Thursday, 26 November 2009

23.0 / Brave wild fire / Stevie Gee

What: Illustrator and designer/art director
Where: London, United Kingdom
Websites: Dustywolf and Stem Agency

Who is this man...

'Stevie has often been likened to a modern day Ernest Hemingway with his masculine, rugged appearance and manly hobbies coupled with his sensitive creativity. He is a big hit with both ladies and men alike.'

That’s a quote from the interweb I once read about myself and it’s pretty much all true. I have a lot of manly hobbies.
What's he all about...

I am working as a graphic designer/ art director by day doing all sorts of creative wonderment. I have been doing that for five years now. My design style is clean and colourful.

In my own time I pursue the type of illustration work I have a personal interest in doing. Mostly starting as hand drawn with my own style of bad humour and play on words - stuff like record covers, tee shirts, clothes, skate stuff, posters, flyers, zines, just any creative fun times - how I want it to be. In my spare time I especially like fancy dress parties and riding my fixie fast bike.


In the pipeline...
I have a few projects that are in the work in progress stage but a new music collaboration is on the cards and will be the raddest thing yet!

I will be continuing my collaboration with Death Spray Custom.



I have just had my debut solo show at Jaguar Shoes on the Kingsland Road called 'Vengeance is coming!' which a few of these pictures are from. That was pretty rad for me as I was able to collaborate with Tourdeville who provided and built two incredible bikes and Death Spray Custom who did the most amazing paint job of my designs on the bikes. It was a dream come true to do those bikes. The whole show was a concept around a long forgotten race from the 50s that only two riders finished, an old sea dog called El Capitane and a Native American Sioux shaman called Figo Vengeance. I designed the bikes for these two characters. Check more pics of it all here.

Road to now...
I went to Central St Martins to do a Graphic Design degree and specialised in illustration. I did well there but left not knowing what to do or how to get a job. I needed money quick so I got myself a job labouring for a landscape gardening company. It was an amazing hot summer and I loved it. Cutting down trees and digging holes like it was going out of style. After about a year and a half of doing that, I started thinking I should be doing something creative. My wife was just about to graduate from Camberwell Arts College and I'd got her pregnant so I was getting a bit worried about money.

We both ended up on the dole but through a college friend I was offered a three-day work placement to make an office look busy for an agency that had a big client coming in. I obviously did well at that, as I did during my first interview at Wood Green job centre. Anyway, the company called me back and offered me a freelance job.

School of life...
When I started working as a designer/art director there was a lot of learning on the job I had to do. It wasn’t just illustration any more but working on concepts and having large group brainstorms, which was daunting at first.

When Jesse was born I had only just started the new job and then there were some complications with the pregnancy, meaning he came six weeks early. We had no cot or no nothing in our studio flat. Once we took him home we had to feed him through a tube in his nose that went directly to his stomach, it all seemed pretty gnarly at the time. We felt so young and had so little money but it was a really good learning curve.

When our daughter Rosa arrived the next year we were ready.

As a kid...
I always loved drawing and it was always my dream to be a cartoonist like Rolf Harris when I was little. Either that or join the SAS. I think I made the right decision.

Skateboard riding took up most of my time from the around the age of 15. The Toy Machine video 'Welcome to Hell' came out when I was 16 and blew me away! The soundtrack on that film had Misfits, Sonic Youth, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. That video and so many others like 411 showed us bands that I still love today.

As a small child I went to a ballet class for a bit (not in a posh child way), personally I always wanted to do Karate. But I love dancing to this day and have won competitions for my erotic moves.
Stepping up...
I guess you never know till you try... opportunities came up, I took them and people liked what I did. Fear of trying stuff is the biggest enemy you can have.

It’s still a battle to be brave and step up. Having my first show recently was like that for me. Making yourself vulnerable and open to both praise and criticism is a good place to be. You learn a lot about how people are. Some truly lovely people come out and shake your hand and some not so much.

Good days and bad...

Travelling with my job has been really good. I have been to lots of lovely places such as Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Austria, China and America. This has meant wild experiences with all sorts of amazing and different people.

I dislike negative chat about others in the creative world, that seems silly to me, surely we all know what a struggle it can be, so lets help a brother from another mother out!
Place of origin...
I was born in Essex but mainly grew up in Sunbury, a suburb outside London. I had a good group of local friends that I skated with a lot there and just spent as much time outside as possible. We used to skate on everything we could find and build a lot of obstacles of our own. The area had a few wastelands there, which was great for riding BMX and climbing trees.

I guess it taught me you can make your own fun out of what’s around you. Simple pleasures with the right people can just be wild! S.K.Z forever!

A day in his life...
Jay-Z sums it up pretty well: 
'Money cash hoes money cash hoes (what)
Money cash hoes money cash hoes (uhh)
Money cash hoes money cash hoes (come on)
Money cash hoes (what) hoes (what) hoes (what)'

Then I put the kids to bed, wake up in the morning and ride to work. Then the cycle continues.
Helping hands...

My parents and lovely older sister encouraged me always, so I now want to do that with my children as much as I can. Both of them are very creative. Rosa loves princesses and dancing, though she is a real tough cookie, she reminds me of Little Miss Sunshine.

My son Jesse who is four was recently asked at school what he wants to do when he’s older. One of his teachers suggested 'an artist like your daddy' and he replied 'I already are one'. That’s a strong answer.


I do a lot of drawing with my kids, but recently we started to draw where Jesse copies what I do line by line, most of the images are his suggestion of drawing people with 'springy eyes'. He is only young but can already use fine liners, brush pens and paint pens. Truly rad!

That’s the biggest encouragement for me.

The familia...
I got to tell you first things first that my great grandad on my mum's side was the Pearly King of Dalston. So although I’m not a cockney I reckon I should be the honorary Fresh Prince of Shoreditch or something. My grandma was chuffed I had my first solo show on the Kingsland Road as she was born on that road.

My dad's father was number 17 of 21 children in a half Irish family. He was an incredible carpenter and knew all sorts of amazing tricks like playing the saw, throwing his voice, playing the piano by ear with his feet. He even sparred with the North London wrestling champion. My dad grew up on the same street as the Krays in Chingford.

I remember my mum telling me how, as a little girl, she used to shout abuse at the Teddy boys on the corner of her street and they would chase her and her mates down the road. She said they were quite scared as the Teddy boys had razor blades under their collars.


My parents have so many good stories behind them - it inspires me. They showed me you can work super hard to better your situation but its not worth shit if you aren’t with the people you love. My family are good people. They have always put family before earning big money or success. That’s meant I’ve always wanted a good woman in my life and kids of my own more than I’ve strived for commercial success.

Marrying into a large Greek Cypriot family was a good move too. They're the most welcoming and supportive people I have ever met. It’s the best feeling knowing such people have got your back. It gives you a lot of confidence and security. The Greek food at family get-togethers is better than restaurant standard too!
Hoops and hurdles...

Serious voice: Having a wife and kids fairly young has been the best thing I have ever done for sure but in terms of selfish ambition for success, it’s always a case of doing what’s best for them first.

I remember in Boyz n the Hood, Furious Styles says to his son 'Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.' I think Furious Styles is one of the best names I have ever heard of.


Lesson in motion...
At the end of to my third year at St Martins in 2004 I made a comic fanzine 'Hired Hands' with my cousin, the incredible Paul Griffith. We made a few issues and put them in the end of year show. A young lady called Rach Robinson saw it and liked it. To cut a long story short, she introduced me to her brother Will who had set up an agency called Stem and was interested in new illustrators. And it ends up he becomes like a father/brother/coach to me and I’m still with Stem now.

The moral of that tale is to be as pro-active as you can be, always creating new stuff and getting it out there yourself, you never know what could happen.
Powerful words...
The best advice anyone has ever given me was given to me by myself and it changed my life forever, I said to myself one day:
'Dance like you don’t need money, work like you never been hurt, make love like no-ones watching. Live free.'

But being serious, Uncle Leon who has the best tattoos in London, recently said to me while sitting up in bed with a black eye and fractured skull:

'Words without action hold no value.' That piece of advice helped me a lot at the time.


Obsessions and collections...

I am trying to be less of a consumer these days as we four live in a small flat so I had to edit things down a bit. But I have a lot of mini collections around on the shelves - records, books, comic books, native American stuff, Wolfman stuff, smoking pipes, Cyprus stuff, vintage skate stuff. It's bad. I need throw stuff away more.

I support Tottenham Hotspurs too. It’s been a good season so far. It's early days but I’m hoping for a top 4th maybe 5th/6th. Realistically top half of the table finish? You can live in hope.


I love 1950s comic books. I have a small collection of erotic comics I bought in the Dominican Republic. They are so sleazy and violent and the men in the stories are complete misogynists. That type of stuff influences my style. They are all muscles and sexual power but I always imagine they are actually scared shitless and insecure about everything. I love it.



Ernest Hemmingway, Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck and SE Hinton who wrote most famously Rumblefish and The Outsiders, two of my favourite books. They are all American writers that write the kind of words my eyes likes to look at. And Raymond Pettibon for art and Mark Gonzales for art and skate innovation.
Popeye is one of my all time heroes. The type of man I want to be. No nonsense with massive forearms.

My wife, first of all, well second after Popeye... She’s like my creative director and way better at drawing than me anyway. I rely on her for ideas when I get a new brief. It's good to work with someone you can be completely honest with and then meet in the bedroom later for a debriefing. Ha ha.

My agent Will at Stem Agency is like my boxing coach, always encouraging me to carry on even when I think I’ve got nothing left to give. Stem is rad because it's grass roots, not corporate, it’s built from the bottom up through hard work.

My friend Matt'sive Help' Tomkins aka The Silent Knight is inspiring for his loyalty, creativity, bravery and incredible unselfishness.

Interweb love...
But does it float has seemingly endless creative inspiration. Toy Machine for amazing stuff in the dream life of Ed Templeton. RVCA always has good stuff on bikes, skating, art, music, fashion and whatnot. Way Out ! for hot motorbikes and wild women (not for kids). Death Spray Custom has cool shit and some stuff I did too. Just watched season two of Epicly Later’d on VBS TV. The Max Schaaf ones were so rad. Best man Ken Bitchen recommended these to me. Thanks Ken.

Drinking deep and dressing up, dancing wild and sleazy. My dancing name is 'Sleazy Gee'. Not sure why?

I really like playing darts with my friend’s. I once penetrated the end of a dart through the flight of another dart on the bullseye. My proudest moment. Robin Hood shit. My darts name is Valdez Prince and I defeated Quincy Chalis in the final.
On going back in time...

I'd insist on taking Karate class not ballet.

Big plans...
Keep on keeping on. Staying wild and staying busy. Rest when I’m dead. Go for lunch.

Dream life...
I would love to have a gold ring on every finger and have a table reserved in the back of a Greek restaurant for me, where everyone knows me and looks down as I walk past and I don’t have to pay for any of the food. I don’t think enough illustrators have that kind of respect or reputation. It should be a more glamorous a lifestyle.

If not art then...
Probably still landscape gardening. I seriously considered staying with that or training to be a tree surgeon. I love climbing trees and using chainsaws. That would be a cool job.

I want to do animation soon, it's kind of a natural progression for illustrators. I have storyboarded and art directed a few at work but never done any with my drawings. I have a plan with some friends to do something with 'Team Unicorn'. Lets see...
A note of advice...

In general, don’t take life too seriously, have fun, be rad, make cosmic love as much as your body can handle, stay wild and don’t listen to negative talk. If you’ve got your people around you, nothing can touch you.

Share everything you’ve got creatively: your ideas, your style, your pens, your desk, your body... there’s nothing new under the sun so let's ride into the horizon together and make love happen.
Optional extra...
I’d rather be Joe Frazier than Muhammad Ali, you know what I mean?

Be brave, be kind and stay wild!


the guy said...

Many wise things said by a fantastic artist.
Holler at me

Rach Robinson said...

Mr Gee, my Spidey Senses tingled many years ago and I knew you'd do well, you have a very fine talent sir. Keep it going, let the Dusty Wolf take over the world. Keep howling. x

Jim S said...

A great outlook on life that is producing some damn fine work. Hope you get those 'massive forearms' one day but something tells me that you don't actually need them in your life.

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Anonymous said...

stevie gee is fucking rad, that was a cool read

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