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David Shrigley on his Stylist cover

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We’ve been lucky enough to have had some brilliant artists create Stylist covers: Quentin Blake filled the front of our Books We Never Outgrow issue (79) with our favourite book characters and Rob Ryan used an elaborate paper cutting technique to create our Perfect Picnic cover (issue 36).

So we were thrilled when iconic artist David Shrigley – famous for his irreverent drawings – agreed to create this issue’s cover. Stylist spoke to the hard-working artist – he’s lost count of the number of books he’s published but knows it’s over 40 – to discuss his first major UK exhibition showing now at London’s Hayward Gallery.

What was your inspiration for this week’s Stylist cover?

I’ve designed lots of books over the years and I’ve learnt people do actually judge a book by its cover, so it’s not really being completely ironic. And I like drawing nice logos badly so it was fun to bastardise the Stylist logo! The first time that your work appears on the cover of a magazine it’s pretty exciting and then when you get asked to do the cover, that’s even better.

Your work at the Hayward Gallery has photography, drawing, books, sculpture and taxidermy – do you have a favourite medium?

Drawing is at the centre of what I do and it’s something that I can do every day without much preparation – I can draw in my pyjamas but I can’t make a sculpture in them! I tend to have a set number of drawings, say 30, that I want to make in a day, so when I finish those I’m done. My life is ruled by lists – the act of writing a list de-stresses me, so I’m better able to rise to whatever challenge I need to.

ABOVE: David's Stylist cover.

Being such a prolific artist, do you ever have trouble coming up with ideas?

I don’t accept writer’s block – I work through it and even if the work is rubbish, I still make it but discard three quarters. The errors are real as I only draw everything once, a bit like an abstract expressionist. I’m trying to capture the moment – albeit the moment is just some straggly lines drawn in pen.

What has been the reaction to your show at the Hayward Gallery?

Lots of people have come to see it and I’m told it’s a success, but I think you have to judge how successful you are for yourself. When you work on a big project you feel tired and a bit emotionally drained at the end, so I need to have some distance from it before I can be enthusiastic again.

Do you intend for your work to be funny?

I like things to be funny but it’s not essential.

ABOVE: Artwork by David Shrigley

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

If you have a vocation you should follow it and not listen to anyone that warns you that success is hard to come by. I never expected to be a successful artist but I would be making art even if I was doing something else to make a living. If you have some art in your head that has to be made, you just have to make it. And that’s it.

David Shrigley: Brain Activity is on at the Hayward Gallery, London, SE1 until 13 May (£10, southbankcentre.co.uk). His accompanying book is out now (£19.99, Hayward Publishing)

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