Sam Taylor is an artist and illustrator based in London. His trippy illustrations are inspired by pop and skateboarding culture, and have adorned everything from custom trainers for Vans, T-shirts for skateboarding magazine Thrasher and a poster for musician Kurt Vile; other clients include Nike, Warner Bros, Google and The New Yorker.
Ahead of his show, DRAWING FROM THE HEART, at AMP Gallery in Peckham, which runs from 13-15 October, we caught up with him to find out about his daily routine, his dream client, his personal style and how he copes during quiet periods.
Tell me about a typical day as an illustrator
Up, check emails, go for a run, then start drawing at my desk. I’ll either get on with something I’ve already started or come up with something new. I go through sketchbooks and scraps of paper to see if I have any ideas. Then I draw all day with pen on paper, I’ll either colour on Photoshop or by hand if I fancy it. I probably draw for five hours a day and then I make some dinner and watch TV or go to the pub if it’s Friday.
What are you working on at the moment?
My show DRAWING FROM THE HEART. It’s at AMP Gallery in Peckham from 13-15 October 2023. I’m exhibiting all original drawings with ink and marker on paper. I’ve never done a show like this before so I’m excited.
How much of your work is analogue vs digital?
I’d say half and half. I always draw by hand and then scan it in. Even if my illustration has been coloured with pens it’s still a bit digital because I’ll probably tweak the colours a bit before I post it online.
What do you do when you get stuck for inspiration?
When I’m really stuck I try to disconnect; go outside, see a film, hang with friends. I know that soon enough I’ll come up with something I want to draw. It can be annoying but it’s totally natural so I try not to worry about drawer's block and remind myself that it’s part of the process.
How did you develop your current style?
Lots of drawing. Refining things, reworking things. I am constantly trying to make my style ‘more me’. I look at my own stuff a lot, to see how I draw certain things; bricks or cans for example. I want everything in my world to be clearly a part of that world. It’s all interconnected. Same with colours, I pretty much always use the same scheme unless a client wants to change it up (which I’m happy to do).
Do you think it's important for illustrators to stick with one style?
Not necessarily. It depends what your goals are. Some people can use several styles and it works fine. I think if you want to be known for a style and have clients come to you for you then it’s probably important. I think it’s satisfying to build a solid style of your own.
Which project are you the most proud of and why?
My collaborations with Thrasher. As a lifelong skateboarder it’s been amazing to get to work for ‘the bible’. I’ve done animated idents for them and a T-shirt graphic.
Tell me about a tricky work-related challenge and how you approached it
Quiet periods can be hard so I try to stay motivated and positive when they occur. Usually I throw myself into a personal project and try to move my work in different directions. Also, when I don’t feel like drawing I try to do things that are helpful like email art directors, sort out my accounts or update my website.
What advice would you give someone who wants to work as an illustrator?
Draw a lot and stay positive. Try to make your stuff unique. Maintain some sort of routine even if it’s not that strict. Get an accountant. Do some exercise to counter balance all of those hours behind your desk. Have fun.
What's your dream project?
I’d like to be the in-house illustrator at a skateboard company.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
Draw weirder things. Do more foreign exhibitions. Get a good savings account.
What's next for you?
My show DRAWING FROM THE HEART at AMP Gallery in Peckham on 13-15 October 2023. I’ve done more than 75 drawings that I am going to plaster the walls with. There’s a beer collaboration with The Goodness Brewing Co. and an event t-shirt with Print Social. I’ve been going hell for leather so I hope to see you there if you can make it, the private view is on Friday 13th 6-9 and then it’s open 12-5 on Saturday and Sunday.
Anything else to add?
Give illustrators footballers' wages.