Interview with dark surreal artist Mr Mead : Secrets of Wonderland

Mr Mead is a traditional pen & ink artist from England and is terrified of people wearing animal suits, so to combat this fear, draws them constantly. This strange affliction stems from his memories of 'The Tales of Beatrix potter' a 1976 royal ballet film that he was forced to watch as a child by his parents 'as a treat'. Unfortunately this scarred him for life instead and informs his work to this day. He works in a windowless room in Bristol where he creates all manner of works for Illustration, fine art shows and independent commissions, usually on large bits of board or paper with tiny pens. His characters are a surreal blend of the animal, human and mechanic and are influenced by Pierre Matter, Shaun tan and Edward Gorey to name a few. Currently he is exploring the realms of sculpture and has been making his characters into animatable puppets. This will eventually lead to the wonderful world of stop motion animation if all things go well. Many projects have just been finished, included his first book with an NYC publishing house and there are many new projects up Mr Meads sleeve...
 
 
Hello dear Mr Mead, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
 
I have always been doing art, ever since I can remember. I have a big folder of work from when I was a kid, and it always amuses me that there is still work in there thats strange….! So yes, have always wanted to do it and have never thought of anything else…..

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
 
I am very much influenced by mainly anything in the pages of Hi Fructose, the calibre of the work in there is astounding and makes me want to push myself more… Specific artist wise Alex Pardee, Daniel Danger and Remi Wyart really get me pumped. Music is the most important thing though, I have never worked in silence and never intend too so I am constantly searching for new stuff to keep me going. I like everything from Boards of Canada to Brian Jonestown Massacre to weird old french music, the list is never ending…….! Also I have just finished reading 'High Rise' by J.G Ballard. Utterly amazing book and has got me thinking about new projects…..This book is being made into a film by British director Ben Wheatley (who did Kill list, which is amazing) so watch out for that, as it will be brilliant no doubt. So a mixed bag of things inspires me for sure….!
 
 
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
 
Wake up late (Not a morning person) eat a lot of food, then do emailing and look at social media until I get bored or depressed of all that, then draw. Then eat more, then draw, then eat more, then stay up really late listening to loud music and occasionally drawing, but mostly watching films and basically procrastinating, then repeat it all again. Also occasionally I like looking at the odd duck or two.
 
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
 
I studied at the Arts Institute in Bournemouth (now the AUCB) where I studied 2D Animation production. This was an amazing course and really taught me the basics of how to draw, but as it was animation it does not now bare much relevance to what I do these days. I guess this means that I am a self taught illustrator, which has certainly made it a lot slower to get into the industry as I am not as clued up on everything as formally educated illustrators may be.
 
Having said that there is a lot of guessing with this type of career anyways, which is variable for different people, so there is certainly not a clear formulaic path to this career thats for certain.

Personally I would love to do an apprenticeship with an artist with similar thoughts or mediums and get 'shadowed' that way, these are not easy to find but I think that would be just as invaluable as a conventional education path.
 
 
What fascinates you the most about surrealism / pop surrealism / contemporary art / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
 
Its very interesting, never a dull moment. I see no real need for realism, the world is around you, so drawing from life seems dull, whats swimming around in your brain is much more interesting. I would describe my style as tongue in cheek weirdness, mostly the ideas are surreal interpretations of things that have happened to me etc, but I try and stray away from being too literal with things like that. Theme wise it seems to be heavily focused on loneliness, the idea of it scares me so I seem to explore that a lot, that and my intense fear of animal suits… Also I seem to be going through a 'faceless phase' at the moment, I like the idea of 'de-humanising' my characters, but then seeing what elements need to be kept for empathy.

Over the years people have taken away many different things with my work, some think its scary (I do not) some find it hilarious, others don't get it at all. All these interpretations I like and understand very much, and wouldn't want to put words in peoples mouths on how they should read my work, makes it more interesting for me as well this way!!!

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
 
It makes me feel much less useless for a start! I think without art I would be very lost, would probably be making fireworks in China in a mountain (doesn't sound bad actually…). Being creative to me is a way of life these days, I get all frustrated and itchy inside my brain if I don't do something creative…….
 
 
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
 
Usually I procrastinate/research for a few hours and find images that inspire me either in my books or on the interweb, then I compile all those either in a pile around me or a folder and then start to scribble thumbnails, this is the most stressful part of what I do, and I tend to have hundreds of ideas…After that though I start sketching large scale with pencil, slowly moving into using pens and paint where needed. All of this happens within a wall of loud music…I use finalisers, dip pens, acrylic pens and paint. I use all these mediums as I feel that they really are the only things to use to achieve the amount of detail I want.
 
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
 
Etching mainly as i think its a beautiful medium and is fantastic for detail. Also I really want to get into screen printing, as an artist called Daniel Danger has inspired me to do that. Also model making, puppet making, spray can work and many many more things…!
 
 
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
 
Well my studio is very strange, its a small windowless room at the top floor of Jamaica street studios, the only one like that by the way! I have basically made it into a bedroom in looks and it is covered in strange things…..One of which is my great grains old tennis racket from 1910 which I am proud of. Also there are many gas masks, skulls and pictures to keep me inspired. As for weird things that have happened there the list is endless…! Many parties for certain and lots of 'arty scenarios'. My friends hammock was broken once and I spent the whole weekend learning how to use a lathe and weave to fix it…! It worked though, so oddly enough learnt a new skill…!?
 
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
 
Well its always going to be challenging I think, and there has certainly been many many challenges over the years. The main one though, and biggest lesson I have learnt though is to make sure that you are properly paid. This career is not easy, and there are unfortunately people out there that take it for granted and don't pay you properly, but these days I refuse to work for free and it feels great when clients come along who respect this job, just like any other. Also to trust your own instincts and not change your work for anyone else has been a philosophy of mine that I think has really helped in some ways.
 
 
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
 
The best advice would be to be yourself and not be afraid of that, this really helped me develop my style and make sure it was entirely mine….. As for worst advice I would say 'work for free' to 'get your name out' is the worst advice that always seems to be thrown around. Anyone at any level deserves to be paid as we all have to eat!
 
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
 
I dislike the way that artists are treated, both financially and professionally. I have been lucky to work with clients over the years that understand my process and how long it takes, but you would be amazed how many people don't appreciate this. I guess the hardest thing is to maintain consistent work, when it comes its a beautiful feeling, but making sure the work always continues is a constant challenge. As for loneliness it is a tad lonely, but I personally enjoy working alone as I know what I want. Working in a team is also great, but sometimes less conducive to getting work done!! As for counteracting loneliness, beer, friends and girlfriends usually help with that!
 
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
 
I want to continue with what I am doing with my fine art work and developing that as fully as possible, but also pushing the commercial illustration work much harder as well. I have just finished my first commercial kids book (more of a dark folk tale book) and i really hope to get more work like that as it was an absolute pleasure to work on that. So publishing is a big goal and also I want to start showing much more in America, It seems like a very influential place for my work and its always been a dream of mine to live there….
 
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
 
I think whoever is getting into this career should definitely expect for the first 5 years to be very hard, but to not lose hope as perseverance is the name of this game!!! Also stick to your own style, be as individual as you can be, be professional and  never, ever work for free as it ruins it for the rest of us!!!
 
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
 
'Take care of the starts and the finishing will take care of themselves' - Sergio Bonnart
 
I write this on every piece I have ever done as it really helps me remember to take care of the drafts and not rush. Also as a side note every artist should check out 'Sergio bonnarts - Notes on painting' its by far the most insightful tips on art I have ever read.
 
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
 
I read a lot, but not sure if that really counts as a hobby….Aside from that its just the classics really, eating, drinking and saying hello to humans...
 
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work?
 
I do, my website is www.mrmead.co.uk, 'Mr Mead' on Facebook is what I use a lot, then @mrtommead for twitter, my mailing list which is mrmead@mrmead.co.uk to be added, behance, linked in and Tumblr. Thats all bases covered I think…!
 
 
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
 
Currently I am part of a group show in Berlin, more information can be found on www.howlprojects.com. This closes Sunday, so come along if you can!  Also I have my first commercial book coming out on Halloween this year, stay posted on all my social media outlets for info on that one….
 
Thank you dear Mr Mead, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
 
By contributor Linda , 2015. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS