We popped down to Liverpool Airport to check out the unveiling of a brand-spanking-new set of McFaul graphics... just the tonic to welcome all those...
McFaul is a hard man to keep track of. He’s an illustrator, designer and an academic and he struts his stuff both this and the other side of the Atlantic. Since he’s originally from our neck of the woods we decided it was about time we caught up with the legend himself…
Hello and welcome to the world of Thunder Chunky. How do you do today?
For those of our readers who are uninformed, how would you describe who you are and what you do?
Wearer of some fine facial furniture.
Someone, in an article, once said I was a creative Colossus; ha ha!
I consider myself simply an image-maker. But I suppose I’m involved in different things every day – images, animations, packaging, posters, t-shirts! Not solely an Illustrator anymore, I seem to have found myself in a fantastic position of doing what I love doing every day of my life for clients I couldn’t possibly have dreamed of ten years ago. I’m also the co-founder member of Black Convoy (http://www.blackconvoy.com), the UK based design and Illustration collective, who are about to set the design world alight with unprecedented shows in London and New York. What a life!
Design Week cover
So what’s been keeping you working all hours of the day and night recently?
Yeah, its been a bit mad these last few months. These last two weeks have deprived me of the sleep thing because I’ve been doing a series of VIP Posters and Stickers for Virgin Atlantic, a whole range of Soda Packaging for Publix Supermarkets in the States, 5 web banners for Windows XP in collaboration with iLoveDust, loads of Black Convoy stuff and the usual few editorial Illustrations for a couple of German magazines; oh,and a trip to NY.
You originally hale from the fine shores of Liverpool. What was that made you move away from the city and where do you think the city stands now in the design world?
Birkenhead! I left to study in London as I felt, at the time, that London held everything I needed as a designer and image-maker. I wasn’t in any way bored of Liverpool but at the time it wasn’t the most inspiring of locations. It hadn’t had the drastic changes you see today. The regeneration is simply awesome. I’m back there as often as I can to see my mum over on the Wirral (not as often as I’d like mind you). It’s a different place these days… quite the hub of design and new media. A great place to be; not the place it was 10 or 15 years ago!!
A long way from Liverpool, you now spend a lot of time in New York. What sort of projects are you involved with over there?
New York has a great underground design culture going on right now – Loads of new stuff – great to be a part of it. Alot of my clients are over there these days – both corporate and ‘less than’ corporate. The whole UK design scene is hitting NY with a bang at the moment. They can’t seem to get enough of us. They seem very open to our ideas. I’ve just been over there last week talking to designers about collaborating on the Black Convoy shows both there and in London later this year. Loads of new opportunities have been presented to both Black Convoy and myself by just being amongst these designers. I’m doing stuff from Annual Reports to collaborations on soft porn imagery for galleries. It’s all very mad when you take a step back.
How do you think the NY design scene compares to cities such as London and Manchester in the UK?
As I say, its so much more underground. Well, the good stuff is! I do love the Manchester stuff though. I still really rate Central Station. I grew up listening to all the Madchester stuff so their covers were a big influence when I was younger. The London Image makers are making a big hit in New York right now. Why? I’m not sure. All this decadence and maximalist imagery is going down a storm over there. Maybe because America’s Illustration seems so stuck in history and hasn’t moved on.
Your work is a hybrid of photographic elements and vector illustrations. When did you first start experimenting with this style?
I am so inspired by lots of things. I love photography as much as Illustration. It just felt natural to combine the two. I’ve always wanted my work to be as individual as I can manage. I hope it has that something about it. I don’t want it to be aesthetic nothingness. It is there for a purpose but I want to imbue it with fantasy, sensuality and decoration. It isn’t something I consciously thought about. I just did it. Maybe the photo thing started a year or so ago… perhaps.
You also use a lot of white silhouettes in your work. Do you think it’s important to leave parts of an image to the viewers imagination?
What do you think has influenced your visual style over the years?
There’s so much. The more I do the more avenues I open. I still love Jean Michel-Basquait. His work mixed up with Cy Twombly, Antoni Tapies, Oriental stuff in general, 60’s fabric/design, psychedelia, wallpaper (of the flock variety), contemporary Illustrators, designers and Image makers such as our own Black Convoy, iLoveDust, Insect, Vault 49, Psyopp, Intro, Mark Farrow; the list is pretty much endless. There is something in everything.
I was walking in Central Park last week under Christo’s orange flags which gave me a few ideas.
You’ve worked with some massive clients, what has been the most enjoyable project for you to work on in recent years?
These posters I’m doing for Virgin Atlantic right now are quite special but I generally get most fulfilment out of collaboration projects. I think this is where I tend to be able to let my (increasingly greying) hair down a little. There is a load of stuff under way or about to start with people in the UK or over in the States. Its good to have that ‘hands across the water’ ideal put into reality.
You’re currently venturing into the realms of t-shirt design as well, with iLoveDust. Are there any other areas of design you would still like to get into?
Lots. The opportunity to delve into other areas of design is pretty much what Black Convoy is about. Without letting the cat out of the bag (and to the abuse of the rest of the Convoy) we are currently wrangling the possibility of creating our own eating establishment of sorts. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll leave you to think about that for a while!
Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?
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