Let's say hello to the creator of our favourite Macclesfield export: illustrator Dick Vincent. You may have seen his work online or in our shop - prints and cards full of fun, tenderness and dark humour.
Hi Dick, thank you for being our featured artist!
For those who don't know you yet, could you give us a brief introduction to you and what you do?
I’m Dick Vincent, I’m an illustrator. Most of my work involves running my stationery and gift business which is basically putting my illustrations on everything from cards to t-shirts. The work I make is heavily inspired by nature, the outdoors, pop culture and those moments of calm. I live in Macclesfield where I share a studio/home with my girlfriend Leigh Jennings and our two cats Audrey and Frida.
Where do you get most creative? Can we see your studio/workspace?
I tend to work all over the house. If I’m doing rough work, like initial sketches, I’ll stick a film on and sit in front of the TV. For the finished pieces I tend to work at my desk surrounded by paint and pencil sharpenings. This time of year however (the lead up to Christmas), the business side of things takes over so it’s mostly admin work or packing orders, I don’t really have much time for the creative side.
I love the hand drawn quality of your artwork. Do you use mainly hand drawn techniques, and do you use or enjoy digital methods too?
Thank you. I try to keep things as hand drawn as I can. Usually I just use Photoshop to clean things up ready for print - so removing paint marks or places where I’ve smudged the pencil etc. I really love the organic feel of traditional techniques because whatever I put on paper rarely looks like it does in my head. I worry if I illustrated digitally that there would be the temptation to overwork things and I’d lose a lot of that raw energy. It also took me a long, long time to get to a point where I can comfortably use materials like paint, so it feels counter-productive to now go digital. The business side of my job takes up a lot of my time in which there’s data entry or stock control etc. so using another screen doesn’t really excite me creatively.
How does where you live affect your work? What are your biggest inspirations?
I live in Macclesfield, which is the gateway to the peak district. I was born and raised here, then lived in Manchester for around 15 years but moved back home almost 5 years ago. My hometown is definitely a big inspiration for me, and not just for the scenery - we have great hiking trails here which crop up a lot within my work. A big part of our community, and certainly within my family and with friends, is telling stories, usually with that very typical dry northern humour. I’ve often tried to channel that within my work, especially as I always think the fundamentals of illustration is story telling.
Macclesfield is an interesting place because it’s small but not in the sense of a village – it’s in the countryside but then it’s also a stone throw from Manchester. At times it feels like it has its own culture and traditions. When I lived in Manchester I really missed that, so I use these ideas as inspiration where possible.
You have quite a few pieces celebrating old traditions, witches and folk tales. And I love your Halloween advent on instagram! What made you so drawn to spooky tales and folklore? Do you have a favourite?
I’ve always had an interest in folklore but I started to include it more in my work a few years ago when I felt like my work had gone a bit stagnant - there’s only so many times you can draw someone on top of a hill. Macclesfield is full of great tales so I started scribbling some down, some of which I tweaked to add my own take on the stories, but I felt my work came into its own again when I started focusing on story-telling, plus it feels more of a challenge creatively.
One of my favourite tales is a local one. A farmer had a few too many ales (pretty much how most northern stories start) and decided he wanted to ride his horse into town for more ale, his wife tried to stop him as a storm was coming, but he’d had a skin-full and decided to ignore her. He went to get on his horse when a great flash of lightning revealed his horse had two great horns. He’d actually saddled up his bull, but because he was legless he thought the bull was Satan. After that he never drank again and built a church on his farm, which still stands today.
I’ve always loved it though. Growing up in the 80s/90s there seemed to be a big trend for ghost stories. I loved things like ‘are you afraid of the dark?’, ‘Goosebumps’, ‘Addams Family’ and Tim Burton films etc. I’ve always been a goth at heart. In uni I fully embraced it, but after a while you realise eyeliner and backcombing is bloody exhausting and doesn’t fair well on a hill side. When I started selling at craft fairs they always seemed to start in October, so I thought it would be fun to include some Halloween prints. They actually became best sellers and some of which have become firm staples on my etsy shop since.
Then there are your images celebrating music and books. The subject is too huge for one question really, but could you describe what it is that draws you to quote a particular story or song?
I read quite a lot. Every morning I’ll read for an hour whilst I have breakfast, I use that as a similar time to how I would read when I used to commute to work. I also always have music on, from working to cooking. I find it easier to concentrate on when I’m working than say podcasts or audiobooks. Because of how engrained reading and music is in my days, I always have quotes or lyrics rattling around my head that have caught my attention or because I’ve had a song on repeat. I tend to find situations or times where they fit. Sometimes I’ll read something and it stays with me so much that I can’t stop thinking about it. This is when I tend to make art inspired by them, rather than linking them to a situation.
You were quite open on social media about struggling mentally during lockdown. Was there something in particular that helped get you through that time, and do you think you have gained some new mental survival skills, especially as tough restrictions are looming again?
Much of my work has always had undertones of mindfullness and positive mental health. It’s true that one of the best things you can do when you’re struggling is open up. Sometimes though you need someone else to open up first in order for you to share your own experiences and feelings. I find this especially when it comes to mens mental health, where often men are conditioned to ‘man up’ and ‘don’t be soft’. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of, so I felt it important for me to be open and start that conversation for others. I know it certainly helped me to accept my own issues by seeing people I look up to be open with their struggles too (a big one for me was Anthony Bourdain).
In terms of lockdown I really struggled with the isolation. I’m always meeting up with people both socially and professionally, and I can talk quite a bit, so using social media to stay in touch with people really helped. Another big thing that helped was actually focusing on the small day to day tasks and little achievements. I set up a personal Instagram as a way of looking back on those good things that I normally would’ve glossed over – it’s mostly food and vinyl but that’s what makes me happy.
If you could go anywhere right now (imagining the pandemic didn't exist), where would you go, and what would you do?
This year I’ve watched so much travel/food documentaries that I’ve almost lived vicariously through them. I’m really missing seeing different places and exploring them. My dream road trip would be California (for Yosemite) and Mexico. I’ve been drawn to Mexico for a long time through food and art - I even have subtle nods to it within my work so it feels right at some point to actually go.
What are you working on right now? And do you see your work going in any particular direction in the future?
This time of year I’m pretty much heavily snowed under with shop work - lots of packing, admin work, emails and post office trips. This is one of the reasons I decided to create the Halloween countdown, it just gives me a small project to work on and keep being creative without any pressure of tough deadlines.
It’s hard to make future plans in 2020 when keeping a business afloat seems like a massive achievement in itself. Day to day, things are constantly changing and at times this pandemic can feel endless. But I love exhibiting work and considering I make my work traditionally, I would like to explore selling / displaying original artwork more. Picture books and Childrens books are my white whale - they’re something I’ve always wanted to get in to but whenever I’ve tried to sit down and write or draw up a story I’m never happy with the results. I know I’ll get there eventually, just have to keep trying and pushing myself.
That will be something we can all look forward to! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions so fully and with such honesty. Fingers crossed for a better year in 2021 - at least your calendar will give us something good to look at!