FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
ALED LEWIS: My sketchbook is a very important starting point. It’s where I doodle and note down most of my goofy thoughts. For the most part it’s indecipherable, abstract nonsense – but I find noting everything down then going back can provoke the imagination. I love working from home and being my own boss – although you need some degree of discipline. I often find my self in ‘unsociable’ work patterns – getting up late and working in the early hours of the morning when the world is quieter. You should exploit the time you are most productive.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
AL: I’m a bit of a hoarder but find it easy to purge when I need to. Living in a small flat in Central London it’s necessary to let go of things to make space. One of my favourite objects is a painting by Scott C that I bought my wife, Abigail. It’s one of his Great Showdowns and depicts the famous showdown between Luke (Paul Newman) and 50 delicious eggs from Cool Hand Luke (Abi’s favourite film). We were lucky to meet Scott in San Francisco while on a road-trip down Highway One. I guess that counts as sentimental, right?
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
AL: My Wacom Intuous 4. It’s completely vital to the way that I work (so much that I bought one to travel with). I’ve been holding off from the Wacom Cintiq which allows you draw directly onto a screen. That upgrade is not within my immediate budget but it’s definitely a step-up I’m going to make soon.
FYD: Where did you adopt your sense of humor?
AL: My mum used to point out I would ‘laugh at everything.’ Sometimes I laugh in anticipation of the punchline! I enjoy the joke, the journey to the punchline, and the delivery. I’m absolutely terrible at recalling and telling jokes but find myself thinking about how a joke could be delivered better. When you’re a bit smaller and skinnier that everyone else you have to find other ways to compete. A sense of humour and self-deprecation becomes a useful tool – not only to disarm people but to amuse yourself.
You should exploit the time you are most productive.
FYD: Maybe it’s smart to interject a little bit of laughter in lieu of our current events. Outside of your work; where do you find humor?
AL: Sitcoms have always been an important part of my comic sensibilities. A lot of my pieces have a comic narrative. The basic formula for all situation comedy is the meeting of the ordinary and the extraordinary (see my Foam Monster in Emotional Reunion With Severed Limb; right). The two shows I’m most excited about right now are Parks & Recreation and Arrested Development. I feel comedy has become much more complex and interesting in the past few years. There’s more humour in what is not said, rather than what is.
In terms of finding humour – it’s usually the most mundane which provides the starting point for an idea. My internal monologue is often along the lines of: “That’s boring. It would be interesting if THIS happened,” and an idea is hatched. Not always a good one, but an idea nonetheless!
FYD: How did you concept your Toy Series and their fantastic, pithy sayings?
AL: I saw plastic animal figures in a toy store and thought how boring they were. As I sorted through them, I imagined they could be in conversation with each other. I first picked up a bunch of horses and a unicorn rearing up on his hind legs. I imagined they were bitching about this unicorn showing off his horn – and my first idea was born. Most figures I find are beautifully made and when photographed many people don’t immediately recognise them as being toys. Some play on the nature of the animal, some a pun on the creature’s name, some draw on pop culture and other ideas simply transpose the toys into common human situations.
FYD: On the food chain; what animal would you want to be and why?
AL: Probably a Chimp or a Howler Monkey. They don’t have too many natural predators as far as I know and it seems like a pretty chill life. I’ve actually given this some real thought.
My workspace is now somewhere for me to surround myself with inspiring things, relax and get lost in my work.
FYD: Talk about your mash-ups of say Leisure Suit Larry strolling into the diner from Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks. How did this come about?
AL: That was one of a series of pieces I did for the SUPER iam8bit 2011 show in LA. I was a massive fan of the Sierra and LucasArts games in the late 80s and early 90s and wanted to pay tribute to them. Adventure games like these are underrepresented in favour of iconic Nintendo games. I wanted to mash-up these game screens with instantly recognisable art pieces. The Leisure Suit Larry- Nighthawks idea just jumped out at me and I didn’t think twice. It was also paying tribute to original games which worked with limited tools and palettes to create immersive environments — in itself a form of abstract art.
FYD: In your video games versus real life, maybe we’re living with feet in both worlds and can’t escape the digital? What are you trying to say?
AL: That is increasingly true, especially with the advent of augmented reality. This project was more about expressing how gamers see gaming ‘worlds.’ Today, it’s not such an issue when graphic processing means, relatively speaking, gaming environments are increasingly realistic with physics and light. Playing old games as a kid there was an unconscious suspension of reality. Looking back, I remember them being more complex and interesting. It’s obviously tongue in cheek, but this series was meant to demonstrate how gamers see these crude pixellated environments when they are completely immersed in a game.
A sense of humour and self-deprecation becomes a useful tool – not only to disarm people but to amuse yourself.
FYD: Are you a bit nostalgic for the 8-bit characters like Mario and Zelda?
AL: I’m nostalgic and they evoke happy memories for me and other people, but I don’t get too sentimental about them. I love video games but rarely pick up old games. I tend to look forward and get excited about the latest developments in the industry.
FYD: So you never pick up an old video game or first generation Atari?
AL: I find picking up old games almost always leads to a sense of jaded disappointment. I have the collection of Atari games on my iPad but the nostalgia factor is stronger than the magic of playing them. I long to play GoldenEye 64 but don’t want to undermine a childhood of fond memories. The best way to celebrate and remember is by paying tribute to them in our work as nerdy designers!