London-based illustrator David Biskup’s work has that quality that many strive for but not all achieve: it is instantly recognisable. Through a combination of simple shapes, consistent lines and block colours he creates Where’s Wally-esque busy scenes that are full of humour and intrigue. We featured some of David’s work nearly three years ago and since then he has been getting commission after commission whilst expanding his personal practice.
David’s love of illustration stems from a birthday sleepover viewing of Ghost World from Blockbuster as a child. “Everyone else hated it but I got really into comics and graphic novels – mainly Daniel Clowes and Robert Crumb,” he explains. It wasn’t until university, however, that he was introduced to illustration as an industry and he realised it was the best application of the interests he had. “It still seems like one of the few creative contexts in which words and images are so intrinsically linked,” he tells It’s Nice That, explaining how he spends his time “condensing a load of words into a succinct visual representation”. Either that, or coming up with his own prose and ideas and finding a new way to combine them with pictures.
With a client list jam-packed full of too many names to even mention, it’s surprising that David manages to find any time to work on personal projects. While completing commissioned projects, he always has several personal ones on the back-burner – comic strips, anthologies and self-published books – which are the result of extensive reading and research. However, “I still love the challenge of a really quick editorial turnaround,” he explains. “Getting a chunk of text through out of the blue and having to come up with several initial ideas and then have one finished image, sometimes in as little as a few hours. It’s almost like training for an athlete – keeping the muscles active.”
“I must have drawn tens of thousands of people over the last few years, so there’s just a certain way that people naturally come out from my brain to my hand and onto a page,” David says when asked where his distinctive style comes from. Although not consciously aiming for a specific style, he loosely references 60s and 70s British children’s animations as well as American illustration from that time and “(at least the colours from) some pop art and the mass production of that period.”
In terms of concepts, though, it seems to be more clear cut. Much of his commissioned work over the past few years has centred around our relationship with technology. “This has proved a fairly interesting (not to mention occasionally terrifying) thing to be looking into when people’s relationship to technology is become more and more just ‘people’s relationship with the world as a whole’,” he says. In his personal work, he focuses on using comics and imagery to represent how people perceive the world: “Experience, memory, internal narratives. I’m aiming for some kind of stream of consciousness.”
One of David’s favourite projects was for the MIT Technology Review around the time of the US election. David was asked by Jordan Awan, creative director at the time, to create a webcomic about Obama’s reticence to give up the @Potus Twitter handle. “We had to do a pretty feverish rewrite once Trump won and then when it went up it was taken down almost immediately as the MIT were worried that their advertisers and trustees etc wouldn’t take kindly to the unflattering portrayal of their new president,” David explains. It now lives on his website and will be released as a physical version next year.
His favourite personal project, however, is a book entitled Seagram, which depicts a “very tricky time in mine and my girlfriends’ lives, centred around a suicide attempt due in large part to her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the subsequent process of slowly building her back up to something approaching normal.” It’s interwoven with scenes from Mark Rothko’s life and the restoration of one of his Seagram murals that was vandalised at the Tate Modern a few years ago.
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