Dominic Kesterton squishes, stretches and slices things in his repetitive illustrations
The London-based illustrator recently completed a master’s where he began exploring “volume, repetition and variation with drawing,” producing hundreds of works at a time.
- Ruby Boddington
- 4 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
It’s been a minute since we properly caught up with illustrator Dominic Kesterton (other than when he collaborated with Shun Sasaki on a summer-inspired Monthly Poster) and in the time that has passed, he’s continued working, moved to London, and completed a master’s. So it seemed like a good time to drop him a line and find out what he’s been up to.
Dominic’s continued education, as you’d expect, has had a significant impact on his practice. It proved a good opportunity to take a step back and process some of the “underlying values” in his work. Whereas previously he struggled to articulate the thinking behind a project, the particular master’s he was on really pushed the conceptual side of things and so he is “slightly better” at talking about his work now. “Sometimes it was really difficult to try and conceptually justify decisions I wanted to make because I like to follow my nose,” he elaborates. “It’s cool to come out the other side with a body of work and some ideas with impetus.”
It was during his master’s that Dominic developed an interest in “volume, repetition and variation with drawing.” This has seen him develop a large number of line drawings, where the idea is that “the more drawings I amass, the easier it gets to amass drawings”. He’ll start by producing 100 drawings of something, say an apple, and each new drawing will build on the last, warping, combining or squashing various elements. “I’ve been archiving them on a private website for now but I’d like to have these published as a big slab of a book one day. Something about having this growing and mutating pool of drawings behind me really helps, I feel fertile,” he remarks. Naturally, this process has been hugely beneficial to his commercial work as well, as he can “pull from this wealth of stuff and my drawing muscle doesn’t go idle either physically or conceptually”.
One such commercial project was for The New York Times, an editorial spot to accompany a piece titled We Prototyped a News App to Reach Gen Z Readers. In response, Dominic drew a smartphone that was “super long and wavy”, building upon his tendency to stretch and melt things. Slightly terrifyingly, he adds: “Imagine if we actually experienced the physical length of the scrolling distance our thumbs cover in a day in a more physical way.”
Balancing these kinds of projects alongside personal work is also important for Dominic, though, and one area he’s been developing on the self-initiated side of things, is narrative. Having always felt the pressure (perhaps self-imposed) to create comics because he’s an illustrator, it just didn’t come naturally to him. “I was never confident enough to write clear sequential narratives because I enjoyed or relied on ambiguity a lot,” he says. However, around the time he contributed to our Weekly Comic on Instagram, he started to experiment with this well-known illustrative format, using them to communicate humour and reflective space for himself.
In one comic titled Noodle Trip, for example, “a man eats some noodles, he notices an eye in his noodles, then his face is in the noodles looking back at him, his head is made of noodles and then he rubs his eyes and snaps out of it.” It’s hilarious but also unsettling, a product of Dominic’s superb pacing. “I think it’s a kind of relatable nightmare/freakout/vision. I don’t see my head in my noodles but I always think I can see little goblins in my room and stuff like that but then it’s just a jumper or something,” he says.
Whatever the project, however, whether it’s an editorial spot, a comic strip or even an installation at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Dominic’s portfolio is a distinctive one. His visual language is recognisable at once and is entirely his. Often, he takes a motif – “like an apple or a daisy or a dog or something” – and focuses on it repetitively. “I think it’s fun to try and put your claim on something so simple or generic, I think my drawn language is growing more these days, though,” he concludes. “There are certain operations I’ve always been interested in too, like squishing and stretching things or chopping things in half. I hope for my drawings to look balanced and considered.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.