Mike spent two years studying graphic design before switching to an illustration course. He completed an Illustration degree at the University of Westminster.
Often Mike’s hand-drawn imagery is embellished using a computer. He combines print designs he’s drawn using pen on paper with digital elements to build up an image. The colouring is done digitally. Sometimes, he’ll also draw his map designs using vector graphics.
Architecture usually plays a large role in Mike’s work – either as the primary focus of the illustration, or as something in the background that gives it structure. He’s very interested in topographical views, geography and conveying a sense of place. Nonetheless, his characters come through just as strongly with crowded, colourful people scenes giving you plenty to look at.
Cartoons Trust Young Cartoonist of the Year 2005
Question: What drew you to illustration/design? Mike: For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed drawing, colouring in and creating things. I took a lot of inspiration from the picture books and comics I devoured as a child, creating crowded scenes full of characters just like in Where's Wally, devising my own comic strips like Herge's Tintin stories (I loved the amount of incidental detail he crammed into every frame he drew - domestic furniture, pictures hanging on walls, little architectural motifs, street furniture - that sort of thing!) and even mapping whole towns and countries of my own invention! Question: Do you have any formal design training? Mike: I didn't have much of an idea of what I wanted to do after school initially but I had an interest in graphic design and so chose to study a two-year course in that subject at college. I soon realised that I enjoyed sketching and creating images far more than designing page layouts or logos. So upon completing that course, I decided to switch subjects and studied a degree in Illustration at the University of Westminster between 2005 and 2008. Question: Where are you originally from? Mike: I grew up in Harlow in Essex, a fairly ordinary 'new' town planned and built after the war which features a lot of 20th century architecture of varying degrees of quality. I believe it left a significant impression on me growing up and had a massive influence on my personal interest in architecture, topography and mapping. Question: Where is your studio and can you describe it for me? Mike: My studio is in Islington, London, close to the north end of Upper Street, N1. It is a shared studio, essentially a converted workshop space that myself and three illustrator friends of mine set up in 2011 as a place to work and hang out together. Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Mike: From a subject point of view, the city I live in is a constant source, and by that I refer to not only the bustle and the sheer amount of people from all kinds of backgrounds, but also it's long history, culture, architecture and the way in which every suburb and street has its own distinctive identity and character, something you don't get so much in other big cities.
Question: How do you get your ideas? Mike: I have ideas for new map designs and illustrations floating in my head all the time. Often I like to learn from examples of design and imagery from the past and create my own updated versions with a contemporary edge - as is the case with my London map designs which are inspired by 19th century engraved prints. At other times ideas simply come from observing what's going on around me and thinking to myself, "so what's the most interesting thing about this?" Question: Do you collect anything? Mike: I do a lot of reading about London and I have built up quite a collection of books on that subject! Question: Tell us about a favourite project you've recently completed. Mike: I really enjoyed working on my entry for last year's AOI Serco Prize for Illustration, which was a highly detailed, digitally rendered view of the City of London from Hoxton station. I regard it as one of the best quality artworks I've produced to date. It didn't win, but did get shortlisted and exhibited at the London Transport Museum which was a great honour. Question: What would be your dream job/commission? Mike: It'd be awesome to work on a cityscape drawing or a map of London, New York, Berlin, Paris or any other big international city, and have it pasted across a massive billboard or public wall for everyone to see. That would be pretty cool. Question: Who are your art heroes? Mike: I love the work of artists such as Hogarth, Gustave Dore and Wenceslaus Hollar, who each had fantastic talent for documenting recognisable, real-life characters and places. You could certainly classify all three as illustrators if they were around today. Question: Who are your musical heroes? Mike: For me, the best songwriters are those inspired by London - Ray Davies, Damon Albarn, Squeeze, The Clash, The Jam, the list goes on! Question: If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet? Mike: Any of my artistic idols from history - especially Hogarth. I bet he would have been great to have a beer with. Question: What do you have bookmarked? Mike: Pretty much every decent London-themed blog or website, including Diamond Geezer, View From The Mirror, Londonist and Mapping London, to name a few. Question: What is your favourite game, computer or not? Mike: Monopoly, even though I'm rubbish at it.
Charities Aid Foundation, Dishoom, Dorling Kindersley, Esquire Magazine USA, The Guardian, Make Architects, Random House, Which? MagazineFavourites
: Benito's Hat in Covent Garden
for the best burritos
: my Wacom Graphire tablet
: I am a fig roll fiend
: Black Tea with milk wins every time
: where else would a map addict go but Stanford's
of Covent Garden
: Diamond Geezer