The man who weaves music into art and vice versa
Mark Reynolds – How to weave art into music and vice versa
»Things sort of escalated after going to a gig …«
Please tell us a little bit about your background: how did you become an illustrator? What came first, music, or art and illustration?
I unintentionally fell into illustration about three years ago. My brother self-published a book and nagged me into doing a few illustrations for it. I enjoyed the process a lot more than expected and so decided to keep drawing bits and pieces for my own entertainment. Things sort of escalated after going to a gig and drawing a bit of impromptu fan art of the artist that had performed. I posted it online and, much to my surprise, the artist liked it enough to share it. The positive response really pushed me to keep going and trying to improve as an artist.
Music’s always played a big role in my life, more so than illustration if I’m honest. I can still vividly remember my parents buying my brother and I Walkman’s one year for Christmas. I was probably six or seven at the time. From that point on the two of us would always be spending our pocket money on whatever new music we could find. That’s still pretty much the case today to be honest, only instead of cassette singles I’m now frittering away all of my money on vinyl boxsets.
Who are your heroes in the world of art/design and music? Who inspires you the most? What’s your favourite album/song?
My biggest inspirations, from an art and design perspective, tend to come from other artists that I follow online. Some of the huge, well established artists have definitely had a big impact on me too; Roy Lichtenstein, Jack Kirby, Pete Saville etc, but on a day to day basis it comes more from people I’ve stumbled upon online over the last few years. People like Yonil, NEEDLE, Nicole Rifkin, Kim Thompson & Helen Green. I could list hundreds of others. They’re all infinitely more talented than me and so your readers should immediately stop what they’re doing and check them out.
Musical inspirations is a harder one. There’s been so many artists that have meant the world to me over the years. Anyone that knows me, or has even just followed me online for more than five minutes, will know that Carter USM are my favourite band. I bang on about them quite a lot. They’re possibly the first band that I completely fell in love with as a teenager and so they where the soundtrack to my most formative years. Weirdly they’ve also become entangled in my journey as an artist. Their manager was the first person to commission me to do something professionally and that eventually lead to me getting the opportunity to do the artwork for the latest solo album by their singer, Jim Bob.
Other than Carter, bands like The La’s, Echo and the Bunnymen & De La Soul and artists like Bowie & Dylan are usually playing in the background whilst I’m drawing. I’m almost certainly missing other important influences here. Pre-emptive apologies to every single one of them!
What drew you to pop art?
I’ve always liked how colourful and vivid pop art tends to be. I also love how, with people like Lichtenstein, the text that he uses creates a bit of a narrative within the piece.
I studied filmmaking at university and so spent a lot of time writing scripts. I think that’s why I enjoy trying to weave a bit of a story into a lot of the stuff I do.
Some of your images look like adventure cartoons (see Depeche Mode), the La’s series has a distinctive 60s feel, Ramona Lisa is very painterly. What’s the story behind the different ‘genres’?
The short answer is I get bored quite easily. I tend to find if I do two or three things in the same sort of style one after another then it becomes a bit of a slog. I find jumping from one style to the next helps to keep things fun.
As for the styles themselves, I’ve always been really into vintage aesthetics when it comes to the stuff I create. A lot of my work is trying to replicate old comic art, pop art or vintage 60s and 70s cartoon shows. I’m not sure what it is about those that grab me, but I really enjoy the challenge of trying to accurately replicate something like that, even if I often fall wide of the mark.
What are your bestsellers, and do you take commissions?
My best seller by some way is the Hanna-Barbera’s Velvet Underground cartoon. It went viral when I posted it late last year and lead to a lot of new people discovering my stuff. The English Gothic piece I did is another big seller. Other than that, nearly all of my Talking Heads illustrations have been pretty popular.
Unfortunately, I don’t really take commissions. Not at the moment at least. I’d love to but I have a non-art related day job which makes it a struggle to find the time to take on too much. With any luck this interview will lead to such a huge spike in sales that I’ll be able to quit my day job…and buy a private jet.
Talking about the Talking Heads. What’s your all-time favourite David Byrne/Talking Heads song?
That’s a tricky one. Talking Heads are one of those bands that I love enough to have a different favourite depending on what day you ask me. Once In A Lifetime has always been a bit special to me though. It was the first Talking Heads song I heard, back in the mid 90s when I was about 14. It blew my tiny, Nirvana addled, mind and eventually lead to me seeking out their entire back catalogue. So, I guess I’d say that song, if only for the fact that it was the track which kick started my love of Talking Heads.
And finally, please let us know about any special upcoming projects that you might be working on.
I’ve been secretly working on the artwork for Jim Bob’s next album over the last few months. It’s been a big undertaking, so it’s been fun watching the designs slowly take shape. I’m excited for people to see that and for others to hear the album. I’m convinced it’s the best thing he’s ever done, so hopefully people don’t come to the conclusion that my artwork is a blight on an otherwise flawless record.