I didn’t really know about illustration until I worked in marketing for a music consultancy company in London and I had to produce a lot of on and off line promotional material. I really enjoyed doodling ideas and gradually realized that you could actually turn this into a profession. After leaving this job, I traded in my worldly possessions for a plane ticket around the world. During the time I spent away, I decided that when I came back I’d start again and give illustration a go. That was just over a few years ago and I haven’t looked back once.
I am inspired by daily life, simple things, the absurd, nature, nostalgia – anything really. I like engaging the imagination and seeing where it takes me whether it starts off as something someone’s said, an experience, random thought and so on. I’m a dreamer at heart so play is key to my work – taking a simple idea or notion and just running with it to see where I can take it. I like to put the content in the driving seat.
I once spent a summer by myself in Austria after I came back from a year travelling and I loved it. I was holed up in a tiny hamlet in the mountains surrounded by pine trees and lakes. I enjoy being in isolation and surrounded by nature so I can really let my mind wander uninterrupted. It’s not good for you all the time which is one of the reasons I moved to Cornwall as you seem to get the perfect balance of both!
My ‘illustrating habits’? Well, not like a ritual or anything but I have plenty of OCD habits, yep. I think it goes with the territory. I am by nature pretty obsessive and try to channel it into positive tasks and activities. My dad is an obsessive collector of all things he deems ‘will become useful at some point in time’ which is pretty much anything. It’s a bit of a nightmare as he insists on logging everything in this huge filing system which takes an eternity to maintain and keep up with. Sort of like a highly functioning hoarder! There is a kind of method to his madness but it is madness all the same. This has made me very aware so when I get into this sort of mind frame, I try to take regular breaks to give me back some perspective.
What would I most like to work on? Good question. I think that changes for me all the time. One thing that I’ve really enjoyed of late is collaborative projects. I recently did a project with a stained glass maker / friend from Brighton (Matt from City Stained Glass) creating a set of four pieces for Brighton Festival around the theme of well-being and more recently, with friend / fellow illustrator Jurg Lindenburger from Switzerland on a series of postcards entitled ‘Tattoo’s We’ve Never Had’. They were both great to work with and we just sort of played with ideas and one-two’d them to each other until we were happy with the final outcome. What would be REALLY amazing is to work on something with Geoff McFetridge. I don’t think it would matter what project as that’s half the fun – turning any brief into something fun and interesting.
If it’s a cup of tea, milk no sugar. That’s an easy one. Teabag has to be stewed and squeezed real good so it’s nice and strong but then its countered with a good amount of milk. Not too strong and watery but not too milky either – it’s all about the right balance!
And for breakfast… Hmm. Tea and cereal. Trying to cut back on coffee but when we’ve got it, this too. Often I boycott the cereal bit and go straight to work. It’s often not intentional, I just get into whatever it is I’m doing and then at some point realize I’m still in my pyjamas and haven’t eaten anything. A friend once described me as a cactus – barely moving / eating / drinking for long periods of time. I read a funny article about David Shrigley a while back and he was saying the same thing. Sometimes when his wife goes away she comes back and he’s still in his pyjamas and hasn’t eaten / slept etc. I can totally relate to that! Often coupled with my brain stuck in some kind of infinite loop concerning a matter of trivial importance.
I try not to get stuck into any particular work habits as such. That does of course happen but I consciously try and limit it as much as possible and try and switch it up a lot. I guess I usually work with music on and drink lots of tea! And yeah, in my pyjamas a lot!
As for a dirty secret… Hmm, don’t incriminate yourself too much here I’m telling myself. Okay, I sometimes tell my girlfriend I’m not doing my ‘cactus in pyjamas’ routine when she calls to check I’ve got up properly and am going about my day like a semi normal person. In reality of course I am sat in my pj’s with a cuppa. I have a feeling she even knows this…
Whenever I’m asked for one favourite illustrator I end up reeling off a list. I’m going to compromise and give you my top 3. They would be (and in no particular order); Tomi Ungerer, Geoff McFetridge and Olle Eksell. I think the thing they all share is their work is playful, fun but very design conscious at the same time. There is always some sort of message or narrative going on in their work which just gives it this extra depth but it seems so effortless.
Enter Tom’s world here: www.tomhubmann.com