As we continue to look for the finest Golaços from around the world, we also want to celebrate the fantastic illustrations that have brought our competition and the famous goal from Roberto Carlos to life. So, we sat down with celebrated artist and illustrator Stanley Chow to talk about his career, his inspirations and the brilliant way he’s brought that goal to life. Stanley, who lives and works in Manchester, has had his work used in magazines and on posters around the world. Here’s what Stanley had to say about his life as an illustrator and how he brought that Carlos goal to life…
What were the first experiences of art that you can remember?
‘I’d known since the age of 4 or 5 that I wanted to be an artist, all I ever did was draw. I’d be at my dad’s chippy, and the only thing that would keep me quiet was to sit me at the table, give me some of the chip paper, and I’d just draw. I spent most of my younger years drawing, I didn’t really have any toys when I was a kid, I just had paper. I think it was purely that I had nothing else to do, and I loved doing it.
I tended to draw people, caricatures of people I knew or who I saw on the TV, and footballers as well. I used to draw little football comic strips as a kid, I designed my own football team and every season I changed their shirts and updated them. It was them doing overhead kicks, scoring goals, that kind of thing.’
So when did you start to take art seriously?
‘Well, I’ve always taken it seriously, since I was at art school. I suppose when you leave art school, you want to take it seriously, but you don’t know how you’re going to turn it into an actual career. So it was more a case of just digging around, I used to hang out around the Northern Quarter in Manchester and do posters for a load of venues, and it slowly built up from there. I got an agent, so they were getting me work around the country in magazines, and then I got an agent in New York, and my work slowly went global.’
Were there any artists in particular that inspired you?
‘Not really to be honest, because at the time I didn’t know what a career was. I didn’t know any artists, there wasn’t really any famous illustrators I would see. There was Quentin Blake, he was the only guy I can remember, but I didn’t know of anyone else or what made someone successful. My parents definitely didn’t understand it, they were saying ‘what are you doing this for, you need to get a proper job!’ Eventually they realized that I was actually making some money, so they were pleased about that. It was only when the internet came along that you began to realise how famous or influential some artists had become.’
You’ve got a very distinct visual style, how did that develop?
‘It definitely developed over time, when I was at art school we were always told that the client wants the work yesterday, so therefore I wanted to create a style that was fast – it looked finished and completed, but I could get from A to B within a short space of time. And over time, using Adobe Illustrator, this simple geometric style just worked for me. I look back at my work I did five years ago though, and it’s nowhere near the work I’m doing now.
Also, I do a lot of portraits and caricatures now, but for about ten years I didn’t do anything like that because the competition was so high, I was daunted by the prospect of doing that. But over the last few years I developed a style that really works in that area.’
There’s also been a few imitations of your work, how do you feel about that?
‘Half and half really, it is a compliment, but there have been a few examples where you think ‘hang on, you’re really stepping on my feet here,’ and I’ve emailed them to say so. I appreciate the fact that my work has influenced them, but it’d be better for them if they took that and learned from it to develop their own ideas, rather than just copy what I’ve done.’
You’ve worked in a lot of different areas of culture, is there anything in particular you prefer to work with?
‘Ultimately I just do things that I like – football has always been part of my life, I’ve been a season ticket holder at Manchester United since I was a kid. I like watching films, so I do caricatures of actors and stuff. I don’t really have many interests beyond normal pop culture, I’m just the average bloke really, I can just draw a bit. We’re actually moving into animation here now, we kind of got into it by accident but I’m really enjoying that, directing little movies and learning a lot in that area. There’s no real genre that I want to concentrate on, but motion is something I’m really excited by and want to learn more about.’
Is there any projects you’ve struggled to bring to life?
‘Yeah, a few. Supermodels are the hardest people to draw,
because they’re so perfect and they don’t have any distinguishing features to
hang on to. Because my portraits are so simple, it’s impossible to find
anything about them to accentuate and bring out more. It’s not just
supermodels, just any really good looking people, because they don’t have those
quirks that make them so easily recognisable.’
What’s been your proudest moment as an artist so far?
‘My proudest moment is when Jonathan Ive, the man who
designed the iMac, emailed me to say that he wanted to buy one of my prints. I
emailed him back saying ‘are you the real Jonathan Ive?!’ That was the moment
when I was really gobsmacked. He sent me a cheque, and I didn’t know whether to
cash it or to frame it and put it on the wall!'
Looking at your Roberto Carlos artwork, how did you approach the subject matter?
‘I watched the goal a lot, and I tried to work out the speed of the goal. I wanted to create an image that captured the science of the goal, rather than the moment, I felt it was more special because of the pace and the technique behind it. So I was trying to find out the exact science, but I was struggling to find anything precise. So instead I’ve just got the arrows that show the scientific nature of the goal, that there was some thinking and technique behind it.’
Did you feel that it was a difficult project?
‘The idea was there as soon as I started to think about it, but it did take a few takes to get it to somewhere I was happy with.’
Do you think Roberto Carlos meant it?
‘Yeah, he must have, because if you’re shooting like that you must be aiming to score. I bet he’s tried it a lot, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred it’s not worked, but that one moment he got it perfectly. Since that goal, he always gets given the free kick, maybe too many off the back of that one!’
Do you ever find it difficult to separate your personal football feelings from work?
‘Funnily enough I got asked by Man City to do all their players for their website, and I turned them down. I couldn’t live with the idea of doing it. I actually got more out of not doing it and mentioning it on Twitter, when I said that I’d turned them down as I was a United fan, it went crazy.’
Looking ahead to next year, who will you be supporting in the World Cup?
‘I support England, they’re my country and watching a tournament like that you need to have a team that you’re supporting. I don’t even root for Brazil, they’re many people’s favourites behind their own country but I don’t really care about anyone else apart from my team.’
Do you think that England have any chance of winning it?
‘Everybody’s got a chance of winning it – Greece in 2004, Demark coming off the beach in 1992, you never know what’s going to happen. I think we should all try to not take it too seriously and then just see what happens. Only one team can actually win, so we might as well try to enjoy it.’
Wise words from Stanley – thanks to him for offering us this insight into his work. Have you entered your Golaço yet? Head to the Umbro Golaço app now if you want to be in with a chance of winning that extra special trip to Brazil.