Tell us a bit about yourself and your creative background.
I studied for a Graphic Design Degree many years ago before computers. I then worked in advertising as an art director in London for a few years; before starting my own Graphic Design Consultancy in Yorkshire. That’s when computers appeared on the scene and where I originally learnt to create digital artwork for page layout, and vector illustration for logo work (using the programs of the day).
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I was always destined to do something with drawing. I’d always spent a lot of my youth drawing, and after years of working in commercial design, I started to experiment with some digital landscapes (20 years ago). After a few years of combining commercial design with my other practice of digital landscapes, I decided to stop the commercial work to concentrate solely on the vector landscape work.
What drew you to working in a minimalist style in vector?
Since my initial love of logos and design, I have applied this reduced, minimal approach to the British landscape. I love walking in the landscape, and I mentally break down views on my many walks and look for shapes and ways that I can reduce and simplify. Working with vectors gives me many opportunities to save and try out different options without throwing designs away.
“I mentally break down views on my many walks and look for shapes and ways that I can reduce and simplify.”
How do you decide what to focus on and what to leave out of your landscape scenes?
Over the many years of working this way I’ve trained myself to mentally discard the elements of a landscape that I feel are not needed or get in the way, typically I ignore people, cars and lots of detail.
I tend to pick out the main structural elements of a landscape view that I feel are important and necessary to build up an aesthetic view—it might be a road or track, shadows, a cliff edge.
“I can only create a new piece if the subject excites me. I have to have personally visited and seen the view: walked it, experienced it and taken photographs.”
When you create a new illustration, what is your process?
I can only create a new piece if the subject excites me. I have to have personally visited and seen the view: walked it, experienced it and taken photographs.
Back at my studio, I start blocking in and building up the structure, typically in black and white to give me a feel for the design. For me, the overriding concern is to create an aesthetically pleasing design that the viewer can relate to. I might often have a few different designs on the go at various stages and dip in and out of them. It’s important to re-visit them and see things afresh, building them up as I go along.
During the early stages I work fast blocking things in, and in the latter stages of an illustration, things get more laboured and deliberate, fine-tuning the colours and tweaking things until I feel it’s finished. For reasons I can’t explain, I always know when a piece is finished.
When did you first start using Affinity Designer, and what are your thoughts on it?
I came to Affinity Designer a few years ago after many years of working with the old favourites of the time. But after changing my computer, I refused to be forced into working from the ‘Cloud’.
I have to say it was a big learning curve ‘teaching an old dog to learn new tricks’. But well worth the change. It does everything that I need it to do.
“I recently completed a new series of work that combines the vector with raster, and the ability to switch between Designer Persona and Pixel Persona and import pictures is amazing.”
Do you have any favourite features?
Personally, I work very simply using a tablet or mouse with a desktop Mac. I only scratch the surface of what’s possible with the programme. So long as I can draw what I need to do in the style I want, then I’m happy. I’m not really interested in exploring the technical side of what can be achieved.
Having said that, I recently completed a new series of work that combines vector with raster, and the ability to switch between Designer Persona and Pixel Persona and import pictures is amazing.
I’m also very impressed with the support for Affinity given online; anyone learning the program that comes up with a question only needs to ask on the Forums.
How do you choose the locations for your work?
My work is mainly Northern based, except for a few southern views that were created for specific reasons. North Wales, Yorkshire, Northumberland & Scotland.
I’m personally attracted to the coastal areas. Spending time walking in these areas is important to me, and that’s how I gather my reference. I liken my working style to that of a photographer; I like to experience the landscape in various lights at different times of the year.
“I liken my working style to that of a photographer; I like to experience the landscape in various lights at different times of the year.”
Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a series of ‘Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail’ views for an exhibition to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this long distance walk.
What does a typical work week look like for you?
Typically at the beginning of my week, I’m usually based inland on the Yorkshire Wolds, where my main studio is based. It’s here where I get the online sales ready for the post. I work with a local framer and liaise with them for any forthcoming shows and the framed work needed for the galleries I work with.
Towards the end of the week, I’m based at Staithes, a picturesque fishing village in Yorkshire, where my wife (also an artist) and I have a Gallery showing our own work. I typically spend a couple of days a week manning our Gallery. If it’s quiet, I’ll manage to progress my work.
These days I spend less time designing and more time experiencing the landscape, which I feel is really important.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
I feel blessed and lucky that my work seems quite popular. In the early days of working in this style, I struggled as a digital artist, as many galleries and exhibition organisers frowned on this ‘new’ practice. Thankfully that’s not the case now.
Probably the greatest current challenge is sticking with the style I have and not getting sidetracked into trying lots of different things.
Are there any dream projects you would like to work on in the future?
I’ve been very fortunate over the years and have had some great commissions and solo exhibitions thrown my way. I’ve got no major dreams or goals for the future, just to continue doing what I love.