I’d been following illwookie (Will), predominately through Instagram after finding his work in early 2017. I was delighted to purchase a postcard at the Brighton Illustration Fair last month. We caught up with him for Brighton Creatives to ask more about his work, and future projects.
Hey Will, can you tell us a bit about yourself and history?
Hello, I am an illustrator/graphic designer living on the wrong side of my 20s in Brighton. I am lucky that half of my family is quite artistic, so I’ve always been encouraged to paint and draw. My mum has always had creative projects going on and my grandad is a painter, so they’ve somewhat been a source of motivation for me in that sense. The other half of my family are quite logical – whilst this does not come quite naturally to me, I feel that I owe a lot to my dad and my brother for helping me to see straight at times and most importantly for teaching me self-worth.
What do you love about illustration and how did you get into this field?
After specialising in illustration during my Art Foundation year in Camberwell, I actually fell out of love with drawing for a little while and turned to Photography for my degree, where I found myself more interested in the history of art and design than the actual practical side of creating work. During my third year at uni I started illustrating again for some of my friends in bands, reigniting my passion for illustration and graphic design, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to actually pursue it as a career. It’s not necessarily been straight-forward, it’s a steady ongoing process – but I am still very much enjoying it.
What is a happy “work” day for you?
As long as I am well fed and full of caffeine, it’s a good work day for me. I like to work on several projects throughout the day, that way my brain can’t get stuck on one thing for too long. I like to start early and finish late with lots of snacks in between. (Snack of choice: French Fancies – the pink ones)
We love your use of colour, how do you go about experimenting with your final choices?
I often use only two or three colours, because it forces the work to be very bold and striking. I think this comes from the graphic design side of my work. I also enjoy the challenge that comes with limiting yourself to a small colour palette: how and where you use those colours is key in keeping a consistent style. I tend to favour muted tones of colours such as pinks, reds and blues, alongside creamy ‘off white’ and shady ‘off black’ tones as they feel more natural and earthy.
Can you tell us about any running themes in your work?
I see my work as a blend of graphic design and illustration. Graphic design is all about communicating clearly with an audience and illustration can be a very personal portrayal of your subject matter. I like to think that using elements of both practises allows my work to have it’s own character and identity but also speak directly to the viewer in a very simple manner.
I tend to use quite aggressive imagery but with softer colours because I enjoy the contrast between them. Often I won’t draw full ‘scenes’ as it were, more like an element of bigger picture floating in negative space, like a logo or a badge design.
It’s hard to pinpoint one source of inspiration for my work. Sometimes it’s film, for example ‘The Warriors’ (1979), a cult classic about rival gangs in New York. I made a series of images based on a fictional gang of women on motorbikes with knives and barbed wire bats. The work was called ‘The Switchblade Sisters’ influenced by another gang related film title from 1975.
In contrast to this, I have recently released a set of enamel pin badges based on Greek statues with an accompanying risograph print. The work was inspired by trips to art galleries such as the V&A in London and Glyptoteket in Copenhagen.
In terms of other artists, I draw inspiration mostly from Cleon Peterson. He too blurs the line between graphic design and illustration, utilising a typically monochrome colour palette. What I enjoy about Petersons’ work is that all his characters exist in one ‘universe’. I would like to think that my work is beginning to do the same, tying in each piece with one overarching theme.
Tell us about Overgrown Co?
Overgrown Co. is a clothing company founded by myself and my buddy Oliver Burdett. We believe in putting our planet first and care about where we source and produce our clothing. That is why our clothing is of high quality, and is manufactured environmentally friendly, climate neutral, socially responsible and earth positive.
All our t-shirts are printed by our friends at Vinosangre, an eco-freindly screen printing studio based in Norwich, UK where the designs are printed by hand using environmentally friendly ink and organic chemicals.
We only launched Overgrown Co. on the 1st November and the response so far has been incredibly positive. Our currently have 3 t-shirts in the shop and are constantly working on new designs and more ambitious products for our new collection.