Gradwatch 2018: Illustrator Chris Hampton, University of Dundee

Illustrator Chris Hampton is one of the 10 creatives we have picked to feature in our annual Gradwatch showcase; putting the spotlight on art and design graduates who we feel produce outstanding work

Bustled, print design depicting big city madness. To be sold as part of ’12×12′ – a project where 12 artists sell prints of their work over the course of 12 months with one month dedicated to each artist

Informed by video game art as well as more traditional fine art techniques, Chris Hampton has developed a distinct visual style while studying at the Art School of Dundee University. His work is invariably engaging, packed with details that draw the eye in. We speak to him about his practice, his university experience and the joy of scribbling.

Creative Review: Where does your inspiration come from? 
Chris Hampton: My source of inspiration often comes from classic Fleischer Studio cartoons, street art and life as a city dweller. A lot of the personalities I create are influenced by real people I’ve seen or bumped into. I like to amplify aspects of these characters, inflating or distorting them. I find it really interesting transforming characters to the point of almost being visual motifs.

I’m really into gathering a combination of marks made, pencil drawings, textures and shapes then building on them digitally or creating a risograph/screen print. Experimenting with a combination of these techniques helps me find something with movement and character. The relationship between using physical materials and screen-based work is really interesting to me. I enjoy seeing what I can get from a scribble or a slap of paint.

Street Feast, promotional concept design for Street Feast London, produced as an A2 Giclée print
Coffee Junkies, digital print depicting characters who are very enthusiastic about coffee. Also part of the ’12×12′ project

CR: What made you want to study illustration? Were you happy with the course you chose?
CH: I’d say my work bounces around somewhere between graphics and fine art. Illustration brought these aspects together really comfortably for me in an applicable way. I had previously studied in a digital art course in Dundee which had a focus on video game art and interactive media. Perhaps this design of video game characters comes out in my work, I could see them coming to life in this way. I chose to build on this by taking my work in a more hands-on, tactile direction by studying at Duncan of Jordanstone Art and Design school. I knew the route I wanted to take my work in, though I was still jumping between disciplines.

It naturally made sense for me to progress within the Art School of Dundee University as there was already a foundation of links between the courses as well as an inspiring array of facilities. It helped that the art school is so highly ranked and regarded. I’m really pleased with what I got from studying Illustration here, it allowed me to find my footing in a more established direction creatively. It also allowed me to make valuable links with other designers and makers which I doubt I would have had the chance to otherwise.

An Ear for Music, digital poster about an imaginary club night called ‘Guilty Club’. Part of a series of prints

CR: What sort of stuff are you working on at the moment?
CH: Right now I am undertaking a combination of creative challenges and briefs after exhibiting at the New Blood Festival. I’m always setting myself personal briefs and experimenting with more fine-art pieces. I’ve had the chance to experiment with riso-printing at DJCAD and I am continuing in that direction. It’s such a great form of working for me which can allow for varying degrees of spontaneity or a measured approach. I’m also currently developing a series of prints to be sold in venues of a craft beer business as well as producing a conceptual infographic for a design studio.

CR: Now that you’ve made an entry into the professional world, what sort of work would you like to take on?
CH I’m really keen to take my work in multiple directions. I’m interested in editorial and promotional work as well packaging or even mural design. I’ve been experimenting in screen-based work and animation also so there’s really not an avenue I wouldn’t explore, though I would say my strength is in print.

Elements of Dreams Riso Zine, pages from a two colour risograph zine concerning dreamt scenarios with a 90’s McDonald’s colour theme

CR: What advice do you have for someone starting out and still in search of their voice as an artist?
My advice to newer artists or designers would be to try and develop an identifiable style of working or a niche, something that is recognisable as being personal to you. My style is still developing in weird directions all the time so I think the best approach is just to experiment and see if something starts to stick visually. I think it’s really beneficial to link up with other artists and creatives as inspiration and opportunities can always arise from it. If nothing else it can give you an insight into where your work sits within your peer group and the industry in general.

@c.hamptnchris-hampton.comMore from CR’s Gradwatch scheme here