Exclusive Interview with Illustrator Andrew Denholm


This amazingly-colourful work is created by Scottish freelance illustrator, Andrew Denholm, who loves to design illustrations that are fun, bold and outlandish! Apart from ultra-colourful creations, he also enjoys working with monotone prints as well (check out his Behance profile for more work).

★ Here’s a set of 12 questions I asked Andrew about his work, including his Top 3 design tips at the end. There’s a selection of his work scattered throughout this article for you to view. Here goes…

1. Tell the Design Soak Magazine readers about yourself. What motivates you?

My name is Andrew Denholm and I am from Melrose in the Scottish Borders. I studied Illustration at Edinburgh art college and have worked as a freelance illustrator for the past 4 years. I currently live in London as I believe it is the best place to be to promote myself as a illustrator.
I love making new designs and illustrations. I think self satisfaction has to be a major thing for any artist. If you stop wanting to create then that is a problem. As long as you are motivated to keep doing what you enjoy most then it is a pleasure to work.

colourful mask

2. When did you first start illustrating? Where did it all begin?

I started illustrating as soon as i could pick up a crayon. I would copy pictures my older brother had drawn, trying to make them as similar as I could to his. I would be very happy to sit down at home and draw for long periods and as i got older i began keeping sketch books full of cartoons and different characters. My parents always had paper and pens for me to use and this really helped fuel my passion for drawing as they where very encouraging.

3. How did you ‘find your own style’? Have you always used the same illustration methods?

I would copy a lot of cartoons characters when i was young  from the Beano, computer games or TV shows. This then developed into me trying to make my own cartoons and slowly I found a style I was comfortable drawing in. When I was in art school I made huge leaps in how I would draw as I ditched the cartoon style and tried to make my work look like wood cuts and lino cuts. I really liked the textures and patterns that could be created with these techniques. My drawings started to then merge the two styles together becoming quite textured and detailed but with cartoon elements, trying to keep as much humour in the illustrations as possible that reflected the cartoon roots. I have tried many other ways of drawing with different mediums but feel happiest with pen and paper. I do most of my colouring on Photoshop now though as I love the smooth finishes it gives compared to colouring pencils or pens.

Andrew Denholm Illustration

4. Tell us about your creative process. How do you work?

When I get a brief or a personal project I am working on I will do a number of quick sketches with a pencil. Once I have roughly worked out the composition of the image I will begin to sketch out the final piece roughly with a pencil. I will spend a lot of time making changes with a rubber until I feel that it is ready to be worked on with pens. I will start to work over the light pencil lines with a pen, I might still make changes but they will only be small details. I use a varied range of different pens to make sure I get the right line quality I am wanting. Once I have penned in the whole design I will rub out the light pencil lines so I am left with only the pen lines. I then scan the image onto my computer where I will work on the design on Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I tend to colour all my work in Photoshop as I like the bright, unnatural colours that are available. I feel bright colours lend themselves well to my often surreal images.

5. What is the biggest inspiration for fresh ideas?

I tend to do a lot of browsing on the internet, checking out cool art blogs or online portfolios. I like checking out sites like Behance as they have such a varied selection of art forms. I think it is important to keep looking at what other people are doing as a freelance person can often feel cut off from the rest of the art world when you are working on your own. When you are at art school you have so many people to bounce ideas off and this is something that I miss. I use my facebook artist page to help gain feedback about projects I am working on which can be useful. I also get ideas from everyday experiences or whatever may be interesting me at that current time, the key is to keep looking at things around you as you never know when a good idea will come along.

top of monster umbrella

6. Do you find it easy or hard to create new work?

The frustrating thing can be when your really need to get work done it doesn’t come easy to you and when you have no deadline your art work can flow. It can also depend on the project, some are more interesting to you personally so that can help. The best thing to do is take a brake when you need to as it can help instead of just sitting at a blank piece of paper feeling miserable. Going for a run or just relaxing can clear your mind and make a big difference.

monster umbrella

7. What is the best part of your job?

Creating is the best part. Being a creative person of any sort is very satisfying even if it can be very hard and frustrating at times. It is just lots of fun making new images that didn’t exist before. If I sit with a blank piece of paper for an hour I can create something completely new and original that I didn’t even know I had in my head. Its the unknown possibilities that can leap onto the paper from your brain that keep you wanting to draw more. I don’t think I would ever lose that excitement of drawing as there is always something new to draw and better ways to draw it.

plop patrol

8. Adversely, what is the worst part of it?

Having to be a one man business can be hard at times. Having to promote your work and also create your artwork can be a hard balancing act. It takes time to figure out how to manage your time effectively. Sometimes you have to do the boring administrative things before you can get on with creating illustrations. It gets a little easier with practice.

9. Apart from illustration, what other creative fields are you involved in?

I am involved in graphic design projects, working on branding of products. I tend to use a lot of illustration in these projects so different disciplines can often overlap. I am also in the process of creating my own T-Shirts with my illustrations on them. I have done bits and pieces of street art as well.

bear monster

10. Do you have any plans for the future of your creative work?

I would love to create a childrens book for kids 4-8 and also a book of illustrations for adults. I need to work on my writing/story telling skills though as they are not great. Also I need an idea for both of them…. more doodling is needed.

11. What is inspiring your work at this moment in time?

I have been looking at a lot of African art, especially tribal masks. I really like the shapes and patterns that are used. I also have been looking at aboriginal art as the mark making to build up a image is really interesting. Alongside all this traditional art i have also been getting into street art, especially character designs. I really like the bubble gum colours and the energy that can come from spray painting.

colourful mask 2

12. What is top 3 tips for Design Soak readers?

1. Keep drawing, always have a sketch book on the go. Even if you think the drawings you are making at the time are terrible they could be a source of inspiration to you another time. Also its good to keep practicing as you are always improving even if you don’t feel like you are.

2. Draw things that interest you. If you are not getting any jobs then create a self motivated project that excites you. If you like what you are doing then there will be others out there who also like it.

3. Don’t give up. The longer you keep illustrator the more people will know about you. It might not happen over night but if you are willing to put in the time and effort it will get recognised eventually. Keep promoting your work as no-one will do it for you. Stay positive.

blue face

Further Information // “Exclusive Interview with Illustrator Andrew Denholm” // All the images shown within this post are Copyright Andrew Denholm.

Want to See More? You can Follow Andrew Denholm on Facebook, Behance & Twitter and also visit his website – AndrewDenholm.com.