Ian Viggars Talks Color, Concepts & The Importance Of Joy In Pop Culture

Ian Viggars is an artist and designer based in East London. He first caught the attention of popbollocks with his animated video for Cornershop’s “Double Denim” video. Digging deeper we learned of Ian’s world – bright colors, black outlines, stripey stuff, and the kind of simplicity in design that allows for the communication of more complex ideals. We loved it.

With inspiration drawn from the original pop artists of the 1960’s Ian’s work captures a timeless spirit of rebellion, joy, and light. We spoke with Ian about his work with Cornershop, his fondness for bold colors, and just why is it nice to start everything with a simple black line.

popbollocks: You recently made the “Double Denim” video for Cornershop. Can you speak a little about the concept?

Ian Viggars: As soon as I saw the title and heard the track I had the idea of animating denim being customised in creative ways. Denim is such a durable material and synonymous with alternative music. People add patches, pin badges, and sometimes even spray paint denim to reflect what they like, so this was my starting point.

I didn’t want the video to just be words so I had the idea of animating a young hipster couple wearing denim and having a wild night out, hence the night swimming scene later on.

Tjinder also said he wanted the video to feature a fictional animated band, and spoke a lot about The Archies who they covered on the double A-Side. He said it would be cool if they had a female drummer and were pretty mixed and I went from there. ‘Heavy Duty’ was at first something I just wrote on the drummer’s bass drum, then I realised it’s the perfect name for this fun-looking multicultural fictional band. I like that there’s a lot of references in there – the keyboardist looks a bit 80s, the bass player looks and bit 70s – a genre-mixing approach that’s inspired by Cornershop’s music.

Tjinder’s other big idea was that there be a nightclub scene towards the end that morphs into a jungle with tigers, a psychedelic concept that doesn’t make logical sense but it’s become a lot of people’s favourite part of the video so far. That and the Turban-wearing bongo player of course.

popbollocks: Can you describe your relationship with the band and their music?

Ian Viggars: Sure. I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since I was 16. I bought the album When I Was Born For The 7th Time on cassette the year it came out… and before the Fatboy Slim remix too, of course. I loved it straight away and have followed their career closely every since. I bought the follow-up album on the day it came out in 2002 and it’s actually my favourite of theirs – Handcream For A Generation.

There’s a lot of music from that period that I don’t like anymore but Cornershop still sound great and they’ve continued to innovate and never sound the same from album to album. But the first bit of work I did for Tjinder wasn’t music related. He and his wife are both very much into art and commissioned me to paint a mural on their house. That was back in 2016 and it’s still there now. Lots of people take photos of it and probably wonder why there’s a giant ice cream and fab lolly painted on a wall in Stoke Newington. But that was amazing and surreal for me, to be painting my first mural for someone in a band I’d loved for 20 years.

popbollocks: “Double Denim” was your first animation. Can you describe the work, and if you learned anything about yourself through the process?

Ian Viggars: Although it’s the first animated video I’ve made from start-to-finish on my own, I actually do freelance work as a video editor too. As fate would have it, I learned the basics of motion graphics and digital animation on a few recent jobs so I had enough knowledge to get started on this animation once Cornershop commissioned me.

If I learned anything it’s that I massively enjoy making my own drawings and paintings move around. It’s something I’d never done before. Some images in the video – like the spray can, the ice cream and the fab lolly – already existed as images I’d made in previous paintings, but about 75% of the video is made up of totally new assets I drew by hand then digitally coloured and animated. Another thing I learned was that although processes will have changed, the basics of animation are still pretty much the same as they always were.

Some friends compared the video to Peanuts and Hanna Barbara cartoons. I loved both of these when I was younger and I realised that those cartoons were probably made in a similar way to my video – draw, colour, then animate several layers to create a feeling of movement – it’s just that it probably took them a team of hundreds in the past, whereas now a simpleton like me can do it all in Photoshop and Premiere. I also realise it’s why they always repeated the moving backgrounds in old cartoons! The way I had the denim moving in some scenes is the same effect.

popbollocks: Has this foray into animation brought ideas of other projects or bands whose work you’d like to animate – who/what would they be?

Ian Viggars: I’d absolutely love to work with more bands. That’s been a goal from the start, and I’d consider working with anyone as long as they fit with my aesthetic. The dream would be to create album artwork for a band that would come out on vinyl.

Specific dream projects or bands though… I love a lot of the Norwegian dance music, especially Todd Terje. And the band Parquet Courts, although a member of the band does all of their artwork and it’s amazing. I love the bands like Beach House, Hinds, and Alvvays – all are ones I feel I could work with visually. Again though a lot of these bands already have great visuals, which is probably why I’m thinking of them.

I enjoyed creating a made-up band though and I’m considering doing it again, just for fun and to create personal work. Imagine a hip-hop collective drawn and animated in a similar style. Like when the Wu Tang Clan first started each member had an amazing name and secret identity which I loved at the time. It would be great to create something like that from scratch.ian-viggars-pizza-box-art

popbollocks: Your work is informed by some of the better-known names of pop art. There’s a reductionist approach to shape and color. Are there any less-obvious influences that you incorporate in your process?

Ian Viggars: I love all of the original pop artists as you say – Warhol, Lichtenstein and Caulfield particularly – but there are a lot of other influences too. A lot of modern day graphic designers such as Kate Moross, Aaron Draplin, and Bendik Kaltenborn. I also love self-proclaimed doodle-bomber Hattie Stewart and the all-round brilliant Camille Walala.

One thing all of these people have in common is that they have a very consistent aesthetic and they don’t work within strictly confined job labels – like they’re not ‘just’ an illustrator or a designer. What’s important is that their style is consistent no matter what medium they’re working in, and that’s something I’ve really tried to emulate. So my paintings look similar to my illustrations, which look similar to the mural I painted, and all look similar to the music video. I’d say yes to working in any medium as long as the style was consistent and that’s what most of my favourite artists do. So yes, that includes simplistic shapes and block colours. I’ve never really liked washy water-colours or realism too much.

Some of my odd influences outside of art and design include food packaging, particularly sweets as they’re so brightly coloured and inventive. Also early computer games – I’m not a gamer at all these days but I loved the early days of computer games when the graphics were often blocky and had limited, mostly primary, colour palettes. A lot of the previously mentioned animations have influenced me too, as well as The Simpsons. Again, this isn’t something I ever set out to be influenced by, it was more of a subconscious thing. I guess you can’t watch something as consistently as The Simpsons since the early 90s and not be influenced by it.

popbollocks: The subject of food is handled in a great deal in your work. Why food?

Ian Viggars: I’ve been asked this a lot and the answer probably isn’t as deep as I’d like it to be! When I started all this I knew exactly what style I wanted to paint and draw in, but I was never sure about what subject matter to paint. I’ve read that Warhol said the same thing when he started too… not that I’m comparing myself. Early on I happened to do a few paintings of food in this style and put them up for sale in an Etsy shop, just to test the waters of whether anyone else would even be interested. And within about a month I sold a painting of an English breakfast to an American customer. That made me thing that food was a good subject to focus on. Since then I’ve expanded and painted other objects like retro Walkmen, stationery, plants and interiors, but the food stuff seems to be what people respond to the most. Everyone likes food I guess.

popbollocks: There’s a playfulness in almost all of your work. It can sometimes take courage to feel emotional depth in joy, and a greater skill to celebrate the childlike without being childish. Why is this kind of simplicity so important to you?

Ian Viggars: Thanks! I’ll take that. Again I think it’s just the kind of style that I love first and foremost and maybe there isn’t too much of a deeper explanation than that. I love a lot of music and art that probably seems simplistic and childlike to some, and I like stuff that has an edge of DIY rough-and-ready-ness to it. I think I have the perennial indie kid’s mistrust of anything too polished and virtuoso, in art and in music.

Also I’m not a massively angsty guy in everyday life and I still paint and create out of enjoyment, even when it’s work, so it probably will come across as playful and positive.

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popbollocks: You use black outlines a lot. Can you speak about this concept, and also your relationship to light?

Ian Viggars: All of my works start and end with black outlines. I guess it’s simplistic but it’s the drawing that starts everything. Even for the “Double Denim” video every animated element started as black outline drawing on paper that I’d then scan and digitally colour and animate.

It also ensures strong shapes and hard edges, something I consistently like. I don’t actually think of light and dark that much really, although when painting I nearly always mix colours with pure white paint, then add contrasting pure black outlines.

popbollocks: What’s next?

Ian Viggars: I’m working with a small company that makes baby clothes on some packaging design ideas and there’s been talk of creating a mural with a Stoke Newington-based charity. I’m currently sketching out ideas for both. There’s also a children’s book proposal I’ve been asked to illustrate, that’s a really fun job. I might produce another range of badges in time for Christmas. And as a background to all of this I want to up my production of paintings again. That’s the base-level thing I do all of the time, where I get my best ideas, and where most of my commissions have stemmed from.

popbollocks: Why do you make all this stuff?

Ian Viggars: It all started purely from enjoyment, but all through my life I’ve always done something creative on the side in parallel with whatever proper job or commitment I had going on elsewhere. I was in several typical bands whilst I was at university for example. But the art stuff really makes me happy and people have responded to it well. I subscribe to John Waters’ belief that people shouldn’t ‘dabble’ in things, so as soon as I started making art for myself again I knew I wanted to put a lot into it and so far I’ve produced a lot of work that I’m really pleased with. I guess at the end of the day I wouldn’t make this stuff if I didn’t like it myself and if I didn’t see other people respond to it in a similar way.

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