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The sound of Marcus Oakley

01.04.2018 / INTERVIEW / 10 MIN READ

Marcus Oakley is not only an image maker, but he also makes music. Firmamento has recently launched a capsule collection of limited edition T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring a special design made by the artist from Norfolk (UK), now based in Edinburgh. We have a series of questions for Marcus.


Hello Marcus! How are you today? Hope we don’t catch you super busy with work…, so you can tell us a bit more about you. First question to get started… an easy one but the important one. What is that you like the most about drawing?


I simply enjoy the physicality of drawing and connecting one line with another. Thick lines, thin lines, zigzag, curved, straight, fast, slow, wonky, abstract and pictorial, they all have their own special mood and melody. I’m continuously learning how a line has the potential to be anything and interpreted into anything 2D, 3D or even sonically: playing around with colour, space and structure.


How did you get into illustration? What was first: illustration or art practice?


Originally I didn’t set out specifically to be an illustrator. I didn’t have a career path. What I did know is that I wanted to live a creative life and make things. I graduated in 1996 from what was known then as Camberwell College of Art in London with a Joint Honours degree in Fine Art & Graphic design. It was a multidisciplinary degree and I studied many aspects of art and design, including Type Setting & Letter Press, Typography, Silkscreening, Video Art, Book Making, Conceptual Art, Painting, Illustration & Graphic Design.

After graduation, I thought it would be a good idea to work in a design studio. I was fortunate after two months of graduating and three rigorous interviews to be offered a position as a T-shirt & Textile designer at Paul Smith. I mostly worked on menswear and sometimes women’s and children’s wear lines. It was a huge change from my years at studying at Art College. I had to learn very quickly! It was hard work but I was also lucky to be able to travel on research trips to Paris, New York and Tokyo. It was a fascinating company to work for and I learnt so much about working in the creative industries. After three years of literally designing hundreds & hundreds of T-shirts and textile designs I was ready to do my own thing and so in early 2000, I left to pursue a career as an illustrator and to spend more time on my personal art practice.

Let’s explore Marcus Oakley world to know a bit more about the artist behind the pattern design for the last Firmamento clothing collection “Legendary Surfers”.


We’ve just discovered your music work! We really like it too. When did music appear in your practice as a new format and media?


In 2003 I started my self-taught music project ‘The Sunflower Band’, born from a curiosity of trying to turn my visual works into music. I learnt how to play the guitar badly and bought a four-tracks Tascam cassette which I still use today. I use a mixture of instruments including a half broken keyboard, children’s toys and other random things I find.


What is that you like the most about making music?


I like how music/sound isn’t physical. Sound doesn’t exist as a three-dimensional form but at the same time, I find it super interesting and fun to create sounds that fill time and space, sculpting and manipulating sound into a hopefully interesting sonic sound structure.

Marcus Oakley is a graphic artist who not only works on paper but also explores the world of objects and the music media to create his pieces. When it comes to the subject, he works on different and diverse.


Would you like to explain us about other sources of inspiration, background experience, or further references that you use when working on a drawing, a painting or an audio piece?


Many many things inspire and influence my work, both retrospective and contemporary. My surroundings and interests often filter down into my work sometimes directly or indirectly. Some of those interests are: walking, cycling, camping, reading, nature, landscape, architecture, baking bread, history, 1970’s films, ceramics, melodic music, art and design.


We find that there’s some relation between your works and the language of comics, in the way that you sometimes represent robots and other fantasy scenes, but also in your representations of objects and portraits and in the kind of cosmic sounds of your music. Is this something conscious or that you’re aware of? or is this just a feeling we have?


I’m not particularly conscious of this at the time of making, but I can definitely see how, later on, nostalgia and interests filter down into the work. Most of the time something manifests itself into my imagination and I simply bring that thought to reality. It often happens with a pen and paper.

From skaters or surfers to still life moments, from landscape to portrait, robots to animals, from daily situations to more abstract compositions. It doesn’t matter the topic or the format he works with, you’ll always be surprised by the soul of the zigzag movements, twisted postures and by bold lines playing with thin lines.


We have read in a previous interview to you that you’re interested in the potential of drawing. That you like working on projects where your work ends up on some kind of object or product. In the case of the collaboration we have developed together, your drawings of surfers and waves have been silkscreen printed on the garments, creating a super colourful pattern. How do you feel about this work?


It’s been really awesome to collaborate with Firmamento and see my drawing printed on T-shirts and sweatshirts. In particular, I liked the concept of using the fabric leftover from previous collections and being reused and appropriated in new ways. It just seems fun to wear a drawing.

I’m a retired sidewalk surfer. I spent many years engaging with concrete and street furniture, like surfers, skateboarders dedicate themselves to the art of balance. So I thought working with Firmamento would be a positive project to work on with its connection to surfing.

Marcus Oakley work is always sparkled with a fun mood and a pinch of a darkish thing.

Discover the Firmamento clothing collection in collaboration with Marcus Oakley.

Legendary Surfers Sweatshirt nº. 16

Legendary Surfers Sweatshirt nº. 19

Legendary Surfers Sweatshirt nº. 20

Legendary Surfers Sweatshirt nº.1