Merry X-Mas to all our UK friends, just for them...well indeed not just for them but for everybody reading this blog, a new last minute gift by Graham Pilling head of Army of Cats Design, enjoy !!!…
I've been enjoying repeated listenings of the new album by Office of Future Plans, which is J. Robbins' new band.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I'm from a Northern town in the UK called Huddersfield but have lived and worked in nearby Leeds for probably 13 years or so now. I enjoy working with anything visual really, so I tend to refer to myself as a 'designer, illustrator, & printmaker', which is a bit of a mouthful. I have also dabbled in Art Direction and Animation.
For the purposes of this fine interview for your esteemed blog - I'm a gig poster artist!
I have drawn since I was able to hold a crayon. My mother informs me that as a child I could be found drawing on the floor in a corner by myself somewhere, furiously humming the Star Wars theme tune as I acted out my own huge space battles on the paper, drawing new fleets of ships one minute and then scribbling their destruction the next.
Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?
I didn't actually enjoy art at school as I found it too prescriptive, so improvements were self-initiated. Of course this means I perhaps took a little while to get all my 'bad work' out and start understanding what makes good work (at least from my perspective) but being self-taught has worked out OK so far.
I am lucky enough right now to be making a living from art and design, yes. I work a couple of days a week as an in-house designer for a small company and then the rest of the time work with my own clients or on my own projects.
Gigposters are just a small part of the work I do, although they are certainly picking up compared to a few years ago. I never assumed it was possible to make a living from gigposter work but I'm glad to see that it's starting to be more commercially viable work as opposed to just a labour of love.
I actually just recently taught my first screenprinting course, which I really enjoyed, so hopefully I'll get more teaching opportunities next year.
Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?
Some of my work pops up occasionally - the latest issue of Creative Review (which is one of the big UK design magazines) did a feature on some of the Screenadelica artists. The paper fanzine is sadly something of a rarity these days - I say sadly, but it's obvious that digital content makes a lot more sense, and the many drawbacks of old photocopied 'zines are only really considered charming by old farts like me. My work does exist and pop-up online in different places fairly regularly.
I like all art and design, and it all influences and inspires in different measures. In terms of personal or thematic influences, there was an artist called Lowry who used to paint factories and little stick figures and other scenes from Northern towns. We had a few Lowry prints on the walls growing up and I used to enjoy pouring over them - I think I even did a Lowry project in school. Anyway, with hindsight I've noticed that some of those Northern factory scenes, and certainly hills and landscapes, have made their way into my work, which is something I find quite interesting.
What are the principal steps in your work ?
For gigposters, I always listen to the band and start making a list of themes, lyrics, etc. and then see how I can turn those into a visual representation. Then I sketch a lot of ideas, then I take the sketch to the computer to put it all together, output as colour separations and then print.
I still sketch out a lot of ideas by hand, but most of the design work is done on the computer these days, usually on my graphics tablet. I have come to value the time the computer saves me.
How long does it take you to do a poster?
It completely varies! Each stage of the process seems to have it's own life, so sometimes the idea seems to take a long time and then actual design work happens very quickly, and sometimes vice versa. Sometimes everything takes a long time and it feels like a long, hard slog through a bog of apathy and indifference...
You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?
I'm always up for trying new things but what I usually do is have a discussion with the client about their objectives and what they want the work to achieve - the goal should be the important thing, not necessarily the means. It may be that when they say they want an oil painting of horses, what they actually want is something that looks hand crafted and painterly.
I think communicating and working closely with clients is a huge part of doing successful design work, as they often don't know how to ask for what it is they're picturing in their minds - they aren't design experts, that why they hired a designer!
At this point, I've sort of ticked off most of the bands I had on my 'wishlist' so I am really proud to have done work for The Hold Steady, Hot Water Music, Dillinger Four, Melvins, and Forgetters, as those are some of my favourite bands.
For which band would you love to work?
I still haven't done one for The National, who I love, so hopefully that can happen at some point.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
If there's a band I really want to work with, I sometimes approach them but am just as often asked to produce work by the band directly.
For me, it's actually sometimes difficult to keep the work simple and to the point. Reminding myself that it's a poster and needs to be bold and effective, rather than getting lost in the details and spending time adding lots of things which might not actually add anything to the overall concept.
You feature in the new gigposters 2 book, how did you find yourself involved in it ?
Clay dropped me an email about it and hey presto! I'm very proud and honoured to be involved, I think it's a great book.
Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?
I do certainly think we have a burgeoning gigposter scene over here in the UK right now. Myself and fellow designers Luke Drozd, Chris White, and Bobby Evans are actually putting together an online resource for poster artists and came up with a list of all the active UK poster makers and there are now a surprising number! It's very nice to see more getting involved.
A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
Links to all the places my work can be found are on http://www.armyofcats.com/ - my Blog (http://armyofcats.posterous.com//) and Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/armyofcats) are the places that get updated most often.
I recently uploaded a picture of Predator that I drew in high school and a friend complimented me on the shading.
What can we wish you for the future?
I'd like to continue to be healthy and happy, creating and making things, and hopefully spreading a little happiness to the people that enjoy my work.