An interview with an International Illustrator

Rich Fairhead is a recognised illustrator based in South London. As an international illustrator, Rich’s event work has taken him to Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and London Cocktail Week, as well as Levis (Beijing), Landing Forty Two and Grom Gelato. We’ve sat down with him to go behind the scenes about his speciality talent.

Rich, how did it all begin?

“I think I worked on my first live draw for a show with my brother (also an illustrator) in Whitechapel when I was first starting out around 10 years ago, not long after university. It was on the wall of the gallery space, the front of an old converted fire station. We somehow managed to pack the place out on opening night – it was called ‘Gods’ Sketchbook’.” Very cool.

What was the ‘tipping point’ for your business when you knew you were onto something?

“I was starting to get more and more clients get in touch after seeing the live drawings for promotional events for Camel, Farah and EastPak. After my first live draw at Landing Forty Two, it also showed clients I could work on other surfaces other than walls and paper!”

What has been the most extravagant event that you’ve worked on so far?

“I’ve worked on loads of varied and random projects but I think my trip to Beijing to create a piece for Levi’s would be the most extravagant. Also, there was another project with my brother, we were commissioned by Sticker Bomb and Levi’s to create two bespoke black and white murals alongside denim patch designs over two days. Always open to a trip back to China!”

We know you create the coolest prints and bold illustrations, where do you get your inspiration from?

“Ha, cheers! I get inspiration from hand rendered typography, old sailor tattoos, 50’s ads, rum as well as Johnny Cash, movies, London, skulls and footie players. Even scummy pubs!”

How has social media helped to grow your business?

“The more people that can see my drawings the better, so social media is a massive help. My work is all image based so I’ve found Instagram the best platform to take a decent photo and instantly connect to similar image makers and potentally future clients. Its good to ‘annoy’ followers with new work.”

You have come so far… and so quickly! What have been the biggest lessons that you have learnt along the way?

“It has taken a while to build a client base for my illustration and get to a place that is ‘fairly’ secure. Since working for myself full time I’d say the main lessons would be;

Its good to work on projects out of your comfort zone. It took me a while to get used to live drawing in front of a lot of people but I enjoy it now.

It is ok to give clients your feedback on projects if you’ve got the experience.

Smash out the personal projects and get out to see different things to get inspiration!”

What has been one of the best moments in business so far?

“I’d say having clients use me because they like my style and trust me to create a bespoke piece is always always inspiring. The best part of my job is no two days are the same. I get to work alongside other designers on joint projects and travel to places that wouldn’t happen without illustration.”

And finally, if you were to give advice to your 20 year old self, what would it be?

“Have confidence in your own style and stick by your ideas… and don’t work for free!”

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