Artist Interview: Lee Crutchley

by Cass Art

This Valentine’s Day Cass Art is proud to introduce our new crush: illustrator and designer, Lee Crutchley. With charming hand lettering and punchy slogans that will make you feel motivated and amused at the same time, Lee’s style is here to stay. Following the release of his book The Art of Getting Started, the handbook to inspiring creativity, we chat to Lee about all things illustrative and how to build the perfect relationship with your practice.

How was it that you found your passion in illustration and type?

The short answer is “being unemployed”. The slightly longer answer is… I’ve been drawing letters and words since I was really young, but through university I did that less and less. Then stopped almost completely when I got my first real job as a graphic designer.

It was only relatively recently that I started drawing often again. I was unemployed for 8 months after I’d been travelling for a year, so I started to draw to keep myself sane. I put those drawings on a blog, which ended up being the start of a strange but natural progression from graphic designer to “illustrator”.

What’s your working process like? What are your favourite materials to use?

I don’t think I really have a single working process, it kind of depends on the project I’m working on. A lot of my personal work has no real process at all in fact. I have an idea and get it out onto paper in almost one motion. For client briefs or bigger personal projects I spend a lot of time on the ideas stage. That’s where I’m happiest. I love working through concepts, linking ideas together, and trying to make something clever, or funny, or relevant in some way.

As for materials, I keep trying out new ones but always end up coming back to pens. I have boxes full of things like Stabilo Point 88 fineliners, Sharpies, Staedtler Pigment Liners and TriPlus fibre tips. I basically love fairly cheap pens that begin with the letter S.

Your book The Art of Getting Started is an inspirational guidebook, but what was it that inspired you to make it?

It’s a really personal book in a lot of ways. I’ve struggled (and still struggle) with all the themes the book deals with. Procrastination, perfectionism, and fear of failure are all things that have stopped me from doing more with my ideas. I found out that a lot of people are exactly the same, especially creative people. Pretty much everyone seems to have ideas for things they would really love to do, but for whatever reason they don’t.

That was the main inspiration for the book. I wanted to really start making more of all the ideas I had rather than letting them sit around unused. I think it’s much better to do things and make mistakes, than to not do things for fear that you might make a mistake. So I started making a real effort to do that for myself, and the book kind of grew out of that.

 What’s your advice for the budding illustrators and designers out there?

There’s too much to give, and they will have heard it all before from people with much more authority than me on the subject. But here goes…

Don’t compare your work to the work of other artists, and don’t judge your “success” against the “success” of other artists, especially artists you find on the internet. Keep making work, even when you hate it and everything you make sucks. SHOW people your work, sometimes when you hate it and everything you make sucks. Showing your work to the world has never been easier. So embrace that wholeheartedly and be willing to learn from the process.

If you’re still in education take advantage of that in any way you can. You’re paying for an education, so make sure you get one. Try as many new techniques, materials, and methods as your course allows you to. If you think you know what you want to do, and what kind of work you want to make, there’s a chance that you could be wrong. One day you could try something new that will completely blow your mind. There is no better place for that to happen than when you’re at college or uni.

If you’re in a job, try to learn about other parts of the business, whatever business that is. If you ever want to do something other than earn your boss money, you need to know more than how to draw. Learn everything and anything you can about setting targets, marketing, client relations, basically anything. The more you know about how things work the better prepared you’ll be for the future.

Most importantly, try to put something of yourself into every piece of art that you make. Don’t just make work that fits in with the latest commercial style. Trends come and go, and the creatives who get left behind are the ones who spend a lot of time trying to fit in with a style rather than finding their own voice. It’s easy to copy a style, and much harder to copy a personality. If your work has some of your personality in there, then you’re the only one who can offer that to people.

Lastly, it’s hard and it takes time (sometimes a lot of time) to get where you want to be. Then when you get there you’ll hopefully want to go somewhere else. Always allow yourself that time and stick with it, don’t give up when you’re not an overnight success.

Where else can we see your work in the future? Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

I have a few exciting projects lined up already this year, but I’m not allowed to talk about any of them at the moment. I always post new work and news to my blog though, which is

I don’t have any exhibitions lined up yet, but that’s something I really want to do more of this year. So if any galleries, art spaces, bars, etc are reading this who are interested in putting on a show, give me a shout!

A big thank you goes out to Lee for designing Cass Art’s exclusive Valentine’s Day postcards – they’re beautiful and a wonderful way to love art this Valentine’s!

Check out more of Lee’s work on his website and keep track of his blog for a stream of tips and examples from the book.

Head to our online store to stock up on your art supplies and be sure to follow Cass Art on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on emerging artists and creative ideas. 

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