1. Design & Illustration
  2. Inspiration

Interview With Illustrator Neil Hanvey


Neil Hanvey shows us that practice and hard work can achieve a whole lot if you are persistent. Neil is a successful designer with a unique style that blends Photoshop with Illustrator and creates whimsical and quirky characters. In our interview, Neil gives some solid advice about not falling for the trends in design and being your own artist. On top of that we talk about some of Neil's illustrations and more. So lets get into another great interview.

Q Welcome to Psdtuts+, please introduce yourself. Could you tell us where you're from and how you got started in the field?

Hi everybody! My name’s Neil Hanvey and I’m an illustrator / web designer from Manchester, now living in rural Hereford, UK (famous for bulls, apples and the SAS). I was originally a chef studying multimedia technology at university in Manchester. I dropped out of university, disillusioned with my course and went back to the kitchen for a couple of years. A year later I’d bagged myself a job as a web developer and the rest is history.

QA lot of your illustrations are very comical and fun, what mainly inspires you to come up with these hilarious ideas?

I think a lot of my inspiration comes from fun things. I collect toys, watch cartoons; basically I don’t think I’ve grown up yet. A lot of my inspiration also comes from doodling. I like to start with just a title and doodle around it until I have something that makes me smile. I think that’s important to me, a simple title that says everything and a whimsical image to accompany it. I also do all of the usual stuff like listen to music, go to galleries, collect art and watch films.

QYour work is a refreshing mix of Photoshop as well as Illustrator, how do you manage to balance the two programs in your illustrations?

Recently I’ve been adopting a 3-stage approach to my workflow. Starting with pen and paper, scanning it into Photoshop, bringing it over to illustrator for the line art and basic coloring and then finally back into Photoshop for shading/texturing and general tidy up. I’ve been using Photoshop for over a decade so I’m pretty comfortable with doing most things in it but I still prefer Illustrator for its vector capabilities.

QYou occasionally stray from your simple doodles turned illustrations and do some painting like in "an explosion of color" or "alectra". Do you think every once in a while designers should veer away from their usual style and try something fresh?

Definitely, it’s a cliché but a change does you good. Apart from doodling in illustrator and Photoshop, in the last year I’ve filled about 10 sketchpads with ink and graphite drawings, learnt how to sew plushie toys, worked on a couple of DIY vinyl toys, bought a DSLR to work on my photography, created a few fonts and learnt how to use After Effects. I still haven’t learnt how to use any 3D applications so maybe I’ll try that once I get a computer with a 3D card that has more than 128mb of ram!

I think that exploring new things stops you from getting comfortable. You see too many artists go through the motions doing the same thing over and over again and before you know it the industry has moved on and you’re still sat there combining triangles, c4d renders and stocks of random women.

QYour illustration "Atomic Circus" still has the same lively and merry attitude, as the rest of your work except this one is a bit more detailed than the rest. Please talk about the process of creating this piece.

It all started with the rollercoaster track at the bottom of the piece. From there I just started filling 2 sheets of paper with doodles. Once I had filled both sheets I scanned them into Photoshop and pieced them together. Once they were stitched together I began coloring them in. The blue color you see in the slashThree version is actually the original colored version with a blue layer on top with the layers blend mode set to hue. That’s one of the things I love about Photoshop, the ability to change the entire feel of something in a non-destructive way.

QSince you are a seasoned designer, what would you say are some of the most important lessons you have learned concerning designing?

Learn the basics of drawing. I can’t stress that enough really. Practice every day, even if it’s just doodling while you’re on the phone. Take time out to enjoy things and never ever use lens flare, beveling or rainbow gradients.

Carry a sketchpad with you at all times. It’s a trendy cliché and probably sounds like an advert but I can’t go anywhere without my moleskine. That way all the random ideas that pop into my head won’t get lost on random scraps of paper on my desk.

Lastly it would be don’t copy trends. It’s fair enough to be inspired by what your peers are doing but if you just straight out copy them then what you make isn’t you.

QYour portfolio is chocked full of quirky characters that you've created over the years. Who would you say is your favorite and why? Then tell us a little about the creation of that piece.

That’s really hard! I don’t really have any consistent characters that are identifiable as mine but I do like drawing people in animal suits. If I had to pick one it’d probably be Wood Good School Bad. I was on the train going to Birmingham with my wife to buy some vinyl toys at a place called The Custard Factory. Anyway they have this sculpture there called Green Man, which I’ve always wanted to see, and this is my version of it. It was doodled on the train in my mini sketchpad and finished in Illustrator when I got home. If anyone wants to see the original sculpture just Google “Green Man Custard Factory”.

Q Thanks again for providing Psdtuts+ with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?

Don’t be disheartened if you can’t draw the first time you pick up a pencil. I got a C in graphic design at school and didn’t take art but I stuck with it and practiced until my pencil bled. Now I can draw all sorts of things like zombies, robots and cats. Now stop reading me chatting biscuits and go doodle!

Where to find Neil on the Web

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