Talking to Rob Flowers about his Psychedelic Toy-inspired Illustrations

Rob Flowers channels his love for ghoulish characters, psychedelic colours, and anthropomorphic food into his bright and brilliant work. We asked him a few questions to find out where it all comes from.

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To the backdrop of a hoard of vintage action figures and Happy Meal toys, Rob Flowers creates his illustrations that embody this obvious love for humorous characterisation. There seems to never be a dull moment in his studio nor a dull millimetre in his acidically vibrant images.

We asked Rob a few questions and he talked to us about his process, where he finds his inspiration, and about a few of his past and upcoming projects.

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Please tell us about yourself and the kind of work you do.

My name is Rob Flowers and I’m an illustrator from London. I do mostly character-based stuff with a leaning to the psychedelic.

I spend most of my time either illustrating stuff influenced by some of my favourite things or searching for junk to add to my growing collection of assorted miscellany. Said favourites include medieval bestiaries, Halloween ephemera, folklore and mythology, Sid and Marty Kroftt, clowns, sideshow and circuses and 80s gross-out toys.

Ideally I’d like to live in a land of hamburger patches, milkshake volcanoes and fillet-o-fish lakes.

I usually work with pencil & paper initially, sketching out ideas, I then redraw & colour stuff on the computer. I’ve got a screen printing bed & Riso at my studio so a lot of my stuff is print based.

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How would you describe your illustration style?

It’s always difficult to define exactly but someone once described it as “… trippy, as if you took a whole load of acid, ate too much candyfloss and went on the waltzers at your town’s local fair.

It’s all a bit much, borderline grotesque, but you had a brilliant time”. I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment.

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What are some things that have influenced how you have developed the look of your work?

I’ve always loved toys and amy collection is a big influence on my work. As you might be able to tell from my work, I’ve never really grown up so they’ve always been part of my life.

I’m also really interested in folklore, myth and cryptozoology, it plays a big part in my personal work.

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You have worked on a wide and varied range of projects. What have been some of the most interesting and rewarding things you’ve worked on?

Oh that’s a tough one but I recently did a poster for the ‘Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’ in Cornwall that I really enjoyed drawing. The print features items from the collection so it was great fun to research through the museums amazing archive. 

I’m a huge fan of magic and magical iconography so I was really excited to work on the magic issue of Anorak Magazine. I illustrated the cover and 6 pages inside, all about the history of magic and magicians.

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It’s easy to imagine that your work can be a lot of fun, but what are some of the challenges in what you do?

It’s definitely better than getting a proper job! I think one of the things that you have to learn to cope with, especially when you’re working on a bigger corporate job, is amends and changing your drawings based on feedback.

It’s really easy to get precious about your work but any commission is a collaborative process and that’s a skill you have learn. That and the long hours.

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As someone with a very distinctive aesthetic, what advice would you give to someone trying to develop their own visual character?

It’s really important to be yourself and follow your own interests and passions. All of my personal work is about the things that I’m interested in and (I hope) that shows.

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Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently early on in your career or wish you would have known?

I’ve never been great at selling myself, the whole networking thing. I think it took me a lot longer to establish myself than if I’d been meeting people and getting my face about.

I spent (and still spend) most of my time at the studio drawing, rather than talking to people who can help me further my career but there’s no point doing good work if no one sees it. If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be “get out there and meet people!”

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Are there any exciting new projects on the horizon that we should keep an eye out for?

I’ve got a quite a few things coming up, I’m taking part in an awesome laser cut Ouija board show for Hallowe’en at Beach London, I’m off to Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival as research for a big exhibition in December, I also recently finished a TV ad for Heelys, which should be airing soon and I’ve got some book projects on the horizon thatI can’t say too much about but I’m really excited to working on.

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© Rob Flowers, 2015

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