Monday, 27 April 2009

Paul Davis

Dear Paul, 
I am a student in my final year of a BA Hons in Illustration. I attended a lecture you gave at Stockport College, last year, your work is remarkable! As part of my degree, I need to build up information about Illustrators/ Designers and the Design Industry.  

  • I know how busy you are but was wondering if you get a spare moment, I could have your opinion on a few questions below?  

  • Do you think it is better working in a studio with other Illustrators who you can share your ideas with, as opposed to 'your own private space'? if so why?  

  • What would you say makes the difference between success and failure when trying to establish yourself in the design industry?  

  • What was the easiest way to establish and promote yourself within the wide world of Illustration? Did you conform to a style that was around at the time you first got commissioned?  

  • Would you say it is hard to remain an established Illustrator when there are so many other illustrating practitioners within the design industry?  

  • You wont have seen my portfolio, but if you get time, I have included a Pdf, I would greatly appreciate your opinion and advice on improving any aspects of my designs. I can appreciate how busy you are but if you get the time, I would be over the moon to hear what you think.  


  • What advice would you offer an aspiring Illustrator?  

Thankyou so much for your time, any of your feedback to any of the questions would be greatly valued! 
I look forward to hearing from you! 
Kind Regards, 

Sarah Hilton.

Paul wrote back

give me a couple of days and in the meantime please read the Q & A section on my website.
Maybe you should ask me some stranger questions as I get these questionnaires a lot! Something like: Q "how do you put off working when you project is utter misery?" A "find weird websites, drink inordinate amounts of tea/coffee/wine/beer etc., go for long lunches, try to change the art directors mind, weep gently..."

So from here, I had a quick peek on his website, and Im sure I hadnt been able to find a question section at first, but another glance, and typical.. there it was, and so have included a few of the questions asked from previous interviews until I further hear from him.

The questions I have included are typically acting as research at this point, I have found and included them upon the basis that they relate to the way I work and the Illustration industry. They would have been similar to questions I would have asked prior to Paul's reply.

Q: What is the difference between what you do and fine art?

A: Illustration, more often than not, dances on the grave of someone else's idea. Or,
if you're lucky, it embraces the idea like a forlorn lover. A drawing or image could be based
on a piece of journalism that has to be interpreted, or it could be required to illustrate a
six-month market research study about how to sell a soft drink. Obviously, financially, the
latter has more going for it. You could also be involved in generating ideas from the outset…
but I always feel that the creatives who offer this do it because perhaps they haven't thought
of anything, or because they feel a bit sorry for you. I've done all of these and, for many
reasons, I can't make up my mind which one I prefer. Then there is the
greetings cards scenario... Fine art, on the other hand, is marvelous in the sense that no
one tells you what to do—it's your shit, your soul, your brilliant idea. Much more free and
enjoyable, but scary as hell—there's no one to blame for the potentially rubbish work that can
be produced. Art and illustration aren't the same thing—that’s so obvious. I also don't like
illustrations put on the walls of galleries, as this seems to defeat the object of what
illustration is for. Illustration could work on the walls of a gallery as long as the work
on the gallery walls functioned as illustration. An illustrated gallery is wonderfully perverse...

Upon finding this question it made me think about promotion of my work, of any illustrators work and my design 'style' if you want to call it that, has developed and altered upon gaining knowledge of illustrators and the industry. As my work has changed, I used to be more of a fine artist and a maker, but learning of drawbacks when your within the industry, time for example, for a fine artist, you have all the time in the world to create a piece, but an illustration is developed and worked (in general, if we are talking editorials) over a period of days! It ultimatly has to be simple effective and communicate an idea. 

my work, has developed with shape, created mostly on the computer, this shape ultimatly lends a structure to a piece, yet, I still feel that without hand crafted elements my illustration would not fulfil to be what i consider an illustration to be. But then its finding the elements, and the right elements. Photographic imagery, textures, marks, comments from the people around you.

I chose to include Paul as a contact for the simple reason that his work communicates instantly, through imagery and type. Communication has been one of the elements of an illustration which i struggle with. Speaking to Andy Pavitt, who works with Paul Davis in the Big Orange studio in London, he was telling me how Paul creates atleast one illustration a day - to keep his ideas flowwing and to create an archive at the same time.

Q) What artists, or any people, do you admire and why?

A)I jumped the gun - see above. Also The Chapman Brothers. And, I'm not being a toady
about this because you are an Australian magazine, but The Angry Penguins show years
ago in London was excellent. The Fall. Nabokov. The tomorrow, and tomorrow, and
tomorrow quote from Macbeth. The Kawasaki 900 (1976/77). Sexual matters. Borders.
Colour. Reference books. Google. I could go much to do.

Q) Placements and internships - a useful experience? Where did you work and what did you do?
A)I worked from home for many years but I would recommend doing an internship. Good way of
learning vocational stuff and good for contacts.

Q) A lot of your work -that I've seen- is derived from your sketches and drawings in your
notepads, just using photoshop to add colours/shades. Do you think that the rise of the
digital media has warped a lot of the current pool of illustrations out there? To the point
where people will miss the tangible creative methods to jump straight into computers.
and if so do you believe that this has watered down the quality of art out there?

A)I reckon it's still all about ideas that work and the medium is secondary but a certain
amount of skill in realising the idea is always essential. Illustration can take many forms
so the to be recognised is to work honestly and diligently without falling into the trap of
trendiness. Copying or 'being overly influenced' by a style is a problematic idea because
it's immediately seen as lazy and stupid.
Some student once declared to his peers "I can do a Davis, and I can do a Shrigley." No
he fucking couldn't, he's still a child. I told this to David and we agreed we're going to
find him a cut off his hands. Just to make him think a bit deeper. What an arse.
Computers are wonderful when used an abused properly. My Mac is a beauty - I can work
anywhere these days. All I need is a scanner and (preferably) wireless and I'm away. It's
the drawing that matters - and the idea within it.
I once saw a poster saying something like:
I must add that I see nothing wrong in un-conceptual drawings or drawing for drawing's
sake because it's drawing or image making that isn't illustration. It irks me when I have
exhibitions with my drawings and paintings, people say they like the illustrations in the
show and I tell them they're not illustrations at all and I'd never put an illustration on a
gallery wall anyway because their job is to illuminate text or embellish someone else's
idea. Drawings are drawings. You have to see the work in context. I keep the work of a
jobbing illustrator and artist very separated. Some great art is done by creating it in the
machine too, mostly in Japan.

Q) What was the difference to your work from when you left your schooling, compared
to what you practice now- has anything drastically changed since then?

A)Hopefully the drawing has moved on a bit! The ideas are more mature, I work a lot
quicker and I hardly get any paid work on a regular basis. I tend to get a couple of big
jobs a year. The rest of the time is working on book projects, having shows or doing a
lecture tour which I wouldn't have been able to do back then because I didn't know very
much. (Judging by your questions, I'd say you are more together than I was). In the past
year I've done judging and talks and workshops in New York, Cape Town, Melbourne,
Sydney, Tokyo, Bristol, Coventry (ah, the glamour), Glasgow, among others. So yes,
things have changed as for as being invited to do stuff connected to the industry
because I've stuck at it and have gained some recognition. People write about my work
in magazines instead of commissioning me (ah, the irony).

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