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We Took One of Our Favourite Illustrators Bowling

Sam Taylor talks inspiration, golden states of drunkenness and the VICE illustration show that opens tomorrow.
Jamie Clifton
London, GB
May 16, 2013, 1:45pm

If you've ever been on our website or read our magazine before, I'm going to go ahead and assume you're familiar with Sam Taylor's illustrations. He's the guy we call when we want drawings to accompany stories about Mexican gangbangers giving each other head in coked-out dive bars or tourists having their eyes impaled with high heels.

We love his work and he loves illustrating for us (apparently because it means he gets to draw "everything from Syria and Afghanistan to people shitting themselves at festivals, or whatever"), so when he suggested putting on a VICE Illustration Show, it seemed like a match made in exhibition heaven. Sam's brief for the illustrators involved was to create a new image based around "the artist at work", in the hope of showing the process that goes into creating an illustration by hand before it's given the Photoshop makeover and made magazine-ready.

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I went bowling with Sam above that shopping centre in Elephant and Castle, where we spoke about his work and his plans for the exhibition.

VICE: Hi Sam. What's your current personal best at the bowling alley?
Sam Taylor: My personal best for quite a while was 178, and I thought to myself, 'I'm never going to better that. As hard as I try for the rest of my life, I'm never going to better that.' Then, one day, I got drunk enough – in that perfect drunk state, that golden state – and I bowled a 193. So my current PB is 193.

Does that mean you can get yourself a custom ball now?
No, that comes when I hit 200. Choosing the design is going to be really hard, though. I'm worried about that.

I'm sure you'll work something out. I imagine bowling massively informs your drawing, right?
No, not at all. I do a lot of my work inside, so it's just a way of getting out. It's been cold recently and I can't skate as much as I'd like to, so bowling is a good substitute. I'd get cabin fever and go mental if I stayed inside all day every day.

Last time we spoke to you it was about the blob. What's happened there?
Oh, he's still around – he's just taking a back seat at the moment. It can't all be about the blob, you know? I love the blob, though; I like working with characters that don't have a definable shape – that way you can pack more excitement in. When you're working with the blob or some sort of Hindu deity or something, you can include loads of different fun points. So the blob is great for that, because you can just stick anything in there.

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You like drawing Simpsons characters as well, right?
Yeah, I'm part of this thing called The Simpsons Drawing Club, which is a bunch of great illustrators who draw Simpsons characters in their down time. My favourite is Mr Burns, but I also like drawing Bart. He’s the easiest. I watched a documentary with Matt Groening a couple of years ago and he was saying that the best cartoon characters are ones who are recognisable by their silhouette, like Mickey Mouse and Batman. And he said he had that in mind when he was creating Bart. You can draw a circle with eyes and spiky hair and it's going to look like you're trying to draw Bart.

Very true. So, let's talk about the exhibition – what was your original idea behind it?
I want people to come to the show and see what everybody's work looks like before it goes in the magazine or before it's published digitally. I want people to get a behind the scenes look at the process and just the raw, naked drawings.

How's that going to work?
Well, there are two frames from each artist – one of the original before it's been polished up, so you'll get to see the pencil marks, the smudges and all that – then the finished one next to it. Because normally you only see what the artist wants to present to somebody, which is great, but it's also cool to see how they got to that point.

What's your process? Do you start loads of sketches then throw them out and get all frustrated, like in a cartoon montage where someone's trying to write a novel?
No, not me – paper is precious, man. I just draw it out in pencil, then go over it in ink. But that's the thing – not everyone works that way, and it's interesting to me to see all the different techniques people use. Jonny Negron, for example, uses a lot of felt tip pens in his originals before they're even put into a computer, which is really interesting.

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Do you think those kinds of details are going to appeal to people who maybe don't have a huge interest in illustration?
Yeah, I think it's going to reveal what goes on in someone's studio, which is always interesting. For example, I was watching Ice T's documentary The Art of Rap a while ago, and in that he goes around and talks to everybody and asks them, "How do you write a rap?" They all lay out their ridiculous scenarios, but Snoop came through with the best one. Snoop's like, "I've gotta have loads of weed and loads of girls. I've gotta have some, like, 70s Nile Rodgers bumpin'." I'm not a rapper, but I still thought that behind the scenes look into their process was really interesting. Snoop has to really create an atmosphere to create his work, and I was thinking, 'What if an illustrator did that?'

Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at samtaylorillustrator.com.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton

Want to see some of the stuff Sam has drawn for us in the past? Try these:

Running (It's Easy!)

Drugs Aren't Always That Much Fun

Brilliant Inventions That Will Change the Future

I Survived a Stiletto Through the Eye