1 Thirty years ago…! Jill and I were living in her lovely converted Victorian end of terrace shop near Highbury Fields, Islington. We were both 41 and had been together for close to ten years. Our children were 15, 6 and four years old. I was busy and earning a reasonable living. My work was appearing in many publications, helped by the exposure given to it by a very nice and brilliant art director called Martin Colyer that I had accosted at The Listener and then The Observer magazine. (I’m looking right now at a brief of February 1988 to produce a map and a series of drawings for an internal brochure on the occasion of the move to the Marco Polo building). We were able that Christmas to take our family for a memorable first visit to Chile.
2 I had studied three years of architecture in Chile but left college to work as an illustrator, something I had been training myself to do since childhood. After meeting Jill on my first trip to Europe in 1978, I decided to re-start in the UK and soon I was walking the streets of London with blind, foolish, bullet-proof confidence and a growing portfolio, slowly getting to be well-known.
3 The energy, the innocence and trust common to all of us then young artists, the friendly and enthusiastic reception from people like you, the excitement of seeing one’s work in print and the incredulity at making a living with it.
4 Requirements are still varied and have expanded. The need for expressive images in all fields of graphics is undiminished. Even with the development of computers in between, now as then, media needs talented people who can graphically synthesise texts, issues and ideas. Oscillating between retrograde to enquiring fashions change, but it’s still as much of a challenge to produce such kind of work with electronic tools as it is with more traditional media. As always, the artists – illustrators and designers – are the ones who make things boring or exciting.
5 It has to be two. Editorially, the years-worth of weekly commissions for Simon Hoggart’s column in The Observer colour magazine. Sustained projects give one a chance to know what kind of artist you can be. Even though BIG BABY, a picture book published by Walker’s with my drawings sank without a trace, as children’s book illustrator it was going to be hard to match the excitement of a first published collaboration.
[Optional!] These days of painful cold turkey make me realise I’ve been a commission junkie all my life. Anything pressing on the go?
1 In 1988 it still felt like early days in my illustration career. I’d graduated from the RCA, and I was teaching drawing a day a week at St Martin’s and in my own work I was experimenting with different ways to work, using collage, very basic printmaking. Illustration was going through a golden age, really flourishing, lots of illustration everywhere, packaging and glossy reports, and lots of visual experimentation from lots of people.
2 Illustration at the RCA was very drawing-based, both in the studio and on location. For me, it was the best way to develop my work. I’ve always been passionate about drawing, and it has always been a central part of my work, it’s so fundamental, so vital.
3 The late 80s was such a creative time for illustration and illustration was so widely used at the time. I remember walking around a supermarket and being astonished by the beautifully illustrated teas, coffee, wine labels, biscuit packets. It was everywhere.
4 I think there has been a shift in image making since the 80s; digital work has made a huge change and drawing has lost some of its importance. I think it will make a return just as the ‘crafts’ are reappearing, knitting, weaving, linocutting as a reaction to our digital world.
5 In the 80s, I began travelling and drawing around the world, and it was thrilling & fascinating. I’m still curious and eager to see and show more of the world I see. I worked with Qantas for about 18 months and travelled a lot in Asia and the Pacific. It was such a good education! I want to see more and draw more and show people what I see.
Chris’ work has never lost its sense of zing and pleasure, and we worked together at most of my magazine jobs. You can find a selection of his ever-vibrant work here.