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Skateboarding, Simpsons and Depop: Talking Illustration with Sam Taylor

We sat down with one of our favourite illustrators to talk about him.

by VICE Staff
05 December 2013, 11:59am

"Picasso is the best and Guernica is my favourite painting of his, so I re-drew it with a felt tip." Buy the print on Depop.

For an illustrator who "still hasn't worked out" how they want to draw, Sam Taylor isn't doing too badly.

Moving to London from Leicester a few years ago to study illustration at Camberwell, he managed to pass his course – despite "skating all the time and drinking too many beers" – and quickly became one of our favourite illustrators; the guy we turn to every time we need a picture of poverty-stricken lovers hanging out with rats or a parrot calling someone a slag

Sam says he's "always drawn, since being a wean" ("wean" is northern for child), but only got into illustration seriously on the last year of his course, when it dawned on him that he'd "have to get a job once all the fun was over".

Since then, he's been involved in a bunch of projects – commercial, editorial and personal – but one constant has been the interpretations of Simpsons characters that pop up on his blog or Instagram page every couple of weeks.

"It's just the best, isn't it?" he says of the show. "They've built up such a powerful, convincing universe – I like how everything exists there. Then there's obviously the humour, which has affected everyone in my generation in one way or another."

"I drew my favourite baddies from films and TV and put them in a gang, Cartman is probably the most evil guy in this picture." Buy the print on Depop.

That sense of everything fitting into place in The Simpsons – the blueprint they've created to make sure all of what you see belongs in the Springfield universe – is something that Sam is keen to replicate in his personal output. "There's a certain way of doing things – a formula," he says, "like the way you draw beer or mouths or guns. That's something I want to create for my own work."

And as surreal as his wobbly amorphous blobs or talking turds can be, Sam insists the main themes in his work are rooted in reality.

"It's everyday events – things from the news, my friends, things like that – that all play a massive part," he says. "And most of the time I'm influenced by the thought: 'What will be funny?' Like, what if this one thing happened – would that be funny? And if the answer if 'yes', then I'll go about drawing it."

Another big part of Sam's reality is skateboarding, which isn't surprising considering he's been skating for more than half his life. "Much like The Simpsons, skating has seeped into me and warped my mind," he says. "And it's also introduced me to a lot of great artists, like Ed Templeton and The Gonz."

"This is called 'From My Cold Dead Hands'. I wanted to poke fun at the NRA and at the same time show love to hotdogs. Mission accomplished." Buy the print on Depop

Funnily enough, Sam's work isn't really anything like either of those artists' output, but you can see the influence of the culture in general. At a stretch, it's the Gonz's scribblings through a cloud of Holsten Pils and Garbage Pail Kids filters, screen printed on an early Santa Cruz deck and blasted dry with Groening-esque mutations and colours.

But it's hard to do Sam's work justice with comparisons, because it really is a style of its own – and one that's always evolving, with Sam pumping out a load of new drawings every week. That aspect of his working world fits in nicely with Depop, as he can "list an unlimited amount of stuff without having to pay to host products, which can be a pain in the ass on other sites".

He's also into the social aspect of the app; "How you can you build up a network of sellers that interest you is rad," he says. But more than anything, being permanently attached to Twitter and Instagram himself, it's just something that Sam's hyped to a part of: "I'm really into apps," he says, laughing. "So it's a buzz being involved with one like this." 

See more of Sam's work on his website, and click here to download Depop for free and browse Sam's catalogue.