• Lead
Illustration

Introducing: Irish illustrator and creative demon-wrestler Stephen Maurice Graham

Posted by James Cartwright,

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.

  • Me-studio

    Introducing: Stephen Maurice Graham

  • Flyer

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Creative Demons

  • Erotica-small

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Erotica

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.

  • Eos

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Edge Of Seventeen

  • Jase

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Jason

  • Qb-small

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Quarter Beat Magazine

  • Reset-small

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Reset Poster

  • Snakesmall

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Snake

  • Techsmall

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Tech

  • Twinsister-small

    Stephen Maurice Graham: Twin Sister

Jc

Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate – who believe in great design and ultimate customer choice – is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

  2. Main

    Let’s get this straight – no one uses colour pencils like Yann Kebbi. His rushing waves of familiar greens and reds depict street scenes filled with fumes, scowls, ageing pedestrians and whooshing movement – always with a dry happiness and a side order of mystery. Recently Yann’s wry depictions of human life have been featured in The New York Times and other prestigious rags, but some of his most interesting work lies in the personal sketches he whacks up on his blog for people like me to dribble at. The seemingly slapdash paintings of his family and the Hockney-esque sketches of the French countryside are exquisite, and proof that Yann has got so many more styles to try out yet before he perfects his repertoire.

  3. Main1

    Kristina Tzekova is an excellent testament to the belief that there’s no limit to what you can do with a packet of coloured pencils and a sheet of white paper. The illustrator recreates scenes from music videos and cult films in comic strip form, from Kanye West’s Bound 2 to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, and the results are the perfect cross between lo-fi doodles in the margin of a maths exercise book and Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographic studies of motion. Simple though they may seem, her drawings are incredibly intricate, taking into account the continuity between each image just as scrupulously as they do the the details which easily have been missed, from the cheeky glint in an eye to the quirk of a top lip. Here’s hoping somebody picks up on Kristina’s work and makes them into a book sharpish!

  4. Img_1065

    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate – who believe in great design and ultimate customer choice – is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

  5. Main_14.40.48

    Three cheers to Portuguese illustrator Marta Monteiro for executing what I would have believed to be an entirely impossible feat; creating a series about tiny, lilliputian women living in a giant world without it being even the slightest bit cutesy. Her miniature characters are practically heroines; tying up villains with cotton from a giant reel, transporting a slice of pizza on their shoulders and playing tug of war with spaghetti, and all in the style which has won Marta commissions from some of the great champions of illustration out there, including the New York Times and NoBrow. This series has even been awarded a gold medal by the Society of Illustrators in the category of commissioned work, so if you don’t take our word for how brilliant it is, take theirs! here’s hoping for dreams of Borrowers for nights to come.

  6. Main

    They don’t come much sharper than Sara Andreasson, the Swedish illustrator who was on the site back in March but who has posted so much new work on her website that we see fit to feature her again already. The Swede has been hard at work, creating commissions for The Debrief, New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone, toying with witty observations and reassuring block colour to demonstrate that she’s just as nimble whipping up images to suit a brief as she is with personal work. Her experiments with rasterisation and contrasting patterns are especially intriguing, hinting at a whole new technique which is ripe for exploration (and more of which can be seen of on her Tumblr.)

  7. List_2

    Julianna Brion is an editorial illustrator whose diverse portfolio houses projects for a bunch of fortunate clients. Like most creatives who make commissioned work though, when she’s not drawing to a brief she’s filling sketchbook after sketchbook with scrapbook-like doodles which are as beautiful, if not more so, than her finished images. Reclining figures, pastel dogs, picture-perfect houses and foliage all feature, rendered in a rainbow of acrylic paints and sketchy pencil. For me, looking at the sketchbook of a successful illustrator is kind of like peeping into the messy bedroom of an impossibly well-coiffed, super dapper gent. And who doesn’t like to be nosy?

  8. List_3

    Trust Helsinki-based illustration agency Agent Pekka to sign up some of the best illustration we’ve seen in a long while without so much as a cough to show it off! They’ve just added French illustrator Jean-Michel Tixier to their books, and he looks set to be an amazing addition.

  9. List_2

    When it comes to brightly-coloured multimedia creations Mike Perry is king, and as far as we’re concerned there’s little chance of anybody threatening to knock him off his throne any time soon. As if to strengthen his case, he’s just made My Mother Caught Me Doodling, a 160 page hardback celebration of the female form, which sees Mike create tribute after tribute to ladies. Naked ladies.

  10. Main

    Considering it had been a while since I had had a proper delve through this great guy’s portfolio, revisiting his site was a refreshing reminder of just how talented Gwendal Le Bec really is. Sometimes people can be frowned upon for aping or mimicking a style from someone else but in Gwendal’s case it’s different as he successfully takes elements from all the most infamous illustrators of times gone by and adds them to his own style.

  11. List

    We’ve been harping on about what a terrific illustrator, and all-round cheery chap Ryan Gillett is for quite some time now, and it seems people have been taking notice. Ryan now counts the likes of Virgin, The Sunday Times, Anorak and Smith Journal among his many clients, who keep him busy at all hours on commissioned projects. It’s not hard to see why either; Ryan’s cheerful scenes made with the sensibilities of a traditional print-maker ought to excite even the most severe clients. But he still finds time to do the nice things that remind us what a stand-up guy he is; like producing screen printed postcards to send out to all his fans (including us). When they arrived the other week they brightened up our days, and also made us realise it was about time to praise Ryan once again…

  12. List

    Thank God for Laura Callaghan! In an illustrated world saturated with images of pretty girls sweetly baking cupcakes, making daisy crowns and chasing after boys, she injects a much-needed dose of the sinister femme fatale. Her characters have undercuts and piercings instead of being clad head to toe in lace, they read lesbian magazines instead of Vogue and they wear vials of their lovers’ blood round their necks. What more could you want from a role model?

  13. Listleipzig

    Sergio’s back, and he’s as good as ever. With new tour posters for the likes of Mac DeMarco and Future Islands and a bundle of personal work, we decided to whack him and his pointy-nosed people up on the site once again. Retro and somehow futuristic at the same time, his prints steer clear of twee although smiley, bouncy-haired characters abound. Their massive forearms and John Lennon glasses say “I’m clever and I work hard” in a way reminiscent of early communist posters, mixed with a touch of The New Yorker; what a brilliant combination. I love Summer, a print of a sunbather on a beach gazing into a snow globe. It might not have occurred to Spanish Sergio, but to me this seems like a brilliantly British reaction to too much sun.