Every month we highlight the work of a different artist or illustrator through the title banner of our monthly newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.
Until now, only subscribers to the newsletter got to enjoy these unique banners, but this blog series is changing that.
In this issue, we speak with Rob Smith, artist of the month and creator of our April banner:
Here's how it appeared in the April newsletter:
Cult Pens: Hi Rob, tell us a bit more about yourself. Rob: I am a Somerset based Graphic Designer & Illustrator. I grew up with visions of moving to the 'big city' after I graduated from university, however upon returning to the country I knew I was right where I wanted to be. I love the country and the sea. The idea of the freedom they encompass in your mind. I guess this is what inspires me, and has shaped me to this day. In fact the two biggest influences in my life are this and the memories of my childhood. Freedom and playfulness.
Cult Pens: How would you describe your work? Rob: I think my hand lettering comes from the heart. I would say that it's a huge passion of mine to draw, taking the time to carefully construct a piece of work by hand that offers so much more fulfilment than a piece digital work. I would say my work is very organic. Not just in terms of the medium, but the way that I create and develop a piece of work from initial sketches, through to pencil, and then ink. Its a process and a development that evolves and grows naturally.
Cult Pens: What got you into hand drawn lettering? Rob: I think my passion for hand drawn lettering was something I stumbled into having looked at alternative ways to progress my work whilst at uni in a time saturated by 'digital' media. Something sparked inside - reminding me of my childhood. It wasn't until a fair few years later though - when bored of the 'artworking' position I was working at the time, that I started to spend my spare time developing my hand lettering by drawing up quotes, sayings, and greetings.
Cult Pens: If you weren't a illustrator, what was the back-up plan? Rob: I never really had a back up plan. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to work in the creative industry, and practice design, illustration and photography. I think if I was to change now, id' like to do something with my hands such as carpentry or joinery. I'd choose to spend less time indoors.
Cult Pens: What are your favourite subjects/topics to draw? Rob: Letters. Give me a person, an animal, a landscape and I'd probably fail. My work is mostly typography based, and it excites me every day. To me, lettering and typography is an art form in its own right. I'm constantly studying fonts, logos signage and typography that most people take for granted. Appreciating the finer details and the flow of the line work.
Cult Pens: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from? Rob: All around me in everyday life. I can't read a piece of literature, view a website, a tv program or pass a sign or building without being drawn to inspiration all around us. Of course, I also seek out more concise inspiration on line from portfolio websites such as behance and serial thriller. However I believe other artist's work should be viewed as a platform for educating. It's important to immerse yourself with inspiration, but to develop our own style and aesthetics at the same time.
Cult Pens: What are you currently working on? Rob: I've just finished a personal project that I set myself, inspired by summer, days by the sea and my general love for all things nautical. There are also some influences from tattoo lettering which in itself harks back to nauticallia. With this piece it was more of a decision of what not to include to avoid over working the piece. Having completed this I have started to explore ideas for my own wedding stationery, which will be an ongoing project for the next 6 months or so.
Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project? Rob: There's really is no answer to this. Just the same as it is with all design work, some projects can be really quick, and others quite time consuming. Often the shorter ones can be the most true to an idea or brief, whereas sometimes a piece can be almost finished, but if it doesn't quite sit right, it can take another draft or two. If we don't make mistakes though, we can't learn from our own self taught lessons and experiences. It's often best not to get too sentimental over a piece of work.
Cult Pens: What are you top five pens or pencils? Rob: I tend to stick with what I know... That being said I recently switched to a Staedtler Mars Technico 788 having used traditional Staedtler pencils for many years as well as a cheap Bic automatic pencil. After the pencil work, I use my trusted Micron Sakura ink fineliners. I tend to use 0.2, 0.3 and 0.5 the most but I also carry finer and thicker sizes in my equipment. My pen of choice for day to day rough sketches has to be a Pilot V5/V7 rollerball. Then of course there's my Staedtler Mars eraser 'pen'. I'm intrigued to try out a brushpen at some point as I love the traditional technique it offers.
Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn't you live without? Rob: My Staedtler Mars Technico 788. Because there's nothing like a quality 'clutch pencil'.
Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking? Rob: Generally yes - it normally just feels right. It can be annoying when it doesn't feel right though. But having learned from experience, it's normally best to start afresh with a new direction when it doesn't go your way. These are normally the times when 'tweaks' don't cut it. Sometimes you have to just start again.
Cult Pens: What tips do you have for inspiring artists/illustrators? Rob: Stay true to yourself, we excel in what we believe in. I strongly recommend having your own personal projects and taking on freelance work where you can, even if you are employed full time. It's great to develop your skills and work on projects that you're passionate about. There will be instances in industry when you are forced to take a route that you don't agree with. This is inevitable, but we must remember however that we don't work for ourselves. Never be afraid to make mistakes, just be self aware and use it to your advantage in the future.
You can see more examples of Rob’s work below or by visiting his website.
If you'd like to have your artwork featured in our newsletter, drop us a note to email@example.com, with a link to some examples of your work.