AW / 19 Box Design | Samuel B. Thorne
50 Screen Printed T-Shirts Offer – Sent in his screen printed illustrated box.
Samuel is a designer and illustrator living and working in London and is hugely inspired by vintage advertisements and cartoons. His distinctive retro style comes loaded with an array of characters that he renders using a distinct mix of cutting edge and classic techniques. He loves to give his characters a unique style, with a colourful and bright palette but a slightly dark personality twist. Even his more cheerful characters seem to be a little menacing at times. Sam’s art is both ferocious and comic.
For the illustrated box design you did for us, you show an array of characters. Where do you get your inspiration from? How many times do you tend to draw a character until it’s right, and also how do you know it is right?
The illustrated box uses all of the designs I created for a personal project entitled “Heads Up!” I often draw a lot of women with 1950s hairdos and wanted to create a series where this was the base illustration which I could build off of. From that point I just drew anything that came to my head, things that I liked to draw and even asked some followers on Instagram what they thought I should draw next. It’s an ongoing project that I don’t think will ever have an end, so long as I don’t run out of ideas!
For these characters most of them just required one sketch to get right as it is easy to get in the flow of it as all the faces are drawn at the same angle. However when I am working on new characters in different poses, they usually require several thumbnail sketches and then anywhere from 2 to 5 pencil drafts before I start inking.
Some characters are a collage of different sketches pieced together from multiple tries, whereas others take form more naturally.
What is your working process like and how has your creative approach changed over the years?
My working process has not changed much in the last 7 years. I sketch everything in coloured pencils, starting very rough and loose before refining. I use a light box to trace over rough sketches and pick out the best lines until the sketch is super refined. Then I use the light box again and trace these lines in ink using a brush pen.
This is then scanned and coloured in Photoshop.
The only thing that has really changed about the process is the speed in which i can finish things. I use Photoshop every day in my day job as a Junior Art Director so colouring and finishing is very quick. I also used to use fine liner pens to achieve perfect line weight, but I realised people thought my work was created using vectors, negating the whole reason i used pen and ink. I changed to a brush pen for a more hand drawn feel and now am proud of the blemishes and imperfections that come with inking.
You’re living and working in London now, have you lived there long enough that it feels like home?
I have been in London for over 5 years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else for the time being. It took a while to work out what parts of the city work for me, but I have fallen into a nice groove where I feel very comfortable with the things I do and the people I do them with.
London is a melting pot of culture, attitude, style and innovation. Do you think there is enough opportunities and support available to artists?
I think I often take London for granted. it has just a huge amount to offer in terms of exhibitions, markets and all manner of other cultural events to keep you inspired. I think there is a huge range of opportunities out there, but I often find that people stop looking for them and expect it to come to them. There are many opportunities but a lot of artists also looking for them, so you have to be assertive and get your foot in the door to make the most of them.
I see you spend most of your day designing for a social media agency. You don’t need 8 hours a day to be an artist, but you do need energy, focus, and drive to create in the time you have. How do you manage your time?
I have been a Junior Art Director for just over a year now at 33Seconds and I have to say it is tough to want to go home and sit at a desk again. Both sides of the coin require the same brainpower and skills, so it can be hard going home from a tough day of problem solving to do the exact same thing at home.
This year I realised I needed to take a step back from freelance and give myself some more free time. This has meant I can spend more time on other hobbies, which in turn inspires and informs my work, so it certainly isn’t time wasted. I am in a fortunate position where my day job pays the bills, meaning I can be discerning with the jobs I take on in my freelance work, a luxury many other cannot afford.
But my advice to people in the same situation would be to listen to your body and your mind, take breaks, allow yourself to rest and don’t beat yourself up about it. Read a book, watch a TV show, play a video game, go back to the things that made you want to create in the first place and come back invigorated and inspired.
Being an artist designer and illustrator, in terms of marketing yourself, what tools, tricks or resources have you found to be the most helpful?
Marketing is a tough job that definitely takes more effort than a lot of people think.
I often have people ask me this question and i feel they think my answer is a bit of a cop out, but you just need to be honest and let the work do the talking. Your portfolio should do 90% of the work, the rest of the 10% is sharing it and putting it in front of people. Social media is of course a great place for this, although the increasing change in algorithms means is hugely frustrating as less people see your work without you putting money behind it, but you should still get your (watermarked) work online on as many platforms as you can. A good, simple website also does the trick.
Stickers for me have been a huge part of my marketing, I have gotten a good few jobs and sales in my online store from people seeing my sticker on lamp posts, in toilets, on public transport…
Physical marketing is definitely still a big win in my eyes, but it does take a bit of time, money and if you are stickering or wheat-pasting, a bit of boldness.
What’s next on the agenda? Have you got any exciting projects or exhibitions lined up for 2020?
As mentioned I am taking a bit of a break, but I have a huge amount of personal projects in my mind that i cannot wait to get stuck into as well as some design work for some bands and a skateboarding store, which to be honest, really is the dream!