Growing up in London has given Tobatron a keen eye for the peculiarities of modern life. He’s obsessed with applying a humorous and ironic twist to information-graphics and it’s this combination that makes him a popular choice with art directors across all design disciplines.
1. How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Instructional, parody, humorous.
2. What has been your favourite project to date and why?
I recently collaborated with Ubisoft on their new game Far Cry 6 which was great fun. I’m used to clients telling me that my ideas are too harsh or jokes are too sinister for their ‘brand’ etc. But these modern computer games like Far Cry sort of exist in their own bubble, outside the confines of what’s deemed tasteful or respectable. This meant I had quite a lot of creative freedom.
3. What role does humour play in your work?
I’d say it’s integral. Creating that tension between the very straight diagrammatic style of the drawings, and the subversive nature of the content has a lot of potential for humour.
4. What’s the best April fools prank you’ve played or been part of?
Years ago I was sharing a house with some mates, and we had some aggro going on with a crazy guy who lived next door. I wrote a very weird fake letter from the crazy neighbour to my house mate, requesting that he come over that evening to clear the air. There are many other elements to this story which I can’t share here…
5. How has the past year changed the way you work?
I spend a lot more time working from home which I never thought I could do.
6. What is your current workspace like?
I’ve got a studio in central London, and also a studio space at home. Here’s my home space.
7. What is the best and worst thing about being a freelance illustrator and why?
Best thing is flexibility. Worst thing is probably the stifled creativity when working for big brands etc.
8. Where do you find inspiration for your work? Who influences you?
Here’s a list of things that get the juices flowing: Robocop(1987), Jeremy Deller,Robert Crumb, 80s/90s Football, Christopher Hitchens, lost animal posters, Obvious Plant, Andy Kaufman, Viz, Drew Struzan, Seinfeld, Art Spiegelman, Ghanian film posters, graffiti on toilet doors.
9. How did you develop your signature diagrammatical style? How does it differ to when you first started out?
I began experimenting with parodying the crude illustrations you get on aeroplane safety cards when I was at university in the late 90s. They just seemed hilarious to me. I would painstakingly draw them by hand, now of course I use Adobe illustrator etc. Over the years working professionally in this style, my work has become more organic looking, and less computer generated. I guess this sort of mirrors what is fashionable in society.
10. Looking forward to 2022, what and who would be your dream project or client?
Difficult to say really. Be nice to do some more collaborations with people who are subversive in some way.
11. What one thing do you wish you’d known when just starting out that you know now?
Commercial illustration: It’s not personal. It’s just business.
12. Having worked on various projects from advertising to editorial to packaging — which has been your favourite avenue and why?
Advertising brings in the big bucks, but is the most prescriptive form of illustration so can be quite suffocating. Books are quite fun when you get a good one. And as I said earlier, it seems that computer games are good for pushing boundaries.
13. What one message do you hope people take away from your work?
“Is that a real diagram?”
Get inspired! Take a tour of Tobatron’s folio here!