Maker of the Month - Dick Vincent
Northern Lad, book lover and man of the mountains - this month we talk with illustrator Dick Vincent about how instagram helped him land his dream job and why there’s a special place in his heart for Morris Dancing and May Poles
When I was a kid I used to be obsessed with picture books, every week I'd take out the maximum 8 books from the library then take them round to my nan’s. We would both read them together, at the time I didn't know that she couldn't read very well - she could pick out odd words but had missed out on school as a kid so could only manage basic reading and writing. She would make me tell the story by reading the pictures and often we'd just make up our own stories.
In school I was always really shy, to the point where I could barely speak to anyone, but I could doodle ok and so drawing became an instant way of me making friends. I've always had a good memory when it comes to drawing, so often I'd scribble down all the popular cartoon characters and give them to the other kids as a way of saying hello. I never went to art galleries as a kid, instead I visited the local library as often as possible. Drawing to me was a very narrative based thing and so all the positive associations I have with drawing naturally pushed me in the direction of illustration.
At the moment I’m incredibly inspired by folk traditions, mainly fading British traditions. When I was growing up, stuff like Morris dancing, May poles and Green Men were always seen as something strange small villages did. If you read into them they're incredibly interesting and something that's very present in British culture, that’s something I missed out on living in a big city like Manchester. I've found that these traditions and stories are related to nature and the landscape so they naturally flow into my work. I'm also feeling like there's a big revival of landscape paintings and I'm hoping once I have more spare time to go out and paint in the landscape.
I graduated in 2006 with a degree in Illustration with Animation, at the time the recession was about to hit, there were no jobs in the creative industry and on top of that I didn't have a great experience with university. I left with no interest in making art or becoming an artist, but, having worked so hard at uni I had no idea about the next step I should be taking. For a few years I floated about in retail not really knowing what I was going to do, then I got a smart phone and some of my friends were using this new app called Instagram.
At the time social media just seemed like a way of sharing photos, nothing more, but I liked Instagram because of this. Even though I'd given up on the idea of becoming an artist I was still doodling, so I'd post my doodles on my Instagram, or passages from the books I was reading, not really thinking anything of it. For me it was just a visual diary and at the time people didn't get work through social media so I didn't worry about styling my photos.
Somehow through my work on instagram I was noticed by a few art directors, before I knew it I started getting a regular commission for a Dutch magazine called Flow. This magazine was huge across Europe and from this I started to get more and more work. It completely reignited the fire in me and I rediscovered a love for making art.
At the time I wasn't making enough money to quit my day job so for a few years I felt like I was moonlighting as an illustrator. Before I finally took the leap of faith to go full time I was working 40 hours in retail and then 40 hours on illustration commissions. I had no sleep, I'd lost loads of weight, I was anxiety ridden and developed OCD, In hindsight it was all worth it because I was working towards my dream job.
When I did eventually go full time I put the weight back on, slept properly and ate decent meals. Because I went through what felt like hell and back I never take it for granted that I have my dream job.
I feel very much a part of a creative community, especially with social media having evolved and making it so easy to talk to other artists. I have regular chats with artists on the other side of the world who's work inspires me massively, or moan with friends about printing costs or chat with stockists and shops about my illustrations and what's selling. Whenever I'm at a market I'll often catch up with sellers or makers I've only previously spoken to online, I get to call them friends despite only chatting through the world of social media. What no one realises I guess is how isolating and lonely working for yourself can be, so although people complain about social media I think it's opened so many doors, especially in the arts community. My Instagram account got hacked last October and I had to start again, I'd lost my 36k followers, but all my illustration friends were quick to rally round, share the news and help me regain a big chunk of my following back - which was fantastic !
When people send me photos of my prints framed in their home, or they've sewn a patch onto their rucksack, I think it's amazing. The best is when someone tells me they've put my prints next to their front door to inspire them to hike more. Much of the work I make is to give myself a kick up the arse, so the fact the message spreads to other people is brilliant.
I also love seeing my work in shops, and being able to support independent businesses this way. I illustrated a book a few years ago and when I go into a new shop I always have a look to see if it’s in stock. I’m a huge book lover and seeing months and months of hard work on a shelf is incredibly rewarding.