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Will Sweeney

Work / Illustration

“I really love drawing and telling stories”: meet illustrator Will Sweeney

“Detailed. Always evolving. Often garish. Obsessive,” or so Hackney-based graphic artist Will Sweeney describes his chaotic, intensely surreal illustrative style.

Despite the illustrator’s high profile (his commercial portfolio is filled with names like Hunter, Audi, Stella McCartney, Ministry of Sound, Converse and many, many more), bar a very small mention back in 2009, this is his first time on the site. “A long time ago I graduated from the RCA and carted my portfolio around many art directors and magazines,” Will remembers. “Eventually I got a break, working for long-gone publications like The Face and Sleazenation.”

Many years of practise later, Will’s process now involves “feverish drawing in the sketchbook, agonising over ideas and compositions, making tea, watching an episode of Toast… Before eventually getting down to it and pencilling the final idea. Then usually inking, erasing the pencil and often scanning and processing digitally. Though more and more these days I’m happier to do everything by hand and shun the computer.”

When it comes to crafting his gloopy, sci-fi world of scary monsters and super freaks, Will lists his favourite tools as brush and ink, watercolour, pencil crayon and gel markers. “I love Posca paint markers and Rotring Rapidograph in combination,” he says. “I’m also very happy to just work in my sketchbook in pencil.”

Among Will’s favourite recent projects is a collection of drawings which have now found new life in the form of “an A5 zine with Nieves of a series of large drawings that I had been making in my studio, its called War On Dust. The drawings are black and white head and shoulders portraits of fantastical characters, reminiscent of arcane military figures, cyborgs and femme fatales.”

Elsewhere, Will tells us that he illustrates a monthly column in Icon, a Spanish magazine produced by El Pais, “by a great writer, Iñigo Lopez Palacios. “The articles are always very interesting,” Will says. “The most recent was about a gay anarchist militia force who are fighting Isis in Syria, other articles have been about The Mandela effect — when people collectively misremember events and Glam Rock.”

A great commission, Will says, lies in “the freedom to bring in my own ideas and to find a personal angle. Also, a great art director, though these are few and far between.”

Luckily, Will tells us that his next piece of work is self-initiated: a small exhibition of work that will be in Dover St Market in November with the US clothing company Braindead. “I’m working on some original paintings and a series of graphic t-shirts for that,” he says.

As for what’s next? “You never know whats around the corner,” Will muses. “I’ve worked on a great variety of projects in my career and new things always seem to come up, I like researching new subjects and also interpreting a piece of writing or music into something visual can be a very enjoyable experience. Plus I really love drawing and telling stories.”

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