Joseph Atkinson is a Glasgow-based illustrator and animator who creates humorous work inspired by American pop culture, films such as The Matrix and hip hop music. His latest animation, an interpretation of “Popped a molly, I’m sweating” by rapper Trinidad Jame$, features a man popping an ecstasy pill and sweating profusely. It’s so literal that it leaves you little choice but to laugh.
A recent graduate with honours in illustration from Edinburgh College of Art, Atkinson’s eye-popping visuals are created using stark colour contrasts and simple forms. He strips down his illustrations to the minimum, leaving only the characters, their expressive faces and bright acid palette.
Atkinson’s portfolio, which is a pleasure to peruse, is jam-packed with offbeat illustrations and animations. He’s even won a BAFTA New Talent Award for Animation and for Best New Work, which Kate Charter shared with him for their animation Hannah and the Moon.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
What influences you?
The internet – everything from music videos to memes have a large role in what inspires me.
Your work is humorous. How do you achieve that?
My proudest moment is hearing someone forcefully release air from their nostrils whilst looking at my work. I make things that make me laugh and if other people find it funny, it's a bonus
What is the best thing about illustration as a medium? What can it do that other art forms cannot?
Illustration is expansive and constantly changing. It can dip in and out of every visual language.
Talk us through your process.
I usually start with a few thumbnail sketches – if it's an animation, I do it in a sequence. I'll have a vision in my head (usually a result of a subject piquing my interest) and translate my drawings to a digital format.
In the real world, I work very quickly with a pencil – but in the virtual world, I work slowly in layers, colours and tiny adjustments. When I create on a computer, I like to think of myself as Neo plugging into The Matrix.
Who or what are your biggest creative influences?
I like watching movies, especially The Matrix. I listen to a lot of hip-hop. And the Internet has a large influence on me. It's a horrible and amazing place and I spend most of my time there –browsing, absorbing, perusing… sometimes with the safe search off.
Has being an illustrator changed the way you look at the world?
It's probably made my dreams of being a billionaire playboy harder to achieve, but that won't stop your boy trying.