Byron Graper interview

Well done! You just made possibly the best decision of your day by deciding to click on this link, because you’re about to sink your eyes into our Byron Graper interview. Here’s an illustrator that’s a nice guy with a serious talent. His work is quirky, it has a classic style with lots of twisted humour in the detail. In a class of its own and making waves in all the right places – including here on Springleap, where Byron scooped two wins in our recent ‘Share The Warmth’ design challenge. Come with us as he sheds light on the inspiration for his unique illustrations – and shares a mixtape with us.   Byron Graper interview   SL: Welcome to your very own Springleap interview, Byron! OK, so tell us a little bit about yourself – where are you from, where did you study, and how the hell did you develop such extraordinary illustration skills? I mean, are you a mutant freak who’s spent every free hour doodling in a cave, or did you study and end up in an agency? Or…what?   BG: Why thank you, can I just say that its an honour to be here and I love what you’ve done with the place. I hail from the humid curried slice of pineapple called Durban. I went to school in Joburg to the National School of the Arts, from which I managed to get myself expelled. Once my parents had stopped screaming at me and threatening all sorts of very creative tortures, I began to see my situation in a positive light. In my mind I now had all the time in the world to listen to Sonic Youth and draw on things. Back then I used to draw on anything: my clothes, my body, my skateboard, whatever I was sitting on or looking at was a sketchbook. Once I even drew on a friends dog, she (the dog) didn’t seem to mind too much and I made sure to use a nice soft tipped permanent marker. To me, a new backpack was a blank canvas, primed and ready to be arted on. So, I guess, to answer your question, yes, I drew a lot.   After a few years of wandering the plains scrawling on whatever I could find I ended up studying graphic design. I found though, that the only part of the graphic design syllabus that I really enjoyed was the gouache painting and drawing. Nevertheless, I’ve been working as a graphic designer and illustrator ever since. I’ve been focusing more and more on illustration in the last few years, and eventually would like to return 100% to my illustrator roots.   Byron Graper interview     SL: You’ve worked as a designer, and you’ve also had a long run with side projects that have taken in a range of different mediums – including graffiti, India Ink and lately scratchboards. Of the many ways and media that you’ve used to express yourself over the years, what’s your favourite?   BG:I think whatever medium I’m working in at the moment is my favorite, so I’d be hard pressed to single out 1 as my favorite. I usually choose my medium according to what the project is and what I want the finished product to feel like. I use pen and ink daily, specifically my brush pen which is a paintbrush with a sort of fountain pen ink cartridge attached to it. I love dipping pens but have been using them far less lately because of tight deadlines and they are quite time consuming (the way I use them anyway). Scratchboard is still a new medium to me so I always find myself surprised by the outcome, whereas I have absolute control of my pens so I know exactly what the finished product is going to look like.   Byron Graper interview   SL: So, other than having worked in agencies, your work as an illustrator and artist is now being noticed all over the place lately. You’ve been published in i-jusi Magazine twice, you scooped 1st prize in a recent Bizmoggi contest and you have an editorial illustration coming out in The Big Issue. Is this a new direction for you, and are you looking to become a freelancer, or is your illustration work a sideline?   BG: I have made a conscious decision to work towards illustrating full time. Its taken quite a few years of trying to be this person or that thing, I was trying to be anything I thought was cooler than me. I have reached the point now where it has sort of come full circle, back to the thing that has always been there, lurking beneath the surface, making art.   Byron Graper interview     SL: Fantastic, wishing you the best with it. For any illustrator or designer to develop up a style that becomes their own, over the years they pick up tips and tricks from a range of other creatives. Whose work blows you away, and has anyone in particular influenced your work? Or, for that matter, are there creatives whose work you’ve collected or coveted?   BG: There is so much fantastic work out there at the moment, a lot of people working really hard and producing the goods. I find it most encouraging to see the level of South African illustration. My earliest memories of feeling inspired come from scrutinizing my dads Magritte and Dali books – I used to spend hours as a kid inspecting every square centimeter of those pages, completely enthralled and wondering how they did that. I used to try and copy my favorite cartoons (especially the Tex Avery stuff) and Muppet characters and then later on, my skateboard graphics. Come to think of it, not much has changed. A stew of surrealism, cartoons, Muppets and New Deal graphics is still somehow what makes its way from my brain, down my arm the through the tip of my pencil.   Byron Graper interview     SL: Give us an idea of what music could be playing in the background when you’re busy creating. Better yet – as you were a DJ of some standing for a few years back in your hometown – have you done any mixes or mixtapes that we should know about?   BG: Noooooo! Don’t bring up the DJ days! Some of the most cringeworthy memories of my life! Memories of me trying to be the cool guy still haunt me to this day. In fact, just 2 days ago in Spar, a flashback to said era actually had me doubled over in physical pain from the sheer shamefulness of it all. I think I am a character that is best kept out of the public eye… a face for radio kind of guy. I do love music but in the last year I have stopped listening to music while I work. I find that (probably due to some weakness of character) because music is so powerful a medium, it can easily sway and influence my train of thought. It is for this reason that if you had to poke your head into my studio, at any time, your ears would be greeted by a certain sound. The sound of a middle to old aged man spouting out something about medieval England or life in the work houses of east end London. That’s right, the glorious audiobook! I have become somewhat obsessed with learning about history in particular, its my new favorite band! I do still listen to music though, mostly psychedelic and garagey stuff from the 60s and 70s, but also grungy 90s stuff and whatnot. Anything from Dr. Octagon to Dr. John.   I made a mixtape of some of my favorite psychedelic and garage music from the 60s to present day,  feel free to download it and share it with whom ever you please. Its called “Do the Myoclonic Jerk” – enjoy! (grab it here). Thanks for interviewing me, I feel special!   SL: It’s a pleasure Byron – you are special!   Byron Graper interview   To see more of Byron’s work, check out his Behance or Facebook page. (all designs © Byron Graper)

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