Being interested in design, the most enjoyable part of it is coming across talent and meeting designers and talking to like-minded people. There is nothing that i love more than to talk about styles, processes, inspirational
sources, websites and thoughts about and from other designers. A little while ago i got the chance to ask one of my favourite local designers Keaton Henson (http://www.keatonhenson.com) a few questions. I first came across Keaton’s work via artwork for a friends band Look! I’m a Ghost. Since then I have seen his work and illustrations all over the shop! Topman, Drop Dead Clothing, the Happy Potter, Cheer up clothing and too many others to remember. His style is gritty, hand drawn and grotesque yet his illustrations and characters with their blood, slime and tattoo’s have a certain humility and vulnerable innocence to them.
So with such a great and varied client base what does this talented young Illustrator have to say.
T.S.L – Your style has a very organic hand-drawn feel which at times can be very detailed and intricate akin to other designers such as “The 5683” and “Dan Mumford”. Has it always been this way or is this a result of development and influence?
K.H – I really dont know to be honest with you. i think my handrawn style comes from the fact i dont like things to be perfect, i believe smudges and sketchy parts are the things that make a piece work. the detailed thing just comes from a need to fill space, ive always liked drawing detailed images, just to give people more to look at.
T.S.L – What was your education / art school experience like?
K.H – Fucking awful, i failed throughout school mainly due to flatly refusing to do copies of other artists work. which, despite the fact i was a petulant schoolboy, i still stand by. I dont see what you learn from copying others, I think its great that schools introduce you to artists and sources of inspiration, but to make you actually copy their work is totally ridiculous. I then continued to argue with teachers during my first year of college. and then just left before doing my a-levels. and started working straight away, and honestly think if it wasnt for that i would still be an art student terrified of the day i had to actually try and get jobs, rather than a working artist. im not a huge fan of the education system when it comes to art.
T.S.L – Another year of a new breed of designers is upon us like more lambs to the slaughter, searching for jobs in hat seems to be the toughest times since the early 90’s. What advice would you give to a designer about to graduate?
K.H – I would say dont panic, and ignore everything your lecturers have taught you about your style and how to draw. You spent all the years up to university developing your style with the books you read and things you watch that it seems ridiculous for a teacher to strip it away and give you what they think will sell. i was told to stop drawing weird intestinal looking dudes throughout my entire education. which is now what i get payed solely to do. Also just make sure your stuff is offering at least one thing that no one else has, if thats the case you should have no problem finding clients.
T.S.L – How do you see design trends changing over the next few years?
K.H – I see them changing over the next week, they always do. but i reckon things are going to shift back to photography, this illustration wave were riding has to end at some point. and i think its going to move to digital photos and text work. but who knows.
T.S.L – A lot of book written by other designers say that the most important assets to have as a designer is 1) Your integrity. 2) your portfolio. How do you know when you have integrity as a designer and if your portfolio is worth the CD its burnt on?
K.H – Screw integrity, if macdonalds want you to draw them a happy cow for enough money to live on for a year i say do it. save your integrity for when your at the stage where you can exhibit solo. then put it all into that. and portfolio is the most important thing. its always good to have some big clients in there, and photos of your work on billboards, but the stuff i get the most responses to is the stuff i draw while im bored. so thats just as useful.
T.S.L – Every artist has their own way of working and their own creative process, Do you have any methods or rituals?
K.H – Well i dont do anything particularly ritualistic, i dont have a special illustration gown or anything. usually i just stick on some music, think about my format, so for instance if im doing a cd cover i will draw a square and then block it in with shapes, so i start with composition and its not an afterthought. for instance i’ll choose a section of the “canvas” and
start filling it with shapes pointing in the directions i think will work. then, for me, its just a case of replacing those shapes with ugly dudes with hairy belly and white eyes. job done.
T.S.L – Thanks Keaton so much for your time
Next up is the amazingly talented Drew Millward, so come back and visit real soon. I am so excited to have gotten the chance to interview some of my favourite designers/illustrators that i don’t think i can control myself!