This week’s Beautiful/Decay Apparel Artist Interview features Steve Bonner, who contributed the nautical themed “Unknown Voyage” shirt to our Spring 2010 collection. With its art deco flourishes, the shirt hearkens back to the golden age of glamorous cruises in the 1930’s, when tuxedoed and ball-gowned movie stars might be seen in the dining hall, or red-lipped starlets might sip a cocktail or two sunbathing on the deck. Today, the T-shirt would look great with your favorite pair of Docker’s and boating shoes- or just hanging around town. Steve’s work is almost exclusively digital, focusing on sleek and creative typography. Read the full interview to find out the one activity Steve devotes an hour to every day (and that every emerging artist should do as well), how he stays inspired, and more.
1. What is your general aesthetic? How would you describe your work’s subject matter to someone?
Most of my work is rooted in type, and letters have always been my main passion in design. There’s so much you can do with them and the infinite combinations of letters and font styles mean anything is possible. I like to create letters, and in most cases, any illustrative parts are garnish, helping to dress up or frame the type. I also tend to work heavily in black and white as I think there’s something incredibly memorable about stark imagery – it’s like the design has nowhere to hide, and is laid bare, unable to use colour to distract the viewer.
2. Describe how you create your works? Some of your tools of the trade?
I work almost exclusively digitally using a Mac and a graphics tablet. Although I always start my work by sketching ideas out on paper, they always make the transition to digital very early on. My actual process is hard to pin down as it really depends on the brief and what each client wants from me. I hope that my process will always be changing, as I want to keep improving all the time and trying to learn/re-learn ways to work.
3. Walk us through the design process for the shirt you made for Beautiful/Decay.
‘Unknown Voyage’ started from an image of a rope border that Beautiful/Decay’s creative director Amir showed me and was keen to incorporate in some way. I found it very nautical and deco-like, so the whole image grew from ideas that I associate with nautical themes, especially art deco and vintage travel posters. I wanted the shirt to have that same feel so I drew some custom type with deco leanings and some simple illustrative elements that followed a strict geometric lineage. The whole thing came together quite naturally as the structure was obvious right from the start and naturally evolved into the final poster-like image.
4. Advice for any designers, artists trying to get their work seen?
Use the internet to help with self-promotion. There are literally thousands of places to promote yourself, but you can’t possibly get round them all so find the best ones you can that fit you, and get involved with them. It is difficult to juggle working with promotion but I try to set aside at least an hour a day on things like that. Also, network like crazy – you never know who people know and when they might need your services.
5. Some of your favorite other artists, or influences?
I have a healthy regard for an incredibly long list of designers, illustrators and artists out there right now which would be too long to get into, but I especially love the work of guys like Alex Trochut, Luke Lucas, Jessica Hische, Matt Lyon and Like Minded Studio. Another guy who’s work I’ve gotten into lately is Jonny Wan – he creates amazing symmetrical graphics, and great stylised characters. He’s recently started doing lettering, and it’s looking like he’ll be pretty awesome with that too.