Shocking, sinister, darkly humourous and uniquely arresting, illustrator Louise Pomeroy’s work draws in a broad range of influences – from obscure YouTube clips and animal portraiture, to the work of American avant-garde sculpture Shary Boyle and forgotten crime comics.
Pomeroy got involved with Super Superficial – an independent clothing and arts shop with flagships in Covent Garden and Soho – after graduating from Kingston in 2008 and has sold many of her own t-shirt designs from there since (one of which made a cameo on Armand Van Helden in the video for Duck Sauce’s club hit ‘Barbra Streisand’, bizarrely). Having jumped on commissions for the likes of The xx, Converse and Channel 4, Pomeroy continues to push her work to exciting new reaches. Indeed, as Wonderland sat down with the artist to pick at her illustrious young career, she was in the thick of illustrating a flyer for Riot Grrl band Pettybone.
Housewives at Play is something I never thought I’d end up reading. What is it about the feel of this and other comics- such as True Crime – that feeds into your work?
I don’t think Housewives at Play is actually that old, but looks like it’s heavily influenced by 1950s romance comics. Except this is less ‘Waiting for the right man’ and more ‘Found him, got bored, then had lots of sex with the girl next door’. It’s well drawn but also doesn’t take itself seriously. The version I posted was in Russian I think, but mostly it’s in English and by Rebbeca Guay. A lot of people who don’t read comics or graphic novels (and probably quite a few who do) aren’t aware of how much great adult stuff you can find if you look in the right places. I guess you have to dig about a bit. I also really like illustrated newspapers from the 1800s – before newspapers were filled with photographs and artists were called in to illustrate crime and gossip. It was a time when everyone looked to illustrations to explain horrific events, for example: http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/21cc/crime/large7577.html. I’m a big fan of technically correct and well-drawn illustration as long as it has an interesting twist or idea behind it. There’s something very satisfying about seeing brilliant draughtsmanship combined with a surreal or comical subject matter. A lot of vintage or older comics feature that. Other than that, I like the aged paper and offset-printed colours of old comics.
Do you end up scouring through back catalogues, Ebay, car boot sales and subscriptions for comics and bygone-era art or tend to look in the same places, such as specific blogs or zines?
All the True Crime magazines I have are from this shop I found in Surrey. It was basically an ex-costume rental shop that this old man owned and wanted to close down. In amongst all these old, stained costumes were loads of magazines from the 60s and 70s as well as comics and band posters from the 80s. Other than that I look in charity shops, but the internet has endless amounts off good stuff, too.
Where do you source the photographs you use?
Do you mean the ones I draw from? Quite a lot I take myself. Me and my flatmate photograph each other acting out various body positions to draw from. This has resulted in a lot of my characters resembling me and him, though. I’m probably the only person I know who doesn’t get offended if I make myself look uglier and fatter than I actually am. I use Flickr quite a bit, too; old family photo albums people upload. Sometimes I’ll take aspects of a certain person or the body shape or shadow from someone or something else and collage them together; then draw from that.
You’ve designed a few costumes – would you be keen to explore fashion design any further?
I’ve never really thought of it as costume designing, it’s usually just me and my friends making outfits for Halloween, which is probably my favourite calendar event. It’s the only day you can walk around looking like a foetus and nobody looks twice. The house I lived in at university was constantly recovering from Halloween parties. There were seven of us all studying creative subjects – by the end it turned into a massive mess of an open studio. My friend Lori is really into comedy horror; she went all-out decorating the house so it resembled an 80s horror film set. I think the bathroom had fake blood on a curtain and a blue light bulb for the majority of the time I lived there.
How did you get involved with Super Superficial? Did you work there before your range was exhibited or vice versa?
I applied for a job at SSF when I first moved to London. I really liked the simple concept and the amount of strong illustrators they work with. I started working in the store, but not long after my first t-shirt was printed, followed by three more. I was given the opportunity to have my first solo show at Gallery7 [below the Covent Garden store] which was an amazing experience. Now I work more behind the scenes, finding new artists for SSF to collaborate with as well as designing for them. We’re a really small company – it’s almost like a family now.
How did you end up penning a band-commissioned portrait of The xx (which remains at the masthead of their Myspace page)? What kind of feedback have you had from this?
I’ve been friends with Romy [Madley-Croft, lead singer] for about five years now – she’s always been very supportive of my work and I’ve followed her music even before The xx formed. We’d spoken about me doing their portrait for a while and when they were on tour last year she emailed me over a photograph they really liked and wanted me to re-work as an illustration. The feedback’s been positive, but the image only really exists in cyberspace. I’d really like to do a follow-up to it this year in maybe limited edition prints – something you can hold.
You’re a prolific YouTube safari-ist. How do you stumble upon such obscure footage?
When I want to draw a person or an animal from an odd angle, sometimes I’ll YouTube it. For instance, if you YouTube ‘Seagull’, you’ll find hundreds of videos of seagulls walking about. The same as if you type in ‘me wearing gimp mask’, you’ll get hundreds of home videos of people wearing gimp masks. There’s something really interesting about videos of people recording themselves in ‘fetish’ wear. Obviously YouTube can’t feature nudity or anything sexually explicit, so it’s usually someone just sitting there, swinging about on their office chair in an inflatable rubber suit. It’s hilarious and mesmerising. YouTube is one of those websites you can spend hours and hours going off into tangents of obscure footage on. Which is why I posted some of the videos I found most interesting on Dinge-Mag – my Tumblr, although it’s supposed to be anonymous – otherwise, I’ll never find them again.
Do you have any career highlights so far? I personally love 2009’s anti-smoking campaign.
That was probably one of the most bizarre commissions I’ve done, for reasons I won’t go into. No Brow and The Dubious Salvation of Jack V book cover were both hugely enjoyable to produce. Other than that, someone sending me questions to fill in for their GCSE art exam was flattering.
Words: Jack Mills