Interview with Illustrator Godmachine
GoMediazine: Let’s start with the usual questions: tell us about yourself, what Godmachine is all about and where you’re from.
Godmachine: I am from Wales in the UK and have been designing T-shirts for about 2 years now. I studied Graphic Communication as a mature student and was terrible at it; I just cant see the subtleties needed for clever ‘design’. Luckily for me the Lowbrow world has reared its beautiful head.
Godmachine: I have always drawn- I think I was even better at 8 years old than I am now, if I remember rightly. I pursued drawing as an interest up until the age of work. I was never brought up to think that you could make a career out of anything but laboring, Dad was a fitter, brother is an electrician, granddad was a minor. I was always taught that I needed a trade. I was always taking courses like ‘media studies’ etc between and during jobs, but never really had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I never stopped doodling though and was always making images and it wasn’t until my wife bought me a canvas and told me to paint that I actually thought about it as a way to make a living. As time went on more and more paintings were made and sold and I finally got a PC just as the Merch boom started and it all fell into place.
GoMediazine: There’s a lot of debate about the value (and incredibly high cost) of art education. Coming from an illustration program myself, I feel like the guidance was at times valuable but anyone who spends 4 years drawing all day every day is going to get better, and you could just as well do this out of your house and be getting paid for it instead of the other way grow as an artist?
Godmachine: I am certainly not going to dissuade anyone that wants to study to not take that opportunity. I don’t want to sound like an ass but I do think you are right; if you take every opportunity to draw, read books on drawing, study peoples techniques, ask questions, try new things….why would you need to go to University? I feel though a Uni’ course would make you a more rounded artist in that it would force you to look at things you may have no interest in. I feel there are weaknesses, too many to mention, that I will not get round to working on for a long time as I am always busy with work now. I wish I could take time off to de-learn and start again sometimes, do some real life studies, get messy with paints again. You wouldn’t really get that opportunity if you were working- but in Uni’ you could. With the advent and ease of the internet, there really is nothing you couldn’t learn from home right now. Mostly I would say more than anything else you should have a burning desire to draw/create/study, with that they could put you on an island with a crayon and you would develop your skills. So its a bit of both really.
GoMediazine: I read in another interview with you that you don’t keep a sketchbook because you’re always near a computer. Do you sketch on the computer or is it all finished work? Does this allow you to get down more ideas or is it an obstacle? Care to share any samples with us?
Godmachine: I just bought two sketch books today hahah. I realised last week that my work station is full of scraps of paper with non-sensicle doodles all over them. I am using sketch books not for sketches, but for ideas, I see things, think of something, grab a piece of paper and doodle on it and then pin it to my work board. Where was I getting these pieces of paper? I was ripping them out of an old sketch book. But I need to see those sketches in front of me- I cant have them hidden in a book- they are no good to me there. Sketching on computer is good for me but not great- I cant work on that sketch on the toilet (lets face it all good ideas are created there, see flux capacitor) or on the train. I will send you a sketch but you wont believe it. Recently I was talking to a few artists, including Dan Mumford about concept sketches and when we compared them we saw that we were all quite horrific at sketching. I think its because what we see is not what you see on that paper, artists have an image in the mind and use the doodle as a quick reference and guide. I think I get more ideas using my scraps of paper, and soon, my sexy new sketch books (£3.00 off ebay).
GoMediazine: Do you have any recurring themes in your doodles, you know, eyeballs, zombies, etc?
Godmachine: Yes. all of the above and the rest. Gore, skulls, pain, anger, skulls, gore, blood, eyeballs, I love them all.
GoMediazine: Do you keep any type of reference library?
Godmachine: I have an extensive library of books for reference and inspiration, I love that a lot of it wont be found on the web. I used to work at a second hand book shop during Uni’ and amassed a great collection. Cant stop buying books. I also have a folder of hands on the desktop from photos I took.
GoMediazine: What is your typical process from start to finish? How many revisions does it typically take for you to get to a place where you’re happy?
Godmachine: I start by collecting ideas from various places, getting inspired- usually takes a day or two, then the scrap of paper doodle. Then I sketch it into photoshop and layer after layer I define what I am doing and where it is going. From actual initial PS sketch to finished piece it usually takes me about 10 hours over 2 days, I have other work to attend to during. My brother in law, adam, bought me a coffee machine recently and That gets fired up first, I call it ‘The First Four Black Sabbath Albums’, not the names of the albums, but exactly that ‘the first four..’. As for revisions I tend not to do any unless the client really want me too and then we refer to the contract to see how many we are allowing. We usually hit it first time, I can only really think of 2 times that it was completely the wrong image, and that was all totally my fault as I wanted to get these ideas out and there really was no explaining them, just had to do them…But Usually its just a case of a few tweeks. I wish I had enough time to revise each piece over and over again, I am always able to pick holes and see new things.
GoMediazine: How have your tools changed from when you started until now? Has moving to digital changed the way you work or your style?
Godmachine: When I started it was mostly Biro, I loved that dirty strained feel it gave lines, like it was made by a weak, ill, disturbed person. Then it was marker pen and acrylics. Then back to pen, this time; fine-line. Then finally a tablet. It totally affects your work and your style. I see loads of people buying tablets now and seeing they all look the same. I asked Ray Frenden, the artist that showed me how to use a tablet the same question and he replied that sadly your work and style will someway always be influenced by your tools. It is bad in that a lot of people look the same now. It hasn’t affected my style as I remember it, but it has helped me achieve the style I was always aiming for. And recently I am learning to make it look more like pen and getting more courage to get back to my old ways.
GoMediazine: What’s the biggest hurdle for you in working digital?
Godmachine: It will never be as responsive or as natural as working with ‘real’ medium. Ray Frenden who is a constant source of knowledge and inspiration for me recently blogged that his MAC pro, Citiq tablet, umpteen programs are all easily trumped by an $8 brush on a piece of paper. I would say the biggest hurdle I have is it not being ‘real’ untill they are flogging it on a t-shirt/poster/deck…. Or that my computer strains with file size or process power. Other than that I am more than happy with it, so is the Mrs as it means less paint being flicked about the house. Some people think the ‘splats’ thing is like a trend for me or something, but I been flicking paint about for over 12 years now, my painting reflect that.
GoMediazine:I wanted to avoid asking you the obligatory influences question, but do I detect some Ed Roth showing through in addition to the skate art flavor to your style?
Godmachine: I only found out who Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth was a year ago, so I cant say he has been a direct influence on my work. Maybe indirectly through a culture, yes, and definitely through the skate culture. All the usual suspects are my influence and I will not give the usual obligatory reply. I will say though that I am avoiding doing that style these days and have been for a while. My aims, as I grow in skills and confidence is to leave that behind completely and concentrate on a lot more serious or ‘darker’ style of art work- more Marvel than Phillips. I don’t post much of it though as it seems to influence too many people too quickly, I will do when this comes out though and you will see for yourselves.
GoMediazine: Do you have ideas floating about that you use when a client comes around, or is it client first and then idea?
Godmachine: I have loads of ideas floating about in my head. But usually the client has some ideas as to what they want. The problem with doing my own thing for clients is that its not always in the same vein of my last piece- I am always developing ideas or wanting to try new things and mostly a client will want what you have already done- why wouldn’t they though. I had a phone conversation with a client a while back about some of my ideas I wanted to produce for him and he knocked them all down giving some reasons….Then months later I saw all my ideas had been produced. I don’t know if this was intentional and was probably a subconscious thing…but then again…So sometimes it works for us when a client gives me full reign and other times it is not a good idea…we find a way though. very rarely has someone requested a job that I have thought of- no one is that twisted.
GoMediazine: When you work are you a no distractions kind of guy, or are you watching your favorite movie for the 12,000th time?
Godmachine: I am totally distracted. When I first started I could work 8 hours solid and was producing one design a day easy, but it was killing me. Now I am all about distractions, social networking makes it easy for me to get side tracked. My main indulgence is you tube and TED which is great and i really enjoy learning new things about philosophy and science. I also like listening to the radio. Twitter too! I love twitter. I can be sketching away and be thinking of something then lean over and spew some verbal detritus into the world, wipe my brain clean and carry on sketching. If you like anti-religious stuff, cats or work related rants feel free to come follow me on twitter @godmachineuk .
GoMediazine: Are there other areas of art you want to branch out to, or things you do today that you’d like to evolve?
Godmachine: I want to get back into painting one day, but mostly I would like to be in a position to be the one that applies my design to things. I would like to be the one who decides where the print goes, how big it goes and what it goes on. Maybe open my own clothing label one day, but then I know how much work is involved that is not designing or creating.
GoMediazine: Have you ever had to walk away from a bad gig? Sometimes people just want you to be a physical extension of Photoshop. Has that changed how you select clients?/
Godmachine: I am writting a load of rules for myself, among them is such things like ‘do not compare yourself to others’ and so on, but one of them is ‘select only jobs that inspire you- even if you are without work’. I think I am getting to the stage now where I am fearful of churning out work that isn’t my best. My aims have always been (and I think I got the idea from a designer called Collison Theory) that each piece you design should be better than the last and that you are only as good as your last piece. Having that attitude early on was what I suspect got me here today. I have had to walk away from a bad gig though, some clients give bad art direction, and I have learnt that they don’t always want ‘new’ and ‘amazing’ they just want ‘something’ and ‘anything’. The clients I end up parting company from- and I am glad to say there have only been 2- have always ended up with below par work by some other artist- that at least makes me feel better about sticking to my guns. Next year will see me only taking on jobs that inspire me and test me- and in between I will practice and create work that I like to see.
GoMediazine:Do you have any recent favorite projects or anything coming up you’re excited about?
Godmachine: I have been aiming to work with more doom metal bands lately and more skateboard companies. I do enjoy working with smaller companies as they seem to want to take more risks with work which is fair enough as their risks are smaller, but oddly its the bigger companies that come back months later asking for the same stuff they turned down. The money isn’t as great- but at least I am happy with what I am producing, and I know that if you do it for the money you wont get as far as you want.
GoMediazine: What have you been listening to lately, have anything that never leaves the rotation?
Godmachine: Big Business! just cant get enough, I had a dream last night and woke up singing it. I have Palehorse to thank for turning me on to them. Also film soundtracks/scores; Moon, The Dark Knight, Lost Highway, Solaris, Twin Peaks.
GoMediazine: Who are some of your favorite illustrators working today?
Godmachine: I hate answering these things as I am lucky enough to call some of the greatest artists I know friends- albeit efriends, they are still good genuine people and have helped me unconditionally. The reason I hate these things is because with my sieve like mind I will always leave someone out. And to say one is to leave the other out.
GoMediazine: So tell me about this Weedeater shirt. I have to ask because I think it’s my favorite of yours. Was there a lot of planning in this or did you just sit down and belt it out? Would you consider a variant involving pizza? (Because that is the only way it could get more awesome.)
Godmachine: No planning at all. I had the idea of doing a gross women and that just came out. I think I remember pulling some faces in the mirror one morning and deciding on doing some disjointed mouth and a hand trying to hold it from dropping off completely. This tee among the others in the similar vein were the ones I produced when I nearly quit. I was sick of doing ‘Jim phillipsy’ stuff for clients and just wanted to make my own stuff. It was at this point when I discovered Brian Morris and he blew me away with his unapologetic work- it was like seeing the artistic equivelent of a ‘fuck you’. It may well be that, this wasn’t his intention, is not how he sees his work and is not what other people see. But it did it for me- I pulled up my socks- said ‘fuck you’ to my fear and drew a load of stuff I wanted to draw. Took me ages to sell it as all the people/clients I talked to all wanted my old stuff. Its been a long process but I think I am finally there- like I say next year will see me turning away a lot more jobs. I will work for anyone as long as they want something different, gnarly and promise to print it huge hahah
You can see more of Godmachine’s work on his website, and his blog. You can follow him on Twitter too.