Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jack Teagle

Jack Teagle is a freelance illustrator based in the South East of England. His clients include: Urban Designers, Publicis Advertising Agency, YCN, Research World Magazine, Anorak Magazine, Nobrow Press, Hassle Records, Jazzsteppa Records and Digital Artist Magazine to name but a few. I first became aware of his work through the 'Nobrow' publications and since then have found his work to be a constant source of inspiration. I love the way that his work is simple, stylish, sophisticated and utterly unique.
 So, yesterday I sent him an Email with a few questions about his work and about the illustration industry in general. I was expecting that if I did get a response it wouldn't be for a while and the answers would probably be quite brief. In fact the complete opposite happened; he replied the same day! He replied with answers that were detailed, thoughtful and very helpful. I got a real insight into the way he works and into how he became established in the industry. I was really pleased with the response and am very grateful to Jack for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully and thoroughly. See for yourself:

Hi Mister Matt,

Thanks for getting in touch! I'm glad you like the Nobrow stuff! I've got a few things in the works with them at the mo.

I hope these answers aren't too long!

Can you tell me how you began as an illustrator?
I graduated in 2009 from Plymouth University with a degree in Design: Illustration, it's something I've always wanted to do, I didn't have any commissions while at univesrity, but I was trying to get my work out and about at that time. I put together my first group show in my final year and got really focussed. I helped out a lot at a local gallery, and got to know a lot of other cool artists and illustrators and just tried to improve as much as I could. I just sold small print runs of my comics, prints and paintings.
I won a 'best in show' award at 2009's D&AD New Blood exhibition with my big wrestling project, and that got my a lot of exposure. Sam from Nobrow saw my work from the award and would later come to ask me to work with Nobrow.
When I graduated I gave myself a few months to just bum about at home. I did a lot of work for free, just to build up my portfolio and to gain experience. I made sure I updated my blog and website a lot to look busy, and like I was a real freelancer. I got some Internet attention, but it wasn't enough, so I signed on in early October. During this time I started to get work slowly through Art Directors seeing my work on my flickr, blog and website. I did a little mock up editorial of a heart with running shoes that got me some work, and I won an Anorak magazine competition to illustrate a back cover which got the YCN's attention and they asked me to go onto their books. Nobrow held a competition for a new book, and my work were winning pieces, and this reminded Sam and Alex to get in toucb with me. They were just putting out Nobrow 2: Jungle and one of the illustrators hadn't produced anything and it was going to print the next week. They wanted me to fill in for him. I saw this as a huge opportunity, and they gave me a weekend to produce a spread for them, so I didn't sleep, I worked on it up until the early morning it needed to be in. They were really impressed and it helped me to build a good relationship with them.

At the same time thought it was a bummer to keep signing on, I was starting to do cool projects, but they were mostly free. Any time I did work I had to declare it, and had my dole docked. It almost wasn't worth it, the job centre loved making things complicated.
I was looking for a full time job, but mostly I was just emailing possible clients, with little success. My work was still really underdeveloped, I did a lot of painting, but it was mostly monsters and wrestlers. A lot of people liked it, but it didn't show magazine editors that I could fit in with their publication. I wanted to illustrate so much, I just worked constantly.
I had a lot of support from my family. My Gran lives next door and let me use her living room as a studio. This was great, until she broke her ankle and used it as a bedroom! Luckily I live on a farm and my dad had storage units in a barn that I converted into a studio space that I still use today. If it wasn't for my family, it would have been a lot harder to make a go at things.
Nobrow came to me a few weeks after the jungle issue was released and proposed that I release a comic through them. I decided to do it about my experiences with the Job centre, and started to write it up and plan it through until early January. I started the finals from mid January until March. I had a few little jobs found for me from the YCN during this time too which kept me going, knowing I was going in the right direction. If any free opportunity came up, I jumped at it to expand on my work and experience. I did a few murals, taught workshops in a primary school and worked on comics, zines and group shows with people.

When my comic was released with Nobrow, they asked me to have a solo show with them in their new shop/gallery. At this point I finally decided to gamble and go self employed, I had nothing to lose. I refused payment from Nobrow until I was self employed.
After the show and the comic, jobs started coming in. since then I haven't really promoted myself very well, I just try and look as busy as possible, and work seems to keep coming in. The first few months were a little shakey, but money slowly came in. It wasn't much, but it was a lot more than the dole, and since then it just snowballed. The jobs people saw got me more jobs, etc, etc.

 What are your inspirations? Are you influenced by any artist in particular? Is there an artist you aspire to be like?
I absolutely love american lowbrow fineart. It seems to merge perfectly with gallery work, illustration, advertising and design. I want to dip my fingers in all of those pies! People like Gary Panter and Gary Baseman seem to balance all of these different types of work and I love their stuff. I love how they just do their own thing too.
My inspirations are popular culture, comics, the avant-garde, outsider art, strange film, horror, science fiction and medieval art. I love mixing it all into what I do. I love strange looking action figures, I draw a lot of inspiration from them, stuff like kaiju, japanese robots, old star wars figures, heman, and turtles.

How do you come up with ideas for set briefs? How do you get started?
I've learnt not to be nervous or overthink things anymore. I just start out by sketching fun things or silly things. If I'm having fun with it then the project will be a lot easier to get through.

How do you solve a creative block?
Walks really help, just getting some fresh air. You can come back to the drawing board and approach things in a completely different way if you've broken away for a little while. Watching films and reading help out too, they help me to wind down, but also fill my head with new ideas.

 Could you describe your working method?
With paintings and personal work, I love just grabbing things from a sketchbook and working with that as a rough. I paint backgrounds first and then paint figures in over the top. I love to work in thick layers of acrlyics.
With illustration, I've almost gone completely digital. I produce everything by hand as ink blots and then piece them together and colour them digitally, a little like layering a screen print.

How do you divide your working time between personal and professional work?
At the moment, very, very badly. I've been working too much. I have a lot of different projects on and it's left me little time to socialise! I've been just trying to get off the ground with illustration, and I enjoy it, so I've been putting in a lot of hours. I don't get to sleep much at the moment, I've bitten off more than I can chew.

 Where do you work? Are there any advantages/disadvantages to this?
I work in a little studio/ ex shipping container on my families farm. It's in the middle of nowhere in Cornwall. It's great for getting stuff done with no distractions, but nothing ever happens around here. All of my friends live in town, or up country and it can get a bit isloated.

What kind of promotional work do you do?
I used to use business cards, but people seem to discard them. People love things that they can use or collect, postcards have proven very popular, zines, comics, badges, merchandise really. My Nobrow books seem to get me a lot of work.
I have a portfolio on the YCN website that got me a bit of work, and a relatively new agent, Handsome Frank sends my work out to clients, thought I haven't got anything from them yet. I did try the AOI editorial book for contacts, but never had any luck with it.

What is your opinion of the illustration industry at the present time? Is the industry in a good place? Is now a good time to be an illustrator?
It feels like it's really changing. When I asked a lot of older, established illustrators for help and how to get work out to possible clients, they all said go to London with a portfolio. I've only done it a handful of times. Everything feels digital now. I got all of my work through online sources. I make sure I have a strong online presence for this.
There seems to be less money in illustration, budgets cut, poor pay for editorial and the like. It's not that bad though. Most illustrators now hold down several different jobs, most people in life do now. Full time jobs seem scarce. I treat painting, comics and illustration each as a seperate job. Each of my processes is completely different.
I'm not sure where the industry is going, I'm not a technophobe, but I hate apps and ipads. I grew up with print and comics and books, and that's how I see my work. I think things may grow around technology. There are publishers and presses that are fighting against it, like Nobrow and Édition Biografiktion which is pretty cool.
Illustration in editorial looks like its in a bad way. Illustrators seem to get by with Advertising (where the money is) and seem to be moving into more gallery work.
It's not all doom and gloom though! I think it's a great time to be an illustrator. We live in such a crap time, no jobs, and no future, but that just gives me more of a drive to get things done. I know a lot of people who it has spurred on to just do things on their own and start a business. I think people just love creating. There are a lot of like minded people around and the internet really helps to bridge gaps.

 Is there any advice you could give to a student trying to make it in the illustration industry?
It's all about looking professional. If you look busy, people will be impressed and take notice, so blog regularly and have a strong online presence to keep people interested. So much happens online.
Do work you really enjoy, don't try to do things for others, do what you love. You'll create your best work when you're having fun.