Occasionally, in this creative life, someone comes along that single-handedly reignites your passion for creativity and inspires you to go out and explore more, without even knowing it.
This week I was able to get a Worldwide Wednesday feature written up about one of those inspirational people.
His name is Rory Walker and he is an amazingly talented illustrator from Bristol who’s style you may already be familiar with as he has provided illustrations for a number of major brands around the world.
It was a chance meeting that brought us together. An exchange of messages about opportunities via Linkedin.com – a bit like Facebook but for professional networking, rather than kitten pictures.
We talked, I nosed around the links on his profile and was suitably impressed – an incredible body of work!
So, let me introduce you to Rory.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s hear what Rory had to say in response to the Worldwide Wednesday questions.
Please can you provide a brief introduction to yourself, where in the world you are and let everyone know what you currently do in the arts/crafts industry.
Hello, thanks for having me. Rory Walker here. I’m based in the mighty city of Bristol, UK.
I mainly draw illustrations and cartoons for books and magazines, but thanks to the wealth of creative industry that lurks on my doorstep I also do storyboards for some of the big production studios in the area.
I also draw comics, work with role-playing game publishers, design concept art, paint landscapes in watercolours and oils, experiment with print-making, and flood the internet with a never-ending stream of vaguely amusing cartoons featuring the raft of characters that I share my every-day existence with.
In addition to all that, I do a little bit of teaching and creative mentoring to other artists and students.
Phew. I need a cup of tea already. Can I have a break now, John?
When did you begin working in the creative industry and what was the seminal or defining moment that put you on that path?
I went to art college then took a breather for about 5 years where I didn’t pick up a pen once. It wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to give it a go again having spent a while travelling. I read a lot whilst on the road and enjoyed visualising the stories. This ticked over for a little while; I got a new agent, work started coming in. Eventually, I had enough work passing through the door to warrant leaving my regular job and set up as completely freelance.
It was quite liberating but also a leap into the unknown. There’s been plenty of ups, far more downs, occasional levels, disasters, joys, frustrations, elations, you name it.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been enjoying a forced leave of absence through multiple new additions to my family. Creativity was exchanged for nappies, and staying up all night drawing funny cartoons was hijacked by plain old staying up all night. Coming out the other side has been liberating and I’ve been enjoying getting pen to paper, brush to canvas, and chisel to wood more than ever.
It’s very refreshing to have a break and come back with your skills intact but your eyes open to new opportunities and endeavours.
Is what you do now what you imagined you would be doing when you first started out? Yes. (Do I need to be more specific?)
Yes, I always loved comics from the time I knew they existed. I assumed they just materialised out of thin air, so it was quite the revelation to discover that you could make comics or draw pictures as a job.
Naturally I thought I’d be hugely more famous that I currently am – i.e. not famous at all – and I always thrive more when there’s more work on my plate than seems feasible to complete, but in essence yes.
Thinking back through the years, what memorable responses have you had to your work and did this change you in any way?
Sadly the most memorable that I can think of is (some) publishers not wanting to take a risk and instead want the most generic looking artwork possible. Ergo, any character that you’d like to put into the images to give things your signature style has to be edited out. You can still get an element of ‘you’ across, but it’s a greatly diluted version.
As an illustrator, you rarely get any feedback once the image has been created and accepted, so I’d say the greatest changes have been self-initiated. By that I mean I’ve seen a style or an artist that I’m interested in and suggest creating something that has a nod to that. Often art directors are very amenable to that sort of thing; after all, it’s a given that you can do the job otherwise they wouldn’t have trusted you with it in the first place.
It’s always nice to be acknowledged though, and I love helping others out with ideas or recommendations and seeing their work blossom.
What has been most important to you as an artist or crafter – a goal, a mentor, support, knowledge, advice, information, funding, family, friends … etc?
I’m sure a lot of your readership will be able to identify with the sentiment that you just have to create stuff in whatever capacity. It’s not a desire; it’s an underlying compunction that needs to be obeyed. There’s something quite nice about getting instant feedback/gratification for an artwork that you post online, but my personal metric for success in that respect is, do I want to look at the picture again the next day? If so I can tell it’s more than just a drawing, it’s a personal piece, and that feels exciting. However, I’m extremely competitive with myself and always say that my next piece has to be better than my last (in my opinion), so that’s important.
Other things are a place to work. I’m very tidy and clear everything away at the end of the day so that my desk is ready for the next session.
And finally money – otherwise I have to get a regular job which means that I seldom get the opportunity to let the demons out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but over time it needs to be addressed.
How have you changed during your career and do you see room for more changes in the coming years?
My workflow has become slicker. My drawing has become better. My painting has improved. My confidence has gained momentum. My style has developed. My abilities have diversified.
One of the great joys for me in life is discovering new music. I love trawling the internet (and in previous years, record shops and radio stations) hunting out new music and new ideas – wonderful! I couldn’t imagine a life where I’d found the music I loved and was content to listen to that forever.
The same set of parameters governs my art creation. I’m always hunting out new ways of making things, new artists to be inspired by – “How does so and so draw leaves?” or “How does this other person paint reflections on water”, etc. etc. I love learning an entirely new way of creating art such as sculpture or photography or woodblock printing, as the lessons you learn from those inform everything else that you do in one way or another.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
Single frame images that tell a story.
Who/What inspires you the most?
I think being around others who are enthusiastic and talented is a great source of inspiration.
How would you describe a creative life?
Fun, challenging, rewarding … etc? Poor.
What would be your dream project?
As mentioned above I love creating a narrative within an image. I love detail and chaos and exaggerated scenarios. It’s great fun watching people read through my drawings and try and work out what’s what, or watching them find hidden details or characters that are lurking in the recesses. If it’s got monsters in it then that’s an added bonus, but so long as it’s over the top and has very little in common with everyday life then I’m pretty much game.
Or a landscape.
Fickle aren’t I?
What wouldn’t you do without?
Blimey, that’s a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question, isn’t it?
I’ve no idea, but in the bigger picture, my family, in the smaller picture – and I’m going to do some name dropping here so watch out – Pentel brush pens. They’re wonderful!
What are you working on at the moment?
About 10 years back I did a short course in traditional Japanese Woodblock Print making. I loved it. It’s a method of creation that’s exceedingly laboured, can go wrong at an infinite number of junctures, is very complex and is thoroughly engaging. I’m currently revisiting that and being that it’s the 21st century I’m blogging all about my endeavours here – http://www.woodblockprintodyssey.blogspot.co.uk.
Other than that, I’m doing some writing for a new children’s book that’s slowly falling into line, drawing a couple of comic pages, and scribbling all over my desk.
What future project(s) are you most looking forward to?
I think that having the first draft of my new storybook will be very rewarding as I’ll be able to visualise what I want the pages to look like. And then draw a couple up. It’s a slow burner of a project so it may never see the light of day, but it’s certainly something to think about.
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What hobbies (creative or non-creative) do you have?
Swimming, cycling, running around like my trousers are on fire, cooking (I love watching the presentation bits on Masterchef), playing the piano and flamenco guitar, and banging out furious techno music much to the delight of my children and annoyance of my wife and dog.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I think I’d be the one who’d be surprised if anyone who knew me was surprised by something they didn’t already know.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
Get inspiration from everywhere. Be original. No-one got anywhere from wishing. But if you don’t dream then you won’t get anywhere either.
Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has an ability. Tell your story, then tell another. And another, and another. But most of all, enjoy what you do.
Where else can we find you?
Oh my word – what a talented and interesting man, right? Such a fascinating life journey too. Through all of those life events, Rory has managed to remain true to his creativity and always returned to what makes him the happiest; a journey that I can completely relate to.
One thing that struck me is that I cannot believe that we haven’t seen Rory’s images available in the papercraft industry – I know that I would love to see them – such fun imagery and a unique style! Or even perhaps as cross stitch designs, or embroidery, or decoupage or – well, I think that you get the idea.
What do you think? Could you see Rory’s work translating well to your favourite creative pastime?
Anyway, it’s time to pick my awestruck chin up off the floor and crack on with the day. Are you up to much?
Hope you enjoyed this weeks’ feature.
Thank you once again for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon.