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Robert Littleford Illustrator

August 2, 2021

I came across the work of Robert Littleford about a year ago on Instagram @robertlittleford. I find his work very strong, bold and captivating, with a direct and honest approach. I got in touch with Robert to find out more.

What are your earliest memories of creating art, does it run in the family at all and is it something you remember being encouraged to explore in your younger years ?

I always drew a lot as a child, I was a junior twitcher and would happily wander off with my trusty Observer book of birds to draw every bird that I spotted. I also read voraciously, being a bit of a loner, loved exploring, making maps of my travels. Two Little Savages by Ernest Thompson Seton was the first big influence with its lovely black and white illustrations.

I think this bird and horse is one of my favourites.

I love the fact that your style is defined and yet you can adapt it to paintings, maps, books, posters etc. How did you start to draw in such a bold and defined way or is it just an extension of your outgoing personality lol ?

Thanks, oddly I never felt like I had a style, it might sound a little zen but I just try to be true to me, it just took years of practise to even recognise who that ‘me’ was. I like the visceral quality of drawing and try to avoid editing or any kind of photoshoppery. It’s a warts and all approach to my work.

Which artists work do you follow and who would you say inspires your work (if anyone) ? 

I follow @HuntleyMuir on IG who always inspire me with their fresh, edgy, authentic work.

You have the style of artwork that is very loose and sketchy. I know from experience that it’s a style that an illustrator can do over and over again until they get each element just right. Do you work very spontaneously, mostly from your imagination, or sketchbooks or might you plan out a new piece, before even putting a brush to paper ?

You are so right about the over and over again. Often I don’t know even what I am looking for, a good drawing just has a special something. I just do it over and over until I find that elusive something. I work a lot in sketchbooks, II often do plan but try not to get in my own way. I always take my sketchbook when travelling and enjoy recording my trips.

Robert’s work has illustrated books and articles too.

What is your idea of an ideal commission ?

To quote Ru-Paul… one that recognises my Charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. 

What materials do you most like to use and why ?

I like the rush of drawing with brush and Indian ink, its very unforgiving, there’s no correcting the mistakes.

How big a part of your work are researching a topic and sketchbooking ideas ?

I draw everyday, in sketchbooks, on scraps of paper, leftover cardboard packaging, ideas come out of the process of drawing. Most often projects require a lot of research, and that research is essential to keep the work authentic and true to the project.

I feel there is a ‘dark side’ to your work, in both it’s ideas and in the execution. Is this something you nurture deliberately or just the range of topics that naturally interest you ?

I wouldn’t say I nurtured it deliberately, but I think of illustration as being like Rock and Roll, and I naturally aspire to be more Nick Cave than Kylie Minogue.

Have you ever turned down a project because it didn’t inspire you ?

Wracking my brains, I don’t think so, this is what I do for a living so often I don’t have a choice. Because of the way I work I usually get offered the more interesting jobs. I used to get all the serious subjects when I worked a lot in editorial. 

Where do you see your work going in the future, are there avenues you still wish to explore and if so what might they be ?

I am working on a Chelsea Flower Show garden at the moment, making figurative sculptures and designing a wall mural inspired by Pop art. I am really excited by the bold and vivid colours of this project.  I hope that this will open up some new work avenues to explore.

Many thanks Robert for taking the time to answer my questions and allowing me to use your images. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next with your path and illustration. I think your models above would make amazing ceramic pieces if you chose to take them in that direction !

If you like this style of illustration, you may also appreciate this post on Christopher Corr.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hanife Okeeffe permalink
    August 4, 2021 5:10 am

    Thank you Fishink, love Robert Littlefords work, bold, beautiful and inspiring.

  2. Markus Edmiston permalink
    May 15, 2023 8:21 pm

    Thank you for this great article. I have several energetic, ‘storyboard in a painting’, and inwardly transformative pieces of Robert’s work, from when I met him in London in the early 1990s, that I love as much as the first day I saw them.

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