Drew Millward


Written by Hatti Whitman
28 Monday 28th November 2011

Drew Millward’s artwork is engaging, tongue-in-cheek, and ever so slightly creepy. One of the best graphic artists in Britain, he’s also great company. I caught up with him over a pint in his hometown of Leeds.

So Drew, how did you get into poster design?

It just sort of happened. I started out doing gig posters for friends in Leeds; people saw and I got some commissions. I’ve been doing it long enough now that I’ve developed a certain style - it’s probably only in the last three years I’ve really reached a point of being happy with what I’m doing.

Really? Was that not a bit of a downer to begin with?

Nah I don’t think so. I reckon if someone says they’ve been happy with their work since day one they’re either a bit deluded or dishonest. I was working in a dead-end job, and I found I was gradually spending more and more time doing this than I was actually working. Then in about 2004/5 I spoke to another artists and realised I could make a living, so I quit the day job. To be honest, I thought it was best to fuck off while the going was good.

Fair enough. So have you always been interested in art?

Well I studied fine art at uni, so I guess it would be fair to say yes, but I graduated with no desire to ever pick up a pen again. I should have studied graphic art or something, I was definitely on the wrong course, but you don’t want to admit that when you’re paying for a degree. Now I look back and know it was wrong for me, but had I not done it I wouldn’t have met a great bunch of people and I couldn’t work in at all the same way.

What way is that?

I work almost exclusively with pen and ink, then use Photoshop to build up layers of block colour, screenprint-style. I’ve never really progressed from early methods; if someone sat down and watched me use Photoshop they’d think I wasn’t all there. I’m quite influenced by (and I hate this term) ‘lowbrow’ art like skate artists, and that’s true of many of my contemporaries; we’ve all been exposed to and use the same cultural references. We’re all failed musicians as well. All the poster artists I know have at one point or another been involved in a band; now we’re just trying to keep a foot in the door!

Were you after a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle then?

Haha I don’t know about that. When I moved to Leeds I had my eyes opened to music in a big way very early on. There’s a vibrant live scene here and I think I just wanted to be part of that. I love music, I listen to everything when I’m working. Metal to folk, it’s all good. But I think our band probably failed because none of us were willing to pay £60 in petrol to go and gig in London.

That might have had something to do with it…how come you didn’t go to London?

I hate it. I think it’s strange. When I graduated everyone moved straight down to London, you had to because that’s where the clients and agents were. But now the only thing I’m lacking up here is making face-to-face impressions. Then again I don’t have to go schmoozing. I don’t think I could survive in an environment where people overly promote themselves. I start cringing inside. Digital media means I can work at home and send my work anywhere, so why bother with that fake lifestyle?

Don’t you have an agent though?

God, no. I do everything myself. I think it’s a bit of a hangover from the DIY punk scene, but actually I don’t take direction too well so an agent wouldn’t be much help. I don’t want projects that come with a massive brief either, I like being approached directly and allowed to do what I want. If a client comes to me with a set brief I think they’re probably better off with someone else. I just make work I’m proud of and hope people like it.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

The Dead Sea Mob [the art collective Drew belongs to] are going on an art tour. We’ve got a show next month in Manchester and then some more shows around the country before we head off to America in April. It’s just a group of failed musicians who happen to be artists, and we’ve decided to take that on tour.

Find out mroe about Drew Millward here. For more from The Dead Sea Mob, visit their website.

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