Inspiration: Iain Macarthur & Sergio Toppi

At some point last week, while I was perusing the vast grandness of the internet I had an epiphany of sorts. I really need to build an inspiration board to help me pinpoint what look I want to achieve. So far I’ve created a list of names of people I want to check out/look at in further detail.  So far I have Erica Russell (the British animator), James Jean, David Choong Lee, Iain Macarthur, Sergio Toppi, Bruno 9li, Jackson Pollock, Johanna Basford, Alfons Maria Mucha (Alfonse Mucha), Lennard Schuurmans.I’m finding the whole visual research part especially difficult as:

1. I’ve never been too good at that

2. I feel like I’ve lost touch with a lot of the things that interest me. What that means in practical terms is I have no starting point for research. No first port of call when I need to be inspired etc. Thinking about it now, that might not be such a bad thing (keeps everything fresh and forces me to explore constantly) but it annoys me to have no idea where I want to look first.

Anyway, all of this was inspired by an interview I was reading on a few days back. They were interviewing an illustrator called Iain Macarthur and after I took a look through his stuff, my mind was relatively blown.

Image(Source:, accessed 7th July 2012)

I love it. The attention to detail (so much detail!)… The use of colour… What I find most striking though, is the way he meshes this patterned wonderland into an otherwise photo-realistic drawing. The combination makes for a visually strong, if not surreal, image. And that got some wheels turning in my mind. For a while now I’d been trying to think of ways to resolve the issue that had been bothering me about my “Lion-hearted” concept. The image was too static and needed movement. And somehow, through the wonderful creation that is the internet, I was looking at an illustrator (his carbonmade portfolio lists him as a character designer) who could set me on the path to resolving that issue.

It was through reading about his inspirations that I found out about Sergio Toppi.

Image(Source:, accessed 7th July, 2012)

Right away I can see the inspiration for the pattern usage. What I find interesting however, is the contrast in the way in which they use the same elements. Whereas in Macarthur’s work there is a clear break between the drawing and that pattern, Toppi uses the pattern to create the body of his drawing. Toppi’s approach is more subtle. While I enjoy looking at Macarthur’s work as a consumer/appreciator, as budding designer/pencil pusher I would lean more towards Toppi’s style when creating my own work. It’s a bit more naturalistic, where the slightly outlandish and the realistic meet and merge with minimal conflict. Macarthur’s work derives its visual impact from the meeting of the two elements, which is visually pleasing but not necessarily what I would want for my work. Either way, both gave me ideas for how to possibly mix in patterns and create dynamism within images.

As excited as I am to get started on this, I still want to do a bit more exploration as I don’t really fancy ripping off either artist. For some reason I feel inspired to look into surrealist art for clues on how to combine disparate elements into an interesting/powerful/thought provoking image. I think I might also try having a look at medical drawings for accuracy and detail. I think the more I understand how organs etc look, the easier ideas will come to me.

Hopefully I can get started on a new sketch this weekend, though I do have like 6 billion things to do so I guess we’ll see.

Peace and Love, family


P.S. Shout outs to my readers, especially the new one(s) in Brazil! Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read my thoughts 🙂


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