Spotlight on: Alastair Laird
We’re back putting the Spotlight On another creative, we’re headed towards Friday at breakneck speed and we’re happy to bring you an interview with illustrator whose work is as distinctive as it is humorous. Ladies and gentlementals across the interweb universe, please put your hands together for the subversive from Stone City, the guy who puts the ill in illustrator, that cat whose work has graced more Mahala posts than even Sweatface McGee - yes, it’s true, it’s Alastair Laird!
SL: Did you study to become an artist, illustrator or designer?
AL: I did (all three really)! I started out studying Graphic Design at Durban University of Technology; I initially wanted to study Fine Art coz I’d always considered myself an artist more than someone honing in on selling their ideas and adapting them to industry, or for corporate environment. I made that decision based on money; with a background in design I believed it would give me the savvy to make a living as opposed to being some type of highly skilled draughtsman without any way to pay his bills or market himself. Design, as much as I loathed it as a youth, equipped me with things I’d have never known if I didn’t put myself through it. I only lasted one and a half years at D.U.T though and then relocated to The Centre for Fine Art, Animation and Design which taught me invaluable things and allowed me a little more freedom. Mostly I drew comics and there was an appreciation for them at C.F.A.D, unlike Durban University where my sketchbooks were looked at as some sort of crutch and interference to my assignments. At D.U.T the lecturers were total dicks anyway. Just the whole approach at the C.F.A.D was what won me over, they cared. At D.U.T they’d just shove some worksheet at you and go to lunch, then shit all over you if the outcome wasn’t exactly what they’d envisioned.
SL: What’s your preferred medium?
AL: I’d like to say brush and India ink, but it’d be a total lie. I’ve used technical pens for so long it’s what I think in. Permanent black inked fine liners of varied point sizes, permanent markers. I use a brush when I can but I’m mostly still training myself to use one and it’s a slow road. Maybe in a decade or so I’ll have mastered it the way I have the line work I achieve with my pens. It’s something you have to do every day for your entire life to be able to be content, I also think it’s important to not be too self-congratulatory but appreciate your level of skill and where you’re at. It’s a continuous learning process.
AL: Coz it’s a skill that has been developed after many gruelling hours paired with rigorous routine and diligent practise. And with my chosen medium I can keep a time sheet and control my output, knowing exactly how long a piece will take me. When I wander too far astray, making use of other materials it becomes a matter of me losing time and money, so I just stick to the pens. They get it done on time.
SL: What other designers or illustrators have influenced your work?
AL: Some design or folks that call themselves designers enrage me! I truly believe if one wants to do something and dedicate their time or life to it that chosen area of expertise or practise must be done with one hundred percent dedication. Unfortunately in this day and age no one seems to have a work ethic. I really like a Tumblr called This Isn’t Happiness which I read like one would the daily news over coffee in the mornings. It’s got a lot of the most visually indulgent and highly satisfying design, photography and typography I’ve seen. Then again that’s just my humble opinion (and I’m no designer by any means), as I am a fan of minimal art it pleases me and it has a deviant twist. Aside from that there aren’t many illustrators per se whose work I can say I’ve fallen for hook, line and sinker. It’s mainly cartoonists which do dabble in illustration. Should I mention a few names? Johnny Ryan, creator of the Prison Pit series, published by Fantagraphics. His parodies are brutal and unforgiving, as well as hilarious— he’s number one. Peter Bagge with his comic book Hate (also published by Fanatgaraphics) is a huge inspiration, his art is so his own that it’s impossible to explain or compare to anything. Joe Matt’s Peepshow, and mainly his book The Poor Bastard that was published by Drawn and Quarterly. Chester Brown’s art in his book I Never Liked You is sweet and innocent, I love the way he uses a brush. Come to think of it, it has a lot to do with the brilliant writing that these cartoonists are capable of and how they tell their stories. They’re all unique. Ivan Brunetti’s Schizo. Joe Sacco’s Palestine is a thing to behold. It’s a comic diary of his travels in the Middle East. Dave Sim’s Cerebus, the artwork, the fact that it was self-published, a 6000 page story and 300 issue comic. Unfortunately due to his views on women and religion people in the comics community view him as a pariah more often than a legend. Of course the South African underground comic Bitterkomix. Lastly, I want to mention Chris Ware that created The Acme Novelty Library, his other books Quimbie the Mouse and Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth. I admire his body of work, it’s extremely intricate and involved. The book design is crazy. He is a bit of a dork though— there’s no enough funny cartoonists anymore. People need to be funny again, and get a sense of humour.
SL: Name some of your favourite artworks of all time.
AL: Picasso’s Madame de Moiselles, Dali’s The Madonna of Port Lligat, Brett Murray’s The Party VS The People, Johnny Ryan’s Soft 9-11. There is so much art that I adore in many forms.
SL: What music are you listening to at the moment?
COIL, Skinny Puppy, Minstry, CoF, Jedi Mind Tricks, NIÐ˜… Sometimes I shut all my music off in a fit of rage and need total silence. I also listen to this radio show where they talk about comics. It’s called Inkstuds. It reminds me I haven’t lost my mind by being a cartoonist and there are others out there doing it too. So there you have it, Springleap fans - some indepth insights from the inkstained mind of a prolific South African creative whose work is increasingly been seen in both high and low places. Keep an eye on Alastair Laird - his work just gets better and better! Enjoy the interview? Check out Springleap’s other interviews in the Spotlight On series here.