In the second part of our interview, Luke tells us a little bit more about his background and the role drawing/design played in his life from a very young age.
When did you first start drawing and when did you know it was what you wanted to do professionally?
I was doodling from the moment I discovered pencils and things to scribble on so putting a pin in the exact moment is futile at best. During those years it was just a way of emulating what I loved; I used to draw my favourite characters from television shows, books – even imaginary characters. It became a second language through which I was able to convey ideas that were bigger than my language skills at the time. I trundled along in my own little world quite happy in the belief that everyone understood what I was on about for a few years. I was surrounded by grown-ups who’d enjoy drawing with me and encourage me to do more, so I figured that if my little universe worked like that, then everything outside of it must do too. When I arrived at school and caught people staring at me and my far larger than necessary bag of drawing utensils, I started to realise that maybe it wasn’t something everybody had to or even wanted to do.
When I turned 18, my art teacher suggested that I do a Foundation Degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London. Making things seemed to make me happy and the idea of pursuing professions that could potentially risk or skew my view of the world seemed akin to spiritual suicide, so I started applying. I got accepted onto the degree and in total it lasted a year. I spent the first couple of weeks sampling everything the establishment had to offer and after much deliberation I found myself in an umbrella option called ‘visual communication,’ which loosely translated, meant: commercial imagery in the broadest and vaguest sense. I had to trek to the very edge of central Wimbledon, to the top floor of an old building, and sit shoulder to shoulder with photographers, graphic designers, typographers, traditional illustrators, children’s book illustrators and even a couple of fine artists. Together we’d aim to work out exactly what ‘visual communication’ meant to us. You’d think that such a melting pot of diverse disciplines and expertise would breed a hive of good ideas but in truth I barely made it out of that year with any artistic prospects intact. Purely through the confusion of many convoluted, and constantly conflicting influences barraging me I pretty much lost any sort of direction or idea of what I truly wanted to be. However, I did survive and from there decided to sign up to The University of Portsmouth’s illustration degree as illustration itself seemed to be where I belonged, or at least something that could help me develop as an artist.
Portsmouth confirmed my thoughts. I was reminded of what I truly enjoyed and what I wanted to do in the future. The degree provided the perfect platform for me to start from. The unofficial mantra that got passed down by the lecturers was “what you put in – you will get out,” and while that obviously sounds like common sense but you’d be amazed at how many people decide to sit back, put in minimum effort and just assume the work will just find them – both during University and in the big wide world of work. It just doesn’t happen like that, you have to do the leg work, you have to put yourself out there and you have to believe in the work you’re creating. To be honest though – if you truly enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t even feel like effort and that in essence is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about what I do. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree while I was at Portsmouth that her department’s stock phrase was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth. The difference with Portsmouth’s degree is that you come out of there wanting to make people want you.
Many creative people often feel “out of place” as teenagers. What was adolescence like for you? Did drawing play a huge part in it?
Adolescence was a very strange time – an English teacher of mine once turned round to the class and announced that very soon we’d be deciding what kind of people we wanted to be and that the decisions we were on the verge of making would affect our lives in a way that previous decisions hadn’t. He may have said it in the casual off-hand manner but there was no mistaking the weight of his words sitting in the room with us.
Gradually I started to see the forecast his words had set out baring fruit all around me. People who just the previous week were pushing over heavier students and laughing at them trying to get up, were Googling what steps to take in order to have a prosperous medical career ten years down the line. All around me immaturity and innocence seemed to be dwindling and nobody seemed concerned. It was occurring in all sorts of students and even some of my closest friends – I was only just becoming accustomed to the way school life worked and now I was expected to drop it all and plan for another life altogether.
Instead, I found myself visiting the art rooms of my school at lunch time with increasing frequency, making excuses of ‘overdue homework’ to friends looking to talk about ‘career goals’ but luckily nobody seemed to notice the major flaw in the notion of somebody constantly in the art rooms being behind on his art work. Needless to say; my sketchbook became increasingly fat and my pencils short but I was happy. In retrospect I suppose I was making those decisions the English teacher had prophesized. I may not have been making the relevant applications to the right places like everyone else, but I was practising my craft and I felt self-assured in doing so.
If you could go back in time and talk to your teenage self, what would you tell him?
I wouldn’t tell him anything, I might give him a hug because let’s face it – hugs are universal regardless of time travel and people having the same face as you, but as far as words go I wouldn’t say anything.