Meet Chester Holme, the London-based Illustrator behind our collaborative Legends World Cup Capsule. We caught up with Chester at his studio in Forest Hil hot off the release of the Legends Capsule to discuss his story, and shed some light on his unique illustrative style.
ILU: Hey Chester, thanks for sitting down with us. First off, introduce yourself and take us through where you’re from and where you work from now
No worries guys, glad to be chatting to you! I’m Chester, I’m an illustrator from south London, born and raised in Peckham and currently living and working in Forest Hill. I do a lot of editorial illustration for magazines and stuff, but I also make comics and ceramics and prints when I get a bit of time between commissions. I work from home, got a nice little studio setup in my flat, and spend my days looking out over the London skyline from my desk which is a bit of a winner!
ILU: London’s one of our favourite cities to visit, with our Designer being there just a couple months back. What are your favourite places in London? And some of your go-to things to do?
Yeah, I love London, there’s not really anywhere else I’d want to live I don’t think. We’re having a bit of a heatwave over here at the moment and there is nothing in the world like a London park in summer, everyone’s lying around, chilling, enjoying themselves – it’s got such a specific vibe, I guess because it’s not often we have this kind of weather!
In terms of places to visit, I don’t think you can look past the galleries London has to offer. There’s obviously the big national institutions like the Tate and stuff, but there are loads of others including some really good commercial ones, and there are so many memorable exhibitions that stick out in my mind. The Hayward Gallery re-opened recently with an exhibition of Andreas Gursky’s photographs and it was one of the best I’ve ever been to. The Ken Price (pretty much my favourite artist) show at Hauser and Wirth a little while ago of both his paintings and his ceramics, was similarly incredible.
ILU: What’s a day in the life of Chester Holme look like?
Man, I’m pretty bad at routines! My girlfriend has a real-life job where she actually has to leave the house (shocker, I know), so I try to get up with her in the morning, fall into the shower, make a coffee and then sit down and figure out what I actually need to get done that day. If I’ve got a bit of time flexibility in the project that I’m doing, I’ll spend an hour or two working on my own stuff to get me warmed up before cracking on with the commission or whatever it is I’ve got on at the moment. On a good day, I’ll try to go and have a wander in the woods behind my building, give my eyes a rest and stop myself fusing to my chair, but that doesn’t always happen, I’m still figuring out the whole work/life balance thing.
Having said all of this, I’ve spent the last 2 weeks watching football and doing pretty much nothing else. Like I said, bad at routines! Although, I suppose it does only happen once every 4 years, and It is, of course, coming home.
ILU: So how did you get into illustration? Are there any key inspirations that you’d cite, whether a style or a specific artist?
I dunno, it was kind of lucky I guess. Basically, I just got really bored of everything apart from Art when I was at school, and so when I left I went to go and do an Art Foundation, which is a yearlong course where you get a little taster of all the various disciplines and degrees that an art college offers – Illustration, Graphic Design, Fashion, Fine Art, 3D design, Animation etc. I found that Illustration was a pretty good fit for me because I didn’t have to take myself or my artwork too seriously. Illustration is essentially just about communication, so I’d just make stupid visual jokes, people would laugh at them and I thought yeah, I like this and applied for the Illustration degree at Kingston University.
I got a bit more serious about it all over the next few years and got really into the alt-comics scene. People like Patrick Kyle and Michael Deforge and Jesse Moynihan just blew my mind, I couldn't understand how they could be so prolific and yet keep the quality so high, and I think still now a major drive for me is trying to emulate their output. I think another really valuable thing I got from those guys as well as lots of other comix people, was the realisation that you can be confident in making really weird stuff. Often the weirder an image is, the better, and It certainly means the process of making them is a lot more fun.
ILU: How would you describe your illustrative style?
Yeah, I’m quite strict with myself on how I make images. I hate fussiness in illustrations, cross-hatching can do one, so can fineliners. I like really decisive, confident images, so I use quite strong linework with no variation in width, small groups of really nice strong flat colours that tone well together, and maybe the occasional area of texture. I think I unconsciously approach image making from a print-making perspective, where you keep your number of colours small and so have to be extra clever about how you use them. I think these sort of restrictions really improves the quality of the image; you have less elements so you kind of don't have anything to hide behind. Each mark has to be clearer, more communicative, more beautiful and better constructed.
ILU: How do you work and what’s your typical setup?
I work pretty much entirely digitally, just using a sketchbook to write down ideas and work out any particularly weird or tricky bits of anatomy or composition. When I’m ready to get started, I go straight into Photoshop on my Wacom Cintiq which I run through an iMac. I’ve got like 3 go to brushes that I use for everything, they were all originally Kyle T Webster ones but I’ve adapted all of them over years to get them to do exactly what I want them too. It's funny, I’ve kind of developed this really deep knowledge of a very specific part of Photoshop and know pretty much nothing about how to use it for anything else. If you asked me to actually use it to edit photos, I’d be totally lost.
ILU: Have you always strived to be an illustrator and make a life out of being a creative? Did you ever contemplate a more traditional 9 to 5?
I dunno, I think I just went with the flow up until I got into art school and then kind of fell in love with the world of illustration and design, and decided I didn’t want to do anything else so I should just go at it really hard and see what I could make happen. I guess the idea that I would be able to make a career from creativity never seemed out of reach because of my parents. My dad is an architect and my mum makes ceramics and is an art teacher, so there’s probably something in my genes that pushed me down this path.
ILU: What advice would you offer your younger self?
I mean, I spoke before about how important the confidence to make weird shit was for me, and I think that probably the earlier you realise that, the cooler you and your work will end up being. I’ve always been a terrible over-thinker creatively, to the extent that I would paralyse myself and never end up making the thing that I was obsessively trying to figure out how to make. I think I’m maybe getting over that a little bit now, but I would have loved someone to snap me out of it and tell me to just get on with it. Just start and let yourself figure it out as you go. I was speaking to a girl a little while ago who must have been 14 or 15 and she was saying how much she loved comics and wanted to make them herself, and when I asked why she didn’t she said that she didn’t understand anatomy well enough. I can say with 100% certainty that if that girl just started drawing comics with weird, disproportionate, wobbly characters and let go of any embarrassment about not being able to draw ‘well-enough’, it would be more interesting than the vast majority of stuff out there. People (including me when I was starting out) get so caught up in being able to produce images in a certain ‘style’, they lose all sight of the actual content of end product. Just start and let it go where it goes!
ILU: What’s on the horizon for Chester Holme? And what are your long term goals?
What, beyond celebrating England’s inevitable and glorious 3-0 win over Belgium in the world cup final? I’m slowly working on a sort of comic – It doesn’t have any characters in it and there seems to be as much writing as there is image, so is it still a comic? – at the moment which I’m hoping to get out before the end of the year. I think I might take a little break from the football stuff, I’ve had a lot of fun with it all in the run up to the world cup, but once that’s done (and England are champions, obviously) I want to make sure that the world knows I’ve got other interests and other things to talk about too! I’d love to do some music related stuff, It’s something that I’m really passionate about but hasn’t really crossed over into my illustrative practice much, so I’m going to try to lean into that a bit, see if I can persuade some people to let me make their album covers and stuff. I also want to get back into ceramics, it’s been ages since I’ve properly sat down with some clay and I miss it.
Long term, I just want to still be doing what I’m doing now! It’s hard work but work that I love doing and work I feel a kind of compulsion to keep on with. I’d love to move into a dedicated studio at some point with a couple of other people, my work days are quite solitary now, and I’m fine with that, but it always give you a bit of extra motivation when you’re around other people who are all making cool stuff. I’d also hope that I get some more opportunities like this one to collaborate with other creative people and take my work beyond the screen or the page and into new dimensions.
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