Framed: Sam Dunn

Framed: Sam Dunn

We catch up with prolific London-based illustrator, Sam Dunn.

Name: Sam* Dunn (*Samantha)   Occupation: Illustrator 

Where did you grow up and where are you based at the moment?

I grew up in Hartlepool, a small costal town in the North of England. It’s an unusual place, costal towns used to strive from tourists flocking from inland to have a weekend away by the sea. Since that culture has mostly disappeared in the UK and many people would rather travel abroad for the sun, these costal towns are becoming increasingly decayed and forgotten. Growing up I spent most of my weekends in the Lake District at our caravan, walking up mountains and trawling through forests. I moved to London in 2008 when I was 18 after getting a place at Central Saint Martins, and i’ve lived and loved here ever since. 

Where are you? What are your immediate surroundings?

Right now I’m sitting at my desk in East London, getting ready to start inking over the sketch of a new t-shirt. I’m quite a bad hoarder and collector so my surroundings are filled with various toys, bric-a-brac and weird things i’ve bought and found along the way. To set the scene a little… there’s a medical skull head to my left with the brain cavity full of stickers, a plastic crab in a fake fish tank in front of me and a neon pink Rhino on my right. 

Please describe a typical day?

Sometimes I work from my home office and get up around 8, work the morning then go out for a bike ride at lunch, depending on my mood this could be a quick 10 mile but if it’s sunny i’ll do around 40 mile, then come in again in the afternoon and get back to work until around 12am when I finally start falling asleep in my chair. Sometimes I work in advertising or other creative agencies for a few weeks or a couple of days. So there’s no real plan to my day, I just try and fit as much in as I can.

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Your work has quite a distinctive style. How would you describe it, and who (or what) are your biggest creative influences?

I’d like to think my work sits somewhere in a world full of traditional woodcuts, 1980s skateboard and poster art and botanical illustration. I love craftspeople and being able to produce something by hand after years of practice and patience. My influences are quite broad, I try and delve into pop culture just as much as I do into punk and other counter cultures. My all time favourite illustrators are Jim Philips, Alan Forbes, Aaron Horkey, Ghostco, Vania Zouravliov and Ken Taylor. 

What mediums do you work in? Are your projects all digital or a mixture of both? Could you maybe talk us through a typical process for your work?

I draw everything by hand with fine liners or brush pens and ink. First I sketch out a rough plan in photoshop with a Wacom tablet to get the layout right, then I print this sketch usually on A3 size in a very pale blue which can be worked over by hand. Once this is complete, I scan the line work back in and clean it up and delete any of the remaining sketch that may show through. I then colour in photoshop using a selection of texture brushes. Although my technique uses a lot of modern technology to enhance the outcome, my favourite part is always sitting down to draw at the desk, sometimes for over 10 hours at a time and using different pens and mark making techniques to build the piece up. That’s something I feel like I can’t achieve digitally and will always stick to the traditional, slow method of hand drawing. 

I’m sure there are people you would love to work with that you haven’t already.. Any idea as to who those people might be?

I’d like to work with any bands who I personally enjoy the music of, I love the feeling of creating something for a band that I love. I sent a piece off to Alkaline Trio and they bought it to use as the 15th Anniversary UK tour poster. It’s so surreal when you’ve actually created something for a band you love and fans compliment it and want to buy it. So any band who I enjoy currently or have grown up listening to would be amazing to add to the client list. I’d also like to work with larger brands that I enjoy, I recently worked for Adidas and as a trainer fan and collector I loved working on the project. 

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Your work for Violent Soho was fantastic? How was that project for you? How did that relationship come to be?

Thank you! I received an email about a year ago from Johann at I Oh You asking if I’d like to work on the album artwork. The band had found my work online and referenced an older piece I’d done for a gallery show of a skeleton on fire. It was a really good project to work on and the guys know exactly what they want and are great at directing, so I think we were all really happy with the final piece. I’ve received so many positive comments and new fans from Australia thanks to the guys. 

Your illustration is fantastic and your work has a really great design sensibility.. Most people I come across have one or the other, I think it is pretty rare to nail illustration and also design/layout.. (Just realised it’s more of a compliment that a question) but is that something your conscious of?

Thanks! I think the fact that I studied Design as well as Illustration helps, I did two years at art college on a design course then three years at uni with a two year focus on Illustration so I studied design for three years before doing pure illustration. I also worked in an advertising agency as soon as I left uni for about a year and a half as a designer/visualiser. I still continue to do some design work in agencies, It’s quite funny as I don’t usually show that commercial work to others as I want to be identified for my illustration work, so i’ll be walking around a supermarket or in the street and see an ad on a phone booth and i’ll just say, ‘oh, there’s that thing I did that last month’. 

What do you enjoy most about where you live? Just in general and the specific things you enjoy doing..

London is an amazing city full of opportunities, cultures and way too many things to do, totally different from the small town I grew up in. I love that there’s so many things to see, if you’re bored you can just walk around and explore. I also love that I now live about 5 mile from one of the best indoor velodromes in the world. I’ve been patiently waiting for the London 2012 velodrome to open to the public, and i’m now finally working on completing my accreditation to race there. 

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What have you been listening to lately? Is music something that is just playing constantly while you work?

Yes i’m a huge fan of music, I’m always listening to something while I work. I have quite an eclectic, sometimes bad taste in music. If you check out my Spotify you’ll see the extent of my tastes, it goes from Girls Aloud to Refused. Recently I’ve been playing Ghost, who are one of my favourite bands at the moment, Step Brothers - the latest record from Evidence and Alchemist and a lot of stuff from my early teens on a nostalgia trip - Fall Out Boy, The Offspring, Alien Ant Farm, Millencolin and Bad Religion. 

You’re obviously always quite busy with client work, do you ever find time to do personal work and draw for yourself? Or are the two kind of blurred?

Client work always has priority, but since I enjoy what I do and don’t really treat it as a job i’m usually working on multiple things simultaneously. So I may do some client work in the morning then personal stuff in the evening. It is kind of blurred as the personal work may end up being bought by a client who’s interested so it becomes another client piece even thought the purpose was different. 

What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

I’ve been noticing a pattern in my colour use over time and recently i’m starting to analyse that more and try and mix it up. I have a strict vision for colour when i’m working on something, It just doesn’t feel right for me until I get the right tones and the piece becomes more harmonious. 

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What’s next? What have you got planned for the rest of the year and what do you want to achieve in the near future?

I’m waiting to show quite a few projects I’ve already done this year that i’m happy with. Some great clients and opportunities, I just can’t show anything from them yet which is hard for me as I usually show all of the process on my blog and instagram as I go along. Since it’s quite a lonely job, the interaction with people via social media whilst i’m working keeps me positive, it’s sort of like being cheered on in a race. I’m hoping the rest of the year carries on as it’s started, and i’m hoping a few more gallery shows and editorial opportunities will pop up like last year.

Thanks a lot for you time Sam! Any last words/shout outs?

Thanks to Pilerats for this interview, thanks to you reading this, thanks to everyone who says nice things and enjoys my work and has or will from now on, continue to follow and take interest in my little world. Hi Mam!  / @xsamdunnx

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