Illustrator Peter Greenwood:’I always Begin with a 2H pencil’

Having created illustrations for Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, illustrator Peter Greenwood talks to us about the process behind his sleek vector artworks and how he got on trying out the Isometric Studio in Affinity Designer.

Tell us about yourself and how you got started as an illustrator.

My name is Peter Greenwood, I live and work in Brighton on the South Coast of the UK. I’ve been an illustrator for 20 years now and I work in a shared studio in the centre of town. I studied illustration at Brighton University and back then it was early days of computer-generated illustration and image-making but I decided to take it on and learn how to use the programmes available. I’ve been a freelance illustrator ever since.

How would you define your style?

Graphic, detailed and retro-tinged.

An isometric image of a seaplane created by Peter in Affinity Designer.

Where do you go to find inspiration?

Some of my inspiration comes from the stuff I loved when I was a kid, so old cartoons and films, I also very much love mid-century art from Art Deco through to post-war, a couple of my favourite artists are Abram Games, AM Cassandre and Tom Eckersley.

Talk us through your workflow; how do your designs tend to develop?

I always start with a 2H pencil. I have to have a very sharp point to it as I draw really small… so I sit with my scalpel and sharpen it while working out what I’m going to do! I draw ideas and compositions very small on A4 sheets of paper. I always do as much research as possible on the subject. From there I can refine the elements and composition. Once I’m happy with a couple of routes, I scan it into the app and place it on a layer to work over it.

A homage to Dieter Rams and an early test of Affinity Designer by Peter.

Which illustrators/designers today do you admire the most?

I really like the various approaches to illustration from the LaBoca studio and Nishant Choksi, very intelligent funny work! My all-time favourite artist is Ralph Steadman and he is still producing great work.

How do people typically react to your work? And what do you hope they take away from your designs?

I find that people generally really like what I do. I’ve got an eye for detail and a sense of reality in a simple graphic form that people engage with. I like to include a sense of humour somewhere along the line if I can, which hopefully is something that people can connect with.

“I like to include a sense of humour somewhere along the line if I can, which hopefully is something that people can connect with.”

We originally approached you about creating illustrations using the Isometric Studio in Affinity Designer—how did you find this experience?

I was amazed by how easy it was to very quickly set the parameters for the snap grid. The ease of creating a bespoke angle meant I could adjust the grid to fit my drawing. When I’m drawing up a rough for an isometric illustration I use a parallel roller ruler which is great. So the ability to fix the grid in Affinity to the angles I choose in the rough is essential.

The Snap To Grid feature when creating shapes was great to use and took out a lot of pain. I liked the way it could be applied to any shape or dimension and the toggle between the three facets is easy and useful. I really liked how the shape would hold to the grid however you changed its size etc., the workflow on this was great. Its editability function is very useful.

Paris-New York isometric illustration created by Peter Greenwood for Affinity.

What did you like best about working in Affinity Designer?

The crossover from Vector Persona to Pixel Persona is great, very easy. As mentioned I like the Isometric Studio a lot. I also really like the ease of placing objects within objects and the layers palette is great in this aspect. It feels very easy and has a flow to it that makes for a great experience where you don’t really notice it, which is good. Also, the Gradient, Noise and Opacity sliders are really good to work with. On the whole, I would say it’s got some really great features that push vector illustration forwards

Talk us through the process of designing and creating the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ piece you made for our 1.8 update campaign.

I wanted to create an image that was a fantastical illustration that would be a challenge to create as an isometric. I love architecture and flying cars, so it felt like a great fit as an idea to show off the isometric route for this piece. The drawing up of this took a while to get right as I had to search out the various buildings etc and get them right. Using the grid made it an easy approach as opposed to having perspective but it was still a bit tricky getting the lighting etc., correct.

“I love architecture and flying cars, so it felt like a great fit”

How long does it typically take to create a piece like this?

This took about three days, it’s a complex image. I do get carried away with detail sometimes and have to be careful to rein that in sometimes as I could quite happily sit there all day adding details etc., that no one will see.

How do you hope your work will evolve over the next five years?

I enjoy evolving my work and not standing still, I’ve got a restless side to me that likes to move forwards all the time, so I’m confident this will happen as it has in the past.

An illustration Peter created for the Wall Street Journal.

What would be a dream commission for you?

I really enjoy anything to do with Space travel so a nice job from Elon Musk or NASA would be great.

What’s your ultimate goal as an illustrator/graphic designer?

I just enjoy being busy and moving things forward, the excitement of a new commission for me is a goal in itself as it means what I’ve been doing has worked.

A TIME Magazine cover designed by Peter Greenwood.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

The advice I would give is to treat it as a job, to be professional about it, to really show up for work even if you don’t have a commission to work on there is an opportunity to do personal work or advertise your portfolio etc. There’s lots to learn and develop and this all takes time and dedication. Also, I would suggest that the best work comes from the things that excite you and you connect with…you should put them in your work.


You can see more of Peter’s work at peter-greenwood.com and by following him on Instagram.


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