Peter Greenwood is a professional illustrator based in Brighton, UK. Throughout his career, Peter has worked with large publications such as TIME and The New Yorker.
Could you walk us through your process of creating an illustration from start to finish?
If it's an editorial I will spend as much time as possible to get to know the subject matter and read the article, same goes for other areas of work like advertising, so research is key at this stage. I find that concepts can sometimes come in an instance and other times not. If I'm struggling to find an idea I will sometimes turn away from the drawing board and go for a walk with my dog or get on my bike. Its amazing how ideas can pop up when you are not pushing it, staring at a blank piece of paper. Then I will start with very small thumbnails in my sketchbook ( my fellow studio mates laugh at how small my drawings are). These will then evolve up to a bit more of a detailed drawing in pencil. Once scanned in I will send these over to the client for approval, from there I will place them in illustrator and start to add colour, etc. and build up the detail. I like to leave an illustration to sit over night so I have fresh eyes on it in the morning before sending it over to the client.
What is, in your opinion, the most underappreciated aspect of illustration?
The most under appreciated aspect I find to illustration is when I have someone contact me and say that if I do the work for them for free then it will be good for my portfolio, or I will get a load of publicity. Luckily it doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes you come across clients who don't realize you have bills to pay and you have spent years honing your craft, etc.. They think that what you do has no value to it. I often say to my students that they have created something that has value and they should remember this.
What kind of tools are used in crafting your images?
My go to tool is a 2H pencil and a sketch book, I have so many sketchbooks with ideas I also like to draw people on trains and on the beach etc. Its where I can make a mess and try stuff out and only I can see it. The next best tool I have is a Wacom Cintiq which is an amazing piece of kit that makes illustration a joy. Its essentially a massive iPad and has put the intuitive back into my creative vector world.
Where does your inspiration for images come from?
I have always been inspired by British illustrators, especially Ralph Steadman, Heath Robinson, Arthur Rackham, Tom Eckersley, and Abram Games. I get inspired by editorial photos, Russian revolution posters, Bauhaus graphics, Facebook groups like The vault of the atomic age, old travel posters from the 1920’s, etc.. its all out there to feed your eyes on.
How did you first get into illustration?
From an early age we had illustrated books,etc. around my parents house. I used to copy some of the pictures as murals on my bedroom walls. After I left school, I was a self-employed Sign writer doing shop signs and lettering but always wanted to be an illustrator, so I decided to do a Degree in illustration at Brighton University. I've been working as an illustrator ever since, and it makes me very happy.
Do you prefer to work on images one by one, or in groups/series?
I prefer one by one. I like the challenge of creating an image that is impactful and graphic that will stand alone like a poster or simple gif animation, one of my favourite English mid century illustrators was Abram Games. I really like his work for its simplicity and graphic nature.
What’s your favorite illustration you’ve made? Why?
My favourite illustration is my “The Universal.” I’m not sure where the idea came from (as Leonard Coen once said “if I knew where all the good ideas came from I would go there all the time”). It just popped into my sketchbook as a small idea, and I instantly knew it would work really well. I see this image being shared all the time across all social media platforms. It encompasses my ongoing passion and love of music in all shapes and forms.
Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I've just finalized a poster for Transport for London that will go on the underground and around London. Also, I'm working on a 50th anniversary book cover for Hot Wheels toy cars.