French is a London based illustrator, known for his dark and often macabre drawings. Sourcing inspiration from his two greatest loves, Skateboarding and Death Metal, French’s work has taken him across the globe showcasing his talents in London, the USA, Denmark, France, Israel and Australia.
His Latest show “Blood Oath” at the Archipelago Works in Sheffield has so far received an overwhelming positive response, proving to the critics that he’s a talent to look out for in the future.
I recently met up with the man at his latest (and fantastic) show to talk about Skulls, Heavy Metal and London Pricks!
Tell us about you current show “Blood Oath” at the Archipelago Works?
The theme for this show is skulls, we’ve produced 12 different screen prints all of which are skull related and will be available exclusively through the gallery.
How have you managed to make each piece in this show feel unique despite the very specific theme?
I’m total fascinated by skulls. Their are so many different variations you can do on one subject that will stop an exhibition from being repetitive. So even though the theme is specific I’m only limited by my imagination.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
People like to fit me into the whole “Street Art/Skate Art” thing because i design skate decks but I’m an illustrator, that’s how i make a living. I don’t really know anything about street art or graffiti and am not particularly interested in whats going on today, i do however like all the old Santa-Cruz graff from like 20 years ago.
How would you normally start a new piece, would you approach a logo different to how you would a sketch or drawing?
I treat every piece i do as a sketch or a drawing, no matter who or what the piece is for. If, for example, i was asked to produce a logo, i would treat the letters as an illustration so the end result will look like a picture rather then a logo or a load of letters.
Did you study illustration at collage of university?
I have a degree in fine art, not illustration. That’s something I’ve taught myself, drawing and learning how to use computers to produce pieces.
Do you listen to music while you work, if so who are your favorites?
Oh so many, i grew up listening to Death Metal, in fact I’ve just got back from a metal festival in Helsinki. My favorite bands of all time would be Revenge, Bolt thrower, Blasphemy and Ozzy to name a few.
Who are you favorite artists?
I’m really into Derrick D’Beck and Murdock Stafford, his work is all skulls and stuff. As for more “classical art” i really like the work of Goya. I recently bought a book by an artist called “Bruegel” which is full of pictures of Hell and people being eaten by demons.
Would you say you were more influenced by the classic stuff?
Yeah, defiantly. I’m heavily influenced by dark religious art. I like pieces to have a lot going on in them.
Is their any kind of art you really dislike?
I can’t stand bland art, shit that looks like it could be selling in Ikea you know. It’s so non-offensive it’s offensive!
You’ve done a fair bit of commissioned work for Modular Records and other advertising agencies, how is the work process for a client different from private work?
The first time you work for someone it can be difficult, but once you’ve built-up a relationship both parties will know what works and what doesn’t work.
Would you let someone change your work if they were dissatisfied?
It would really depend on how big the change is, for example i recently designed a T-Shirt for the band WolfMother which had a crow sitting on a skull. the record label suggested that i changed the crow to a hawk to make the piece seem more 70’s looking. Small changes like that I’m fine with but you should be careful because whoever pays for a commission can have a huge influence on how a piece turns out.
Have you ever worked in 3D?
No, I’ve never made sculptures or anything like that. I’ve got a friend whose a fashion designer, he owns a little shop on Carnaby Street in London. I’m gonna be designing some belt buckles with him. My first design is a gas mask with horns coming out of it.
Are you living in London at the moment?
Yeah, with my girlfriend.
What do you both think about the illustration and art scene down their?
(French) I’ve done stuff with Stolen Space Gallery and have friends who exhibit in the capitol frequently, i always go to their shows but i feel separate from the London thing, East London especially is full of “Jazzy Cunts”
(Frenches Girlfriend) To be honest sometimes people can take themselves to seriously but their is a great art scene in i can’t lie. East London can be very pretentious, French will go to his friends show but can’t stand the whole “trend” thing, he doesn’t suck up to anyone. If what the London galleries wanted matched what French wanted then he would do more shows there.
The prints featured in this interview are exclusively available through The Archipelago Works, there are twelve prints in total, six single colour and six multi-colour, all in an edition of six (666)!
To see more work by French (including his skate videos) you can follow his blog here.