This week, I had the opportunity to talk with artist, illustrator, and student, Joe Lillington. Joe is one of the many artists in the Rolemodels: The Battle for Vyk' Tornaahl exhibition, and has contributed works in several past Light Grey shows, such as Station Zero, Macro + Micro, and SMART. Hailing from London as a current illustration student at Falmouth University, Joe spends most of his time working on his studies and freelance, as well as collaborating with his fellow artists and friends on a zine collaborative called Fold. In the interview, Joe shares his thoughts and inspirations of childhood fairytales, collaboration, and his own personal rolemodels!
Can you talk about your process? What mediums to you tend to use the most, or absolutely cannot work without?
At the moment, the medium I use the most is digital, but to work that way I need scanned textures and marks made using painting and printmaking to give a bit more personality to the work. I also usually do the line work with pencil because it’s feels more natural and I think it stops things from getting too neat. Previously I was doing a lot of gouache painting, which is a medium I like to pair with my digital work.
It looks like you are currently working on a children's book! Can you talk a little bit about your own childhood adventures, dreams, or ambitions? Who are some heroes from your childhood that have continued to inspire you to this day?
The type of story I liked when I was younger are similar to the stories I like now. I especially liked Fantastic Mr Fox (I listened to the audiobook every night for a very long time), Asterix and The Hobbit which I still find inspiring and fun. I think these stories feed my interest in creating children’s books now, I want to make an interesting story set in a fun and engaging world.
Your work tends to invoke the style of a fairytale, and includes fantastical obstacles such as dragons and heavily guarded castles. How do you overcome everyday obstacles, especially when it comes to being a current art student?
I think you just have to stay calm and not get too stressed about things, even if there’s lots to do or a problem with something. I make lots of to do lists to keep track of everything on post it notes, and if I'm really stuck I take a break and play a game or something.
You are part of a collaborative called Fold which includes you and a few other students from your university. Can you tell us about this collaborative and what it is you all do? Do each of you have different roles, or do you all work together to devise new ideas?
Currently the Fold zine is a bit like a game of Chinese whispers. The first person is given a piece of text, which they use as a starting point to create an image. The second person then creates an image inspired by the first person’s image, without seeing the text. The second person then passes their illustration to the next person… and so on. We only see all the illustrations put together at the very end. We all work together to push new ideas and think of new content and developments for the zine, but also have certain jobs behind the scenes.
Are you continuously trying to network with other artists? Do you feel that a sense of community and collaboration helps motivate you to work harder and take on larger projects? Do you have any teachers or mentors that have inspired you or pushed you a long the way?
I like working around other people because it’s good to be able to bounce ideas. . .if you work by yourself and without any contact, I think your work suffers. I’m currently working with my friend Birdie Cheeseman on LillingtonCheese, creating collaborative artworks and an online shop.
Do you have any current role models of your own? Who are some of your favorite artistic influences and how have they continued to inspire you to keep creating?
I’m really inspired by older artists like Brueghel, as well as Medieval Manuscripts and woodblock prints. I like work that has a strong sense of place with lots of details. There are also tons of illustrators whose work I really admire, it’s good to see when other illustrators/artists are producing lots of work because it inspires me to do lots to keep up!
To see more of his work, you can find his website here. For process and sketches, check out his blog, and catch up with Fold Zine for zine giveaways! You can also purchase a print of his piece on the Light Grey Art Lab Shop.
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