Following on from his brilliant talk at OFFF15 in Barcelona last month, illustrator Steve Wilson took some time out to chat to us about his recent projects with bands Panama Wedding, Audiodamn and Satchmode, what he got up to at OFFF15, the tools of his trade, his earliest memories of drawing, new exhibition work for both KK Outlet and Print Club London and how moving to Brighton changed his life.
He was very generous with his time and never seemed in a rush to be anywhere else, seems strange to think of people like that now but I credit his time and patience with me at an early age that set the foundation for me and ignited my love for drawing.
That area I grew up in I think of as pretty much devoid of any visual arts culture, it was one of those areas where material possessions are everything, a flashy car is a sign of success. Arriving in Brighton to study was a baptism of fire and the beginning of a very steep learning curve. In all honesty I was completely out of my depth or at least felt that way, everyone else seemed to know so much more about films, the arts and music, but I loved the experience of it all.
I feel very fortunate to have studied when I did because it straddled the analogue and digital eras of design. I didn't actually start using the computer until after I graduated and I still use a lot of analogue techniques and principles to inform projects now. The bulk of my talk at OFFF was explaining how the analogue has informed the digital using specific case studies of my work. I tried to offer as much insight as possible into my working methods and where my ideas have come from as that is the kind of thing that interests me.
I decided to create a ‘typographic portrait’. I used a specifically English term to describe a person ‘A So&So’ which I then created a poster around. A So&So is used to describe ‘an unspecified person, usually someone unpleasant or not worthy of mention’ which I thought was a funny description for an artwork. Visually as well the term is symmetrical almost as the words are repeated so it allowed me to play with the patterns and shapes of the words.
I have been fortunate with Panama Wedding because the band’s label and management have allowed the singer (Peter) and I to work closely with one another without any outside input. I respect Peter's opinion and because of the simplicity of it just being the two of us we have built up a working relationship that I think works very well and as a result has produced strong work. The first time I worked with them it was their debut album. The fact it was a debut album was an important factor. So much of the marketing is online now so the designs need to work small so I opted for a very bold graphic approach so the covers were instantly recognisable even as thumbnails.
All of my designs for them up until recently have been for singles and EPs and have been very graphic and digital but Peter and I felt it would be nice to retain the graphic nature of their work which is starting to define the band visually but take it to another level by having something made into an object for the new album. We felt a graphic piece of stained glass could be a really simple and relevant way of doing that. We have tried to create something iconic and as the album is titled Fly To Panama, we have used a plane symbol from above to create a cross as a nod to the religious context that stained glass is usually found. I created the piece digitally until Peter was happy with it and then I used a stained glass guy I found down the end of my street to make it. It is currently being photographed.
Paolo Nutini again was similar to Soja. I was creating a design for his tour. Again it didn’t feel right to create something clean and graphic especially as his album cover and marketing material to that point had been painted and was quite textured and loose so again I decided to create something by hand. I used his album title 'Caustic Love' as inspiration and decided to try and create his logo to look like it had been affected by caustic erosion. This was a very quick turnaround of two days so I used a marbling technique to apply paint to a wooden construction of his logo. I had the logo laser cut and then did the rest in the back garden before photographing it.
Audiodamn was a very different experience. They are signed to a big label so there was more people to please and I had less control over direction. I tried a large number of very varied routes for that one, some routes that were my own and some I was asked to do before we settled on a direction. I don't mind working like that sometimes as often the direction you are given can lead to new things and new ideas which you might not have done otherwise (which it did in this case) but equally I have had many other experiences where there are too many people providing opinions and feedback and it can cause problems. It's always a matter of opinion and you rarely please everyone so ultimately someone needs to have the final say and I feel like that should be the band or artist.
I did want to build a physical sign but I know how difficult music jobs can be to get over the line so this felt like a more controllable option. I got a vector template for the design agreed with them and then asked Tom to get involved and he took over modeling the design in cinema 4D. It’s the first time I’ve ever outsourced any of my work and I have to say it was a great experience. I’ve liked the things Tom has been doing for a while so it was a pleasure working with him. Once he had completed the cover and it was all signed off by the band I then designed the rest of the packaging.
Then later in July I am one of the selected artists creating a poster with Print Club London for the Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. I've illustrated a poster for the film 'An American Werewolf in London' which has been screen printed amazingly well by Sam at Tuckshop London. We have used fluro pink and blue inks overlaid on top of one another with a metallic silver layer on top. The design is based around the metamorphosis of the main character into the Werewolf. The show opens at Somerset House on the 29th July and all prints will be for sale with some great artists involved. It will be well worth a look.