Illustrator Sam Taylor spices up his art style by stepping away from the screen

London-based artist and illustrator Sam Taylor has changed his creative approach with a new series of images drawn entirely by hand and without digital assistance.

Sam Taylor is no stranger to creating stunning artwork. The Camberwell College of Art (UAL) graduate's bold illustrations have been picked up by the likes of Nike, Google, YouTube, Vans and The Guardian, to name a few. And it's not hard to see why. His lurid, trippy artwork resembles a Nickelodeon cartoon refracted through a hangover, complete with mischievous devils, melting skulls and a worm down on his luck just trying to live through it all.

However, this doesn't mean Sam is set in his ways and relies on stock ideas. His recent work sees him breaking out of his mould and illustrating with purely traditional tools, including pencils, Rotring ink and colour Promarkers. It's a new approach that has produced unexpected results and a delightfully tactile feel.

Usually, Sam likes to draw by hand before scanning the line work into a computer to be coloured digitally. And while he loves this process, he thought it would be cool to make some 'analogue' work for a bit of variety and get his eyes away from any screen.

"I also really like the way Promarkers look on paper, especially when contrasted with bold lines," he tells Creative Boom. "They have a washy quality, and when scanned in, they're a bit transparent; you can see the pen strokes, and it adds a nice functional detail."

As well as reducing his screen time and getting that handmade look, Sam also likes to diversify his methods occasionally. "Just to spice up my life. Whether that's by painting, using different pens, colours, or whatever. Doing these drawings feels like releasing a live album or doing MTV Unplugged or something. Nothing too drastic, not like Bob Dylan when you have no idea what song it is. Same material / different materials."

And while the style has changed, the subjects remain the same. There's the cohort of "usual dudes" which populate the rest of Sam's portfolio, and it's this cast that he can draw on to act out any scenario he imagines. "It's like I'm The Coen Brothers, and I'm getting Buscemi in again," he jokes.

"Even though I think it's technically an ensemble, the worm is basically my main character. He just steals the show and gets a lot of attention. It must be because he's so adaptable. He's almost like Kermit of the Sam Taylor Universe.

"Then there's the Earth, plenty of skulls (because they're one of the best things to draw), my balding little devil guy, some fan art (like my The Thing piece) and plenty of little critters. There's also lots of gore and viscera alongside some natural elements like flowers because I'm addicted to visual information and want to make each drawing as full as possible."

Outside of the medium itself, this series of illustrations scratched Sam's desire to create physical "treasures". He wanted to make artwork that people could hold instead of download and then frame and hang in their houses or office.

"There's not much I enjoy more than beavering away at some proper drawing, getting deep into it and coming away with something I'm happy with," he explains. "It's like being a kid with all your pens out under the dining table, drawing sharks and stuff until dinner's ready. The colours and aesthetics are set by the pens I'm using, and the subject matter is a continuation of my usual interests. The medium definitely led the way in that sense."

And whereas digital art gifts creators easier control over their work, markers were somewhat of a challenge for Sam as he had to have a clearer idea of what he was drawing before putting pen to paper. "Even with paint, you can paint over it and correct it. With markers, you can't make a mistake; if you do, you have to find a way to make it work or start from scratch.

"You've also got to make sure you use the right paper so it doesn't bleed and make it look silly. Having said that, part of the fun is drawing your way out of a 'mistake' and coming up with something you wouldn't usually do. All of these drawings have that in one way or another."

The series has been an educational experience beyond the act of creating, too. "I've learnt that it's good for my eyes to get off the screen every now and then," Sam concludes. "My favourite thing is 'the act of drawing' so this whole escapade was a great, back-to-basics fun ride.

"It's also a nice reminder to myself that you should try different techniques, break the routine and create something out of the ordinary because there is always new dopamine to be obtained."


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly