Daryl Rainbow’s illustrations are as fun as his name. Large, full of life, and slightly uncanny, there’s not much that the Philippines-born and London-based illustrator hasn’t covered at this point. “I got into illustration through studying it at Camberwell College of the Arts,” he tells It’s Nice That. Then, in Daryl’s characteristic sense of humour, he adds: “it seemed like one of the least pretentious of the courses at art school.” It was, after all, the humour of illustrators and artists he admired that he wanted to channel in his own work. “Illustration seemed to be the ideal medium for that,” he says.
What makes his portfolio incredibly appealing is how each feels so distinctly different, yet held together by a common visual thread of some sort. “I can never really tell if I have a signature style,” Daryl says. “I always tend to get bored with a way of drawing or a colour palette every six months or so and then get interested in some other visual dynamic.” Even with switching it up, there is a general pervasive energetic and fun feeling that runs through every image, especially in terms of the rendering and colour. “I also like to put in a lot of humour and easter eggs usually in my work, as I generally just want my work to feel quite playful.”
Interestingly, Daryl describes a lot of his personal work as “reactive,” in that it generally comes as Daryl’s way of reacting to moments in culture and society that he takes an interest in. It can range from moments in sport and politics to moments in music and film, and his pieces are, more often than not, littered with an array of references to catch. “These are spaces that usually have an ongoing recurring narrative that I tend to work from,” he explains. “Even with something as unimportant as football, there tends to be really interesting characters and narratives you can play around with.” Sport can also serve as a great prism for Daryl, as he takes the social and political themes that often channel through and get reflected off of sport. “It’s always quite fun juxtaposing things that are going on socially and politically in the world of football,” he explains. But, that’s not all. Perhaps most charming is Daryl’s clear artistic adoration for the place he has called home for the vast majority of his life: East London. “Council estates, Londonisms, and gentrification have been themes I tend to work from,” he says. “Having lived in London all my life, I quite enjoy glorifying the mundanity of certain aspects of it.”
No better is such London-infused work seen than in Daryl’s work for Adidas last summer. During the Euros, Daryl created a mural for the London Adidas stores which showed a diverse array of football-loving characters. “It gave me the chance to combine a lot of themes that I like working with,” Daryl says. “Londonisms, a suburban setting, multiculturalism, and football.” Another shining example of Daryl’s work being influenced by the city he calls home is in his collaboration with photographer Brunel Johnson. “I discovered his work from my agency [Studio Pi] and really loved the sense of narrative in his work and how he had shot different parts of suburban London,” he says. “The series ended up being called 100% Organic Gentrification and I was very pleased with the dynamic between the photography and the illustrated parts.”
Now, Daryl is anticipating his murals going up for Arsenal FC in the coming months, which continues his string of success in sports-related cultural iconography. And his agency is holding a takeover exhibition of Lower Stable Street in Kings Cross across April and May, in which Daryl will show a piece. For now, Daryl promises to “keep on doing the reactive stuff” in a time where “there’s a lot going on at the moment to work from”.
Daryl Rainbow: African Royalty Michaela Coel (Copyright © Daryl Rainbow, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.