Art + August 2003 + Pete Fowler + Margin Interview
Interview appeared in the Margin show guide for August 2003 +
Lucy Jenner visits Pete Fowlers Island.
Pete Fowler is an artist and the creator of the wonderful world of Monsterism. The strangely compelling creatures and the world they inhabit started life on canvas in Pete’s artwork and have ever since captivated the hearts and imaginations of many, leading to an impressive range of collaborations. The monsters have starred in projects such as illustrating the music for The Super Furry Animals, found themselves in 3-D with a highly collectable toy range (including miniature versions sold in Japanese vending machines), appeared on clothing, skateboards, on canvas and as life-size sculptures.
Pete’s story – After completing an art foundation in his home town of Cardiff, he studied for his degree in Cornwall, which in his own words “is quite weird to think of the difference in studying Fine Art and the work I am producing now”. During this time his work strayed into many areas from sculpture to print making “but throughout the whole thing I was always drawing and painting. My work has always been quite graphic and cartoony and it was through doing the degree that I met like minded people and started producing comics which is where I wanted to go”. Pete made a move away from the fine art side of his work into a more graphic and commercial wing and at this time, with 2 mates, started a comic called Slouch.
“After Slouch a friend of mine gave me an opportunity to work in London so I moved up here and started working for him – he was running a shop and I did some artwork for them. And then my freelance work took off through that. Being here in London there are possibilities and options to get involved with exhibitions and comics – so little by little!”
Little by little Pete’s art became more public and his name became synonymous with the strange but charmingly captivating monsters he began to invent and which invaded his work.
“The monsters have always been there in the wings but it was probably about 5 years ago that I realised that is what I wanted to push in my work – the monsters. People would label me an illustrator but I had never really done any illustration, so it was a bit weird being an illustrator by default. I thought I don’t want to be an illustrator I want to be a Monsterist- so I was quite determined and then I started to use the strange creatures and the monsters more”.
“The monsters are a lot to do with my childhood I guess. I was really into dinosaurs, the unexplained, ghosts and things like that – comics and cartoons on TV and science fiction. I was a real TV kid and soaked a lot of it up. I knew I wanted to be a commercial artist when I was 12 but I didn’t really know what it was – I must have seen it on TV or something. But I think all of that interested me and stayed with me and I had it in my imagination from when I was a kid”.
Throughout Pete’s career he has continually worked in a variety of different media from paint and canvas, to sculpture and computer generated images. “If you are drawing and you are trying to get a sense of 3D it is so helpful to make a 3D piece- even if it isn’t the same character, you are just getting a sense of how things look from all angles.”
“I’d like to do more big pieces but it is a huge project and involves a lot of time. I really enjoy doing the small pieces but when there is something life size or bigger than you are immediately bang up against the sense of weight and size and how it works as an object – as a quick thumb nail sketch it looks fine but then to take it to a 3D piece, you find you have to change a lot and what you learn from that – 2D to 3D – helps you again with other elements like on the computer or with animation”.
On the fashion side of things, Pete has worked with Levis and the Japanese label Satan Arbeit, but is now itching to produce his own collection. “I’m not in any rush to go crazy and bring out loads of stuff but we will start off with basic pieces like tees and sweatshirts and then build it into a solid line. I want to develop it little by little and make it exactly how I want to make it and package it really nicely, which is one of the things I am really interested in. The first piece will be out soon – we are going to package it with a toy in a clear plastic tube”.
“I have also done some work with Paul Smith, I recently did a t-shirt for them for the Japanese side but whenever we do one the UK branch of Paul Smith are like – we like that and want it too. It all started with Sir Paul liking my work and instigating it – so that was a nice collaboration but now I really want to get my teeth stuck into my own stuff – so hopefully by the end of the year I will have my own small line”.
As well as the clothing range Pete is also working on a project to bring his monsters and the Island they inhabit to life in another way through an animation series as well as painting for forthcoming exhibitions plus finding time to decorate an area of the Margin London fashion trade show.
“With all the different things I have been doing – the art and the toys, the animation seems like where it is going to go. It’s all leading there – the bit players have done their bit and the main character is coming out – already it can almost fit together itself. We are looking at doing it quite differently, just like a straight cartoon but getting into the nature of this island where the whole story is this strange world..”
You can meet the monsters at www.monsterism.net