Monsters and Marmite – an interview with Pete Fowler

Today sees the launch of three Valentine e-cards for Marmite, created by ‘monsterist’ (and illustrator, painter, musician, iPad doodler and producer) Pete Fowler. We caught up with him to chat monsters, psychedelia, iPads and, of course, Marmite.


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.

Super Furry Animals Dark Days Light Years LP
Super Furry Animals Dark Days Light Years LP

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.

Seahawks picture disc
Seahawks picture disc

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.

Haiti benefit T-Shirt
Haiti benefit T-Shirt
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