Frequently Asked Questions and Selected Interviews *UPDATED MAY 2017*

Peepshow was set up as a way of facilitating self promotion, sharing clients and expenses and to make the experience of being an Illustrator more fun. Power in numbers as they say.

Peepshow was founded in the autumn of 2000 by Graham Carter, Miles Donovan, Chris Joscelyne, Chrissie Macdonald, Andrew Rae, Lucy Vigrass and Spencer Wilson, who all graduated from the University of Brighton BA Illustration course in 1998. We were later joined by Luke Best, Marie O'Connor, Jenny Bowers, Elliot Thoburn, Orko and Pete Mellor. Chris Joscelyne, Graham Carter and Orko left the ranks in 2005, Marie O'Connor & Elliot Thoburn left in 2014.

No, we are a collective and are not currently looking to take on new members.

It can be difficult to get back to individual questions and in most cases we would refer you to our frequently asked questions, most subjects are covered. Please check here first with any queries and keep popping back because this F.A.Q section is regularly updated.

We do not offer work experience or internships at Peepshow, most of the time we are working on projects which don't allow for additional help.

Due to the high number of enquires we receive it is not possible to get back to individuals with feedback regarding Illustration or animation portfolios.

Jenny is represented by Art Department in New York.
Miles, Lucy & Spencer are represented by Snyder New York in USA/Canada.
Spencer is represented by Synergy in the UK and Tiphaine in France.
Andrew and Chrissie are represented by Bernstein & Andriulli in the USA and UK.
Luke is represented by Heart in the UK and USA.
Lucy is represented by Outline Artists in the UK.
Peepshow are represented for animation work in the UK by Outline Artists and the USA/Canada by Snyder New York.

Unfortunately no, our doors are closed to visitors. Not even if you promise to bring biscuits.

Sometimes, it depends how busy we are. In the past we have travelled to The Arts Institute in Bournemouth, The University of Brighton, The University of Leeds, The London College of Communication, Camberwell College of Arts, The University of the West of England, The Havering College of Further and Higher Education, Central St Martins School Of Art and Design and Kingston University London.


Peepshow Interview with Popshot Magazine, 2011

What made you decide to become a collective rather than operate as individuals?
Peepshow was set up as a way of facilitating self promotion, collaboration, sharing clients and expenses and to make the experience of being an Illustrator more fun. Power in numbers as they say. Although our key practice entails working on our own individual commissions, we come together to work on specific commissions, namely installation and animation projects.

What are some of the biggest benefits of working as a collective?
A shared studio, website & promotion, expenses, client list and library as well as a group of trusted people to look to for advice. Also by collaborating we end up working on projects that challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone.

How does the collaborative process work? Do clients choose which members will work on a brief or is it decided by Peepshow?
It depends on the nature of the project, some clients come to us with a particular illustrator or aesthetic in mind but on other occasions they are open to our interpretation of the brief. We'll come together to discuss ideas and see who's work is best suited to the brief as well as who's interested and available, leaving a smaller team to see the project through to the end.

Why the name Peepshow?
The original website was designed to show a 'peep' of our individual illustration work using a peephole device, so the name Peepshow seemed perfect and just stuck.

How often do people confuse you with the TV show and have you ever considered suing them, baring in mind that you came first?
It's not really an issue as we're not in competition, besides we all like the show too much and it's not as if we own the word, it's been around since the 15th century. We did have a strange letter once from some fans of the TV show suggesting we make an all female version, they even sent plot & casting suggestions. Robert Webb wore a T-shirt in the last series with a design by Andrew on it that must have been bought as a bootleg from a market. It's not legal so don't buy it.

You all have very varied styles. Is this something that works in your favour or does it make the collaboration process more difficult?
Collaborating on a shared drawing rarely happens because everyone's work is so different. The most enjoyable part of collaborating is being able to leave what you know, move away from your established visual language and try something new and be a bit more surprised. I don't think we'd all still be working together if our work all looked the same. We quickly realised that the most successful way to collaborate is if everyone contributes ideas and works in a way unassociated to their personal work. A great deal of our collaborative projects in the last 5 years have seen a smaller group of people working on it, this team varies completely from project to project but the work is still credited to 'Peepshow'. We also collaborate with photographers, animators and other Illustrators, the extended peepshow family so to speak.

What's the most exciting/fulfilling/interesting project you've worked on?
I'm sure each member of Peepshow has their own personal favourites but off the top of our collective heads, 'Hi-Life' with Graham Rawle, a 4000 sq ft supermarket installation for Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany that kicked started the whole Peepshow thing and was seen by a staggering 40 million visitors. 'Pick Me Up' at Somerset House last year for the ace print workshop we ran for the duration. The 'making characters, buildings & objects from three vegetables' stall at the V&A fete in 2006, just because we didn't realise just how much a corn on the cob resembles Jimmy Saville or a purple beet resembles Eddy Grant until then. Someone spent an hour making the Sydney Opera House from three onions. Our first collaborative animation project for Diesel, the 'Sleeproom', 'CBeebies' and 'Culture Show' animations, because we learnt an awful lot along the way, and finally the windows of Saatchi & Saatchi in 2007 because its not everyday your given the front of a massive building to make look nice.

You have a phenomenally impressive client list. How have you built up such an impressive reputation?
It is the client list of 10 people over 12 years but we have been lucky enough to work with the best advertising agencies and some of the best magazines and newspapers. In all honestly it's just good old hard work, professionalism, meeting deadlines and delivering quality work, all things we take great pride in.

Last year you turned 10 years old. What are the secrets to remaining a creative collective for so long?
Giving each other space, keeping things loose, playful and fun.

One of the things that really sets you apart from other collectives is your use of animation. Was this a conscious decision to straddle both print and moving image?
Well only two of us have ever actually studied animation, we stumbled into it quite by accident when someone from an advertising agency in Amsterdam saw our individual illustration work appear side by side on our website and asked if we wanted to contribute to an animation project commissioned by Diesel. Animation is the most natural and successful way for us to collaborate. It allows everyone to have an input in the process even if you can't see their work visually in the end result.

How has the world of illustration changed since you started out back in 2000?
Deadlines seem to have sped up, and although on the whole budgets haven't necessarily decreased, they certainly haven't increased and clients expect more for their money. Ten years ago I think most of us were still having zip disks couriered around London or having artwork drum scanned instead of sending final artwork by email. The way clients find your work and employ you has changed with the vast majority of work coming in through websites and blogs instead of hardcopy folios.
Illustration is much broader and more exciting now. An illustrator can be his/her own author self publishing is easier etc but the traditional skills of illustration are getting lost, being able to communicate an idea seems to be less and less important. Style is still wrongly king.

What would you (all) be doing if you weren't part of Peepshow (or illustrators/animators etc)?
Spencer: "I'd like to think i'd be working with wood, either crafting or chainsawing"

Miles: "Accountant, Librarian, work in a record shop or TV Detective, i'm not fussy which"

Pete: "I'd run a tuck-shop"

Andrew: "I'd be little unhappier"

Jenny: "Probably something much less varied and interesting with more predictable hours, pay and holidays. I wanted to be a vet when I was little but then realised you had to be good at science"

Chrissie: "Hopefully i'd be making things in some capacity. I think my gymnast days are over"

Elliot: :"I'd probably be someone who drinks less coffee and has better posture. But, that someone would have an overwhelming sense that a big part of their life was missing"

What does the future hold for Peepshow?
We are planning a book, which was originally set to mark our tenth anniversary but is increasingly looking like it will mark the 11th or 12th. 2011 should also see our first solo show outside of the UK, more 'Heavy Pencil' live drawing and music events and hopefully lots of exciting commercial/personal illustration and animation projects.


Peepshow Interview with Lydia Fulton for Varoom Magazine, 2008

It started in 2000 with seven of us creating a website to showcase our individual work. The website was based on a peephole, showing a glimpse of our illustration portfolios and so the name Peepshow seemed perfect.
The website was simply a way for us to show our work together, at that time we weren’t aiming to create a collective but we slowly started working together. Our first exhibition was a collection of work shown within one space, then it continued to develop in an organic way and over time clients started to contact us. In 2004 we moved into a studio together and received our first big animation commission, as a collective.

The strength of 10 brains, twenty eyes and one hundred fingers.

We all studied illustration, most of us at Brighton University. Illustration and animation is at the core of our training and that is reflected in the work we produce.

When one of us has a meeting we always take everyone’s work with us to show – so we help raise each other’s profile! If we are struggling we have each other for advice, we share all costs and by collaborating we end up working on projects that challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone. It is also lovely to come to a nice studio to work together! The disadvantages are contrasting opinions and balancing the amount of work. We all have our own individual commissions as well as the Peepshow work, so although we try to integrate them it can be difficult to balance both.

Clients can get a great deal by coming to a collective as they have numerous creatives to work for them instead of one. The final outcome is less predictable when you commission a collective as there is not one set individual style to show. However, clients trust in us that the outcome will be right.

If more than one member of Peepshow are working on a commission then it is a Peepshow credit. Sometimes projects will come in that only requires one person in which case that individual is credited. Peepshow owns the rights for all our joint work.

Working within a collective allows more creative freedom than working alone, it also encourages you to create more of the work you want to do and to take more of an art direction role. The client will come to a collective with a project and not have a clear idea of what the outcome will be, whereas with a solo illustrator you don’t tend to have a say, you just have to fulfil a brief. Clients tend to put their trust in a collective like they would with a design company.

As a collective we are inspired by each other. Margaret Huber was a great tutor at Brighton and then after college we spent a year assisting Graham Rawle on his Expo 2000 exhibition. It was during this time that we realised we liked working together as a group. It made us feel excited about future possibilities, so Graham is a huge inspiration for us.

There has never been a disagreement over who works on which project and it seems to even out really well. It is very natural as we all have different styles so the person’s style that suits that particular project does the work.
Certain individual styles fit together better within the collective – so that tends to decide who collaborates with who, but it changes for each project. No one steps on anyone else’s toes.

To be more involved in projects at an earlier stage, shape ideas and have more creative freedom. The Saatchi windows we worked on last year were great and we have just made our first live action music video so it would be wonderful to do more of those.

There are many collectives starting out who don’t always have a clear idea of what they want to achieve and that’s a problem. Peepshow came together very naturally, to support each other, and we worked hard for years to establish our styles and be confident with our individual identities. Those strong roots are important for a successful collective. People tend to forget about the business side of a collective. Peepshow is a company. It takes time to learn how to deal with clients and a brief – it can’t be rushed. So our advice is don’t try too hard, it has to evolve organically.


Peepshow Interview with Peter Nencini (assisted by Freya Faulkner), 2011.

PN: Peter Nencini
MD: Miles Donovan
SW: Spencer Wilson

LB: Luke Best
JB: Jenny Bowers
LV: Lucy Vigrass
AR: Andrew Rae
CM: Chrissie Macdonald
PM: Pete Mellor
ET: Elliot Thoburn

PN: About the making or the made. The workings or the work. How you formed. I was thinking about the year 2000, when you formed. Books and studio monographs that were around at that time — the way people were thinking about illustration and graphic design. ‘Process: A Tomato Project’ was published in 1997 and Rick Poynor’s ‘Design Without Boundaries’ in 2002. Both of them were talking about the significance of process — and that process had supplanted the solution in visual communication. There was also a section in the Rick Poynor book that talked about Seymour Chwast in the sense that he represented a preceding era, especially with Illustration which was, you know, ‘The Big Idea’. New York art direction and illustration which was evidently drawn with virtuosity — ideas-based, working in conjunction with typography and so on. But it was talking about how that — the open use of stylistic grammar to express an idea; the use of visual wit — had dropped out of fashion. It’s returned now but perhaps more decoratively.

I want to ask you about what you recall of 2000 and when you started to consciously be a collective and form a studio. What do you remember about the language of illustration from that time? Not the status but the language. What you could see happening and what you were doing yourselves?

LB: I think that we weren’t that external facing — or looking out that much — and that’s probably part of the drive. Maybe we were only really interested in what we were doing or each other’s processes. You know, there wasn’t much else outside of that in terms of illustration. There was a big shift to digital, I guess. But a lot of us didn’t come from digital processes, or were at the point of making that shift. I think Tomato was important, maybe, but the other stuff wasn’t even really on our radar.

MD: ‘Raygun’ (David Carson).

AR: ‘Raygun’, yeah.

LV: It wasn’t really illustration that we found exciting at the time. It was more graphic-based.

MD: Well, we didn’t have the internet. For three years the only place we went, was Brighton library. And you didn’t have books on illustrators. You couldn’t see the work of illustrators, so much, when we were studying. 

SW: (To Miles) There was the stuff that your dad would supply you with as well.

MD: Yeah, I suppose so.

LB: That’s a good point. There’s the things that you would get from your dad. That’s why we were more internal facing. Everyone would have their sources outside, that were lacking in the world of illustration and actually our own sources were more interesting than what was on offer in the library.

MD: Well, there were great books in the library.
CM: Not about illustration

MD: They were all painting.

LV: Or photography. I mean, even the slide library we found interesting.

MD: Yeah, the slide library at Brighton was amazing. We’d spend hours in there trawling; and the video library looking at Hitchcock movies.

PN: We had a little chat about it before this question and you said that you just couldn’t really see illustration. You could see it in illustration award annuals, but I guess it’s inert at that point — it’s got a prize but it’s done and dusted. Maybe process at that time — an ongoing process out of which falls applied work — maybe that felt more exciting or more do-able?

AR: Yeah; and we really hated all those illustration annuals

CM: Yeah. If anything it put us off illustration.

SW: That’s the point. It might have been in the papers and in editorial — but because of the subject matter and how it was treated — it wasn’t something that I would naturally pick up. Whereas, copies like ‘The Face’ — where you could look at work all day — that was a totally different kind of thing.

AR: ‘The Face’ was big wasn’t it? And Paul Davis.

SW: Yeah, Paul Davis. That was totally different and not run-of-the-mill.

MD: Well, basically it’s those people, you know. You started to see good record sleeves coming out, in ’97, ‘98. Graham Rounthwaite and Jasper Goodall were doing stuff for ‘The Face’.

CM: And James Jarvis. So there was a totally different aesthetic coming through.

MD: Kate Gibb was starting to do record sleeves for The Chemical Brothers. So there was some sort of…

PN: I can remember people talking about her. It felt like somebody where process was to the fore — essentially a printmaker — and you were really in her work weren’t you Lucy? It was the apparentness of the way it was made forming a part of what is was about. Or it was an attitude behind it.

CM: It made it look more interesting to get yourself involved. 

PN: Like it was porous?

CM: Yes, it was penetrable.

LB: Yeah, because in those illustration annuals: all they ever showed you was the finished product.

CM: And out of context.

LB: Yeah. So the Tomato book, even Mo’Wax records: they had an air of not being finished. Feasibly that something could be in-between start and end; and that could be applied. It was quite liberating.

SW: The Tomato book was quite brilliant because of its photocopied quality; it was on board…

PN: The uncoated paper…

LV: And that’s the same thing with Mo’Wax. Everything was tactile — a beautiful ‘thing’.

MD: Mike Mills as well. And the Beastie Boys had a magazine called ‘Grand Royal’ that was really exciting in the mid-nineties. Those were the things that I was looking at, I think, when I was a student.

MO: I don’t know if it’s worth saying — because I wasn’t an illustrator — but I would look a lot at fashion magazines. They were using photography with illustration — maybe not calling it ‘illustration’, but calling it ‘styling’ or something like that. I think, too, there was a kind of consciousness in visual communication in the late-nineties — that was when I graduated from textiles — that things were being deconstructed. In fashion there was a whole movement to deconstruction.

PN: The Antwerp Six.

MO: The Antwerp Six and a lot of photographers — like Mark Borthwick — that pared everything down. You saw the mechanics of taking a photograph or of making a garment. All that exposure of the process, I think, was prevalent —not just in illustration, but in fashion editorial and in design.

PN: I also remember around 2000, a prevalent use of stock photos. Peter Saville’s New Order sleeve with the, sort of, Marlboro man. There was a lot of — it wasn’t quite clip art — but a diagrammatic mode. A really good article in ‘Eye’ magazine traced it back to the Situationists. Appropriation or subversion and the ironic use of stock photography. And it was detrimental to have any sort of earnestness about the way it was crafted or handmade idiosyncrasy. Important that it was a cold language because that helps with the subversion. 

LV: There was an exhibition at The Barbican around that time, called ‘Jam’. I remember there was a lot of that, kind of, information graphic.

SW: It kind of merged design and illustration into one discipline.

AR: Then it worked its way into ‘Fight Club’, didn’t it?

LB: I  feel that all that stuff was coming from a design point of view. It was still leaving out illustrators or illustration, to quite a degree.

PN: But Kam Tang did it very well. There’s a bridging point to you guys, because there was a real universe behind it. You know, he did that amazing piece in his RCA graduation show, about walking. It had that language — but also what it was talking about was quite tacit and personal — the sensation of walking. 

CM: I think that fed into when I started doing 3D work. I was working on a sort of petrol station kit — an average, everyday setting— I don’t even remember what my point was with it — but I was going to build and photograph it. I actually then discarded the rest of it and just went with the photograph, because then I realised that that was interesting in its own right. So I think that stemmed from the ‘infographic’; but it was a by-product of something else. And I think I was doing a plane crash kit too.

PN: Even on a technical level, the image-making itself is a form of object-making.

CM: Yeah, I think so. It just led on and I realised that what I was aiming to do didn’t necessarily work and wasn’t as interesting. I preferred pursuing the image itself.

PN: It’s a good point about process. That ‘by-products’ — rather than the outcome you are aiming for — become the outcome.

MD: That’s what happened with Marie. I mean, you got picked up as an illustrator by an agency, making sketches for fashion design.

MO: Well, I was making things which were never the finished ‘thing’. They were by-products. In the world of communication design, people saw value in those. For me they weren’t the end product; but they were, for people who were commissioning me.

LV: That ‘sketchbook page’ also came out of Neasden Control Centre’s work. Elevated to the final product. (To Spencer) You were looking at people like Jean-Michel Basquiat as well.

SW: From referencing artists — such as Basquiat — and then doing trace-off and limited palette; then having more of a designed look or feel and now doing character design work. It’s purely drawing what I want to draw but again it’s doing it by reducing palettes, colours and composition.
PN: I know you, as a group, have enjoyed referencing vernacular drawing, vernacular forms. Non-universal sources. Some of the books around you have that about them. Pre-Google Image search, there was an enjoyment of esoteric reference.

LV: Yeah, just the ephemera that you collect along the way. I think you certainly had your box of reference, rather than the computer.

SW: I still do.

LV: I do too.

SW: It’s under a table. It’s not been opened for donkeys! Every now and again I’ll open it and I’ll think, “why did I collect that?”. But I still can’t thrown it away.

CM: It’s often more about objects around you — or books that you come across — that have nothing to do with what you are really doing. Rather than going for a direct picture search on the internet, it’s finding things down other routes.

AR: I was really into accidental, automatic drawing.

PN: I suppose that’s what I’m thinking about. References that you wouldn’t get in art school. That you wouldn’t get in a linear way, you know? A type of drawing that is untrained but that is also from a communicative — or decorative point of view — really progressive.

AR: I remember collecting together a load of drawings— on Thistle Hotel headed paper because I was working there — that actually became a formative thing for me. Stuff that I’d just been churning out without thinking about it at all.

SW: Sleep deprived, because you had to get up so early in the morning (laughter).

AR: You had hours where you were just sort of sat there. I was drawing chefs and things. That had a big affect on me, actually.

MO: In terms of reference, I think that everyone here has their process, so it’s not just what comes out at the end of it. The idea that I — as a textile designer — can look at an instruction manual and how that visual documentation might filter though my process. Or how anyone else can… not re-appropriate… but kind of pick and choose what they want to do. I think that you can do that more, when there are physical things around you; when you’ve got your bank of papers and other stuff.

My problem with blogs, is when you see them as a stream of consciousness. There’s not a lot of editing. In one way that’s what’s really beautiful about them. But when I studied, there was a really direct focus in where I chose things and how I put them together. 

You can take information from different disciplines or techniques and invent your own thing. You’re in control of that, in a way. So you have a bank of reference which is very particular to your interests.

SW: Do you share that reference? Or is it just yours?

MO: No, well, I don’t know. You can discover things in a library — or a slide library — and you kind of feel that it’s yours for a little bit. You make it into something new and there’s something quite nice about that. So you’re quite insular, more than external facing. You grow your ideas within your own kind of perimeters.

CM: It’s those things that you find when you are out and about, doing something completely different. You collect these things and they all just become part of what you do, without it being deliberate.

PM: That’s what keeps it interesting and keeps it moving. People have found their voice that way. Therefore, we can be going another ten years and still be changing how we’re influenced, finding different references and being continually interested in other things rather than someone’s… blog.

PN: Was there anything else around you, alongside you in film, television, music, fashion, art, design, literature, which helped you triangulate or catalyse what you were doing, individually or collectively? 

CM: Well for me, it didn’t make sense for a very long time and that was the problem. I was doing things for a certain amount of time at university, then left and didn’t know where that sat. I didn’t know how to use it, because maybe everyone else was naturally more illustrative and I was producing this 3D work. Problems arose with how do you document it. I was doing it myself, then realising that I’m not a good enough photographer. So there was those kind of issues. For a long while, I was trying all sorts of things to figure out where it would sit. I worked on a film, or window display — I did all these different jobs for a while, to figure out its place — and came full circle. By still doing stuff with Peepshow as a group — and not as my own practice — it made me realise that I could place my work in an illustration context. But it took a while to figure out.

LV: If you came out now, you can do all that in an illustration context but you collected that along the way, didn’t you?

MD: I still hark back to EXPO and realise that you don’t just have to sit and draw pictures. We had the opportunity of working with Graham Rawle on that; just being holed up in a studio in East London for the best part of a year. We were making stuff and spending our time at boot sales picking up objects. It just became our life for a year.

PN: I remember you (Miles) playing music a lot in the flat. There was something particular about it. I do think there were other things, sitting in parallel. BBC launched in 2003. Perhaps a certain sort of comedy on television — I’m not talking about ‘Peepshow’ by the way (laughter) — but others. That’s what I’m trying to get at. Is there anything else, where you looked over at what they were doing?

AR: There was definitely in the music world. I was doing flyers. Just a way of working with friends; people who were making music or putting on nights. That’s what led onto ‘Monkey Dust’. But was just being allowed to have much darker themes than you’d be able to in an editorial context.

LV: It was making our own market. At the beginning, we would do all sorts of things — like the London Artists’ Book Fair — and realised that we didn’t really fit into that.

MD: No; that was all one thousand pound books that you touched with gloves.

LV: Yes, and we wanted to make books. We wanted to set ourselves deadlines. That was the whole point of Peepshow at the start. We would set deadlines to make non-commercial work; and because there’s a group, you’ve got a gun to your head. You don’t want to let anyone else down. A lot of the things that we did — sales, or little books and things like that —came out of creating our own market. There was a lot of other ‘do it yourself’ stuff around at the time; that was what felt quite exciting.

AR: I guess it was, slightly, brought on by the technology.

LV: Yeah, exactly.

PN: And the internet came up to meet it.

AR: It was the Mac first and the internet second, really. Just the fact that you could use the Mac.

LB: But before all of that — before EXPO — you were all living together in various forms. So you were working alongside each other. (To Miles) You and Spenny were working on the same paintings, half the time.

MD: We were at college, yeah.

LB: That’s what I’m saying. In college — even in the way you would all make costumes for parties — you were making things and thinking beyond what illustration was. So there were shared references. You’d all watch the same sort of alternative comedy. EXPO galvanised it.

MD: EXPO made it possible.

LB: It was already there. As an outsider — when I came to any of your flats — there was some sort of visual language going on. This weird combination of good music, made objects and nice collections of things.

AR: And found paintings

SW: Yeah, that we’d got off the streets. There was a lot of ephemera, especially when Jeremy joined the flat. All the apple stickers on the wall; everything was ordered.

LB: It sort of became like the library thing; what was was missing there. It was in the living room of your flat a little bit more.

PN: Everybody working in wheelchairs. I remember that! (laughter)

MD: You wouldn’t believe how comfortable a wheelchair is!

LB: Lucy and Graham worked in a newsagent’s and Miles worked in a video shop. So there was that film reference. For Lucy I think of packaging, or things to do with print.

CM: I enjoyed watching lots films, with interesting art direction. That’s where my interest in art direction came from but realised for me, it was too prescribed. It ended up being more like an architect’s job and not necessarily as random and creative as I thought it might be; more structured. But I think that led to at interest in set design but also mood and lighting. The general look of Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train’. I remember that, because it was really quite stylised; I thought it was almost like a series of still photographs made into a film.

LB: Buffalo 66. And ‘Dazed (and Confused)’ had started to happen.

AR: And ‘The Big Lebowski’.

LB: ‘Dazed’ boomed and ‘The Face’ dropped off a little bit. I remember ‘Buffalo 66’ was a really big movie, because, again, it had a similar ‘it’s do-able’ aesthetic.

PN: Can we focus, now, more on your processes from the inside? Previously, when you’ve talked about ‘most enjoyed projects’ you’ve tended to favour the live projects, the workshop projects, the generative projects. The print workshop at ‘Pick Me Up’, V&A ‘Village Fete’, ‘High Life’ and so on. Looking back at Peepshow’s work — whilst acknowledging the diversity of the work — there is something binding. An apparent ‘unpacked’ process. When I look at the work — the finished work —you can see that it’s made. I don’t mean a drawing texture; but that it feels sort of unpacked, in terms of how the picture was made but also in terms of how depicted things work. So I’m talking about what the images are saying.

CM: In the content?

PN: Yes. It’s not only in the evident hand-made-ness of things but also in a way that the things being pictured are not definitive. We’ve talked before, Luke and I, about the way you depict people from the back, as if they’ve just turned away. Andrew, you’ve often drawn the backs of machines; the workings. Also Lucy, in your ‘accidental’ compositions of parts, from the Ebay photographs.

There’s this big issue in illustration about the ‘moment of choice’, from a text, from a narrative. But there is a sense, sometimes in your work, of an incidental moment. Slightly the wrong moment. Or a moment when somebody is wandering off the edge of the page. So it’s about seeing the workings of things. I wonder it that helps with what you are trying to say in the image?

MO: You were talking about the ‘point of choice’. I don’t know whether or not you mean: when you decide to stop. When I am making, I’m not thinking consciously, “Oh this looks a little bit awkward”. When you decide to leave it, it can be the hardest thing. When it’s finished or not finished. Sometimes you have to go overboard and then take it back again. There’s a kind of conversation with the image that you are making, all of the time. I don’t think I am consciously making something that appears to be unfinished, or that appears to have that lightness or awkwardness. But emotionally, it feels right.

PN: Yes, nimbleness and lightness — the idea that the work is nimble in some way — that there are permutations. When this one was made, there are others; and they are equal in weight. It’s not like there’s the ‘bull’s eye’ solution, or something.

FF: Is there also something about risk taking? About not necessarily continuing down a road with something and nailing it to the floor but actually taking the risk of leaving it slightly unfinished and exposing some of the mechanisms behind it and leaving that gap? 

You were talking about how, in the illustration annuals, with this really resolved, finished work, that it just completely turned you off and you didn’t touch it with a barge pole. Is there something about the excitement of a risk? Maybe you’re naturally drawn to having that sort of gap.

MO: Yeah; I think personally I like ambiguity in the work and when something is just about to become something. Having that point of ambiguity. I think that’s also the case in a lot of images that Peepshow make; where there’s a tension between the making, or what the image is actually communicating.

PN: (To Elliot) I remember you telling me that you had ‘kit’ of limbs? Your images are built out of a kind of kit. A reservoir of hands and things like that. I can understand that from a practical point of view but also there’s an undercurrent where, when you build these figures there is a nice dissonance or an awkwardness.

ET: Yeah, I mean it’s like playing with toys, really. It’s like going back to having an Action Man.

AR: I started using the computer, in collaging my own work. I would just do as much drawing as I could, pick out the good ones and then just start to collage them together. Putting things together and seeing how that worked. Just enjoying the composition. I guess that has the same awkwardness about it. I do just draw it straight out now, though.

SW: My work’s a bit like Elliot’s. It’s driven by the programme he and I have used: Adobe Illustrator. I’d just have a massive artboard and stick loads of stuff around it; that’s how the whole illustration evolves. I might just drag the entire body and leave an arm, or take a bit, then open up another file, copy another file onto that artboard, then start taking those bits apart to create my drawing. While I’m doing all of that, my brain might be somewhere else or listening to music. Then accidental things occur where, for example, I’ve accidentally clicked on the background and dragged it across. That changes the composition. I take a complete copy, move it over and then work on that. I do, though, have a certain amount of rules in my work.

LB: Most of the illustration we looked at, we felt, was really dead-ended. So I guess that — in subconscious reaction — we all made work with the influence of painting, or record covers. Things that feel as if they have a life beyond and before. The work we make — although it is to communicate a specific thing in an editorial for example — it has more open-endedness. The other reason is that we all consciously make about ten to twenty versions of the image before making that decision. So process is important.

PN: Do you submit those as well?

LB: No; but I think we all have a strong work ethic. Which is another point. So it feels like there are ten other versions. Chrissie’s characters for Orange: they belong to a whole family and she probably designed a lot more than were ever seen to get to that point. You can tell, in the work, that it has a bigger world around it, because we all make that much work.

SW: I don’t generally do a rough to send to the client, because the rough that I’ll produce in my sketchbook might not bear any relevance to the work that I actually want to give them at the end of the day. At the first point when I get commissioned, I’ll say, “I won’t do you a rough; I’ll just send you through a working drawing and amend it as we go along”. When I send the working drawing, it’s always with a disclaimer, saying, “This might not be the actual colour or the way the picture will look” (laughter).

PN: Literally, a disclaimer? (laughter)

SW: What I always found annoying, is that traditionally the illustrator would work out a pencil version of the piece and then just copy that in colour. That would just kill me. That would be so boring.

PN: But has anything been lost, in the commitment to a create an idea? To the killer idea? Or perhaps the conditions for that to happen don’t exist anymore.

SW: Well, I think, it’s a marriage between me and the commissioning person. If they’re good, then they’ll get the best from me.

LV: There is a problem now — working commercially — that people commissioning you think that every image you make is infinitely changeable because of the computer. Creating the one image — which is what I used to do and with papercut — it was much more decided what the image was going to be like at the beginning, at the rough process. Now people expect it to be infinitely changeable. I think, in some ways, you lose a bit of ownership in what is that final image.

MO: On that idea that people might have of everyone’s working process: I think maybe the idea of a kit of parts is actually relevant to all of us. That we have a kind of reservoir, you called it. A bank of stuff — whether that’s physical stuff; or a knowledge of reference; or a spreadsheet of limbs; or colours and textures; or there’s a framework to work within. If you have that ‘catalogue’ then you can allow yourself to be playful within that. You can do things quickly, because you’ve got the means to do it. I find that I’ve got a bit of confidence if I’ve got the specific kit I need for a specific job. Then it’s about responding to the kit that you’ve acquired.

PN: It allows you the conditions to create flexible work.

LV: Also, it’s your own parameters.

PN: And you won’t be ‘killed’ by someone saying it doesn’t work, because you have spare matter.

MO: It’s a vocabulary that can expand, be reduced or constantly evolve. I’m doing that with my hands but even if it’s on screen, there’s the idea that everything is mobile and interchangeable.

LV: I have the same rules using the computer, that I would have outside the computer. Otherwise it’s not my language anymore.

MD: When I’m working, I like to have the job done in a day. I don’t like working on anything longer than that. But I will save the job after two hours, then four hours, then six hours. At the six hour stage, I often open those documents and sit there and go, “Right; well I like this, this and this”. I’ll create a kind of ‘monster’ out of those three things and then go forward with it, sometimes through the same process again.

PN: Do you think that you’re not only doing what you are doing; but you are also — in the studio with others around you — thinking about how you’re seen to be doing it? I’m wondering if these self-formed rules are also ‘house rules’, because you’ve been rubbing shoulders with each other’s processes. It’s a way of being able to make work in close proximity to other people, more than if you were on your own somewhere, holed up scratching your head, hovering over what you’re doing.

SW: It’s true that it was a big adjustment coming into this studio, because there was a massive amount of distraction and I found it difficult to sit down and start work. It would often be 11 o’clock before I would begin anything. Now I’m back on my own studio, I use Twitter a bit as a form of interaction with key people; but they’re from different disciplines, which influences me but not in the same sense. So I have to be quite motivated and switched on.

MD: I have to shut myself off completely. This is an incredibly distracting environment. Chrissie is the total opposite.

CM: I can’t get work done on my own. I’ll do everything but the work. I need a place to come, to get on and do it. But I think also the nature of how I work means it’s often involving other people. I have people who work with me. Then — because it involves a photography shoot — there’s always much more interaction with the client — I actually, physically, meet them (laughter) — which is more rare for everyone else. Then you have a PPM (pre-production meeting), where you sit round and discuss the whole thing in great depth. You have the shoot — which is like a performance in itself — but that’s more about the photographer. I’m more in the background then but it’s all very much an interactive process. 

What I quite like is there’s the initial element, where I’m designing, creating the particular elements that go into a composition. Then there’s the whole other stage when you’re on a shoot, making decisions. Even if an object seems set in stone, how you choose to position or light it can totally change it. It’s still got the same elements in there but it’s developed and changed; you just throw a light on it and go, “Oh, that actually works”; it’s much more collaborative with the photographer.

With roughs, I’ve learnt why people do really awful ten-second sketches. I used to do quite worked-out photographic collage roughs, where they literally look at that rough and even after a shoot has been done they go back to it and say, “That’s not like your rough; can you reshoot it?”. I did a book cover once where they said, “If we’re not so sure on the final shoot, then we’re going to use your rough”. It was awful! So I had to end up recreating my rough in a final shoot and that was just disastrous. So ever since then, I just do a really quick sketch.

PN: The aspect that can often be least talked about — if we’re talking about evident process — is the fact that all of this is visual communication. It’s for editorial; it’s statement making. Your processing behaviours: do they help, in the communication of content? If you are doing an editorial, does it help in breaking a cliché? 

For example, Luke: the idea that it’s a moment just after, or just before; or you imagine somebody has just turned away; or the composition is off-kilter. The idea that, then, you are putting yourself to the side of the classic ‘moment of choice,’ or ‘the well trodden path,’ in a solution for a business editorial.

LB: Yeah. I guess that’s my chosen approach to doing an editorial. It’s not my only approach, because I can’t design the cliché well enough. Ultimately, I’m more interested in narrative; I’ll always solve it with a narrative. So it will always have that moment.

SW: I think that when we do stuff collectively, for me that happens more, because we’re outside all those comfort zones.

CM: I enjoy creating work that’s not deliberately a moment in time but gives the sense that something has happened before or after it. Like a film still. I remember Cindy Sherman liked to think of her images as a still from a film, where there’s a whole other narrative going on around it without having to make the rest of the film. I like the idea that it is a moment where something just happened or might happen.

LB: And it’s a reaction too. I was never interested in Saul Steinberg, Milton Glaser. Their kind of work I didn’t really like because it was, sort of, clever drawing. I wasn’t interested in that kind of cleverness. So, it was almost avoiding that, in illustration. It was the cliché of solving an editorial brief and it’s a good way, that still works for some. 

But illustration can communicate in a much more ambiguous way. I think it’s a bit harder. Maybe I want the viewer to be challenged more. I don’t want to give them the whole answer in the statement. But, you know, it’s a personal language.

AR: It’s gives the work more longevity, doesn’t it?

LB: It’s also because I know that I’m not good enough to do it that way.

LV: I think I’m probably more solution based. I quite like to tie it all up in one neat package, with a bow on it, probably.

SW: I think that’s down to you as a person, as well.

PN: Superficially, your work is reductive and graphic but it’s made out of parts that waver a little bit. There is something else going on there. It’s not as locked down as that. There’s something that ‘wobble’s a bit more. Or it feels as if the individual forms aren’t the ‘absolute’ forms; some of them might be more ephemeral. So it’s editorial and it’s still saying something and it is a solution but there’s some kind of doubt in there, I think.

LV: It probably goes back to the reference material, as well. I think of the solution and then I’ll picture research but then it goes laterally. I get lost for a day wondering around in different worlds on the internet.

LB: You are an amazing picture researcher. You’ve got a real skill at it. Going beyond the keyword and actually getting to the less obvious.

CM: Yeah, it’s how you do your research that really has depth.

LV: Well you just get lost in other people’s world don’t you?

PN: I’m thinking now about the way that people who’ve commissioned you have understood about what you do. Is the process the idea? Is the process commissioned?

CM: I think it depends on the commissioner. Sometimes, it’s literally, “Here you go; we want that.”. You do it and in the end you still bring something of yourself to it but sometimes it can be that literal. At other times, it can be, “Here’s a concept; what can you suggest?”. Then it’s really open.

PN: So, when people who’ve seen ‘Village Fête’ and have seen you operate in that way — or when they come to your studio to brief — do you think they are interested in asking you, somewhat, to ‘do what you do’?

LV: You can get someone who is interested in what you do but they haven’t got the project that it’s right for. But they want to use you anyway. That’s when things can go wrong.

LB: There’s a difference between being asked as an individual and being asked as Peepshow. As Peepshow, we have been asked for the ‘Peepshow experience,’ whatever that is (laughter). That has been said to us! When we have been employed for the process: that’s when it’s the most clear, I think. When it’s as individuals, it is more ambiguous. People might come here and be excited by what’s around. They see the process but actually they’re more interested in the final product. 

(To Marie) It’s probably quiet different for you. When you go and show people your portfolio, you have to explain that your work is your process.

MO: I don’t get commissioned so much.

LB: Do you still have to show your work? To explain your work in that sense?

MO: Yeah, but it’s in a totally different context. I pick people that I think might respond to the work in the way that I want them to respond. And going back to the commissioning process: to have a brief and then make a rough two days later — which might be a luxury to some —I don’t really work in that way. That might be partly due to laziness, or out-of-practice-ness, or my brain, or something like that.

SW: You’ve got to train for the game!

MO: Yeah, you do. You need to train for the game.

LV: You definitely do (laughter).

MD: Just going back to what Marie was saying, about having to hand something in two days later: in an ideal world, you would have all the time in the world to be able to sit down and think about things.
SW: I don’t like that, though.

LB: There’s definitely not enough weight on the process; on the ideas part of any project. There’s more weight and time on the finishing of something.

PM: On an animation level, I think a lot of the time we do a very good job of knowing exactly what we want to do and presenting that to, whoever: exactly what we’re going to produce. In a recent job, we rewrote a bit of their script; we added more; we worked out every second of the two and a half minutes in the pub. I think that’s a real strength of ours. We do have a good idea of what we want to present to someone. It’s a shame sometimes when you’re not given the time to fully round it off.

PN: There’s a certain fluency that happens with the animation. You’ve talked in previous interviews of it as the exception; the moment when you are at your optimum. When something else happens.

MD: It’s quite often the only time that we truly collaborate on things now. We do all sit down and discuss — with whoever is available — the idea, the scripts and then do it collectively. Not all of those people will go away and carry on with the project — it might just be two or three people who work it out afterwards— but that initial discussion is really exciting.

AR: That discussion does often happen when we are producing our own work as well. 

LB: The difference with animation, Village Fête, Pick Me Up and other events — maybe this has taken a while for us to get to, in terms of maturity as a group — is they work better because everyone lets go of their visual language more. Actually, then, you engage more in the process and the idea.

AR: Which is a real treat as an illustrator — to be able to step outside of your style — because you just get so pigeonholed.

MD: On the Saatchi windows project. It was explaining a working process across the building. It was an idea of Lucy’s that was passed on to Luke, who found ways of building things. Then I took what Luke did and started making it myself. It was a quite organic and interesting process but essentially, it draws back to an idea that one of us had.

PN: Each of you has a native, often analogue process which perhaps was the origin of your work. It may have set a precedent for your applied work. Some of you maintain this process in synergy with your applied work. Sometimes it is your applied work.

For example, Spencer: the two-colour relief prints you do, bear a relationship to your illustration, which doesn’t always need to be two-colour. Is it to do with pictorial economy? The resistance that materials offer?

LV: When we started using computers, they became a tool to make the work in the same way that you would anyway. You already had a process.

MD: So you used the computer as part of that process.

LB: Yeah; it’s just translating it.

LV: It’s an extension of your analogue process, rather than the thing that you use from start to finish.

CM: I always used materials that were available, to hand and easy to find. Instead of having to commission someone to make something, I could just use card. I could just make it; and for me the process of making is the bit that I enjoy. If I take that away, it’s not fun anymore. Card and materials like that: I use them because they’re around and because they’re cheap. The next process — the photography and the retouching — is a whole other gloss on top of it, I guess.

LB: (To Chrissie) Why have you —in your work outside of Orange — started to use other materials?

CM: I think it’s not interesting using the same materials; it’s just all too familiar now.

LB: Is that because you know how to make a circle or a square?

CM: I’ve done what I feel I can with those materials. Other materials: it’s suddenly a new learning curve because I’m using tools I haven’t before.

AR: You came at it in a ‘found object’ way. You were using wood but it was found wood.

CM: Sourced wood, yeah. I’ve just grown slightly tired of using card.

PN: Your work is physical but it’s mediated. The Orange campaign: it’s a bit like Thomas Demand, where essentially it is made out of card, so it doesn’t weigh what it appears to weigh when photographed.

Are you interested in having a part of your work that’s not mediated? The ‘thing’ as opposed to the mediated thing?

AR: I’m interested in that now. Drawings in the past were things that then became an illustration. Now I’m trying to make drawings that are just a drawing. That’s a completely different way of approaching things.

SW: It opens up a big sense of fear, of the unknown.

AR: Yeah but it also means that you just have to make more. You just keep doing it; making your hand able to do it.

LB: It’s one of those things. No-one wants to rest on their laurels. As you get good at something...

AR: You don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve always found, though, that’s the bit where you get the joy, I draw because it’s a pleasant thing to do, it’s a process.

MO: It is a job and you make money; but it is also your life. Everyone works so hard in Peepshow and it’s been really prolific. When you’re not physically working you’re researching. You’re always tuned in, in some way, because I think it embellishes you as a person. Everyone makes work which is personal to them, so the weight of everbody’s reference; or childhood; or what they like; listen to, gets channelled through their work. So it is their life.

AR: But ‘work’ is the wrong word. It should be ‘play’. When you make music, you call it playing an instrument. It should be so, when you make a drawing. Playing a drawing. It shouldn’t be called ‘work’.

PN: About the spaces in between you. Firstly the studio. In each incarnation — rather than opaque walls marking off individual workspaces — it seems you’ve done it with low box shelves of books and objects. Is this a direct or indirect resource for your work (given Google image search)? Is it there in a more ambient way, to make a stimulating environment; or as a ‘library’?

CM: I think it’s both.

LB: I think it’s changed, in terms of its usage. It’s still there but it operates slightly differently. I’d say it’s more ambient now than it used to be. So it’s more of a leftover. It used to be more useful. Now less so. We all have less material but it’s more specific and we all look at other bits at home more often. That’s because of Google in a way and because of space. I remember having a lot more books to use as reference and then getting rid of them all and now I’m slowly buying them again because… the internet ran out, or something. 

CM: Unless it’s literal reference from a Dover Book, my books have always been there as a background, as a dip-in for inspiration. I’ve got most of my books at home but they rotate. So sometimes, when I’m working on a certain thing I bring books in and they are there for a bit.

JB: I’ve got a workspace at home and the books circulate from the bookshelf, downstairs and to my desk. Some are more reference and some inspiration…

LV: There’s the book of wedding cakes that you bought at the charity shop and the one about Max Huber.

JB: But they all have their place on the shelf. 

CM: It’s nice to have some of those books here sometimes, even though I think of them as my ‘home’ books. They’re the ones when you sitting there, thinking what to do; they’re the ones that get you excited.

AR: It helps you to remember that there’s nice work out there.

PN: What about chunks of writing that make you remember, or check yourself, or act as a corrective? Or objects?

JB: When I read your question last night, I had a look. I turned; spun around in my chair and I immediately saw my fabulous gold bar. 

MD: That’s been in every studio.

SW: I like that gold bar.

JB: It’s just a piece of wood on which Lucy painted the word ‘gold’ (laughter, baby squawks) which, is brilliant. I makes me… I don’t know… it says so many things! I makes me laugh and it makes me think about the old studio and it makes me think about the way we approach things.

MD: With a stupid mentality (laughter).

PN: So did the rest of you think about this? A book, an object, which you need to have close by? Or one owned by another of you, passed to you, which has been significant?

SW: On my table, I have a little lucky charm; a white elephant that came out of a Christmas Cracker that always sits on my computer and I like to have him facing me. And then I have a Tonka Truck from when I was a kid, which I used to play with on the beach. This nice pale yellow and it’s rusted. It always takes me back to playing with my dad. Those are the objects I like to have directly nearby. And indirectly, walking around the studio, it would be Andrew. Looking at the way he draws and the links, connections that one makes with his work. Looking at all the bits of stuff he’d have chopped out. And the (central) shelf, which always has an odd mixture put on it.

PN: On the Tonka Truck. You’ve talked about the connection to your childhood but is there another side? Given that, in some way, shape or form you’re all involved in Illustration — there’s a big part of that which is about form-making. About looking at something that is attuned to what you are trying to make. I know your work but I also know your other interests, generally in making things and in the way things are made. Tonka Trucks; it’s about handling them and them never breaking. So is there simply a formal interest in it, or for any of you, in things that don’t look anything like your work — but they epitomise something?

MO: I don’t have anything sentimental in my workspace at all — or anything that anyone’s given to me. There probably is somewhere but… I don’t really collect things. Sometimes I collect or keep things for that reason but they’re usually at home, kind of displayed in a particular neurotic order. But in the studio it’s more like — when I was in Peepshow’s studio, in the first incarnation — I remember (and I still do it now) that on the right hand side of my desk there’s always a little sculptural ‘thing’; a piece of paper, a piece of plasticine. And I realise that when I’m sitting doing a piece of work, I’m also doing something on the side. So that, when I come in the next morning I’ll move things around and that might be things made by my own hand, or a piece of ephemera. It’s more the formal qualities of that and it doesn’t directly — well, sometimes it does directly go into the work and it’s a ‘thing’, an object and a mark but other times it’s just there on the periphery, slowly informing something. So it’s not really about sentimentality at all. It’s more about having something that makes you think you’re on the right track. Having all those bits at my disposal but also not becoming anything yet; it makes me feel really comfortable. They can become the work or they can just be a thing I’ve played with for five minutes, then they’re taken apart again. At the Royal College of Art, I used to have lots of bits on my desk and people around me would build things for me, so I would come in, in the morning and they’d arranged my things and left me… a nice little poo on the table or something.

PN: It’s interesting here, how often people are talking about the ‘scree’ around the work. For example, Spencer’s (Adobe) Illustrator desktop is full of elements, which tumble in and out of the document area. Marie was talking about it in another way. Maybe the studio itself has that quality where it’s up and around you. It’s quite a ‘noisy’ space.

AR: Things permeate your subconscious when you have them around you. They just start popping out in strange ways. I see it in my drawings later on when I didn’t realise it was going to... Having objects there sets you off, thinking about a certain route. It’s about getting your brain into the right space to be able to make things happen.

MD: Whereas I don’t like anything on my desk! I don’t have any books here. I have two monitors and a computer. I don’t like having anything around me when I’m working. I just put headphones on and shut myself off.

LV: But then you have things at home…

MD: I do. If I need to think about something I’ll go home and sit and go through my books. You know, it’s very difficult to concentrate here.

JB: You’d like to work in a blank, white room!

MD: Yeah, I would. I’m just surrounded by accounts (laughter).

PN: Miles, what is there at home that fits this… criteria we’ve set out?

MD: We’ll, I’ve got all sorts of things but…

AR: But you’re a massive collector.

MD: No, no, totally. But all my stuff is somewhere else. It’s not around where I work. I’ve grown up with it. My dad is an enormous collector — well, a hoarder — and he always has been. So there’s records and comics and annuals. I worked in his shop when I was thirteen, so I’ve always been surrounded by really good stuff. I don’t really know what it is. I like everything to be very… it’s like an OCD thing. There’s a calculator, there’s a pen and there’s a computer. It’s clean; there’s no mess. Then I can work.

LB: Actually it’s good. You know, sometimes you just want to start a piece of work completely fresh. I think you can often see traits of your own work in objects more than in a book of drawings. I’ve got those Nicola Tassi jugs and that wooden figure and I know why they inform my work. In the terms that they’re sort of figurative; they’re sort of narrative; they’re irregular. Whereas if you look for that in a book of drawings they’re maybe too close to your language.

PN: That’s an issue with Illustration, isn’t it? How tricky it can be to look at other Illustration. It’s like swimming in the same soup.

MO: Also, I quite like having a chance to make… not ‘ugly’ work but… allowing yourself to have things which are maybe not what you necessarily want to produce but there’s something there that you react against or you take part of it. Whether it’s the form or the making or, superficially, the colour. But also, I own found objects, like other people’s bad pottery. The amateurishness of things. Even the gold bar; there’s an attitude in the making of it. I think everyone here has quite a ‘tasteful’ eye but on the flipside I think everybody in Peepshow has a real understanding of, or an openness to kitsch. Not in an obvious way but… ironic or badly made things.

LB: I think that’s what’s missing in illustration; there’s not enough ugliness.

MO: Or truthfulness, or something like that. I think too that, everybody’s desks — although there’s overlaps and a kind of commonality in the things we like — someone might then go more extreme with that, then someone else might bring that in a bit more. Everybody’s places display a kind of independent voice.

CM: You’ve said something close to what I wanted to say about collaborating with you. About seeing the ugly; and then I have a tendency to go too tasteful sometimes.

MO: ‘Tasteful’ is probably not the best word but there is a kind of finished-ness. I think it’s about having a bit of a tension between what you’re looking at and referencing; then it being filtered in your work.

PN: What I’ve found, coming in and out of it over time, is that there is that ‘biography’ with each of you. There are parallel interests but there’s very little rhetoric about it. If there is any ’conversation’ , it might be more about these things; these spaces and the way they are suggesting themselves to each other or to each of you. It’s interesting that the material you keep at home — that reservoir for each of you — it’s withheld to an extent.

CM: I was going to say that, of what I have here in the studio, a lot of it is working materials and the things I find more inspirational I have at home. It’s when I’m at home, looking around and picking up; those are the bits that really feed into the work more than the stuff I have here.

PN: For example, what?

CM: Well, lots of books and objects we’ve picked up along the way. Wooden figures, doll’s houses… or, oversized lipstick and nail varnish! And shadow puppets. Things we’ve bought while we’ve been travelling.

MD: I’ve got a collection of hand-made record sleeves.

PN: They’re on your blog.

MD: They’re on my blog but I’ve got a lot more.

PN: And the collages by…

MD: By Jack Kirby. Yeah, they’re beautiful.

PN: I saw both after sending over this question but they completely answer it. You can see an indirect tally with not just your recent collage work but also work going way back. But I want to return to something Marie said. About finding that something that turns your stomach a little; that doesn’t quite compute but it’s interesting for you. It’s suggesting itself as the next thing you might consider, in the way you use line, or compose, or pair off colours. It doesn’t just confirm your taste.

CM: Something that goes against me — but not — but particularly when I’m working and stressing about a job and my parents know it, they send me little emails with bits of writing they’ve that, you know, borders on the spiritual… these funny little things… or a story. I feel maybe a bit embarrassed about printing it out and putting it on a wall because it’s almost cheesy but it’s sets me back to, ‘It’s alright, put it in perspective’.

LB: It’s like putting life slogans on the fridge (laughter).

CM: Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s suddenly a bit that way where it against what I… but it actually means something.

PN: What about the feeling of working against being too ‘sorted out’ with your aesthetic; is that also the case with content? In the sense that content can cross the line? Especially for those of you making more figurative work? For example, the work you’ve done, Luke, with NoBrow. There are events in there that you couldn’t do for, you know, newspaper editorial. Maybe it’s ‘franker’ work, or work which tests people’s tolerances more.

MD: But that’s what the exhibitions have always been for. To try out things that you can’t do…

LB: I think I have that every day. My daily process is that; I’m pretty petrified about what I’m doing. I don’t really know how I draw, or how I make an image. I don’t know. It’s seems stupid, because I feel like I do but I kind of don’t and that’s the enjoyable part as well — that I’m quite scared of it. My process all the time is just trying to be uncomfortable. The first part of what you were saying, about how to avoid (formula): I don’t think I have that to rest on.

MD: You do sort of reinvent the wheel every time.

LB: It’s not really reinventing the wheel. It’s just that I do have lots of interest in drawing, I guess, at the core of it but drawing for illustration is of a certain type I think and it only expands so far, whereas drawing in art practice is much more open. So there’s a crossover.

AR: Is that a drawing thing though. With drawing you’re always in that state of not knowing if it’s going to work or if it’s not. You have to get yourself into a place where… I guess that’s the same with any process.

SW: I don’t know. For me to pick up a pencil and paint, then that’s a complete fear set. But once you overcome it, then it’s easier isn’t it? At the minute, my drawing’s easy, illustration–wise, because I know the rules. And every once in a while I might put a nose in, or feet…

MD: This is where Spenny steps out of his box (laughter).

AR: I prefer to draw as practice.

LB: Your drawing and your drawing for Illustration are quite closely matched. They really inform each other. I think I have moments of drawing that don’t inform my work at all. They sit quite separately but somehow maybe they do inform it. I’m not sure. It feels much more to do with struggling to bring things together.

CM: Maybe you’re more eager, it seems to me, to try more; rather than ‘this is what I do’. It feels as if you’re exploring more, with each job.

MO: I feel that as well but it’s not a conscious decision to make it more difficult. But I also think there’s a beginning and end of a job. Sometimes I begin something and I’m terrified — or I don’t know what I’m doing — and then at the end of it, it’s not like in the next project I think I’m going to do something completely different or a conscious analysis of the last job but it’s a growth of expectation for the process, the context or what it became. And if I’m more in control of where the work’s going then I’m able to have a bit of a think about what it was I enjoyed or didn’t and then find another way next time.

CM: I think the problem can come up, though, in that often someone will commission you off the back of a certain way of working and that’s what they want — and expect — so as much as you try and push outside of that, they want the thing you’ve already done.

LB:  I don’t know. I feel like there is a bit of that but I’ve never had it.

PN: In other conversations, you’ve talked about what you’ve learnt from the person in the neighbouring workspace, in the various manifestations of the studio — not through direct collaboration — but just by the proximity of their method, tools, set-up, rhythm, habit. Can we discuss specific examples?

LV: With (sitting next to) Luke, it was just a freedom to ‘do’; just to get on with it and play. And I don’t really have that.

CM: You don’t give yourself that?

LV: No. Well, it’s just not in me, necessarily. Which is why I think I used to have a process that was quite random. Like, designing with Lego or something like that. I’m not very good at playing or markmaking and I think being next to Luke is… I don’t know… it’s nice to watch someone do something that’s so completely at odds with the way you do it.

LB: I’d say in response to that: what’s good about those things is that maybe it affirms something in yourself, in that you see me doing it and think, “it looks enjoyable but that’s not me and not what I do”. In your work I appreciate the logic; the system that’s happening and how you’re making an image. I know I can’t do that well. The same with everyone. You can appreciate what someone is doing but actually it helps you reaffirm your own philosophy behind the work. If you did try and step into that other person’s shoes you realise that it’s uncomfortable and not where your interests lie. I find that really good, across the board.

AR: It’s also a ‘not stepping on each other’s toes’ thing.

SW: I sat opposite Miles, when Miles had a quiff.

CM: And you started drawing quiffs, so, er, yeah (laughter).

AR: But I’d say Spencer’s colour and composition has most definitely been… because you’ve always had a very automatic compositional approach.

MD: Spencer was always the one that had finished a project before it had even been briefed: which was always interesting to me.

LV: I also found that being in a room and having somebody — not quite looking over your shoulder but there — pushes you harder and stops you being lazy. I don’t just want to sit there and ‘bosh’ something out because I’ll feel embarrassed about it.

AR: And you’d be more embarrassed about what everyone else in the room thinks of it that the art director does.

LV: I want to live up to what everyone else is doing; definitely.

CM: In a really basic way, Andrew and I particularly are quite different from most of the other people in Peepshow in our timescale. I’m not a morning person — and you (Andrew) never have been — but by being part of a collective, you discover that majority rules. If everyone wants a meeting at ten o’clock in the morning, then you do that — and that’s obviously normal (laughs) — but it’s to do with adapting yourself and realising the benefits of getting in at nine in the morning.

AR: Or you can just work for Americans.

CM: But equally Luke can be really good at… if you don’t have to be here, then you can go out. Or, if you need to think about a job then you can go sit somewhere else.

LV: And accepting that is part of the job.

LB: Yes, it’s very hard to accept that reading a book is work; but it is. Specifically, to do with Pete (Mellor). In terms of the image; and the moment before or after. Working alongside Pete — he’s a really good Animator — but actually his real talent is in Direction and how to tell a story by not showing the action. Or how sound can say something else. That’s helped me. If I think about Illustration, sometimes I will think about the ambient noise; I can turn that into a drawing and show something that’s not the ‘moment’.

AR: That goes back to the ‘pregnant moment’ or the moment around something happening.

LB: Yeah. We discuss that a lot with animation more openly, obviously. You know, that you can introduce sound. Or you’ve got that timeframe to work with. I think it’s really influenced making the one image.

SW: Pete’s also influenced the way that I poise my characters. When he makes them move, they have a certain weight about them that makes me know how they’re going to fall. That’s come straight into my work. He showed me once how to ‘tilt’ and then change the tilting point. So when I rotate or move stuff in my work, I anchor that point… ordinarily I would’nt have done that. I’d have rotated it and moved it into position. I wouldn’t have made it into a bone or a point.
PN: In direct collaboration with another, how has your work — practically, conceptually — been affected? In the sense that, when two of you work together, a ‘third’ thing comes out. How did this fold back into your longer term practice?

AR: That’s happening to me right now. I’m working on this film — with Pete — which is a Monty Python feature. It’s the story of Graham Chapman. In order to make the animation work, we decided to lose the line. All my work is, basically, about line. So, to drop the line has felt quite drastic. It’s been a really interesting process and it works well in animation because you can describe the shape of something so much more… well, it gives it more ambiguity.

SW: I had that, when I dropped the keyline. 

AR: It’s not something I’d want to do in an illustration, because you need the 3D movement.

LV: Silhouette is different to the read.

AR: When it’s moving, there’s a lot of form and weight that wouldn’t be there — well, maybe it would — so that might work its way into my work in the future. It’s something I’d been toying with anyway. That’s one of those things where, it’s hard to persuade a client, “I’m going to do it like this; it’s nothing like any work I’ve ever done”

MD: When we’ve pitched for Cbeebies, I think it’s the first time when people have just come to the table with lots of ideas and we’ve sat down and everyone’s done  drawing of a… duck or a frog — and then sort of amalgamated the bits we’ve liked of everyone’s work. Really coming out with something totally different that not one single person would come up with. And winning the job, then going forward with something like that.

CM: With Marie, on that ‘If You Could Collborate’ project: it was working with someone where, I have a tendency to go too clean and polished and tasteful — which are the things I don’t like about my work. Working with Marie is learning that you can do something that’s a bit ‘off’, or that you can use a colour you don’t instinctively go for. Or, leaving something not quite perfect; but that gives it a charm.

PN: I remember coming to see you two, when you were just at the beginning of that process. Once when you had started to make table-sized models for one another and then, when you’d moved next door and acquired, temporarily, another space. You were staring at lots of human-sized pieces of wood and salvage. Kind of happily bewildered about what you were going to do next. It was as if the whole methodology had to be considered. As if a third person had entered the room and said, “we’re going to do…”

CM: I think it was also both of us picking what we wanted to do more but weren’t necessarily doing. We both wanted to work bigger and wanted to work with wood. So it was things we’d been thinking about and the chance to do it.

MO: There was a moment where — because our references are similar and we had similar ideas to make something big or in a robust material — when we’d moved into that room and we had all of those things, there was lots of dialogue but lots of making. Making, a bit, because we didn’t know what else to do. Which, you’d said you’d enjoyed that because it was just, playing. That’s the way that I work quite naturally, so I was thinking, “Oh, what’s this going to become”. So, although we had a shared idea of what we were doing it was kind of twisted on both parts. In the space, when we started laying the material out — I really liked laying it out. So that they weren’t going to become figures; they were just colours, or textures. And that’s a crucial point. In my head — and I’m not trying to take anything away from the project, which was really good — that could have become something totally ‘else’ and I know in your head, it could have become completely different. So then, we had to go back to the original idea of a kit of parts and not introducing too many other elements; working purely with what we had and still going for the figures. That was the thing driving us, in a way. 

CM: We thought, “If we meander more and we’ve got this deadline”… but it was a weird moment.

MO: And I think we both acknowledged that.

AR: You were also a little scared of stealing each other’s identities. When it does cross over too much, you ask, “Is that mine now? Am I allowed to use that?”

MO: One person can really get into something and have a vision for it for how to follow it through. Although the other person appreciates that, it might not necessarily be how the two should take it.

MD: Spencer and I collaborated a lot at college. After that, we probably both agree that we’d burnt ourselves out with it. But we’ve done some good work with the animations.

LB: It works when no-one has the identity in it. When it was the stall with the vegetables (for V&A Village Fête), we had other roles and skills that aren’t to do with our work but how we operate as a collective, in terms of  organising and building, or being the stallholder. It’s another side of how we operate. It isn’t about the making of the work but about setting up the moment for something to happen. I think that’s when we work at our best as a group.

CM: We’ve learnt more — from sometimes all trying to do everything — to say,”Oh, actually that’s my strength so I’ll take on that part; and someone else another part”.

LV: We’re all quite satellite. We’re not such an homogenous group. We’re all, quite defiantly, individual. Actually we’re a nightmare to collaborate (laughs), because we’re all strong-minded about what we want to do and how we want to do it.

JB: But we know that.

LV: Yeah, we know that. 

MD: Over time, the most we’ve ever had in the studio is eight people. The idea of collaborating across Skype or email is totally different. We’ve just done a project with Elliot — eleven films for Philips — I’ve never done a project in that way. Elliot is nine hours ahead in Tokyo — it was an interesting process — the client was in Amsterdam. We were in London and Elliot was generating all the work from Tokyo, so it was a totally different sort of collaboration.

LB: Did it work well because there was that breathing space?

ET: It was an advantage, having that time difference.

LB: Is that because you had more time to digest what was being said by these guys, then you’d be allowed to do the work?

ET: Yeah, exactly. Basically, they’d send the stuff over and I’d be getting up in the morning and look at it all and — animation’s a bit like a factory, isn’t it, with the deadline that we had — so we just had to turn it out. And then, when they got up in the morning, it was all ready for them. 

MD: I’d never worked with Elliot before and I don’t think Pete had ever animated Elliot’s work. It just all slotted into place.

JB: There is that potential, still, for new collaborations.

MD: That’s going to happen more and more, as people go off and have families and move out of London. New ways of still making it work.

PN: Perhaps that is about not being in the same space. The fact that there’s a time difference, or on email. That you can curate what you’re going to say to somebody else. And that you’re always putting something on the table.

ET: I think if I had been over there, I’d have added to the problem.

LB: That is a good point. In that, because of the time available, to have to come up with an idea in a collaborative project, we’re all sitting around a table trying to work it out together. That can be enjoyable but sometimes a nightmare because no-one has got time to think about it.

AR: And it’s not working; it’s not flowing at that time.

LB: You need time to think about it and then bring something to the table.
PN: About the space around you. Can we talk about processes which orbit your illustration, design, animation process? Or those that sit parallel? Activity that, laterally, indirectly, nourishes what you do. You (Andrew), with your music, for example.

AR: I’ve always made a direct correlation between the process of making music and of making images, in that it’s about practice — which is something you have to do as a musician — and then, a performance, which is the drawing. Then, the recording process, which is where it comes in with the computer.

LB: And how it’s received? In terms of the way music — or a drawing — communicates?

CM: Not at all. I think they’re different. 

AR: I think they’re very different. I mean, it’s partly why I started drawing in front of people, because it’s just the pressure of having to do it as well. Just having the ‘chops’. I like the challenge; and I like the fear of it.

LB: The ‘Heavy Pencil’ things are good, in terms of it all being your process — because it’s drawing but it’s trying to be not prescribed and just trying to respond.

PN: Heavy Pencil is interesting because — it’s funny — but also, as a form, it’s quite new — if I think about graffiti maybe not — but the side of it which is about somebody who is a content-based imagemaker making, or ‘scribing’ content live to an audience, so you’re speaking to them and doing so instantaneously — there’s some form there which could be applied in other ways. It’s when something is done that feels like it’s on the side and it’s an amalgamation of your love of performance, music and illustration — but then it genuinely suggests another kind of form.

AR: I do feel like it could go somewhere. I’m not sure. I’m not sure where that is but I do think it could be a different form in some way. I like the idea of just being able to get ideas across quickly. It’s hard because, drawing just takes time, you know.

CM: Music is, maybe for you now, was what drawing was for you before. It’s a release and it’s meditative. You do it at home as a way of relaxing.

AR: Yeah but by having done that and having done Heavy Pencil, I’ve started approaching my drawing that way again; just the way I used to. It reminds you.

LV: You did get to a point, didn’t you, where drawing-wise, commercially, you just reached the end of it?

AR: Yeah. I just got to a point where, I didn’t want to draw. Because clients just kept saying,”We want you to draw really big, busy crowds of, these types of people”; and it just became a chore. So then you have to pull back from that and make something new.

PN: You’ve talked to me previously in a quite abstract way about your music. I mean, reaching for something. It’s interesting if that, then, can stretch the way you think about your illustration work, even if a client isn’t asking you to think about it in that way. It gives it an extra dimension; having a conversation with yourself about what you’re doing.

AR:  I think that’s how I’m thinking about my drawing at the moment, which is very different to the way I used to think about it — almost like a ‘gag’ or an image that you get straight away; which is why you can apply it to advertising quite easily — but I’m definitely interested in it becoming more ambiguous. More of a language, now.

MD: Does your allotment feed into your work, Spenny?

SW: It just takes me to another place. I like going there. It’s nature; the birds are there; I can build stuff with wood; I can grow and just be in a different zone. So I don’t know whether it does. I’m not sure. 

PN: Does it come from the same energy point as your work here?

SW: The energies have just started coming back. Obviously having the two girls — that’s been a high input. Where I’m at now: I’ve just started to feel like I’m more in control of what I want to be doing with my work and also maybe not just working all the time. But at the minute I’m in the fortunate position of having quite a few commissions, so everything else gets put onto the back burner. In an ideal world, it would be one day printing, one day allotment and perhaps two days’ illustration. That would be ideal for me. 

I do have to think ,”What are my interests?” My wife’s a primary school teacher and my kids probably feed into my work practice more than I credit. I’ve started to become more interested in kids’ illustrated books and producing images that are a lot ‘younger’. And hopefully that then gets the commissions in, that pays the money, that keeps me happy, that allows me to go to the allotment, to grow stuff and build stuff and be a bit more creative.

JB: I’ve always enjoyed making things — whatever they might be — out of fabric, painting, cardboard boxes, whatever. That still continues. I’m desperately wanting to do all of those things all of the time but it’s difficult. But I’m also doing a bit more of it now with a little boy and it is so freeing. To sit and make nonsense things

LB: Even the aprons you made for screenprint, with cut out fabric…

JB: I was wanting to say a bit earlier, about the extra projects that we do that are not commissioned work, like the Pick Me Up (printing workshop) thing. I think it’s so freeing and that’s what makes me make work that I really enjoy. I’m always itching to do some more textile-based work and painting…

SW: But I often need that little catalyst. Like, SOMA Gallery at the start where they asked for artwork to sell. I wanted to do some but not just a giclée print; that’s where the printing evolved and I thought, ”Well, I might as well buy a press” and that’s where it started.

PN: Jenny, looking at your work. Having a child now — that way that they re-teach you how to work quickly or to enjoy materials — you can definitely see how that is beneficial. The… breeziness. The caring about not caring too much or the use of accident; or the way that you cut. It’s important it seems for the freshness and vitality of the work.

JB: That’s pretty much how I work and how I make. That I have a very short space of time and I have to just sit and do it.

PN: Do you think that’s to its benefit?

JB: Yeah, I would say.

SW: You’d probably over think it. Or over work it.

LB: You still make that selection, don’t you, where you’ll make ten really quick brushmarks and then choose from those, which one’s right. So it still has that breeziness but it’s not off-the-cuff.

JB: And when I get commissioned, with anyone who describes work, that’s what they want: that lightness and immediacy. I’m really desperate to do something that has a bit more longevity.

CM: Going the other way, I spend too long doing everything, so that way of doing something quick and rough I’m really enjoying.

SW: I aspire to that. To be able to just make one mark.

MO: A little bit like Jenny doing stuff for Ed(?), I think teaching is a way to step outside yourself. All the obvious things. It’s nice to see how other people work and — not so much advise them — but to think about solutions to being stuck. I did the workshop with primary school kids (at ReachOut RCA) and that was really interesting because they did what I expected them to do but also other things, over and above. Whether that’s a communication thing or just their understanding of what they want to do. Just thinking about learning — not in a heavy-handed way.

PN: But it’s also, for anyone trained in Illustration, that thing about what is and what isn’t one’s ‘work’. There are more (graphic) designers now beginning to enjoy and accept, that running a workshop in a cultural space is a part of how they apply their work. I don’t know if that’s the same with Illustration…

LB:  It’s harder for illustrators to do that, definitely.

MO: I also think that teaching is my work. In a very literal sense, I research and I deliver things and I talk to people. It’s enriching for your own brain and practice. Also, I give it as much time or more time, usually, within my practice. Workshop-based teaching is an extension of my practice and — for the Royal College — that’s what they wanted it to be. So it was really kind of boiling down how I work and imparting that to ten year-olds. I just find it interesting: a pedagogical approach to making.

PN: In connection to your work, I read something very simple the other day that said ‘the Bauhaus was not a style but a curriculum’. I think there is an aspect of your work that is about a learning process, or an estimation, or repositioning of things. Even with your use of words, that happens.

CM: I don’t really have any ‘hobbies’ as such; but I realise that the things I enjoy doing are seeing other people and going out, seeing films and exhibitions. I think that, indirectly, feeds back into my work. And seeing friends who aren’t in the industry — hearing their stories and insights from the things they do. That’s the stuff that… goes in. It’s not a direct correlation with what comes out but it’s the activity that feeds into my work.

LV: I find that what we do collaboratively in Peepshow are the only times that I probably ‘play’, outside of what I do commercially. I’d like to think that I would make work for myself but the prints, the Lego compositions are still for Peepshow. If you took all that away, would I still make work just for myself? Illustration? Probably not. We’re talking about having kids. I’m actually excited about the fact that I’m going to have to make stuff for Maggie but it’s for Maggie; it won’t be for me. It will, indirectly, because I’ll enjoy it. But I wouldn’t do it for myself, because, you know, I exist within a brief.
PN: As an entity — in what you’ve done and the space you’ve occupied — do you think you’ve helped to change the rules? A paradigm shift in illustration practice? Or the way students might understand the industry they are going into, by looking at you and what you do?

LV: I think we’ve shown the benefit of sticking together as a group; and doing it yourself.

MD: Maybe the idea that you don’t just have to sit and draw pictures. That you can do extra stuff. Whether it’s art direction, styling, or animation; you know, we’ve always had a go. So if you’re offered something, you tend to accept it, have a go at it and see what the outcome is.

LB: It’s hard to step outside of it and know if we’ve been an influence but I think we’ve always had quite high standards and wanted it to be better. You know, stemming from those five crap illustration books in Brighton library. Wanting to do better. Wanting to make the industry — or the work standard — better.

LV: Whenever we’ve given talks, it seems to me the thing that students have been most excited about is the fact that we’ve stuck together and that ‘have-a-go’ mentality. It blows a myth away.

MO: I think that myth… I think it’s difficult to blow your own trumpet. But I would like to blow it (laughter). In many ways, I feel like an outsider because I’m not an illustrator and not a part of the Brighton thing and don’t have a space in the studio; I’m in a completely different place most of the time. But I do think that Peepshow are really visible. Not only in students’ work — not only directly in the way people have images of everyone’s work in sketchbooks, talking about them or the level of interest when there’s been talks — but just in a kind of mentality or attitude. It’s going back to the very first question, which was about those illustration catalogues — that you realised illustration was there as an industry — but you never really tuned into it, until certain people came up. I think Peepshow’s quite unique in the sense that everyone has got a strong client list and is prolific individually, without changing… It’s apparent from this conversation that everyone has a belief in what they do and constantly want to learn, change, collaborate and grow. Prolific individually and also as a group. It’s not within a room, where everybody’s in a kind of sycophantic group; it’s actually taken out to an event, or an institution; out in the world somehow. It’s being brave or inquistive enough to do something in the V&A. I think the evidence is there. If you look at people’s track records — their commercial and personal work — it does mean something. Maybe it doesn’t to the person in the street but within the industry…

PN: It’s also coincided with more people wanting to study illustration. And, in a not so fortunate way, ‘illustration’ as a kind of lifestyle. Do you think that there’s been any affect on the form itself? On the discipline? Of doing illustration? I mean, in the work you’ve done. The fact that there’s a strength in a number of people having a shared ethic. And so on.

MO: The discipline is seen in more contexts. More applications.

LB: There’s a high level of our work that is applied. We’re not a collective making really exciting work that is just for our own benefit and dismissing what we do to make money. All the stuff we’re putting out — most of it in this book — is applied, commercial work, because we think we can do that to a standard.

MO: Illustration is commercial art; it’s commissioned or it lives in a book, for example.  It’s seen as communicative. I think Peepshow do all of that really well. Over and above that, everybody has their own practice. We were talking earlier about how they feed each other. So I think Peepshow can exist on different levels — maybe not for the people within Peepshow — but for people’s perception outside. It can be applied as an artwork or an object or something else.

PN: Chrissie: your work has been on that Orange billboard campaign for about four years; it’s not just about an illustrator imaging an idea. It’s ongoing,  to the point where perhaps it’s about aligning the copy with a piece of your work. I don’t know what the process is, so this may be wrong. But there’s something in that. A different kind of alignment between the work you people have made and the text with which it works.

JB: Thing thing that people latch onto is that we somehow manage to keep a spirit of ‘college’. Maybe what’s new is that we are a company but in an informal way. There are a lot more collectives now, than there were. And I don’t know whether we helped people to do that.

CM: Or that was naturally going to happen anyway.

AR: In the past, we’ve had discussions about making it into an agency, or becoming more of a ‘business’; but we always pull back from that.

PN: It feels as much of a collective now, as it ever did.

CM: I think we all enjoy doing the work that we do, over and above managing the ‘admin’, the business thing.

MD: I like the business thing (laughter). 

LV: Yeah; but you do and you don’t.

MD: Spenny has a very strong interest in the business side of things. You always have done. It’s a really important part of what we do. 

CM: Yes, it wouldn’t function otherwise. I’m not saying that. But we haven’t expanded.

AR: We don’t take on employees. We don’t hire people. 
MD: Yes but I’m talking more about how you run a business.

AR: Yeah, that’s a fair point.

LV: People have said to us, “Why don’t you become an agency?” We’re not really…

PN: So, does it make business sense for you to be a collective? Is that a business model?

AR: Yes, yes it is.

MD: I think we’ve taken what you can do with a collective about as far as you can. We couldn’t operate the way we go about projects now without being a business and having a joint bank account.

LV: That’s why it came up. Collaborative projects.

MD: We got to the point in the old studio in Bethnal Green where it was, like, dipping into your pocket every five minutes, to build a pot of money in order to do something. It just doesn’t make sense.

SW: Also, companies like to know that you’re a company. 

LV: Again, it comes down to the fact that we’re all quite individual. We’ve tried several things but we’re so individual that it will never be anything other that what it is. I don’t mean that in a sad way. It’s just the conclusion we’ve come to. It’s just what we’ve learnt. It is what it is. 

SW: There’s no interest for using the website to make money by tacking on twelve people and then having them pay us to be on it. 

MD: I know a lot of us now have agents outside of the room but one thing we have managed to do with Peepshow is build people’s careers by totally going around the traditional route of having to sign with an agent and be represented by somebody. Even now someone will call up and say, “I’d like to speak to someone about Chrissie” and we’ll go, “Would you like to speak to her? She’s just here”. And we haven’t set it up in a way where we were trying to deceive people…

CM: Or putting up a front that’s not true or real.

MD: I think everyone’s career has benefitted from being a part of this. 


Peepshow Interview with Michael Burns for Digit Magazine, December 2005 by Miles Donovan

The 'Diesel Dreammaker' animation project for the Diesel Clothing company is a good example of Peepshow working collectively together. Our 60 sec animation entitled 'Our Disco is Freezing', was commissioned by Cramer Krasselt in Amsterdam. They asked 30 Illustrators, photographers and film-makers from 17 countries to create a 60 second animation or film, we were one of the lucky chosen few.
Who was it for, what delivery format was it in, how long did it take?From initial concepts, Key frames, discussions with client through to final Quicktime delivery I guess about six weeks.

Can you briefly describe the initial commissioning (if any) and creative stages of this project?
It was a very open brief, which is always great, we were supplied with a photograph which we were asked to take inspiration from. We all sat down in the studio and came up with a massive list of different elements we wanted to animate, then found situations and scenarios to place these in, storyboarding the different sequences as we went along. When it came to production all eleven members of Peepshow were involved in one way or another. Chrissie worked on production and contact with the client, Luke, Andrew and Jenny on the animation, Luke Directing, everyone else artworked the various characters and scenarios.

With all projects we generally assign one person to oversee the project, it means that although everyone has a say in the project there is someone in place with the final say, this helps enormously and gives the project structure. We work in quite an organic and often experimental way with ideas changing as they go along, so having a single person to oversee this process is essential.

The short deadline meant everyone really pulled together, we found new ways of achieving the results we wanted collectively, and because of the tight budget we were forced into finding cheap and experimental alternatives to certain things, all the stop frame material in the animation is shot with really cheap single shot digital cameras for instance. We had recently moved into the same studio together and without this its unlikely we would of been able to work on the project, its just too difficult having everyone work from different studios, its achievable but really slows down the creative process if everyone is in a different place.

We have eleven completely different styles of work running together throughout the animation, its unlikely a single illustrator or animator would be able to achieve this, I think it really comes across that there was a great deal of input from lots of different people in the animation. The difficult bit is finding a way to combine these different elements and finding a way to make everything gel within the same frame. It was the first time we realized this was achievable and have gone on to work on more projects in a similar vein.

It's lead to other projects and not just animation based ones, we got a lot of great press from it, it certainly raised our profile. The animations were all over the internet and given away free with magazines like Dazed and Confused.

Peepshow was founded in 2000, by six graduates of The University Of Brighton, where we studied together between 1995-1998. It started after several of us assisted Illustrator Graham Rawle on a huge installation at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. The collective expanded in 2002 taking the total number involved to 11. We initially formed the collective as a way of collectively promoting ourselves, sharing clients and spliting the costs of publicity. A Web-based collective site of six illustrators, we then started exhibiting together for the first time since we were students, collaborating on projects, animation etc over time. We eventually moved into the same studio in the East of London at the start of 2004, its changed the structure of the collective, allows us to work on more projects and make decisions quickly. Before the studio, we used to meet in the pub every few weeks over a few pints, all our decisions had to be made on the spot.

A collective offers lots of different opinions and voices, a variety of working styles and the ability to work across media. We all graduated in Illustration but Peepshow currently work on animation, art direction, design and styling, media we didn't we wouldn't of even considered a few years ago, when the offer of something comes in we accept it with open arms, its great to see what you can achieve.

The ability to compromise your ideas is probably the biggest challenge for everyone, alongside delegation of tasks.

Most of us have know each other for over ten years now, since the start of our degree, over time you get to know how each other work and think. Luckily we get on, I guess we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't. The dynamic of the group is very important and if one person leaves to pursue something else it would change dramatically. I don't think you get many graduating years that actively want to work together and stay friends for such a long time, we've been very lucky.

No horror stories I'm afraid, we've had three people leave Peepshow since we formed, but its all amicable. No dirt here sorry to say.


Peepshow Interview with Lawrence Zeegen for Computer Arts Magazine, 2009

MD: Miles Donovan
SW: Spencer Wilson


MD. Not necessarily sure they are all developments, but I certainly think Illustration has become much more multi-disciplinary in the last ten years, the doors are open to someone that studies Illustration to do all kinds of things, set design, animation, art direction, exhibitions, events, publishing. Perhaps more scope than any other subject in many ways. Obviously the introduction of technology to Illustration has had a big impact in the last ten years.

SW. Personally the biggest development i've seen is the continuing power of the computer and the increased functionality of the software, enabling me create and develop my work with the control i want and the speed that editors require. A wider observation would be the proliferation of courses, books and journals which have put illustration into the conscious of foundation students coupled with web savy graduates promoting and posting in cyberspace.


MD. Well from the year 2000 working on Expo with Graham Rawle in a freezing cold studio in Limehouse constructing a 10,000sq ft supermarket from junk to our current freezing cold studio in East London, it's been an interesting and varied ten years. My career in Illustration began ten years ago working exclusively on canvas and paper without the aid of the internet and has ended working almost exclusively on a computer with a very sore right shoulder. My processes have stayed the same throughout though, processes I learnt at college and have developed over time.

Technology has changed the industry and the nature of how work is made, delivered and researched. In 2000 I was still delivering artwork via a courier either as artwork or on CD/zip disk, sometimes very very slowly across a dial up connection at 56k. You had to plan a lot more, particularly if you needed to courier final artwork to a client abroad. Deadlines were longer. Because you can deliver artwork at the press of a button now it's speed up deadlines and changes in technology have determined how many rounds of revisions get made. Unfortunately clients know it's possible to change work because it's a digital file.

SW.Ive gone from a home office to a studio practice, from being essentially reactive to work offers to actively promoting through the collective voice of peepshow, from being single to married, to married with kids, from working on scraps of paper to using a sketchbook, from composing on images directly on the computer to creating roughs and planning, from creating clean vectors to embracing texture and hand draw elements, from vague doodles to having a focus in my personal work drawn form my sketchbook observations and thoughts, essentially i've grown into a commercial artist.


MD.For me personally signing with my agent Art Department and appearing in Angus Hyland’s ‘Pen & Mouse’ book in 2001. Starting to do a lot of editorial work in the states 2002/2003, being asked to do a portrait of Notorious B.I.G for Source Magazine, 110 portraits in two weeks for Madonna's Maverick Records which lead to a portrait of Elton John for a fleet of Canadian planes. Judging the 'DeFace the Face' competition. The two year run on The Observer Music Monthly. The 'Invisible' project I did with art collective Greyworld, huge UV portraits that can only be seen at night across Burnley in the UK. Lots really.

In terms of Peepshow, our first show at a tiny gallery in East London, 2001, moving into our first studio and our first collaborative animation for Diesel Dreams in 2004, The Saatchi windows in 2007, the first CBeebies animations and The Culture Show title Sequence for the BBC in 2008. The V&A fete in 2006 when we ran a fruit and veg stall. Travelling around the country to present our work at Universities and getting a great response wherever we went. Again lots. It’s been a good decade.

SW. In October 2005 I pitched on a Zanussi brief for BBH london, I was successful and won the work. The job went back and forth for months and in that period i had to put feet on my characters - something that i hated doing at the time. however in hindsight this has enabled me to develop my work and gain different commissions. Looking back at the pre-feet work it looks half complete. i'm at the same point now where i'm producing work without the keyline outline, warming my colour palette and and adding some textural qualities


MD.Our tutor at Brighton, Margaret Huber, who from an early stage was very supportive of letting us explore all kinds of avenues with our work, this stays with us today. Graham Rawle for giving us the opportunity to work together for the first time since college on the most amazing project.
Names that most often pop up at the studio: Kate Gibb, Geoff McFetridge, Tom Gauld, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Shynola, Paul Rand, Max Huber, m/m paris, M. Sasek. Sister Corita, Karel Martens, Will Sweeney. I could go on......

SW. I'm always looking at images through the web, friends and (rarely) books, reading papers, watching TV so i'm constantly absorbing and storing. Somewhere in my brain these leak out into my work as i draw it. the reason why i draw is the culmination of necessity, the enjoyment and making my parents proud - they gain great satisfaction from this and drive me on when work is quite or i'm in the doldrums.


SW. Zanussi. simple colour palette, graphic, expressive. the majority of my work is character heavy and i enjoy bringing them to life with expressions and body language propping them with limited surroundings.

MD. I've worked in lots of different ways across the years so it's hard to think of one single project, in terms of working out processes that I still use to this day and have developed along the way I'd still say some of the work I did at college 12 years ago, when I started to break down information, and re-build it using stencils and paint.

As for Peepshow I'd say the first animation 'My Disco is Freezing' for the Diesel Dreams Project in 2004, where we put all out work together for the first time. It's pretty crude looking back at it, but it was bit of a landmark for us at the time in terms of creating a house style. It lead to lots of other collaborative work including animations for Nike and Toyota.


MD. The million dollar question! I think collectively we are interested in working on more long term self initiated projects whether they be publishing or animation based. Everyone seems to be more interested in getting back to making there own individual work after years of working to a brief as well. We've got ten years of Peepshow to celebrate in 2010, so a party/exhibition is called for I think.

Personally I don't really follow trends in Illustration or keep an eye on it, there is so much work around on the internet it becomes bewildering. I'm still looking at the work of artists who have long since died. Who knows where we will be in another ten years or what work I'll be making, that's what's exciting about Illustration. In terms of who commissions it I think we will see a move away from magazines and newspapers to more of an online presence, hopefully Illustration will move into new exciting areas. We’ve just had a commission in from the New York Times to create an short animation for the online version of the newspaper, essentially a moving illustration, this could well be the future and we are in a good position if that’s what is going to happen, we’ve worked on animation projects for six years now.

SW. My future... to continually develop through experience and enjoyment the future of illustration...is in the hands of the educators, the driven, political policies, technology and revivals. I'll be going out and buying up all the old print books, annuals and out of copyright reference books mouse at the ready


MD. A simple easy to navigate website that is regularly updated, and a hardcopy folio for the advertising work (for some reason advertising companies still insist on a physical object). A regularly sent out email newsletter is a good way to remind people you are still out there.

Always, always spell check your biography, cv and captions and then check them again and again. Poor spelling is an instant no-no.

Think about tailor making promotional material to the people you are sending it to. It’s better to send ten beautifully designed objects you have thought about than sending a hundred to a list and hoping for some success. Massive PDF portfolios as email attachments are a no-no.

Keep on top of your client list, an online subscriptions list as a great way for yourself and others to changes details on a regular basis. Clients move jobs a great deal in this industry.

Stay in touch with the people you graduated with and the people you have met along the way since, a great deal of our collaborations happen with people we met years ago.

Be Polite

SW. Be humble, self critical, learn some business skills and do the washing up from time to time in the studio


Peepshow interview with Digital Arts Magazine by Miles Donovan, 2010

The strength of 10 brains, twenty eyes and one hundred fingers.

We are mistaken for an agency quite a lot, but they are completely different things, an illustration agency is essentially a business with someone in charge, taking commission on every job, sorting out the finances and quite often managing the project. We are in an ideal position in that we do all that ourselves by managing our website, running the business side of things with all the experience and knowledge we've picked up over the last ten years. If we need help with larger scale advertising work, each of us has an agent who can handle it. Most of us have agents in the U.S.A and France. Peepshow is actually closer aligned to a design studio in reality.

Different collectives offer different things and are trying to achieve different things. Peepshow is a group of like minded individuals who met at college, enjoyed collaborating, and have just stuck together. We pride ourselves on the quality of work that comes out of the studio, our professionalism and hard work, I would hope this is how our clients and the industry view us.

There are many many Illustrators and animators whose work we admire but no one has joined Peepshow in five years, we are a closed group. A few people have left over the years and we continue to collaborate with people outside of our discipline like photographers and designers but we are currently a pretty solid group of ten. It's hard enough the ten of us trying to agree and collaborate on something without anyone else joining! We are frequently asked if people can submit work for inclusion on the site, but it's a polite 'no' each time.

When one of us has a meeting we always take everyone’s work with us to show, so we help raise each other’s profile. If we are struggling we have each other for advice, we share all costs and by collaborating we end up working on projects that challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone. It is also lovely to come to a nice studio to work together! The disadvantages are contrasting opinions and balancing the amount of work. We all have our own individual commissions as well as the Peepshow work, so although we try to integrate them it can be difficult to balance both.

Well it hopefully makes for a more interesting industry. We are starting to see a move away from the printed page to online content. We've just finished an animation for the New York Times which is essentially a moving Illustration for their website, editorial commissioning could move in this direction and with over ten years of animation experience this sees us ideally placed. I think it will become increasingly difficult to exist solely as an Illustrator in the future as budgets are getting cut worldwide. The multi-disciplianry nature of what we've been doing for the last ten years puts us in good stead. As a group we work on installations, animation, art direction, illustration, exhibitions and self publishing. We've never been scared of a challenge since Expo 2000 in Germany when we constructed a 4,000sq ft supermarket installation with the Illustrator Graham Rawle.

Peepshow came together very naturally, to support each other, and we worked hard for years to establish our styles and be confident with our individual identities. Those strong roots are important for a successful collective. So our advice is don’t try too hard, it has to evolve organically.

Share of work, lack of trust, egos and not listening to the needs of others. We are a group of individuals who work individually and come together when the need arrises or we feel like it would be fun. That is the most important thing to keep a collective going. That and bad financial planning.

Peepshow was set up as a way of facilitating self promotion, sharing clients and expenses and to make the experience of being an Illustrator more fun. Power in numbers as they say.

Peepshow was founded in the autumn of 2000 by Graham Carter, Miles Donovan, Chris Joscelyne, Chrissie Macdonald, Andrew Rae, Lucy Vigrass and Spencer Wilson, who all graduated from the University of Brighton BA Illustration course in 1998. We were later joined by Luke Best, Marie O'Connor, Jenny Bowers, Elliot Thoburn, Orko and Pete Mellor. Chris Joscelyne, Graham Carter and Orko left the ranks in 2005.

No, we are a collective and are not currently looking to take on new members.

It can be difficult to get back to individual questions and in most cases we would refer you to our frequently asked questions, most subjects are covered. Please check here first with any queries and keep popping back because this F.A.Q section is regularly updated.

We do not offer work experience or internships at Peepshow, most of the time we are working on projects which don't allow for additional help.

Due to the high number of enquires we receive it is not possible to get back to individuals with feedback regarding Illustration or animation portfolios.

Miles, Jenny and Lucy are represented by Art Department in New York and Serlin Associates in London & Paris.
Spencer is represented by Synergy in London and Tiphaine in France.
Andrew is represented by Bernstein & Andriulli in New York and Tiphaine in France.
Luke is represented by Heart in London and New York.
Chrissie is represented by Rock of Eye in Australia.

Unfortunately no, our doors are closed to visitors. Not even if you promise to bring biscuits.

Sometimes, it depends how busy we are. In the past we have travelled to The Arts Institute in Bournemouth, The University of Brighton, The University of Leeds, The London College of Communication, Camberwell College of Arts, The University of the West of England, The Havering College of Further and Higher Education, Central St Martins School Of Art and Design and Kingston University London.


Q&A with Peepshow's animation director, Pete Mellor, 2011

I graduated from the same illustration BA from Brighton as most of the rest of Peepshow, and went on to the RCA to do an MA in animation. I was often around on edges of Peepshow activities - and was even present in the pub when the name Peepshow was decided upon (over the two other options: 'Steve' and 'Big In Germany'). I was working as an animator and compositor at design company Intro prior to joining Peepshow full time.

Beside animation and moving image what other duties do you have within Peepshow (do you really run a small tuck shop behind the studio)?

No, I do not run a tuck-shop. But that's the dream. A lot of the work we do as a collective requires lots of ideas and I am always glad to be a part of that process as that is the most fun - although there is a 45 min time limit on the sensible ideas before the crazy ideas start and you end up with bears in a bin or Brian May on a Toblerone.

Can you describe a typical day in the studio alongside your peers, are there any ‘set procedures’ you all follow?

We are all freelance within a collective - so there is no guarantee of who will be there on any one day. Suffice to say the coffee goes on first and then you try to get your head down and get on with some work... until the phone starts to ring or the emails start to come in and interrupt you. Working in an industry like this you can have very stressful days where there is a lot of frustration and you can have very fun days where everyone is in good spirits and it doesn't feel like a job at all.

I read somewhere that there are only 2 ‘qualified’ animators in Peepshow, does this mean that you have complete control over art-direction on animation projects or is there a mixture from outside clients and other members?

Jenny and I both studied animation at the RCA but both Luke and Andrew are very good animators too. As far as animation direction goes I pretty much have complete control but when it comes to art-direction I will only really have some suggestions, as the rest of Peepshow are such talented image-makers. I suppose I often have an idea in my head what the job will look like but part if the joy of being in a collective is that those preconceptions can change or made better by the involvement of others. I personally think there is a lot of well animated but ugly work out there because not all good animators are good designers. I am lucky to be surrounded by brilliant illustrators and designers.

Is it difficult working as an animator in a busy studio environment with other art disciplines?

People often describe animation as a lonely business but I have never found that. It is good to be surrounded by busy people and although it can occasionally be distracting it is often good to be taken away from the computer for a moment as you will come back to a scene with fresh eyes.

What impact did the establishment of the studio have on achieving Peepshow’s success? Do you think it is possible to rely on purely digital communications for a collective to succeed?
I think if there hadn't been a studio then Peepshow would not have lasted this long - or would not be what it is now. We are quite spread out with members now living in Tokyo, Stockholm and Stroud - but as we have a strong foundation as a collective this works out fine. The studio allows us to come together to work on a Peepshow project with relative ease - although it can still be quite difficult to get more than a handful of Peepshow members in one room at the same time. I am not saying it can't work relying on digital communications but we would not have had the ideas or created the work we have without face to face discussions and debates.

The style of imagery varies throughout the Peepshow animations- how do you decide on the appropriate working style and is it a collaborative decision?
Normally the brief or the idea will immediately inform the style. So even if everyone has been involved in creating the idea or writing the script we all know who will do the best work for the job - it's a very generous room in that way - probably because no one works in a similar way so no one steps on anyone else's toes.

You have worked with a variety of clients, some larger and more established, does this affect the creative control you have with the brief?

All clients and all jobs are different. So you can have a big client who wants endless, seemingly unnecessary changes and tweaks but you can also have a big client who has done so much work that they are experienced enough to know that they have selected you for a reason and leave you alone to do what you do best. Likewise you can have a small client with no money who expects the earth. It keeps you on your toes so we rarely have a dull day.

Do you think illustrators should all have some reasonable technical knowledge with animation skills to collaborate with animators?

Most illustrators have a knowledge of storytelling and are natural communicators so those are really all the skills necessary to work with an animator. The other aspect of animation (which can be quite frustrating for an animator) is that everyone can have an opinion on the way something moves - should it be quicker, slower, lighter, heavier. It's all physics. So it can be a very inclusive medium regardless of technical know-how.

In some of the animations/moving images there is a combination of animation techniques combined with filmed material (in particular the CBeebies Tadpole), what techniques are used here?

In the original CBeebies films we used a combination of moving artwork in After Effects and also some stop-frame animation and some photographed elements. A lot of the artwork comes through Photoshop so can be imported easily (with some tweaks) to make it animation ready, and other elements were printed out, cut out and photographed to match the camera angles from the shoot. As it is all coming from the same hands all the elements work well together and don't feel too collaged.

Can there be difficulties in working when three parties are involved, for example with the Toyota animation – Peepshow, Toyota and BluBlancRouge where involved?

Most projects will have a set-up like Toyota - a client, an agency and us. For example the CBeebies films: CBeebies was the client, Red Bee Media was the agency and we were the production company. It is a little simpler when there are fewer parties involved - such as The Culture Show or DDB - where we were working directly for the client - it simply means there are clearer lines of communication.

How does a collaborative animation process work (like the Kantar Montage, Van Marcke/ Unicef, or Artificial Noise) from ideas generation (and storyboarding) through to completion?

It's quite a simple process really - once we have the brief we will sit down with whoever feels interested in the project (or is available to work on the project) and start to generate some ideas. At this stage the art-direction naturally starts to happen too - as people think visually. Lots of ideas are formed, rejected, re-worked and some decisions are made. The most important decision is what direction the look of the film will take as this allows me to tailor the storyboarding process to fit with the style. Once the treatment and storyboard have been approved the artwork creation begins while an animatic is timed out to make sure all the ideas will fit into the screen time. Then the process starts for real. At all these stages the look and feel is refined, ideas are tweaked and changed and the animation takes shape - with everyone involved throwing in their feedback.

Differences in decisions and delegations must have occurred, how do you overcome these?

To be honest it rarely happens. Once a project starts to go down a particular route it is quite clear who will be involved and who won't. The only difference of opinion arises at the ideas stage - as you can become wedded to an idea that the group doesn't feel works.

I particularly thought the music worked well in Kantar Montage and Unicef, how does that get selected?

We often have a certain musical style in mind when the job starts to come together - so we brief our good friend Simon Keep / Holkham to do what he does best. He almost always gets the music right for our animations. And sometimes we make the music ourselves - Andrew is a very talented multi-intrumentalist and enjoys getting the opportunity to make music for the animations - he did the music for Chesapeake, Secret Santa and for the 2010 animated Christmas Card.

Collaborating with Luke Best and Andrew Rae, who I see as illustrators who have different working styles, do you generally find you need to adapt different animating methods to styles?

Absolutely. And that is what keeps the job interesting. Although it has been observed that all the characters I animate - whether created by Andrew, Luke, Spencer or myself - move a bit like me. So I suppose that bit's always the same.

What noticeable difference is there between animations produced in the collective and individually?

Generally speaking the work I might do individually is not as pretty. So I try to involve someone from Peepshow even if it's not a job for the Collective proper.

Are fees for projects still being divided, with 15% returning back into the collective for promotions and similar costs?

Not any more. Since then we have set up as a limited company so the benefits from that allow for money to be spent on promotion and investment.

Has working together for 11 years been all smooth sailing?

I think it has been very important that Peepshow were friends with mutual respect and admiration for one another before Peepshow existed. That way even if you have a dispute (which is rare) about something at work you can't hold on to it for long as you will be having a beer together at the end of the week. And it must have been pretty smooth sailing as 2 members are married and 2 others have a baby!

Can the Peepshow Collective continue to grow, in an industry which is seeing a huge increase in collectives and collaborations?

As Peepshow matures we would like to take on bigger projects - but there are only so many of us and that won't change - so we are quite happy with the gradual and organic way that the Collective has worked so far. Continuing to do good work that we enjoy is still the main reason for keeping it going. Although there is a growing need to do something more enduring though - a book, a group film, a TV show, a graphic novel - something less throw away than purely commercial or editorial work. That's because we are all getting older.

Animation itself is naturally a multi-disciplinary practice, one quite unique in the Peepshow collective, what role has animation had within the collective and is there potential to develop and with the impact that technology continues to have on the industry, will Peepshow place more emphasis on animation and moving image?

Animation has definitely been an enjoyable part of what Peepshow does. I think it is one of the few avenues that allows the illustrators to break out of what they do on a day-to-day basis and try something a bit different or bend what they do to work in collaboration with one another. And apart from group shows and installations it is one of the best ways for different members of Peepshow to work together and hopefully create something surprising and different. That desire to do something different will keep things moving forward.

Can Peepshow still be described as ‘the strength of 10 brains, twenty eyes and one hundred fingers’?

While it is definitely harder to get all 10 brains, 20 eyes and 100 fingers all working at the same time the working method and reason for doing this have not changed. And until every possible combination of Peepshow artists working on a project has been exhausted there is still the opportunity to be surprised by what we produce.


Q&A with Marie O'Connor

I first saw your work in the book' Hand to Eye, Contemporary Illustration'.
The book seems to show how experimental illustration now is, and how there has also been a move to a more hand-crafted style. Your work seems to have this style too, and I wondered what is it about this style that you like?

At college I actually studied textile design, so I have always been a ‘maker’ (more so than an ‘image-maker’ back then) and I was always aware of tactility. I like the fact that what I produce looks evidently hand-made. It’s not too slick, it’s not trying too hard to be anything it isn’t. You can see how it’s fixed, that it’s an object. I think while I do things physically and find the ideas can grow and I also have greater control this way.

To achieve more hand-crafted images, what methods or techniques do you like to use in your work?
Some approaches to making work : look, collect, think, read, photograph, draw, cut, paste, build, photograph, draw, print, cut, collage, look, dismantle, move, stick, stitch (not always in that order).
It is very much about putting things together in a temporary way, moving things around and assembling in a way that while being considered is hopefully not contrived. Placement and composition is very important to me. I like my images to be a little awkward, and find that this happens when I don't think too much about what I'm doing.
I like the 'things' to take over, and give me clues to what they want to do, how they feel, or how they want to be seen in relation to each other.

What inspires you to create new images?
I tend to work on self-initiated projects, which I might then take to a magazine or other suitable outlet although I do get commissions too, from ad jobs to textile prints.
I will have an idea in my head, perhaps inspired by random thoughts or of a permanent fixation, but usually (although not always) without a final outcome in mind. A vague idea, found materials and bits + bobs go into creating a sensibility, and that determines my approach stylistically, which, in turn, can re-inform the concept of the story/artwork/print and influence the final outcome.
My inspiration often comes from mistakes or the nature of 'making do', or things which are out of place, out of context - bad diy, craft techniques, home-made, chairs/mattresses on the street, roof gardens, people who wear rolled up plastic bags as hats on a rainy day, arte povera, broken spectacles with tape etc etc....so I suppose what I‘m really interested in is making the most of limitations or playing with how things are supposed to function whether it’s an image, an instruction, an object etc.

I also look at a lot of stimulus, try to read and try to research and learn as much as I can. Things to get my eyes, brain and hands excited. It might sound a bit strange, but there’s nothing like a library to get me going. Fashion, architecture and theatre are always big influences. I also like it when my desk is a bit of a mess. I get to see things that I wouldn’t necessarily put together occupy some kind of space; they can be quite random, and materially very different, but look quite exciting next to each other. Things that step on each others’ toes a bit. That’s nice.

How did you start out as an illustrator?
After graduating I moved to London in 2000 to do the rounds with my folio.
I was taking it around various places – textile agencies, fashion labels, graphic design companies etc – to get some feedback and to see if there was any way we might work together in some capacity. I knew exactly who I was approaching and why they might be interested in seeing what I was doing at the time. That’s really important – do your research, know your market.
As a result of this I became studio assistant to the fashion label ‘i.e.uniform’, and was represented by art management Creative Union. I began to get commissions for illustration work and worked on some exciting projects. It was an enormous learning curve for me but I was very lucky to have very kind and supportive people around me who helped enormously. After a number of successful seasons I decided to leave i.e.uniform and became entirely freelance. And here I am.

I am an illustration student at the moment, do you have any advice for someone studying at the moment to work in the industry?
Well, I came to illustration by accident really so I may not have a typical story to tell or advice to give. I think that it’s good to be aware of other illustration/design/visual arts/what’s going on around you, so you know what others are doing or have done. Not to suggest that you do the same or be self consciously ‘different’ but just to have that bit of knowledge. Also, this applies to agencies, design firms etc because if you want to work for people or get commissions, you want to know their background/what they do/who they represent etc.
Also it has to be said that you should make the most of being at college because you really can devote time to your work, your visual language + your ideas. Oh, and have a bit of fun as well.

Do you have any projects you are currently working on or recently finished that you particularly enjoyed?
I think the project that I am most pleased with is a recent collaboration with fashion label Evisu. Although it wasn’t illustration-based, it shows the range of things I work on. I designed a new shoe shape in my final year at college, and when I moved to London kept it under wraps for a while until I could get someone to invest in it, financially or practically. I worked with Evisu on it, who manufactured and launched it in oki-ni last year and should be going international fairly soon. It’s also just won a Design Distinction Award in International Design Magazine’s Annual Design Review 2005. Hooray etc.
It was satisfying for me because it was something that I had invented and it was made real. The idea behind it is completely integral to most of what I do so it will always be an important project for me.

What are your hopes and wishes for the future of illustration?
I hope I can continue to develop my own ideas in a more 3D way, build stuff, make stuff to look at/wear/use. Generally, I think that illustration is growing evermore varied and it’s always exciting to see what people can create under that title, especially the lovely members of the illustrious Peepshow collective. What a talented bunch they are. I’m their biggest fan.


Q&A with Andrew Rae

Do you ever find it hard to combat the urge to create the image at the risk of steering away from the brief slightly? How easy do you find it to stay on brief?
It depends on the job. The rule tends to be that the more you’re being paid the less control you have. Sometimes it’s very difficult to stay on brief if you don’t see eye to eye with the client.

How long do you usually get given to complete a brief?
It varies a huge amount. For an editorial job you normally get a couple of days…. They have a habit of calling last thing on a Friday and wanting to see something early on Monday which can be taxing at times but you get used to evaluating how much you can achieve in the time. The longest I’ve taken on a job was nearly two months working on one image which was a poster for MTV (you can see it on my site) there was so much work involved that it was pretty solid working the whole time and I didn’t take anything else on….
Publishing work such as Book jackets give you loads of time probably more than a month… but generally Illustration work has a very quick turn around….

How long do you usually spend researching your brief before you actually begin drawing and doing layouts?
I can’t really pin it down like that, I don’t really separate research and drawing and layout as it’s all part of an ongoing process.
If I need to send a rough and I haven’t immediately had an idea then I tend to start looking for imagery and ideas to help spark ideas, But once I have the ideas it’s an ongoing process of finding imagery, drawing, finding new imagery and revising and composing.
I have a large selection of books that I always go back to and in the studio we tend to all share our books. For instance the other day I needed a picture of Yousouf Ishmaelo “The Terrible Turk” so when I asked “Does anyone have any pictures of turn of the century Turkish wrestlers” I didn’t expect a positive response but as it happened Miles who I share a studio with had a book on the History of Wrestling with a picture of that very Wrester in it, who’d have thought it!

I often find it hard to plan my work because the urge to get creative and begin drawing is so strong. How long do you spend planning your work?
I often find it’s best to follow this urge and let the work and process help define the way the image comes out.
I think the idea that you can sit down and come up with a fully formed idea then go away and produce a finished piece is a fallacy. It’s not possible to work that way. When I start I’m never sure in my head how it’s going to come out and if I was I then the process would be a lot more boring…. I don’t know how Lichtenstein didn’t go nuts doing those paintings I can’t see where the fun is in that….
I’ve tried to create processes that add a bit of chance in what I’m doing and I don’t always draw with a finished image in mind. The beauty of working on a computer is the amount of freedom it gives you to make changes along the way so I’d be a fool not to make the most of this fact…..

How rough is the initial work of the idea that you would show the client before beginning a detailed drawing?
Very… I find the rougher it is the more freedom and space it gives me to make changes as I produce the work.

How many meetings would you normally have with a client, or is the client emailed the stages of work and never usually met in person?
Advertising people like to meet you as much as possible but always at their place conveniently for them. for other jobs particularly editorial you may never meet them, although we do try to have barbecues at the studio and exhibitions and the such like which are a good way to meet people face to face. I do prefer to meet clients in person if only cause it’s nice to put a face to a name but many jobs.

I have been told that illustrators only get commissioned if they have one strong style, and they will usually be asked to draw in that same style. Do you feel frustrate that you are always asked to work in the same style?
No I have a way of working that I’m happy with which is essentially the quality of line and the way of drawing but it also gives me enough freedom to alter composition, colour, texture, lighting, hand drawn text, and the content of the image, and it can be used in so many different contexts, editorial, advertising, animation, web, publishing, prints etc. so there’s enough there to keep me interested.

Are you constantly working or are there sudden lapses in work? If so have you had to get another part-time job or another means of working to fall back on?
Constantly working, as a freelancer if there’s no working coming in then you need to make the work coming in and I have many personal projects always sitting in the background waiting for attention.