When you decide to create a new player portrait, where do you start?
“There’s nothing that I specifically aim for. It’s the whole shebang, really…once you have the position of the ears and the jaw and the chin it flows. Sometimes I can just draw one eye, one eyebrow, and the rest of it will just fall into place really quickly.”
Can you remember the first United player you ever created as an artwork?
“When I was at art school I did a painting of Cantona. He just affected the team so much. Because of art schooling, you’re not trained to illustrate celebrities. You’re almost pushed away from it – not high-brow enough. It wasn’t a natural marriage like it is now. You could talk about football and watch football, but art related to it? No.”
Do you still have the Cantona piece?
“Yeah. It was a cartoony style and I painted. It wasn’t until the 2000s that I started using digital tools to create. The Cantona piece is going back to the mid-90s when painting was actually with real paint.”
How did you make the switch to digital art?
“My dad bought me a computer in my mid-20s. Work wasn’t going great, I wasn’t really getting much work as an artist and he just said to me, ‘you gotta be up with the times – everyone’s using computers now’. I didn’t want to use a computer, I wanted to be an artist. I was quite stubborn and a bit of a Luddite, really.”
“The computer sat there for about a year. I was playing Football Manager on it, and that was it. I never actually used it for anything proper. And then I thought, it’s about time I used it. Photoshop and Illustrator and stuff like that.I taught myself, really.”
Can you tell us when you first became a Red?
“I’ve been one for long as I can remember, really. I was born in ’74 and it’s been literally Man United ever since. My dad used to work in a restaurant in Alderley Edge where all the ’60s greats used to come in – Charlton, Best, Law, Nobby Stiles. He used to bang on about them a lot. Particularly Nobby Stiles. He liked him, not just as a footballer but as a human being.”
So your dad introduced you to the club?
“Yeah, my dad stopped working at that restaurant and bought a chippy in Altrincham. That’s when I started to see all the ’70s players. Lou Macari, Gordon McQueen – they’re the ones I mainly remember. After the chippy, my dad bought another restaurant. Sharp were the sponsors of United at the time, and the execs always used to come in and give free tickets to staff. Every now and then I’d get one, and that’s when I started going to matches in the late ’80s. The link has been there for me and United forever.”