Rupert Skelton’s illustrations are filled with rich colours and imaginative details. The Falmouth University graduate has honed a distinctive style inspired by 1980s cinema. But while his work brings to mind the aesthetic of vaporwave and vintage arcade games, it tackles some very modern themes – from surveillance capitalism and the climate crisis to the rise of synthetic and lab-grown meat.
Skelton’s work demonstrates a keen eye for composition – and a sense of humour. He’s also experimented with animation, creating moving illustrations with flashing buttons and dials. Here, he talks to CR about his work and what he plans to do next.
Creative Review: What led you to study illustration?
Rupert Skelton: I’ve always drawn since I was a child. I was working a full-time job in central London that didn’t really fulfil me creatively and one day I decided that I wanted to fully devote my self to illustration. I haven’t looked back since.
CR: Why did you decide to study at Falmouth?
RS: I’d always heard good things about Falmouth. I wanted a change of scene. A little Cornish seaside town 300 miles from home sounded ideal.
CR: Is there anyone or anything that has been a particular source of inspiration to you – or a big influence on your work?
RS: I’m really inspired by 80s movies. I don’t know, I’ve always sort of done my own thing. I don’t really spend too much time looking at other illustrators on Instagram or Pinterest. I get inspired by everyday life. People at work, weird happenings. I sometimes get inspired by listening to weird instrumental music.
CR: And can you tell us a little about your work – are there any themes or ideas you’re particularly interested in exploring?
RS: I’m definitely interested in tech. I love drawing/animating little flashing lights, screens, dials and buttons. I also love drawing people doing things and interacting with one another. I like to make subtle social commentary. I like to explore the weird and wonderful of the everyday.
CR: What are you working on now that you’ve graduated?
RS: I’m currently working on an animated music video which will feature a character walking through a city at night with lots of weird and bizarre things happening in the background.
CR: What would be your dream project?
RS: My dream role would be to work with a big name like Nike and create a series of illustrations/ animations for a big advertising campaign where I’m able to really be free with my style.
CR: What was the best piece of advice you received at university?
RS: Don’t be afraid of art directors. They’re just people!
CR: How are you feeling about leaving uni and embarking on your professional career? And how do you feel your time at Falmouth helped you prepare for this?
RS: I feel excited and confident but it’s not been easy so far. I’m currently working full time in a restaurant to pay my way and drawing in my free time. I am remaining positive as I know it takes a while to set up as a proper illustrator. I am very much looking forward to the day where I can leave the restaurant and make a living doing what I love to do best.