Paul Johnson is a designer and illustrator based in South London. His creative studio (North + South) is specialised in illustration, editorial design and brand identity. Some of his clients are: Manchester University, Empower, Bird & Bird, Virgin Media, STAND magazine.
We reached Johnson for a quick interview about his creative business and life.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m always searching for inspiration which I think and hope is a positive. Sometimes it’s a gut thing and others more subconscious. I like Rothko, Cezanne, Pollack, Hockney and Edward Hopper as artists which feels like a nice mix of styles. I very often get a quick like/dislike feeling for a subject or a visual. I think your taste in music, fashion can be a major influence as you grow up too, it really helps define your taste and identity, it certainly did with me.
Which is the relationship and influence between your cultural background (country, studies, etc.) and your artworks?
It’s an interesting question. I’m from a relatively poor part of Manchester (think black and white Joy Division pictures) and as a city it’s the heart of the industrial north and life felt very tribal. As such, football, music and fashion were very early cultural identifiers for me. You went to football each week but you had to be wearing the right clothes!
From a design perspective, album covers were very important to me growing up. Peter Saville (Joy Division, New Order) and The Smiths (Morrissey’s choice of certain photographs for example) really embedded a vision of myself and my life that I was seeing every day around Manchester and could believe in. I think my design/illustration style reflects a lot of these subconsciously.
What are you much focused in?
At this moment in time, my illustration career. I’ve recently got an agent and although I trained as a print designer, I’ve found that it’s allowed me to express myself over the last two years.
Have you encountered any difficulties when you first started your art/freelance career?
I changed careers six years ago, after being a Marketing Manager for 10 years so while it was exciting to really stop, turn around and head in another direction, it caused some difficulties, especially financially. I mean I was in my early forties and starting again, looking for an internship at design agencies and hoping I could make a new career from nothing. Luckily things fell into place and I’ve been working as a graphic designer since. I’ve built my illustration career steadily over the last two years.
Over these years, what is the most important thing you have learnt from your profession?
Always be prepared to listen and learn. It’s easy to think you know everything but it’s just as rewarding to discover something you didn’t know from the intern as it is the creative director. There’s always somebody with an idea or a different perspective that you might not have considered or thought of entertaining that can shed light on a problem. Always put yourself in their shoes every now and then!
Do you think that a creative job is just creativity or it’s discipline too?
It’s both in my opinion. You have to be able to deliver your creativity on time for the client, and within the agreed boundaries you have been set. Otherwise your creativity is wasted. Having the discipline to rain your creative process in when you need to is just as important as allowing it to run free.
Are you currently work on new projects?
Always. Especially personal projects. I’ve just done a Tour De France illustration for the lovely guys at Made By Folk (www.madebyfolk.com) and some editorials for an Australian company. I’m also working on a branding project for a new boutique here in South London where I live.
“Always be prepared to listen and learn.
[…] There’s always somebody with an idea or
a different perspective that you might not have considered or thought of entertaining
that can shed light on a problem“
“You have to be able to deliver your creativity
on time for the client, and within the agreed boundaries you have been set. Otherwise
your creativity is wasted“
Artist Website > www.studionorthandsouth.com
Instagram > @northernmonkee68
Twitter > @_northandsouth_