What I admire about musicians, good musicians anyway, is their ability to just ‘do it’. Hand them the instrument of their choice and they can just drop straight into the right frame of mind and produce a piece of music. Be it in the corner of their local pub, in some toilet venue in an ex-Soviet state with an incomprehensible language or on the main stage at a 150,000 person strong festival. Right there in front of your eyes they can create something for you, and this is the main difference between artists and musicians. Obviously this is a debatable generalization, but the performance is what is at the root of the art of making music. In my own work I find a total antithesis of this. Unless it’s just burping ideas out of my head and onto napkins, I’m pretty much incapable of getting anything right. I need a much more focused environment, devoid of the distractions of other people.
Surrounding myself with the right things is very important in inducing the right mindset, so my workspace as you can see from the photo above (which hasn’t been dressed up specially for this occasion, you can tell as my bin’s overflowing all over the place), gets heaped with notes, newspaper clippings, flyers, posters, postcards, trinkets, toys, skulls, deities, things I’ve found on the floor, things other people have found on the floor, things I’ve found other people finding on the floor and have become jealous of…. Yes, I could likely go on forever, but the important thing is being surrounded by the things that inspire me to make art, that place me in a creative attitude and, as what I’m working on changes frequently, making sure these things reflect the nature of the projects and are kept fresh and new. As soon as something becomes wall paper, by which I mean it no longer catches my eye, it needs to be swapped out for something new. This is probably the reason I have no tattoos, actually. I’d likely get bored of them after awhile and then be frustrated that they’re now there for the rest of my life and I can’t swap it for a new, more exciting one. Basically, I’m like some sort of optical magpie.
A big part of this is also making sure I have books. I love books in the same way as I love records (more on that little fetish in a bit), as tangible, crafted, designed artifacts. They’re also important as reference. Being able to pull a book off the shelf and flick through it when you’re stuck for inspiration or guidance is very useful. The internet is good for this to a point, but it is essentially driven by your own thought process and free association, the thing that’s broken down and gotten you into this situation in the first place. The content of the books has been dictated by someone else and therefore has the ability to surprise you and get you back into your work flow. As a result, I have a wide selection of stuff up there: Art books (obviously), anatomy, comics, history, geography, there’s a whole shelf in the middle of theological/ occult/ philosophical stuff, lots of oddities I’ve brought just because I like the covers or some strange illustrations, for instance a bound 1930’s set of radiophonic magazines, and some things that are artefactual in there mere existence. One example being the khaki-spined book on the centre-left of the shelf above the ram skull, which is a Soviet Russian propaganda book of some sort, probably about the economical state of the outer provences judging by the illustrations but I’ve got no real idea as I can’t read Russian. This book actually directly inspired the poster I made for The National a few years ago, and subsequently why I was asked to make one for The Duke Spirit in collaboration with 3D Glasses.
I bloody love music, I do. Ever since hearing Mis-Shapes on the radio when I was fourteen or so and realising that music wasn’t just a bunch of noises and actually something I could associate with, I’ve been a total hoarder of everything that sounds interesting to me, regardless of genre. A few years after that my girlfriend happened to put on OK Computer while I was at her house and I realized for the first time how much better records were than CDs. How much clearer and spacious the sound was and how much nicer all that Stanley Donwood artwork looked 12″ by 12″ rather than in those ugly little jewel cases I’d been breaking for years. Now I have lots of records and continue to hoard those too.
Music is very important in my creative process as well. This might sound pretty obvious as almost everything I do is for bands, but what you’re listening to when you’re working can drastically alter your mood and therefore the direction the work takes. Choosing the right thing to listen to is very important in this respect. A good example is an Illustration of an owl I produced for the Don’t Panic flyer packs last year. It could have very easily come out looking really twee which I really didn’t want, so I made a point of listening to a lot of black metal so that intensity would filter through into the artwork. Volume is also incredibly useful in this as it helps block out the sounds of the rest of the world, creating a completely contained environment. Also, part of the reason I like listening to vinyl while I work is because I have to flip the record over every twenty five or so minutes, breaking my concentration just enough for me to not get too bogged down in some minute detail.
As well as this space, I have another ‘studio’ which I lovingly refer to as The Hovel which is an old coal shed on the back of the house that I use for painting and screen printing. I’ll be posting photos of that soon as it’ll be getting a lot of use over the next week or so.
On a final note, I just wanted to apologize for the poor quality of the photo collages here. I thought it would be more fun than attempting one big photo but turned out to be a total pain in the arse. I hope they give some impression of the space, though. And not one that makes you think I live in some sort of Lovecraftian cubist mess. If you’d like to know anything about the content of the photos, feel free to use the comments section to ask questions.