Oliver Cartwright is a British artist, animator and designer living in Seoul, South Korea. Oliver is best known for drawing exclusively in BIC black ink with his images centered around dynamic line work. I know this because Twitter continues to surprise me on a regular basis as being an awesome place to discover new and exciting artists. The other week when I was checking new followers, I noticed that Oliver Cartwright @OliverCanDraw had followed me. With basically every new follower, you click on their profile and see what they’re all about, and what I came across floored me in the best possible way.
When I went to check his work the first image I came across was “HORSE” (the lead image to this post). I was put in a trance by the smooth flow of his lines and sharp attention to detail and I was even more taken aback when I realized that he created this artwork only using a BIC black ink pen. When I dove deeper into his work — and his Twitter account — I realized that he’s an inspired artist, whose love of drawing and creating is something that permeates his everyday life, and continually drives him to explore his own talents.
Something that was even more unexpected was that Oliver designed the cover artwork for Glen Porter — an LA based musician and producer — in collaboration with LA based photographer Volker Fleck. What’s so unexpected is that I’m friends with Glen Porter, and seeing Oliver’s work connected with a friend’s music started a cool dialogue between us.
Rather than keeping this dialogue in an email thread, I asked Oliver for a short interview to learn more about him, what it’s like to collaborate with artists halfway around the world, and what continues to inspire him. Check out Oliver’s Shop, and enjoy some tunes by Glen Porter while scoping out the interview below.
How do you like collaborating with photographers and music producers to create illustration and design work, like you did with the piece between LA based photographer Volker Fleck, and music producer Glen Porter? How do their styles play into the product you create?
“Collaborating with Volker Fleck and Glen Porter is fulfilling as they are both artistic visionaries. When I work with Glen Porter, I have to respect his scope on things, however, in this case the visuals were open to my interpretation as well. After listening to Ryan’s (Glen Porter) album I knew exactly how to design the cover.”
“When producing music covers I tend not to opt for clichés, but I go in a direction that represents what the music would look like if you could see it. A Glen Porter album is very distinctive, so my method was simply gathering all what I saw in my mind and putting it on a square panel!”
“I have been working with Volker for nearly 4 years now and we have a great creative partnership. Volker’s photography fits the mood of the album with the Kyuss / Russ Meyers impression I was getting from the music. One of the tracks is called “Ask her nicely and she will show you her scars”. This provocative title gave me the idea to introduce some photography to balance out the abstract drawings I created. I was lucky because Volker already had an image from a previous shoot and it juxtaposed perfectly with the direction I wanted to take. As a final design it captured everything I felt by combining the mystery and warped feeling I received when first listening to the album.”
I see that your pretty active on Twitter and leave quotes dealing with life and art. How is drawing a way of escaping to another world for you? And, if you’re “no longer on Earth,” where does it take you?
“Drawing is a way of escaping. It’s another world. I’m no longer on earth.”
“I’ll stop drawing when I’m dead.”
“I think drawing to me is a way of transcending everything that disappoints me in life and allows me to get things right. I think that is why I make everything intricate and precisely detailed. So many things get me down in life and drawing gives me hope. Everything we do in life is compromised at some stage, but art allows you to maintain a coherent vision. I always feel at peace when I’m drawing and it always takes me on a journey. Over the years I have developed a style that lets me constantly improvise and evolve the drawing in real time. It’s like jazz in a way; it puts me in the moment so the end result is totally unexpected. Miles Davis once said “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later,” that’s exactly how I approach my drawing.”
“With every piece I like to push forward. Doing this makes me ambivalent to go backwards and return to something I’ve already done. I mentioned in one post “I’ll stop drawing when I’m dead” I meant I won’t stop work until I am physically unable to. It also means I take my work seriously and what I’m doing is part of a bigger picture.”
What inspires you to create new and exciting pieces of work? Does working with, and changing between different mediums have an influence on those decisions?
“I currently work in one medium, a BIC black pen. The minimal tools approach allows me to focus more on what I am creating rather than worry about what tools I’m going to use. I use the computer in small doses so there is greater emphasis on the hand drawn feeling.”
“I get inspiration from just thinking about ideas which are sometimes enhanced through listening to music or watching a film. I’m always questioning things around me and most of my drawings are an ulterior version of the reality I’m experiencing. I create images I like to look at, so really it’s just about having fun and enjoying the work.”
You’ve said that you’re inspired by Umberto Boccioni — How did you get introduced to his work, and what is it that draws you to it?
“Boccioni is very influential, along with car design and Japanese minimalism. I remember seeing his sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” and was instantly drawn to his work. Boccioni was a great innovator and spearheaded the Italian futurist movement during 1900′s. To me, Boccioni was an overlooked genius as he innovated so much until his death at the age of 33. Everybody knows who Picasso is yet Boccioni, who was born a year earlier, took abstract art in a more cohesive and fluid direction and steered away from the disjointed and disparate look of Picasso. His work portrayed speed and technology based on his own impression and painted motion. I really believe if he was around now he would be animating and continuing to evolve his work over different media. When I was at school Picasso was always talked about, but when I discovered Boccioni his art spoke to me and made me want to create work based on dynamics characterized by line work.”
What exciting possibilities do you see in the art world now? Do you see it going in a certain direction, or have some favorites that you continually watch out for?
“I don’t really like the art world and pay very little attention to what is going on. I’m more into looking at the artist’s work as I don’t care for the industry that surrounds them. I think the art world and even the design world is very bureaucratic and they don’t really care about the work of artists. It’s more about associations with famous people and brands.”
“When I started out as freelance designer, I had an experience art directing for a magazine in New York. One guy loved my work and wanted to take me on but another guy said my client list ‘sucked’.”
“I consider the whole idea of choosing designers based on their client list as bullshit. Creativity used to be about the work.”
“I’ve noticed, over the last couple of years, art publications place more interest on what the artist looks like, lives and how he or she dresses opposed to the work being created.”
“The artists I like are the ones that create their own world and then evolve it over time.”
“I follow Deathspell Omega, Tool, Deftones, Tim Hecker, Flying Lotus, Ashley Wood, Geof Darrow, Delta (Boris Tellegen), Andrew Zuckerman and Aaron Turner. These artists, bands and musicians are all pretty fearless with their vision and just do their own thing.”
Official music video for platinum musician Robert Miles. Illustrated and animated frame by frame in BIC ink. To view the making of “Orchid Miracle” click here.