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My creative workspace – Max Rock

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The next installment of our Creative Workspace features takes us to north Nottingham to meet illustrator Max Rock.

Describe your work for us
I produce niche work, illustrations of monsters, characters and mostly quite dark images. I have a very dry sense of humour which I think comes through in some of my work. I’m not quite sure why I tend to draw such macabre, nightmarish stuff, I just remember as I was growing up that I was always drawn to this kind of thing. Seeing the animated version of Lord of the Rings for the first time as a kid just made me want invent creatures even more ghastly and shocking. My style lends itself nicely to album covers, which I’ve done for a US rapper ‘Atari Blitzkrieg’ and local band ‘Kill Chaos’.

I like it but simultaneously find it terrifying when I’m asked to draw something I’ve never drawn before. Most recently I was asked to draw Wilf (the horse) for a friends fund-raising event at Moo-Haven. It took a few goes but I nailed it in the end, I guess I should have more confidence in myself.

How long have you been drawing?
I’ve drawn for as long as I can remember. At school my art teacher Mr Macintyre encouraged me to carry on drawing odd stuff but to also be aware of more traditional techniques and explore different themes of work. I went on to study graphic design at college where I practiced photography, fine art and life drawing. This gave me a good basis to work on and carry on developing after I left formal education. Two legendary artists whose work I’ve always loved are Escher and Geiger. They both inspire me in very different ways.

What’s your routine?
Currently I have a full time office job so I draw and paint whenever I can, but generally I find that I draw best early in the morning or late at night, mostly with music playing. I manage to do something most days even if it’s just a little bit of networking on the internet or soaking up images/words from other creatives. I’ve got my own themed projects going on so if I have no commercial, graphic design based work to do (which always comes first) then there’s always something of my own to work on. Researching and talking to people online is a great tool, but for the past year or so I’ve been displaying my work at market stalls organised by the Raw Collective (and Nottingham Council) which showcases a wide variety of disciplines, it’s really good for exhibiting, selling work and networking among like-minded people.

A few years ago I took part in a live drawing event upstairs at Oh My Gosh records on Mansfield Road (now sadly closed). They invited artists to come in and draw on large wooden structures (painted white) which I really enjoyed. For me it was also my first time drawing on something bigger than a sheet of paper! I get a good buzz working alongside other artists and watching their creations come to life. Obviously you see your own work come alive, but there’s a kick I get from watching others make something appear from nothing – when it’s your own work you worry about each and every line.

Those events led to more live drawing events and most recently I took part in the ‘Notts Property’ graffiti festival in August. ‘Notts Property’ is trying to celebrate graffiti as an art. It lets people see that it’s not just tagging a name on other people’s property. They’re trying to get it away from the association with vandalism. Like all drawing events I’ve taken part in it was pretty nerve wracking at first ( more often than not I keep myself away from the public gaze in that way) but once I can see my piece is going well I relax and really get into it. I always find most people are really positive even if they don’t like what I’m actually drawing they appreciate the time and effort I put into my work . I drew an underwater scene complete with sea monsters on the window of Ice Nine in Hockley for the festival.

Talk us round your workspace
My studio setup in the spare room of my home is pretty basic (in that all you need to draw really is pen and paper). I try and keep it fairly tidy so I can find things when I need them. In one corner is my computer, load of books and all the paint and tools that I’m not currently using. In the other corner lies the bigger desk I use for drawing and painting on. The body of work is displayed around here to keep me inspired and remind me of the general mood I’m trying to achieve. These drawings all have a loose theme of organic landscapes and characters. With this particular body of work I’m trying to make a conscious effort to move away from my more cartoon-y side and portray something not of this world. It started a while ago, but has had fresh inspiration from my rediscovery of the author H P Lovecraft. One ambition for the future is to do a large scale exhibit, either alone, or with other people with similar tastes. There are some places I’d like to exhibit in Nottingham – I’ve been to them before and seen some great artists there that motivate me to do more and more. I want to amass enough work together that I feel is a really strong collection before I seriously approach them.

The biggest sale I’ve had so far was through Sea View Gallery on the Isle of Wight. I got to know them through an exhibition in Nottingham (Stop Robbing The Rich) and things just grew from there. The theme at Sea View Gallery that year was called ‘London Below’ and was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s book & TV series ‘Neverwhere’ – I did three paintings in the style of a graphic novel that tell the story of a nasty creature spreading a plague around London.

I also sell t-shirts through various channels, including my in-laws shop in Market Harborough called ‘Off The Wall’. As well as the usual screen-printed t-shirts you see everywhere I offer unique t-shirts and paint each one by hand here on the easel in this room. These I sell under the name ‘We Are Not Them’.

The immediate future sees me doing a craft fair at Wollaton Hall on Nov 10th and 11th and a live drawing event at The Alley Cafe on Nov 30th.

Thanks Max for your time! You can see Max’s work via his website or follow him on Twitter. We also have more pictures of Max on our Flickr stream or on Pinterest.

If you would like to feature in our Creative Workspace series please let us know by emailing us on editor@creativenottingham.com


Sue is one of our team of bloggers. She’s always up for a nose round, I mean professional interview and photo session, with Nottingham’s finest. When not doing that she’s juggling writing the great music hall novel with being a mum. Talk to her at sue AT creativenottingham.com or follow on Twitter @basfordian