MARLO MEETS: LEON EDLER
This week we meet Leon Edler, a conceptual illustrator and cartoonist whose work depicts vibrant concepts full of metaphor, humour and colour. His work has featured in The Guardian, The New York Times and many other international papers around the world. We first discovered Leon in the Financial Times Magazine where his illustrations stand side by side with Jancis Robinson's weekly wine column.
It was fascinating to catch up with Leon and we're thankful for his time in telling us more about his work, his artistic inspirations and what his guilty pleasure is.
You can buy prints of Leon's work here - 50% of the profit also goes to cancer charities!
1. Has your work been affected by the pandemic, or for an illustrator has it been business as usual?
I think a lot of illustrators who are just starting out have been badly affected. Commissioners seem to have maybe gone to a known, safe pair of hands. There’s definitely a feeling that people are being cautious.
2. Do you find producing art relaxing or more of a challenge?
It depends if its for work or pleasure, although nearly always a challenge. For work, I enjoy the ideas stage the most – sketching different interpretations of a text or idea. Creating the final sketch, making it look good, is hell and then trying to capture that sketch in a final image is also hell. I’ve been doing murals recently and once the sketch is on the wall, the rest is mindless work and I have absolutely loved it.
3. How hard is it to initially make a living from being an illustrator?
Absolutely impossible. I think something like 30% of illustrators do it full time, so I am lucky. Having ability and a unique style are just the start. It takes a long time to start appearing on art director’s radars and even longer to have enough commissions to earn a decent living. And you don’t know if that day will ever come. I do think that time and perseverance and having absolutely no acceptable plan b is the key.
4. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I take pleasure in a lot of things I should probably feel guilty about. People are often surprised by some of the tripe I watch on TV. I used to watch an ITV 3 programme called Shed & Buried religiously and once turned down work to watch a rerun of Dallas.
5. Which artists are your main source of inspiration?
Mostly people who use loose black lines such as Saul Steinberg, Jean Jaques Sempé, Gerard Hoffnung, Jordan Awan And Charles Barsotti. But comedy has always been my main inspiration for everything. Tony Hancock, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Richard Pryor, Ivor Cutler… - all have as much, if not more of a part to play in what I do as visual artists.
6. Do you enjoy using art as a medium to portray real life issues?
I think I like using humour to portray real life issues, but portraying real life through art is essential. Art is one of the things that turns existence into life isn’t it?
7. What was your favourite comic in your childhood?
I never really liked comics when I was little. I just watched an awful lot of TV.
8. Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
All of my friends and Peter Cook.
9. If you could own one painting in the world, what would it be?
I know it’s fairly route one, but probably something by Van Gough. Maybe the Irises? Seeing a Van Gough is like arriving in New York for the first time – you’ve seen it a million times on TV but it’s a complete attack on your senses.
10. What does the rest of 2021 have in store for you? Are there any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Well, finally, yes! I’m going to paint my first mural next week. Someone asked if I could do it and I’ve always wanted to try so I said ‘yes’, and I’ve been practicing down in our basement ever since. I’ve designed them before but never painted one. I can’t wait. There is a crew filming it, so even if I mess it up there will be an interesting document to be enjoyed. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer last July (I’m okay now), so the fear of doing something new doesn’t really bother me at all now. I feel very lucky to still be here to be able to take the chance.
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