David Beckitt is an East Coast slyder and rider, a man of graphic inspiration raised on the flat lands and shifting sands of the North Sea fringes. He works in bold colours and striking lines, seamlessly blending design, illustration, and typography. His Big Wednesday print for LS/FF 2013 was coveted by all who saw it. With a raft of tantilising new designs filtering out of the east, we thought it was time to catch up with David for 6 x 4 to find out more about what fuels his creative fires.
1) Did you always want to work in the design / art field?
Yes. I was a creative kid, I would draw endlessly. Boats and racing cars mostly, but vicious and bloody battles were also a favourite, no doubt enhanced by the oral addition of machine-gun sounds. So aesthetics played a big part in my childhood, but when I left school I had no idea how to go about making it my career. I left school at sixteen in 1989. Thatcher had been doing a great job of making life difficult for everybody, and school leavers were left with very few options, but I was offered the chance to start an apprenticeship as a joiner. Aspects of this were rewarding—it wasn’t completely devoid of creative endeavour—but my heart wasn’t in it. I was conditioned to think that work was something you had to ‘endure’ rather than enjoy, but in time I realised that there was a career path into the arts, and I jumped ship and ran away to art college.
2) Your work is very graphic, who influences your art – where do you get your inspiration from?
That’s always been a difficult one. There’s no immediate answer—no list of names—more a series of things that (to me at least) seem logically interconnected. I suppose my influences can be split in two; those which were influential in my formative years, and those which have, more recently, brought about it’s continued development. The cartoons that I grew up watching as a child remain a significant inspiration—colourful and flat, much like my work. Also, a lot of what I do loosely references the cold war in some way; the colour palettes, the decals on tanks and jet fighters, camouflage, medals… again, something which is indicative of my childhood. But in terms of art reference, I’m all over the shop. I look at LOTS of stuff—it’s an unending and enjoyable process, but much of what I look at isn’t necessarily noticeable in my work—it doesn’t have to be, it just feeds it. However, if I have to name names I’ll go with Sol Lewitt, Frank Stella, Piet Zwart, Barney Bubbles, Josef Albers, Odermatt & Tissi, Picasso, El Lissitski, and Karel Martens… I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
3) What tools do you use in the design process – is it purely freehand or computer generated?
A lot of my work is computer generated. Most of it in fact. I use Adobe Illustrator because it’s precise and I can get results quickly. But I do incorporate hand-rendered techniques occasionally—paper cut-outs, hand-drawn elements etc, but it’s something that I intend to do much more in the future. I’d like to loosen things up a bit, take a few more risks. Actually, I think that I just want to experiment more. Rummaging around in the unknown is where it gets exciting. Comparing it to surfing; it’s like paddling out on a big day, and you’re out of your comfort zone—it can’t fail to be exciting. Scary perhaps, and risky, but the potential for reward makes it worthwhile.
4) Tell us about your alphabet, what inspired it and how long did it take?
It’s something that came about after a talk with colleagues and students at Leeds Met Uni. We’d been discussing the importance of regular and enforced productivity, and the ‘do-something-daily’ concept featured heavily—I wanted to contribute by producing a letter a day, and decided to publish it on Instagram (@davidbeckitt) and it gained in popularity from there. My original intention was to enforce a time limit of no more than 30 minutes for each letter, but it turned out to be more challenging than I’d anticipated, and some took considerably longer. I set out to create the 26 characters of the alphabet only, but when I got to ‘Z’, one or two people insisted I continue with the numbers. Unfortunately I was forced to put it on hold over the student assessment period, but I’ve promised that I’ll finish it over the next week or two.