Steve Crisp is one of our much-loved artists and we thought it was time to get to know him a bit better. He is a fine example of someone who has gone on from that period to become a well-established, internationally known, award winning illustrator.
He has a large diverse catalogue of work especially from the eighties and nineties, many of which have become collector's pieces. Steve has managed to adapt well to the changing needs of illustration especially with the introduction of digital techniques ten years or so ago.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Born in Tonbridge, Kent I have been creating images since I was 5 years old and taking on commissions from the age of 12. I have always been passionate about art, landscape sport and most of all my family where I have a wife and 4 children – the youngest being 23 years old.
Before the threat of climate change I loved to travel and be influenced by the sights I saw in other countries for my paintings (especially fantasy ones) – and even though I have flown only 11 times I have been lucky enough to visit places such as New York and the Maldives. Road trips have taken me all over Europe also experiencing things ranging from skiing in the Alps, to beach holidays on the Med! Most of all I love GB and the majority of my Puzzle images are influenced by its diverse nature.
Why did you choose to become an artist?
At a young age I was heavily influenced by the landscapes of John Constable and the wildlife paintings of John Shepherd. I gained a reputation as an artist through exhibiting in local art shows and painting Constable copies for clients in my teenage years (which beat the income from my newspaper round and working in shops for pocket money!) At school I was advised not to take on Art as a career so I worked at a private school as a Lab Tech for a year - which I hated!
When an opportunity came up to go to Art College I jumped at the chance and after 3 years at St Martins School of Art in London, (now Central St Martins), I never looked back. After winning the Student of the Year award in my third year I went on to obtain a position at an artist agency for 10 years, (Artist Partners), who formulated my career in book covers, film work, advertising and of course jigsaw puzzles. I have now been working for over 35 years and thanks to companies like Gibsons I am as busy as ever!
What is your creative process like. How do you stay inspired?
I am inspired everyday by the scenes I witness and people I see – colours, skies, characters etc….. there is always something to find interesting so I take lots of photos (mainly on my iPhone these days), and sketches. From these I create scenes which I think would make nice images for jigsaw puzzles or I get a specific topic from the client, or my agents Raul Turpin and Adam Meiklejohn (now MGL Licensing).
Once I have collected all the reference ideas, ie. characters, (mainly people I know), trees, skies, buildings etc. I work out a composition either by sketching or by digital means, and then wait for approval from the client. Once approved I draw the painting out and using either acrylic or watercolour I paint a certain portion of it. When I get to a point where I can scan the image into my computer that is where I work to a finish. The beauty of working this way is that I always have options if I want to change anything, by using the digital skills I have acquired over the last 15 years, I can still keep the look of an original painting.
You are an immensely popular Artist and we have been working with you for a number of years – how did that relationship start?
I had a telephone call from Adam Meiklejohn of MGL Licensing asking to use some of my existing images for jigsaws around 10 years ago. I signed up with MGL and from there, due to yourselves and other companies, I have been busy with commissions ever since! Cheers!
Do you have a favourite puzzle that you have created for Gibsons. Is there a story behind it?
Yes - it is the Artist Studio illustration which you have titled ‘A WORK OF ART’. I like it because it is personal to me featuring yours truly and many of my precious things including my studio, the village where I live, my dog, photos of my family and favourite books and paintings done for Gibsons. There are two versions of this pic the second one being the ‘Special Anniversary Edition‘ which has many of the boxed Gibsons puzzles that I have done over the years on the shelves in the studio.
What is your proudest achievement of being an Artist?
Two things – the first is the joy I have brought to people through my art … I have some lovely emails, letters and phone calls from people who love my puzzle images and gain a great deal of satisfaction from completing them. For example I had a phone call from a 90 year old lady the other day wanting to say thanks for the pleasure my images gave her and an American lady who wrote a special poem for me based on a scene I did featuring dog walkers along a river!
The second thing is that I am eternally grateful that I have been able to support my wife and kids through being an artist over nearly 35 years.
It’s a very special thing and I still have the same passion, dedication and pleasure in doing what I do!
What is your favourite animal?
I am a massive conservationist and lover of wildlife in all its forms, (I have a wildlife garden where I get some of my reference material from), but my favourite has to be the tiger – the majesty, power and beauty of this animal is breathtaking! How anyone can kill it is beyond me….
How do like to spend your weekends when not working?
Hard to fit it all in! I love being with my family, golfing, walking and cycling! In between that lot I try to keep the house and garden maintained!
I also love watching films!
If you could have a meal with any artist who would it be and what would you eat?
Therefore it would have to be John Constable and I think it would have to be a traditional English meal of Roast Lamb!
I appeared on the front page of my local newspaper called The Courier in 1971 with the headline “in the style of Constable.” It featured me with a range of my landscape paintings that were a similar style to John Constable. Amongst other artists like Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, Turner and Maxfield Parrish it was his influence that formed the basis of my jigsaw puzzle style which may explain its popularity?