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stanley chow

he/him | Instagram | Site | LinkedIn

Hey Stanley, how’s things? 

Non-stop… never a moment’s rest…

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself. 

I’m a 49 year old (nearly 50)  illustrator, born in Wythenshawe, Manchester… now living in Whalley Range. I’ve been illustrating and DJing pretty much all my adult life. I have a wife, 2 kids and 2 cats.

It has been widely publicised that growing up in a Chip Shop influenced you greatly and almost started you on the path to become an illustrator, why is this? 

It’s where I learnt to draw. When I was kid all I had was chip paper and a pen.. They were my TV and toys. But over time, the work ethic my parents they instilled into me, I think plays a great part of my success, they worked 10am - midnight everyday for 30. Also, having worked at the chipshop myself from the age of 13/14 serving customers, I felt this helped with my people skills, as they were good from an early age.

Whats your go to chip shop order? 

Special Fried Rice and Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Describe to us the moment you decided to go for it and pursue illustration full time.

It was never a moment… I always knew. I was already getting work already when I was student… the main problem was getting enough work to live on… so to make up the shortfall, I DJed in clubs and bars around Manchester from the late 90s onwards. It wasn’t until 2009, when I gave up DJing. I was getting too much work to allow me to DJ plus I just had my first kid.

Were your family always supportive of you becoming an illustrator?

Yes, they were incredibly supportive. They didn’t want me to work in a chip shop, they knew I had the ability to succeed in art… even when I was struggling a bit in the early years. It was my Dad who bought me an Apple Mac when I was 25… he basically said to me, stop painting…  you need to  get with the times and live in the the digital age. Getting a Mac turned my career round.

If you didn’t become an illustrator what do you believe you would be?

A DJ or a cook.

Talk to us about your characteristic style, how did this develop? 

In a nutshell, I felt for me to be successful, I needed to churn out the work… it was as much about quantity as much as it was quality… I felt the need to develop a style that was economical and efficent. The question that I asked myself was, why would I want to use 100 lines or strokes of a pen to illustrate someone and make it look like them, when I could do it in 4 or 5.

Has anything influenced you when developing this style?

My biggest influences during the development of that style was an artist called Ian Bilbey, watching Samurai Jack and The Power Puff Girls.

When you are creating an illustration what do you look for in a portrait to capture the character? 

I don’t look for anything… I just try to make it look like who it’s supposed to be. Everybody is different, so each different person will give me different visual nuggets to work from. So I don’t actually look for anything, it’s usually something that’s presented to me.

So lets talk about your career, did you always want to be freelance?

Yes, as soon as I understood the concept of what freelancing was, then I knew that was what I wanted to be.

How did you make sure you stood out from the competition? 

That is never something I consciously choose to do. I just do what I do… I think it’s because I have a very high output of work. I very rarely rest.

Your love of Manchester is well known, what is it about the City you love the most? 

I love it because it’s my home, it’s part of me… but mostly it’s because I’ve met some many creative and inspirational people here, and without them I don’t think I would have achieved what I have done. Being an freelance illustrator is essentially a lone person’s job, but you need a team of friends and like minded people to make you believe anything is possible.

Talk to us about Manchester United, from lifelong fan to featuring in the 22/23 Kit Launch. Sum this up for us. 

Dream come true stuff really… being a fan, just doing anything for club I’d be happy. The kit launch photo, I have it on my studio wall, as it makes so happy looking at it. It seemed such a ridiculous idea, asking a very unsporty middle-aged chinese fella to part of the kit launch…I look like everyone else’s Dad in the group shot… I still pinch myself that happened. 

I saw you have an exhibition running currently, please tell us more about it

The exhibition is at the Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Chorlton, Manchester. It’s called “ Stanley Chow Presents A Random Selection of his Illustrations featuring People from Film, Stage and TV”. Basically it does what it says on the tin… there’s 30 or so illustration exhibited. With the venue being a theatre, it just made sense to the that I fiiled the space with portraits of actors… The exhibition runs until end of May, and I’ll also be doing a couple talks (TBA) between now and when exhibiton ends.

What are your creative industry pet peeves?

Having been doing this for 30 years, I can categorically say that freelance fees haven’t increased that much in that time. 2007/2008 recession didn’t help, nor have Brexit or Covid. I feel nowadays I’m working harder for less money… I’m sure this is not just a problem within the creative industry… but other than that, it’s very rare that anything in the industry is a peeve… I’m ultimately just very happy that I have a career being creative.  

Who are your standout creatives?

Jonathan E

Caroline Dowsett

Dave Sedgwick

Jane Bowyer

For my final question, whats next?

I’m currently working on projects for The National Football Museum and also The FIFA museum in Zurich… hopefully the work I produce turns out OK.


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