Student Spotlight: Max Low

Max Low is a second year illustration student at Hereford College of Arts, a specialist art college in the Midlands. where his quirky, colourful and collage style caught our eye earlier this year.

We had the pleasure of meeting Max Low during a three-day workshop we ran earlier this year at Hereford College of Arts – instantly impressed with his inventive artwork and passion for his craft. In our first student spotlight we catch up with Max to find out more about his University experience and future plans.

Your work features a lot of colour and pattern ­ where do you get your ideas from?

I spend a lot of time looking at other artists work, in books and galleries but also on social media, and the artists I love generally use a lot of colour and pattern, whether it be Marimekko pattern designers like Maija Isola, or a fine artist like Howard Hodgkin. Of course it’s important to not rip anyone off, but there is no better idea generator than just looking at other artists work.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration style – how has it developed since you¹ve started University?

It’s become more and more abstract and arty, but far more considered and controlled. Starting university I had quite a narrow view of what illustration could be, all scratchy drawings and watercolours, seeing something like El Lissitzki’s About Two Squares completely shatters that. While I still use painting in my work, most of what I do involves collage, and everything needs big dollops of colour.

Are there any highlights from the course so far?

Other people! Before I was a student I worked full time in a kitchen and none of the big sweaty chefs wanted to see my new paintings! So having other students and tutors and the studio environment in general is fantastic. Visiting lecturers are always the high point of the course for me, I love hearing how they work, their experiences, it’s so encouraging and exciting.

How would you describe your working process? What materials do you most enjoy working with?

I usually start by painting, using inks to get the colours I want; I like the different shades and imperfections that you can’t get digitally, so I always start away from the computer. After I’ve       painted or cut the shapes I want I scan them into the computer and arrange them. When I’m at college I love using the photocopier, it’s such a fun creative tool, you can push it to get some really strange effects.

Who are your creative heroes?

The musician Arthur Russell, I try to make pictures like he makes music, his songs are so colourful and effortless and I love his attitude to art in general. As far as visual artists go there are gods of colour like Matisse and Howard Hodgkin, Swedish illustrator and designer Stig Lindberg and Japanese gouache painter Mogu Takahashi, who never fails to make me think the world is ok after all.

Japanese gouache painter Mogu Takahashi never fails to make me think the world is ok after all.

Do you like to travel or visit new cities for inspiration?

I’m quite shy and I can barely speak English let alone another language so travelling can be a challenge, but whenever I do its always hugely rewarding. My family has its roots in Scotland and Sweden, and both those places have such a rich culture, it’s hard not to come back bursting with ideas. I would love to travel to Japan; I think everything I do is my warped idea of Japanese art and design.

Are you excited about graduating? What are you going to be working on in your final year?

While I’m nervous about graduating I’m also massively excited. I definitely need to keep progressing to be ready to leave education so I’m putting the hours in. Try to get better and better at what I do. I will be making use of the workshops. I’d love to print some of my own designs on to fabric, and experiment with screen printing. I’m not too concerned with my grades; I just want to create work that people will love.

Where do you see your work taking you in the next decade?  What kind of projects, collaborations, experiences do you hope to cultivate for yourself?

I would love to have a shared studio or be part of a collective, it’s really important to me that I have other artists around me, and otherwise being able to make a living from doing something I love is my dream. I want to see how my patterns and designs can be used in different contexts and also push myself to travel more. I think this is a really exciting time for Illustration and Design so I just want to be part of it in any way I can.

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Posted on Aug 31st, 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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