Interview: James Gilleard

James Gilleard is an illustrator and animator based in London.

Most recently, James has been collaborating with Tinybop on their latest app Simple Machines.

In Simple Machines, kids can  experiment with six simple machines, discover how they work, and investigate the invisible forces behind them. Manipulating the many inclined planes, levers, screws, wheels, axles, pulleys, and wedges, children can make music, destroy a castle, lift fish tanks, bike over obstacles, send airplanes into the sky and break up icebergs.

James is inspired by the fashion, architecture, music and art of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, giving his artwork an air of nostalgia and setting it apart from the crowd. Other unique aspects of his work include his beautiful use of colour and ability to equip even the most simple character with buckets of personality.

We caught up with James to find more about the way he works and his involvement in Tinybops new app.

How did you get involved in with Tiny Bops new app? Were you involved in the initial concept of the app?

I was approached by my agent at Folio to do a test for the simple machines job. The initial test was quite different to the final app, more complex I think. When we started Tinybop had ideas about what each simple machine was and we then worked together on some the concepts, while others were already fully formed.

I have had pretty bad luck in terms of apps and games, lots of cancelled projects etc, but this one for Tinybop was a real pleasure, we were on the same page from the start.

And how do you go about illustrating an app? We imagine it is quite a complicated process.

It really varies from place to place, some jobs you get a very detailed document explaining every art asset you need to create, while others are much more organic. I will usually start out creating concept art images before moving onto the final artwork.

Tinybop have in-house artists who took my vector files and prepared them for the app, so I didn’t really see the complicated side of it in that way.

How was it working with Tiny Bop? Is there anything you think makes them different from other app designers?

I have worked in many places making games or apps for kids and it seems like there are two camps – one being ‘safe’, bland and often very dull apps, then there is the camp creating exciting and progressive content that doesn’t talk down to kids and fires there imagination. Tinybop are certainly in the second. Their apps are fun and always seem to have interesting styles.

In reading about the Simple Machines app, we saw you were inspired by the work of artist Mary Blair. What do you like about her work and what made it so influential on this project in particular?

I have always been a fan of her work and was starting to introduce a few elements into some patterns that were inspired in part by her but more that whole mid century modern art movement. Tiny bop then saw this on my site and liked the direction so we decided to use it in the app, hence why the test is so different to the finished app. There is something really great about her work – it is kind of naive yet precise and detailed and a style that will appeal to kids as well as adults.

Have you always been creative? Even as a child?

I always liked art and design as far back as I can remember. I used to draw dinosaurs quite a lot and then became really interested in surrealism at secondary school. The first image I remember drawing was a ‘Knight Rider’ track.

Do start ideas in a sketchbook? Your illustration style is very clean cut, is this the way you draw too?

Yeah I always work things out first in a sketchbook drawing thumbnails and scribbling notes. My sketchbook drawing is often very rough as I work out ideas and gets more precise in the sketchbook before moving it to the computer.

Another project of your which we loved is your ongoing series of incredibly intricate patterns. Where do you get your inspiration for these?

These are just ideas really – playing around with patterns, not really for anything. I would like to be able to put some patterns onto fabric and household items at some point. I am planning to take this a bit further later in the year to see where it goes. Someone did get in touch just yesterday wanting to use these with watches so I’m looking forward to seeing them!

These are kind of based around mid century modernist art, mixed with glitch art, but mostly it is me just playing around.

We hear you are moving to Japan. Can you tell us how this came about and what made you want to move there?

My wife Aya is Japanese, and we both a bit fed up with the daily grind in London, we are getting old! We feel like a complete change. I personally really love Japan, great people, food and culture and I have only been over there for a couple of weeks max so it will be nice to stay there for a while. I certainly think it will do my illustration some good being in a whole new and exciting place.

Finally what is next for you? Any upcoming creative projects you would like to mention?

I am currently working on a book for Disney based on one of their popular park attractions. It is quite different to the style used for Simple Machines! I also have an animated music video I am working on slowly, which I hope to finish by the end of the year. There are also a few book ideas I would love to get going, as well as short animations I’ve been thinking about for years.

My work will be in a few pop cultured themed galleries this year too. So far there is one based on the Double Fine games company at IAM8BIT Gallery, a Tom Hanks show as well as ‘Crazy for Cult’ at Gallery 1988, and a Del Toro themed show towards the end of the year. |


Posted on May 27th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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