Home / Art: Talking with Illustrator and Artist Drew Millward

Art: Talking with Illustrator and Artist Drew Millward

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Odds are if you’re wearing a t-shirt with an image created by Drew Millward you’re going to turn some heads. Same goes if you happen to have one of those images on your wall in the form of a print. Drew draws some of the most original and unique images in the poster and design realm, and will only continue to gain more fans and accolades in the future.

What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?

Hmmm, I guess I drew quite a lot when I was young, so I suppose there was some sort of natural aptitude for it, but realistically I didn’t draw anything particularly seriously until I started doing posters for shows we used to put on in Leeds. That was around 2004 or so. We needed to advertise the gigs we were booking, so we made posters. After that I just started drawing, which created more work for me….

What was your first professional work and maybe a quick story behind it?

I honestly can’t remember. I think it was for a poster for a show in London. Probably something Miles of Smiles were putting on. I think they had seen some of my work and just got in touch. I think I got paid about £20 or something, but it did give me a bit of encouragement to try and take it a little more seriously.

Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)

I did have formal training in art. I studied art at GCSE, A-Level and Degree level, but I didn’t really draw at any point. In fact I recall being told that I couldn’t draw when I went for my interview at Leeds Met. In fairness I think they had a point. It was only after degree that I actually started drawing.

Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?

Rotring Isograph Pens
Rotring Technical Pencil
Pentel Pocket Brush
… That is about it. Obviously I occasionally use paints and such, but on a day to day basis that is pretty much my arsenal of weaponry.

How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?

Quite a lot. I’m still very much drawn towards traditional methods of drawing, so I still use ink and pencils, but simply testing out different pens and finding instruments that make the marks I want has led me to working with the stuff I use now. I think for quite some time I worked on cartridge paper with a whole bunch of fine liners. After a while I realized that I could get a much more solid line and a purer black by using ink on velum, so that is pretty much now how I work. It allows me to separate images for screen printing in a much more organic way, and gives me the quality of line that I want.

What is your favorite brand of ink and type of paper?

Rotring ink and any tracing paper above about 90gsm.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?

It’s tricky to answer to be honest. I think when I started out I was always impressed by a lot of the ‘low-brow’ scene, people like Coop, Robert Williams and a lot of stuff that was from the underground comic scene or hot rod stuff. The quality of the work and the subject matter seemed to appeal to me a lot. I think the idea of ‘pop surrealism’ is something that has somewhat stuck with me.

I guess now I’m simply drawn to stuff that has an element of craft to it. An awful lot of contemporary illustration strives to get away from the actual craft of drawing. The past few years have seen a backlash against heavily computer-generated or manipulated imagery, and people seem to have assumed that drawing like a child is somehow the antithesis of that. I like things that can be created by hand, but I also like things to have an element of skill to what is created. People like Jay Ryan and Dan Grzeca who create incredible images that bypass the computer altogether.

In short, I’m struggling to name only a few names….

Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job? Could you give us a quick overview of your process?

Doodle. Sometimes an idea can just simply arrive, other times it can take a long time sitting about and hoping something turns up.
I will usually start out with a very vague doodle. Something that wouldn’t make any sense to anyone but me. From there I will usually overlay with tracing paper and redraw it until I get an image I’m happy with. Eventually it will be inked, scanned, separated, and more often than not, end up being screen printed in some way.

What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?

P.O.S. – Never Better
Nick Cave – (any album really)
Simon and Garfunkel – The Collection
Wolves in the Throne Room – Black Cascade / Two Hunters
Trap Them – Seizures in Barren Praise
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Beware
Mission of Burma – Forget
Sunn 0))) – Monoliths and Dimensions
Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein
Scrotum Grinder – The Greatest Sonic Abomination Ever
Grails – Doomsdayer’s Holiday

What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?

We have just moved house, and for the first time ever I actually have some of my own work up on the walls. I put up my Mogwai poster that is signed by the band…More a memento than a sign of a narcissistic personality.

I think possibly my favorite piece of art I own is Aaron Horkey’s Converge Japan poster. In terms of contemporary illustrators he is pretty much untouchable.

What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?

In truth, I am not a big reader. I think the last novel I read was Everything Is Illuminated which I ended up reading twice while in Holland. Other than that I am working my way through the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, again. Both certainly worth a look at.
I’m actually not that well up on films either at present. I pretty much hate going to the cinema since I usually get irritated by at least one person in the screening and can’t enjoy the film. However, I did watch The Hangover a few weeks back. It was really quite enjoyable. I think the only thing aside from that that I have seen this year at the cinema is Watchmen, which I personally thought was awesome. But I’m a bit of a fan boy. I also recently bought a massive Alfred Hitchcock box set, so going back watching a lot of that stuff has been great.

Current and upcoming projects?

More of the same. More prints, more posters, more clothing… same ol’ same ol’. There are other things that I’m not allowed to talk about too, but they should see the light of day before the end of the year.

What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?

As someone who is still waiting to break through to the next level, I will let them know if it happens, and how it was done.

For more info on Drew Millward go to his website.

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