Illustration is typically pen on paper.

Well, turn pen into pencil and I can welcome you into the world of Oliver (Ollie) McAinsh. During the course at Winchester School of Art if you were to see pencil shavings, pencils carefully placed together and rubber close to hand you would only need to glance a little closer to see a spectacularly detailed illustration. Ollie had been there. Illustration really has transformed through the years, I would know as I ramble on about it enough, but Ollie really does keep that factor of the know illustration, exceeding limitations and boundaries through his style. He takes the hand drawn to levels that are quite remarkable and ones that you quite rarely come across.

Through integrating his drawings into the hands of viewers he really gets that interaction that all illustrators sought after, whether it is a pure amazement reaction or comical. Ollie can definitely achieve both quite cleverly. There is a mixture there, which only someone with real skill could muster. Having often sat with Ollie in tutorials and critiques I thought it was time to speak to him on more of a professional level instead of just gawping at his work. Sad but true.

One of Ollie’s most recent drawings exploring the core of identity. 

Nicola Manuel: As a first question I’m going to ask you to describe yourself as to who you are for those who may not know you.

Ollie McAinsh: I’m a recent graduate of the fairly new Graphic Arts programme at Winchester School of Art, which is where I studied on the Illustration and Animation pathway. Animation was greatly neglected however. I like realism and sprinkling the solid notion of objectivity with intriguing subjectiveness.

NM: We’re now through the majority of summer, how the devil are you and what have you been doing since university closed the doors on us?

OM: Perfecting a healthy balance of drawing, riding my bike and the dreaded job searching. I’m lucky enough to have been asked to participate with various projects and last week I volunteered at the hellohead exhibition, where I made live two minute portraits of some brave, lovely people. I’m currently working a boring day job but I’m still drawing in my free time.

NM: I’ll take you back to your final major project, looking into how museums show how the audience interacts to the pieces shown there. Why did you choose this as an idea to push your illustrations as a final piece?

OM: That series of images came from my studies of crowds I completed over a month or so. The original crowd drawings were of various groups of people in various places, such as music concerts, art exhibitions and even scenarios as mundane as train stations and zebra crossings. They didn’t sit well as a series though which is where the Natural History Museum came in, it roved a strong consistent base for my crowd drawings and the exhibits were simply a bonus that I included to join the drawings together. The series wasn’t so much to do with the interaction of exhibits and visitors, but their combined occupation of a space.

‘Mammals’, Drawing from Ollie’s Final Major Project Series.

‘Queue’, Drawing from Ollie’s Final Major Project Series.

NM: How important is the role of photography within your work?

OM: Very important! I like taking my own photos anyway so I often use them for reference, otherwise I’ll go out and take fresh new ones tailored to a specific project. Alternatively I will use existing images as reference, however I don’t enjoy this as much but sometimes I have no choice, for example I have recently been drawing portraits of rappers and film characters all of who I will most likely never encounter to take my own pictures. It’s the objectiveness of a photograph, and it’s proof that something has actually existed that I am interested in and like to exploit.

NM: Who are your main influences within the world who help your illustrations?

OM: I don’t know if I can pick just a small handful of people to write about as I feel that almost everyone I meet has some influence on me, whether that’s creatively or just generally.

NM: You have recently adopted colour within your work, do you think it is quite important to keep fresh new mediums alive? How has this benefited your work?

OM: Yes I really do. I got so used to using graphite pencils all the time that other mediums didn’t even occur to me. I began to realise that my prescribed way of working was becoming a hinderance to my creative development. Each drawing was taking me so long, so I played around with different quicker mediums and ways in which I could combine them with my accurate pencil drawings. The combination of mediums allowed me to categorise different aspects in my illustrations, for example the crowds and exhibits in my museum drawings.

NM: Is there a message you are trying to illustrate across within your drawings or does it differ per project?

OM: I guess it differs per project, there are consistent themes that carry through my work but I’m definitely not trying to preach anything in particular.

Dre. A recent drawing by Ollie. 

NM: What are your aspirations for the future?

OM: To travel and make more work that interests people.

Quick round questions to finish off…

Pen or pencil? Pencil

Beard of moustache? Beard

Dre or Biggie? Biggie

Sweet or Sour? Sour

People or place? People

So if you’re a fan of Ollie’s and appreciate the intricate detail of his pencil drawings, then have a closer look at either his blog or his illustrations. This chap definitely defines the phrase of ‘ Illustration is typically pen on paper’ and proudly.

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