You’re currently working on a series called Nottingham Landmarks and Legends. Who can we expect to see in the series?
I’ve done Stuart Pearce, Brian Clough, Shane Meadows, Paul Smith and World War One pilot, Albert Ball. Landmarks-wise, it’s mainly things you’d find in the city centre – Robin Hood, The Trip and the Council House Lion.
Due to the Trip's popularity, I’ve also done the Salutation, and The Bell is almost finished. I thought it’d be nice to do a few pubs because people can relate to them – they’ve either had a drink in there or known someone who has. Couples have met in there. They hold those places close to their hearts.
There’s such a wealth of history and heritage in Nottingham that it was really nice to do. A lot of my other work is quite surreal, strange for want of a better word, so it was nice to do something that was rooted in real local things. And things that mean a lot to myself.
Tell us about your production process…
It always starts off as some sort of a drawing. Sometimes it’s a physical drawing in a sketch book, other times it’s straight into the computer on my pressure-sensitive tablet. Then I use Photoshop because it’s got a really good painting tool that works well with the tablet. Then it’s just a matter of layering it all up with a combination of digital painting and texturing using handmade textures such as paint splatters, that I then scan in and capture so that they can be utilised digitally.
I use a lot of custom brushes made from those textures – you can really replicate a good traditional feel with digital painting. I like to keep a good balance between real media and digital media. I don’t like to stray too far one way, I don’t think one way of working is better than the other. My work is most successful when there is a combination of both, really. Sometimes I create work on the computer, print it out and then go over it with paint. Sometimes it’s a back and forth process – I do a bit physically, then scan it in, and repeat that. It’s however it works per piece. I like to keep things organic.
What’s your favourite piece in the series?
The caves is one of my favourites. When I was younger I used to come to town with my mum and we’d go to places like the Trip, and the caves seemed almost magical. That really resonated with me as a child, so I’ve tried to inject that into the piece. They’re a little bit magical, a bit mystical. I was pleased with that when I completed it.
I really like the Robin Hood one as well. I’ve done a couple of variations of that. The original intention was to do it in a street art graffiti style and use really bright colours that you wouldn’t normally associate with Robin Hood – pinks and oranges and bright blues. I’ve also done one that’s more traditional which is in greens and a woodland pallet.
The whole series has a bit of a street art edge because that’s my background. That’s the style I usually work in, very dirty and textural. That filters through into most of my work, whether it’s produced to a tightly constrained brief or my own imaginings.
How would you respond to criticisms of using technology to create art rather than traditional manual methods?
I think there’s a big misconception at the minute through a lack of knowledge about the techniques used in digital art. People do criticise mediums that involve technology, and they think anyone can do it. They think it’s a case of pressing a button and Artwork appears.
In my opinion, there are some wonderful tools and technology available that make work that is, not better than traditional methods, but different. You can’t necessarily do everything traditionally that you can using computers. It could be argued that you have a responsibility as an artist to utilise the tools that are available to your generation
Having said that, I do think it is important to have a relationship between the two. If you go too far digitally, it shows, and I’m always a champion of keeping one foot in the physical world and one foot in the virtual world. I think that feeds through into my work. It’s a wonderful thing, technology. I discovered creative software while doing a degree in graphic design. I applied the tools I learnt to my art work and I’ve never looked back. The one thing you miss, when working digitally, is getting your hands dirty. Having the feeling of paint on your fingers – you can never replicate that.
You and your partner own Dukki, right?
Yeah, it’s hard work but we thoroughly enjoy it. It’s great that we both have a place to create and sell our own work, and share our passion with others. My partner is a graphic designer – she’s the one with the sense of humour who does all the amusing stuff with the local dialect.
You mentioned previously that you were inspired by music when you create. Have you listened to anyone in particular to create this series?
No one in particular. I just listen to a lot of progressive music, stuff without too much of a structure. I find that really helps when I work. I listen to a lot of Pink Floyd. Music featuring those kind of soundscapes is really beneficial. I like a bit of Jake Bugg, he’s famous for a reason, he’s a very good artist.
And you’re in the process of creating a graphic novel…
Yeah, it’s set in Nottingham, with connections to Sherwood Forest and local folklore. It’s an exciting prospect but it’s such a big project that I’ve had to shelf it a bit since we took the shop on as currently, I haven’t got the time to develop it. Having reviewed it, it might evolve in a different direction. I think it’ll have to be a collaborative project – get some other Nottingham artists and writers involved. We’ll see how it goes.
The series is available for purchase in signed, numbered prints both online and in-store at Dukki.
Ian Jones website
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?