The Useless Robot
My Interview with Portsmouth Comic Con
Has the city of Portsmouth impacted your work?
I feel really lucky to live in Portsmouth because it has such a strong and growing art community. All artists experience times of self-doubt and being surrounded by talented likeminded individuals really helps overcome that.
I should also mention that I probably wouldn’t be making art at all if I hadn’t done my Masters at Portsmouth University a few years back. At the time I was stuck in a job that made me miserable and going back to university and having such great tutors and peers helped me to be more confident as an artist.
What attracted you to illustration?
I have always wanted to explore the art of storytelling as I believe that the books and stories we grow up with and delve into in adulthood can heavily influence our thinking.
Whose work do you find inspiring/ influential?
This list is pretty long but artists and authors like, Shaun Tan, Jeff Vandermeer, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell, Edward Gorey, Robert Rankin, Dave McKean and H.G. Wells. I’m very drawn to Sci-fi and fantasy and most things surreal. I get a lot of inspiration from old tales and folklore and it is something which I’m finding myself studying more and more.
What do you think a convention like Portsmouth Comic Con brings to the city?
Any event like this can only be good for Portsmouth as it reaches a new audience that perhaps has not been catered for by other events that have been run here in the past. As Portsmouth’s art community is still growing I think that it will bring more publicity to the Portsmouth art scene as well.
What’s your opinion on the impact Comic Conventions have on indie artists?
A convention like this is a wonderful chance for indie artists and comic fans to be bought together and share experiences and ideas. It is also enables fans to see work from artists they haven’t had the chance to discover yet.
Where can your work be found?
Either on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and on my website theuselessrobot.com I write a blog which is basically an online sketchbook.
How would you describe your work?
I work mostly with watercolour and line drawing, creating characters to tell stories. Previously I was always drawn to creating artist books but one of my current projects also uses the internet as its platform by creating a fictional website to tell the story.
What has impacted your methodology/ approach to making art?
For me keeping in contact with other artists is vital. I have always had the fear (that I think every artist I know has) that if you make something that isn’t perfect right away then you have failed and this can often lead to no art at all. Keeping in contact with people I studied art with in the past and the creatives I follow on social media helps remind me that of course I am going to create some rubbish art but if I carry on it will evolve into something wonderful. It’s ok to be a little crap sometimes.
What’s your latest project?
‘Sector 17643’ is a fictional website and a collection of artist books telling a story set in the distant future where all organic life has long been extinct and everything we use is synthetic. This work joins my future world at a stage where changes are being introduced to try and revive the planet and the people. There is more information about that on my website and a link to the initial test website I created.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I decided that this year I would finish some old personal projects that I’ve always wanted to take further. The one I’m most excited about is ‘Punch Meets Pinocchio’
Several years ago for some research I re-read Pinocchio and at about the same time I came across Neil Gaiman's ‘The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr.Punch’ (illustrated by Dave Mckean). It prompted me to read the original script for the Punch and Judy Show.
Reading these two side by side, I wanted to find out what would happen if these two character's met. I imagined it would be a match made in heaven for Mr Punch, but a match made in hell for poor Pinocchio. I created some work at the time but I always wanted to explore this relationship much further which is what I am doing this year.
If you could collaborate with any artist, historical or contemporary, who?
I would love to do a collaboration with Robotic Woodsmith because he donates so often to his local food banks and the collaborations he’s done in the past have always been for good causes. I haven’t got a clue what that collaboration would be though.
Describe the work your dropping around Portsmouth
For Inktober last year I created a monster for each day and wrote a small piece, describing each one. The idea is that these monsters live among us and some are helpful with our daily lives and some are harmful. I had always planned to get prints made of some of them and take part in Free Art Friday so when this opportunity came up I thought it was the perfect time to start.