Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Pete Fowler
Pete Fowler & Nessie.

Artist, illustrator, monster creator, toy designer, DJ, animator, musician, skater, etc, etc. Pete is a truly prolific talent, constantly creating and producing unique work. Along with his own company, monsterism, and a constant list of freelance commissions, he's produced work for Super Furry Animals, Magic Numbers, Kia Motors and ATP among others. It's quite safe to say that he's got a lot goin' on... He kindly sat down between moving house and working on numerous projects to answer a few questions about his work, his influences and his Kernow konnection.

Pete, I first met you rolling around on a skateboard - when & where did you start skating?

I started skating back in Cardiff in my mid teens after riding a BMX for a local shop for a while. Skating seemed way more exciting and cheaper than constantly buying new coaster brakes etc.

Do you still find time for the occasional nollie?

It's been a while since I had a skate, with broken bone and torn ligaments at the beginning of the summer, so could be a while before I lob a nollie but I can still remember some good ones I did.

Can you tell us about your connection to Cornwall?

I holidayed there with my family when I was very young and always loved it. My dad used to surf so the beaches were a really special place, quite like some of the beaches around past Swansea on the Gower coast. Later on I got into a fine art degree in Falmouth which was a great 3 years, making daft things and skating a lot with some of the best dudes I've met. I moved back there for a few years after I graduated, via the Scilly Isles!

Smithy spine grind in 'the kitchen' at St Newlyn East, early 90s (while still being built). Pic courtesy: Chris Fowler

I can remember the 'studio' at your flat in Falmouth - basically a 3ft x 3ft alcove in a window overlooking the harbour where you sat with a drawing board on your knees and a pot of brushes on the windowsill. Even in those days you were constantly tinkering away at your own projects. Where did you get such a strong work ethic from?

That was a funny little workspace! What a view though, surprised I got any work done in there with the boats sailing by and the docks buzzing away. I think I have a pretty short attention span with my work sometimes and always like to work in many different mediums. But I really think it's just what I do naturally, I'm always wanting to create something and push ideas. It's fun to spread that across a lot of different mediums and ideas.

So, if there is such a thing, what's a typical day in the life of Pete Fowler like?

Wake. Walk. Coffee. Emails. Tweet. Work, work, work, work, work! I do a lot of juggling around with different projects, as some move faster than others so I'm always dipping in and out of sketching, digital art, sculpting, printing. My days are usually quite diverse but I've been working on a project now for almost a month so it's pretty stacked!

Who or what inspires you?

The tough question! I think the things I surround myself with and genuinely interest me. Less work by other artists recently, I like to be in a bit of a bubble as I often get freaked out by other artist's and illustrator's work and want to give up! I like nature, space, ancient cultures, folk art, mythology, food, music, skateboarding, surfing, cosmic nauticology, synthesised sound, the occult, UFOs... I could go on to list everything in my world as it all adds up and comes out onto the page if I'm lucky!

How do you relax?

Music is always a good one, to work to and for relaxing to. I like to have 'focused listening' to some of the music I have and get deep. It's a way of escaping and going to other places. I like to read as much as I can as I'm often up late on the laptop doing one thing or another. I live next to a great pub so that's always there with a friendly face.

David Crosby.

Have you ever surfed?

I have, in South Wales and Cornwall. Usually on someone's spare board although I surfed my dad's board.

Do you have any particular influences?

I think comics and cartoons were a big influence when I was younger, then the US underground comics. I think the DIY zine/art scene was a big influence along with skate culture. I liked the attitude, the design and the humour and it certainly gave me plenty of ideas to do what I do now. I was particularly drawn to the world of monsters and the supernatural ever since I was a child and have looked at a lot of the world's different folklores and bogey men so to speak. It's amazing to see depictions of such creatures in what we would recognise now as a 'cartoon' style. I think looking back at artwork is a rich seam of inspiration and ideas and understanding that now much has changed over many years.

Are there other artists you admire?

I like Miyazaki - the film maker, Shigeru Mizuki, Jim Woodring, Savage Pencil, Gaughin, Thelwell, Kevin O'Neill, Mike McMahon, Neil Blender. (My mind's gone blank on this one!!! That's enough;)

Are you interested in any other art forms? (Although I can't think of many that you haven't already been involved in - medieval brass rubbings maybe...)

Brass rubbing, hmmm. Not done that yet but have done lino cut rubbing with a wax crayon so that answers that! I like music and making sounds, it's a lot of fun when it comes together and always a bit of a challenge. I think a challenge can be fun.

Chapter Bar art.

You've done a number of skateboard graphics - is there a personal pick of the bunch?

Matt Pritchard's first, the 'Tidy' model. never got one of those which was gutting but it was simple, for Matt and funny (we thought). A lot of people loved that deck and it's very coveted I hear.

You've been involved with a myriad of projects over the years, any that you are particularly chuffed with?

Tough one again. I've loved working with SFA (Super Furry Animals) as we've always done something different every time with them and sometimes achieving the impossible! Giant inflatable bears come to mind. I enjoy all the projects I do and I've been lucky to work with some very interesting, lovely and crazy clients over the years.

Do you have a favourite book/author?

I tend to read a lot of biographies but I love Philip K Dick, I used to read a lot of sci fi years ago in school but I've had some modern books reccommended to me so I might get back into that genre again. Paul Theroux's travel books are something that I've re-read several times, Dark Star Safari and The Happy Islands. I recently read Seawolf by Jack London and looking to read some more of his books. I usually pick off books from friends and family.


Favourite film?

Can I have a few? Bladerunner. Wickerman. This Is Spinal Tap. Zardos. Close Encounters.

I know music plays a big part in your life - you regularly DJ, compile CDs and even contribute tracks to your own CD releases. What's on the playlist today?

Today I listened to Woman's Hour on Radio 4 for a bit then on the iplayer listened to Both Jarvis Cocker and Stuart Maconie's shows. Both were Halloween specials and some very cool stuff played on the night of the spooks. A friend of mine sent me some amazing tracks from an old 12" apparently sold from the boot of a car in the US, Totally Dusted Soul, incredible! After that a bit more Radio 4, one of those days when I haven't had time to select some music to play. I'm a big radio listener.

How did the relationship with the various bands you've done artwork for come about?

SFA came by chance and that's been really good for my profile I think in terms of music, aside from that it's been friends I know in bands and that work in the biz. I've worked for a bunch of small indie labels and it's fun to keep working in that field, especially if it's a vinyl release!

Most memorable gig you've been to?

Brian Wilson was pretty amazing as I've been a lifelong Beach Boys fan, another BB was Big Black way back in the late 80s at Newport centre. Heavy, heavy soundcheck that blew my mind before the gig! Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac recently were both awesome. I must rummage through my box of tickets as there's so many gigs I forget about!


Your work has taken you far and wide, do you have a favourite destination?

Hmmm, Cornwall's one of my favourite destinations! Maybe Hawaii too...

Anywhere else you'd particularly like to visit?

More Hawaii, big island. Nepal. Polynesian islands.

What's next?

My ongoing animation project, some decks, record sleeves, Seahawks music, getting online at home!

Thanks Pete.

1 comment:

  1. great stuff - interesting read and a good scoop KK- love the work of mr.fowler and good to hear even prolific, mega-successful scribblers like him have those moments of doubt.
    Would love to hear some advice from other artists about how to break out of it being a hobby/sideline and into a career.....