Interview with… Karl James Mountford


Interview with… Karl James Mountford

The biggest reason I made this blog was to write posts which I would’ve liked to read. And what I would like to read most are interviews with the contemporary artists that inspire me and that could inspire you. Thinking about it, that wouldn’t be such an impossible idea to carry out. But still, I was incredibly nervous and sweaty palmed when I contacted one of my favorite illustrators whose work I’ve been following for a long time, Karl James Mountford. But he was so kind that he answered all of my 20 questions!

Who is Karl James Mountford?

Google would say that Karl James Mountford was born in Germany and graduated in 2013 at Swansea Met Uni with a Masters degree in Illustration and Visual communication. He works in both traditional and digital mediums and I am incredibly honored to be able to share his answers and artworks here. So I’ll let him and his artworks do the talking.

1.       How did you develop your unique style?

I don’t know… being influenced by artists and a need to create… maybe?  But I think we might put too much emphasis on style, it just sort of happens and it changes, it has to, otherwise your work becomes stagnant.

2.       What inspires you? 

It changes. When I was in uni it was other artists and I remember thinking “I wanna draw like this person or create like this person one day” but now it’s changed. I can admire other artists work, but what inspires me, especially in my own work, is what I feel or don’t understand or how colours fall at certain times of day and music too, music creates a lot imagery.

3.       Is there a specific way you search for inspiration or do ideas just come to you naturally/out of nowhere?

With my own work it’s often my own thoughts and it just naturally happens and then I entertain the idea and it becomes something… most of the time.

4.       Can you explain how you create the characters such as the ones in “The Art of ruining conversation at dinner parties”? (I love that one sooo much!) Or the one you called “Peachy Parade”?

Usually it’s doodling in the sketch book and then it turns into something and then I try painting it or planning a screen print. It’s like reading a good book: you start on the first page and then before you know it, you are on chapter 29…

Peachy Parade
5.       Could you share a most touching or amazing moment in your career by now?

I’m not sure, I’ve had nice things happen. A 12 year old emailed my agent and had made some illustrations based on my drawings that was really cool. It was the first time I thought “Woah my colouring – it did something for someone else”. That was impressive to me.

6.       If you had to choose just one would you choose digital or traditional painting?

 They are both great… but… traditional for me. 

7.       Do you think it’s harder to work with traditional or digital tools/mediums?

Tradition. There’s a patience you have to just give in to. Digital is quicker and safer (in case you make a mistake) which means you don’t over, over think.

8.       If there weren’t digital tools, which technique would you work with? (acrylic, oils, watercolor etc.)

Acrylic is what I used throughout uni. I didn’t go near a computer if it could be helped. It was only really after uni that I taught myself digital art.

9.     Are there any art materials you can’t work without? 

Pencil and paper. I know it’s boring but if you’ve got those too, there is no stopping you.

10.   Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

…I’m not sure… I think there’s a heap of good advice from other artists. I seem to be someone who makes a mistake and hopefully learns from it. I think with social media you can be more savvy with how the industry works.

BUT THE UNIVERSAL BEST ADVICE – “DON’T EVER WORK FOR FREE”. It’s just a slap in the face to the artist, not even if it’s a massive well known company/client… you don’t work for free. If they value your work, they can pay you for it. 

11.   Advice you would give to the young artists?

Enjoy it. Make art you want to make so you get work you want and keep at it.

Follow Karl on Twitter.
12.   Who are your biggest influences?

Shaun Tan is my ultimate influence. There are so many it would a long list.

13.   Name three artists (or more) you’d like to be compared to.

Erm… none. Being compared to other artists isn’t great for you, taken me a while to figure that one out. It gets you their work and your not being fully realised for what you do. I learnt this when I was asked to draw like Julie Sarda for a possible job and I was skint and needed to pay rent so I said yes and then I got the work, but I felt odd trying mimic her work. And something in my gut felt a bit off about the whole thing.

14.   Have you noticed that your style has changed over time and how?

You never really notice it change until you look back. For me it’s small things that I change or become tired of that change, like textures used or shape and form.

15.   What do you think is essential for getting better at drawing/painting/illustrating?

LIFE DRAWING CLASSES! If you can understand all the principles of drawing from life… your interpretation becomes tenfold more lucrative.

Check out Karl’s Instagram for more incredible artworks.
16.   What’s your favorite artwork of yours?

I just made a piece for a gallery show about nature and it was the first time in ages that I just loved making something. No one telling me to change this or redo that. 

17.   How much time do you need to finish an artwork?

Honestly depends on the artwork at hand, sometimes days sometimes months.

18.   How do you know when an artwork is finished? 

It’s a gut feeling thing… I’m never fully sure. It’s purely gut feeling.

19.   What do you do if you don’t feel motivated?

 I don’t do anything, I leave it and try not to draw. It does nothing for me to force artwork for the sake of feeling like I’m doing something. Sometimes just having artist block is needed… It’s a break.

20.   Do you have some interesting projects coming up which you would like to share?

I’m working on a board game with a company in Italy, which is great as I’m usually a book cover boy so it’s great to mix things up.

While we’re waiting for Karl’s board game and future projects, you can read other interviews with him at BoxBird, Saahub & Redbubble. You can more of his work on Instagram, Twitter, his website & buy prints on Society6 and Redbubble.

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