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No compromise: the illustrated world of Tobias Hall

Tobias Hall is a distinguished illustrator and mural artist based in London. Find out how Affinity Designer for iPad has totally transformed his practice and our commissioned artwork around the Affinity motto ‘No Compromise’.

We were over the moon to find out that the awesome Tobias Hall was a fan of Affinity Designer for iPad when he reviewed the app for Digital Arts. So, we got in touch with him and commissioned an illustration around our Affinity motto ‘No Compromise’. The result—a powerful and distinctively detailed bull. We caught up with him to hear a little more about him, his inspirations and aspirations. But first, lets take a look at Tobias creating ‘No Compromise’ in Affinity Designer for iPad…

So, let’s start with the obligatory question; tell us more about yourself.

I’m Tobias, a freelance illustrator and designer born and raised in Essex, just outside London, UK. I graduated about 7 years ago with a degree in Illustration from Coventry University, and since then have been lucky enough to work on loads of really fun and varied projects. Shortly after graduating I started playing around with type and lettering, which is when things really started to gain momentum for me.

Where did your passion for typography begin?

Straight after graduating I took some work to be shown at a graduate exhibition in London, where it was seen by someone from the Italian restaurant chain, Zizzi. This eventually led to them commissioning me to create a mural for one of their new restaurants. Somehow, I managed to do a half decent job, and was asked to create a few more murals in different restaurants around the country. Otherwise, I was basically just working a bar job, so eventually I just thought I’d ask if they had any in-house design roles that I could help with on a more permanent basis.

Luckily for me, they did! Part of my role there was to design the menus and A-boards, and it was then that I really had the chance to explore lettering and type, while developing those skills.

What inspires your style?

It’s a bit of a cliché but inspiration comes from all over the place really. For the more vintage styles I have a few type sample books, which I sometimes skim through for ideas. But mostly it just comes from stuff I see day to day.

Have you got any fun stories from jobs you’ve worked on?

I think the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to me so far was when I did a bit of work for Mount Gay, a rum distillery based in Barbados. They originally found my work because I created a poster for an event that they were sponsoring—the poster itself wasn’t especially well paid but I knew it would be a good portfolio piece so decided to take it on. Mount Gay liked the poster I’d made, and got in touch for me to design some sell sheets for a new product they were launching.

Thankfully for me they liked the sell sheets and commissioned me to work on another project, but before I did they thought it was important that I got to know the brand. So they flew me out to Barbados on an all-expenses-paid trip to show me around the distillery and taste cocktails on the beach! I don’t think anything will ever top that to be honest!

What was the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

It’s really hard to just pick one! But my favourite projects are those where there’s a clear brief to work to, but where the client trusts your vision on that brief. I’ve been really lucky to work on a lot of projects like that!

What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been so far?

Probably just the fact that I’m able to make a living! I never imagined I’d be able to do this as a job when I graduated, so it’s great to still be doing it. I’ve tried to keep evolving my practice and refining my work, so hopefully that’s paying dividends.

Where do you see your style in 10 years?

That’s a tough one to answer; at the moment it feels like it’s constantly changing— I’m not someone who buys into the idea of only working in one style—recently I’ve been doing a lot more illustration work in a woodcut kind of style, which seems to be gaining traction with clients too. I think the aim is just to keep the quality high in whatever I do, but I think it will always likely have that hand-crafted feel running through it, whatever it is.

What does it take for an illustrator to work with brands like Netflix, Cadillac, YouTube etc?

I think my main strength lies in understanding what makes a project work visually: making creative decisions that ultimately help communicate what the client wants to get across. I’m also not afraid to suggest my own ideas to the client, even if they don’t fully align with their initial instructions; as long as you do so humbly and sensitively, I think clients appreciate that investment in a project. It shows you care.

I think it also requires a bit of luck to land those first few ‘big’ clients to get the ball rolling—for me, self-initiated work was fundamental to that happening; it’s really important to make the work you want to be hired for when you’re starting out. It’s not only a great way of improving your skillset and portfolio, but also shows potential clients what you’re capable of.

We loved the Warburtons campaign you did with Peter Kay as the face; how did you get to become involved and how much artistic licence were you given?

Yeah that was a great project! The agency (WCRS) had seen a couple of self-initiated pieces online (I think the ‘Thank You’ piece was the one they referenced) and felt it was really similar to the sort of aesthetic they were after. The printed campaign I worked on was to accompany the ‘Pride and Breadjudice’ TV advert, so they were looking for a mock-Victoriana feel. It took us a little while to iron out the finer details of exactly how this campaign was going to look, but once we had it was relatively smooth sailing. In terms of artistic license I would say they were pretty open to my ideas, which was really cool.

Talk us through the concept for the artwork we commissioned, ‘No Compromise’?

The guys at Affinity provided me with a few phrases, and ‘NO COMPROMISE’ was the one that appealed to me the most in terms of being a succinct, impactful statement, so I thought I’d make that the main headline of the piece. I wanted the piece to feel like it could be a vintage-style poster for the software, so was keen to include a few more phrases that helped communicate the user experience. One of which was ‘Power and Precision’, and I thought a bull would be a good way of communicating ‘uncompromising power and precision’, so settled on that (plus, I kinda just wanted to draw a bull).

As with most of my work, I wanted it to have that hand-crafted feel, so I created the bull illustration and lettering in raster using the pre-loaded brushes, before switching to vector for the corner ornaments.

If you could describe yourself as any font what would it be and why?

Hmm… my font knowledge isn’t actually that great. It would have to be something versatile but perhaps with a slightly vintage tinge… there’s a font called Abolition which springs to mind, but I’m sure there are more apt. fonts out there…

Whose art do you admire the most and why?

There are tons of people I could mention here and I’ll no doubt forget a lot of them, but some that come to mind are: Malika Favre, Hedof, Tyrsa, Chad Michael Studio, Kelly Anna, Parra, Pedro Oyarbide, Laura Callaghan.

What’s the ultimate dream?

I’ve always wanted to work for Nike, perhaps a logotype for one of their sub brands, a mural for one of their events or some imagery for a big campaign… but as of yet those stars haven’t aligned!

How has Affinity Designer aided your creativity and why?

For me it’s about speed—especially during the roughs process—the ability to get ideas down and refine/edit them digitally as opposed to on paper just speeds up to process so much. Then the fact that I can continue on to final art all within the one app is just amazing—it’s totally transformed my practice.

You must have days when you feel demotivated. How do you deal with these days, what do you do?

Yeah for sure! Feeling de-motivated is really tough because it also comes with feelings of guilt and anxiety for me—I’m aware that I have one of the best jobs anyone could wish to have; to be able to draw things for a living is just ridiculous. So when I don’t feel like it or just aren’t feeling inspired it can cause quite a lot of mental tension. I think it just comes down to being kind to yourself—allowing that feeling of demotivation to be there and then gently choosing to get on with work anyway, especially if I have a deadline. If work is less busy then I’ll just take myself to the gym for a bit and just relax.

To see more of Tobias’ work you can check out his website and social media channels below:

Artist relations

Jess is part of our artist relations team. When given the luxury of peace from an excitable toddler Jess loves nothing more than curling up with a trashy novel, a family-sized chocolate bar and a G&T.

Credits & Footnotes

All images are copyright of Tobias Hall.