Do you remember what made you want to become an illustrator/artist?
I think I had an idea from a really early age that I wanted to do something creative. I spent almost all of my spare time as a kid drawing and writing stories, so I always knew this was something I wanted to turn into a job, if there was one.
My first memory of wanting a career was as a teenager. I dreamt of being a computer games artist, drawing spaceships and animating explosions. I had an Amiga 500+ that came with a programme called Deluxe Paint 3, and I was a big fan of a games studio called Team 17.
Later, as an art student, I was most interested in animation, and my next dream was to animate nightclub visuals. I was heavily influenced by a team called Shinola who were producing amazing animated stuff for a lot of the Mo Wax artists, which translated into big projected nightclub visuals.
The idea of becoming an illustrator was probably influenced by artists such as David Shirley and Paul Davis (amongst many others) — and you can very much see their influence in my work.
Tell us about your first job — where was it, what were you doing, and what did you learn while you were there?
If you mean my first illustration job, I think it was a nightclub flyer design for a night at 93 Feet East (in London) called Simply Soundclash. I did the whole flyer, front and back, all illustrated with hand-drawn type.
I was working at HSBC in Canary Wharf at the time, sorting post into the correct pigeon holes for bankers. It was a fairly easy job and allowed you a lot of free time to escape and do your own thing, because the building had 42 floors and there were no managers watching you.
I spent a lot of time in there drawing, in a suit. I learnt that illustration was absolutely what I wanted to do, and being in an office wearing a suit was absolutely what I didn’t want to do.
"I launched a kickstarter in 2015 to fund a book about my Hate Mail project, and it changed my life"
You worked as a commercial illustrator for 15 years before vowing to never work for clients again — what made you decide to go solo?
I launched a Kickstarter in 2015 to fund a book about my Hate Mail project, and it changed my life a bit.
People pledged £135,000 towards the project and I realised that I had more ‘fans’ than I thought I did. I decided that if the general public were willing to spend this much of their hard earned money on me mucking about and making silly art, then maybe I could continue to do this forever. I made a decision to stop working for clients and start calling myself an artist.
Now, I get to make a living from drawing pictures and making jokes, but I’ve got rid of the client meetings, phone calls, deadlines, feedback, amends and compromise.
Are there any projects over the years that have been particularly significant for you? Why, and what did you learn from them?
The Kickstarter was significant because it turned me from an illustrator into a something else. It involved writing, rapping, performing, drawing, crowdfunding, social media and marketing. It was a showcase of all of the things I can do, not just a guy who draws pictures for magazines, books and ad campaigns. And as I said before, it made me realise there was another way to earn a living.
"The most important thing is to make the work you truly want to make, and then going to ‘work’ will always be a pleasure and something you naturally want to do"
Tell us a bit about your creative process. What skills are essential to your job?
My creative process is pretty simple. I come up with silly ideas, put them on the internet and then if people react really positively to them, I turn them into a thing that (hopefully) makes money.
I guess the things needed to do my job are being prepared to work harder than most ‘normal’ people, being good at coming up with ideas that connect or resonate with people, being good at social media (interpret that how you want) and having a little bit of business sense so you can turn an idea into a profit.
Not really answering the question, but in addition, the most important thing is to make the work you truly want to make — then, going to ‘work’ will always be a pleasure and something you naturally want to do.
What one thing do you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
Something I know, but still haven’t managed to fully grasp, is that we all spend a lot of life planning and worrying about things. At the end of my life, I’ll wish that I spent less time worrying. I’m already really trying to do it, but it’s easier said than done!