We first featured Robbie Porter in Now Then in December 2013, our eighth Manchester issue in print. Going back over his website beforehand, it was refreshing to see such a huge amount of art created in less than three years by one man with a very solid work ethic. There is a clear sense of progression in his new pieces, but they still come from the ‘less is more’ school, stripping back an idea to its core and injecting it with a playful sense of humour along the way. Once again, it’s a pleasure to have Robbie’s work on our pages.

How did you get started as a freelancer?

I graduated back in 2008 from a degree in Visual Communication at Leeds College of Art. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t the right course for me. The remit was far too broad and I faffed around doing loads of weird experimental stuff. I made songs by recording the various sounds I could make with my stationary (this sounds cool but really wasn’t) and I even did an entire project on Arnold Schwarzenegger (best grade of my entire degree).

I only realised that I wanted to be an illustrator towards the end of my studies. It was also at this point that I realised I wasn’t very good at drawing, which is ironic because the whole reason I originally went to art school was to learn how to draw. Instead, I had learned how to communicate ideas, and luckily this remains one of the most important aspects of my practice.

After uni I moved back to my home town, Edinburgh, and focused on putting a portfolio together. I had a pretty intense work ethic then. I was basically drawing from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. It probably wasn’t particularly healthy, but I loved it. On reflection, I owe a lot to simply being stubborn and single-minded. I’m not a natural illustrator. I just worked hard and eventually found a process that suited me.

After six months of drawing all the time, I got a job at a printmaking studio and gallery, where I learned a bunch of new skills and got to be around interesting, creative people. I was still working on personal stuff for another year and a half before I started getting commissions. Then I managed to get featured on some blogs, like It’s Nice That, which really kick started my career. I’ve been bumbling along ever since.

What have you been up to since we last featured your work in Now Then?

I actually started keeping a diary a while ago for this exact question. I say diary, but really it’s just a list of what I do every day. Because I work from home, my routine can become very similar and I needed a way to remind myself of what I was doing all the time.

To be a bit more specific though, I moved to London three and a half years ago to do an MA at Camberwell. Since then I’ve worked for some really interesting clients. I’ve also built up a business selling prints and greeting cards and have some cool stockists, including The Barbican, Southbank Centre, ICA, National Theatre and Baltic, to name a few. But, most importantly, I’ve maintained my personal work, which is integral to keeping the fun in what I do.

On a personal note, I’ve visited some incredible places, like Iceland and New Zealand, listened to countless podcasts and watched far too many half-hour comedy shows.

How does a new piece of work begin life?

I guess that depends on if it’s personal work or client work. If it’s editorial, it all starts with reading the article and trying to come up with as many visual reference points. From there, I just try and draw connections between things. The goal is to create something that is more than the sum of its parts, something that communicates and is relatable. One of my favourite illustrators, Craig Frazier, says that good illustration should go from the eye to the mind, then the heart. That’s what I aim for.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2016?

My only other skill is making hummus. I have a personal best record for making a batch in two minutes on the dot. I’d really like to beat that this year.

robbieporter.co.uk

Sam Walby