Featured Artist: Editorial illustrator Sam Rowe

Working mostly across editorial and publishing, Bristol based illustrator Sam Rowe has developed a strong, re-mixed abstract approach to image-making.

Combining digital design with textures and colourful contrasts, Sam Rowe has already amassed a list of coveted clients under his belt, including The New York Times, Huffington Post Highline, Arte, and Plymouth University.


Hi Sam! Can you tell us more about yourself and how you got to where you are now?

I studied at Plymouth University. Illustration became this special to me while I was there. I think I love it so much now because of what it can do when it’s combined with other stuff – like a story or an article or a piece of music. When illustration is being the best it can be, it improves the thing it accompanies, as well as being improved by it. I find that super exciting. The people that inspire me change all the time. This week it’s Dadu Shin, Gav Strange, Gizem Vural, Molly Mendoza, and Matt Willey.


Can you tell us a bit of your creative style / approach? Any reoccurent themes?

It changes – and I’d like to keep it that way (although I try to keep some kind of portfolio-wide coherence too). The things that reoccur / persist are a total obsession with colour and fascination with the combos of surrealism, abstraction, and real tangible stuff.

Tell us a little about your creative process? What inspires you..how and where do you find inspiration?

I do a lot of the usual stuff; Looking at books, online pinboards, creatives that I follow. I also often find that getting away from the desk around the ideas stage can be helpful.

A coffee shop, a park, whatever – it’s always good if I’m feeling like my ideas are jammed up or not going anywhere.


I’ve also found over the last few years that what’s fast becoming the most important part of my process is to leave time for improvisation. Formal education is good at teaching you how to plan – but sometimes not so good at teaching you how to plan not to plan. For me, intentionally leaving space for improvisation is the thing that yields the juiciest, most interesting and varied work. Sometimes, failing to plan is planning to make kickass work.

Interestingly you’re originally from London but have since moved and settled in Bristol – what’s the experience been like? Have you ever been tempted to head back?

The longer I live here, the more I love Bristol. The interesting thing is that I actually grew up in London (Bow) – so it still feels like home really. But Bristol just offers everything I was looking for. I’ll try not to repeat too much what everyone says about this place – but it is a fiery gem of creativity, communication and social connectedness. For me it rivals London for creativity in the UK and, crucially, costs a quarter of what it does to live somewhere equivalent in London!


Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment that you can tell us about? Or give us a teaser or clue about? It would be great to encourage our readers to follow you and your future work via social media etc.

Short term, a birthday card for the West of England Design Forum’s 10th birthday party in October, and a set of four vinyl record labels for Onnset Records. Longer term the timelines are more fluffy with some personal projects like book illustrations for The Time Machine (soon), an animation about the weather (not soon), and an illustration magazine (blue moon).



Most illustrators have dreams to work with certain publishers, brands or Art Directors – do you have a client wish list?

I think my dream project would be a hideous amalgamation of contexts and disciplines – I have no idea what it’d look like but I’m sure it’d be beautiful. Dream clients on the other hand – there are a few people I would absolutely love to work with Tor Books, Asset International, New York Times Magazine and Nautilus right now!











Posted on Sep 19th, 16 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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