Graduating in 1996 from Camberwell College of Arts with a degree in fine art and graphic design, illustrator Marcus Oakley soon found himself in the studio of Paul Smith as a t-shirt and textile designer. Working across menswear, womenswear and children’s clothing, he designed “literally hundreds and hundreds” of items. Feeling that he had got everything out of the job that he could, in 2000 Marcus left and became a full-time illustrator. Since then, he has gone on to become one of the leading figures in his contemporary style of drawing. Showcasing a naive style that toys with colour and composition, Marcus’s work is charming, adaptable and accessible.
Looking at his most recent work, his refined style appears even more simplified in form than before. Abstract blocks of colour and rough shapes have a sketchbook aesthetic that is pleasing in its restraint. “These new works were made specifically for my current exhibition Room Time in Edinburgh Central Library,” says Marcus. “The Central Library has a fantastic art and design section and amongst its 1930s bookshelves are long, horizontal, fabric exhibition spaces. These spaces in many ways dictated and constrained my work in a positive way.”
Taking inspiration from features of our daily rituals such as crockery, plants, furnishings and food, this new series investigates the ways in which our creative process is affected by our everyday surroundings and how we find ourselves daydreaming brilliant ideas whilst doing mundane things like making tea or listening to music. The bold colours and simple shapes of the illustrations enhance the reading space, bringing added vibrancy to the rows of books lining the walls and shelves of the library.
Made using a mix of paper, crayons, watercolours, wood and household emulsion, Marcus says he finds it enjoyable to work with a range of different materials and he encourages constant experimentation with his linework: “It’s important for me to move forward. I’m constantly looking for the melody and harmony in the line, constructing, forming, and manipulating. I’m continuously learning how a line has the potential to be anything and to be interpreted into anything. 2D, 3D or even sonically.”
Room Time is open at Edinburgh Central Library from 3 April – 29 April.
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.