Instagram: @cjholme Website: www.chesterholme.co.uk
1. What's your story? Where are you from?I’m from Peckham in south London. I’ve lived here my whole life so I’ve watched the area change from somewhere that was kind of neglected and scary to the increasingly gentrified city-boy haven that it's rapidly becoming. I’m not really sure which Peckham I prefer, to be honest! I’ve been a freelance illustrator for about 2 years, mainly working on editorial projects but also making comics and other stuff when I get some time for personal work.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.I like working with small palettes of strong colours, thick lines, simplified shapes and flattened perspectives. I try to tread the line between making images that I would describe as ‘stylish’ and those I’d describe as ‘charming’. Attempting to make work that feels designed, and compositionally satisfying, whilst still characterful and funny and warm. It’s quite a tricky tightrope to walk! Recently, I’ve been trying to strip away as many of the unnecessary elements in my illustrations as I can, whilst not sacrificing atmosphere and tone. It’s a balancing act, but it keeps me interested and engaged in the work I’m making, keeping me away from drawing by rote.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?I just bought a Cintiq and I love it! I work fully digitally in photoshop, I like the flatness and boldness it gives the images I make and the immediacy of the mark making. I also really like the safety net it provides, knowing that none of the image is permanent seems to gives me a sense of freedom and looseness that I have never been able to replicate with analogue materials. It actually took me a while to justify to myself that digital work had any inherent value and was a worthwhile practice in its own right. I always wanted to convert the images I was making digitally into screenprints or zines or whatever to try to ascribe some sort of material value to them and it really slowed down my ability to generate work. I suppose after a while, I just came to the realisation that I was holding myself back with that mentality and as soon as I started to embrace and not fight the digital process I made huge leaps forward.
4. What is your artistic process like?I would describe it as fairly considered. I’m not one to experiment wildly and really develop projects in that way. I’ve never been much of a sketchbook user, at least in a drawing sense. I start slowly with writing and note making, identifying the ideas or passages of text I want to work with and then fairly instinctively picking an image out of the air. I then do use my sketchbook to do a few very quick thumbnail drawings to solve any compositional problems and feel out any tricky postures, and then it’s straight into photoshop. Finding my palette is 100% the hardest part of any project, I sometimes feel like there’s some super obvious and simple trick that everyone else knows about that means you can generate a beautiful palette with no fuss. I’m constantly looking for colour pairings and combinations and scavenging them for my own filthy ends. I’ve got a massive folder on my computer of colours and palette ideas that I’ve found all over the internet, or in books, or out in the real world. When a new project comes along, I go straight to my folder, cobble a few scraps together and come out with a palette. It’s a process that works to varying degrees of success.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?Other creative people and friends – illustrators, designers, potters, fine (proper) artists, musicians, furniture makers. I think it’s really important for ‘artists’ to be tapped into a wide variety of other people making interesting things. I don’t understand how you could push yourself and find the things you want to talk about through your work and evolve your practice to say those things better, without being aware of what is happening around you. And if you don’t want to do that, then what’s the point? I find a lot of inspiration in architecture - particularly brutalist and modernist, I love alt comics – Patrick Kyle is probably the most mercurially talented and weirdest (best) guy I’ve ever come across, I’m really into churches and religious iconography and relics. Also featured in my work are my interests in bleak landscapes, sci-fi, plants, medieval woodcuts and the period when football went mad (the 90s).
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?I think it just means I view things with an analytical eye. As I said previously, I’m constantly looking for colour combinations and palettes that I can use in my work. Every time I listen to an interesting podcast or read something that I get really into, I find myself wanting to make a comic or a poster or a zine about it. More than that though, I feel that by constantly working through the little problems that crop up in every illustration, I notice small details out in the world – some tiles that meet in a satisfying way, a badly placed light switch, etc. It’s a blessing and a curse!
7. Where did you study?Kingston University. My degree is called Illustration and Animation, but I never really did any animation. I was a good course (I assume it still is!), very conceptually led. We were encouraged to resolve projects in whatever medium suited the outcome the best. I made films, sculptures, books, prints, ceramics and once even built a usable, full sized cabin/studio as part of an installation to do with living processes. There was very little in the way of technical exercises which I know put off some of my classmates, but suited me really well. I was always happy to go and learn how to DO things myself, and prefered that my time there was spent being trained to problem solve and identifying the key to open up the project, communicating an idea clearly and connecting with an audience. I think those skills have been far more valuable to me in my career so far than those I learned in life drawing.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?Doing the same stuff but in a studio that doesn’t also have my bed in it.
9. What about in ten?Dunno, two studios?
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?I just want to make people laugh and get that spark of connection with me and the way I see things. I’m a simple man, I’m not trying to change the world.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?Fried chicken. To a dangerous extent. My number one vice. Korean, Southern, other – love it.
12. Favourite book?I’m an absolute sucker for detective novels and whodunnits. I’m really into Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series – the audiobooks are great to work to. I also always find myself coming back to the Sherlock Holmes books, they’re like comfort food for me.
13. Favourite genre of music?I listen to a lot of contemporary jazz, people like Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, Josef Leimberg, Snarky Puppy. It seems to vibe really well with me, particularly when I’m working. It sort of sets a really loose, fluid, timeless atmosphere that allows to me zone out a bit and just not overthink what I’m doing. Really layered, drony, melodic stuff like American Football and Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine makes me feel a similar way. There’s also a bit of a jazz explosion going on in London at the moment, people like Shabaka Hutchings, Yussef Kamaal, Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia are all being absolutely prolific so there’s also new, interesting stuff to listen to. Alternatively and in fairly stark contrast to that, when I’m a bit tired or bored or whatever and need to drive myself on I listen to heavier music. I used to listen to a lot of punk (I’ve got a Descendent’s milo tattoo on my leg) these days it tends to be really melodramatic, doomy metal like Black Sabbath or Danzig – kind of embarrassing but still great!
14. What are your hobbies?I make ceramics. When you spend as much time as I do fiddling around with stuff on a screen as I do, It’s really satisfying to work with something as physical and immediate as clay. It doesn’t feel a million miles away from my illustration practice in terms of intentions, but the process couldn’t be more different. It makes a very welcome change. I also like to cook, I think for similar reasons. Cooking is the best thing for shutting off my design brain for a bit and just doing something different that I can focus on completely.
15. If you weren't an artist, what would you be?I think I’d enjoy being a Blacksmith. I’ve always really like knives (not in a weird way) and sometimes when I can’t sleep I watch videos of people forging stuff on youtube (maybe that is quite weird actually). I’ve got real respect for craftsmen that just do one thing their whole lives and become masters of it, and it seems like blacksmithing would be a pretty good fit for that sort of life. Ideally, my hypothetical forge would be on a moor somewhere really far away from anywhere else, and I’d grow a big beard and have a faithful hound. Alternately, I work a couple of days a week in a bakery here (shouts out to brickhouse, hit it up for all your sourdough needs) and I reckon I’d probably be pretty happy working there full time too, it’s pretty calm.