Monday 2 February 2009

BUG recently discovered that one of the most promising young illustrators in the UK resided in Bristol, so we had to track him down for a chat. Dave Bain came to Bristol via Falmouth and has been steadily building interest in his incredible work, a mix of medias and styles that are always infused with a bucketful of charm and creativity. His alternative illustrations for a range of classic novels can be found at his exhibition Cover It Up! debuting at The Folk House from Friday 6th February to Friday 6th March.

B: What is Dave Bain?

D: First and foremost, I’m an illustrator, living in Bristol. For me, Illustration is finding solutions using pictures. I’m given, or create, a theme, idea or story and then figure out the best way to depict that with an image. I also love being involved with broader creative projects, working alongside other artists. I’ve just taken on the running of exhibitions at Tobacco Factory CafĂ©/Bar and Grain Barge (Hotwells). Already, a team of eight artists, including myself, have added fun, sea-themed murals to parts of the Grain Barge. These are going to develop and be added to, by other art collectives, over the next year or so.

B: When did you start to draw?

D: ‘Art’ was always my favourite subject at school and I’ve memories of spending hours trying to draw faces from photographs, when I was a teenager. This really took off at Falmouth College of Arts, where I had fantastic tutors who introduced me to a vast and eclectic range of drawing methods. Drawing is a form of learning and thinking. It’s how I begin to solve problems visually.

B: You have quite a unique look to your work. How would you describe your style?

D: I work in a couple of different ways, depending on the audience or subject matter of my illustrations. I love colour, composition and hiding lots of little patterns and clues in my pictures, as I want people to be able to keep spotting different details, when they re-look at my images. Whether I’m painting a colourful illustration of children playing in a park or a bird in flight, I try and keep it fresh and immediate by following the designs of my preliminary drawings. I also try and create pictures which have a timeless quality and that don’t look too manufactured or computer enhanced, by holding onto painterly marks and textures and even occasionally distressing the image with sandpaper or varnish.

B: What inspires you in life to draw? Who or what are your influences?

D: Optical illusion, intricate patterns from different cultures, trees, the shapes bodies make, experimental marks and music with space are all ingredients that spice up my drawing life. I’m a big fan of Russell Cobb’s sketchbooks and conceptual thinking, Jonny Hannah’s typography, Bjorn Lie’s use of colour and the wacky story-telling of Tom Gauld’s images. It’s exciting living in Bristol, surrounded by local creative people and illustrators who are producing phenomenal work. I’m currently loving the work of Eleanor Rudge, Rob Hunter and Jon McNaught.

B: What's been your favourite piece so far?

D: That’s a tough one! I’m really happy with the mail-out booklet I completed for the NSPCC last year. It’s difficult to know how my illustrations will look, until I see the final product and, in this case, the paper quality and image colours were perfect. I’m also fond of a drawing called ‘Looking for a way in’, composed of various birds joined together to form a circle, with a young magpie to one side, looking a little left out.

B: Where does Beep Design differ to your main work? You bring a very human warmth to the robot world.

D: The Beep Design paintings fed off my love of robots and tin toys. This was a bit of a personal indulgence, so I separated it from my other portfolios. It’s natural that the resulting images have fun and warmth to them as my view of mechanical toys is that of nostalgia and childhood. My robots live in their own world of having particular functions. I shy away from futuristic, super-bot ideas and prefer jolly and unique robots, who have a specific task or function: making tea, collecting rain water, sorting out shapes or changing light bulbs.

B: Birdboy Drawings have more of an "adult" feel to them, as opposed to the rich, colourful style you've employed for previous children’s illustrations. Do you find it difficult or easy to draw knowing the work is aimed at children?

D: I don’t employ vastly different methods when producing drawings for a younger audience. I still consider all the elements that make up an effective picture, regardless of who it is aimed at. The ‘Birdboy drawings’ keep me grounded in a more realistic drawing style and, although they have a ‘grown-up’ appeal, I think that my more painterly work and these drawings do feed into each other.

B: What was the inspiration behind Where's My Hero?

D: This short story, or abstract poem, came out of a series of phrases and words I wrote down over a reflective period of time. Most people I’ve met have got small (or big) dreams and aspirations, as well as moments of doubt and the sense of being “lost at sea”. This book was my response to some of those thoughts. I only produced a few of these books, but the images and ideas have stuck with me. It’s definitely a project that I’ll return to at some stage.

B: Cover It Up is your own visual interpretation of certain books. How did the project come about?

D: It’s the mystery of the book cover that inspired me. When I’m reading a book I can’t help but glance back at the cover. It’s always brilliant when the cover reflects the content, without giving the game away. And even better when that’s done in a clever and interesting way. I wanted to explore those ideas, so simply set myself the challenge to tackle some of my favourite books. I’m really happy with the results and it’s going to be fun to see what others make of the exhibition.

B: Give us a top 5 (of anything).

D: My top 5 projects or pictures (in no particular order) that I’d like to develop are:

1. A story about someone who finds odd gloves and what they do with them.
2. The fairground.
3. A tin drummer who makes too much noise.
4. Horror and suspense images for short stories.
5. Forgotten monsters.

COVER IT UP! runs at The Folk House 6/2/09-6/3/09

PREVIEW: Wednesday 11th Feb (all welcome)

Folk House
40a Park Street,
0117 926 2987

FFI : The Folk House

"An exhibition of book covers, designed and created by local illustrator Dave Bain.
Selecting absolute classics and some downright good reads, Dave Bain has put pen to paper, brush to paint and pencil behind ear to produce a rather ripping collection of book covers. This very personal interpretation of well-known stories is sure to bring delight and surprise in this rare solo show.

All artwork is for sale.

The same exhibition will be showing at the ‘Here & Now’ Gallery in Falmouth, Cornwall from March 31st to April 25th."

Dave Bain Website
Dave Bain Blog