drawing from joy

the decobike story so far

Even now, as I begin a sketch it takes me back to the exhilaration I first felt learning to draw cartoon characters with my mischievously playful Nanna. From that moment on I was forever drawing as a kid, whether it was doodling in class, making funny cartoons for my friends or designing pictures purely to satisfy my curiosity. Drawing became the way I expressed my imagination and made sense of the world. I clearly remember thinking when I grew up I should become an artist because I loved drawing and was pretty good at it. And so the decision was made as a head-in-the-clouds 8 year old: I would follow my dream and my job would be to make art. Easy, right?

Well, not quite. I may have gone a little off course and lost sight of the whole artist thing. It probably began with quitting art school, gathered pace with my wildly unsuccessful attempt to become a rockstar, really set in with the sleep deprivation that followed becoming a dad and culminated in a spectacularly ill-suited office job whilst attempting to be a proper grown up. But you know, where’s the fun in getting it right the first time around?

During art school I quickly became disillusioned with the deeply analytical approach to being creative. I recall the time I explained to my course leader that the aim of the composition I was working on was to encourage the viewer to smile, exasperated he shook his head and exclaimed “Art is to be taken seriously”. What can be more important than making people smile I thought? Instead, I got a job and saved up to go travelling in a country I felt drawn to having recently read Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All the Pretty Horses’. Mexico is such an awe-inspiring sensual place where the vivid colours, smells and textures in the murals, food and textiles forced me to experience everything with my full being. This retaught me what my Nanna had many years earlier: art is to be whole heartedly felt and played with, not systematically picked apart by the intellect.

I continued to paint for pleasure, illustrate cards for family and make homemade graphic T-shirts with dodgy iron-on transfers for friends. However at some point the serious business of being a busily responsible adult slowly took over and I fell out of the habit of being artistic. Some years later, after all the sleepless nights, my daughter gradually reminded me of the gift of being creative as we embarked on the enchanted journey of drawing together. She showed me how to be present and enjoy the immersive experience of making art for fun. As we giggled drawing cycling dinosaurs or woodland animals cooking marshmallows over the campfire I remembered just how much I loved drawing for the simple joy of it and a part of me clicked right back into place.

So I decided to be brave and finally set up my own art business where I could take my dreams a little more seriously and myself a whole lot less seriously. I resolved that making people smile is indeed a serious business and what started out as decorating kids bedrooms with murals and bespoke furniture turned into designing prints and commissions and then eventually evolved into what you see now. I’m sure my little company will continue to change as new projects pop up and capture my imagination – at the moment I have plans for a children’s book plus a series of cartoon prints for adults reminding us to keep in touch with our inner child. As psychologists point out, the opposite of play is not work but depression, so for me decobike is more than a job – it is about unashamedly celebrating playfulness. I can picture my Nanna smiling at this.

I hope you enjoy the results as much as I have creating them,