Artist of the Month: Michael Cottage

Erotic illustration, poster art and comic strips – all in a day’s work for our Artist of the Month Michael Cottage…

The thing that strikes you about Michael Cottage is just how unassuming he is about his work. We expect that should you ever meet him over a pint with a group of mates, he would be the last trying to turn conversation around to what he’s just finished, or about to start work on.

This was uppermost in our minds the day we meet to talk about his fledgling, but burgeoning career as an illustrator. The biggest concern being we may have to trick him into opening up and giving us the low-down on all the ace stuff he’s working on – that or get him drunk!

As it turned out, our fears weren’t entirely unfounded, but with a bit of chatter about our early, mostly poor, efforts at drawing Transformers and He-Man (we’re ageing ourselves here), things started moving along nicely.

Like most people, Michael started out drawing in childhood, copying the stuff he was into; in this case the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and old Beatrix Potter stuff about the house. “Around the age other people stop drawing, I just carried on…I was encouraged by my folks, and remember always having pads, pencils and paints around the place.”

“There’s always a narrative to the work… It’s always someone lonely doing something wrong”

Continuing with art throughout school and onto college, he says he found it a struggle: “It was more of a chore and felt like any other lesson”; this being the case, we wondered what inspired him to carry on? “The sheer enjoyment of it really… It feels like it’s something I should be doing, it’s what I want to do. I spend days in work thinking about what I’d like to be drawing.”  In fact, when we ask him if there’s anything he doesn’t like about his profession, the only thing that comes to mind is that “there’s not enough time to do everything I’d like.”

We see what he means – these days, it’s not the school art teacher badgering him he has to worry about; following a year out and a bit of a rethink, he took a place on LJMU’s graphic art degree, graduating in 2009. This led into to a very fruitful couple of years, working on the likes of Bido Lito!, Spiel Magazine, and producing a Wombats poster for Screenadelica. Of course, there was also that highly successful internship with design agency Mercy, spawning Young Pines. The group, which counts in its number graphic designers, writers, poets and illustrators, has just had their first exhibition.

A lot of Michael’s solo work is heavy with suggestion and a certain suspense – atmospheric doesn’t quite do it justice. We wondered where this comes from? “There’s always a narrative to the work [I do], whether I get to play that out – like in the Spiel comic strip – or not… It’s always someone lonely doing something wrong…there’s a lot of an emphasis on the outsider…”

Which brings us nicely around to the incredible animated piece of the stalker/woodsman gracing our banner on the home page. Michael describes it thus: “… [it’s] a loop of a man stalking a wolf, but it’s cyclical, more a loop of Man versus nature, I suppose.”

He seems a man enjoying this spell in his career, but it wasn’t always this way. Michael reveals that, when we first met a few months back, he was thinking of leaving the city and giving it a go somewhere else, but he says all that changed recently. What brought about the change of heart? “It feels like something’s happening here… like it’s about to boil over, in a good way. Something’s changed and I’m not sure what, but it’s going to be good. I think a lot of people feel it at the moment, it’s exciting. Everyone you speak to feels it, whatever it is!”

So, given this ‘itand (presumably) the upturn in commissioned work, we wonder what constitutes the dream scenario for Michael: “I want to be doing this full time… to get up in the morning and get to my desk and draw all day, that’s where I want to be.”

Talk turns to what’s on the horizon in 2012. There’s a Young Pines comic book in the very early stages in the works (“There’s not even anything on paper, just a few themes, most of them puerile!” is all Michael’s giving away at this point), and following that strip in Spiel, the collective are being given the reigns to work on the design for the next issue and beyond.

Certainly, it doesn’t look like things are letting up, but you feel he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted on 19/01/2012 by thedoublenegative