George Law has to be one of Sheffield’s most subliminal illustrator, doodler and street artist. If you live in the city you’ll have most likely come across his work on flyers, posters, murals, t-shirts, or maybe even seen him in person; sitting behind the till in Arcade, or having a tea in The Forum, both on Division Street. In fact it’s The Forum where Geo meets Counterfeit today. We talk of years gone by and the year ahead, of influences and illustration. 2009 was a cracking year for Geo, and he’s preparing to keep up this acquired momentum for 2010.
“I would draw a lot of Tom and Jerry when I was younger and, although I was more of a Nintendo boy, I drew Sonic the Hedgehog quite a lot and Robotnik”
First things first though, how did Geo develop a taste for his current craft? “From an early age I was always interested in art; drawing cartoons and computer games characters. Then at college, I got into illustration and graphic design,” remembers Geo. But, like with most people, it wasn’t until he went to University that the spark really began to ignite. “Uni’s about finding yourself as a person,” explains Geo, “You work out what you want to do. John Burgerman [famous Nottingham illustrator] came in and did a guest lecture. He showed us what he did and from then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Law studied graphic design at Nottingham Trent but, like a lot of artists, when he was younger, he didn’t think drawing was a viable option for a future career. “I didn’t think doodling would get me anywhere,” admits Geo, “I realised I could do it and I wanted to do it, so in the end I applied myself, drew up lots of stuff and ended up getting hired when people liked what they saw. Its lucky for me they did!” For Geo, it all kicked off when someone saw one of his designs in a magazine and began making enquiries with him for the commission of some artwork in The Forum, “It just went on from there then really,” he explains.
Following a work placement at Prague in the Czech Republic, Law came back to Sheffield and found work almost straight away. There was no looking back. “2009 was a really good year for me,” states Geo, “People started paying attention. I did some doodles in The Bowery, Forum and SoYo, which included putting up some work, but also doing some live art. “It was kind of a snowball affect,” declares Geo, “I was doing more fliers and more people began paying attention to what I did.”
Its not just pictures and painting that Law creates, its clothing too. “I’ve had a clothing label with a friend which has basically been a side project since I was 18,” Geo points out, “Last summer we took up a residence in Arcade [His shop on Division Street] and we run a workshop there, where we produce most of our stuff. People can come in for an appointment and we see how we can help.”
Arcade was set-up by Law and two other like-minded, similarly aged individuals, in what he describes as a “scary joint venture.” As well as stocking some brilliant gadgets and artwork, Arcade also houses its very own sort of fashion surgery, where people can pop in to discuss what kind of bespoke t-shirt they’d like. The shop, still in its infancy, seems to be doing well- a small success story in these tough economic times.
“We wanted to create an alternative hub in Arcade,” Geo explains to Counterfeit, “Its working well, we’re selling clothes and we’re receiving good feedback.” Despite the steel industry’s decline, Arcade is proof that Sheffield’s ‘Little Mester’ tradition of independent collectivism is alive and kicking, albeit at a bohemian level. As well as his exploits in illustration and activities in Arcade, Geo Law is a man with his fingers in many more pies. Firstly, there’s the Happy Happy collective, which Law originally created at Nottingham Trent,
“This began as a way for illustrators to get together and create mini themed exhibitions as external projects from our main degree course,” says Geo. Then there’s the Hantu collective, co-created with an artist called Angga, which began as a bit of fun, but has now spawned into a clothing label. Law explains further, “Hantu started off with the idea of becoming a t-shirt business, we encouraged other artists to get involved and although there’s still only a small group of Hantu, we sustain it by selling clothes and keep it a Sheffield collective. In fact we only really work with local artists and creators. Its art for Sheffield; from Sheffield,” confirms Geo.
Counterfeit asks Geo how much of an influence Sheffield, as a city, has had upon his work. “I’m appreciating the culture of Sheffield, with Kid Acne and the general colour of the city. There are a lot of good artists around and it just goes to show that talent breeds talent,” Geo says to Counterfeit, “It motivates people to keep working to try and impress one another.”
Aside from Sheffield, Geo has found inspiration from across a whole spectrum of popular culture. “I would draw a lot of Tom and Jerry when I was younger and, although I was more of a Nintendo boy, I drew Sonic the Hedgehog quite a lot and Robotnik”, Law remembers, “I did all the Mario World characters too and even made my own Sonic and Mario Comic strips.” Later on, Geo Junior began to develop his own characters, evolving his style. He looks back, “I’d draw friends into comic book situations, with Matrix-style sunglasses and long dark coats, along with mythical creatures like dragons…”
“All those elements feature in my work now really. I’ve always had my head in the clouds – drawing weird-looking people and using light colours,” adds Geo. With regards to inspirational individuals, Geo admits that he doesn’t consciously follow artists as such, but names John Burgerman, David Mack, David Foldvari and Stephane Manel, as illustrators whom he respects. He also maintains a respectful rivalry with friend and local illustrator, Jonny Wan.
Geo Law is building up a pretty respectable project portfolio himself, with commissions over the last year including the reputable Sheffield design company Ledgard Jepson, DQ Nightclub, Bowery, Bang Bang Vintage and many, many more.
Law tells Counterfeit what he’s been up to, “With Ledgard Jepson I did a mural on the wall of the meeting room, to update the feel of the company. But DQ was the biggest project yet really. I drew a version of the Hokusai Wave [iconic piece of Japanese art],” says Geo, “You should watch the video [getaloadageo.co.uk], it took ten-days to paint and we did it while the club was closed, so we had the decks on while I was doing it, listening to some tunes- it was a lot of fun!” Geo smiles.
There’s also a video of Geo drawing a doodle mural in The Bowery, and following this interview Counterfeit discover that Law has done yet another mural, this time for a Bradford-based PR company; it seems these are all the rage for 2010. Sheffield shoppers may have also seen the Bang Bang Vintage logo, which features on their flyers, bags, labels and above the shop- Geo Law was the man behind the design. He tells Counterfeit more,
“Louisa [Whitehead, Bang Bang Vintage founder] is a good friend of mine. We met while she was doing the craft fairs. Louisa knew about me and my work and asked me if I could help.” And help he did. It’s quite a grand design for a logo; intricate yet simple, with an element of fun, which is what Counterfeit would regard as Law’s current trademark. In fact it’s quite similar, and Counterfeit means this in a completely complementary way, to the design of the Chupa Chups logo, in its simple and fun, yet classical design. Smirk at such a comparison if you like, but it was a young Salvador Dali who drew that particular masterpiece for a local Catalan businessman.
How the future will turn out for Sheffield’s Geo Law remains to be seen; although Counterfeit’s crystal ball can reveal what’s coming up in Geo’s diary over the next few months. Law is currently collaborating with Sheffield contemporaries Jonny Wan and Lord Bunn for an exhibition at The Forum called Child’s Play due to open in June. He’ll also doubtlessly be working hard on many more murals, flyers and illustrations, as Geo himself outlines, “There’s a lot going on in the short-term, including a new collection for the clothing label, updating the portfolio and looking for more work but with the aim of branching more outside of the city,” Geo tells Counterfeit.
“In the long term,” adds Law, “I’m seeking to develop my style. I always want to grow, but I want people to grow with me, if you know what I mean?” Geo then constructs an analogy comparing how he would like his work to evolve, with the evolution of Radiohead. Counterfeit can see where he’s coming from; a natural progression that doesn’t alienate his current fanbase.
An avid West Ham fan, Law also uses a football analogy to explain how he develops his style; “You should let your work do the talking and do as much as you can; good footballers train every day to get better and keep their form, so in that sense, the more you doodle and draw, the better you will become and the more you will discover.”
Wise words indeed; not bad for a West Ham fan.
To find out more about Geo Law, visit: www.getaloadageo.co.uk or pop in to Arcade and say hello!