Owen Gildersleeve

Owen Gildersleeve is an artist based in london, he is best known for his handcrafted illustration and design. By playing with light and shadow, he is able to bring his graphic designs to life through his attention to detail towards hand cut layers. 

How did you first find your own style?

I’ve always been interested in fine art, especially ’tactile’ artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Anselm Kiefer and Cy Twombly who use a lot of different techniques and materials in their work. So when I went to study Graphic design at the University of Brighton I was immediately drawn to designers like Stefan Sagmeister and Alan Fletcher who used a lots of hands-on processes in their work. Then over time I started to find materials and techniques that I enjoyed working with to create my designs, that gave me more flexibility than others. This is how I came to working with paper, which is a very versatile medium whilst also being affordable, available in a nice range of colours and being an easy material to transfer my designs onto. Then it was a case of creating a few papercut artworks and people seeing those and asking me to do more work in that style and things took off from there.

There must be a lot of obstacles when working on 3D projects right?

There are lots of obstacles when working by hand, especially when you’re constantly trying to push things forwards. A large challenge we had to overcome recently was to workout how to make paper flowers move. We had been approached by Lush to create a window display for their flagship Oxford Street store for their Self Preserving campaign. For the display we made a series of paper flowers based on paintings by UK artist Charlotte Day in a range of different sizes and scales. 

We also thought it would be fun to have some of the flowers moving to catch the eye of passers-by, but had no idea how to do it! So we again brought in 3D designer Thomas Forsyth who devised some 3D printed mechanisms, on which we could place the paper flowers heads. He created some really interesting coding which meant that the movements were completely random, to make the flowers feel almost alive. He did a really amazing job and everyone was really happy with the final display.


What is the most memorable response someone has given about your work?

I was asked to create last year’s poster for Bonnaroo Festival in the US, and when I sent my artwork over for the first time the Art Director replied "This is exactly what I had in my head when we reached out to you to begin with, I could nearly cry. Love it!” That was a pretty great response! :)

So we see you’ve got some musical talents aside from art.

I’ve been playing the drums since I was eleven, playing in various noisy bands over the years. It’s always been good therapeutic break from my work, especially when things get a bit too hectic. I’m now in a two-piece band called Modern Technology and we recently released our debut EP: https://modern-technology.bandcamp.com/. It’s a noisy post-punk record, dealing with themes of political injustice, social anxiety, austerity and inequality – So quite a contrast to some of my work themes! We’re also releasing the EP as a limited edition vinyl with all profits shared between housing and homelessness charity Shelter and mental-health charity Mind: https://qrates.com/projects/17527-modern-technology

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

The projects that scare you the most are the ones to take on. It’s a sign that you are being pushed out of your comfort zone and I think that’s a really good thing, to make sure that your work doesn’t become stale. The Lush project I mentioned earlier was very much one of those, but by bringing in the right people and breaking the job down into simple steps we were able to make it work.

What are the biggest life lessons that you have learnt along your journey?

Reach out to people and make personal connections. Sometimes people are scared to reach out to clients and creatives they admire, but I’d always recommend people to go out and try to meet as many people as they can. Clients seem to appreciate your work even more when they can put a face to the names and you can then show them your passion behind the projects. Reaching out to creatives you admire is a nice way of finding out more about their work, and might possibly lead to internships or collaborations. It’s also a really nice way of building up a network, which is important in the freelance world to help keep you connected and to allow for support and guidance.