We talk to illustrator Justin Poulter about his work, skating and his new design for us
We first got to know you many years ago now while you were living here in Southsea and working at I Love Dust and we've been big fans of your illustration and lettering since, so we're really stoked that you've done this new design for us. So after living back in South Africa for a few years you quite recently came back to the U.K and are now based in London, so how is it being back here and having to face the winters again?
It’s great being back here. The main advantage of living in Europe for me is all the places you can travel in short distance. Cape Town, where Im from is quite remote. So travel into Europe and the States is expensive, flights are very long. Now that I am freelancing here, Im more in control of my schedule. Before, working full time at I Love Dust I was limited to the leave I could take, and when it was available to me. As well as this, the move has really benefitted my career. Being based here has made all the difference in the work Im getting. People like to have meetings face to face, so Im now able to do that. It also contributed to me meeting and signing with two reps, Snyder New York for the USA and JSR in London for Europe. With regards to the weather, I guess I just try not to think about it too much. It’s not all that bad though. Cape Town can have its terrible weather too, gale force winds and horizontal rain.
I presume that you're a pretty busy man, but have you managed to get on a skateboard at all recently?
I try to go skate every weekend. But, it doesn't always happen. Ive got a few friends from Cape Town living here, some I grew up skating with. We’ve been going to parks around London. Until recently with one, Cape Town city centre never had any decent parks, so I’m trying to take advantage of all the choice I have here now. We’ve been meeting up at Cantelowes quite a bit recently. Its kind of central to where we all live. Also, been around the city a few times, which has been fun. Ive always heard people say its rough as hell, but Cape Town is far worse! Ive come down a hill, hit a crack and obliterated myself in front of a trendy coffee shop too many times.
Do you feel skateboarding has had a great deal of influence on your work?
Yes, for sure. Alongside a bunch of illustrated children’s books and album artwork, skate graphics were a massive influence. I think anyone that got into skateboarding at an early age was influenced by the graphics. Going into a skate shop or paging through a magazine was and still is a very artistic visual experience. Its the photos, the board graphics and branding. The walls of my bedroom, just like my friends were covered with my favourite skate ads, and those graphics are ingrained into my memory. I knew what brands I liked, and the ones I didn’t, so I guess tastes were being developed and that’s what influences style.
And what about your influences from the illustration and lettering world?
I love old comics. Especially when the limited colour printing is miss-registered. When you get terrible muddy colours from two bright colours overlapping, or the halftone shading goes over the outline. Those organic mishaps are a huge influence on my style. I try to replicate them all the time. In terms of lettering, my favourite thing to look at is hand painted signage. But, not the good ones, I prefer the bad ones. The ones where the intension is to make it look super professional, but you can tell it isn’t at all. I have massive respect for sign writers who can paint perfect lettering by hand, but the badly done ones always have a unique defect that makes it obviously hand drawn, and thats what I try to do with my lettering. Good but not good.
The first time you did a piece for us it was a Nike SB tour back in 2010, and as well as SB you've also worked for many other major clients such as Vans, Reebok and Coke Cola. So can you tell us about any current projects that you've been working on?
Yeah, that seems like another lifetime ago. That was one of the first projects I got starting at ilovedust. Ive recently finished a really cool project with Under Armour Basketball. Stephen Curry’s new shoe the Curry 2.5 has just launched and I was asked by Droga5, an ad agency in New York to do ten chalk board illustrations to be used in 10 short online commercials. You can see them over on Under Armour's basketball twitter @UAbasketball. Besides that I have a few other on going things I can’t really talk about just yet, but will be out later this year.
As a guy that hits up his fair number of gigs. Have you seen bands recently that you'd recommend us to catch live? Or Just an albums that you've got on heavy rotation?
Towards the end of last year I got to see The Thurston Moore Band live. Ive been a huge Sonic Youth fan since uni days so thats was amazing. Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine, another favourite of mine plays bass in his band as well as Steve Shelely from Sonic Youth on drums. They playing next weekend at Field Day, which Ill be going to, along with another favourite of mine The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I last saw the BJM 2011ish so really looking forward to seeing them again. I have their second last album “Revelation” on repeat at home. Also been listening to quite a bit of Hip Hop lately, MF Doom and Dr Octagon a lot and always the classic 90’s stuff like Tribe, Black Moon, Raekwon, Jeru etc...
You've been doing a lot of work with Vans recently, how did that relationship come about?
About 4 years ago a bunch of us did a road trip from Cape Town up to a ski resort in Lesotho, a land locked country in the mid western part of South Africa. The idea came about one night out as pub talk about a snowboarding trip, and then it happened. The marketing manager from Vans SA, Warren was pretty much the guy to go “right we’re actually doing this” and then went ahead and sorted all the bookings. I’d met and become friends with Warren quite a while before this trip, but a lot went down on the trip that brought all 9 of us closer together (like our breaks failing going down a 1000 meter cliff side pass) then the working relationship formed from there. The guys at Vans have been super generous with free product, and its always been such a pleasure working with them. They’ve let me have free reign on every project so far.
Is there any brands or clients that you haven't worked with that would be a life goal to work with?
Having done quite a bit of work with Vans in SA, I would love to work with the guys over here in Europe, or the states. Im a huge fan of the brand, and feel like the kind of work I want to do fits in well with what they are all about. I’d also like to do more editorial work. Magazines and books. Ive done one or two book covers recently and really enjoyed the process.
Do you have any particular favourite Bored t-shirt designs?
My favourite Bored tees are the bootleg ones. I love that classic Zorlac graphic remixed from "Shut up and Skate" to "Shut up and Shant”. Shant is such a pompey word for me. When I first moved to Pompey I didn’t know what the hell anyone was talking about, but before I knew it words like “Shant” became part of my vocab. I also love the Southsea Supreme box logo tee and of course the classic Southsea Bronx design Bruce did. Its amazing how iconic that has become.
Things you miss most about Southsea?
I miss living in a small town sometimes. Having everything a short bike ride or walk away was cool. Living closer to your friends made last minute plans possible. You kinda need to make plans in advance with people here in London, cause its generally going to be about a 45 minute travel time. Also, being that close to the sea is what I was used to growing up in a coastal town in Cape Town. The water in the Thames is a bit mank.
Would you like to give any shout outs?
Sure, first a big thank you to you guys at Bored for getting me in to do this T-shirt graphic. To all my friends in Southsea, my other friends and family in London and back in Cape Town, and to my girlfriend Lucille. My agents at Snyder NY and JSR London, and lastly to everyone that has collaborated with me since I started freelancing in 2014.
Thanks so much for the new design, it's a banger.