I studied graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design. The two most important lessons that I learnt during the course were that at its heart, design is really only concerned with problem solving and that a great idea is always better than a great technique. This realisation was never more important than during my career as an art director in London advertising agencies – places where ideas are the most valuable currency.
Great ideas are about simplicity and about stripping away the unnecessary or the merely decorative. Op Art is a dramatic example of the visual power of simplicity. Some of the most memorable artworks from the movement are even devoid of colour, tone and variety of line and shape.
Apart from the major artists like Riley and Vasarely, it was M.C. Escher who became most influential in my own development as an an artist and designer. His work has an elegance of idea and execution. When I look through his body of work I see behind it the countless initial ideas, the failures and dead-ends that came before the final piece. By the time that the viewer sees the completed work, there is a sense that it has always existed. His ability to create a visual magic that is greater than the sum of the visual parts will never fail to inspire me.
I strive to make my work look effortless and even obvious – trying to keep it a secret that it took many initial pencil sketches before it even began to take shape on the computer. I work on an Apple iMac and use Adobe CS4 – primarily the Illustrator program. I am most at ease with Illustrator simply because it thinks like I do and it looks kindly on people who can really draw in the old-fashioned way.
I believe it is important to look beyond the narrow confines of western art and design for inspiration in one’s own work and I spend time researching arts and crafts from other times and other cultures including Japan, Polynesia, first nation America, and Africa. It is humbling to realise that artists and craftsmen for millennia have wrestled with and resolved the same visual problems that I try to do today.