Scratched out on ratty, reformed paper and interrupted with rogue bits of sticky tape, oblique text and tangetial doodles, Michael Howard's portraits are grimy studies in effortless cool. Working under the name NVM Illustration, Howard packs his pictures with recurring rock n roll themes – guitar pedals, packs of fags, analogue cameras and the occasional nihilistic slogan. Continuing our series of talking to artists exhibiting at this years ILLUSTRATED 2016 expo, we got a gallery of images off Michael, and asked him about his process…
See Michael's work exhibited at Illustrated 2016, taking place at the Truman Brewery June 10th - 13th. More details here.
Your work effortlessly communicates a range of familiar emotions. Where does your raw emotive style stem from?
A lot of people say such things as 'raw and emotive' and I find it somewhat difficult to relate to. Maybe that's because I spend a lot of the time physically creating the piece, visually scrutinising.
Though I can agree on the raw element, I think mainly that's dude to the raw easily recognisable materials I use, ink, gouache, pencil, tape.. Keeping it basic of sorts.
Your technical proficiency is evident -even if a little unorthodox- and helps your works stand out from the crowd. How have you gone about developing this technique and how has it developed over the years?
Over the years, I would say honestly within the last 3 years is where things took a turn, the best way is to just keep going and going and try hard not to be scared. The thing is, you learn from your mistakes and what you feel is right and wrong. When something feels right and you keep honing that process, it eventually turns into something. It's kind of nice that people can actually recognise my work, that in itself is a major achievement.
Where do you find your subjects, are they friends, lovers, randoms? Do they get the first edition as payment!?
I would say the 'subjects' are intact somewhat of an artistic experiment. Most of the time I ask people I know, or if I have seen a photo by a person that just "fits" I always ask permission to use it before going ahead. Most of the time I've had great experiences with this, mainly because the people I use are other artists and they're happy to help out.
In your opinion how important is it for artists to receive professional training? Our education system produces hundreds of illustration grads each year, do you think the market is saturated and are graduate artists sometimes sold false hope?
I will say this to my dying breath. I learnt more from 1 year, working from home than I ever did in 4 years of university. Progression of style comes more freely when you're not restricted to a brief or to traditional narrative. Though I do agree for some it's a sort of a pipe dream? There are a lot of people doing a lot of amazing stuff, the reason why they're amazing is because they work at it, day in day out. which is the most important thing, not what university you go to or if you passed with a 1-1 or a t 2-1 etc etc.
What does the future hold for you, where would you like your career to take you?
Honestly I'd love to be able to do more articles, book covers, the usual stuff. I don't know where exactly it will take me I know I just won't stop.
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