In Conversation With: Patrick Savile
Having produced work for the likes of Sony / RCA Records, WARP, WGSN and the Tate, Patrick Savile is in the enviable position of being able to work with reputable clients who value his style and facilitate creativity rather than impose strict guidelines.
Stylistically much of his current work references classic science fiction symbolism in a way that makes you feel as if you're looking through a window to the past and future simultaneously.
On 12th October you'll be able to see the prints close up at The Peckham Pelican at his exhibition of 22 of the major Tarot arcana designs. Ahead of that we spoke to Patrick about mixing personal and commercial work, and the influence of music on his designs.
What got you into illustration? Did you grow up in a creative environment?
Yeah my Dad was a designer, and I have been drawing badly since I was pretty young. To date my best drawing was of a futuristic tank when I was in year 5. I really got into the computer at pretty young age— I used to make covers for the stories I wrote in English lessons and later really embraced it when I found the Mac at school.
I thought what I wanted to do was Graphic Design as I used computers, but it took a degree in it to realise that my strength lay in image making, not layout.
How challenging was it to form your current style?
Pretty hard! I’ve never been into the idea of having one style as I get really into different things and ideas and flit between them, so it’s good to be open to whatever I feel like doing. I know it’s not necessarily that good commercially, though, as people want to know what they’re getting.
For years I was hand-drawing my work and screen printing for a living, which has definitely informed my work to date everything I do I like to have elements of imperfection, and hand-done-ness, if that’s a word.
A couple of years ago I decided, though I need to double down on my strengths and so decided to ignore the outline and focus on layers of colour, hand masked and coloured, much in the same way airbrush art is done, creating a kind of 3D vibe. I also, when time allows actually paint things with airbrush.
Saying this, I have been doing a lot of printed things like tees, and I felt keeping a foot in the world of flat, graphic illustration I’d done before worked best for that, focusing on pattern, icons, and type, and a heavier aesthetic. But both styles feed into each other.
What was your first piece of commissioned work and can you describe the feeling when someone offered to pay for your skills?
I can’t remember my first commission really— a bunch of small jobs after uni, none of which I’m particularly into, but my first commission I was really into I remember was Nickelodeon.
Lots of your commercial work is music based, has that always been an area you’ve wanted to work in?
Yes, always. I used to do fake album covers for fake bands in school, and flyers for nights that never existed. The subcultures around musical genres have just always swayed me. First it was really hip hop, then through that, graffiti and DJ culture, I suppose it is a pretty boring, well trodden path. But before that it was all the prog stuff from the 70s that my Dad had books about, people like Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews.
Are you often commissioned with somewhat of a free reign creatively?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to do album covers and work for musicians, and a lot of the time they are into letting you do what you want, which is the best, as I’m employed more on an artistic level as opposed to ‘designer’. In a perfect world I would like to only be employed on those terms—as an artist, who’s vision people want on their stuff as opposed to a generic designer, doing generic design. I find it makes me happiest, and people get the best ‘product’ that way.
What does an average work week consist of for you?
Getting up too late, having a breakfast for too long then cycling into my studio, which is a proper ‘art studio’ messy and covered in paint. Then I sit down, ignoring all the paint and just stare at my computer till about 7 or 8.
What are some other things you enjoy doing when you’re not illustrating or working on projects?
This year has been very unproductive outside of work—probably because I’ve just bought a flat, so it’s mainly focused around that I suppose. I used to make a lot of music with my buddies but we disbanded last year. There’s a definite aim to make some more soon.
Is there anything that has surprised you about the design industry?
Not really, apart from the fact that everyone pretty much wings it. You learn how to do a job by doing it. But that’s not really surprising, how else are you going to do it?
What do you think of the current state of the creative industries in London as a whole?
I’m not really the guy to ask about this, being one guy self employed but it seems to be pretty healthy with enough freedom for up and coming artists to experiment and get known for it. It feels like quite an exciting time as there is a proliferation of artists getting their stuff out there on Internet Radio, and through Instagram, which is really simple and effective as a professional platform, but also cool as it’s informal, which is the way things are now. Everyone puts a kiss at the end of their emails now.
What is your most useful technique for those moments when you’re lacking in inspiration?
I love tumblr as a place to go, I get the feeling I’m in a cave with a torch when I’m on it, looking at images scratched into the walls of the internet but often I actually forget what I’m into, as I look at so many new images every day, so I have a folder of stuff on my computer that I top up when I remember which I started a few years back, and looking through that brings me back down to where I come from. Often I’ll kinda try and copy something I have in there, and in doing so, my style will naturally take over, and I end up creating something completely different.