Welcome to the thirty-first feature from The Idle Man Collective. This series spotlights men in the creative industries, taking a closer look at the work they do and uncovering the behind-the-scenes happenings of their creative spaces and the interesting stories that naturally come with them. The Collective's aim is to inspire and inform, advocating creativity and collaboration – as we believe what we do is just as important as what we wear whilst we’re doing it.
We met with London-based artist and printmaker Jonathan Lawes. Renowned for creating abstract screen prints, Jonathan's compositions reflect his love of geometry, shape and pattern. Having recently relocated to London from Berlin, we crossed the river and joined him in his Peckham studio, in South East London, where he talked us through is creative process.
How did you get into printmaking?
I studied Printed textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds Arts University, so it was there I first got the opportunity to really play around with screen printing. But it wasn't until my final few years of living in Berlin that I really got into it. I did a few internships with artists and designers, helping out around their studios and that gave me the opportunity to experiment and begin to develop my own style.
You mentioned that you lived in Berlin, what were you doing there?
I Lived in Berlin for around six years and mostly worked in cafes whilst printing on the side. I remember there was one day when my manager was shouting me for some reason or other and I just thought... do you know what? Fuck this. I think most creatives' who are working a job on the side to supplement what they really want to do, have this moment. Everyone reaches their tipping point and you begin to prioritise what you love. From then on, I just started printing by myself.
What inspires you and your work?
I can take inspiration form absolutely anywhere. I'm always on the hunt for a nice colour combination or interesting composition, sometimes I'm completely unaware that I'm doing it. It kind of comes naturally.
What happens before a day in the studio? Any creative rituals?
Get a good nights sleep! And a decent breakfast. As sensible as that sounds, I can be on my feet for a good seven or eight hours a day in the studio so I want to start it off right. Also the fact a a lot of my work occurs instinctively means I need a clear head. A good cup of coffee in the morning doesn't go amiss!
Colour is prominent throughout your work, how is this informed or is it left to chance?
This can really vary. Sometimes I do plan ahead, like if I'm working on a commission or a special project with specific colours. But on the whole I like leaving things to chance, it adds an element of unpredictability to the creative process and I like to see what the outcome is. Sometimes it doesn't work out at all but at least I've learnt something and then when it does come off it's a really great feeling.
You've applied your prints to a number of different mediums, in what context would you most like to see your prints?
I'm happy to see my work anywhere! I'm really not looking for the perfect scenario – I'm incredibly lucky to do what I love doing and that, for me, is more than enough.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I definitely wouldn't say that there is any aspect of my job that I dislike. It can be difficult being self employed and there are obviously things that are more time consuming than others but if I had to choose the best part of my job, it would have to be the time spent actually printing. It sounds borderline obsessive but I really do love printing!
Jonny wears: The Idle Man Button Overshirt in stone
If you could describe your style in one word, what would it be?
That's two hyphenated words but we'll allow it! What's your favourite piece from the Idle Man collection?
I like layering things up so I'd say one of the Workwear Chore Jackets in a slightly bigger size would work well for me.
What's next? Any upcoming exhibitions?
I'm off to the U.S in two weeks for my first solo show in America. I'm doing a road trip through Texas and finishing up in Little Rock for the exhibition opening. I'm also working on a new collection of prints for COS that will be available to buy online this spring. Keep your eyes peeled for them.
Words by: Gemma Ford | Photography: Jack Dallas-Chapman | Styling: Sophie Kelly