We came across Lloyd Stratton’s work a while ago and fell in love with it. So glad we got a nice little interview with him, and also pleased to discover that he will be taking part in the Lines and Strokes exhibition at Sticky Mike’s in November with our own Emilie Lashmar, who will also be displaying her work amongst other fabulous illustrators, definitely one not to be missed!
How long have you been an illustrator for, and how did it all begin?
Well, I’ve been drawing in some way or another ever since I can remember. It’s hard to say when exactly but I come from a pretty artistic family, so I guess I was encouraged to be creative from quite an early age. I studied Art and Photography at college before going on to do illustration at Foundation. I took a year out after that and went on tour with my friend’s band around Europe selling merch for them and it was during that time I started designing t-shirts, posters and record covers. I guess that was my first taste of being an illustrator – although in retrospect, I barely got paid anything and the designs were fairly awful. I then went on to do a degree in Illustration at Westminster University and I carried on designing for bands, labels and brands throughout my time there up until I graduated last year. I’ve been doing slightly less awful work ever since.
What inspires you, and what is it that you love about being creative?
A lot of my recent work has been inspired by really old, strange photos I’ve come across in books and online. I like trying to create a sense of nostalgia with much of my work, so sourcing old photos to draw from is a great way of doing that and can really leave them open to interpretation. I used to be really impatient when it came to researching for a new piece of work, but now I can happily spend ages just collecting references before I actually start drawing. It’s the whole creative process I’ve come to really enjoy recently and not just burying my head in my sketchbook for days – although admittedly that’s still my favourite part.
In terms of the content of my work, I’ve always loved drawing people and animals. I think it’s the challenge of trying to capture a certain expression or personality in another living thing by making marks on a bit of paper that I enjoy and in turn, the reaction that piece of work can create for someone looking at it.
I think social media and the Internet has completely changed the way people are able to view art and the overall accessibility of it. Being able to finish a drawing, take a photo of it and upload it, knowing people from all around the world can see it and share their thoughts within minutes, is an amazing thing. It’s a great feeling knowing everyone will interpret something you’ve created in a different way and form their own opinions and meanings about it, no matter how fleeting they might be. Although recently I showed a friend of mine a drawing of a pair of lips I did, and he asked me why I decided to draw a woodlouse…
What we love about your work, is your use of textures, and the way you combine this with your drawings digitally. Where do you think your style has developed from?
It’s actually quite a recent development in my work. I used to be content with just relying on my ability to draw relatively well and leave my finished pieces as being simply ink drawings on plain paper (which some still are), but I think you reach a point as a creative, where you need to keep developing your work and pushing it as far as you can, not just settling with what you’re most comfortable with. I think it’s so important in the contemporary design world to try and establish your own visual identity these days, as it’s such a competitive and talented industry and I only feel like I’ve begun to do that in the last year or so. That’s why I started combining my drawings, which usually have quite a high emphasis on detail, with a much more mixed media based approach.
I quickly realised that I had quite a limited interest in the digital side of design and I wanted to keep my work looking as hand-made as possible, so I guess that’s where the textures come in. I’m much happier creating my own backgrounds, textures and typography rather than relying on a computer to do it for me. It might be a more laborious process but it’s something I find rewarding and feel injects a bit more personality into my work. That’s not to say I dismiss the digital side of design completely, I still rely on Photoshop as a great way of composing my final pieces, I just want to keep the original, hand-made aesthetic at the forefront of my work.
A lot of your ink drawings are done in dot work, how long do pieces like these take to create, and how many pens do you ruin doing it!?
Not that many at all actually! I’ve been using the same set of pens all year, which is probably a terribly unprofessional thing to admit. I used to work primarily in pen and ink (as it translates best for clothing designs) but I’ve started using pencil and biro a lot again, which has been really refreshing, because it allows me to use a wider range of techniques and tackle specific briefs and projects, depending on which media I feel will suit it best. I think it’s good to give yourself options in that respect, rather than just relying solely on one style. Admittedly the dot work drawings do take longer but they can often be the most visually impressive and really elevate the subject matter. It’s a technique that I’ve been trying to develop over the past few years and really enjoy but not one that I wanted to limit myself to.
Which piece is your personal favourite and why?
It varies all the time. Quite often it will be whichever piece I’ve just finished but it really depends how enjoyable the process was to be honest. I’m starting to learn that more often than not, the more fun you have when creating a piece of work, the better the outcome and the more fondly you look back on it. It’s always an incredibly satisfying experience to translate an idea in your head to a physical piece of work though. I’ve recently finished a portrait of Walter White from Breaking Bad, which was so much fun to draw. I was completely obsessed with the show, so I really wanted to do it justice.
How do we go about purchasing prints of your work?
I’ll have some prints of my new work up for sale at the launch night of Lines & Strokes at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar from November 6th. They’ll be hanging there for two months, so Brighton folk can purchase pieces from there, or alternatively just get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org