Artbiz with Gareth Hopkins

Sep 9, 2016   //   by admin   //   artbiz, News  //  No Comments


Artbiz explores that middle ground between “art” and “business”. How genuinely creative people manage (or do not manage) to carve out a living doing what they love. How they juggle dayjobs, families, real life, relationships, paying bills and doing their craft/art.

I am lucky enough to have known Gareth A Hopkins (the A is for Astronaut) for seventeen years. During that time I have seen Gareth evolve as an artist and an illustrator. Gareth has an instantly recognisable but unique style. His “Intercorstal” comics can be found in the best indie comic stores in London and I recommend you check out his stuff where you can. Start at his sites:

Q1          First, can you introduce yourself? Who are you? Do you have dependents? Do you have a mortgage? Are you the sole income earner?

Hello, I’m Gareth A Hopkins (please make special note of the ‘A’ as it makes me easier to Google). I’m married to a lady, with whom I have two children – a 6yr old boy and a 4yr old girl. I very much have a mortgage. My wife and I are both in work, and share the bills as fairly as possible — I’m full time, she’s part-time, and because I’ve not taken time out to have children I’ve not had my career stalled so earn a bit more than she does.

 Q2          What do you do creatively? How long have you been doing it?

I’m an artist and illustrator, the distinction between the two occasionally blurring but still present enough to be noteworthy, at least I think so. I’ve been actively drawing since 2004-ish, when I was 24, having just sort of stopped before that for the usual reasons people stop doing things in their late teens. Since then I’ve grown in confidence and competence, and got steadily more serious. My main project is a comic called The Intercorstal, which is abstract and experimental. Until recently it was pretty much online only but in June I used Kickstarter to fund a print run of ’683′, a 36pp comic. The Intercorstal’s also been in a few exhibitions here and there. I’ve also done spot illustrations for some magazines. 

After Smith Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

After Smith
Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Q3          If you have one, what’s your day job? How long have had you that?

By day, I’m an e-assessment specialist for a Vocational Education company. Essentially, I know a lot about how electronic multiple-choice tests work. I’ve been with this company for 11 years now — I started there as an admin after leaving a management role in a supermarket, and gradually moved my way into my current niche. 

Q4          What are the benefits of your day job?

They’ve got a photocopier that is a very good scanner, so the vast majority of my work gets scanned there. I’ve also got access to Photoshop as part of my job, so I get to use that too. They’re very flexible around work/life balance too. It’s in Central London, so I’m close to stuff if I need it — there’s a park near my office where I go to draw during my lunch, and that space has been very important to me as an artist, it’s really informed my work. I also get a Volunteering leave allownace too, which means I can help out with the Ministry Of Stories (a children’s literacy and creativity charity) without eating up too much of my annual leave. It pays pretty well, too.

Q5          What are the drawbacks of the day job?

On a good day, my commute is an hour and a half each way, which has its benefits as I use the time to read and catch up on sleep, but it does mean I’m not at home as much during the week as I’d like, and I don’t get to see my kids too much before they go to bed, which can be hard. And then there’s the usual work stresses, and also that while I’m doing that job I’m not making something different, for myself. 

Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Q6          Your art/craft is it a hobby/ a side gig/ your dream job/ your full time job?

It’s what I do to fulfill my ambitions, I guess. I know that the kind of art I make is never going to be embraced by the mass market, and I’ll never be able to do it full time, but my ambition is to be as good as I can at it. I want to make interesting, engaging, and occasionally thought-provoking work. It doesn’t pay me anything, but other than my family it’s my number one priority, I think.

 Q7          How much of what you do creatively is dictated by commercial consideration?

Pretty much none. My work isn’t hostile, but my stubborn refusal to make art that conforms to set norms borders on it. I’m constantly adapting, and if I get even a sniff that someone’s doing something comparable I’ll shift somehow.

Having said that, I’ve adapted my work for public spaces — my work for the Lakes Comic Art Festival has been willfully crowd-friendly (the first year it was based on A Wainwright’s Lakeland Guides which are very popular in that neck of the woods, and the year after that I based my project around To Kill A Mockingbird). But even then, any kind of monetary benefit is the furthest thing from my mind when I begin a project. I’ve spent more money making comics and art than I’ve earned back, by a wide margin.

Q8          Have you turned down commissions? If so, why?

There have been times when I’ve been approached by writers eager to work on comics with me — or the other way around, sometimes — but I find it difficult to move into a ‘mainstream’ way of drawing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to draw a decent sci-fi comic. I’ve also had to say ‘no’ to few projects recently just because I’ve been too busy, although if it’s a project I really want to do I’ll find a way. 

Blencathra Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Q9          Do you have a long term plan? A series of short term plans? Plans, never heard of them?!

A series of short term plans, definitely. I tend to have one Intercorstal project bubbling along at all times, and then pick up other projects as and when I can. There’s no masterplan, though. Just trying to be the best Gareth A Hopkins I can be.

I’d like to one day have more space to create in, both spatially and temporally. At the moment I work at my kitchen table, usually starting at 10pm. I’d like to get a studio, or office, or something, and also to have more time to work on larger projects.

Q10        What do you think of your “industry”?

Hmm. Just had to delete my first answer which was ‘I love it! Everyone’s super nice!’ because last time I told my wife that she listed all the times I’ve been let down by someone, or passed over for something, or rejected from a pitch. Generally, everyone in Small Press Comics, which is where I’ve nestled, is amazing, and I’ve made some great friends and worked with some amazing people. Wider than that… I dunno.

Q11        Is there anyone out there that you aspire to be like? Why?

Not really. There are swathes of people I admire, and that I’ve learned a lot from, but my personal mantra, which I’ve already said once in this interview, is ‘be the best Gareth you can’. It keeps me honest, and ambitious, and focused. I don’t feel any need to be like anybody else.

683  Copyright Gareth A Hopkins

Gareth A Hopkins

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