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Q&A: Illustrator Rob Flowers on Wacky Watermelons, Vlad the Impaler & Other Distractions

Illustrator Rob Flowers' work has been described as 'trippy...as if you took a whole load of acid, ate too much candyfloss and went on the waltzers at your town's local fair. It's all a bit much, borderline grotesque, but you had a brilliant time.' His kitschy, psychedelic work can be found in unusual places, from the British Museum to House of Holland, MTV and Children in Need. We spoke to Rob about his influences, distractions, his first book, and not growing up.

Eli Goldstone: You designed Run Riot's logo! Can you talk us through the process of designing it briefly? 

Rob Flowers: Wow, it was a super long time ago - 2008! As far as I remember we wanted a circus-y vibe to it so I had a look at a whole load of vintage circus graphics and went from there. It was a fun project to work on and awesome to see you guys using it.

Eli: What sorts of things inspire your work?

Rob: Oh so many things. Toys, myths, costumes, old McDonlald’s advertising, Dr. Seuss, Sid & Marty Krofft, Medieval Manuscripts & Bestiaries, Cryptozoology, the list goes on and on. I’m actually working on a book, Festival Folk, about one of the biggest influences on my stuff: folklore and ritual from all over the world.

Eli: Are you a font snob? Is there ever a time where comic sans is appropriate?

Rob: Hahaha, not at all! I love a bit of comic sans, he’s like someone who owns one of those ‘you don’t have to be mad to work here’ signs. As an illustrator I don’t really know much about leading, kerning and all that stuff so I have no hang-ups about using ‘wacky’ fonts.

Eli: Is your life as colourful and chaotic as your work?

Rob: I’m trying to be more organised in my life, but yeah, I am pretty all over the place. I have a really, really bad memory so I’m constantly forgetting everything (I spend 40% of my day looking for my pencil after putting it down somewhere) - I’m also super messy so I’m always buried under a mountain of mess.

Eli: What are some of your favourite commissions/collaborations?

Rob: I love seeing my work in new mediums, so a couple really jump out. I collaborated with Terry de Havilland (he made all the shoes for Rocky Horror) on a design a while back. It was so much fun seeing my drawings on shoes. I also recently designed some tiles for my kitchen - that was super fun to do and they came out great. I also spoke and exhibited at Pictoplasma Berlin recently, an ambition of mine since I was student. Oh! - and the project I’m working on now is my first proper book, Festival Folk, which is about costume and ritual and will be out next year - I'm very excited about it.

Eli: Your work reminds me of some of my favourite cartoons - in particular Ren & Stimpy and Adventure Time. What cartoons did you grow up watching and which do you watch now?

Rob: Oh thanks, I’m a massive Ren & Stimpy fan, that was one of my favourites when I was a kid. I also loved Aaahh! Real Monsters, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, The Simpsons (obvs), Ulysses 3, Trapdoor, Willo the Wisp, Bananaman, the list goes on and on... I still watch a lot now, Rick & Morty, Adventure Time, BoJack Horseman, Ugly Americans, Super Jail - I should probs grow up!

Eli: You collect things - if you had to escape in the dead of night and could only take three things from your collections, what would you choose?

Rob: Woah, that is a super tough question - so I’ve been mulling this over for about half an hour -

1. My 1973 Officer Big Mac puppet - vintage McDonald’s advertising and merchandise is one of my favourite things in the world and I’d been after one of these puppets for years so I was ecstatic to find one on eBay and add it to my collection.

2. My ‘Wacky Watermelon’ pull toy - this is one of my oddest objects in my collection. It’s a 1960s kids pull toy that's sort of a cross between a watermelon and some sort of insect. It’s wings/watermelon slices pop out when you wheel it along.

3. A bit of a cheat but my collection of Transylvanian folk masks - a few years back I spent one of my favourite holidays ever in Romania, mostly in Transylvania, I picked these masks up in a local market. I can’t recommend a visit it enough, its such a beautiful country, there's loads of awesome Vlad the Impaler merch and one of my favourite museums in the world is there, The Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest.

See more of Rob's work at www.robflowers.co.uk