Darren Shaddick on 1970s movies, exploring new techniques and letting go of perfectionism

He's the graphic designer and illustrator who has crafted whimsical and joyful illustrations for the likes of Polo Ralph Lauren and Bandcamp – all from "The Sticks" of South West England. Now Darren Shaddick finds himself moving in a completely new direction, exploring and experimenting with his work as he copes, like the rest of us, with this brave new world.

With being home constantly, Darren says he's used drawing as a distraction from world events, and, on a positive note, it's helped him rediscover a passion for image-making. "I am feeling confident in my work, and more so than ever, and I am comfortable sharing it with the world without being held back by perfectionism as much," Darren tells Creative Boom.

"Being at home more has also given me the chance to explore new mediums and techniques. I'm currently playing around with a lot more animation, and I am excited by the results so far. Slowly, I'm becoming less daunted by the idea of making animations, and I hope to be able to start making longer length videos."

Based in Devon, Darren has never had any trouble finding work from clients across the globe. But the pandemic did have an impact. "I was lucky enough to find some in-house work with Exeter Phoenix, a nearby art and cultural centre, just before the lockdowns struck. They have given me the opportunity to rebrand their website and all their marketing materials, which has been a valuable learning experience," he says. "This has also kept me occupied throughout the pandemic, as 2020 was understandably a quieter year in terms of freelance work."

So far, 2021 has proved to be fruitful for Darren: "I've had more time to be more prolific with making and sharing my work, and thankfully this is leading to a little more interest, and I'm excited to keep pushing my work further and to see where it leads," he adds.

Have Darren's inspirations changed too over the last year or so? "I've always found film to be a great source of inspiration, and more recently, I've been delving into older movies. I've watched 'The Other Side of the Wind' by Orson Welles and 'The Conversation' by Francis Ford Coppola. I like the eerie, jazzy and seventies feel of these films; it puts me in a nice headspace to start making stuff. I especially take inspiration from the dress sense and colour palettes from this era, what I've seen gives me the feeling of a warmness that I find soothing, and I try to recreate this feeling in my work."

Darren also tells us about another recent discovery: a film called The Legend of Bigfoot, made in 1975. "I found it to be hilarious and quite bizarre," he says, "it is filled with warm, beautiful scenery from North America. From the locations to the poorly made sasquatch suits with giant heads, this film is an endless source of inspiration. I still have many things I want to reference in my work from this film."

Experimentation is something we've come to expect from Darren over the years – it's often fast-paced, playful and full of humour. "I have played around a lot making messy zines, collages, videos and paintings whilst I was studying, and I was developing a style quite early on. Since I've been working as a freelance illustrator with fewer facilities at my disposal, I've managed to adapt my playfulness into a way of working that combines the analogue with the digital, which allows me to look at the colours against the lines and mess around with compositions with immediate effect," he explains.

"I have embraced solely digital practices also, which is very useful for completing client work and practising animation. I am obsessed with colour combinations which are often inspired by my surroundings, film and fashion. The colours I like to use often influence what I want to draw and see the image fully coloured after it is drawn and scanned is incredibly exciting, and I believe that the colours I use are one of the main components that define my style."

Does living in the countryside continue to have an influence on his work? "It certainly does," he says, "and more recently, I've come to realise that there is a lot more beauty here than I initially thought. The pandemic has enabled me to appreciate what I have around me a bit more. Whenever possible, I've been taking hikes on nearby trails I'd forgotten about or didn't know existed; it's kind of mindblowing to see the amount of natural beauty that is here to absorb. It's definitely been showing up in my illustrations as well, I've been drawing a lot of trees and plants and using greens and browns and rough textures in recent works. The outdoors is something I probably don't see enough of, but it inspires me a lot."


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