5 Mins, Illustration 4 years ago

Sam Taylor on making sure you hug your nan.

Sam Taylor is a London based illustrator who heavily pulls on the bold, unbridled, ‘puffed up’ aesthetic of 90′s cartoons and consistently delivers work that as far as we can see he loves, and you can tell.

With clients such as Vice Magazine, BBC, The Guardian & Nike swarming around him fascinatingly his style presents a dual purpose. On one hand juvenile and seems very at home on the back of a secondary school maths book cunningly slating the head of form for his body odour. But, as far as subject matter goes he tackles some pretty pressing and gritty subjects head on.

And that, is one of the many things that make him awesome. Sam isn’t just about 90s illustration. And we were lucky enough to get the chance to chat to one of our favourite Leicesterites about what it’s like to be him day to day.

Why did you feel being inspired by 90s illustration is best suited to you? What excites you about it?

There are loads of reasons.

I’m always drawing and the way I get paid for it is from ‘commercial’ illustration. I like collaborating with other people, combining our ideas. It could be a writer, art director, random creative person at an ad agency, editor, friend, person in a pub.

But also I like to draw stories. I want people to look at a single illustration of a character or whatever and wonder what’s happened to them.

Why are they f**ked up? Why are they always smoking?

Stuff like that.

90s Illustration Sam Taylor

Illustration is also enticing to me because it is relatively quick way of conveying an idea. And I can do it completely alone. I like that it can be collaborative or solitary.

I see illustrators as very similar to stand-up comedians. In that it’s just us, our singular vision, our Instagram feeds are like our sets and our image posts are like ‘bits’.

I basically like that I can do whatever I want with my drawings. Work with others, work alone, use different media, comics, whatever.

I hope that isn’t too rambling…

Your style is incredibly versatile. Could you tell us a little more about your 90s illustration inspirations and where your creative ideas have originated from?

The things I draw and my style is completely up to me. It’s inspired by things I like, like on TV, music, films, other artists, history.

I’ve always drawn and just tried to put my ideas down on to paper, other worlds, characters, sci-fi stuff.

My style is an on-going battle, as I’m sure it is with everyone. I’m always trying to make things simpler but still as exciting or interesting as they can possibly be.

I want my work to be bursting with things that catch the eye, or make you think.

But completely contrary to that I’m conscious of over working and try to make it simpler visually but with the same intellectual impact.

That is my war. I’ve chosen this life.

A lot of my inspiration for the more nuts and bolts aspects of my work comes (egomaniacally) from my own work.

I’ll look at all my recent work on tumblr and see what colour schemes I’ve used recently, then slightly tweak them.

Making a red into more of an orange or something like that. And motifs carry through from piece to piece. Sometimes I’ll get bored of drawing another crab or whatever and they’ll die out and a new little character will emerge, victorious.

Inspired by 90s illustration and beyond

My work is also inspired by artists I follow. Obviously I’ll never directly copy something they’ve done but if I see someone who has done something cool. I want to do something cool in a similar vein.

Maybe it’s kind of obvious, but I think that being close friends with some amazing artists helps me to achieve.

We have a friendly and encouraging competition, shouts to my #TEAMGANG crew; Kyle Platts, Pete Sharp, Charlotte Mei, Tom Slater, Dwayne Coleman, Jay Wright.

90s Illustration Sam Taylor

Could you give us 3 tips that you’d say have got you to where you are today.

1) I read what Matthew the Horse said in his interview on Crazy Animal Face and totally agree with him when he said:

define success for yourself.

I feel success everyday when I’m able to draw in my room and not go to an office. Even if no one likes what I end up making, I don’t care. I’m already happy that I got to make it.

Obviously I’m stoked if people like my work,  but I do it for myself and I’m happy that I’m able to.

Sure I want loads of money and appreciation from everyone that I meet. But to me success is happiness and happiness is within me. And don’t go trippin’ thinkin I’m not ambitious because I am. It’s just that like Matthew said,

“if you don’t have time to hug your nan then wtf dude” lol.

Maybe what Matthew said was slightly different but you get the jist.

2) Commit fully to silly ideas.

I think it’s important to have silly/stupid/puerile/funny ideas and really commit to them. Spend ages drawing them or make art shows based on them.

Silly ideas inspired by 90s illustration

This can range from drawing up a joke you and your friends have and posting it on Insta or doing a 6ft painting like Eric Yahnker or making a TV show that lasts 15 years like Southpark.

Silly things are important to me, they make me laugh and a lot of the time they get dismissed by people as silly. But laughing is the best thing, so never give up guys.

Look at Airplane! It’s a classic!

90s illustration Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor for Adult Swim

3) This is a total cliché but: draw every day.

Sure you can have a day off. You can spend a morning doing invoices and emailing people. You can colour in on Photoshop all day or go do your shopping at the better, slightly further away supermarket.

But still draw most of the time.

I love drawing, I love the feel of drawing, the physical feel of the Rotring pen on paper and the mental feel of getting my idea out of my brain.

I get satisfaction out of it just like running people over on GTA, just like scoring 10 goals a game in a 5-a-side.

You should have this in-built love of feels too. I can already see my drawing in my head before I do it. I just want to get it out. GET OUUUTTTT.

Can you give us an idea of your average day, how you work and how do you get your creative ideas done?

My days vary a lot. It depends on what I have on.

If I’m starting a new brief, editorial for example, I like to get up at around 9am and start drawing/sketching at about half 9.

But if I have nothing on I’ll sleep til about 10, then drink a lot of coffee and do my own drawings and handle my admin biz.

Most of the time I’m excited to start drawing but when I have a slump day I completely give in to it, I don’t want to be half in the game.

Getting out and about

I’ll go meet a #TEAMGANG member for coffee and talk about illustration or just life in general.

This usually sorts me out and when I return to my desk I’ve got something in mind that I want to draw.

For years I drew everyday, without fail. Even when I didn’t feel like it but now I think it’s better to only draw when I want to. When I have a cool idea inspired by 90s illustration and can make something I’ll be hyped on. Sometimes what I draw will be crap but that’s OK because there’s usually something in there that I can apply to another drawing.

My favourite is waking up halfway through a project.

All the pencil work done and I can mindlessly ink it in or all the inking done and I can work on colouring.

I go into a different mode at this stage and it’s more relaxed because the most important bit is already in the bag.

90s illustration Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor Welcome Trust

90s illustration is one thing, how do you attract new work?

I keep all my social media and website regularly updated.

I try to do different work, I want people to see that I am varied and can do adverts, magazine illustration or I can do murals.

It is important to try and do as many different types of jobs as possible, to be versatile. So I try to be versatile, hopefully the work being good is enough to attract new work.

I don’t think there are any secret ways to attract them sweet ADs.

How long have you been an illustrator and would you say it’s your career?

I’ve been a ‘full time illustrator’ since about a year after I graduated (in 2011). My first proper (paid) commission was in about 2010.

So I’d say about five years or so and yes it is my career.

It’s weird to say that though because there is no safety net, no guarantee, no pension.

But even if I stopped getting work I’d still do this, nobody can stop me.

Being true to your roots, and 90s illustration influences.

It’s all I want to do, sure I could probably get a job at a high flying ad agency and make about 60 grand a year sitting in a bean bag but THIS IS ME, I AM ME.

Feels good.


90s illustration Sam Taylor

What’s the best advice would you give to someone starting out?

Surround yourself with talented, inspiring friends.

People who are passionate about art, creativity, fun, bounce ideas off each other and all do your own thing.

Like the X-Men you all bring something great to the table. Cyclops would just be a 1-eyed nerd without Xavier’s guidance.

Draw every day, never give up. Even if you have to go on the dole and do stupid meetings with people who don’t know what an illustration degree even is.

Believe it will happen. It will happen.


Check out more of Sam's work on his site



I'm co-founder of Crazy Animal Face, host of the CAF Podcast, and compere of our CAF events. My views are my own.

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