Richard Keeling : The Daily Illustrator

Welcome back to The Daily Illustrator. I met Richard Keeling not too far from this time last year at a good buddy's wedding in London. Little did I know after a night of two stepping, faux break dancing and inebriation that I'd be starting up this website and get the chance to feature his work. Since venturing into his own creative freelance practice, he's been featured across a plethora of great publications and design sites including Creative Boom, It's Nice That and Design Milk. Read on for our interview and be sure to click through to his site above for more. Thanks.


WHEN DID YOU FIRST START ILLUSTRATING AND KNOW WAS IT SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO AS A PROFESSION?

It’s quite a long story. I used to draw a lot as a kid, I used to trace comics and magazines as some sort of training I guess. I liked art at school but never considered it as a career. I didn’t get very good career guidance from my schools and ignoring the advice of my parents to do something more arty I went to college to study P.E, Maths and computing. I came out with a D in P.E. My parents then spent the next year gently planting the seed to go back and do what I was good at. I loved it. After a year at A/S level doing graphic design and photography I talked my way onto the 2nd year of the graphic design national diploma which meant I could skip the foundation year.

I finished uni with a 2:1 and struggled to get a job. I think I was still lacking a direction I wanted to take. I somehow managed to blag an internship at Barnbrook after getting drunk with him in a bar while I was at the D&AD young blood exhibition representing my uni. I moved to London and while on the placement the guys looked over my portfolio and remarked that I clearly liked illustration which stuck with me. However I continued to struggle making ends meet and after a year I finally got a job as graphic designer at All Star Lanes.

After a year one of the owners left and started Bounce. He used to be very strict on the brand guideline, but with him gone I was asked to take on the brand and make decisions regarding its future. I abandoned the guidelines and started designing everything how I wanted to. This was the point I realised that I loved illustrating. The designs became very natural to me.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?

Well having worked at All Star lanes for so long I tend to look back in time for inspiration. Everything is borrowed in some way from the past. I love looking at old illustration as that was the only time anything was done. I do however think I subconscious get inspired by what’s around me. Being creative I don’t think you can help it.

HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?

Well my most recent projects were born out of a necessity to reset myself as a designer. Having worked at a vintage brand for so long I felt the need to experiment and just see what happens. So I spent a couple of weeks illustrating with no agenda what’s so ever. I like the freedom of not starting something without much thought.

I think struggling to think of an idea can get in the way of even starting. So I begin and the ideas just happen, or not. Sometimes its shit, but at that point you just start again on something else.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH?

Vectors. I use InDesign which is weird I know. Barnbrook was still using freehand while I was there which I loved.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

I’m currently art directing an animation for a charity. It’s based on my shadow shapes project and is really exciting to see my illustrations come to life.

CURRENT PLAYLIST AS YOU WORK?

Usually I stick the TV on as background noise. But for some reason right this second I’m listening to Burial - Untrue and remembering my early days of being in London.

ARE THERE ANY ILLUSTRATORS THAT YOU ARE A FAN OF THAT DESERVE SOME EXPOSURE?

My friend Rob who I went to college with is doing the most extraordinary thing back were I’m from. (Stoke-on-Trent) The last time I saw him he had opened a clothing store and art gallery with 2 other friends. They were a bit tired of hearing that Stoke was a shit hole. So quite simply they are being the change they want to see.

Cultivating a creative community that will benefit the city for years to come. They are heavily involved in the street art scene. They set up the only fully independent legalised, sheltered graffiti area outside of London. Click through here to find out more.