We absolutely love working with emerging and established artists each market season to bring you original and inspiring event posters. Our most recent collaboration with James Gulliver Hancock was no exception, James has done a spectacular job creating three incredible posters for our Autumn Winter 2015 events. Today we chat with James about how he came to be an artist and what inspires his intricate, detailed and playful illustration style.
How would you describe your style of artwork and how has this evolved?
I’ve always loved ideas of obsession, like hoarding and collecting things and this has been an important part of my style since the beginning. I love drawing the things around me, and obsessively documenting my surroundings, and it’s amazing how it’s evolved from a twitch almost, to a career! I’ve worked hard translating my everyday into something I can do every day. I’ve really been focussed on making things my whole life and my path has been fairly obvious to me. My style incorporates lots of things like objects and hand drawn typography and architecture, so it really allows me to document my surroundings, it’s actually quite a therapeutic practice for someone slightly obsessive and anxious, giving me a control over the things around me in a way. My latest book ‘All the Buildings In Sydney’ was actually a good example, in that it really helped me get back into my hometown after being away for such a long time.
What is your background and when did you start illustrating?
I started drawing when I was very young, my mum always talks about how it was impossible to stop me drawing on everything. She eventually let me draw all over my room as a child and I just went crazy, drawing everything in my life all over the walls over and over again. I also have an early memory of drawing in pre-school, trying to make the most complex thing I could think of so I wouldn’t have to do any other activities. After high school I studied Visual Communication at UTS in Sydney and loved it, making things every day, I loved having a brief and setting of on paths of exploration within those briefs. I got work doing Graphic Design and Web Design, but it wasn’t until I found Illustration that I really focussed and abandoned everything in favour of making pictures and drawing every day.
Who are your favourite artists and what inspires your work?
It’s the nature of the internet that influences pass by on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate, it’s really a conscious effort these days to focus on your own set of influences and make your things. I actually love looking at stylists websites, interior design people post really fascinating little scenes that get me thinking about groupings of objects and style and colour. Pulling from these references can be more inspiring than seeing peers work and going down a bad jealousy rabbit hole! I usually like artists that have a similar combination of things going on where there is a technicality mixed with messiness. For example I have always love Julie Mehretu who makes these huge painting/drawings that incorporate architecture and linework but also have a sort of crazy mayhem to them. And I’ve always loved that image of francis bacon’s studio covered in mess. I love outsider artists who often view the world differently and I embrace my own personal connection to that world through a project I do with my brother who has Down Syndrome ( you can see those drawings at : www.tomandjamesdraw.com )
What materials and mediums do you enjoy working with and exploring? What other areas would you like to explore or expand into?
I love the basic pen/pencil and paper. I’m not fussy on special equipment, but I am in love with print making, silkscreening especially. I make a lot of prints which I sell on my shop at www.jamesgulliverhancock.com and it’s a physical part of my daily practice I love. I still get a wave of excitement when the process works really well, seeing the emulsion fall out of the screen and my image appear is a great thrill. And I love how silkscreening and printmaking in general tends to flatten things. I embrace that aesthetic in my work in general, keeping colours quite simple and limited and shading to a minimum.
Describe your workspace and surroundings and what your creative process is.
I have two studios one in Sydney Australia which is in the attic of my house in Clovelly. It’s so lovely here, sometimes it’s hard to believe how beautiful Sydney can be. But I also have a studio set up in Brooklyn, New York where I try to spend a portion of each year. I lived in New York for quite a while and had such an amazing group of peers that really helped in the development of my career as an Illustrator. It was a shared studio space so we would all be doing our projects around each other, sometimes chatting and listening to podcasts together. I really miss it when I’m not there, and the constant drive and creative inspiration of such a dense intense city is what I miss when I’m in Sydney. I started a project documenting the buildings in New York called www.allthebuildingsinnewyork.com and it was such a great way to get to know the city and it was received so well it really felt like it plugged me into the community as well. I was meeting people and drawing their buildings and I even got a great book deal from Rizzoli out of it.
My daily process is different in every place, but usually I like to jump out of bed and get straight to it. I’ll do a bit of emailing around 6am with my 3 year old on my lap. Then I’ll get right in to projects, working till breakfast at about 9. I then jump back and forth between client projects, personal projects and printmaking all day until I can’t do it any more. I’m the happiest if I’ve filled the day with making.
What advice would you give other artists/illustrators starting out?
I think people starting out need to get a regimen started where they work everyday. Making something should be inherent to existing, I often feel depressed if I haven’t drawn something every day, and I think that obsessive nature has served me well. There is luck involved in getting work to the right people, but that luck is driven by a generous amount of content creation. I am always making things and showing them to people, especially when I started I would make and show new things to everyone I could think of, whether it be friends and family in person or people you admire or want to work with on the internet. No matter how unconfident you feel at the beginning if you stick at something for long enough the journey will develop and open up opportunities you’d never thought of.
What kind of clients have you got to work with, and what have been some of your favourite projects?
I love collaborating with people on projects and I genuinely get excited when a new client emails me. It’s super lovely when a client that you are a fan of emails you and wants to work together. Some peak experiences have been working with Herman Miller Furniture (who I love for their collaborations with the Eames) on a book project, working with the MTA subway system in New York on artwork that went into all the subway trains, and working with Rizzoli on my first book, and working with the Museum of Contemporary art in Sydney on their kids program collateral.
What aspirations do you have for the future and what would be your dream project?
I really want to just keep doing what I do, I’m so grateful that I get to do what I love every day and work with different people all the time all over the world. I would like to open some sort of studio/store space of some sort one day, and bring together all the things I love around the world into one little intimate physical place, but that’s a long term goal.