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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with illustrator Gareth A Hopkins, as featured in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration

Gareth A Hopkins is a name that regular Amelia's Magazine readers will recognise as a long term contributing illustrator. He also appears in Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration and has been busy with all sorts of interesting projects in 2011, including The Intercorstal, Chelmsford Arts Trail and London Fashion Week.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Shinsuke Mitsuoka by Gareth A Hopkins
Shinsuke Mitsuoka by Gareth A Hopkins.

Gareth A Hopkins is surely one of the most committed and original contributors to Amelia’s Magazine, producing many illustrations of consistently good quality over the past few years. He is an absolute pleasure to work with and is also notable for providing much hilarity on the good old twittersphere @grthink and indeed in real life. Gareth A Hopkins is profiled in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration and since the year is now drawing to a close I felt it was high time I caught up with him and found out his highlights of 2011.

House Of Worth SS12 by Gareth A Hopkins
House Of Worth S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins.

You’ve come along to a few fashion shows to soak up the live experience this year, what was the strangest thing you discovered at London Fashion Week?
Before I arrived at LFW I was so worried I’d stand out as a badly dressed impostor that I’d not really considered how odd everything else was going to be. So I wasn’t prepared for how depressed the models in the live presentations were going to be, or the ferocious speeds that catwalk models move at. Seeing a press-room full of bloggers descend en-masse on a table of cheese and crackers will stay with me for a long time – I’d recently watched an episode of Human Planet which featured a Sky Burial and it reminded me a lot of that.
Christian Blanken S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins.

If your 12 year old self had known you would go to a fashion show what would he have said to you?
When I was 12 I was just getting into comics, and my sole concerns were waiting for 2000AD to drop through the letterbox on a Friday morning and getting into the library on the weekends to read graphic novels I was far too immature and unworldly to really appreciate. If as a 12 year old I’d known I’d one day attend a fashion show I’d have probably have asked if I was going to grow up to be gay. 12 year olds can be dickheads like that.
The Moth and The Mirror by Gareth A Hopkins.

Why do you continue to volunteer for fashion illustrations? As a non-typical appreciator of fashion what is it about the process that appeals to you so much? You certainly break the mould!
You know, I hadn’t realised I was non-typical for a fashion illustrator until I noticed that all my contemporaries (with a couple of notable exceptions) were ladies who knew about fashion, which I’m the exact opposite of. As to why I enjoy it… I enjoy the freedom that comes with fashion illustration. If you’re illustrating a band, a product, some poetry, or whatever, there’s a certain amount of pressure to fall in-line with pre-existing schemes and ideas, whereas when illustrating fashion all I have to really worry about it being true to the clothes in front of me. As long as I focus on getting the shapes and movement right on the clothes I can experiment with what else I put in there – I can introduce a story or a concept that’s totally personal to me, or just mess about with the background and framing. Plus it’s nice to work with bolder shapes and colour, because my default tends to be to work in very tricky black lines.
Intercorstal Page 49 detail by Gareth A Hopkins
Intercorstal page 49 detail by Gareth A Hopkins.

Aside from fashion illustration and portraits your big love is The Intercorstal, an ongoing comic project. What have been your Intercorstal related highlights this year and have you got any plans in place for printing it up yet? Any dead certs? What would be your ideal outcome for the Intercorstal in 2012?
I’ve produced 4 individual issues of The Intercorstal this year, printing them off myself, and they’ve all been very different to each other, despite the fact they’ve all been completed in similar ways. The highlight was probably finishing the third one, Witches, which was based on a set of promotional postcards I was sent by P&O – I can’t put my finger on why that one means more that the others… I think Witches was the point where combining found images within the world of The Intercorstal really worked, and the storytelling element is really strong too. Oh, and a postcard sized one-shot I did called Cloud City was included in a Mailart show at Pimlico Library and is now in their collection somewhere.

Pleasure Dancing from The Intercorstal Witches by Gareth A Hopkins
Pleasure Dancing from The Intercorstal Witches by Gareth A Hopkins.

At the moment, I’m working with my friend/art roadie Daryl Morris, who’s helped throughout the project, to collect everything produced so far – individual pages, one-off strips, photos of decorated toys and installations – and then in the new year we’ll turn that into a collected edition called Elipses. The idea is then to use Elipses to decide which bits work well and which bits don’t, and take those lessons to fill in any gaps to get a rounded, finished, book-sized offering together. And once that’s done, we’ll think about finding a way to get it printed – I’m secretly hoping that there’s a publisher out there just waiting for a barely explainable comic to land in their in-tray and that it will be plain sailing… but I’m ready to investigate print-on-demand or self-publishing if it comes down to it. Even with that activity going on, I’m still working on pages and have at least another two issues planned out – Autocorrection which is based on photos of an abandoned house in Southend and Ladythings which is based on a box of ephemera (hymnbooks, badges, old Polaroids) sent over by an artist in America.

Marconi Poster by Gareth A Hopkins
Marconi Poster by Gareth A Hopkins.
How did your participation in Chelmsford Arts Trail come about? And can you tell us more about the collaborative comic?
I knew about The Chelmsford Arts Trail from having walked the 2010 trail and when I saw adverts go up inviting applications for 2011 I jumped at the chance. The 2011 Trail was organised by The Shiny Shed, an art collective based in Chelmsford, and they did an amazing job with the limited resources that they had. The idea of responding artistically to a non-gallery venue was really exciting, and I had big plans to turn the window of whatever shop I got into an abstract comic.

The Intercorstal Page 44 by Gareth A Hopkins
The Intercorstal page 44 by Gareth A Hopkins.

I also got really lucky with the venue I was paired with, Man About Town Barbers. When I showed them my portfolio and they saw the portrait I’d done for my review of an Alan Moore’s Unearthing for Amelia’s Magazine they asked me if I’d do a larger version to display at their Pop-Up at V Festival (which got my work on T4 by dint of being in the background of an interview with Professor Green). I could see they weren’t too keen on the Abstract Comics idea so I offered to so a portrait of the shop’s bulldog, Winnie, and that worked out really well.

Gareth A Hopkins by Gareth A Hopkins
Gareth A Hopkins by Gareth A Hopkins.

As part of my original pitch, I said that as well as making the shop window into a version of the Intercorstal, I’d do a comic that directly responded to the interior of the shop that would be available throughout the Arts Trail for people to go and get. I hadn’t anticipated how much work the portrait of Winnie would be, though, and with three weeks to the first day of the Trail to go I realised I’d never make it by myself, so put out a call on Twitter. I got a good response, considering how little time there was to do it – Amelia’s contributors Faye West and Dan Lester sent pages in based on photos I’d sent them of the shop, along with Washington-based artist Dakota Crane and Daryl Morris did three pages and part of the cover, as well as sorting out the PDF for me.

Asger Juel Larsen S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins.
What will your role as Story Minister consist of at the Ministry Of Stories in Hoxton next year? What is the event all about?
The Ministry of Stories is a charity that supports creative writing and mentoring for young people in East London. I initially got involved as a live illustrator for their Storymaking Workshops, where a class comes up with a story together, and as they do so the illustrator creates three images based on the characters and scenarios that come up. It’s really fun to be a part of, and also a healthy challenge as an illustrator as you get asked to draw things you’d never have thought to do before – for instance, I’ve drawn vampire ducks wearing top-hats, gigantic multicoloured bees that live in the Antarctic and a tiny speck of dust that lived in a Cherry House. I enjoyed those so much that I’ve become a Story Minister. That involves spending time with the young people with their writing during sessions, and encouraging them to be as creative as possible. It’s a great organisation and I’m really glad that I’ve had the opportunity to be a small part of it.

Paul Foot Farm Jigsaw Madnesss by Gareth A Hopkins
Paul Foot Farm Jigsaw Madnesss by Gareth A Hopkins.
When ACOFI was on tour you met up with someone who commissioned you for several projects – can you tell us about them in detail? What was your favourite part of the process?
I met Karen Hart, who at the moment volunteers as PR for a number of charities, including Stepney City Farm. She mentioned that they had an event coming up during which the comedian Paul Foot would attempt to assemble the world’s biggest jigsaw, and both Alia Gargum (who was also in the Chelmsford Arts Trail, BTW) and I offered to draw up some fliers for the event. And then once those were out of the way, I offered to do a similar job for Folkestone’s A Town Unearthed archaeology project. This might sound odd, but my favourite part of the whole thing (other than meeting Karen, of course) was finding I have a natural affinity for drawing farm animals, which wasn’t something I’d really expected. And I’ve found knowing how to draw animals very useful when keeping my 2yr old son occupied.

Frankensteins Monster by Gareth A Hopkins
Frankenstein’s Monster by Gareth A Hopkins.
A comic for a Hague exhibition sadly got lost in the post – any upsides to this tale of woe?
I was invited by the artist and curator Ibrahim Ineke to contribute to a cross-Atlantic project between his gallery and Altered Esthetics in Minneapolis. The concept was that five US artists and five European artists would swap comics, and then create large-scale artworks based on the gap between two panels of their choosing. It was for this project that I did the IKEA-based Intercorstal: Collider. I was given a handbook on how to build a High Tunnel, which is a type of greenhouse, and chose to illustrate the space between two panels which showed how to fix two planks of wood together.

Howkapow Scarf by Gareth A Hopkins
Howkapow Scarf by Gareth A Hopkins.

I finished the piece in good time, and sent it off, and a couple of days before the show was due to start got an email asking when I thought it might arrive. I calmly said it was in the post and they’d get it no problem. The day before the opening I got another email saying it still hadn’t turned up, and that they’d have to go ahead without my piece. A week after the show closed I got another email, saying that the package had been picked up by Ibrahim’s neighbour who for some reason hadn’t passed it on… it had been feet away from inclusion the whole time. The upside is that without this project, I wouldn’t have made Collider, and without that I probably wouldn’t have taken the Intercorstal project so off-piste. That and getting on of Ibrahim’s comics as a ‘thanks’.

Toni and Guy SS 2012 by Garethh A Hopkins
Toni and Guy S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins.
What has been the best thing about being involved with ACOFI and the Amelia’s Magazine process in general? Any highlights?
The whole thing’s just been a huge learning experience. I mean, I now have favourite fashion designers, which before I started working with Amelia’s would have been inconceivable. And my style and ability as an illustrator has really improved from the breadth of interesting things I’ve drawn, and I’ve been able to use assignments to test out new ways of working, finding out what works best and what people respond to most strongly. And that’s not to mention all the great people I’ve met, either virtually or in real life.

Winnie by Gareth A Hopkins
Winnie by Gareth A Hopkins.
Anything exciting in store as we come up to Christmas, and how can interested people get involved?
After the success of the portraits I did for the Chelmsford Arts Trail (as well as the dog portrait and the larger Alan Moore, I did one of Marconi for some posters) I’ve started offering them on a commission basis, and so I’ve been busy with those in the run-up to Christmas, a good mixture of pets and humans so far. I’ve got prices up on my blog, and please feel free to email me with any questions.

Wild Bill Hopkins by Gareth A Hopkins
Wild Bill Hopkins by Gareth A Hopkins.

You can see more work by Gareth A Hopkins in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, which is incidentally the perfect Christmas gift, available in all good art bookshops and online from my website.

Sole by Gareth A Hopkins
Sole by Gareth A Hopkins.


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