South-London illustrator Chester Holme has recently curved his portfolio, steering away from football drawings towards an approach he describes as “irreverent”. When we last featured his work in 2016, he was fresh out of the scene from Kingston University and already well-versed in colour-blocking, character development and presenting an admiration — if not slight obsession — for the sport. His latest offering follows a commission by Mosaic Science to produce It’s Time to Rethink the Toilet, an illustrated story which coincides with an article featuring a “new loo” and “lavatorial revolution” in Madagascar. We caught up with Chester to find out more about this project, his progression as an artist and how he remains true to his signature style.
Tell us about It’s Time to Rethink the Toilet: How did you come up with the ideas for the commission?
The imagery that jumps out at me and that which I want to work with always tends to be the more negative aspects of the story: drowning in a latrine pit, being attacked by snakes while defecating and carrying a dripping basket of human waste on your head, for example. For me, it’s important to stick with these images and work them until they feel appropriate for whatever context they’re going to be presented in, rather than discarding them and doing something lighter that you’re ultimately less interested by. I think it makes the final illustration feel more genuine and hopefully gives the viewer a sense of the illustrator behind the drawing.
Describe your creative process.
I work completely digitally now – photoshop and a tablet, from roughs all the way up to final artwork. I’ve found that it frees me up, gives my lines a looser, more spontaneous feel and provides the command-Z safety net that I love so much. Although. I’ve tried to strip back as many of the features that working digitally provides. I only use one brush and I limit that to one size for the entirety of each project. My colour palettes are as small as I can make them without giving myself too much of a headache. Perspective is limited to a single angle or flattened out entirely. You definitely need restrictions to make interesting looking work, and when there are almost none – as is the case with Photoshop or Illustrator – you have to impose them on yourself. I believe those restrictions have allowed me to assemble a much more congruous, unified portfolio of work and has undoubtedly pushed me forward as an artist. Everything has to be more considered, cleaner, more characterful and more communicative.
What have you been up to since we last featured you?
Since you last featured me I’ve been feeling my way around the freelancing world, getting to know the kind of work I want to make and trying to find the people who want to pay me to do so. I’ve made a concerted effort to broaden my practice and move away from the football illustrations that previously made up a large part of my portfolio. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy those projects (I did!) or don’t like football anymore (I do!), the football design world just started to feel a bit insular and not something I wanted to be defined by. I still have fairly regular football jobs – I just finished a project with Nike and Chelsea FC – but I’m able to engage with other parts of my brain now and chase other interests, which has been really refreshing. I worked with OMA recently which was an absolute dream and required a totally different mindset to the Chelsea job.
Do you have any prominent themes or rules throughout your work?
My only rule really is to remain as irreverent as possible, I find sentimentality pretty repulsive. I remember really struggling with early editorial jobs because I was always being asked to ‘celebrate’ whatever the subject was, whereas my instinct was always to take the piss. I suppose I’ve gradually found ways to satisfy the client I’m working for whilst still feeling good and not having to fake enthusiasm. Theres certainly no conscious attempt to carry anything thematically through my work, although I’m sure if you dug around a bit there would be something there.
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.