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A Magazine for Sheffield

Jim Spendlove: A Timeless Vision, Rooted In Nowness

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Photo by Jim Spendlove


In case you hadn't heard, Now Then is turning ten and Abbeydale Brewery are honouring the occasion with a brand new beer, with label designed by this month's featured artist, Jim Spendlove.

Jim's work achieves that rare feat of managing to be genuinely good fun to look at, whilst also remaining serene and decidedly meditative. If the old Zen painters of Japan were around today - raised on Wu Tang Clan and comic books, living in the inner city - perhaps their vision would not be too dissimilar to what you see on these pages.

In your work there's often a mixing of the natural and the inner city. What does the juxtaposition of the two mean to you?

The crossover of the two is a fundamental part of my work and is something that has featured in even my earliest pieces. The juxtaposition of these two elements represents the importance of maintaining a human connection with nature in a society that is becoming progressively urbanised. As a city dweller myself, I feel that establishing a connection to the natural world is particularly important for me.

It's clear that hip-hop culture plays a big part in your art. Would you say it informs your approach to style, as well as your choice of subject matter?

Hip-hop culture definitely informs my style of illustration, which is evident throughout my work. The street-style clothing that is worn by the characters, which I use to portray an inner city theme, is a product of hip-hop culture. Growing up, I loved reading and drawing from comics and also had an interest in graffiti art. These interests resulted in a crossover between the two styles. I was always interested in the characters that accompanied the lettering.

Hip-hop culture definitely informs my style of illustration

This is where my style of work really originated from and still features across my practice now. Album art, particularly 90s hip-hop art, has also played a big part in shaping my work. GZA's Liquid Swords cover and MF DOOM's Doomsday cover are pieces that first sparked an interest in cover art for me. Newer album artwork, for example Milo's cover for A Toothpaste Suburb, continues to influence my style. I feel that my style of illustration is particularly well-suited to cover art, which is probably why I enjoy it so much.

You've designed the label for Abbeydale Brewery's Citizen ale, which celebrates Now Then reaching its tenth anniversary. How do you feel your design embodies the ethos of both the brewery and the magazine?

As with all the characters in my work that feature growing plants, there is a theme of personal growth in this design. Abbeydale Brewery maintains its traditional roots whilst still having a progressive and forward-thinking view on their brand and products. Now Then is celebrating its tenth year anniversary, so I thought this would be a fitting piece.

Would you say commissioned work is more or less challenging than your own personal work, where your imagination is free to wander away from any particular task?

Usually, commissioned work is less challenging than my own personal work. When creating a piece of personal work, there are numerous challenges that I face. Experimenting with different ideas and the process of then refining these ideas are probably the biggest of these challenges. Throughout my time studying Fine Art at degree level, I was taught about the process and the importance of critically examining my own work. Although this can be a challenging part of creating personal pieces, it helps to ensure that the message being portrayed to the viewer is the intended one.

When working on commissioned pieces, the most difficult part is portraying the image that the commissioner has in their head.

What's next for you?

I've been working on another piece with Abbeydale Brewery which is due to be released later in the year, so that's one to watch out for. I've also started a year-long collaboration with Chillhop Records that will run through the rest of 2018 and throughout 2019, which I hope will present some exciting opportunities.

Liam Casey

Next article in issue 128

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