We caught up with Rob Draper to discuss his exciting new project Your Words, My Hands, his artistic process, and the power of the written word.

AR: Can you tell us a bit about your new launch? Why have you decided to revisit ‘Your Words, My Hands’? 

Rob: Because of the feedback I get every time I do it. I love the concept of being able to illustrate all these different requests, some deeply personal, sad, funny, weird, sexual, motivational messages. I love the idea of the contrast of the chaos and urgency of the lettering style mounted on the wall in someone’s perfectly tidy home or office. I initially started the project on my own but really enjoy working with the great team at Art Republic and GF Smith and pulling their skill sets into the mix.

AR: Is there anything from the last ‘Your Words, My Hands’ release that you have changed? Has the process been refined in any way? 

Rob: Yes. Each time the project appears the aim is to retain the same hand style, the immediacy and purity of the personal messages but introduce a new limited aspect to each launch, whether that is different ink colours or different paper stock. Over time the aim is that the essence and concept of the project remains, but visually it is linked and limited to that particular launch. This time around we have metallic silver or gold ink, the ink is solvent-based acrylic resin with leafing pigments that gives a beautiful glow and sheen and the paper is G F Smith’s legendary Peregrina Majestic in either Gold Fever or Moonlight Silver.

AR: How would you describe your new release in three words? 

Rob: Metallic, limited, chaos.

AR: Have you ever received any strange message requests? Do you have a favourite?

Rob: 90% are strange but that’s one aspect I enjoy while illustrating them, wondering about the context and meaning of each request. Some seem like insults but that’s the beauty of the project, it can be as completely personal as you want it. 'We love you, you fat idiot', 'The wheels come off when I’m with you' 'Tigers love pepper'. It's a weird brilliant little window into people's lives.

AR: You’re essentially surrendering a part of your work to another person, how does it feel to not be able to dictate the message of your own work?

Rob: I am completely used to that. From a previous career path in commercial design from graphic designer to art director, creative director and everywhere in between means there’s always been a brief, a message in the work you produce.

AR: Your work centres around the power of words, can you speak more on their significance, especially in your work?

Rob: See above. As an arty child who wasn’t especially motivated by art in school I caught the excitement of the first wave of graffiti art in the UK mid 80’s and was fascinated by all you can do with letterforms. After art college and university in the 90’s I applied that same fascination of letterforms into my career whether by hand or digitally, from job to job playing with letterforms, experimenting and trying to find the perfect fit to the brief or project I had been given. I love how much emotion and meaning you can evoke through a simple letterform. Unexpected redundancy from my dream job and a lack of immediate opportunities moving forward found me returning to the sketch book back on the letterforms pushing and pulling them in new directions which in turn led to the role I have now.

AR: The pandemic-induced lockdowns disrupted the routine of many artists. How did your routine alter, and what does a typical day look like for you now?

Rob: It changed a great deal for me. Planned commercial projects either vanished or got put on hold so I just drew and drew waiting to see what the next day would hold, continued lockdowns kept me in my little studio so I just experimented further and further, trying to push and explore new directions and in doing so launched some prints and started to sell artworks. The whole concept of 'Your words, my hands' version 1 was launched in lockdown. I found it became a really great way to connect with people all around the world, as they would often DM or email me with their requests and would tell me what was happening where they were, how their city or country was handling the crazy situation we all found ourselves in. As society has opened up and here in the UK we try to find a new normal, my typical day is back to a combination of client work and experimenting and creating more and more as an artist.

AR: You’ve worked for some big companies, how does working for individuals and making their personal designs differ?

Rob: Essentially, while different there are definite parallels, I guess working for individuals means less links overall in the chain.

AR: What is the driving force behind your art?

Rob: It’s like one of those cartoon fight clouds where hands and feet keep appearing in the cloud. There’s loads in there - creativity, self esteem, failure, fun, motivation, purpose, the past, the future. 

AR: Is there any particular artwork or artist that has changed the way you view creative expression?

Rob: I’m fascinated by a great deal of pop art. As a teenager going on gallery trips with Art College the bold lines and colours of pop art always appealed to me. Artists such as Keith Haring or Roy Lichtenstein who create work that transcends audiences and can sell everything from a badge for a dollar to a canvas for millions and all points in between. I’m also fascinated by the expression and immediacy of Jackson Pollock and how the closer you get to his work you get a secondary 'reveal' as you see the grit and texture in his work. 

AR: Where do you see your art going in the future?

Rob: More. More experiments, more work and hopefully more opportunities for it to connect. In storage I have over 5 years of personal work that I am waiting for the right opportunity in the right space to show it all together, from Rolls Royce bonnets and canvasses to skulls, house bricks, milk containers, coffee stirrers, hundreds of items that catalogue the ups and downs of this whole journey.

AR: If you could give one tip to new collectors, what would it be?

Rob: Buy it to enjoy it. 

Make sure to check out more of Rob Draper’s work here, and watch out for his new print Your Words, My Hands. This stunning artwork is only available from Friday 5th to Friday 12th November, so make sure to move quickly!