Interview with Steve Simpson

Steve Simpson on the right and interviewer on the left.

Mr. Steve Simpson on the right and interviewer on the left.

Dublin based illustrator Steve Simpson’s star is shining bright at the moment. Wednesday November 5th he will be on stage at Visibilty in Bergen, and we can strongly recommend everyone who has a chance to go and see his talk.

He studied technical illustration at college, and stumbled into comics after his aunt sent in an application. When he eventually started mixing hand lettering with the drawing style he had developed, it soon became clear he had found a winning formula. He has now got more than 100000 followers on Behance, and uses social media to great effect to reach new clients.

Grafill Illustration met Steve at OFFF in Barcelona in May, and had a brief chat with him.


What made you want to be an artist?

My uncle was a cartoonist, and seeing what he did for a living was a revelation.
I come from a working class background, so going into a creative profession like illustration was not the natural choice.

As a young artist, who were your heroes? And are they still the same?

I was into Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, Manet and so on. I thought I’d be painter. Did a lot of painting 10 years ago. Colour, shape and silhouettes are important elements. That feeds into my work.

What inspires and motivates you in your day to day work?

Folk art around the world. I study it at every opportunity. It has lasted for centuries. It is not a commercial trend, so it has longevity and represents a contrast to today’s turmoil. It has real craft.

How important are impulses from life outside your profession? And how is this reflected in your work?

It’s a particular job. Create new exciting imagery that fulfills client needs. Try to do this, and be influenced by everything around you. Things like Rubics cube. My work needs to be at least 50% something people recognise. A hook and a twist.

Is there a secret you would like to share which is essential to your technique or style?

My work is obvious. Obvious ideas in a new context. Don’t try to be original. I do what I love, and people like it. The person portrayed is me.

How big a part does technology play in your work? Does impact on your style?

It has to. It is good to have Behance as a place to explain the whys and hows. It is a lot quicker.

Can you tell us anything about your next big project? Or is there a dream project you would like to do?

I am trying to write my own children’s books. They are ideas at a rough stage. I would love to find the time to do it. I am always excited about everything around the corner. I would like to do more textiles and clothes.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

My whole career from start to now is a giant arc with vast differences, but no giant leaps. Evolving.

I love illustration, so I still want to do that – commercial work. Try to understand and interpret client needs and mixed up thoughts. Give them work that they will be proud of. It’s a struggle sometimes, but achievable. When it happens it is magical.

I get more work than I can take on. Behance generates work. I don’t believe in Google ranking. Put your work in a place where clients go. Make sure you label your work properly with hashtags, subjects, medium, style, mood etc. Ask yourself: What will the client type in?


All illustrations in this blog post © Steve Simpson. Photography and text by Eivind Vetlesen.

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