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In Conversation With ... STEVE SIMPSON

September 3, 2017


For a long time Steve Simpson has been an illustrator that we just can’t get enough of. Luckily, he feeds our addiction with regular posts on his social media profiles which are brimming with sketches of characters from his imagination as well as people, landscape and architecture he’s observed on his regular travels. It’s this proliferation of work that has encouraged us to carry our Sketching Tin and a sketchbook with us everywhere we go. You can clearly see how his sketches follow through into his commercial work, which tends to be digitised. The energy that goes into his drawings also transfers to his commissions, informing them with a vibrant and dynamic sense of fun.





We were delighted when Steve kindly agreed to answer some questions for us:

Your work is incredibly playful and you seem to be able to switch between a loose style and a tighter digital style very easily but what would you say is your favourite way to work and why?


I guess that’s very true, my pencil sketches are very quick and purposely loose. As an Illustrator I supply pencils sketches (usually in my sketchbook)  to the client for sign off before I take them into Photoshop. These tend to start off very rough and I keep them small initially so as not to get tied up in detail. Once the client is happy with the general direction I make more detailed, larger sketches. For me this is my favourite part of the process. The way I work in Photoshop is very clean - it hasn’t changed massively in the past 20 years, I guess back in the mid nineties there wasn’t any tutorials and very little in the way of instructional material to learn from - it was a matter of trial and error - In some ways it was inspired by my times working in pre-digital animation and comics.




There is fantastic variety in your work. Do you have to force yourself to think of different ideas or do you feel they organically develop. I guess I’m interested to know what goes through your mind when you open your sketchbook on a blank page?

The ideas come from many different places; sometimes they are ideas I’ve had for ages but just haven’t found the time to explore. Others are inspired by projects I’m working on for clients - often there are lots of ideas that just aren’t used but are still worth exploring as a personal project. I do a lot of research for my commercial work, trying to get beyond the obvious and put an original and faithful angle on a particular subject. This can throw up some very interesting imagery and give me ideas that I really want to draw but again, aren’t suitable for the project I’m researching. Other times I just start doodling what’s in front of me, I particularly enjoy sketching people in cafes and on trains.


"I’m most happy with a sketchbook in my hand."



Skulls and skeletons seem to be re-occurring in your work - when did this begin and what first inspired you use these in your pieces?

I’ve always been fascinated by folk art, ever since I was a kid. I guess it was about 8 years ago I first used skulls in my work when I designed the labels for Mic’s Chilli’s range of hot sauces. After that I began getting lots of requests for skulls in my work. Skulls are fun!


Photo credit: www.chilefoundry.com


We really enjoy seeing the drawings from your travels and you have inspired us to take a sketchbook with us wherever we go too.

When did you begin taking a sketching kit around with you?



I’m not sure exactly when it became a habit, it’s something I’ve always done. However it’s only in the past 5 years that I started carrying it around with me every day. I used to buy a sketchbook and a small watercolour set if I was going on vacation, I would fill up the first 10 pages and then forget about it when I got home, eventually it would get mislaid and then I would have to buy the same again the next time I was going on away. My current tin I’ve had for possibly 4 years, it’s an old geometry set tin and doubles up as a palette. All I really need is a drop of water and my finger to paint a wash over my line drawings.


It’s great that you and your daughter have had a go with our very own Sketching Tin. What did you like about the tin?


The fact that everything you need is in the tin

(just add a sketchbook) is a big thing, especially for kids with so much ‘stuff’ it’s impossible to find anything. The added bonus is she doesn’t need to rob any of my materials:) I think most parents have the same concerns regarding too much screen-time, so having a portable, self contained set-up that can be used spontaneously as the occasion arises is just great.



We hope to encourage people to get exploring and sketch on their travels or even if they are just off to the pub for a pint! We know that people can find the blank page daunting, so what advice would you give to someone who wanted to start sketching regularly?


I think firstly, for me anyway, it’s remembering a sketchbook is about sketching, it’s a place to experiment, making notes, doodling etc. It’s more about the compulsion to draw rather than the actual finished drawing. A blank page can be daunting, especially the first page - I usually ignore the first page, start on the second. Sometimes when I’m in the studio I’ll quickly put a wash over several pages using a very large brush - quite roughly. This can help you feel less daunted by that big white page.


Finally, a cheesy question if we may - which three items would you want with you if you were cast away on a desert island?


Hmmm, obviously I’d need my sketchbook and tin (that’s 2 items already!) - Music is really important when I’m drawing. So maybe a radio tuned in to BBC6Music.



We implore you to follow Steve Simpson on social media today for constant visual delights.

You will not be disappointed!






If you like the idea of our Sketching Tin then please check out our Kickstarter here:


Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to chat to us and for supporting us with the development of our

Sketching Tin!







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Sunshine Coast, Canada.

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