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Q&A with Robin Boyden

Illustrator and animator from Cheltenham, UK


I'm Robin and I work as a full-time self-employed Illustrator and sometimes writer from my flat in Cheltenham, UK. I pretty much wake up, draw, then sleep, it’s a good life.

Software / hardware

I work mainly digitally these days although I will do my sketches with pencil first. I’ve recently managed to contain myself to working in just Photoshop with the excellent Kyle Webster brushes. I work on a Wacom Cintiq 22 HD. It’s heavy and cumbersome but a great piece of kit, especially in combination with felt nibs. Then I have a souped up glossy MacBook which recently sent my 2009 iMac to the retirement home.

Ideal work environment

I would ideally be working in a hammock in the Caribbean. Maybe in the 18th Century. But if that were the case I’d more likely be a pirate. Or a cartographer for pirates. In reality, I need soft light, a view of life going on around me through the window and usually tidiness. A good range of entertainment to suit my mood too, I can’t just listen to music all day, so history podcasts, a Netflix account, iPlayer or a dog chasing a stick will do.


Inspiration comes from practical and more romantic reasons. The practical being… if I don’t work then it’s back to working in bars or restaurants and having less time to draw. The more romantic inspiration being that it’s been a part of my life since I was an infant. My Dad stole/ relocated copy paper from work, so I would make books by folding a wedge of it in half and then crudely stapling the spine before filling a few pages of a story before getting bored and moving onto the next idea. So inspiration comes from, not being able to do anything else, as in, I would be miserable doing another job! I think you need to feel like that to make it work as a career as it can be quite alienating and a struggle, especially at the start.

As for inspiration for ideas… aside from my contemporaries in Illustration… concept art, history, philosophy, I’d say comedy films and comedians rather than ‘comics’. I was always into humour comics as a kid rather than super hero stories. I like absurdity and mischief but also something fairly sweet and grounded. I loved Roald Dahl books for that reason. Also dogs, dogs are the best, I’ve based so many human characters I’ve drawn on dogs.

Admire most

Those who value concept over style. Illustration is about communication, not simply ‘decoration’. So any artist, or Art Director, who really pushes an idea beyond something obvious. In modern editorial I think A. Richard Allen has some fantastic ideas, Peter Ryan too. Then in sequential work, Chris Ware is unparalleled in my opinion at the moment. Building Stories is pretty remarkable in all respects. Lou Romano and Jon Klaasen’s concept artwork I love too.

For pure enjoyment Peanuts, Asterix or Calvin and Hobbes. Herge’s ‘Tintin’ for artwork. Quentin Blake’s illustrations too, he is superb at developing characters and thinking outside the box in regards to their appearance. I mean this in a conceptual way rather than simple style. For example Matilda is a child but he gives her more grown up facial features to convey her maturity and intelligence beyond her years. This is all offset by her tiny, frail body and hair that comes to her feet so give the overall appearance of a child. This is what inspires me and is something I need to develop as I go on.