In conversation with Squidoodle
Steve Turner aka Squidoodle is an artist and illustrator based in Deal. His work takes inspiration from doodle art and steampunk, consisting of highly detailed black and white outlines drawn by hand. Steve’s subject matter varies from natural imagery, tattoos, architecture and local scenes.
We spoke to Steve about his success through social media and his passion for drawing, Steve produces a range of products including colouring books, available from his website.
What's your background, how did you get into drawing?
I’ve drawn ever since I was a kid. I went to art college straight after school then on to university to do a degree in animation and film making. I had about 10- 15 years where I didn't pick up a pen then after a couple of minor health issues I took up drawing again as a means of therapy. I carried on doing it every evening just to help myself relax. I started uploading what I was drawing and getting this interest online.
What or who is your main inspiration?
There's a guy called Kerby Rosanes who not many people have heard of unless you’re into doodle style of drawing, he’s a guy from The Philippines and he does the most incredible drawings. I love street art, everyone says Banksy but he’s very cool. I like a lot of traditional art, but in terms of illustrators I’d say Kerby is the most influential to me.
The internet is a big part of what got you started, how did that happen?
I started off on facebook, with a page just for the art, then shared my pictures on groups and my followers built up through that. I had a stroke of luck with a drawing I did for breast cancer awareness, I encouraged people to download and colour in themselves if they’d been affected by cancer and that was shared by a couple of famous people, it all went a bit viral. Suddenly I woke up one morning and my followers had jumped from 2000 to 12000 people overnight.
Then I migrated over to Instagram, my plan over the next few months is to really up my Youtube game. I’ve got a studio in the house, it’s a nice and airy space, I’m gonna get a video camera and do a well edited video every week of the drawing process. There's an artist I admire called Vexx, and he does these slickly edited videos, they go from black and white to colour, speeded up, jump cuts, it’s really polished and I’d like to do what he does.
Your style really suits the colouring book format, would you say that's what drew you to it or did that emerge over time?
I was doing some outline work, and someone said that would make a really good colouring book. I looked into it and realised there was thousands of coloring book groups on Facebook. So I started doing it and the first book I produced was a bit hit and miss but people seemed to like it. I thought if I’m going to do these drawings in my spare time I might as well try and monetise it. I just kept doing it and now I’m on book number 10.
What was the process like of putting together that first book?
It was really hard, I got my whole family involved, my wife my kids Poppy and Layla they were all involved in choosing which drawings to use. With each book you learn ways to smarten up your act and polish it all up. So now I can produce a good book that I’m happy with. I love the whole process of it, and people seem to like them.
A lot of colouring books tap into the mindfulness trend, are you interested in that?
I am to an extent, however that area of the market is really flooded. I always try to approach things from a different perspective, I can't do what everyone else is doing because it just won't succeed and there's too many people doing it now. So I’m constantly looking for new ideas. But the moment you start doing stuff that you're not comfortable with, it's not enjoyable. If you start doing stuff because you think you have to, it loses the thing that made it good in the first place. So I leave the mindfulness stuff to other people.
How do you decide on a theme for your colouring books?
I toy around with ideas and eventually come up with something I can make drawings for. If I don't think I can do 30 drawings for it I’ll discard the idea. But at the moment I’m working on a book that's going to be called imaginary buildings and imaginary lands, because I like drawing little buildings and castles. I was originally going to do a dog book but I got too stressed by the idea of doing that, I didn't know what dogs to choose, people are going to get upset if I didn't include certain dogs. I think I will do a dog book eventually but it will have to be well planned.
How would you describe your process?
I come up with the idea, pencil it out very basically, most of the pen work is done off the cuff. So I’ll get a basic outline but the rest of it is all done straight away in pen, so there's no room for error. If you muck it up you’ve got to throw it away and start again. I do like drawing animals so I love things like birds and rabbits and foxes and hedgehogs and those are the things I love drawing the most. I like mixing it up and making them look slightly mechanical or something, I’m not a wildlife artist I like to give it a certain spin to make it a bit more interesting.
In your Creative Insults book you describe yourself as a “pen holding mother fucker”, do you feel a loyalty to traditonal mediums?
I would never venture into digital mediums, with my job now and in the past I always worked on a computer and whilst I have done digital work and design that’s not what my hobby’s about, I can't switch to doing things digital. If I did it would be quicker, the finish in my books would be better, there's so many reasons to do it. I couldn't, it would be selling out, I need to be holding the pen and be away from the screen. I don't want to sit in front of the computer every evening but I do want to sit there with a sketchbook on my lap on the sofa.
You also design tattoos, is it any different drawing for skin rather than paper?
There is an element of difference, I don't do the tattooing itself but I have an understanding of what works and what doesn't work as a tattoo. The lines have to be perfect, it can't be too dark. I approach it very differently if I’m doing a tattoo design. I’ve sold quite a few designs to people around the world. A lot of people who approach me to design a tattoo it’s often their first tattoo, they have an idea in their head of what they want, but maybe they're nervous about going into the tattoo shop.
What are the best tools to colour in with?
The best pencils I think are prisma colours, they’re expensive but they are really good, the finish is perfect. You can blend and do all sorts of highlighting and blending. In terms of pens, gel pens work really well, glitter gel pens can look quite cool as well.
You draw a lot of Deal landmarks, do you feel inspired by the town?
Massively, I love the timeball tower, the Regent Cinema, the old town, and the castles. I love doing local pictures, it’s a nice way of getting people to know who you are, and people can find you through your location. I got contacted by Benoir, who owns the Frog and Scott and the Penardier. About a year ago he contacted me as a result of some local drawings I did and invited me to put some stuff up in the wine bar, we had a mini exhibition there, invited some people along and that did really well for me.
Squidoodle'S LOCAL PICKS
FOOD & DRINK
I absolutely love eating at the Boho, its realy nice there, I love the pub. They do good pub food.
WHAT TO DO + SEE
Just walking the entire length of the beach is what I’d recommend. Starting up by the pier and walking all the way up to The Zetland Arms in Kingsdown, it’s just the loveliest walk.