A month ago, Pikaland was one of the grant-giver at Society6 which was essentially a platform for artists to showcase their work and for those who wish to fund the artists via grants to fuel this artistic creativity. There were a total of 130 artists who applied for the first round (yes, this is a monthly grant we’re giving out!) and our first winner was Craig Atkinson, who had one of the highest votes of all.
As part of the package, winners will be interviewed on Pikaland, and will be given a month of advertising on the blog that’s worth USD$45. It may not be worth a whole lot, but I’d like to think of it as our little way of giving back to the community.
Craig Atkinson is an artist, illustrator, lecturer and publisher at Café Royal. I’m a fan of his distro that sells lots of kick-ass artist zines and I’m now officially in love with his mind — read on to find out why!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m 32 [just]. Married to Joanne and we have a 10 month old son, Oscar. I work as an artist and illustrator, publisher and lecturer. I come from a Fine Art background, educationally speaking.
Could you tell us how Café Royal was born?
Café Royal was set up initially as a place to sell my books and zines. I decided that seemed a bit pompous and I wanted to work with more artists and so started to sell their zines and books too. The next step was to publish work, so that’s what happened and that’s where we are now. We specialise in limited edition artists’ books, zines and multiples. The online shop is slowly growing and our publishing house is doing the same. We’re looking at opening a high street shop soon but there’s a lot to do first.
How did you get your start in illustration?
Coming from a Fine Art background I have always painted. Abstracts. To cut a long story short, I got tired of working in the way I was and decided one night to ‘stop’ painting. I got rid of my studio and got a small desk at home. I returned to drawing, it being the most simple way of getting a message across. I guess people saw my drawings online and commissioned me. I’ve never really looked for work so I’m lucky. I don’t really class myself as an illustrator in that way, although I’m happy to take commissions.
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I always have a sketchbook with me. There’s a certain make – the one Hemingway used etc! I love them. I also like to make my own but don’t often get the chance. Sketchbooks for me are raw, honest things that get done all the time, like a stream of consciousness. A lot of my wall based work comes directly from ideas in my sketchbook.
What or who inspires you?
Everything. That’s clichéd I know, but I wish I had more time to try all the ideas I want to try! Day to day life inspires me, the boring stuff, boring places and objects. everything is made so polished and perfect, I like run down, beat up places, things and people!
Art wise there’s loads as well. In my top five are always Twombly and Basquiat. I love the honesty of Drescher’s work. I saw a piece yesterday by Bruce Nauman, on paper – Sunproof Drawing. I thought that was excellent.
I just like to get on with stuff really though. I don’t care to much about who’s doing what or what’s already happened. If I did I’d never make anything!
What keeps you motivated?
I just love making things and making marks, so I don’t really need motivating. If I worked in an office I’d need motivating to get up int the morning!
What’s your favourite tool?
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
No message. I’m fairly well read, theory wise, especially Fine Art based theory. A lot of it goes into my work. A lot of it’s really deep in theory. Greenberg’s diary and Munari’s ‘Design As Art’ are important. However, that’s for me to know. I hate it when people talk about people looking at art and bringing their own stories to a piece based upon their lives so far. I think that’s a really feeble thing to say [I can be quite opinionated]! I’m happy for my work to be hung / looked at / read with no description, no title, no anything. It’s a picture, sometimes the pictures include text. They are visual things. I had some work in a show a little while ago and overheard someone fairly important talking about my work with someone else. They didn’t know I’d made the work so I hung around to listen. They talked, at length, about everything my work was saying and my reasons for doing it. There was nothing in what they said that was remotely close!_*
It’s funny, like I said, I love Twombly’s work. I love it for the whites he uses, the textures and the really intricate pencil marks that you can only just see. I love them as experimental, boundary pushing pieces of work. I don’t care whether they’re classed as paintings or drawings and I don’t care where about in Italy he lived or which Greek god was his favourite at the time he made the work. I see things as objects. I think that’s why I like Munari, maybe I’m a designer not an artist.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just had a big show in Portugal, so I’m resting a bit in terms of gallery stuff. I have some books on their way and I’m publishing a few things for other people. I’m also working on the next steps of Café Royal.
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
I’ve no idea! I just want to keep making work and playing really. I think playing with ideas and materials is important.
What was the one advice that you would like to share with fellow artists?
Working hard is good.
Want to be the next one to receive a Pikaland grant? Stay tuned and we’ll let you know more tomorrow!