Illustrator, designer and artist Dominic Kesterton doesn’t lack creativity. His graphic illustrations are colourful, clean and full of humour. The black outlines of his drawings enclose bold colour blocks, reducing the subjects to their core shapes. Imaginary still life compositions, short comics and eccentric everyday-like situations form the graphic universe created by Kesterton, that has enchanted brands and media alike such as The New Yorker, Asos and Converse. Here is a glimpse into Kesterton’s illustrated world.
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You are based in Edinburgh, which has always been a cultural and creative city. How has the atmosphere of the city influenced you?
I’ve been moving a bit during last year or so. I’ve been around Leeds in the past six months but am likely to move again soon. I was in Edinburgh for four years studying illustration and then a couple of years after that. It was quite a relaxed place to be, nice atmosphere. As a fresh graduate, Edinburgh was the first place where I got a studio space, and it felt crazy committing to that while wondering how I was going to pay my rent and afford a studio. I look back at that uncertain and exciting time with great fondness.
Do you have any personal rituals that inspire your creative process?
I don’t think so, I’ve messed around with trying to find a routine or something to help me get into the groove, but I just can’t seem to force it. Procrastination seems to be an important part of my thinking. I’ve been working from a room in my house recently, so I’m sure there are lots of things I do that I am unaware of. I guess the main anchor that sets off my working day is breakfast. Sometimes it feels like I spend the whole day procrastinating or switching between tasks that I never finish, but generally when I look back on what I’ve done, I can see progress.
Your style is characterised by bright colours and solid shapes. Have you always followed this style?
I guess it slowly came to be. I’ve been trying to refine my drawing my whole life; I want it to look considered and balanced. It certainly hasn’t always looked as clean and graphic as it does these days. I feel like I’m still figuring it out and discovering ways to do things.
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When you start working on a new illustration, what do you trust more, digital tools or hand drawing?
I like hand drawing. I will do a couple of really sloppy sketches planning out what I’m going to do. I don’t think digital tools offer something as immediate and as 'easy to get your ideas out' as pencils and paper. The only time I might need to use digital stuff when I’m starting on something is to play around with colour schemes.
What kind of themes do you like to explore within your illustration? Do you ever refer to contemporary society or do you prefer more dreamlike imaginings?
I like looking at simple moments and arrangements. I’ve been through phases where my work was all about dream-like-weird-stuff, but recently I think I’ve been occupying a realm closer to reality. Ideally I want the content of my work to feel like it's from a coherent universe that keeps working and existing whether or not I draw it. Recently I’ve also been enjoying drawing imaginary still life arrangements. I find deciding where to place an apple or a jug amongst an arrangement of items very satisfying; I think that’s to do with having a space where I’m fully in control and able to manufacture balance.
Your short comic book Unmatter is a collection of scenarios and sketches. How did you get the idea for this and how would you describe it?
It came about because I was putting pressure on myself to produce a longer comic narrative. Then I realised I didn’t enjoy that so much, so I decided to break it down into enjoyable chunks. I wanted Unmatter to feel free and irreverent but also wanted to focus on concepts that I find interesting. I would call it a collection of short stories and scenarios. I stumbled across some stuff in Unmatter that I am keen to revisit and investigate in more detail.
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You have worked for a wide range of companies: from The New York Times or The Telegraph to Converse and Lazy Oaf. What is the most challenging commission you have received during your career?
I recently did an editorial for The New Yorker that required me to depict Donald Trump. He wasn’t the main focus of the image, but it needed to be clear that he was a looming threat in the situation. I don’t often have to directly depict particular characters from the real world so thought it might look odd. I guess it wasn’t the most challenging thing as he has quite an iconic look.
Are there any other techniques besides drawing that you would like to explore? Or any other creative disciplines, like music or film?
I’ve been playing with animation, painting and ceramics recently. I already spend a lot of my time making music. I want to do all these things, but I don’t know if it’s better to focus my energy on one area. Sometimes it’s really hard knowing where to direct yourself. I would like to build up a series of paintings; I’ve been working a bit towards that recently. I made costumes and filmed a video for my degree show and have always wanted to do some more of that. I think of lots of video concepts that I want to make, but I feel like it’s a real commitment of time and effort to make a video and haven’t gone for anything new yet.
So, tell us: any exciting projects coming up? What projects are you currently working on?
I’m always wanting to get round to making some new t-shirts and other products for my shop. Longer term I’m hoping to have a lengthier publication put together in a year or two. Just keep trucking.
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