamically, as is required in a world of quick turnarounds and sudden requests for change. I still try to retain some degree of traditional work-process, allowing space for imperfection and the ever elusive ‘happy accident’. Personality and character come through faults, blemishes.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I spend the vast majority of my illustration-life now working digitally, though I’m still drawn to the tactile qualities of the pencil, the friction generated from the graphite dragging across the paper. I also used to do a lot of painting; acrylics, watercolours and gouaches, but I haven’t done any for a while.
4. What is your artistic process like?
I’m still evolving and transforming my digital process, though as it stands I typically begin with some quick thumbnails, either digital or traditional, and from there I’ll develop one or two of the ideas with the introduction of colour. This thumbnailing stage is my favourite part of the process and beyond this it’s merely a case of tightening the image and playing around with elements.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I really enjoy the work of many of my illustration contemporaries, and try as much as I can to draw inspiration from a wide range of sources artistically. While living in London I spent time visiting exhibitions, though now in my new, and significantly more isolated, surroundings I have exchanged galleries for trees and fields. I regularly go out for runs through the woods and along the coast, and these meditative jaunts afford me plenty of time to turn over ideas in my mind.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
Illustration for me seeks to not just decorate or embellish a piece of writing, but to elucidate the text’s meaning, to contribute to or transform entirely the reader’s understanding of the text, and it’s this ineffable quality which I also find in anthropological writing. As such, I’ve found many of my ways of thinking as an illustrator inform my ways of working as a writer and as an anthropologist. This puzzle of translation, trying to render something so unbounded and multitudinous into a form which is easily and universally comprehensible is one which appears to haunt me through everything I do, but it’s a nice haunting.
7. Where did you study?
I completed a foundation degree in Art and Design at Central Saint Martins in 2013. Following this, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design with illustration specialism at the same institution, and am currently engaged in attaining my Master of Research (MRes) degree in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews. I’m slowly building a collection.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
The age-old question–in five year’s time I could be anywhere, I’d love to work in so many different fields, I worked as a curator for a few shows toward the end of my time at Central Saint Martins, and this was something I thoroughly enjoyed; it was an extremely tiring and simultaneously fulfilling time. Aside from working in curation, I’d love to work as a journalist, a portion of my spare time has been spent sharpening my writing pencil and occasionally publishing articles with Cambridge University’s science magazine. My research has also been leading me in the direction of science, more specifically outer-space, so this becomes yet another option. Of course, freelancing as an illustrator is likely something I will never stop doing, it’s just too refreshing. I think the one element which ties all of these together is perhaps the intensity of the work–I like to be kept busy.
9. What about in ten?
In ten years time, I’d hope to be more settled down, with a fulfilling job and healthy routine. I’ve had a romantic idea for the past few years of having an empty house somewhere, nothing big, and with only the basic belongings–the kind of place you don’t need to lock up at all. It would be a small, ascetic sanctuary to escape to from time to time, a different way of living.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I enjoy talking a lot, so I hope that my images can similarly express feelings, emotions, though in a less direct and more meandering manner. As is the aim of anthropological texts, I seek to afford my audience a brief glimpse of another point of view–one divergent from their own. I like the idea of taking my audience on a rambling journey, allowing for reflection and introspection. It’s no surprise that some of my favourite films are those of Andrei Tarkovsky alongside some of the French new wave directors.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
I am a narrow, 55kg human male with messy hair. I’m not that into food, but the prospect of Pad Thai always manages to get me excited.
12. Favourite book?
My favourite book is Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, I’m really into absurdist humour. Nabokov’s Pnin and Salinger’s classic The Catcher in the Rye are close seconds. Recently enjoyed Confessions of a Mask and The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea too.
13. Favourite genre of music?
I really like the Talking Heads and similar groups from the 1980s. We recently had a Parisian staying with us for a few weeks, so a lot of French electro has been seeping into my playlist. It’s a bit of an esoteric mix.
14. What are your hobbies?
I enjoy running, reading, drawing, writing, and watching and discussing film. Spending time with friends is always fun too.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?