It’s always great to come across work that makes you smile, and with the slightly morbid, yet cheeky humour in Stephen Cheetham’s work, it’s hard not to. He obviously has fun doing what he does, but with his eye for clean, simple design, he does it with a fresh and clear panache. We sat down with Stephen to find out more about how he started, and where that sense of humour came from.
Illustration for issue 397 of weekly news magazine, ‘Le Cool’.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came about doing the work you do?
I live in London and work from my bedroom using a laptop and a Wacom. I got into illustration through friends who asked me to do flyers for their parties and gigs. I got a pretty good response and loved doing the work, so kept going. At the beginning I treated it as a hobby, just doing it for the love and freebie gig tickets.
Then gradually I got people asking me to do work in exchange for money so that was a bonus! I studied Product Design at university and tried to get a job as a designer, but that didn’t happen, which I’m now pretty glad about.
What’s your typical process when working on an illustration?
Starting normally involves making a list of ideas. I do keep a sketchbook, but it’s mostly words rather than pictures. Once I have the idea sorted, I may make a very rough sketch and then open a new file in Illustrator and get going. I do my sketching in Illustrator I guess, playing with shapes, moving arms and legs, trying to get the composition right, playing with colours, and hopefully end up with something either me or the client or both are happy with.
Have you always been interested in reduced forms and a graphic look or is it something that’s developed naturally?
I guess it was there from the beginning, although it’s been cleaned up and has become more refined over the years.
Some of your illustrations like your ‘Le Cool’ piece have a hint of dark humour to them. Is this something you like to add yourself or is it just something that crops up in commissions now and then?
Sometimes I get a client who wants to get humour into their commission, but most of the time it’s just me adding it. I can’t really do serious. The ‘Le Cool’ piece was my own doing. It was the first thing I thought of when asked to draw something about London.
We love the characters in your work, are you interested in comics or doing more character-based projects in the future?
Comics are something I want to get into this year, as well as animation. I’m also working on some pretty ‘character-heavy’ personal work at the moment… so I guess the answer’s yes!
Do you have any interesting projects planned for 2012?
I’m taking over the walls of a cafe in Dalston called ‘Tina, We Salute You’ in February. They’ve said I can do whatever I want, which is exciting but also pretty daunting.
© Stephen Cheetham, 2012