Lettering artist Rob Draper shares how he escaped from under umbrella-state of big companies and started to promote himself as an independent artist
Handmadefont is happy to introduce one more artist, whom we admire, – it’s a freelance lettering designer and artist Rob Draper from Great Britain. He is working in digital techniques, also paint, ink and more, he creates fonts and letters of different size. We asked Rob several questions, that we usually ask all Handmadefont interviewees and got so very interesting and revealing answers. Discover Rob’s way of finding his path in the world of creative fonts and lettering. It’s really inspiring!
— Hello, Rob, it’s a delight to see you joining our blog project about designers and telling your own story about becoming an artist. And here comes our first question. How did it all start? When did you realize that your heart belongs to lettering and typography?
— I always liked drawing letters, as a child I loved art but wasn’t particularly motivated by ‘still life’ so enjoyed drawing lettering and what I guess that even at this age would be called graphic design, drawing logos and words then when I was around 10/11 this ‘thing’ landed from the USA and it was hip hop – the breakdancing, the music and and the graffiti and I was immediately taken by it. All of a sudden these letters I’d been drawing had a home, that carried on in the background through evenings and weekends and then I went to art college to get a diploma in art and design and then graphic design, then off to University for a degree in Visual communication. I then began to work in the industry and have done most roles, from photocopying to magazine designer, graphic designer, senior designer, art director and creative director. I always seemed to go back to letters – Even digitally I really enjoyed how much emotion and expression that you could evoke through the style and treatment of letters, whether it was through branding, apparel or magazine design.
I’d ended up as an Art Director of a clothing brand and thought I’d finally found my perfect job – from in store design to apparel to campaigns the role was full of creativity and opportunity for experimentation then suddenly a company buy-out and redundancy stopped me in my tracks. From this point I felt like I’d arrived at a junction – I didn’t really want to retrace any of my past so I felt like I had two options either to retrain and change career or somehow try to go it alone, I’d always been drawing these letters and experimenting with type in my various roles but was completely anonymous as I’d always been hidden under the umbrella of the companies I’d worked for so started using social media to hopefully act as a ‘shop window’ for what I could hopefully do for you or your brand.
— But still, what brought you to typography and lettering? There are so many other areas and directions where a graphic designer and lettering artist can try himself/herself.
— I really liked how much emotion and expression you could play with within letters. I loved the clean sharp lines of pop art and graffiti had taught me how experimentation is rewarded so I started to work digitally within design and these influences kept feeding my commercial work. I was lucky to find roles within brands and agencies that encouraged and rewarded this.
— What memories do you have about your first big design task?
— Very nerve racking – I’d never really signed big contracts and had to deal with overseas clients – In the 20 or so years of my working within the industry I’d always had colleagues for advice, support and to bounce ideas off so in my early days of freelancing it was a steep learning curve of working solo within this new direction.
— Aside from these fields – do you have an experience of working in other graphic design fields?
— I would have loved to be a fine artist but realized when I was at University that was such a temperamental career choice and had very limited options but I have always tried where possibly to introduce illustration into my work which satisfies the ‘artist’ in me. Some of the projects I have worked on are more art based, some illustration and some typographic.
— A unique signature of an artist is his or her style and style is often based on certain personal rules and principles. What are yours?
— My main principle is to hopefully do all I can to make my work my own. In many aspects social media is great but its very easy to be influenced and not credit the original source which I think is wrong so I always really strive to make my work my own. Secrets – now that would be telling! One is that some of the ideas I put out on Instagram etc. might take a year in total to produce – dead ends, concepts that aren’t quite right, a last minute ink spill.
— Let’s talk about a very private thing in the life of every artist – inspiration. How do you find it? What inspires you?
— I try and surround myself with supportive, positive people and they inspire me, regardless of whether they have anything to do this industry. Trying to be a good Dad to my Son pushes my forward.
— There always is that moment that you feel like you are stuck. You know, when you are doubting your skills, don’t understand what to do next, when you have that minute of desperation that you don’t inspired anymore. How do you overcome this period?
— I’m always stockpiling ideas and things to draw on, writing down concepts and rough drafts of things so when those moments happen when you just feel a little flat inspiration wise you have something you can reference as a starting point and then just keep chipping away in the hope that over time the crisis passes.
— And speaking about your other passions. We all know that a man can’t be happy without a hobby. What are yours?
— Weirdly (and its a great coincidence) my main hobby is art and creativity so I’m very luck to get my creative ‘fix’ as part of my working day. I love to cycle and run too, both of these always give me some ‘head space’ to plan and they always influence my work. My son has just bought a new puppy so that’s become another hobby, training him not to destroy everything (The puppy, not my Son 😉
— Any design plans for the nearest future?
— Just more. More everything. More client work, more personal work, more pushing my own boundaries.