London Art Spot: David Stevenson

Calling various bits of East and South London home for over a decade, illustrator and animator David Stevenson can’t imagine living anywhere else. He tells me the average person only stays in London for seven years so he counts this as a tiny moral victory. He was born in Wolverhampton.

David’s work is influenced by Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson, the internet and literally whatever the last thing is that he saw or read. He’s always doodling stupid stuff (his words, not mine!). He also admits to wasting far too much time in front of a computer. He draws things for anyone who will pay.

Recently married, he drew himself as a gorilla on his wedding invitation so keep that in mind when you get to the question about his self-portrait in this week’s London Art Spot interview. He also lets us in on the bizarre way he heard of Michael Jackson’s death and shows off an illustration he feels really captures Sean Connery’s sexual magnetism.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
DS:
Obviously there are loads of creative things going on in a city this size, but mostly it’s the people. When you hit a creative snag you can get out of the studio, jump on a bus and just people-watch until you buck your ideas up.

LLO: A lot of your illustrations are comments on current events or the arts. What inspires you and what’s your favourite source of daily news?
DS:
Rumour, opinion and word of mouth. And by word of mouth, I mean the internet really. You can hear the news anywhere now – and quicker than the proper news channels. The way I heard about Michael Jackson’s death? An orc told me, in World of Warcraft. Of course I googled it; you don’t just take the word of an orc you don’t know. But I like that randomness.

LLO: You’ve had some big clients like Amnesty International, Orange and Warner Brothers. Who’s your dream client?
DS:
High profile clients are useful, because they do open the door for more opportunities. But if you’re involved in something genuinely good, chances are people will hear about it.

LLO: I hear you also do some comedy nights. Tell us something funny?
DS:
I’m not one of those funny comedians. I do stand-up pathos; roughly five minutes of quivering my lip, then a single tear trickles down my chin. It’s very moving. Some audiences have moved right out of the building.

LLO: Where can we catch your next stand-up gig?
DS:
The London comedy scene is pretty quiet during the summer months, as everybody decamps to Edinburgh. So I’ll be chilling out until Autumn, making an effort to be as unfunny as possible.

LLO: What sort of animation projects have you worked on?
DS:
Very quick stop-motion videos for songs, mostly written by my good friend Rob Manuel. Generally we go for a very fast, hand-made feel to keep the energy high. It’s more immediately satisfying using objects in the real world than being stuck in an animation programme.

LLO: If you were to do a self-portrait illustration, what would it look like?
DS:
Me. It would look like me. I hope.

LLO: Which illustration are you most proud of and why?
DS:
I like my picture of Zardoz, which I’d say totally captures Sean Connery’s sexual magnetism.

LLO: Are there any public figures in the spotlight at the moment you’ve got your eyes on to illustrate?
DS:
Ed Balls is so pleasingly ugly that I really hope he does more stuff to get on the news. Like eat some orphans or something.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
DS:

Hartwig Braun – Illustrator
Duncan Smith – Children’s Illustrator
Daniella Baptista – Photographer
Gerald Scarfe – Legendary Cartoonist

Thanks David!

For more of David’s work, check out his website: http://www.david-stevenson.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Guest Post: Africa’s Sweetest Voices in London

Written by Efemena Agadama, a poet and playwright, originally from Nigeria, who is working on his first novel. 
He normally contributes articles to
his Amnesty International blog.

_______

“The man who can dominate a London dinner table can dominate the world.” – Oscar Wilde

From top left: Lily Mabura and Namwali Serpell;
From bottom left: Alex Smith, Olufemi Terry, and Ken Barris

As London remains the global city of literature, where the great minds of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, George Elliot, Oscar Wilde, Dickens, Milton, and Keats once held sway, the sweet voices of Africa shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for Africa Writing converged at the prestigious Travel Bookshop at Notting Hill on July 3, 2010.

But this time around, it wasn’t the flag of the English literature that they hoisted, though with due respect to the English literature.  It was the brightly coloured rainbow flag of the sweet African literature; the literature where words of wisdom, onomatopoeic rhythms, drama and compact plots entwine to weave the beautiful honeycomb of a unique world literature that has been the love of other world literatures.

And the revered voices were Namwali Serpell, Alex Smith, Olufemi Terry, Ken Barris and Lily Mabura.  Oh! It was a lovely and endearing gathering.  They were so humble and social that you wouldn’t be able to identify them.  Even I couldn’t identify them.  However, I guessed on one – Namwali Serpell.  As soon as she entered with all smiles, complexion of a mixed race, pretty hair style and a modest gown, she hugged two members of the audience at the front row, and I was behind at the third row.  In fact, I felt hugged too.  I felt her hugging me with her pretty smiles.  And when she smiled at them, I still felt she was smiling at me.  Please, don’t laugh at me.  The aura of the African literature that the five shortlisted writers brought into The Travel Bookshop auditorium could make anyone feel hugged in such a situation.  Now I understand why people used to fight over Michael Jackson’s shirt during performance.  Look at me fighting over a hug in my spirit.

After a while, the moderator, Saara Marchadour hit the drum for the music of the day to begin.  She in her modesty asked them one after the other to read excerpts from their shortlisted entries.  Ken Barris started the drumming.  He stood up and began reading from his “The Life of Worm.”  Its reading had the professionalism of a news caster.  He cleverly alternated his eyes between the script and the audience.  Alex Smith read hers “Soulmates” with a very emotional tone; Sharp, clear and with subtle demonstrative cues of drama.  As she read, one could hear the words like the rendition of an actress on Shakespeare Globe Theatre during the performance of Macbeth this past June.  Olufemi Terry had a louder voice.  I think his body build added substance to his voice – softly audacious.  Then Namwali read from her “Muzungu”.  She read with a dramatic flow and a clear voice.  As she read one could see a reflection of all her travellings in her rising and falling tone.  And the fifth shortlisted writer, Lily Mabura with her creative candour, gave us a noble background to her story and set the fire aglow to signal the end of the reading sessions.

Thereafter, the respected and famous Saara Marchadour of the Travel Bookshop interviewed them on the stories and inspiration behind their shortlisted works.  And she opened the floor for audience members to ask questions.

It was lovely and very exciting.  Just being in the presence of these great writers is like being locked in a small room with a million and a million of Shakepeare, Wordsworth, Soyinka, Achebe and Coetzee.  These shortlisted writers have really re-hoisted the African literature flag in London and it now flies higher.  Really, London remains the world’s leading city in Arts and Literature.