For London-based illustrator UNQO, genuine expression, a feel-good factor and comedy are paramount to what makes great art. Accompanying his no-nonsense approach to expression, UNQO spends time cultivating his various skills to keep on evolving and growing on an artistic level. He hopes to make merchandise with his designs as well as hold more exhibitions of his work.
Where are you from and when did you start your art practice?
I am born and raised in London and I started making artwork with the intent of a career a few years ago but I have been drawing since I was about 5.
How do you describe your vision for your work?
I don’t really have a vision for my work to be honest, I just like to make images that make me laugh. I know that I’m enjoying something I’m doing when I’m laughing to myself throughout the process.
What are your artistic/creative inspirations?
Everything around me, situations that happen to me in life which I’ll twist and exagerate. Drawing is a therapy for me sometimes. I’m very influenced by 90’s Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon/Toonami cartoons just because they were insane. Like Ren and Stimpy has influenced my style massively, as well as other stuff like anime and comic books. It took me a while to really find a singular style because I would always try and involve different elements from all these different ways of drawing.
Are there other emerging artists/illustrators you can recommend?
I get most of my artist knowledge from Instagram nowadays as it’s a good platform in certain ways for artists to share their work. There’s an account called Ruff Mercy- I love his work. Mark Mulroney is great, Anna Park and there’s an Illustrator called Kim Jung Gi who is just unbelievably good. These people are very well known in the industry but their names came to mind.
Tell me about your process.
I will think of an idea which I will then plan out in my head about how to position the scene. I like to make things a challenge to draw and as naturally posed as well. Then I will hand draw the whole picture, I really love this as a skillset so I want to nurture that as much as possible. Then I photograph it and airdrop it into Illustrator and will work from there. As my subject matter tends to be quite dark I love adding really bright colours to the scene, so the viewer gets a happy cartoony sense from the colours and the drawing style but is then instantly juxtaposed when they see what the scene depicts. I tend to add a dusty pink background- I need to stop doing that so much but I love it.
Do you think your work has a message? How is it received?
No, I don’t believe so. I just really enjoy doing it and making something I find impressive and funny. I hope that’s what comes across to the viewer, It tends to be received well, some people find it weird but still enjoy it so that’s a positive for me.
What do you like about the artistic community of today? What do you dislike?
I like that it seems more like a community now and not just for either the super successful or the amazing, struggling artists on the side of the road. I think it’s cool that it’s now filled with people from all walks of life and there’s a far wider scope to showcase and make a career from it. I’m not sure how prevalent it is but I’ve seen some examples of people making art or illustrations that are offensive to important issues or movements just to be subversive and brand it as ‘their freedom’ and ‘their art’. I feel like they believe making art puts you on a higher plane of expression and free from social decency, where in actual fact they’re just being pretentious and privileged.
What is safe and/or dangerous in terms of experimentation?
Nothing really, I think just do what you like as long it’s genuine expression and not some weird attention grab.
What is one lesson you’ve learned in your artistic career that you would pass on to an artist who is just starting out?
Not sure I’m far enough along to be handing out advice but I will say just keep practicing and evolving, that’s what has really made me feel personally satisfied. Watching my skillset grow and what I’m capable of producing now from when I started has made me really happy.
Where would you like to see your work in 3 years? What goals do you have for your practice?
I’d like to do more exhibitions, I enjoy seeing the reception of people first hand after being so nervous about displaying my work. I want to make merchandise and have my drawings on all sorts of household items.
Check out more of UNQO’s work