Joe Wilson seems to be able to draw just about anything. He morphs together imagery with a sense of realism that comes from both his imagination and his skill with a pen. Following the success of his print for our Hermit Editions Four Floods series, we decided to find out a little more about what makes Joe Wilson tick and unearthed some treasures in his studio space in the process...
Concrete Hermit: Joe, your intricate, accurate drawing style is often imitated but never bettered. How has your style developed through your career so far?
Joe Wilson: I've always been a drawing guy, and it's always been the line that interested me, a lot of my childhood drawings were just pencil or black pen. I spent most of my university time etching so I got really into building up detail, shape and tone with just line-work. I left with a sort of scientific approach to drawing which I've tried to step aside from a bit and bring up to date in my own way. I think it's changed a lot as a product of working commercially as well as wanting to progress to something more original. I seem to have landed in a nice place where I'm happy to sit for a while but it constantly evolves.
CH: Is there any medium or method in particular that you fancy trying out?
JW: I've been doing bits of screen printing since university and it's something I'd love to get more into doing myself. I really like the process of it and I don't often get a chance to get my hands dirty! I like the restraint of using 3 or 4 colours and having to make them really work for the image. Some of my most successful pieces of work are the ones where I have a limited palette so I'm forced to colour things differently, which often feels uncomfortable at the time but seems to look great when I'm done. I should do more of that.
I also love the format of graphic novels as a narrative device. I'd love to draw sequential panels without any words that bring a story together but i find it really hard.
CH: Weapon of choice?
JW: Staedtler Mechanical pencil. Sakura Microns 005 / 01 / 03. Southbank Smooth Paper.
CH: As you do a lot of editorial commissions, visual communication has to be an important element of your creative process. How do you go about researching or forming a new narrative piece?
JW: One of the aspects of the job I find really hard is being particularly clever with ideas. I'm not one of those really communication based illustrators, I hate to say it but I'm really into stuff that looks nice. I'm very wrapped up in the process, and the physical activity of drawing is what I like, and the satisfaction of producing something really beautiful. Its like a sort of therapy for me, total brain engagement and concentration. Obviously you can't avoid communicating something with this job, if I'm illustrating an article that demands something a little more communicative I just try to focus on the main points of it and sum this up as best I can with a concise and hopefully interesting piece of work. I often find the simplest and usually first idea I have is the best way to go, there's a lot to be said for trusting instincts. I have a tendency to over-think which can be a hindrance.
CH: For the Hermit Editions ‘Four Floods’ series, you drew inspiration from the Winnebago tribe and it’s folklore. What else inspires your personal work?
JW: I used to be hugely into drawing animals, I'd draw them constantly and I still love doing so. Particularly birds, there's just something sinister and beautiful about them. I always find myself returning to them for inspiration. Occasionally I come across little sentences or paragraphs, or nuggets of information that can spark a little idea off. It doesn't necessarily always work but I like to collect these thoughts and ideas. There are ideas and sayings and private jokes that I don't want to forget so I try to write them down. I have envelopes from 6 years ago that have some strange scribblings about bizarre bits of late night TV that I just can't get rid of. I don't really know what to call this kind of information, it's mostly useless but it has a hold on me.
CH: Do you have any particular objects or artifacts that you like to collect?
JW: Well, I collect prints and posters, I have some amazing psychedelic Black Light screen prints from the 70s. The black panther print in the photo (see featured image) is incredible and all the black on it is flocked. I'm always on the hunt for little interesting things, I have a large ceramic cheetah at home. Apparently I collect odd bits of furniture which I've never really thought about, but now I'm thinking about it, I guess that's right. I've taken a liking to old cigarette cards recently so I'm thinking this might develop, but insane collecting and hoarding runs in my family so I've got to be careful it doesn't get out of hand.
CH: Some of your most recent pieces have been reworking film posters for cult films. This seems to becoming something of a trend at the moment. It’s great to be able to see the range of creative reinventions from different artists. How do you go about interpreting the films?
JW: I guess each one commands a different approach. I think there's something within the films, a mood and overall feel that I want to put across and keep true to in my posters. I guess the self initiated nature of it means I can try new things without any risk, but it gives me some sort of structure to work within which I quite like. I guess there is an element of jumping on the bandwagon about it, but people hold these films very dear and it's nice to pay respect to that, and people who have bought the work seem to genuinely love it which is nice. I find that it's a good way to interact with people and share my work with a wider audience. I work a lot with Little White Lies magazine so I get to do a lot of film related drawing for them. It's nice to be commissioned for that sort of stuff and I hope the personal interest in the field helps me to produce some of my best work.
CH: So then, tricky question, what’s your favourite film?
JW: Terminator 2 Judgment Day, no question.
CH: Any New Years Resolutions for 2012?
JW: Yes. Do less work for free. Charity and print work excluded. I've helped people out in the past and do the occasional bits for free, and I'm coming to the realisation now that I just don't have time and I'm making extra work for myself which stresses me out. Unless its really cool I'm going to be more vigilant about it this year. One thing I hate is letting people down and when rammed with paid work obviously the free stuff drops off. I reckon the time could be better spent. I think Mr Bingo has something good to say on this front.
CH: And finally, any interesting projects planned for the coming months?
JW: Yes, plenty! Lots of awesome projects on the boil at the moment which I can't say anything about, and a few things coming out this year which I'm really excited about as well. Hopefully I'm going to do some new film posters, the reaction to the Blade Runner and True Grit prints has been really positive. There's potential this year for me to have an excuse to do them more regularly for a specific reason which would be great but you'll have to watch this space for the meantime. I want to expand my online shop a little more and give people the opportunity to buy some of my work both new and old.
See more of Joe Wilson's work here.