YEO MEETS: PHIL HARVEY

YEO first met local illustrator, Phil, a couple of years ago at The Cruel and The Curious Exhibition. We fell in love with his collaboration with Studio in the Sticks, in which Phil manipulated their stunning images of the Southwest, by creating mischievous monsters to reside amongst the landscape. A series from this collaboration now hangs pride of place in our Bude studio. We recently caught up for a chat about all things Phil, from how he started out in the industry, to adapting during the pandemic

-So, tell us a bit about yourself Phil! We know you live locally now, are you originally from the Southwest?

I’m originally from Totnes in Devon. I spent my 20s in Bristol and then moved to Cornwall in 2010.

-How did you get into illustration?

Like a lot of artists, I doodled from a young age, I obsessed over making marks and often drew cartoons. Later, inspired by a couple of graffiti exhibitions in Bristol I then started painting these cartoons onto canvas.

In those early days, in order to find an audience for my art, me and my graffiti artist friend staged small exhibitions, running club nights where we invited local music acts to perform while our canvases hung on the walls. This led to me drawing flyers for cash, that led on to commissions like skateboard graphics, tee shirts and eventually magazine illustrations. 

-The styles of work you produce and the mediums you work on are so varied, from caricatures to realism. Paint, ink, and digital drawings. Do you have a favourite style to work in?

I enjoy all the mediums I use, but get most pleasure from traditional, hand drawn or hand painted art, it just feels better! Style wise I’ve been commissioned for such varied reasons over the years that I’ve honed the ability to hit different styles to order as it were. This definitely keeps my interest fresh but then it is nice to ground myself with some hand drawn skills to connect back to my own personal motivation again. Not just to fulfil the vision required by a client. If I was told I could only draw in one style for the rest of time I would choose caricature, simply because it’s a lot of fun!

-Which artists inspire you the most?

I’m not going to reel off a big list of names but I’m inspired by all types of art. Specifically artists that ‘really draw’. I have enormous respect for those who dedicate their lives to the practice of drawing. 

-How did you end up working in the Toy industry?

I began illustrating for children’s annuals which led to my portfolio having lots of cartoony work for younger children in it.

At a life drawing class (really!) a friend told me a local toy company was looking for an in-house illustrator. After an interview and some trials I got the job! It was awesome! I then went freelance and doors opened to the wider toy industry. 

-How have you found working during the pandemic? Have you had to adapt your process much, or has it stayed fairly similar for you due to the nature of your work? 

Thankfully my work has remained constant through the pandemic, but I drink more coffee now. I regularly have to take time to be with my daughter while my partner works which is not at all a chore. She’s a total crack up and genuinely fun to be with day to day. I’m really lucky with that. It’s been a balance at home as it has been for everyone but because of staying local we’ve settled into some pleasing routines that we’ll hang on hard to. Running and being in the sea now get a far more regular look in for me, which is definitely a better way of balancing out sitting on my behind for hours on end. I miss swapping notes with people face to face on work as it progresses, but online is okay for now.

-And finally, what would your dream project be?

I’ve always loved the idea of drawing literally every single person who has made an impression on me! Like every single one! A mad timeline of my life through portraits. 

I have a children’s book in its early stages.

That’s more realistic! 

Check out more of Phil’s incredible work on his website: phillustrator.co.uk