Name? Luke Spooner.

Occupation? Freelance Illustrator having just graduated in Illustration from Portsmouth University.

Working with a very defined style Luke shows real skill when it comes to book design, book illustrations and well, anything really. It’s a type of illustration that can be seen in many forms. With a strong prominence of black, the style does come across quite despondent alas there has been the splash of colour appearing in some of his recent work.  With a wide range of illustration out there I wanted to get chatting to Luke as to why his illustrations appear on the dark side and what his life before him is going to unravel to become.

Travelodge Illustration

Nicola Manuel: Hello! Having graduated from university earlier in the summer it’s now a big opening to the world of work. Ideally what are the next stages for you?

Luke Spooner: I literally started searching for freelance work the day after my final piece of third year work was handed in and since then I’ve just been jumping from one freelance job to the next. I’ve just finished an internship at Advocate Art agency in Surrey and it’s really shown me what artists can achieve when they’re part of a professional team, so with that in mind I may look into trying to get some sort of representation for me and my work. No shame in admitting you need help right?

NM: What was the best aspect about studying in Portsmouth University? Was there a key element that you have learnt which you will adapt in your day to day life from now on?

LS: The unofficial mantra of the illustration degree at Portsmouth is “what you put in – you will get out,” I know that sounds like common sense but you’d be amazed at how many people decide to sit back put in minimum effort and just assume the work will just find them. It just doesn’t work like that, you have to do the leg work, you have to put yourself out there and you have to believe in the work you’re creating. To be honest though – if you truly enjoy what you’re doing, it wont even feel like effort. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree that her department’s mantra was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth. The difference with Portsmouth is that you come out of there wanting to make people want you.

Puss in Boots Illustration

NM: Your work is already being shown in the form of book cover design, what an achievement! If you were to design a book cover for your ultimate favourite, which book would it be and why?

LS: I’m actually working on a self-directed brief called ‘Imagined’ in between other projects that basically involves me re-designing well known fairy tale and fablecharacters so I’ve actually asked myself this question quite a few times… I do a lot of reading too so I’m always finding new favourites – but if I had to choose then I’d say “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. I’ve drawn so much inspiration from that book for various projects over the last couple of years and I always go back to it when I hit a dead end. I think when you strip it back it’s also a story that is still very much relevant today despite it’s age. Obviously it has very deep messages covering a variety of themes, but on the surface level – the idea of someone being driven to monstrous actions by the simple desire to preserve their youth and social status is a very contemporary problem that will resonate with anyone living in today’s commercially fuelled world.

NM: Working on book cover design does deceive a title for you as a freelance. Is this daunting or is it an exciting prospect?

LS: I love the idea of working on a book cover because it means you have a chance to influence a reader’s perception of the book before they’ve even read the first word on the first page and if you love the book – it’s also an opportunity to prove it and do the following text justice. It’s obviously a privilege to be asked to do a cover but also incredibly daunting as it’s a massive responsibility. You are effectively introducing someone else’s work through yours and nine times out of ten the writer will have spent a lot longer on the story than you do on the cover.

The Morrow Secrets, book cover.

NM: What book are you reading at the moment?

LS: I’m working my way through a series of graphic novels called ‘Fables’ by Bill Willingham. They tell the stories of fairy tale and fable characters trying to make they’re way in our world after they’re forced out of their own by an unknown sinister force. That adult take on something we all grew up with as children alone drew me to the series but once I found out that one of my illustration heroes: James Jean, was the one doing the covers I marched online and bought as many volumes as I could. I’m also re-reading Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ my love for the book is the only good thing that came out of my English Literature A Level.

NM: What inspires you within your illustrations?

LS: That’s a massive question… I draw inspiration from everything but more recently it’s been children’s stories, ghost stories, film noir, indiependant and art house horror films, graphic novels and my CD collection.

NM: Describe your work in three words:

LS: Dark without gratuity.


NM: If you were to have an ultimate aspiration for the future, what would it be and why?

LS: I just want to be able to do what makes me happy, which is of course illustration. If I happen to make money from it in the process then that’s just a happy coincidence.

Time for those ultimate quick round questions…

Colour or black and white? Black, most paper is already white.

Freelance or studio? Freelance, I’m less likely to get told to turn my music down.

Seaside or country? I studied by the sea and live near the countryside so it’s a tough one… The countryside might win though because I do like my woodland wanders.

Bourbons or custard creams? Custard Creams! When you dip bourbons in tea you get chocolate flavoured tea and although that sounds great in theory – it’s just not right in practice. Whereas custard creams just get more awesome.

Pen or pencil? How dare you make me choose – I use both! I’m not going to give away my secret methods but I always start in pencil and then work up to pen. I use pen to confirm which bits of the pencil sketch work best.

What a chap. He’s a lovely one and has the skills of an amazing illustrator! So with a nice cup of tea and custard cream have a look at a little more of Luke’s illustrations on his site as well as the facebook page he’s created. Definitely an inspiration for freelance illustrators out there.


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