A TALK WITH LIAM STEVENS
Illustration by Liam Stevens
Representing a unique, wide and endlessly random collection as Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s Puzzle has been a new challenge for Mutina.
Gathering solid ceramics and daily design with abstract and poetic illustration, Londoner Liam Stevens added up extension and volumes to the infinite randomness of Puzzle, inspired by the vivacity of simple and tidy lines.
There are many ways to conceive and perceive a drawing. What is an illustration in your opinion?
Drawing as an isolated purpose in itself, either a landscape or working out an interesting geometric form for the enjoyment of exploring shape, colour and composition etc, to me differs from illustration particularly. For me illustration is an image to accompany a text or discourse. It draws upon the imagery of a given piece of writing or brief and aims to reinforce the context or theme. It can offer a more metaphorical or conceptual angle, but an illustration should aim to further the intended dialogue and support the central ideas of the brief. My own personal work is very much a way of working to help me understand relationships in form in the world around us. I look to nature and translate this inspiration into quick mark making or spontaneous constructions. There is something beautiful about a flash of movement that can create a lasting mark or shape on paper or canvas. The geometry in my work to me is a dialogue between nature and architecture. Straight lines and hard edges feel at first inorganic and uniform but upon closer inspection they are filled with imperfections and movement – life. I also like to create set parameters and then allow chance to play a large part in the creation of form. With a bit of guidance by way of a nudge here and there, but my wish is to be surprised and allow the composition to own itself as though I found it rather than made it. If that makes sense?
What does it take to become an illustrator? What risks or opportunities are there in your work every day?
I am an artist, designer and occasional illustrator. For me I take on work that I feel I will genuinely enjoy doing. I made a shift in my portfolio to embrace quite drastic changes reflected in my progression with art. My direction gravitated to a more restrained aesthetic and to my surprise I still get work. I think of my portfolio and other work spread across blogs and features online a little like fishing lines that link back to me (hopefully). And so opportunities to be discovered by potential clients are there moving with the ebb and flow of the sharing of information in the digital deep. I believe that to get the type of work you want to do, you need to be making that work. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to fall into a way of working just because it’s sought after but not the kind of work that keeps you inspired. I feel It’s important to keep the work you are presenting updated and in keeping with your current ideas.
What has been your favorite experience so far in your job? Any work that sorted out unexpected?
Travelling to New York. I illustrated and co-directed a music video for a musician in the big apple. It was great to get to meet him and spend time exploring such a dynamic and strangely familiar city. The video was a demanding and technical process but getting to go to the states for the first time was a great incentive and an experience I’ll always remember.
We asked you to draw Puzzle collection. What was your very first impression when you saw it?
I really enjoyed seeing how many iterations of form there are and the versatility of the outcome within the limited number of tile designs. A lot of fun to be had creating differing designs within these set parameters.
Was this the first time you work with tiles or concrete design/objects?
Yes, this is the first time working explicitly with design for tiles although I have worked on a number of my own pieces that would translate very well into tile design.
Puzzle stands for the infinity of possibilities. How did you approach this collection?
As with my own work, it was a case of playing around and experimenting. The tiles can take on a multitude of forms within a composition, from solid shapes to also appearing more fractured and kinetic. It is a puzzle for sure but one with unlimited solutions.
What technique did you chose to represent its geometries?
I like to use gouache on paper often applied with a roller and hand rendered cut-outs or masks. The paint picks up the natural fleck and construction of the paper as well as adding it’s own tonal fluctuations and noise. I find this appealing. The digital age to me has made these imperfections in using real materials all the more tactile and interesting. I have a greater affinity for something that gives the impression that I can touch it. That it exists in my world.
Is there an illustration of yours that would represent you the most?
I feel I am always seeking progression in my work and a single piece is often a concrete reminder of a time or period in the past. It would be difficult to say in a single piece but I do like the Remnants from Kori series. It was made from the leftover cut-outs of another work and has elements of play and experimentation, a bit of randomness, blue (a colour I can’t seem to avoid using), straight lines and natural forms; themes that often appear in my work. I am caught between the beauty of a straight line and an organic impression.