Deepesh is a 23 year old illustrator and animator from Coventry, currently working for like minds in Kenilworth.
He attended Loughborough University studying Visual Communication. We caught up for a chat to find out more
about his passion for illustration and to get an understanding of the processes he goes though when creating his
work. We discover the influences and lessons learnt to make him the creative talent he is today.
Deepesh and I took an hour at lunchtime to visit one of the pubs local to us in Kenilworth to talk about his real passion for illustration and character design.
He came suitably prepared, with his Waterstone’s plastic bag (that has clearly seen better days) containing the tools of his trade. We sat down and he delved into the bag bringing out the pens that have so far helped create his wonderfully colourful, character driven world...
How do you start your illustrations - what process do you go though? How do you choose who you will draw?
When choosing, usually it’s the most interesting looking people that I see, so if someone has quite distinctive features or they themselves just look like a character, then I just have to draw them. I enjoy searching for these unusual characters and love taking them on and exaggerating their features.
I like to try and put some humour into it, as I also tend to upload them to Instagram, and sometimes write a short story to go with them. So there was this guy on the bus and the only thing I managed to scribble down was the back of his head and some quick lines for his side profile when he turned around for a split second. From there I went home and completed the sketch which I initially thought was really boring, so I developed it and made up a bit of a story.
So, does the fact you travel on the bus to work give you more time and opportunity to find these characters and do some serious people watching?
Yeah, that’s why I quite like taking trains and buses, because you get so many different people and it’s different to when you go to a coffee shop, because you’re
moving through the city and you’ll get new people on the bus. Things are constantly changing; if I go into a coffee shop and sit around for an hour, I’m probably going to be surrounded by more or less the same people for that hour.
How do you get round when things aren’t working and you are struggling to get a certain feature. Is that something you just persist with or do you get to a point when you just think this isn’t working and stop?
Sometimes I persist, sometimes I have to just stop. But I try and get down as much as I can in the situation. So if I find I have like, literally 2 seconds, just to sketch out what a person looks like, all I’m doing is putting down marks to help me remember for later on.
There’s one I have in my sketchbook where I saw this guy waiting. He had his shirt unbuttoned so you could see his stomach. He was reading a book; he had a moustache and big thick glasses; I had to quickly mark down the lines - just the important bits, two squiggles to remind me he had an unbuttoned shirt, some quick lines for glasses, a little scribble for the book he was holding - so then I went off and drew the rest from how I remembered him. I’ve not yet taken the chance to develop that one into a proper character, but I am aiming to at some point.
When you get stuck creatively, how do you overcome that?
Having a break and taking my mind off it helps. Sometimes you’ve just overworked yourself and you need to sleep or walk away from it.
Asking other people for advice is quite helpful in these situations too, just because everyone has a different perspective, they may come at the problem from a different angle.
So, do you prefer doing a complete drawing of someone in front of you or would you rather do the full sketch from memory afterwards?
I think the memory thing is something I want to work on a bit more; I don’t think I’m as skilled in that area. I found that out recently at the ITN job I did, as I was having to sketch what the person was telling me; they were saying things like ‘I want to have grandkids’ or ‘I want to go travelling’, so I was having to draw something that wasn’t there in front of me and I wasn’t anywhere near as confident in doing this. So I do want to do more things from memory, rather than just the things right in front of me.
“everyone has their own visual language”
How do you think you’ve developed over the last couple of years? Have you developed your style?
I started my current book about March time, I date each one. There’s a mixture of things in here - from really quick ones to full colour sketches. Some of them I hate, some of them I like.
Whilst going to university the tutors have always said ‘don’t concentrate on trying to find a style, its not the way you’ll get one’. I think style is a difficult thing, and I think, for me it always changes. It might stay within the umbrella of my work obviously, but personally for me I think it changes. I’m doing this drawing a day blog - is if you are drawing every single day and you’re drawing exactly the same way (starting with the nose etc). You start to think and question yourself, ‘what am I doing?’, then start to try another way of doing it, to make it more interesting.
With the drawing a day, have you found it a bit monotonous?
Yeah, I think a few months into it I thought, ‘I’m not progressing, I’m doing the same thing every day’. It got to a point when I thought ‘I’ve got to change it up a bit’, so I threw in some bigger, more detailed sketches when I had a bit more time in the day.
It’s why I’ve started to try and push on; like with this one. There was this guy I saw in Nottingham in a coffee shop. I had a blue pen to hand - I always do the red or blue outline first and colour them in afterwards. He obviously didn’t look quite like this, I’ve exaggerated it a fair bit, but I’d rather do that than what I was doing earlier on, when I was doing more representational stuff. It’s still good to do that (the representative stuff) as a study of people and features, although my personal goal every time I sketch people, is not to just draw what’s in front of me, but to try and create a character; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
I love your sketchbook - some of the pages could be taken and framed; do you worry about making mistakes?
What I’ve realised about sketchbooks is it is a place where you can make mistakes - it’s supposed to be a load of bad drawings and you might, one day, have a good drawing in there. I think earlier, when I was at school and those early years of uni, I was too scared to use a sketchbook. I thought everything had to be perfect - but that way you don’t really do anything. You don’t progress and things don’t change.
With the drawing-a-day project I just had to keep going, even if its a bad drawing. In comparison, if you go out with a camera you’ll often take a thousand pictures and 90% you probably aren’t going to show, but every now and then you’ll get one or two great shots, which is exactly how I think it is with drawings in a sketchbook.
I agree, although I do think there is a slight difference, the fact I can just delete mine, but I guess that’s better for you in a way, as its there as a permanent reminder?
Yeah, it’s good having it on paper, so you can look through it and think about what’s wrong with it - it’s right there staring you in the face, so you have to confront it - it’s not just all in your head. I think if it is all in your mind and you aren’t putting things on paper every day then you’d probably find yourself thinking ‘Oh I could have drawn that if I wanted to’. Then you realise when you come to do it, that the things you’re thinking in your head, you can’t actually do yet. You need to train your hands to do that first.
Your lecturers advised that you shouldn’t try and find a style; but I do think your work has a definite style - the sketches can be easily identified as your work can’t they?
Well, at university they didn’t call it a style, they called it a ‘visual language’. Everyone has their own visual language. It’s kinda to do with who your influences are and your own personal journey into art.
So, if I was going to draw a guy sat in front of me alongside another illustrator, I’d interpret in my way and they’d do it in theirs. That’s a good example of what visual language can be. It’s great that they told us not to try and discover our style. It gave us all a bit more freedom and it meant I could just have fun and try stuff.
How do you know when your work is finished and are you ever tempted to over do it?
I think I’m able to control myself - if it’s a commission for someone else I don’t want to be experimental, especially when it’s at a stage where it’s almost done; I don’t want to think ‘oh, let me try this’ because you want it to be good for the person you are doing it all for.
But it’s hard to say when it’s complete; if it’s for me, I’m more likely to try new things and be as experimental as I want to be.
There are some good examples in this sketchbook of when I’ve made a mistake or tried something that didn’t really go to plan, but then again it didn’t really matter because it’s in my sketchbook - it’s where I do the ‘working out’. For this sketch, I messed up on the eyes with a thick pen, so I then covered the whole forehead in black and turned it into a shadow. I think it does make it look a lot more interesting than if I’d just left it; I guess it’s about being brave.
My personal work I should be more risky with the way I exaggerate people. It’s how I can develop.
Have you got a creative tip for something you do in your work?
For jotting down quick lines of characters, I usually draw the lines without looking at the paper. I think it’s important, especially in the initial sketch stages, to look at the subject more than the actual drawing, because it forces you to observe.
Also I think it’s important to practice every day, even if it’s just for a little bit.
I think a good tip is to know that sometimes you have off-days and not to let that discourage you. All that’s happening here, is that your ambition is higher than your skill, and that’s good. You wouldn’t want it to be the other way around.
Do you have much of a response from the people that you are capturing - do people ever object or ask what you are doing?
As far as I know, none of the people that I have drawn have noticed that I have been drawing them, nor have they come up to me - if anyone does talk to me. It’s usually someone near or next to me. They will see that I’m drawing someone across from me and then we’ll have a chat about what I’m doing.
Has anyone seen your work and requested that you draw them?
Luckily not while I’ve been sketching in public! To me, that would be the worst question ever, because then you are being put on the spot, and you don’t have the freedom to be as ‘mean’ or as creative as you’d want to be. Like I said earlier, a sketchbook is where you make bad drawings. I have had friends or friends of friends that have seen my work online and requested commissions which I’m more than happy to do.
But you could still be brave with it?
I guess so; when I was in India, my family over there would request portraits all the time. In a way it did help me overcome the fear of doing that. I know whenever I start a drawing that it could go wrong, or could go right, but then it’s getting over that fear - luckily all of the sketches I did of my family members turned out to look like them!
And so that helped with work recently, with the ITN job you were involved in?
Yeah it really did help. I only had 3-5 minutes to draw people so I decided that there was no time for the pencil stage. Both the ITN job and drawing my family members in India were good practice for drawing portraits from life, because I was put in a situation where they expected a drawing to be done there and then. Which was good because it helped me not waste time and to get over the fear of drawing people from life (not get completely over it because it is a scary thing.) I think it taught me that whatever happens, happens. All I can do is do the best I can in the time I have.
When did you realise that you could draw and that it was something you could pursue?
Well, I’ve been drawing all my life - obviously every kid draws, but I guess I just never stopped drawing. I then probably started to take it more seriously, maybe about the time of my GCSE’s. I think it was more having competition and realising there were some really good people in my class. They were so much better than me and I think that propelled me to push my work even more. It’s interesting as not everyone is like that; some would find that the competition put them off - it’s too hard to make a go of it.
I did hit that stage where I thought ‘what’s the point? There are people miles ahead of me, why should I bother?’ I then realised that that’s not really a good attitude to have. It’s good to have competition to help you drive your own work as it pushes you further than you yourself ever will and it gives you something to aim for.
I do feel incredibly lucky to be around such talented people.
So did you find that you were looking at these people less as competition and more as inspiration?
Of course, I don’t think my work would be what it is today without those people. You can learn a lot from others.
Sometimes you’ll see the techniques that they use to do things; how they might interpret a nose or torso. You don’t necessarily copy it, you’d just take it on board and think about how that was different from the way that you do it. Taking it a stage further, I’d see if I could incorporate that way of looking at things into my work.
Have you ever worked in collaboration with another artist?
I did collaborate on one or two projects and remember enjoying them. I’m now messaging people from my old classes and organising projects where I think we’d work well together. A good way of collaborating is looking at your strengths, looking at other people’s strengths and seeing where they can fit together. For example, I’m starting a project pretty soon with a great illustrator - one of the best I’ve worked with. So while her strengths are in illustration, I feel like my passion is in animation (I’m not that experienced in it yet but I want to be a lot better). So we’re hoping to combine our skills and create some animated shorts. We’ve got some ideas together and we’re looking forward to it!
You mentioned near the beginning that you wanted to start doing more work from memory and imagination. Have you started working on that already?
Yeah I have, I did one last night that wasn’t based on anyone; I closed my eyes and visualised someone, and without looking at the paper putting some lines down.
It’s something I am hoping to do more of - I find when your eyes are open you can sometimes concentrate too hard and all of the fun and the exaggeration can get lost because you’ve been trying to draw the person exactly how they anatomically should be.
“I think its important to surround yourself
with like minded people”
So we talked about inspirations and role models. Obviously you’ve mentioned students and classmates you’ve been mixing with, is there anyone else?
I think above all, it’s important to surround yourself with like minded people, as you help each other get to where you want to go. Also if you think someone is really good at something and you’re surrounded by people like them, it’s almost as if their talent rubs off on you a little.
Other inspirations - when I was first starting out, back when I was really into oil painting at school, my inspirations were people like Rubens and Caravaggio, which is an early example of my interest in drawing people - although I reckon it goes back further than that. Now I look up to illustrators such as Will Terrell who often goes people sketching to aid his character design skills. If you look at his sketches you’d probably be able to see where my inspiration comes from.
He also often uses brown paper which has become my preferred sketching paper.
With a white sketchbook its a bit daunting as nothing is there - you have to create something in a blank space. He makes a lot of YouTube videos where he’s sketching and talking about a range of things from what it’s like getting into the industry, his own processes and general stuff like relationships, the people you surround yourself with, which is probably where a little of what I was saying stems from. There’s talk about positive thinking and the videos each have a different point to make, whether its overcoming fear or getting out of a rut. Sometimes when I sit at home sketching, I’ll listen to these videos in the background. It’s quite good to do - very motivational.
What other creative training do you do outside of work? You mentioned the videos by Terrell, is there anything else?
Watching videos helps quite a lot. There are a lot of other YouTubers I follow who have similar channels to Will Terrell, such as Bobby Chiu and Sycra.
I like to practice sketching poses/anatomy, which I feel like I’ve neglected for a while so I’ll need to get back on that.
Also watching things like TED Talks while I work helps to motivate me and sometimes just collaborating with other artists helps push my creativity.
Photographers will often discuss the shots they didn’t get or the opportunites they have missed - there must have been people you’ve wanted to sketch that you haven’t had the chance to?
Yeah, I see them a lot - especially when I visit places like London, or even smaller towns like Loughborough.; certain places seem to have so many characters I want to draw, I carry a sketchbook with me wherever I go so that if that happens I can try and document the lines and give myself the best chance to create these characters.
Have you missed any opportunites due to being unsure or through fear?
Recently I have had the mentality that if I’m given an opportunity I will just say yes without thinking about it - then the fear comes afterwards. But I think that’s good, because that way I’m not letting opportunities slip by.
Have you done an assignment/project outside the office that has really benefitted your work?
I can’t really think of a ‘break-through’ moment where I’ve suddenly become wiser with one project, I think it’s just that over time, the more projects I do I might learn a little fraction of something new, whether that’s how to work with other people, how to continue when things go wrong or just skills in creative software.
So where do you think or hope your illustration will take you? What do you think the future holds?
I enjoy creating characters and I think I want to get more into telling stories - anything that allows me to do both would be great.
Finally the very last question - are you creatively satisfied?
Well, I’m not dissatisfied, but I know there is a lot that I still want to do!
How would you describe yourself?
I guess I’d call myself an illustrator/animator. Or an illustrator who really wants to be an animator.
If you weren’t able to illustrate how would you express your creativity?
I’d probably get more into creative writing, from short stories to poetry. I’ve done some here and there but I’dlike to get more into it.
Very difficult - I’ll just name a handful of my favourite albums: Of Monsters and Men: Beneath The Skin, Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Arcadium, Michael Jackson: Bad, Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction, Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory
Must watch film/tv show?
TV: (recent/current) – Stranger Things, Narcos, Bates Motel.
Film: The Guest, Psycho, Robocop, Drive, Memento, Ink, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, It Follows.
Favourite book? The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
The Watchers - Neil Spring
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change”– Wayne Dyer
Favourite place you’ve travelled?
Venice & New York
Where would you love to visit?
Florence, San Francisco, Guanajuato, Tokyo, it would be nice to go around China too! I think these are just a handful of places that I feel that I need to see. I think because in my illustration work I’m constantly observing.
Websites you regularly visit?
I don’t think there are particular websites I visit regularly, apart from things like Vimeo for animations. I think I mainly just keep up to date with certain profiles I follow on social media, which includes a range of different artists.
Will Terrell, Bobby Chiu, Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Stephen Collins and Mr. Bingo.
You have 24 hours to live -how do you spend your time?
I think I’d just spend my time observing. Just looking at everything and really take it all in. I think we all overlook the brilliance, the details and the moments
of the world during our busy lives.
This reminds me of Don Hertzfeldt’s animated short ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ which follows a man with an unknown illness. When a doctor tells him he doesn’t have long to live, he starts noticing the details of the world around him that he’s passed every day but never truly appreciated. He wants to stop people in the street and say ‘Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t everything amazing?’
Massive thank you to Deepesh and we hope you’ve enjoyed this interview.
You can find out more about the work and projects Deepesh is involved in by visiting the following links:
Behance - www.behance.net/DeepeshPatel
Instagram - www.instagram.com/deepeshpatel.illustration
Drawing a day - www.deepeshpatel-drawingaday.tumblr.com