interview: kelly dyson

Kelly Dyson Self Portrait Illustration When I first stumbled upon the work of Kelly Dyson I was in awe. The magical, emotional view of his characters reminded me of a darker Alice in Wonderland ... as if it weren't dark enough. His use of grunge and splatter textures are refined and not overpowering to the main focus of his illustrations. So when he told me he would love to do this interview I was delighted. Please enjoy.

1 - I love your style. When did you first become interested in design/illustration?

Thanks. I guess I was interested in drawing from a pretty young age. I have memories of doing drawings in junior school and the whole class standing around my table saying how great my drawing was... I never made the link between drawing and illustration though, so when I left school I went on to mostly irrelevant courses, worked in factories, in care, etc. Eventually I landed a lucky job through a friend to do drawings for a leaflet he was doing - through that I realised that there was a whole world of people out there who do this illustration thing for a living. That's when I first became interested in illustration as a profession as separate from drawing as a hobby I guess.

2 - What is your background in art and design and what made you become a designer/illustrator?

I have a degree in photography which at the time felt like there was a point to it, but when I finished I didn't really pick up a camera in the same way again. My passion for many years has been creating music rather than anything visual. Why did I become an illustrator... initially because it seemed absurd that I could get paid for drawing I guess and it's a nice clean job that doesn't involve wiping bums or getting verbally abused by naughty kids or anything like that. It's taken about three or four years for me to develop an aesthetic that I feel is getting somewhere and to be able to say that I'm doing it because it feels good.

Kelly Dyson Tree Hair Illustration

3 - Who or what would you say has the biggest influence on the work you're doing?

Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Mount Eerie, Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc pretty much on shuffle all day long. Illustration? I really don't know. It's only recently that I've started bookmarking other illustrators websites and feeling excited about stuff to be honest. I don't know the name of any illustrators or designers off the top of my head and I don't really spend much time thinking about it. But I could name you loads of bands or poets or authors, but I couldn't honestly say that they had influenced my illustration work. Maybe that's why I feel like a bit of a fraud when it comes to illustration. I never trained at it and never really built at it. I really want to produce something meaningful but have to keep producing commercial work to pay my debts. So it goes.

4 - What tools do you normally use for a project from start to finish?

Straightforward stuff - if it's a regular commission then I'll start sketching ideas with pencils, then once a rough is agreed I'll try to do the whole thing properly with pencil, then scan it and do all the lines in Illustrator. This is what takes me ages - I create all my lines with the pen tool in illustrator. I mean I actually make the appearance of an inked line by creating a shape. It takes me a long, long time but I haven't figured out a way of getting a better line yet. I've recently invested in real pen and inks, but I'm still experimenting with them. I bought Corel Painter not too long ago, but I haven't had much time to play with it, so for the time being I'm stuck with the pen tool in Illustrator. From there I copy the 'inked' illustration into Photoshop and usually colour it with shape layers and muck about with transparency, layer effects, etc until I'm happy with the finished thing.

Kelly Dyson Garland Illustration

5 - What has been your favorite project you've worked on, and what has been the hardest?

That's a difficult one to answer. Without a doubt, my favourite and most challenging project has been the most recent album we've just recorded. It's the first time we have worked with a producer - do you know Adem? He's worked with us in the studio and really pushed us to create something that we wouldn't have forced out by ourselves.

As far as illustration is concerned, my favourite projects are self initiated work. When you have a quiet spell as a freelancer you get the opportunity to create work for the hell of it and you feel your work developing from day to day. Then when the work starts coming in again, you are asked to produce illustrations at very short notice to strict deadlines and so you don't get chance to mess around - you have to go with what you know just to get it done on time and to budget. I don't think that commercial commissions are the right place to experiment and have fun. That's until the next quiet spell when you can start playing again :)

6 - How would you say being a designer influences your life? Do you feel you have a different perspective on things around you?

Sometimes. Sometimes you feel really 'tuned in' to what you are doing, you have about five projects on the go and just walking down to the shops you start seeing 'hidden meanings' or messages (that probably don't exist) in advertising boards, juxtaposition of banal objects, poetry in things people say, that kind of stuff and you jot it all down and it feels great and that's what it's all about. On the other hand, most of the time you can be worrying about paying the bills or where the next job is coming from and that puts an abrupt end to creative thinking eh.

Kelly Dyson Polar Bear Illustration

7 - How do you spend your spare time?

I don't seem to have very much of it, but when I do I play with my band, I'm in a mountain rescue team, I like cooking vegan food, drinking in the local pub with friends then staying up all night on the Playstation, I take my dog for a walk, chill out with my girlfriend, run in the Peak District, do a bit of hillwalking, waste hours browsing crap on the internet, that kind of thing. I've recently started drawing in a Moleskine sketchbook for fun.

8 - What are your five favorite sites you visit?

9 - What is the meaning behind the name of you site "don't wake me up"?

It's the name of an album by the Microphones.

10 - Thanks for taking the time to participate. Do you have any last words of inspiration or a favorite quote?

I don't know, there are so many amazing words out there to quote but they wont mean anything out of context and part of the fun is finding them for yourself :)

Kelly Dyson Feral Illustration

Kelly Dyson Sleeping Rabbit Illustration

The commercial side of Kelly's work is more lighthearted and kid friendly.

Kelly Dyson Health Service Journal Illustration

Kelly Dyson Commercial Illustrations

Kelly is also in a band, Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love.

Kelly Dyson Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love

For even more Kelly Dyson: Don't Wake Me Up Kelly Dyson Illustration 20 questions with Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love Official Site