Posted Sep 13th 2010 by

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An interview with
Iain Macarthurwords by , September 2010

Iain Macarthur’s brilliantly crafted illustrations don’t just boast an abundance of detail, they seem to have this hypnotic ability to keep you engrossed in each piece. We spoke to Iain to try and uncover his process, technique and hypnotic influece!

Hello Mr Macarthur, how are you today?

Hey there! I’m good thanks and yourself?

Great thanks! For those unfamiliar with your work, could you tell us about yourself in 3 easy-to-follow steps?

  • I’m a freelance illustrator and designer.
  • I produce surreal and detailed images made from intricate patterns from my imagination.
  • My work is compared with Bruno 9li and John Kricfalusi (who is the creator of Ren and Stimpy)

Tell us about a typical day in the life of Iain Macarthur.

Well I pretty much make a cup of tea firstly and then get zoned into my drawings , I always listen to a lot of music as it motivates me and helps me draw continuously throughout the day.


You’re work is a great surreal mixture of bold and striking imagery, yet is so meticulously detailed. Where does your influence come from and how do you know when to stop with the detail?

When I’m creating an image I firstly look at a huge amount of reference from photos and other artists work for inspiration and ideas. Once I’ve found a good idea I then draw it out with pencil and then make up the rest of it with a pen. Most of the pattern work I do is improvised. I do enjoy looking at other peoples work… it always excites me and gets me in a good creative mood! Furniture and textile patterns, like on wallpaper or oriental ornaments, gives me inspiration when i’m trying out pattern drawing.


How long does it take to complete a typical piece?

Depending on the size of the piece, I usually draw them on a big scale like A3 or A2 size which usually takes 7 or 8 hours all together. I take breaks during the process as i don’t want to push myself too much on them. But bigger scales tend to take a few days to complete.

Talk us more through a typical piece, do you do pencil outlines of the main theme, then fill in the details or do you start from the details outwards.

I start off with pencil outlines first so I don’t make a mess of it when I do pen. I just roughly draw simple shapes into it until I am satisfied with the look, then i go into detail with the pen and ink which takes a while to produce. I use special pigment pens which have different sizes of tips on them. One of my pens has a tip which is the size of a strand of hair. I normally work from the top of the drawing, making my way down.


What has been your most satisfying piece you’ve completed to date?

One of the pieces which i was really satisfied with was one of my portrait pieces that I did a few months ago. I really enjoyed drawing the face out and applying the patterns onto it. I really liked how the face turned out, looking photorealistic. Fortunately i sold the pieces at a gallery called Phone Booth Gallery in LA.

You recently represented UK design in the Galactic Battle of Foosball campaign! How did that feel and how did you get involved with the project?

I was pretty surprised and happy that i was commissioned to do that piece, which was exciting to do as one of the other artists who was commissioned is one of my favourite artists that inspire me, so it was a big opportunity for me to be apart of. I was approached by one of the people who run the 55DSL project. He saw my portfolio on and wanted me to do a commission. It was a lot of fun and something I would love to do again!


Your work has appeared on tees, prints, albums, logos, editorial spreads. Where would you like to see your work go next?

I’d like to see my work on gig posters. I’ve always wanted to do gig poster work but haven’t had the chance to be commissioned (yet) and also in galleries. At the moment I’m working on two exhibition shows that will be coming in September and October this year in LA and Atlanta, which should be really exciting to do. Hopefully I’ll be doing some crazy big scale pieces for them as well as paintings!

Which other artists should we be looking out for at the moment?

There’s a few that tickles my fancy: a Korean artist called Coolrain who does these amazing sculpture figures with an urban street theme to them and also a artist called Lennard Schuurmans who’s an illustrator from Rotterdam who does cartoon style images with a decorative element to them. Really cool artists to look out for.


What else are you loving at the moment?

Crunchy Nut cereal and old skool tattoos. And also my mum’s cooking!

Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?

Firstly everyone should all put some music on and do some crazy dancing and then check out more of my work on :P


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