Interview: Manchester graphic illustrator Stanley Chow happy to return to ‘old stomping ground’

By Kevin Benson

The Northern Quarter is undoubtedly the beating heart of Manchester’s cultural and artistic body. It’s a place where established creative talent ferments and new talent lays undiscovered.

Part of this creative cauldron is graphic illustrator Stanley Chow, who has made a living off his unique illustrations of famous faces – portraying everyone from Bill Murray to Davie Bowie.

A new creative space on Dale Street, the 2022NQ gallery, is currently showcasing some of Stanley’s work.

The launch night on May 31 saw around 200 people attend and since then his daily enquiries for commissions has increased considerably.

“The guys who run 2022NQ asked me if I would be interested in having an exhibition there.

“It’s a terrific venue, you can never have enough places like this and it will just help the Northern Quarter grow into an even more significant creative and commercial area for Manchester.”

Stanley attributes some of his success to the Northern Quarter, or as he puts it, his ‘old stomping ground’.

“When a city has a creative hub like the Northern Quarter it draws in creative people from around the country, not just from Greater Manchester and the North West.”

Stanley’s illustrations have graced everything from album covers to the Sunday Times Magazine. His fondness for drawing began when he was just 4 years old.

 “My parents used to work in a fish and chip shop; they gave me chip paper to draw on to keep me quiet.”

Years later, after studying at Swindon College of Art and a brief spell in Lyon, France, Stanley was creating illustrations for teen magazines ‘Sugar’ and ‘Just Seventeen’. It was around this time that his dad bought him a computer and his career took on a whole new meaning.

STREET VIEW: Stanley’s depiction of Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter

“It changed the way I worked, it was like technology had arrived.” he said

As the 90’s drew to a close, technological advances in graphic design and the meteoric rise of instant electronic mail gave Stanley a new emphasis to his work.

“This was when email was still quite new, and I clients I knew wanted everything emailed over to them so I had to keep with the digital times.”

Stanley admits that the thought process that goes into to deciding on who to illustrate is a spontaneous one.

“It’s quite random really, i’ll be at home watching TV or flicking through the internet and then i’ll think maybe i’ll see someone who would be good to illustrate.”

WHITE STRIPE: Chow’s designs for the US duo’s Icky Thump USB sticks

Stanley regards the year 2007 as the ‘pinnacle’ of his career, after he was commissioned to create some artwork for ‘Icky Thump’, the sixth studio album by American band The White Stripes.

“I’d done a mock up poster and then about six months later I got a call from their management company telling me that Jack and Meg really liked my work.”

Despite living and working in Manchester, many of Stanley’s current clients are based in London and New York, which just goes to show how far he has come since the days of drawing on chip shop paper.

It hasn’t all be an easy ride however, and Stanley admits that it took a lot of hard work and determination to get to where he is today but he offered some advice to any budding illustrators out there.

“You can be the most gifted, but the harder worker will always do better.

“Ultimately, keep illustrating the things you like and show them off as much as possible, because sooner or later you will get noticed.”

Stanley’s exhibition can be seen at the 2022NQ gallery until Monday 18 June 2012.

To check out more of Stanley’s designs click here.

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