Whether he’s whipping up a pastel-hued illustration for some awesome publication, cough, WORN Issue 15, cough, or just working on his whimsical drawing series of mythological beasts, Ed J. Brown is always telling a story. Focusing on the narrative power of illustration, Ed uses movement, kooky characters, and lots of texture to give an editorial some extra pizzazz or just make a viewer laugh. His vibrant blog is regularly updated with new work (his most recent pictorial interests include drawings of outer space and original typeface) and he’s a regular contributor to Art School Disco. We sat down with the UK-based illustrator to discuss how he wishes he could dress like his drawings and why illustration and fashion mags go together like ice cream and apple pie.
Is there any connection between your style as an artist and your personal style?
I’ve never been able to define my style, and I don’t mean that in a cool, I’m-so-indefinable-and-unique way. It’s more like one day I decided to wear plaid shirts and that’s going on three years now. I guess there is some overlap, like when I’m drawing people’s clothes I don’t want solid colours—I want some checks on there or some plaids. I’ll turn up the trousers or give them little tiny heels, and other than me notwearing tiny heels, there is a connection actually.
So your characters’ outfits reflect what you like to wear?
A little bit. I’d like to wear the kind of crazy textures and patterns in my drawings, but I don’t think I’m as brave as the people I like to draw. Visually I don’t always fit the artist/illustrator model. I sometimes wonder how important that is, especially when you’re meeting clients. Do they expect you to turn up with a Wesley Snipes wedge and glow bands?
I’m sure you do just fine with your plaid shirts. A lot of your art, even if it isn’t editorial, is very narrative. What attracted you to that style?
I connect more with an image if I know there’s a story behind it. I feel more involved with it. That’s what I try to put into my drawings. Something as simple as an image of a rainy day conjures up a narrative. I like to think someone could spend a while looking at different layers and elements within my work.
It’s interesting how layered your work is with textures too, I feel like those two things really play off each other.
I fucking love texture, my idea of design is ‘just fill the page.’ I get obsessed with making sure there aren’t little gaps or white space anywhere.
A lot of your art is centered on characters, how does dress come into play in these illustrations?
I like to create oddballs and I don’t like there to be flat colour or flat texture if there doesn’t have to be. Obviously, you do need solids in an image, otherwise it gives you a headache, but particularly with clothing you have a tremendous freedom to insert anything you want. You can sort of describe a character’s personality, get across ideas of who this character is, by what clothes you give them. I think clothes can be great for getting ideas across—same as tattoos really.
There’s a long history of illustration in fashion magazines, what do you think it is about fashion illustrations that photography can’t always replicate?
I think it may come down to communicating an idea within fashion. If someone is describing the feel of an item, or describing the back-story of the clothes, I think in moments like that you really need the whimsy of illustration. It can bring out the ideas behind the clothing.
Who are your favorite illustrators right now?
That’s such a tough question! It changes all the time. I’m always a fan of Jon Boam. He always seems to be doing something fun. Other illustrators I’m liking right now are Jon MacNair, Nick Alston, Luke Best, Roberto Blefari, Niv Bavarsky, George McCallum and of course my Art School Disco brethren.