UK concept artist Gareth Davies might be best known by his sci-fi moniker Spudonkey. With pen in hand, the prolific and inventive artist/illustrator crafts weaponry, sketches robot tribes, showcases beefed up cyborgs, and spotlights terrifying skeleton gangs. Honing in on his signature style (often with a post a day on Instagram) and with a new gig at video game company Coatsink, I reached out to Davies to talk about DIY publishing, Hellboy, and robots.
How has 2018 been treating you so far?
Really well, thank you. I have just started working in house at a studio called Coatsink at the tail end of last year and moved up to Newcastle. So am excited and pumped about the projects (such as They Suspect Nothing which is out now!) and meeting new people and making new friends.
For those unfamiliar, how would you describe yourself / your art in a couple of sentences?
Odd, scribbly, robots.
Your conceptual creations seem to often feature robotic / mechanical / apocalyptic elements. Is your brain constantly in sci-fi mode?
It is definitely a genre I love. I think with the projects I have worked on the past few years it has just naturally seeped through to my personal work. I loved the medieval era growing up and also have recently been working my way through the Hellboy tomes. I think there is a slight undercurrent of these coming through my work, don't think I will never grow out of drawing dilapidated robots however...
What have you been working on? What's the rest of the year looking like for you?
[laughs] in all seriousness that is one part of being a concept artist. A lot of my work is under wraps, I still have work from a couple years back that can’t be shared.
In terms of announced stuff, They Suspect Nothing is due out now and is basically a WarioWare-esque game for the Oculus Go and features my favourite thing: robots! It was a great project to work on in regards to the flexibility of the characters and the range of locations.
Into the Breach also came out this year, I was really honoured to be asked by Justin and the rest of the team to help out with some mech development.
You have released three Pen + Ink books. What's your experience been like with DIY publications?
Very time consuming! The editing and file creation is okay, it’s mainly the shipping and lugging them all the post office. Luckily I have family support and they are extremely helpful with taking books when I am unable. Big thanks to them as in all honesty I don’t know if I would have time otherwise.
Is it difficult to split time between commission work and passion projects?
I wouldn’t say for me it is that bad. However, I am very guilty of not having a long term ongoing personal project. I enjoy the work I do in the day and get fulfillment from the projects I do full-time and seeing them progress so am happy to just spend one hour or so doodling a night.
Outside of design/illustrations, do you have other hobbies/interests?
I used to play rugby but unfortunately dislocated my right shoulder (my drawing arm) a couple years ago and so decided to give it up. So now I have turned into a bit of a gym rat. I think it’s with spending so long either sitting or standing at a desk I have a lot of pent up energy to burn off.
Other than that, I have recently got into climbing (great for getting interesting pose reference) and am frequently sighted in pubs in and around Newcastle. And reading! Best way to build your imagination in my opinion.
What are some studio essentials?
The bare essentials are a half decent laptop/computer tablet and Photoshop. A lot of people ask what brush I use and sadly there is not a secret formula, I mostly use some of the standard ones with a few preference tweaks.
Nice to haves:
- Coffee! Stove pot if you can get it, aero press if not.
- Standing desk, love the flexibility of being able to sit or stand. Have found I have more energy and am feeling less guilty about spending a lot of the day at a desk.
- Other people? This is again a personal preference thing but I love the buzz of an active studio and the community around that. And there are always my beasty noise canceling headphones when I want to be in the zone.
What have you been listening/watching/reading as of late?
Reading: The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan (the Author who wrote Altered Carbon). Hellboy Volume II. Ready Player One.
Watching: Just saw the latest Avengers last night. Damnation is a great depression era series on Netflix. Happy is a very weird Netflix Series. Working my way through Breaking Bad for the second time.
Playing: God of War.
Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
It’s all about dedication. If you want it and enjoy it enough, it shouldn’t feel like hard work. Also being mindful of studies and not just copying what you see but analyzing and learning from what you do, or else after a certain point it becomes a fruitless exercise.
Any final words/thoughts/shout-outs?
[laughs] As you probably have garnered from the above, I’m a man of few words.
But, just wanted to say thank you to my family and friends for putting up with me and my weird obsessions.