Illustrator Stevie Gee works as a deep sea fisherman, longboards in Central London and learned his comedy from a one-eyed uncle – which is probably why his work is so funny.
STEVIE Gee, where are you from? Is that your real name?
My real name is Stevie Gee. I was born in Essex in 1980 but I currently call Muswell Hill, North London, my home. I live there with my wife, son, daughter and cat.
What do your parents do for a living?
They are retired now. My Dad was a gypsy jazz guitarist – he still is actually – and my Mum was a fortune-teller. My Dad is currently restoring his old motorbike and my mum is learning calligraphy.
How did you become an illustrator?
I got kicked out of the marines for being too hardcore. Drawing was my only other skill.
Who or what are your influences?
People who are doing what they want, enjoying it and doing it well. Popeye and “The Fonz” are my two of my all-time heroes. Then it would be Andrew Wellman, Sonic Youth, Mark Gonzales (the skateboarder) Raymond Pettibon (artist) Ernest Hemingway, Dennis Hopper, Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat/ Fugazi)…any man with a moustache, any man with a big quiff, ladies with big ass booties, rainbows, sunsets, clean waves and my wife and kids, to name but a few.
Who was your first client?
I think it was a surf lifestyle magazine called ADRENALIN. It was an editorial piece about the Hawaiian national anthem. It was a nice first piece. The bastards never paid though, which was annoying as I couldn’t pay the rent. I know who you are suckers…you best watch your back!
Which client helped you make your name?
All of them in different ways I guess. I have worked for some good bands, companies, friends and labels over the years. All of them are stepping stones to new adventures. Key ones for me would probably be Paul Smith, Nike, Beams Japan, Death Spray Custom, Penguin books and Deus Ex Machina. I think doing solo art shows has brought my work to the attention of a few of those clients, as that stuff often gets a lot of press globally. The agency I’m on, STEM in London, helped get my first solo show, “Vengeance is Coming” in 2009. After that I got a lot more work – the show got featured in a book.
You spent some time here in Bali recently, what were your impressions of the place?
I was over for my art show “Deeds not Words” which was part of “Slidetober”, the Deus art, music and surf fest. I spent most of my time at Deus – Dustin’s place – and a few mornings at the beach. I couldn’t have had a better time. The Deus crew all made me feel so welcome and the show went really well. I survived an earthquake and caught a few waves. I think I could handle living in Bali for a while…everyone was lovely and it’s a beautiful place. I met lots of rad creative people who were all very kind to me. I did nothing to deserve such kindness, yet it was poured all over me day after day.
What advice do you have for any budding illustrators out there?
Don’t take yourself too seriously, you’re not saving lives you’re drawing pictures. Enjoy it. Have as much fun as you can, make cosmic love as much as your body can handle. Don’t listen to negative talk. Also, it’s really important to share everything you’ve got creatively: your ideas, your style, your pens, your desk, your body…there’s nothing new under the sun so help people out and never think you are better than anyone else.
There’s a humour to your work that’s offbeat…where’s that from?
My Uncle Jackie was a semi-professional boxer in the ’70s until he quite literally got one of his eyes knocked out and had to quit. Uncle Jackie was a classic fighter, he had an incredible right hook. After he lost his eye, he started doing stand up comedy. He used to do shows in workingmen’s clubs in East London. As a small child my dad would take me to watch him sometimes. Apparently, I’m a lot like him.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever done?
One summer I labelled women’s underwear in a basement, that was kind of weird – there were some creepy characters down there. I have done loads of unusual jobs to get money when I needed it though. I worked as a dustman for a week at college to earn the money to buy my girlfriend (now wife) an engagement ring. You find loads of self-photographed porn shots in peoples bins, that was kind of interesting. The entire dust truck was filled with porn. It was pretty greasy in there.
Do you consider yourself an underground artist?
I’m not really sure what that means but some of the stuff I do definitely appeals to people into alternative scenes. I reckon I have done too much paid work to claim that I’m an underground artist. As much as I enjoy working for free doing ‘zines, T’s and record covers for friends’ bands, I have to support a family these days, so it’s a mix of both.
When does illustration stop being that and start being art?
This is probably totally wrong, but how I see it would be: Illustration normally means you are producing a visual piece to communicate a message or story for someone who is paying you to do that. With art you can never be wrong, there’s no client feedback. You are doing exactly what you want without any influence from outside sources, clients or companies. I like both and I do both.
Do you have a studio at home or do you head out to work every day?
I have a small desk next to my bed which I work on at night and at weekends. I work a full time day job doing graphic design during the day in Central London. One day I would love to have a studio to work in. One day.
You work across many media…what’s your favourite?
My favourites so far have been the Ellis Ericson shaped surfboards I did for Deus in my last art show and the two fixed gear bikes I did for my first show with Death Spray Custom. 3D stuff seems more special than regular print work to me. Both of those examples were collaborations with people way more talented than me.
Your work doesn’t appear inherently ‘English’ to us, more of a West Coast American vibe there…why’s that do you think?
I don’t really know if that’s right but I do draw a lot of long-haired males with moustaches and ladies with curvaceous figures, kind of’70s-looking cats. I guess living in London I aspire to sunnier climates and endless long waves, that probably comes out in my drawings… Coming to Bali I saw my drawings come to life.
What’s the worst thing about what you do?
All of the fame, money and women that get thrown at me. It gets dull after a while, which is why I live a very modest life with my family in a tiny flat.
Hahaha…if you weren’t illustrating, what would you be doing?
I’d be a deep sea fisherman.
Stevie Gee, many thanks for your time.
The pleasure was all mine. Much love x.