Q&A with Toby Rampton

Q. Tell me about your route into illustration
A. I first got excited by illustration when I was on my Graphic Design BTEC course at college. My tutors were all from different backgrounds of work, I found it was quite interesting how you could cross-platform creative industries. Because illustration is quite collaborative you get to work with graphic designers, textile printers, all types of people. I enjoyed drawing and sort of drifted away from working at a computer and focused on sitting at a desk drawing, which has stuck quite well.

Q. You studied illustration at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge?
A. Yes, which was a brilliant decision, I enjoyed every moment of it, even the some of the bad bits and it was all a good learning curve.

Q. When did that finish? 
A. That finished in 2014. I spent three years there doing my BA course, got to meet some fantastic people and indulge in all of my interests of printmaking, doodling, location drawing.

Q. Tell me a bit about your process
A. My process is mostly printmaking, or reproducing printmaking method digitally, so I work in layers, quite a graphic way of working being really minimal and efficient with colour usage to help communicate an idea really quickly. I mostly work with screen printing, lino and risograph. 
People expect my work in sketch books to be really colourful but it’s mostly black so I can really quickly translate it into a screen print or scan it in and you just colour that way. So I have two different processes, one which is very labour intensive and slow, which is basically the screen printing process. The other is a much faster digital process of scanning original artwork and working it on my laptop. When I’m working digitally I sometimes hesitate and spend hours and hours fiddling with colours, so I try and keeping a hands on approach to speed up the process and make good decisions the first or second time.

Q. You used to screen print here on this table?
A. Yeah, I still like to but I do a lot of lo-tech printing here. I have to bring the water up a ladder to the studio.

Q. How did you find out about Print to the People?
A. I heard about them online when they were in Stew print rooms, but the studio looked a bit small. It’s small here and I’ve got what I need so I thought I’d carry on with my own thing here, no pressure. After hearing that PTTP had a new studio from someone at a Zine fair I popped over and thought the place looked brilliant, it’s got great facilities. I’d never done textile printing before so thought this was a great opportunity to get stuck in with that as well. And I saw they had just acquired a Risograph printer which I was very interested in learning about. After that I sent out a little screen printed envelope in the post to Jo who runs Print to the People and got involved with workshops shortly after.

Q. You’ve really jumped onto the Riso in your work? 
A. Yeah, I do drawings that are quite loose and having a printing process that’s reasonably instant and professional really helps compliment my designs. It’s quite a fun process if you just get stuck in with it and don’t over complicate things.

Q. Can you describe what Riso is in one sentence?
A very speedy stencil duplicator! It’s basically a cross between off-set lithography printing on inked up drums with the result of screen printing but at the speed of a photocopier. It’s a very economical way of printing, doesn’t use heat to set the inks at the end, everything’s done cold. It’s a very odd thing to describe, I’m sure some people will be scratching their heads, so I’d recommend going seeing one in the flesh because they are very weird but extraordinary things.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?
A. From general everyday stuff. I tend to keep either a sketchbook or a notebook with me as I go about and if I see something funny, sad or weird as I’m walking along that could spark off an idea. I tend to document things from day to day life. I also enjoy looking at mid-century art, picture books, especially 1960’s lithograph picture books. I believe bright, vibrant, bold, simple art work that communicates to children can work just as well with adults a lot of the time. 

Q. Can you name some names?
A. Dahlov Ipcar is an absolutely brilliant artist, Paul Rand, Helen Borton. There’s also a lot of international illustrators that are great to look at online.
When I was on my course at Anglia Ruskin, there’s also a really good children’s picture book course that they run, the only children’s picture book MA course in the UK and they had a lot of great books in their studio which you’d never find in a book shop here like Isabelle Vandenabeele, she’s brilliant!

Q. Do you collect anything?
A. I like collecting toys, toy cars mostly. I usually scoot around charity shops picking out stuff for as cheap as possible; I don’t like it to make it an expensive habit since the amount of room it can take up is expensive enough in its own way.

Wooden toys are brilliant as well the chunkier the better. A lot of the stuff I collect heavily influences my drawings as subject matter and reference for visual language, its nice finding objects that communicate through interacting physically rather than the mental process of viewing an image on paper. I also collect a lot of picture books and keep them kicking about on my shelves, but most of the time they get stacked up in a corner, those are the ones that I’ve been flicking through a lot.

Q. How do you get past creative blocks?
A. Get out of the house, straight away. I never find my muse staring at a wall or out of a window. I try and go somewhere I haven’t been before or revisit somewhere from a long time ago. Even if I have a ridiculously tight deadline and need to get artwork to someone the next day, taking a few hours out of my day helps clear a block pretty quickly and leave me inspired enough to work through the night. Creative blocks are usually having too many ideas, I always aim for the simplest solution.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Right now I’m working on a really slow burner. I want to finish a picture book because I haven’t made one since University. The picture book is a modern retelling of an Aesop fable, The Bird in Borrowed Feathers. I’m still writing the story so its very loose at the moment. Whenever I’m making a picture book I don’t tend to write everything first and then illustrate it second, its more of a balancing act between the two until I have refined my idea.

Q. Would you produce that yourself?
A. I’m looking to try and get this published commercially. I’d pitch it either to a children’s literature agent or go straight to a publisher, depending on what they like. If nobody takes it then I will probably make a short print run myself.

Q. What new medium would you like trying?
A. I want to do more paper collage and maybe something 3D made of wood

Q. Where do you sell your work?
A. Online and at craft fairs, generally those are the main two places. Online is very handy for selling internationally. It’s great doing craft fairs, you can sift through a lot of work quickly and get to meet your target market. Now I’m looking into wholesaling work to shops because I’ve started producing work quicker than I’m selling it, which is great in some ways, but it’s also a pain to store.

Q. Which artist do you admire?
A. Paul Rand. His work is simple, fun and straight to the point. His whole portfolio is very impressive, I can’t recommend it enough.

Q. What is your favourite Bowie song?
A. Sound and Vision

Questions: Paul McNeill  Editor: Yasmin Keyani