In talks with: Drew Millward.
Drew Millward is an illustrator based in The Aire Valley, North West Yorkshire. His works are made up from many different dreamy and somewhat fascinating characters and elements, combined with his awesome use of colours and tones. Drew’s work, if stared at for too long, could quite easily take you to some pretty fantastic and curious places. We had an in-depth chat with the man himself about his work, his background and a few things in between…
What’s up Drew, how’s it going today?
Alright. There is a chill in the air that made the walk to the post office quite bracing. In fact, it looks like it’s been snowing, the frost is so thick.
Yeah it’s freezing at the moment! Perfect weather to knuckle down to some work? Can you tell us a bit about how your 2011 went as an illustrator? Any highlights?
The fact that I’m still here, with a roof over my head, and food in the fridge, probably means that it went pretty well. Every day I wake up and realise that I draw pictures for a living, that is a good feeling. Truth be told, I’m unsure as to where 2011 went. Getting out and doing more stuff with The Dead Sea Mob was a fucking blast. Getting to work, and hang out, with a group of artists who you admire and appreciate is pretty damn cool. Other than that, it’s just been a year like many others. About 2 weeks before the end of it me and my wife bought a house and moved to a village. It’s quiet, it has hills and water falls. It’s ace.
That sounds great man, would you say where you live inspires the way you work? What else influences your work and the way you work?
I think it probably does. Although, having always lived in the urban sprawl, I’d always had to escape that to get that. Now, it’s on my door step. Literally. I can fully imagine that it will begin to feed more and more into how I work. It’s a much more relaxed pace of life. Looking out of the window and seeing nice scenery, instead of a neighbours dog shitting in the road, or a police raid on a neighbouring house is quite a change. I would say that I have a pretty wide range of influences. Inspiration can pretty much come from anywhere. I think if you have a blinkered view, or a small pool of inspiration and influence, the work that you will create will likely be pretty stagnant. Ideally, every artist should be able to visually interpret the same subject matter in a different way; I think that is something to strive for. For me, the way I work is born out of a love of the craft of drawing, and discovering my own limitations and abilities. There are things I will probably never be able to do, but I can try to negotiate and visually solve problems, and work within the confines of my abilities. I think that is how you find your own ‘voice’ as an artist.
Earlier on you mentioned the Dead Sea Mob, for those that aren’t familiar, can you tell us about the Mob and what you guys do?
We are a bunch of idiots with pens.
(Above photo see’s The Dead Sea Mob back in 2011. Photo Ed Schofield.)
To the point (excuse the pun), I like it! We saw you painting live a few months ago with the Mob in Brighton, do you enjoy these live working environments or do you prefer to get your head down and work in the studio/home?
It’s swings and roundabouts. I won’t lie and say I love the live environment, I don’t, but I am getting much more comfortable with it. It’s certainly a good skill set to have, and I’m always looking to push what I do. But the truth is, I’m much happier sat alone, at the drawing board, with my choice of music, and a cup of coffee. That makes me sound like a right miserable dick, but I’m not (well, not all the time), but I do think the path of this job is pretty much solitude, long hours and little reward. I’m never sure if people who come and see us draw live really appreciate that. I have a lot of people asking how to get started as an illustrator, and y’know, I never know what to say. I was lucky, and I think a lot of people are lucky, whether they want to admit that or not. But, along with luck, it’s also years of sitting alone, working out the way you want to work, and what you want to create. Perhaps I’ve done that for so long, making work in a public environment feels a little strange to me.
Looking through your work is a real interesting experience, your different characters and creatures combined with the various colors and techniques you use is awesome. I’m particularly enjoying your ‘Flight Of The Concord’s‘ piece, it’s probably a tough question to answer but do you have any personal favourite pieces of work? Perhaps a project that you enjoyed the most?
That’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! Although, in her heart of hearts, she probably knows that one is far better than any of the others, it’s not something she can admit in public. The one thing I have realised over the years is that what I consider to be my strongest and most successful work, is not what everyone really wants. I made a set of two prints back in about 2006, and I get regular emails from people asking where they can get one. That is a real kick in the dick. On the one hand it’s great that people like it, and have seen my work, but on the down side, they seem to think something I did 6/7 years ago was the pinnacle of my achievements. That actually sounds pretty bitter, and it’s not meant to at all. It just highlights the fact that you can’t please everyone. You just need to progress and make work that you are happy to stand by.
Can you tell us how you found your passion in illustration, where it all started?
You know what? I genuinely have no idea. I think it’s something that has developed over many years. I studied art through school, college and university, as it was the only thing I ever showed any promise at, but I didn’t really draw at all. I think I had always admired, and been drawn towards, illustration and commercial art. I kind of admire the craft and honesty that is present in a lot of applied arts. The ability for something to be visually appealing and useful at the same time. I suppose that’s why I was initially drawn towards poster making. When I first started drawing, it was to make flyers and posters for shows we were putting on in Leeds. I suppose I got a lot of inspiration from a lot of the artists involved with that scene, people like Jay Ryan, Art Chantry, Frank Kozik, Coop, and from there, moved along and discovered a lot more artists/illustrators/designers that all fed into and had an effect on the work I produce. I think a lot of the places I find inspiration and things that I really appreciate are within that tradition of illustration and applied arts.
I get the impression music is quite important to you, what are you listening to at the moment?
Right at this moment, I’ve got ‘Trickfuck’ by Blacklisters going on repeat. It’s a right banger! In general though, it varies wildly. I think I’ve got a pretty eclectic taste, and a short attention span, so the day to day playlists span a lot of genres. I do listen to a lot of metal, hardcore, drone and folk, if that helps.
Thanks for talking to us today Drew. What are your plans for the rest of the week?
You are most welcome, I waffled, and I’ll blame the coffee. I’ve got a few shirts and posters to get done, then I’m off to Sheffield on Friday to draw with Tom J. Newell as part of the Pub Scrawl event. Booze and Pens!
Take it easy, speak soon!