Welcome to the land of the Lumps. Here, grinning characters go about their daily antics – they go shopping for rainbows, beers, packaged babies, and head to the local all you can eat to feast on some luggage. With perfect yet sinister smiles pinned to their faces, some are even morphed into objects like cans, cigarettes, coffee dispensers or plant pots. It’s a strange place here, but everyone seems rather happy about it.
This colourful and dystopian world is created by Sam Drew, an illustrator from Cardiff who is currently based in Stevenage. As a keen advocate for the arts, drawing is something that has always been of interest and later led him to study product design at university. “This is where I learned technical drawing, but it felt a little restricting and I didn’t feel satisfied,” he tells It’s Nice That. After graduating, Sam consequently steered in a new direction and decided to take on freelancing, web design projects and “any job that came his way”. It was in his spare time that Sam would draw up his own fantastical world, which in turn “became a bit of an obsession,” he says. “I started to post them online and I was really surprised by how well it was received.”
Now revelling in his chosen profession as an illustrator – and quite rightly so – Sam has developed a distinct style that gives a firm nod to the grotesque. “My illustrations mainly portray these characters that I have created, called Lumps. They are a futuristic version of humans and live in a dystopian world,” he explains. “The weird-looking characters often have broad smiles and are placed in colourful, surreal scenes.” Indeed hinting to the familiar, what’s most unsettling is the apparent use of everyday human life and experiences that have been taken, morphed and placed into a future vision. Perhaps his version of where the world will be in a few years, Sam draws from topics such as consumerism and mental health and intertwines these themes into his illustrations. “I’m also a big fan of post-apocalyptic of dystopian worlds,” he says, “so I find myself drawing this type of scene all the time.”
Sam’s characters were initially formed out of a desire to create the “weirdest character” he could, combined with a longstanding interest in surrealism and automatism. “I loved how the first character turned out and over time they developed into their own little species,” he says. “The Lumps characters are living everyday life, laid back, happy, and some take on the form of everyday objects.”
The mouth is, quite obviously, a reoccurring theme throughout his work. As a visual double entendre, what’s most interesting is that, at first, these smiling characters appear to be quite ghastly, quite sinister or villainous. But on second glance, these creatures seem to be filled with joy. “I like how much expression is put on the characters when I add a big smile,” says Sam. “I have always seen them as positive and happy characters despite their surroundings. I didn’t realise this at first, but some people see the smiles differently, such as being tense, evil or menacing. I like that the drawings are viewed in different ways.”
A lot of the time, art can be seen as a window into the creator’s mind. For Sam, he consciously uses illustration as a portal into the inner workings of his highly imaginative brain. “There are times when I am somewhere like a a really busy supermarket with people rushing everywhere, and I think about how the scene looks so alien. Just observing the world around me can inspire new illustrations,” he says. “That being said, I have no idea where some of them come from!”
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 was interim online editor in 2022/2023 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.