What is Monkey Riot?
Hey Monkey Riot was a comic I did a long time ago, and the name has stuck. It was an attempt at a play on words with “Haymarket Riot”, which was a large strike and protest in Chicago in 1881, which led to the execution of four anarchists. It was the birthplace of Mayday, and my work at the time was really focussed on those sort of subjects. I kept the name after I finished the comic because I like the ambiguity. I’ve no idea what a Monkey Riot would look like, but I think it would be fun.
Why do you use monkeys in your illustrations?
The short answer is that I like monkeys. The slightly longer answer is that I think you can do more with them in terms of expressions than you probably can with humans. There’s more room for exaggeration and diversity . When I first starting drawing using the name ‘Hey Monkey Riot’ I was obsessed with Lewis Trondheim who uses a lot of animals to represent characters. I thought that was a really interesting form of representation. I still get asked to draw humans in some briefs, but I definitely prefer the flexibility drawing with monkeys, and animals brings.
What were your most successful projects/achievements so far or what projects did you enjoy the most?
I’ve done a couple of projects for Greenpeace that I’ve been really happy with. My biggest achievement I think was winning an Association of Illustrators Images award last year for the editorial category. I’m still not sure how that happened! I was also really happy with how this project turned out. It’s a long time since I’ve had the challenge of creating an image with only a single colour, and I thought the final result looked awesome.
My most successful projects though haven’t had that much to do with my illustration work. I used to run the London Zine Symposium, a day celebrating zines and DIY culture, and Last Hours, a magazine about radical culture and punk. Both were really fulfilling and I think did a lot to foster some awesome communities and connections. My ambition is to head in that direction with my illustration work, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet!
What was the main idea behind Made in Shoreditch illustration ?
I really wanted to do justice to Shoreditch. Before moving to Paris I lived, and worked, in the area for just over a decade. I wanted to include the Tea building, and the new bridge that was built for the Overground, because both of those, for various reasons, were fairly huge landmarks for me. The bridge arriving seemed to mark an instant change in the area. Beyond the landmarks it was a case of including lots of friends and characters from when I lived there. All the characters on the shirt are based on someone I know (including the guy walking around dressed as a coffee mug). I really wanted to try and capture some of the organised chaos that you find in the area!
You can find the limited edition of MIS T-Shirts here.
Who are your favorite illustrators in the industry?
There are way too many to name all of them. Clifford Harper, Eric Drooker, Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman were the illustrators that made me want to create images. They all make stunning, political, graphic work. More contemporary illustrators that really excite me include Bjorn Rune Lie, Eleanor Davies, Golden Cosmos and Pete Willis amongst about ten-thousand others!
What are you working on right now and future plans?
I’m currently working on a few things for clients: another cool project for Greenpeace, an oral history project about the arms trade in the First World War and other bits and pieces. On the personal work front I’m finishing off a book about depression, Paris and monkeys that I’m hoping will be finished by the end of the summer.