I love geometry, colour, depth and simplicity when it comes to illustrations – have a look at these or these. Yet simple textural designs, storytelling & dense atmospheres don’t always go hand in hand. My newest interview partner got all bases covered, though. Mark Boardman is a Bristol-based illustrator who divides his work between editorial and advertising commissions as well as his many exciting freelance projects. I dropped him a line and had a chat about the perks of working with various media, the influence of literature, scouting locations on google.maps and yeah, heavy metal.
Hi Mark! What have you been up to lately? At the moment I’m working on a lot of new portfolio pieces. I’m trying to push myself technically while putting together a collection of work that’s attractive to prospective clients. Often if I’m left to my own devices I’ll end up producing illustrations that don’t have a great deal of commercial value so it’s good for me to refocus on commercial subject matter every now and again.
You were shifting from traditional oil painting over to digital illustration in the last few years. How come? And what’s the perks and downsides of both mediums? The main reason that I switched to working completely digitally is that I honestly just enjoy it more. I love the way digital pieces look but I also really value being able to work quickly and put an idea down without the technical side of producing an artwork getting in the way. The worst thing is having a great idea for a piece but getting bored half way through the actual painting process.
When I first started getting commissions as an illustrator I found that the speed at which finished work was required by the client was just too much for my skill level at the time, so switching to digital made sense if I was going to make clients happy to work with me in the future.
I actually started working digitally before taking up painting so making the decision to switch back was more like coming home than committing to a new skill set. Hopefully the techniques I learned while painting in the interim come through now.
Let’s talk about your creative influences! Where do you draw inspiration from? I’m mostly inspired by the little mundane bits of life. I could probably spend the rest of my life drawing empty petrol stations, radiators and roads. Luckily this makes inspiration pretty easy to come by.
Any dream client or project or industry you’d love to be working with design-wise? I’d love to write and illustrate some sort of narrative project; maybe a short graphic novel or even a children’s book. Turns out writing is a lot harder than drawing pictures so I haven’t quite got there yet.
With a portfolio that has a strong narrative edge and features cover designs for various novels – I’m in love the one for The Shiralee! – do you have a personal connection to literature? Any new book illustrations in the making? Reading is one of my favourite things to do and I always feel like I should be doing more of it. I’m currently on a bit of a non-fiction kick trying to learn more about how the world works so I’m enjoying Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. I’m also a big Murakami fan as well as a bunch of the Russian greats like Gogol and Dostoyevsky. Book cover illustrations are some of my favourite projects to work on. Interpreting and distilling a vast, complex work into one image is always a fun challenge.
You say you dig heavy metal. Just for your free time or also when you’re working on a piece? What’s on your work playlist right now? Other than podcasts heavy metal is my constant working background noise as well as my free time easy listening. The energy is great to get things moving first thing in the morning and I find the noise is also good to settle into a good working state of concentration. My playlist currently includes New Zealand band Beastwars, High on Fire, The Melvins, Inter Arma and Clutch.
An on-going project of yours is ‘illustrations of random places on google.maps’. How did that come about and how do you pick your locations? The Google Maps project is simply a good way to give myself something to constantly work on. I know that if I have a couple of hours to fill during the day there’s always a little landscape I can do there. I use MapCrunch to give me a random street view to work from. At the beginning I tried to go with the first result given but at this point nearly fifty illustrations in I do reroll until I get something a bit interesting.
Thanks very much for the chat!
Find more of Mark’s illustrations & get in touch on social media!