Paul Garland designs

Bold, Colorful, & Graphic: Paul Garland Featured in Graphis Journal #376

Paul Garland was born in Somerset, England, and studied at Somerset College of Arts & Technology, Epsom School of Art, and Plymouth University. He has worked as a freelance illustrator for the better part of 30 years, has been a visiting lecturer at several UK art colleges, and is also a fine art painter. As a visual storyteller, Paul’s illustration work is intensely colorful, clean, bold, and graphic. His images are conceptual and metaphorical to convey complex subjects for clients worldwide in the fields of advertising, design, branding, publishing, and editorial. Paul’s work has been recognized with awards from several major institutions, including the NY Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3×3, Lürzer’s Archive, Society of Illustrators of LA, the Association of Illustrators, the World Illustration Awards, and Graphis, amongst others.

What inspired or motivated you to have a career in illustration?
I really didn’t know what to do with my life whilst at school; there wasn’t much in the way of career advice offered at the time. When I was 14, I started work on Saturdays and in school holidays for a large motorcycle dealership. This led to what I thought was going to be my long-term career as a motorcycle technician. At 19, I completely lost interest, partly because the industry struggled due to the negative reputation that the government was giving motorcycles.
My main interest in life at that time was fashion, and my creative juices were slowly starting to manifest themselves. I went to visit my local art college and had a chat with some of the lecturers, and they kindly gave me some advice. Their suggestion was to take a foundational course in art and design and not specialize in fashion, which proved invaluable as I soon found out that I loved the design process but simply hated sewing. From my foundational course, I went on to do a course in fashion illustration, and later to illustration in general.

What is your work philosophy?
To always produce the best work that I can, and to always meet deadlines. I try to make my artwork visually interesting at postage stamp size or poster size.

Who is or was your greatest mentor?
While at college, Brian Sweet helped an awful lot; he was a UK-based illustrator represented by Arena. Later, Brian Grimwood helped me in my early days with lots of invaluable advice. Ultimately, my first agent, Jacqui Figgis, helped build my confidence and spread my name around the UK. Mid-career, I gained a lot of help and advice from Charles Hively, publisher of 3×3 Magazine; he continues to be a go-to person
if I feel the need.

What is it about art and illustration that you are most passionate about?
Creating something that wasn’t there before. If it can enhance another person’s life in some way, then I’m happy.

What’s one distinct thing about your illustration style that stands out?
It’s bold, colorful, and graphic. That’s not one distinct thing, but it’s the essence of how I perceive my work.

What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome to reach your current position?
My health. During college, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, which for an invincible, happy, and healthy 22-year-old was life-shattering. I cannot express how debilitating this has been throughout my life and career. For the first 10 years of living with epilepsy, it wasn’t stabilized, and it was really difficult to live with. I had many talks with neurologists, who eventually thought the best decision would be to operate (though this
wouldn’t be without risks). However, after some careful and long consideration, I declined and kept on working with the specialists to juggle my medication until eventually, we found a compromise. Although I still have seizures, they’re much less frequent and not as severe, and I know how to manage the condition pretty well to the point that it’s at least partially stabilized. Why am I revealing this now after all these years of secrecy? Well, the stigma that associates itself with epilepsy is quite incredible and had to be buried and hidden, or I would’ve had no career at all. In today’s society, with the major focus on mental health, I feel it’s right to talk about this now.

Who were some of your greatest past influences?
Tom Eckersley, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, A. M. Cassandre, Abram Games, Edward McKnight-Kaufer, Shigeo Fukuda, Paul Rand, Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, and many more. As for artists, Picasso, Braque, Hans Arp, Terry Frost, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Andy Warhol, Fernand Leger, the Bauhaus—the list is endless, but you probably get the picture.

Who among your contemporaries today do you admire?
The list is far too big to name them all. For fear of leaving some out, just look through any of the last five to 10 years of Society of Illustrators, 3×3, American Illustration, or Workbook publications, and the inspiration flows.

On top of being an illustrator, you’re a visiting lecturer at art schools around the UK. How did you start giving lectures, and what’s your favorite part about that?
I started after having gained a few years of experience and was invited back by one of my lecturers to give a block series of lessons and lectures to students. Being able to pass on knowledge to the next generation was something I found incredibly rewarding. I haven’t done it for a while due to my freelance schedule;
perhaps it may be time to think about helping again in the future. Who knows? I do still regularly help students and early career professionals by answering emails.

You’re also a fine art painter. Is there any sort of crossover between your illustrations and your paintings?
I think there are a couple of crossovers. First, my fine art works are very colorful, graphic, and bold. They don’t have a narrative or have to sell a product in any way; they’re simply an escape for me to be able to paint what I want in any manner that I see appropriate. The works are meticulously hand-painted, which may drive some people nuts, but to me, it’s a great stress reliever as I don’t have to meet deadlines and don’t have anyone else to please apart from myself.

To read the rest of the interview and discover other designers, preorder Graphis Journal #376 at

Author: Graphis