ROB FLOWERS

Rob Flowers
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ROB FLOWERS



Written by Suzie McCracken
26 Saturday 26th May 2012

Rob Flower's illustrations span the colourful, the downright weird and the gross. And it's a whole load of fun. With a successful collaboration with the British Museum tucked under his belt and these sweet shirts currently for sale, it's certain you're going to be seeing a lot more of this fragrantly named lad.

You talk a little on your website about the stuff you collect. It sounds pretty incredible. What sort of things do you collect and where did the obsession start?

My collection is pretty varied but I mostly collect toys, masks, puppets & costumes. I love late 70s / early 80s McDonald's merchandise (one of my dream puchases from the mid 1970s is an official Mayor McCheese costume) & 1980s gross out toys, such as Madballs, Garbage Pail Kids, Boglins, Monster in my Pocket, Rude Ralph, anything a bit odd or disgusting really. I also collect vintage Halloween stuff & folk masks (I went to Transylvania & picked up some amazing masks made from bone, fur & beans). I'm trying to build a collection of Native American Kachina dolls but they're really expensive, so far I've only got one. Other than that, anything that catches my eye really. 

Like any young boy, I was massively into toys, Master of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, WWF, but unlike like other boys those interests never really went away. So basically, I guess I'm saying I've never grown up, but know I appreciate them from a design perspective rather than conquering imaginary planets with them, not that I don't do that sometimes too!

NB  - This photo's a bit old, I've got more stuff since then (I had to put a new shelf up)

Does the aesthetic of these things heavily influence your illustrations?

Very much so, being surrounded by these amazing things can't help but bleed into artistic endeavors, but now I try & limit my purchases to stuff that is relevant or inspiring to my work. My collection is always the first place I go to when I start on a project.

For example, I was asked to take part in the awesome Burgerac Burgermat show recently & the first place I went to was McDonaldland for inspiration. I did my own version of Officer Big Mac, Mayor McCheese & the whole gang for the show, it was really a labour of love & something I'd wanted to do for ages (see above image). I also did a t-shirt design for Mambo recently that was inspired by my love of Madballs.

People tend to think of items designed for children as having to be safe & non threatening but some of the stuff I come across on my collecting travels is so crazy, design wise that I can't help but be inspired to try & emulate that spirit in my stuff. 

I'm actually thinking about starting a blog about the connections between my collections & my work, with photographic comparisons between the two & a bit of history about the object.

We love the backgrounds you did for the British Museum (see below), how did that collaboration come about? Did you go to the museum for inspiration and information about the different civilisations?

Thanks! I've done some illustrations for a couple of interactive workshops at the British Museum before (kids pop along & have their picture taken then decide which era they would like to be placed), they first got in contact with me after seeing my work for the ace children's magazine Anorak. 

The team at the BM gave me a list of civilisations they wanted illustrated & photos of items in their collections (almost all of the stuff in each backdrop is in the museum), I also had a wander about the museum to see the scale of stuff in the flesh, I'm really into ancient cultures & history so it was very inspiring. I'm hoping I'll get to do some more as it was a great project to work on.

When did you realise illustration was the path you would take? Was it always your ambition?

I've always been really into drawing (I was best at drawing the Teenage Ninja Turtles at school) and knew I wanted to do something creative as a career but it wasn't until I went to university & saw what options were available to me (I don't come from an artistic family or anything, in fact I was the first person in my family to go on to university) that I realized it was illustration that suited me best. 

You illustrate for lots of magazines - do you prefer creating commissions or is it just a financial necessity?

A bit of both really. There a few magazines that I've done stuff for (like Anorak and Fire & Knives) where it's loads of fun, sometimes someone giving you a specific thing to draw can make you go in directions that you might not have done if left to your own devices with an illustration. I've just finished an illustration for Anorak about obscure sporting facts/sports, where I had to draw, amongst other stuff, Tudor folk playing tennis, giving them enormous, unwieldy neck ruffs, which i might incorporate into my personal work. Having said that, nothing beats letting your mind run wild with no limits.

What is it about food that you like so much? I've never seen edibles with such personality...

Thanks! Early fast food advertising is a big inspiration to me & they usually involve anthropomorphised hotdogs, burgers & the like which invariably look awesome/weird/dark/scary/gross, which I find really interesting as the characters are supposed to make you want eat their face. Mayor McCheese could be described as many things but appetizing is definitely not one of them. I enjoy tapping into the off-putting nature of a burger with a face.

Is Flowers you're real last name? If so - nice.

Yes it is, my nan is called Rose Flowers!

For more Rob Flowers, visit robflowers.co.uk

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