Rob Wills is an illustrator extraordinaire based in Brighton and one of my closest friends. We first met through a mutual friend in Brighton, and during our first few meetings, he showed me his vast collection of comics and graphic novels. I was very intrigued by his collection. It ranges from the well-known like The Adventures of Tintin, to the darker noir graphic novels like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. From this, I wasn’t surprised to learn that, behind his eclectic charm and affable demeanour, Rob is also a fine illustrator.
Although Rob studied graphic design at the Falmouth University, he has always known that he is an illustrator at heart. He loves comics, graphic novels and surreal arts, and this influenced him greatly in his stylistic choices and artistic themes. It is easy to see that he possesses obsessive tendencies for detail. He heavily employs careful use of lines and dots, often to an unimaginable level from the point of view of an observer. Rob uses traditional pen and ink methods and he has a fondness of using fine tools – I remember the time when he proudly showed me his latest ultra-fine Rotring ink pen. The combination of this fine selection of drawing tools and his quirky style results in unassuming artworks with marvellous amount of detail, the kind one can pore over for hours, peeling the layers within the depth of the detail.
I have always been a fan of the surreal. This comes from my love of counter-culture, psychedelic arts and music. Creating good surreal artwork is challenging, as without a strong theme and style it is easy to fall into the trap of creating a soulless abstract. Rob knows well the challenges of creating the abstract and the surreal. His collection of graphic novels and his taste for ambient records seem to have instilled a focus within him. Between recurring themes and his penchant for the style of Naive Art, I think Rob has managed to create the surreal within the confines of coherent stories with an essence. But I think it is best for you to be the judge on this. Check out his artwork on his Tumblr or his Folksy websites. You can find the links at the bottom of this post.
THE MAJORITY OF YOUR WORK IS DONE IN BLACK AND WHITE. CAN YOU TELL ME WHY YOU PREFER TO WORK WITH SUCH LIMITED PALETTE?
I love the simplicity of black and white illustration and precise line work. I think artworks in black and white often seem to be further removed from reality than those in full colour. There is a certain beauty in seeing how pure black ink marks combine to create a full image. I also enjoy surreal juxtaposition of images, and I find that black and white illustration is a good medium to approach this. I haven’t ruled out using colour in the future, but for now, I’m happy with the possibilities offered in black and white.
CERTAIN CHARACTERS SEEM TO RECUR IN YOUR ARTWORK. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST OUT OF EXPLORING THESE SCENARIOS OVER MULTIPLE ARTWORKS?
Drawing for me has always been about learning on how to tell stories, and also as a way to explore my love of comics and sequential art. I love the wordless comics of Jim Woodring. The way he tells his stories, solely via visual language, leaves so much room for interpretation. I enjoy the process of linking images together in sequence. Our brains naturally look for stories when illustrations are presented in this way. I love to see other people connecting the dots and watching the stories grow from their own perspectives.
LASTLY, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE ARTISTS THAT YOU THINK HAVE INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST?
I love the surreal and highly precise drawings of M.C Escher. He plays with our perceptions of reality, and he has created images that speak of the patterns in nature, with the loops and puzzles of life. Earlier, I mentioned Jim Woodring. He created such vivid visual language that can express so much, and yet appear so simple. His bizarre and engaging characters are all subject to the whims of the imagination, as they live out their lives in his meticulously drawn, black and white landscapes.
Arry at Brighton Creatives