Bradford, why the sad face?  

Dear beloved Bradford, 

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My name’s Glenn and I live in you. I live in you and I draw things. They’re like 99% black and white. Nay colour. I don’t tend to draw happy things, if at all.  Sad stuff is kinda my schtick. I just went that way with it when I was figuring out my voice as an artist. It mostly fits with the way I am, I’ve always been full of doubts about myself, so taking this stance with my artistic response made the most sense.  

Why the sad face, Bradford? 

I know you might be disappointed that a more optimistic artist hasn’t become of me. It’s not really your fault. It’s me who wrecked my own degree and had to come back to live here without a plan or set of skills I feel I could use in life. It’s not your fault I had to spend a few years drifting listlessly through jobs I knew I wouldn’t be able stick to. For a long time, a fulfilling career for me seemed to be a laughable concept. Anyone living anywhere would grow rather despondent in that situation I think. When I was finally ready to get back into my art, I had developed all this pessimism about myself and my place in the world. A mentality entirely of my own making. Though I don’t always feel like that, I have found it more practical to simply channel negative thoughts into my art rather than ignore or try to fight them.  

I know it might hurt you to know that I’ve been able to use you as the perfect backdrop for my sad themes. The way I present you doesn’t put you in the best of light. I appreciate that sometimes the sun does shine in Bradford, that sometimes people are happy here. Sometimes even I’m happy here! But I haven’t had much chance to get out of Bradford much since I started my career, so understand it might look like I’m picking on you a bit. I don’t mean to make you the particular focus of all the sadness in the universe. As I begin to expand my horizons a bit, I will be able to set my sights on other places & things. The challenge I have set myself as an artist is to respond to the whole world from this rather bleak viewpoint.  

Please don’t feel sorry for yourself! If there’s happiness anywhere I am likely to ignore it for the purposes of my work. What I choose to depict while wearing my dour-tinted spectacles is an honest account of what I see, but I’m aware that it’s an entirely subjective way of viewing things. The negative vibes are there to be felt, but please don’t think of my portrait of you as being truly reflective of who you are and what you’re about.  

Kindest regards, 

Glenn “hustler-by-name” Hustler. 

PS: There’s plenty of sadness in the world for me to draw on. If you were to become a more confident and vibrant version of yourself don’t feel like you’d be putting me out. You shouldn’t feel like you have to be the very worst you can be on my account! You have my full permission to use some deodorant and brush your teeth occasionally.

Finding my artistic style and voice.

How does one find one’s artistic style and voice as an artist? This is a question I am never asked. It doesn’t seem to be a pressing issue for folk where I live in Bradford, so I have never really thought about it… 

Until now. 

Looking back on when I started, I feel that once I got going with my drawing, finding a visual style actually came quite naturally. It was getting to the point where I was working regularly that was less straight forward. You have to be drawing to have a style of drawing, and if you’re not doing that, then you can forget it. 

In last week’s blog, I talked about how, after my studies, I got off to a blazing start in my illustration career by quitting art altogether. I bitterly regret the wasted time and ruined opportunities to learn and grow as a person at university. It should have been the ideal time to develop my artistic style. Instead, I let my personal hang ups about the corporate heavy content of the course get to me and dictate my inadequate responses to the design problems I was presented with. If I had a time machine, I would go back and slap myself. “You blithering idiot!” I’d bellow in the stupid, confused face of myself; “You can’t lose any personal dignity points here, because nothing you’re been asked to do is even real! So get the fuck over yourself and learn something! You absolute cunt-nugget” (I have thought a lot about what I’d say to myself. I await the invention of a time machine with baited breath) 

 So what was it, dear reader, that got me back in the game? After 3 years of full time work at the pub chain Wetherspoons, I simply realized one day that, deep down, I still really wanted to be an illustrator. Also, it was abundantly clear to me that I probably wouldn’t be able to get it going while I was still there. I didn’t find it to be the most creatively fulfilling environment to be in. There are no cultural happenings there, and seldom the need for a man of my skills round those parts. So, late in 2012 I made a sideways step into another bar, just up the road,  a quirky live music venue called Delius. I did so fully aware that I’d be called upon to be the “art man” for all the venue’s arty-farty needs. I assumed that mainly would entail gig posters, but I went on to also produce work for the food and drink menus, flyers, chalkboards, fresh reworkings of the pub logo, website art, pub murals, staff t-shirts. A visual style, as I mentioned, came from these endeavors quite naturally. I was always working on something, and didn’t really have the time between bar shifts to think too deeply about how I did it. I feel like it wasn’t too dissimilar to how a person’s handwriting might develop. I just drew the way I felt comfortable drawing, which turned out to be in a cartoony way. I grew rather fussy with the detail, because I liked to draw things that made ordinary people, usually the pub’s punters who might not necessarily appreciate art, at least acknowledge my efforts. I didn’t have much time to muck about experimenting with mark making so I relied on the traditional pen for my line work, which was easy to replicate digitally using a tablet. Pens were the ideal tool for adding the detail I craved. I found I liked to draw with an imperfect line that varies in thickness, not too much to look totally nervous, but enough to notice.  

I had my visual look! I felt empowered to start thinking about what I might produce as an artist, but the question of what to draw made me realize that I’d only answered half the question: I had the style, but what about the substance? I had long admired the work of Jeremyville, Gemma Correll,  Mr Heggie and Joe Sacco. Each had a solidly established style and voice of their own. To view their work was both a joy and a torture for me. There were aspects of all their work that I dearly wished I had in mine. I will take them each in turn: 

Jeremyville. 

I loved this guy’s ‘free flowing’ style & how he was sometimes able to work directly on the canvas without sketching out his work first. His witty combinations of text and image was always a glorious thing, words and pictures filling the whole visible area, something new to grab your eye at every turn. His work seemed to me to be rich tapestries of comic art and observation. His art reveals him to be a thoroughly optimistic person.

Gemma Correll. 

I’m sure Gemma was probably on my radar at least as early as 2009, because I’ve followed her meteoric rise as a professional artist since we both graduated at a similar time. Her work is very heavy in it’s use of puns & pugs and never fails to make me smile. What I admired most though, was the candid way she includes her own personal neurosis in comics featuring herself. Her social anxiety is laid bare in what feels like a refreshingly honest account of one aspect of the human experience that most will relate to. Her minimalist drawing style is used to present jokes straight to the point and help reveal in a single viewing, the quirky personality behind the art.  

Mr Heggie. 

I first became aware of this fellow through his work for the rapper Scroobius Pip. His striking black and white work oozes attitude and coolness on a level I never knew existed, regularly making references to popular culture in a deliciously subversive manner. Even just glimpsing his work makes me feel like I might be a dangerous rebel at heart. Since I might well be the most boring person on the planet, this is a remarkable achievement. I actually met him once in Leeds when B dolan and Scroobius Pip had a gig. He seemed nice and gave me some solid advice on designing work for t-shirt prints.  

Joe Sacco. 

Joe Sacco is a journalist and cartoon person. I’ve been reading his work since I was ruining my art degree. His technical skill and evident patience in his work is mind boggling to behold. Added to that, the level of  personal bravery and social skills he makes use of in the gathering of his stories is something I don’t presume to be able to reach in this lifetime. From him I learned that political thought can be presented in visually interesting and entertaining ways. The depth of his research, in combination with his sensitive handling of any subject matter, mean I am always totally absorbed in his work. 

As I thought about my own voice as artist, these 4 were the main sources of inspiration for me in helping me figure out who I was and how I might best be able to project my own personality into my work. Jeremyville helped me to realise that I too, could be witty at times, but in contrast to his optimistic stance, I would need to highlight my own pessimism. Gemma Correll helped me embrace my own neurosis within, that doubts about yourself can be turned into wonderfully engaging work with which people can relate. Mr Heggie gave me the confidence to rebel, albeit, in my own way. (Healthy doses of attitude and general coolness are not my forte.)  And finally, last but by no means least, Joe Sacco stands as a titan, reminding me that persistent hard work and careful sensitivity towards tough subject matter pays off. 

Anyway, I should probably stop typing and get some more drawing done!  

Ciao!

How I started my illustration career.

I wasn’t always a middling/average doodler doing my thing in desperate, sporadic bursts, whenever the crushing stress of financial oblivion hanging over my head clears just long enough to allow me to think.

No!
I was once far less successful than that, let me tell you!

Back when I was young and slightly more optimistic, I went to Uni in Sunderland. Though I didn’t fully realise it, I was a complete wreck as a student and as a general human being. Professionally speaking, I wasn’t anywhere near to being a professional. I had no artistic style to call my own. I didn’t know what subject matter I should be drawing about. Even if I did, I didn’t know how to find people to pay me to do such things.

Added to all that, I couldn’t engage with the course material, which lurched from the banal (Here’s a colouring pencil and this is what happens when it is used on paper) to insipid and bereft of all basic humanity. (Your next project is a mural design for the lobby of a financial institution in London that is basically the source of all evil in the universe) That project in particular, marked a low point in my feelings towards illustration as a viable career path. It asked a room full of mostly young, bright & thoughtful aspiring illustrators, the people who are hoping to one day use their brains to grapple with visual ideas in a clever and engaging ways, to answer the question of how to present the publicly stated aims of KPMG.

I remember seeing in the design brief, terms being thrown around like “unlimited growth” and “endless happiness” that is supposed to come as a result of the activities of a bunch of cunts in suits.

“KPMG”. I only had vague feelings of unease about who they were and what they were all about. I remember googling them at the time but only finding all the nice things they said about themselves. I was never convinced by it. In the years since, It turns out that the company looks to have had a hand in helping the U.K government put it’s tax laws together, and then gone on to have offered it’s intimate knowledge and expertise in such matters to the richest companies in the world in order to help them best avoid having to contribute to our system, while the rest of us increasingly wonder how long it’ll be till we get to see a doctor the next time we’re Ill. Today, if you google “kpmg” and a negative word, like “corruption”, “fined” or  “evil”, you’ll find loads of stories about what they’ve been up to. Lovely bunch they are.

Though i didnt know all that at the time, it still made me question what I was being asked to do in a big way. Some sort of financial crash was unfolding, summat to do with the markets and all that shit. Though it was still early days and none of us really knew how big an event it was or how wide reaching it’s consequences would be, there was a clear sense that bankers, and financial services generally were populated by utter scum. So, Make KPMG look really good you say? Why? Do I have a choice? Can I use my own, admittedly limited mind and say what I want about stuff? I thought that’s what being an artist was all about? Isn’t there a different project I can choose to do instead? Nope. There was nothing for it. The message was clear to us all: to be a professional artist in this day and age means you have to find the most creative way to make the worst people in the world look better. Fuck your personal sensibilities.

Christ.

I just couldn’t do it. I fluffed the module and had to pay to do it again the following year through gritted teeth. In hindsight, I realise I should have just quit university. I kind of knew I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the experience, but I was too cowardly to make such a bold step into something else, whatever that might have been. I still wanted to be an illustrator and so I ended up drifting listlessly through the course, my hope gradually fading that there’d be something in it that would grab me at some point, but it never did.

My attitude towards the course material and my shoddy work ethic meant that my tutor, no doubt in a state of constant despair at my poor showing, couldn’t see a single solitary reason why I was there at all, & she never encouraged me to take it further in life.

So, after much thought, upon leaving the loving bosom of University life and venturing into the real world, I quit illustration.
Well, everybody’s got to start somewhere.

New stuff!

New prints incoming!
2 new Illustrated prints on 300gsm white recycled board – both come signed as a limited edition of 25.

1 – “My Critics” Buy here!
A short comic about how I feel about criticism depending on where it originates – £40 each!

MY CRITICS quickview - New stuff!

2 – “The amazing spectacle of two men trying to knock each other unconscious” Buy here!
A spoof Mayweather vs Mcgregor poster – only £15 each! (I’m aware it’s topicaliness will wane over time)

mayweather vs mcgregor circus poster quick - New stuff!