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My Inspirations: James Graham


James Graham created this season’s cover illustration for the Austria edition of SHOP magazine. His colourful graphics and compositions have previously been commissioned by Esquire and Colours magazines and the New York Times, among others. We ask him about his influences, where he likes to shop in London and his dream commission.

When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
I think my older sister had a lot to do with it. She was eight and I would have been four. I can remember her making these amazing drawings of people doing different jobs like butcher, doctor, vet – and I thought ‘I want to be as good as that!’

Where do you find your inspiration? Music, art, films, your friends?
Music is a big part of my day-to-day life, whether it is flicking through record covers or listening. I’m a sucker for anything disco! Visually I love old stamps and matchboxes from around the world.

Which materials do you prefer to work in and why?
I’ve a favourite mechanical pencil that’s my trusty tool to scribble down thoughts in my sketch book. From there on in, I’ll work up and translate using the computer. I do enjoy the computer’s crispness and the way it helps me draw straight lines.

What attracted you to where you live? Do you think your location has influenced your style?
I live in London. I’ve been here for nearly 10 years now. I’m from a small town in the middle of England so the big city drew me in – even just taking the Tube wowed me. Being surrounding by the things that go on, the people, has shaped my outlook, I suppose. Sharing a studio with a couple of photographers, a couple of graphic designers and a fashion designer keeps my juices flowing!

You illustrated the cover for SHOP magazine Austria – do you know the destination?
No, but looking into all the Christmas markets for my research has made me want to book a visit to Austria, and Vienna especially, as soon as possible.

Where did you start when designing the cover for SHOP Austria? How did you arrive at the final illustration?
With winter markets as my starting point, I went about creating a patterned layout using the awnings and shapes of the stalls.

Did it turn out as you expected?
I think so! The colour scheme took some doing, but I’m really pleased about how it all started clicking into place.

What should SHOP readers not miss when they visit London, your home city?
Other Shop and Dover Street Market for clothes. Stuart R Stevenson is a nice little art shop near Farringdon. Get your music at Sounds of the Universe in Soho or Kristina Records up in Dalston. Go grab some really good sushi at the Japan Centre – sushi that is cheap as chips! Under the Brunswick Centre, which is an amazing residential and shopping complex from the 70s, there is a second-hand bookshop called Skoob which is great, then after you can go watch a film at the Renoir Cinema.

Which five items will you never travel without?
I’d have done all my itinerary way in advance, so I guess a couple of guide books, all digested and bookmarked. A Moleskine sketchbook and that mechanical pencil of mine. Swimming trunks and goggles: I always start my day with an early morning swim.

And finally, what would be your dream commission?
The New Yorker cover is up there at number one, I think,  for most illustrators – it would would be a dream come true. If I could go back to the start of MTV and make them an animated ident, then I could happily retire. Designing for Hermès and Fiorucci would be the cherry on top.

Want to know more about SHOP magazine's cover art? Click here

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