Design Week: How did the Marmite project come about?
Pete Fowler: I’m a big consumer of Marmite – I’ve always loved it so I had a sniff of the project last year and got immediately very excited. Cut me and I bleed Marmite basically! The Valentines Day idea was great – it’s three e-cards each with a different message.
DW: What’s the idea behind it?
PF: The whole thing is about spending Valentines Day with the one you love – even if it’s just staying at home and eating a Marmite and cheese sandwich. For each card I thought of a scenario and an image and used the marmite brand colours. I wanted to create something eye catching with the message of love and Marmite.
DW: How does your work differ working for clients to when you’re focusing on self-initiated projects?
PF: Over the years and I’ve developed my work – there’s something people like and they don’t want to step on that too much. I’m developing lots of ideas in my own time – it’s all about keeping ideas fresh. A lot of the elements in the cards reflect what I’ve been doing in my own time.
DW: Your work is very psychedelic – what do you think it is about that style that’s been so popular and timely for so many years?
PF: There’s something about psychedelia I think that’s quite childlike – not in a derogatory way but on a very immediate level. It’s like eye-candy – vibrant colours and working with more patterns and shapes I’ve used with other characters. It’s the sense of wonder and freedom and letting your imagination run wild – creating a new world really. I grew up with cartoons, and as well as the psychedelic thing and comics and cartoons has always stayed with me – colours burnt into my retinas watching telly as a child.
DW: Has the 1960s psychedelia – album artworks and club posters and things like that – had much of an influence on your work?
PF: Certainly that side is influential but with my work I soak a lot of things up – you wring the sponge and things come out. There’s a bit of 60s psych, sweet and candy packaging, comics, cartoons – the whole things is soaked up. I have a wide variety of inspirations – an album cover or jacket or a strange new fish. I’m drawn to colours from whatever source – the natural world is one of the most inspiring things.
With the monster toys, monsters are one thing but creatures from under the sea are often the most surreal. A big touchstone with the toys was Star Wars- they pushed the merchandise when I was a kid and it was a very rich and diverse world and I was really attracted to that.
DW: Out of all the different media you use, are there any you prefer?
PF: I try to keep very open using different mediums – everything starts with a pencil drawing but recently I’ve been creating images on the iPad. I have to say no matter what I’m doing I’ll draw – even with making music. Someone asked me a sort of ‘Desert Island Discs question’ and I said a box of pens and pencils and a ream of paper.
If I didn’t draw I’d go mad.
DW: With making music yourself and doing a lot of work with Super Furry Animals, are there any bands or artists you’d love to work with?
PF: I’m working with The Horrors on an animation video and I’m a big fan so working on the video is a bit of a dream job. May dad used to surf and listen to The Beach Boys so I might say Brian Wilson – but ask me tomorrow and it could be Willie Nelson. Music is a big influence on my work – it’s like drawing, I couldn’t live without it.
DW: With things like the iPad, how do you think technology is shaping the work of designers and illustrators?
PF: It’s interesting – I’ve been using Illustrator for years, and the first couple of years saw a lot of people using it – it became very popular. I look at things as tools really – Vector Graphic is as much of a tool as a pencil. I was inspired by what Hockney said about the iPad – its just another tool. A pencil and a brush and paint is technology – its not to replace painting but a fantastic way of working.
DW: So overall, how would you describe your work?
PF: I’ve always described myself as a ‘monsterist’ – almost by default I never really felt comfortable saying I’m an illustrator as there’s so much else, so I coined ‘monsterist’. A lot of people still reference the cartoons and comics and I’m always happy with that compromise – they influenced what I do and what I’m about – cartoony, flat colour, rich palette. It’s very hard to describe it when you’re right in it.