Trash Mountain Slide by Peter Wieben

Trash Mountain Slide by Peter Wieben

F&T: Name something you love, and why?

I love going for walks.  I go for at least one walk every day, the longer the better.  I got this idea from a book called "If you want to Write," where the author argues that walking can make you more creative and calm.  I have found that this is correct.  I also find that I develop a really strong affection for ordinary things that I pass on my walk.  I like this, because if you like ordinary things you don't need that much to be happy.

F&T: One staple thing in your workspace?

I usually have my cat with me.  I have two cats.  The younger one is the daughter of the older.  When the younger was born she had smushed lungs so I had to hold her at all times.  Now she is big and she is very attached.  She sits on my shoulders sometimes when I paint.  Typically if I am there working she is there too.

F&T: What themes do you pursue?

I seem to draw a lot of people in desperate situations.  I started drawing again after the Egyptian revolution.  I was living in Cairo and I needed a way to explain how it had been and drawing seemed easier to do than telling.  I draw things that I can't explain in words, usually.

F&T: Any memorable responses you have had to your work?

My wife's response is the most memorable to me.  She is not impressed.  I show her a drawing sometimes and I think she will be really excited and say wow, and she will just quietly nod.  Sometimes I think "you should act more impressed!" but then I try not to take myself that seriously or think I am too "wow."  I just want to do my best and keep going every day. 

F&T: A real- life situation that has inspired you?

I was standing on my balcony in Cairo during the revolution, and there were protest marches and police all over my area.  I was terrified.  And embarrassed about being terrified.  An old man walked down my street and stopped below my balcony and stared up at me, and put his fingers to his eyes, like "I see you."  For some reason that had a big impact on me.  A lot of people were suffering at that time and so I think it put some kind of responsibility on everyone's shoulders who was in that city.

Man falling by Peter Wieben

Man falling by Peter Wieben

The other people I can think of that I thought about a lot were the ones that set themselves on fire before the revolution started.  People on fire and people falling are two that I draw a lot.  Again I think in a really basic way I felt that those peoples' actions posed a big question and it made me think a lot and drove me forward.

F&T: Favourite motivational phrase?

For a while I wanted to get a tattoo of the phrase "It loves to happen."  It's by Marcus Aurelius but I found it in a book by J.D. Salinger.  I often get obsessed about why events happen to me but I like this phrase because it is saying that events themselves are loving that they are happening.  So if that's true who am I to say otherwise?

F&T: Last thing you doodled?

I drew a bunch of shoes this morning.  They are the shoes of people outside the church in the migrant camp in Calais, France.  I visited there for a project I'm doing.  Shoes are really hard to draw for me!  I wanted them to look really detailed but they turned out not so now I must pretend that I did that on purpose.

F&T: Where do you see illustration going, in the future?

I hope more people do graffiti.  I love graffiti.  I like it when people get it in odd places.  I am in favour of things that are tangible.  Sometimes I get a headache if I look at screens too much so I sort of hope all illustration doesn't become tablets.  I like simple tools.  Photography has become huger and huger and maybe took away a traditional place for drawings, but maybe that's good and gives drawings the freedom to be whatever they want.  I hope that more of journalism starts to use illustration.  I would like to see illustrations from news events more.

F&T: Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

Well, here is how I did it:  I used to copy other people all the time.  But the first time I made a book, I knew I had to draw a ton of pictures, and I was really slow.  So I said ok.  I am going to draw as fast as I can, and whatever comes out is going to be how I draw in this book.  Actually when I started doing that I was going too fast to copy so my drawings were more honest.  Once they were honest it didn't really matter if they were good or bad.  I prefer a bad, honest drawing to a good one that is not honest.

F&T: Whose work do you admire, past or present?

I admire Maria Kalmna and Nedko Solakov.  I got the book called "99 Fears" by Nedko Solakov and I love it.  My favourite artist is my friend Dominic Nahr who is a photographer.  We made a book together, and so I got to see many of his photos.  I admire his work a lot.

All images belong to Peter Wieben