The Wondrous Urban Illustrations of Rob Gray

Rob Gray Illustration

Rob Gray is an illustrator from Winchester, but we met him in London, where he now lives and studies. His work is a melting pot of ideas, and features folksy characters bearing sunny dispositions, and tongue-in-cheek depictions of the scenes he comes across in everyday life. Rob’s drawings, paintings and collages, while sometimes thought-provoking, are always likely to raise a smile.

Having studied illustration at Cardiff School of Art & Design, Rob has recently embarked upon an MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. Though he dreams of being an image-maker for the children’s book industry, his work explores a variety of subjects and it’s because of this great flexibility and scope, that we had the pleasure of featuring two original prints, created in response to a brief that we issued, in YGT’s first exhibition last year.

Rob utilises a variety of media to create vibrant, colourful pictures that explicate and interpret everyday experiences. The two pieces he created for YGT’s show  in 2014 explored contemporary feminism, female agency and the bizarre nature of influential trends and their affects on young men and women. In other words, both pieces inspired a lot of twerking and a some fairly incendiary conversations about fake tan. Rob describes his work as playful, colourful, insightful and humorous, and we’re pretty proud to have him as part of our first ever exhibition collective and community of talented creatives.

Drawing and creating from a very young age, Rob dreamt of getting into Graphic Design, but things changed when he decided that he wanted to be an Illustrator instead. He began drawing inspiration from the world around him, from people, places and situations that he came across during his years at college, realising that capturing a moment and portraying the odd humour of that moment, was much more up his street. Looking to fine artists such as Lowry, Hockney and Romare Bearden for inspiration, Rob began his journey into illustration.

These days, Rob takes cues from Folk Art, Indian Kalighat Painting, Mexican Miracle Painting, and Children’s book illustrators like Eric Carle and Fran Preston-Gannon. The perfect and playful simplicity of these influential movements is clearly visible in the work that he creates. Rob’s simple style is infused with contemporary context and subject matter, and many of his illustrations depict scenes of today’s London; bizarre, unlikely, and unashamedly controversial. A much younger Rob Gray dreamt of moving to London. ‘It’s a city full of so much wonderment and excitement and the Masters has really opened my eyes wider as to what Illustration can be as well as how my work can develop’ he says.

Rob works mainly with gouache, however, since beginning a new course of study filled with workshops he’s recently been fascinated with collage and is forever filling up sketchbooks with new ideas, and layering fresh ones upon these. This year, Rob has begun working on an interactive Children’s book about the people he sees on the underground. He says,

‘I’ve been fascinated with the the tube from an early age and it still fascinates me to this day, and it’s that fascination that I want to share with a young audience. There are so many Children’s books about the city of London but I feel there just isn’t enough about the underground, and I think it can be way more mysterious and exciting than the city above it.’

When he’s not working on new children’s titles, or off on a collaging spree, Rob loves to collaborate. Aside from working with YGT, selling work via his online shop, creating personal pieces and commissions, or giving insightful lectures to the students of his old college, he lends his time to fresh projects; one of which is a collaborative zine titled ‘Secret Rooms’. We can’t wait to get our hands on a copy. Rob Gray is most certainly onto watch. Keep up with him on Twitter.

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Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth