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A Magazine for Sheffield

Squink!: Mechanical pencil witchcraft

Sheffield styles being represented again. Squink is another self-employed art cowboy making big noises outside of Sheffield in a unique market - hand-painted custom KidRobot figures. You might be forgiven at this point for thinking painting little models wasn't a way to make a living. This lad is here to prove you wrong. The other half of this feature is on his work away from figures - flat paintings that are anything but - with his characters spawning further towards the ridiculous. There's thousands of artists churning out bad apings of similar styles, neglecting what Squink does best - continuity and attention to detail. If you like the work featured here, you may be lucky enough to still be able to buy it, but with most of his work snapped up and sold before its even finished he's in a privileged position as an artist. Working from the uninterrupted shadowy depths of a Sheffield terrace, he isn't stopping in a hurry. WHAT STARTED YOU DRAWING? I've been into drawing as long as I can remember, so it's really hard to pin the blame on any particular event. If I had to narrow it down I'd say I was heavily motivated to pick up a pencil by cartoons and computer games. There was such a fantastic world inside that little electronic box that sat in the corner. I loved the way those characters lit up my Saturday mornings every week, so it wasn't long before I'd sit drawing them, which distracted me from doing the watching. I think eventually the pencil and paper became the focus of my weekends. I remember I used to get my grandparents to draw me pages full of random shapes, and then I'd add a character to each, trying to utilise the curves they'd drawn for me. I still work in a similar way at times. I think also the art teachers at school were the only ones to offer any kind of encouragement. It was nice to hear "Chris, your drawing isn't bad, keep at it" rather than "Chris, you're absolutely rubbish at Maths, Science, English and PE. You're probably better off just setting fire to yourself and going out in a blaze of glory". In a way, the pencil saved my life, but it's still a fairly flammable item should I change my mind. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF STARTING A NEW PIECE? My work is rarely planned out beforehand. I choose a colour, lay down a background and then just see where my mind takes it. It's always a scary process, knowing that it could be ruined at any moment, but I think that really helps keep things exciting. Making it up as I go along based on feelings and thoughts is probably what I enjoy most. It means everything that gets seen in my paintings is the result of that moment, and not just a painted version of a sketch that's been refined. I'm probably not doing this the right way, whatever the right way is, if there is a right way. I just don't know. I should probably have some coffee or an apple. Possibly both. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IN SPIRATION FROM? Generally speaking, my inspiration comes from the things that surround me - plants, boxes, empty bottles of whiskey. Recently I've been really into the way things around us have been transformed with the addition of concrete structures to a once completely organic landscape. That combination of geometric shapes and the shapes you can only really find in nature is really very interesting. It's like building a tower of pythons around a bush baby and them still somehow managing to get along. This is why you'll see a lot of vines, trees and antler shapes in my work, along with the more geometric elements, because I love that contrast. I was also very inspired by the way Japanese artwork worked its way over here. Initially I took the happy cheery approach with my characters, but more recently I decided to concentrate on what these characters we see in cartoons, comics and Japanese stationery items are like behind the scenes. Are they happy and fulfilled? Or are they all miserable, divorced and suicidal alcoholics? Probably. TOOLS - WHAT DO YOU USE REGULARLY AND WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE? I have a huge collection of ruined brushes, and these are definitely an important tool. Though I know they look ready for the bin, they're perfect for creating washes, rough textures and poking annoying spiders in the face. Having said that, I have a strange love for my mechanical pencil - there's something really amazing about having a pencil that never needs sharpening, and is filled with leads that automatically replace the one that runs out. I get excited just thinking about it. It's witchcraft! HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS? The average day involves waking up, looking at what I was painting at 3am the previous night and sighing, trying to salvage it, then realising I've forgotten to have breakfast. Before I know it, it's 3pm. I go out for coffee and sit alone watching various pensioners going about their business, usually talking about operations or how much they love beetroot toasties. I think if I didn't get out and take a break during the day I would go absolutely insane and start drinking paint and eating my brushes. I often don't know what day of the week it is, stay up until the birds are just waking up and then find it difficult to sleep because work I started earlier in the day is unfinished. I think the daytime has far too many distractions. Once everyone is asleep, the headphones go on and I can really just concentrate on my work, with no danger of mind invasions by Jeremy Kyle or Judge Judy - they'd make a really sweet couple, and Judy would make an amazing cheese pickle sandwich, I'm sure. OUT OF YOUR RECENT WORK, WHICH PIECE HAVE YOU ENJOYED MAKING THE MOST? I'm really enjoying working on the organic cube series of paintings. I think just stepping away from customising toys and that whole scene in general for a while has been really good for me. I'll always love painting vinyl as it's really interesting applying my work to a 3D form, but I think this is more a step back to where I first started. Only now am I giving myself time to appreciate what I can do with a blank piece of paper, something that used to scare me to death. [imagebrowser id=6] HOW HAS YOUR ART EVOLVED OVER TIME? It's definitely becoming less controlled. I think I went through a period after leaving college (after doing Graphic Design for four years) where I was applying more graphic techniques and elements, rather than just letting myself throw the rules aside and do what I wanted. It took me a while to get used to the absolute lack of boundaries. Now that's what I love most about it, though I still occasionally get commissioned work and people ask for something cleaner. I know once it's done I can go back and do whatever I like visually. Now I just don't feel like I'm creating unless my hands, face, knees and neck are covered in paint. HOW HAS ART IN GENERAL CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED? The internet has certainly had a very positive effect on art in general. I've recently seen a steady growth in the number of new illustrators, with these young talents starting to realise that it's now possible to get your work seen worldwide without being part of some exclusive club or just having loads of money to get yourself out there. Unfortunately, because artwork is now so easily accessible, there is also a massive growth in the theft of illustrative work. This is an unfortunate side effect of the huge exposure the internet now grants us. WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? Right now, I'm working on an illustration for an iPhone/iPod app, an insert card for a toy due later in the year, and also trying to organise some form of show for the coming months. ANY TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE MAKING MONEY FROM YOUR ART? DO YOU FIND IT IMPORTANT? It's not easy. I never set out to do this for the money. It's always been about the expression and enjoyment for me. The only advice I could offer is to find a cheap supplier of art materials, be good to people and you will forever be rewarded. If possible find people who are willing to let you sleep on their floor when you can't afford your own place, and will feed you when you can't afford a single dry noodle. I think consistency is important in gaining a fan base, which certainly helps when it comes to survival. Buy basics baked beans. These are very, very important. WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE IN ART? The recent influx of 'artists' doing it because it's 'cool' and because they want a piece of the juicy art peach; artists making a career out of it based on nothing but hype and over confidence - you can see and smell these people a mile off. If someone's heart isn't in it, that really bothers me. WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE IN ART? Invention. I love to see characters and things straight from the minds of the creators - crazy contraptions, fantasy lands and bizarre abstract creatures straight from your dreams. It's like a window into someone else's mind, and I love that. Nothing bores me more than paintings of local landmarks or boats. As much as I like boats, I can see a real one that looks more life-like than your painting. I can't see a three-headed wolfsquirrel with 19 arms making a mushroom pancake. But I really want to. That'd make me smile. GOOD ADVICE YOU WISH YOU'D BEEN TOLD EARLIER? Do what you want to do, not what you think people want you to do. )

Next article in issue 36

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