5 & 3/4 Questions
1. Describe yourself and your work.
I’m a freelance illustrator and artist. I’m based in the United Kingdom but have lived, worked, and exhibited my work internationally. I value collaboration and working with new people. Above all, I’m driven by process and working in drawing and print. I think I’m at my best when stretched or working on a tight deadline.
2. How did you get started?
I got started by pretty much the usual means as an illustrator, by making a physical portfolio and sending my work out to like-minded people—art directors and publishing houses including Gestalten, based in Berlin, who later commissioned the first Neasden Control Centre book, in 2003. At this time I also started to exhibit my work in art galleries and make contacts in Europe, the United States, and Japan. I'm still really into self-publishing and often make my own printed zines together with screen print, but this was something that I focused on a lot at the start of my career as it meant I was able to present my work in different formats. Together with the exhibition work and installations, this led to physical commissions…. The rest is ongoing.
3. What piece of work best represents you and why?
That is tough, as I have been fortunate to work on many projects over the past 18 years. I am pretty proud of my installation for Vital Arts. I was commissioned to produce an installation at the children’s dental ward of the Royal London Hospital [images above, click to enlarge]. It features a mixture of large prints and illustrations around the ward. The aim of the work was to create a playful dialogue between the illustrated figures—animals, birds, forests, and urban architecture—that would appeal to both very young children and teenagers in the same space. The artwork is positioned across the ward, particularly in locations where the illustrations can be viewed from the dental chairs and help relax patients—some of whom arrive for emergency procedures.
And recently I was commissioned by the New York Times to create an illustration for an op-ed piece about Brexit [image below]. I think that it sums up where I’m currently at with my illustration work.
4. What are you into currently?
On an artistic tip, I’m currently into cutting and machine stitching as a form of collage, which has led to a solo exhibition in Amsterdam and a residency at Hestercombe Gallery exploring the abstraction of landscape. I often listen to mixes while I work, and I love this new mix by Thunder Tillman on ESP Records.
5. What are three things you’ve learned that young creatives should know?
1. No compromise.
2. Explore different formats and processes that excite you.
3. Keep drawing.
August 2, 2016
All images: courtesy of Stephen Smith
Photo of Smith: Todd Selby