Cornwall-based illustrator Edward Tuckwell is only just dipping his toes in the water of commercial illustration. Having graduated from Falmouth College of Art two years ago he’s been busy adapting his print-based practice for commercial use, trading emulsion and screens for Photoshop and a stylus. In spite of his relative newcomer status Edward’s work is exceptionally polished, fusing film-noir moodiness and geometric styling to devastating effect. So naturally we wanted to find out more. Like, who really is this creative wünderkind? Where does he spend his time? How does he produce these wonderful works, and what really makes him tick? Well read on and all these pressing questions will be answered…
Where do you work?
I live and work in Falmouth, Cornwall, and divide my week between home and a local warehouse conversion. A friend of mine has set up a print services company, specialising in screen printing, so I work there about three days a week overlooking the water and the boats, using the river as transport to and from Falmouth. Working there I have the flexibility to hire the use of printing equipment on a job by job basis, which I would otherwise be unable to do anywhere else in this part of the south-west.
The space is converted for art exhibitions, and music events in the evenings, keeping the studio fresh and making it an exciting place to be. Its also within cycling distance of home which is a bonus, apart from the times when the weather decides to give you a middle finger and dump the entire English Channel on your head. On days like those I usually stay indoors and work in the window of my flat at the opposite end of town.
How does your working day start?
I usually get up around 8:30, head straight for the kettle, and brew a strong cup of coffee. Its the only way I can function first thing in the morning. Then I proceed to do the standard task of checking and responding to emails, before moving onto looking at what I need to get done that day. I usually don’t tend to plan more than a week in advance at any one time, apart from labour intensive jobs, because I find that tasks tend to pop up and redefine the structure set at the start of the working week anyway. I put on some Trap, at a level that won’t deafen the neighbours, and get to it.
How do you work and how has it changed?
My work has developed from a background grounded in printmaking, in particular screen printing and woodcut, which I discovered when studying art and design foundation at Pitville in Cheltenham. This has stayed with me, and is still at the core of the commercial work I make currently, even though I have had to extensively adapt my working process to a digital format.
Upon moving to Cornwall to study Illustration at Falmouth, it became evident that the fine art department had a monopoly on the printmaking facilities, with the illustrators being given a room with some ink, lino, newsprint, and rollers. In most cases this covered a broad selection of things I wanted to do with print, but it restricted those of us wanting to do large half-tone silkscreens and punchy block colour prints. We were offered A4 sheets of acetate to cut stencils from as a solution to that problem. I left the print room.
Looking for another medium that could give me crisp and rich bold colours, I started using plastic electrical tape that you can buy from most DIY shops, which was also dirt cheap. Armed with a surgical scalpel, I began constructing images from this surprisingly versatile material, referencing the harsh lighting in film noir cinema of the 50s, which has remained a primary influence.
The move to working digitally came when I started producing images commercially. In an attempt to retain an organic feel to the work I hand-printed an array of swatches which could then be scanned and used to create a digital screen print with the aid of b/c levels and masks. After two years post graduation I am finally returning to screen printing, along with producing a growing portfolio of design work in an attempt to keep the output of my creativity as varied as possible.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
During the week I’m usually always doing something related with work in the broad sense. Most free evenings are reserved for production of a fortnightly pocket magazine that I design and run with a mate, alongside making hand-made sketchbooks to sell in the local boutiques around Falmouth. I make an effort to take weekends off, but can end up doing a bit of work on Saturday, if Friday night doesn’t take too much of a toll.
On Sunday I try to get out of the house and ride the costal roads for an hour or so, stopping at the beach if the weather is good. Apart from that you can find me mixing tunes with friends, playing patball, and either shooting at some pixels or a kicking a virtual ball.
Would you intern for yourself?
No. I think I’d get sick of looking at myself for a start. Trying to talk through and discuss ideas would be a nightmare, nothing would get resolved and I’d probably end up asking myself to stop working for myself, and then both of us would be out of a job. If anybody other than me wanted an internship the hours would be long, the pay would be crap and you’d probably be on tea duty every day of the placement. It would be a pretty raw deal, and there are enough design companies and publishing houses in the country that already cater for the creative graduate willing to slave their way to the top.
There’s a general acceptance among all professions, in particular the art and design sector, that you can get students or recent graduates to do your work for free, which not only lowers the quality of mainstream standard but kills the opportunities for people who are trying to make a living working freelance. Until things change I don’t want to be a contributing factor to that.
I was fortunate enough to intern with Venn Creative, at the beginning of the year, who are based in Penryn, just outside of Falmouth. They brought me in when a job became available that suited my discipline and paid me a junior designers wage to work with them for a month. If more companies took this approach when hiring an intern I think younger creatives would be in a better place to understand the industry when they move into full time employment, or take the plunge and go freelance.