Save the Arts September 10, 2010

Save the Arts video by David Shrigley


Nous Vous on Copying August 17, 2010

Nous Vous are a design and illustration collective based in Leeds and Manchester. Their work is primarily illustration based, yet often contains sharp graphic elements combined with the more subtle hand drawn works. We interviewed them for issue 0 about copying.

We’re looking at copying as something that you might do to help you take on other influences and use a wide range of imagery. Without looking to subvert or patronise other people’s work, copying often seems like a solution for creative problems. Do you recognise this as a way of working that you have used?

In a sense yes, I guess every creative identifies certain methods and techniques that create a certain visual language that they like, by referencing others work, something in it that resonates with you. I think what is important if you’re doing this, which everyone does, is to find your own voice with it. I wouldn’t necessarily see copying as a good way of solving a problem, problems should be looked at individually and responded to in this manner as well.

With the internet in particular, images become much more anonymous and you get a lack of depth of context to them. How do you deal with a continuous stream of sources - do you draw from images that come to you from various sources like the internet?

As a collective, more recently we haven’t been using online sources as a rule, because there’s so much and at this point we’ve identified a language and a tone we like to use, as well as several techniques that we’re consistently practising and a repertoire of work we’ve created for exploratory and personal interests. This is just an attempt to make things simple for ourselves more than anything, it gets confusing the more visual research you do and the more images you look at and like, putting parameters on it really helps. Like you say about lack on context and and truth of form that the web presents - unless it’s a web specific image - it’s hard to get anything from it, going to a gallery or an exhibition or actually seeing things in the real world is always better. Even if it simply gives you an idea of scale, technique, what paper someone uses, where it is situated.

Does working as a collective help or allow you to steal ideas, imitate each other in a way that you otherwise couldn’t on your own?

Yes definitely, we reference each other alot but that’s part of what we do as a collective, we’re always attempting to find a unified visual language, but all of us have techniques that are different from one another, techniques that we’re individually more comfortable with. Using different techniques and attempting to master a craft always throws up different problems and solutions, so occasionally our practices will start to move away from one another every now and then.

Can you describe something that you have copied outright?

When looking at a brief we generally respond as organically as possible - to the problem - trying to solve it with ideas, before even thinking about it stylistically. After that point we start looking at our own work to start developing ideas - generally things one of us has done, more exploratory pieces we’ve created for exhibitions, etc. This is why it is good to keep producing work that isn’t necessarily for a commercial purposes, because you can look to your own work that you are familiar with to solve problems, rather than looking for a formula that you think works in that context. When you create an abundance of work you can decide what will solve a problem using a method you’re already capable of achieving and that has come from a place you are personally happy with.

Is there something you would like to copy / anything that absolutely shouldn’t be copied?

It’s not about copying a piece of work or an image for us, images are a fairly arbitrary thing anyway, I don’t really see the point in copying a stand alone image and can’t fathom why anyone would want to, there’s already an image that exists like that, you should just enjoy that one. That’s not why the majority of people I know make images, people are generally trying to find their own voice. I wouldn’t say that were was something that shouldn’t be copied, it depends what your practice is, some of my artist friends imitate and make homages to work, as a point, that’s what the work is about. In the context of what we do it’s just not necessary. I think maybe the only thing we’d like to imitate is someone’s technique, but then there’s alot of people’s techniques that we admire, but part of the fun of practising is working on your technique, when you do this your personal way of doing things is always going to be different to someone else and when you truly invest in your craft, you will learn and be directed by that and your personal limitations.

Have you been copied?

I’d say we’ve been referenced, but not copied. Although there has been times when we’ve seen things that reference a little too closely. Some people need a place to start, to start building a repertoire of methods, techniques, etc and it’s not always a bad thing to imitate something you like, when you don’t have many ideas but an urge to create and learn about how to make, it’s just not good when you present these things as your own work and just consider the lesson in creating it valuable enough. Luckily any one of us always have 2 other people we admire working with us that we can reference and discuss ideas with.


TADO Interview August 10, 2010

Tado are a graphic design and illustration duo made up of Sheffield based Mike and Katie. They work on prints, shirts, toys and even cars. Their work is inspired by Japanese characters and cartoons. For the Copy issue we decided to interview them about copying and being copied.

In terms of getting influences and seeing a wide range of always arriving images on the internet for example, do you often feel a pressure to adapt and try new things, to perhaps imitate? What are the consequences of this?

Of course we’re always trying to push ourselves to do new stuff - you have to really! thats all part of keeping yourself fresh and excited about work. it can be very hard to be totally original all the time. As long as you have a clear conciance and you’re fully aware of what else is going on around you we think its fine to just do your own thing. of course theres probably always going to be someone somewhere in the world who’s work will be similar in some ways - thats pretty inevitable.

Working for commercial clients, and on advertising campaigns for instance, is there a drive to create something that’s been done before because it ‘works’?

We often find the opposite to be honest! because most of our work is for commericial clients we always have to start from scratch with each new job. If its a high-profile piece then the clients usually have an idea of the kind of thing they’d like but theyre always keen that it should never be compared to anything previous.

A lot of your imagery is derived from a Japanese cartoon style of illustration. How do you develop these with or without imitating other work that you’ve seen?

Our work is certainly influenced by classic japanese characters, but also the whole aesthetic of asia - the whole continent is a visually crazy one! However, we’d say that our work is probably just as much influenced by watching supergran as kids, action figures, classic american advertising and british humour. The aesthetic may have traits of asia but the ideas behind it all come from a huge mash up of influences. We enjoy twisting things up a bit and injecting our own tweaks and humour which is what probably makes it our own.

Is there anything you would admit to having copied outright?

Hell No!

Some of your t shirt designs were found to be pirated and sold illegally. Who did it, how accurate were they and what was your response?

The t-shirts really are the least of our worries - we find it quite funny actually and tried to get hold of some of them for ourselves! They came from Bangkok as far as we know - along with a whole host of others which ripped off various friends of ours. There’s pretty much nothing that can be done!


Jonny Wan Interview May 31, 2010

Jonny Wan is one of a wave of Sheffield based illustrators who are individually gathering up some real reputations. His distinctive style uses muted colour palettes and repetitive geometric imagery to create images that are at once traditional and contemporary.

Your illustration style is geometric and utilizes a range of textures. What is it influenced by? How was it developed?

I see my style as ever evolving depending on themes and images I find visually stimulating at the time. More recently I have been fascinated with ancient cultures and folk art. I love the aesthetics portrayed in these themes and how they presented themselves visually. The basis of my style comes from experimenting with shapes, patterns and colour, so a lot of my time is spent experimenting with combinations of all three until I discover something whether it be a new technique or way of working which I can then apply to commercial briefs.

Overall, your style has a style identifiable ‘look’, yet each project has a distinguishable uniqueness. How do you keep one style, and manage to keep work interesting and fresh?

I guess it would be a case of trial and error and always being passionate about the next illustration you create. As an illustrator you are a visual communicator and what you need to communicate can vary with each new brief that comes in. That’s why you should always be looking to develop your work and try to illustrate things that are outside your comfort zone so you can adapt to any given job.

I think also the key to keeping your work fresh is to stay away from looking too deeply at what other people are creating, by all means be aware of what’s going on in the industry but remember that you have your own voice and your work should speak for you, don’t become a shadow to something that’s already been done.

Where do you think your style will transition in the future?

I think I have developed a good basis to experiment on, as far as the future goes the worlds my oyster. I guess it will involve more trial and error and also whatever themes or imagery I take a liking to and would want to incorporate in some way to my own body of work. Right now I’m getting into Victorian type posters and 50’s packaging so I’m playing with type a lot now and seeing how I can join my illustrative style to work well with type and decorative ornaments.

Several of your works feature prominent displays of logos, relevant to street clothing brands, from Adidas and Nike to Carhartt and Lyle and Scott. What kind of influence has this sort of fashion held on your work?

Yes, a lot of my early work has included brands, particularly those mentioned above. They still remain to me as some of my dream clients for the future and I very much hope I get to work with them soon. More recently however I have tried not to include any brands or logos in my work because I find it limiting to what I can explore, for example if I’m illustrating a jumper is too easy to simply slap on a Nike logo or an Adidas logo on and call it a day. Im not interested in that anymore, now I would do my research on jumpers (that’s sound really sad!) and patterns and look ways I can incorporate them into the jumper. Then I know I have complete ownership of what I’ve created and it could lead to me finding a whole new niche to explore.

I’ve seen a lot of illustration used things related to indie music and electro. Yet your work, seems to reference more street and urban culture, but without a single reference to a spray can or chubby marker. When you were starting out, did you feel a pressure to go one way other the other?

Haha! I think when you start out your still finding your own individual voice and style. You don’t want to stray from your comfort zone and images you have been drawing for years, also you look to what is immediately popular and “on trend” right now, but as well all know like fashion, trends come and go.

When I was starting out my key influences at the time were people like KAWS and Grotesk both coming from a street graffiti background with a very big street art following as well as clients like Vogue and Kiehls’s. I discovered that the more I was developing the more I was trying to be like them, which is completely the opposite of what a creative should be doing. Instead I went back to the drawing board free from trends and scenes and just started doodling, what you see now is just a natural progression to how far its come, there’s still a lot more to do.

Also I’ve never cared much for scenes and trends anyway…probably because I’ve got rugby player legs and couldn’t get into a pair of skinny jeans to save my life!!

Recently you were signed to an illustration agency. Has this impacted how you go about doing your work? How has the transition to a professional illustrator been?

Yes I recently signed with Agency Rush who will represent me worldwide. To be honest I couldn’t have wished for a better agency to be a part of. I went to visit them not long ago and there was such a communal vibe about the team, its like I’ve been accepted as part of their family! They are everything a creative agency should be and so much more, they are professional, honest, upfront and keen to develop and help you grow as an illustrator.

Any favourite projects yet? Goals or specific clients you are looking for in the future?

I have a few projects on at the moment but I’m afraid I’m bound to keep them all hush hush at the moment, I really wish I could spill the beans but you’ll have to wait and see nearer the time! Just keep checking my blog and website for some surprises coming soon!

In the short-term future however im taking part in an exhibition that will be held at the forum at some point in June so pop down and say hello init. Aside from that I may be exhibiting in Holland come October and before that in Bristol with some big hitters in the street art scene for AnyForty. They are an up and coming urban street brand and have collaborated with some legends in the industry. Anyone who’s into street art should pop down, seriously can’t believe im even exhibiting with some of these artists involved! Look them up – AnyForty.

Rather kindly, Jonny has designed us a print. We are gonna bosh it out in a fair few colours on the Riso. It is soon available from the Article store.