Artist of the Month: David Baddeley

We discuss Jimmy Stewart, doodling for fun and getting lucky (!) with emerging graphic illustrator David Baddeley…

You may recognise the work of graphic illustrator David Baddeley from Motel, a small grunge/Americana-themed bar on Fleet Street, Liverpool. David’s work is everywhere: flat, 2D, black and white drawings of actors and musicians, with straggly hair and droll, long faces, staring disapprovingly at the customers. Cinematic quotes litter his work: ‘SLEEP IS THE BABY MAMA OF DEATH’; ‘MY WHOLE LIFE HAS BEEN MOVIES AND RELIGION. THAT’S IT. NOTHING ELSE.’

This is the first major project for the hardworking 27-year-old, and, he confesses, a project that’s come his way through a major stroke of good fortune and a heap of drawing. Usually more familiar with zine-making and magazine illustration, David’s drawings have given this new venue a very distinct character, and his story embodies the importance of developing your own style, building up a portfolio of work, and well, drawing for yourself and for fun.

Graduating from Interaction Design for Entertainment Media (International Centre for Digital Content, Liverpool John Moores University) in 2008, David learnt to create interactive installations for galleries, museums and art spaces, dabbling in some stop-motion, but never with drawing. He started doodling in lessons for fun. It turned into a full-time distraction as a graduate; completely unsure of what career to pursue, he has over the last few years combined working at IKEA and at restaurants, with volunteering at Liverpool art spaces like Open Eye Gallery for experience when he could, and living in Warrington with his parents. “I spent a lot of time on that Warrington-Liverpool train drawing, improving my skills!”

“Two things pushed him into drawing seriously: watching documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston and finding Good Grief zine in Afflecks Palace, Manchester”

Two things pushed him into drawing seriously: watching documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005) — “he’s just an inspiring guy” – and finding Good Grief zine in Afflecks Palace, Manchester. “It was just a simple zine about Tom Cruise going mad, and I really thought, seriously, for the first time, ‘I could do that’.

“I just started drawing, trying my hand at it; I remembered as a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist… I started making zines and got the odd bit of drawing work from that in magazines and for bands.”

David Baddeley, Scorsese

That, and selling zines in the old FACT gift shop, combined with posting drawings on his blog (and a fair dose of luck) all paid off. One day checking his emails, he had a message from Rob Gutmann, the man behind a string of Liverpool-based bars and clubs including Korova, Alma de Cuba and Babycream. “It said ‘re: possible work… I’d like to work with you; your work reminds me of a lot of things that I like.’ He didn’t even know which country I was based in; he accidently saw one of my Kenny Dalglish drawings online and realised I must be in Liverpool!”

Having never worked on a full branding campaign before, he found the process surprisingly easy, describing a relaxed professional collaboration rather than an intimidating client brief. “We both share a love of film; we both love the same music. We bounce off each other. Going through my back catalogue of work, Rob would say what he liked… I’d also draw something new and send it over occasionally.

“We were opening the next week and we were still picking artwork”

It was all very last minute. “We were opening the next week and we were still picking artwork.” Deciding that this project was more important, David left his job at a local restaurant to go work full-time with the Motel team.

The result is a rough, DIY aesthetic: drawings behind cages, bare brick walls, neon text art, flyposting, hand-drawn portraits and text on walls, and an evident homage to American culture. A self-confessed cinephile, David’s work heavily references US film and TV — Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Scorsese, Seinfeld, Kubrick (the Motel logo is taken from a scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), where Jimmy Stewart gets hit on the head and his eyes roll back) – as well as US musicians, artists and writers – Tom Waits, Dylan, Daniel Johnson, American Splendor’s Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb.

“With Korova he used a whole design team; [at Motel] he took a big risk, he didn’t even know me… Rob had definite ideas of what he wanted, he’s got a good vision.

“I found a kindred spirit in Rob… He saved my life. Without him I’d still be working in a restaurant not knowing what to do with my life.”

So what’s on the horizon for Baddeley that we should be excited about? Apart from continuing his artistic vision at Motel, he has a regular comic strip in Lowdown Magazine, is working on a zine on serial killers and their favourite cereals  — “Ted Bundy’s would definitely be Shreddies” — and is currently working on a large top secret project coming up at another venue, which he can’t talk about, despite us prodding.

It’s all very positive and proactive; he’s a hardworker, is constantly looking for new projects to work on, is open to collaboration and new ideas, and he enjoys what he does. We find, after talking to David, that we take away that old adage of sticking to your guns. David’s advice to other illustrators keen to get more work? Keep on doing what you do best, in your own style; draw for yourself; and work hard at producing a portfolio that, when shown, screams ‘you’. You never know what’s round the corner.

Laura Robertson, Editor

Follow David on Twitter: @Dave_Baddeley

Posted on 04/02/2014 by thedoublenegative