Michael Cowell (UK)

Photo courtesy of Owen Richards
Michael Cowell (UK)

With Ink & Paper (in London) and Screenadelica (in Liverpoll), the least you can say is that UK is really taking a giant step in the poster world ! As we already seen it (just click here, if you have no idea what I am talking about) many talented artists are involved in this scene. Michael is one of them and, believe me or not, when he mentionned Aubrey Beardsley as an influence, I have not been that surprised. Is it the only reason why I like Michael work so much ? Definitly not, and I am sure you will find thousands of other ones by reading the interview below ;)

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?

Right now Current 93.  I’ve been listening to them a lot recently, but you can expect anything from Tombs to HTRK at the moment, really.  I’ve recently gotten my record player set back up again and have a load of Loop and Jesus and Mary Chain records to get through, as well as some stuff I was given by my uncle at Christmas which includes a lot of Talking Heads and Neil Young and stuff.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

For most of the last decade I’ve lived in Nottingham making posters for gigs all over Europe and the UK but moved down to London in July of last year to help run The Flood Gallery in Greenwich, who specialise in screen printed poster art.  I’m currently setting up a print studio so I can start making posters again. 

When did you start drawing?

I’ve kind of always been drawing, really.  When I was a kid it was just something I did to pass time and from there it just got more and more intensive.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

ALWAYS in the margins of my schoolbooks even though I studied art as well.  School, College and University.  It was kind of necessary as I can be pretty slack when I don’t have direction, which is why my personal projects never see the light of day; there’s no deadline so they never get done…

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

As mentioned before I work at The Flood Gallery full time as well as doing my artwork.  I admire people who can make a living solely from their work but it can be tough, especially when your stuff is as niche as mine.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

Not at the moment although I have worked quite closely with some in the past.  I particularly miss working with Bad Acid, that mag was amazing!

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

At the moment I’m looking at Aubrey Beardsley a lot.  Vania Zouravolov always makes my jaw drop as well as Ellen Rodgers, Joao Ruas, and Thomas Hooper.  Those guys are killing it at the moment.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

The ideas are most important.  If it’s a band I’m working for I’ll try and listen to as much of their stuff as possible and wait until a particular element speaks to me.  From there I’ll work into that and try and include certain other pieces of symbolism as well as, more often than not, a naked chick. 

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

I’ll draw the image out by hand in pencil and ink, then scan and layer in text and work out colours.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

About two weeks or so if the ideas are coming along nicely

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 ?
Haha!  I’d be up for it.  They would have to understand that they’d be getting some skinny, miserable horses, though.

For which band have you already worked for?

Quite a few now.  QOTSA, Kyuss, The National, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Crippled Black Phoenix, Monster Magnet, High On Fire…

For which band would you love to work?

Errm, that’s always a tough question.  I’d love to do something for Swans or Current 93 as I love the imagery and atmosphere they create.  At the same time someone like Mayhem would be amazing to work with.  I’m sure everybody would say Black Sabbath.

Do you choose the artists yourself?

Do I choose the bands myself?  Yeah, sometimes.  Occasionally they approach me as well.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

Text.  My use of typography sucks.  I wish I could do hand drawn type, but I’m useless at that sort of thing…

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

There’s a really vibrant community of poster artists here in the UK, including Nick Rhodes, We Three Club, Luke Drozd, Drew Millward AdamPobiak, Hand Cooked, Scrawled Design, The Pinch, B.R.A.G., Jacknife, Horse, Army Of Cats, Telegram, Diego Mena, Two Ducks Disco…  I’m probably forgetting a few people here…  I’ve been exhibiting with these guys for years now and it’s always a pleasure hanging out with them.

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?

Myself and a bunch of the guys I just mentioned are exhibiting quite a bit soon.  Firstly in May the UK Poster Association will be putting on Ink & Paper in London, more info here: http://ukposterart.com/event/ink-paper Then Screenadelica will be hosting an exhibition as part of Liverpool Sound City, more info here:  http://www.screenadelica.com/blog/2012/3/2/screenadelica-at-liverpool-sound-city.html and then a lot of us will be out to Barcelona for the first Flatstock to be held as part of Primavera Sound, details for which are still to be confirmed. 

As well as all this exhibiting I have a few exciting poster projects lined up, an album sleeve for Blood Guard's long awaited debut full length, info here: https://twitter.com/#!/bloodguardmetal as well as my comic collaboration with Michele Toler, Indra’s Net finally coming close to seeing the light of day, more info on out Tumblr site here: http://indrasnet-comic.tumblr.com/

The best praise you received lately?

I gave someone I’ve known for quite a while my business card recently and they took one look at it and just said “You didn’t do that.”  That tickled me…

What can we wish you for the future?

That I don’t end up as homeless and poor as I’m always expecting.  That would be nice.

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