Usually when we run our Introducing features we write the introductions ourselves. But Stephen did such a great job of writing his own we just thought we’d go with it…
Hi, I’m Stephen Maurice Graham, an illustrator living in the small village of Edenderry enveloped by the wild countryside known as the Lagan Meadows which lies on the periphery of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Suffice to say, mobile signal out here is spotty at best but it is more than made up for by local gossip-mongering and speculating over who may be a witch.
I studied History of Art at Queens University in Belfast which is probably a fairly non-traditional route into this type of work. I loved my time there, it was a small class where we’d get together in a dark room with a projector spinning out reels of beautiful artwork which we’d talk about, read up on and go to see in exhibitions. Even though it wasn’t the practical or technical application of art it was still enormously influential having this wealth of knowledge when I began to create things myself. For years I stumbled about, trying photography, painting, screen printing; all sorts of disciplines before settling on a dip pen and ink years later as my primary medium, all inspired by that class.
At the moment I’m working on a small comic that I’ve been developing, I’ve been quite precious about it really and some days I’m very confident in its potential and other days I think its a pile of junk. That’s really OK in the long term as most other people doing this type of thing seem to go through that creative process too. The comic is called Techromancer and is set in a William Gibson-esque future where society uses technology to reproduce and it’s illegal to touch one another. That makes it sound serious perhaps (or even worryingly a bit like Demolition Man) but its really just an excuse to have a lot of fun visually with a setting I love.
Where do you work?
I work from home having converted a spare room into a studio space, it’s a really wonderful thing although everyone always thinks that I’d be tempted to lie in or watch TV all day and its not like that at all. If anything its difficult to stop working, but my girlfriend keeps that in check. Sometimes it can be good to get out into the world though. I’ve recently been collaborating with my friend and fellow artist Miguel Martin on a series of comics and I’d usually head to his studio at Platform Arts in the city which is really creatively refreshing.
How does your working day start?
I am generally awoken by my dog jumping on my face and from there the usual tumble of breakfast and dressing and walking and coffee and emails happens. Practically speaking, I like to end each day having set something up for the next morning otherwise I can feel adrift and at the mercy of the internet. I usually try to have a plan in mind of what I’d like to sketch out that day and develop, so strangely the beginning of my day depends on my previous day’s end.
How do you work and how has that changed?
I never saw the benefit of sketchbooks when I first started, which is really idiotic now looking back. I used to think I could do all my development and ideas-work in my head before letting it spill out onto the page, but now I realise all I was spilling out in those early days were undeveloped images, sketches and unrealised ideas. By sketching out ideas I noticed a marked improvement in my work and now wouldn’t be without one. I suppose when I was younger I was more stubborn in my approach, unwilling to budge, but that’s probably just because I was insecure in the undeveloped style I had then. Now I’m comfortable where I’m heading towards, always looking forward to how I can develop and evolve.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
Oh I would be desperately trying to get away with trying to play a lot of video games probably, it even bleeds into my work. I’ve been making a series of game related illustrations for a while now trying to build up enough for a book collection or an exhibition. Really though I love to spend time with friends, go walking with the dog and do my best to avoid the output of ITV.
Would you intern for yourself?
Unless I wanted to hear myself prattle on about the benefits of owning a sketchbook which is some pretty obvious advice to a recent graduate I could probably think of more learned establishments to call upon. Then again if I wanted to bounce ideas about, develop and sharpen my wits in this lion’s den while listening to ghost story podcasts then I think it would be fun, and if nothing else we could always play some Mario Kart.