BEST OF NEW BRITISH TALENT
If Sam Griffiths’ artworks look as though they’re inspired by faraway places, that’s because they are: “I signed onto my art degree at Stockport College on the way back from the airport, having travelled around the world for the previous two years,” he says.
“I was lucky enough to be classed as a mature student at that point, so getting onto the course wasn’t too difficult.”
With talent like this, we suspect that getting onto the course wouldn’t have been much of a hurdle in any case. Now based in Manchester, Griffiths has worked as a graphic designer for several small companies, including Stoke record label SONS.
“I am currently working with a friend on a brand-new record label and arts project called Mindset, which is doing really well. I’ve had other small illustration commissions that keep me ticking over, but so far I’ve been doing best out of selling work from exhibitions.”
Griffiths’ works are currently touring the country as part of the Association of Illustrators’ touring show – in which he is the top-selling illustrator. He explains how he creates his artworks:
“I work mostly with pen and ink, which I scan in and then manipulate. I never create a full piece before it reaches the computer, so besides pen and ink my materials of choice depend greatly on what I need to achieve. I think the most obscure thing I’ve ever used is florist’s foam soaked in ink, dropped into a fish tank and photographed.”
He then works up these rather imaginative handmade elements on computer. “I don’t use anything particularly exotic,” he says. “Mostly Photoshop and Illustrator for my illustrations but I’m trying to force myself into 3D at the moment. For animation and interactive design I use Flash and a really simple but surprisingly effective 3D vector program called Swift 3D. When I’m feeling brave I’ll also have a go on Dreamweaver.”
Still, he says that the process of becoming established hasn’t been easy. “If you really want to be an artist, be prepared to exercise your patience and don’t get disheartened by rejection. Enter your work into every competition, website showcase and online portfolio that you can.”
This is sage advice from Griffiths: in 2006 he won the Noise Festival online art competition.
Sam Griffiths describes his style as consisting of: “intricate silhouettes and hand-drawn details, blended into organized chaos,” adding that he is inspired by “pretty much everything – although I suppose what crops up most in my work is reference to architecture and eastern culture.” His background in engineering helps with creating his intensely detailed pieces.
BEST OF NEW BRITISH TALENT
Eight out of ten creatives will cite music, films and love as their inspiration. Not Sean Freeman. “Often Tesco is a great place to wander around and think, ‘Hmmm, could I do something cool with jelly?’” he says.
“Then it’s just a case of thinking about what could be done and whether it would actually look any good.” Freeman’s works evade description – ethereal and wispy, it’s as hard to tell how they’re put together as it is to put a clear label on them.
Even Freeman doesn’t seem entirely certain: “I guess I produce sort of semi-photographic type treatments and illustrations,” he says. “I’ve used all sorts of materials, and I’m constantly looking for more – I’ve used things like food colouring in water (cheaper than ink), a combination of hair gel and acrylic paint, my tongue, flour… It’s then photographed and brought into Photoshop.”
The result is unlike almost everything else that’s out there – and Freeman says that this is part of the intention, as he deliberately insulates himself from the illustration scene in general.
“Don’t spend too long looking at other people’s work,” he recommends. “For me it can serve as a creative killer – you see so much awesome work and you end up thinking it’s all been done. I say do what you want, worry about who else is doing it later.”
Clearly, plenty of people think his approach works: although he’s been out in the post-university world for less than two years, Freeman has won himself a tidy list of clients, including Harper Collins, Esquire, The New York Times magazine, VH1 and Bon.
He now freelances and accepts personal commissions from his home in Kings Cross, London, and is searching for ways to make his work even more unique.
“Together with my brother, I’m looking into using a coding program, enabling us to produce some quite interesting pieces,” he says, enigmatically.
Freeman started illustrating in earnest at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College where he realized that although he was studying Graphic Design & Advertising, he was funnelling his energies into the graphic design aspect of the course, and particularly illustration.