Interview: Idiot’s Pasture

Jonny Wilkinson aka Idiot's Pasture is a creative all-rounder based in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire.

His practise incorporates illustration with a social conscience, collaborative work as part of collective Skull Paradise, teaching art and he makes music in popular noisy band Hookworms.
Drawing people and anthropomorphised dogs that would be toe tapping and finger picking to a boogie woogie beat if only they were in 3D, in Jonny’s world, words are scribed in quaking capitals and segments of texture are made up of comic-book dots and dashes. Anarchic in a fun and lo-fi kind of way his style is pure joy to behold.

Jonny kindly took a little time out from his hectic schedule to oblige us with this corker of an interview…

Hey Jonny! What’s the name Idiot’s Pasture all about?

The name came about when I was studying for my art degree. During my time there I was volunteering with various youth organisations in Leeds – particularly with young offenders and those not in formal education. I remember when I started doing my voluntary work I was also working on a comic about a love triangle between a family of cannibals and I basically didn’t want potential employers or students googling me and finding that. The name comes from a Black Dice song and was never really meant to stick – it’s a bit embarrassing now as they’re signed to the same family of labels as the band I play in – I don’t want to seem TOO much of a fan boy.

Did you always know you wanted to draw for a living?

I don’t think I decided I wanted to illustrate until the second year of my degree. I was definitely interested in graphic design and filmmaking up until that point though. My course was quite broad and allowed you to experiment across disciplines and I’m very grateful for that! Drawing definitely isn’t something that comes naturally to me, I see the students I work with now producing amazing design sheets and sketchbooks in next to no time and I’m so jealous! I wish I was an effortless drawer.

Were you creative as a kid?

As a kid I was really into skateboard graphics and Robot Wars, I used to invent entire skate brands and sketch logos and decks in the back of my Mum’s diary on days out. I have distinct memories from school where all I did when it was too rainy to play football was design robots, maybe I’ll get into that again.

It’s so important that we do something useful with any art and design practice; it can’t just exist in this weird vacuum where it is only accessible to those of a certain privilege. It should be used to help people.

What does a day in your work-life look like?

I currently teach almost full time, study for my PGCE, illustrate, make music and try to spend enough time with my partner so it’s dead busy. I spend a lot of time on trains emailing people and worrying that I haven’t finished an assignment. On the odd day where I do get to dedicate it to my illustration practice I have to have at least two coffees before starting. I then usually listen to Destination Tokyo by Nisennenmondai – this is my ‘working album’ and has been for about 4 years now – it gets me in the zone. I’ll then usually slip into some slow R&B (Drake). I like to sing to myself when I draw.

What is your process? Is it all digital or do you start on paper?

My working process is pretty chaotic. I usually do about 8 really rough drafts of what the illustration could be, these are usually non-comprehensible squiggles and shapes to anyone but me. I then draw individual elements using whatever pencils I have lying around and then with a fineliner or with a brush pen. I then colour these digitally and play around with the layout on Photoshop. It’s very rare that I do all the line-work and then just colour it in – I draw each little part individually. I never use a graphics tablet for my illustration though, it’s all done onto paper and scanned in – I fear a world where we can no longer make things with our hands.

Tell us about your role as an art teacher. How does your teaching practice feed into the work that you make?

I teach on the Foundation course at Leeds College of Art and I absolutely love it. I don’t think that I ever want to do anything else – even if I didn’t have to work to financially support my illustration practice then I’d still do it. I think it’s so important that we do something useful with any art and design practice; it can’t just exist in this weird vacuum where it is only accessible to those of a certain privilege. It should be used to help people. Creativity is a powerful tool. Being an educator is just a big a part of Idiot’s Pasture as being an illustrator is, I don’t believe one can survive without the other because I don’t think my brain would allow me to be happy enough to participate in something as self-indulgent as drawing.

I have some really amazing students this year and their work keeps me on my toes. I always say that I learn just as much from them as they do from me – we swap comics and books and show each other different artists or musicians we’ve found. Learning is a two-way process and it’s journey you take together. A tandem bike.

You operate independently as a freelance illustrator without an agency – what are the pros and cons of this approach for you?

It works for me, as I never feel pressure to do any work that I’m not into. I’m not interested in doing it as a career per se, it’s something that makes my head and body happy – that is more important than money. I never want it to be something that I don’t look forward to doing and I fear that putting a greater monetary value on it will turn it into something less personal and something less organic.

Not going through an agent means that I get to work with people who may not necessarily have a big budget but are still doing things that I enjoy and that are important to me – mainly small independent bands, DIY promoters and independent businesses. I think building self-sufficient communities is important and we both benefit from each other. I’d say that the main con of not having an agent simply comes down to fees and connections. I’m not very good at asking for money and I probably sell myself short quite a lot of the time. There are certain magazines and client that I would love to work for and having an agent would mean that working with those people would be a much more realistic prospect.

I have been thinking about getting an agent though but I’m indecisive – I don’t think it’s the right time in my life to get one at the moment.

Can you tell us about some of the organisations you’ve worked with?

My favourite commissions so far have been an exhibition for Common in Manchester and Tall Boys Beer Market. For Common I did an exhibition with Skull Paradise (the collective I work with) and it was so much fun because I’ve never worked on that scale before. The exhibition was called The Gravehounds of Bone Street and we turned the inside of the bar into a street corner hang out for a pack of delinquent punk dogs. We painted the walls bright pink, had 6ft tall dog stickers on the wall and made loads of fake gig posters with dog puns (Bjark, The Rabones, Butthole Sniffers etc). It’s good to take illustration off the screen or off paper. The stuff for Tall Boys has been really fun simply because I love real ale. It’s always been a dream of mine to design a beer label or pump clip and this feels like I’m one step closer.

If you could work for or with anybody in the world who would it be?

I really want to do some work for Anorak magazine – that’s the next thing on my list that I want to achieve. My all time dream commission would be re-designing Goosebumps book covers or some other similar children’s horror stories. I’d also like to work with the charity Mind but I have no idea what that could be.

Can you say a little about your interest in working with charitable/ supportive type organisations and small indie types? Any local independents you’d like to mention here?

Working with charities and community organisations is just an extension of why I teach – I want to do something useful and something that helps people. It’s about creating a supportive community that offers something different to what else is on offer.

I’d like to give a shout out to Village Bookstore in Leeds as they have let me put on a couple of exhibitions there at no cost – they’re dead good guys with an amazing shop.

Whose work (illustrator, artist, designers, musicians) do you covet? What is it that you like about the work and how does it influence what you do?

I am always honoured to be able to work with Pippa Toole – we’ve been talking about working on a proper collaboration together for years now – maybe some sort of zine or comic but it’s hard when you live at opposite ends of the country. We’re both interested in the same subject matter; anything on the camp side of horror is our jam. We both graduated at the same time and weirdly have loads of mutual friends that we didn’t know about, it just feels like a proper connection.

I’ve been really into Elliot Kruszynski’s work of late – his use of colour is amazing. Everything is just so fun, it makes me happy. Simplicity is the key. Plus he’s a dead nice chap.

I’ve been a long distance admirer of Ed Cheverton for a couple of years now but have never been in touch with him. His work fascinates me, I feel like I understand everything that happens in the universe his work takes place in – how characters move, what sounds they make, how they interact with each other. It’s amazing and unlike anything else I’ve seen.

And one more thing – you are in the band HOOKWORMS, sounds like fun, what do you love about it?

It IS fun. We’re in a fortunate enough position to be able to travel around quite a lot with it – I’ve been places that I’d probably have never been able to go before because of it – New York, Poland, Denmark, Sicily etc. We’re very lucky. It’s also just great to be able to hang out with 4 of your friends and eat pizza one evening a week and I never want to stop enjoying that aspect of it. We’re just friends creating things together. The community that surrounds music is amazing and I’ve made some really good friends along the way who play in really great bands. I’m also a complete gear nerd – it essentially justifies me spending too much money on amplifiers, pedals and guitars.



Posted on May 2nd, 15 by

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