Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started your career?
I’m older than I’d like but still young in mind and packed with enthusiasm to make and create. I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember—since being able to hold a pencil.
I was actually a latecomer to the professional creative field. I struggled with concentration at school, wanting to spend all my days doing art over anything else. I then got a little sidetracked during and after my college days with the then early 90s rave culture.
My creative story started a little later at 25 when I fell seriously ill with meningitis. After very nearly losing my life, a month in hospital, and three months recovery, things really got put into perspective. I wanted to do something worthwhile, so during recovery, I spent a lot of time building up my portfolio, and I started applying for jobs.
My break came when a design agency in Bath gave me my first job setting recruitment ads, which seems boring now, but it was a dream come true at the time. The job didn’t last too long as the company lost a huge client and went bust, but it got my foot in the door and gave me valuable experience, which is something I’ve always been very grateful for.
What followed afterwards?
After that first lucky job in Bath, I had a varied mix of experience working for The Early Learning Centre fiddling with packaging art. I then fell into the publishing sector, where I worked for a range of publishing houses for about ten years, which gave me a very solid foundation in layout and colour, and advanced skills in industry-standard design software from Quark through to InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.
After my younger brother went solo at Wildish & Co, he gave me a six-month work opportunity to help me launch a freelance career and escape the 9-5.
During my freelance period, I was offered a desk at Pixel Pixel Ltd in Swindon, initially renting a desk to freelance from, however, I was soon picking up client work for the studio and bringing in my much-needed knowledge of print design.
I also jumped at the opportunity to learn web design and app design, and before long, I soon found myself as a full-time designer at Pixel Pixel. We’ve since grown and moved studio twice, and although we had a tough year during covid, we’ve grown and expanded. You won’t be surprised to discover I’ve shifted the studio’s software to Affinity Designer and Photo.
You’ve been using Affinity apps for a long time now. What made you start using them?
Having been an adobe user for many years, I’ve always felt as though I needed to battle and beat the software into submission, so I longed for an alternative. I found Affinity Designer during beta days and was hooked from the very first use—everything about it was just right.
“I found Affinity Designer during beta days and was hooked from the very first use—everything about it was just right.”
What’s your favourite feature in Affinity Photo/Designer, and how do you use it in your work?
The Pen Tool is simply perfect in Affinity, but one of the first things that really got me hooked was the very simple way of masking objects within each other, making shading etc., a breeze to achieve whilst still being able to add an outline to the mask object. Illustrator cannot do this without a very complex workaround. Trust me, I’ve challenged an engineer at another well-known plug-in company to do the same, and after a long time locked into concentration, he found a very long-winded workaround, but in no way comparative in simplicity.
It is one feature that really resonated with my style and gave me the ability to work so much faster without wasting time cutting or creating complex masked objects.
We love your isometric work. What drew you to working isometrically?
Isometric work has always fascinated me. I’ve bought many books and magazines featuring pixel art and isometric works and loved the worlds that people create. Once I found the isometric grid feature in Affinity Designer, that was it. I was lost down the rabbit hole—once you have the power to create worlds, it’s hard to stop.
“Once I found the isometric grid feature in Affinity Designer, that was it. I was lost down the rabbit hole—once you have the power to create worlds, it’s hard to stop.”
How would you describe your approach to design?
Probably quite self-indulgent and obsessively neat. This is possibly a hangover from my publishing background when my then creative director had an obsession for accuracy and pinpoint measurements in layouts.
This has carried through to my isometric artworks—when I get stuck into an artwork, I get lost in the process and will quite often check each and every line and path to make sure it is as neat as possible. There is a good reason behind this, however, as I know without fail that if any of my artworks are scaled, they will look just as neat at 100% as they will at 1000%.
How do you come up with new ideas?
There’s no magic to this, I’m afraid. My head is usually swimming with ideas influenced by every part of my day. I’ve always got a list of sorts, of things to make bubbling in my head. However, finding the time to get them all out onto an artboard is the real tricky part.
“My head is usually swimming with ideas influenced by every part of my day. I’ve always got a list of sorts, of things to make bubbling in my head.”
Do you ever have time for personal projects?
Not as much as I would like. Luckily at Pixel Pixel, I have quite a free rein to create a lot of illustrative work for marketing purposes, so I still get my daily fixes. I always have ideas bubbling in the back of my head. Sometimes they take quite a while to become a reality, and often I get carried away with making them, but it’s something I feel the need to do from time to time.
One of our favourite works of yours is Pixel Falls. How long does something like this usually take to complete?
It’s hard to put an exact time on a piece like that. Personal work is different in that I have no sign off date or publication date, so I tend to keep tweaking and freezing over details until I’m happy. Pixel Falls, I guess, could have taken two weeks, whereas smaller pieces like my ice cream van took less than a day.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Actually, changing direction from published design to web design was the biggest leap I’ve made in recent times. Web design never stands still, so it’s a contents evolution of rules and design standards. I do find that my background in print design gives me an upper hand in a lot of cases, as the discipline I had to have really keeps my artwork pin sharp.
How would you describe your typical day?
My typical day isn’t too glamorous—I’m up early with children, then into the studio at Pixel Pixel, where I have a different bag of work each day—from illustrative work through to web design. We’re currently working on a brand refresh, so I’m pretty stoked to get it out to the world when it’s cooked to perfection.
Do you have ways to organise your day to maximise your work?
I’m a believer in lists, listing targets and checking off at the end of the day. It really helps to organise and to keep my mind on track (I tend to go off on tangents otherwise). Music is also my other great organiser and mind focusing tool. I find nothing better than hammering my ears with some good quality, old-school Jungle/D&B to do the trick.
Lastly, what is your proudest moment so far?
Working a four-month onsite freelance contract for Dyson in Malmesbury has to be a huge highlight. I was commissioned to illustrate a selection of British design icons, all handpicked by James Dyson. These were to be illustrated and produced in large format printed and fitted to entrance walls, labs, conference rooms and meeting rooms as part of a large-scale Dyson HQ re-development and investment program. It did feel amazing to be sat drawing cars and iconic British airplanes all day whilst full-timers sat plugging away with real work.
Seeing a piece of my work on the Affinity site was also a very proud moment, having used Affinity for so long and been so passionate about it.