When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
My Parents are both artist, my grandad was a sign writer and my uncle was a Royal Academician, so there was certainly the seed of an idea, that art was something in- spiring and imaginative, something I could delve into even from a young age. I remember in primary school I was drawing fully formed figures and faces, while the other kids were still not joining the sky to the ground, and that was because I was so interested in looking and recreating what I saw. I remember my teachers at High School never knew what to do with me, which way to steer me.
They were brought in one day to the heads office, with my art teachers, and the discussion, was as to what i wanted to be, an artist or an illustrator. The idea I couldn’t be both didn’t make sense to me, that there was even a difference didn’t seem something I would ever concern myself with. To be an artist was my dream, it was the poetic journey through torment and discovery, love and hate, as an artist I could make illustrations or artworks, they were one of the same. Its an age old argument, and I think I will always think of myself as an artist first, but the work I make professionally is illustration, and thats the difference.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
I was born in the industrial city of Middlesborough, on the same road as the football stadium, Ayresome Park Road. It was a great community, every- one knew everyone, doors were open all day. Then we moved to a small town in Lincolnshire, and everyone said I talked funny. I got very quiet and introverted, and didn’t really enjoy the whole school thing. I think most kids are bullied, and i wasn’t any different, bullying comes in different forms, and I just happened to be the sensitive type that couldn’t really deal with the constant push and pull of friendship circles. My parents both worked so I would often not go into school, instead staying home and drawing or reading, anything to not face a school day.
But those days made me more interested in look- ing at life from a removed viewpoint, in a way there was no other way I could look at it, as I had removed myself. When i reached art school I had already decided that there were two ways to live your life, take part, or take notes, my artworks were my notes. A constant running dialogue, a description of what the other people did, but not what I did.
When I left University with an art degree, everything fell apart, life came flooding back in, and I couldn’t cope. The idea that I would go on just making art, came crashing down, when I couldn’t afford food or rent. Music got me through this time, companion- ship with my band mates helped me find a structure and drive again, and I was finally creating something that related to my life, while I took part in it.
From Rocker to Artist, how did that happen? And how did you progress?
It was around 2002, I was playing lead guitar in a band called Cyclones, having left University with a BA HONS in Fine Art, and having not really done much artistically for a while, other than I would sometimes do a quick sketch. The girlfriend of the lead singer, Rina, saw a drawing one day, and suggested I come see her boss, who owned a high end fashion boutique in Notting Hill. The owner Annette Olivieri, decided I had a little some- thing, and chucked me a bag in white kid leather, “tattoo that” she said. So I found pens that would work on leather, and I tattooed the bag. The draw- ing was black and white, and involved very detailedflowers and hair. Annette was impressed and gave me a leather jacket to do, so I did, this time with a horned girl, feather wings and flowers centre back. From there I went on to create fabric prints and artworks for Annette’s label for the next 2 years. I did private commissions, one was sent to Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and later created my own glove collection, with the first pair of dress leather gloves going to Yoko Ono. Two shoe collections followed and a spattering of other commissions, but I believed my career lay in fashion. This didn’t last long, fashion is not the nicest industry to work in, and I quickly felt like I was back in school, the bitchy back stabbing, the creative theft, and the broken promises, left me a thoroughly broken man. The upside was the pens I used for the leather, Rotring Rapidograph became my pens of choice, and the style I developed in this period with it’s intricacies and magical detail, and obsessive qualities became my illustrative style. My first children’s book came soon after I quit fashion, a collaboration with the great writer Geoff Cox, and music mogul Stuart Souter, saw a wonderful return to children’s books of old. Dark and frightening, with a psychedelic undertone that resonated with the peers around me, Anna and the Witch’s Bottle was critically acclaimed, released through Black- maps Press, it was a beautiful cloth bound hard- back, and it finally brought me attention for my artwork.