With a limited-edition new David Shrigley and Sunspel collection launching this summer, we caught up with the irreverent artist to talk about his working wardrobe and living every day as if it’s his first (at art school)
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes, although I didn't realise it was actually a career. Even when I left art school, I didn't really think that that was an option. Immediately, once I left, I focused completely on making drawings. More for practical reasons than anything else – just because I could sit at my desk in my shared flat and make drawings and I didn't need to have a studio or a lot of money. That kind of evolved into making self-published books as a way to disseminate the work.
Your work is known for being irreverent and witty. When you create art do you tend to have the viewer’s reaction in mind?
I think you have to make the work for yourself. I’ve learned over the years that you have no idea what other people will like, and you don't really know what their response will be. So, it's kind of pointless trying to anticipate that. I think my work is a dialogue with myself; to somehow try to surprise myself or to say something that intrigues or confuses me or that I don't quite understand. When I make an artwork, it’s for me to be intrigued by what I've made myself. When you stop feeling that way, then it’s probably time to stop and do something else.
What’s a typical day like for you in the studio?
I try to do an eight-hour day, although I usually have a nap in the afternoon. I always say to myself, if you physically put the hours in, the work makes itself. If you create things, you almost don’t want to think about it too much; the work evolves as part of the process. That's what works for me. I have a little motivational statement stuck onto my drawing board that says “Just get on with it”.
Do you collect art?
I tend to buy stuff from younger artists, when I feel like I'm doing them a favour by buying their work. I’ve got an awful lot of stuff. I wouldn't spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a painting, because I can't afford it, but I like to buy things that have a sense of place. I buy local pottery and things like that.
Do you have any of your own work hanging up at home?
Oh, no. I drink tea out of my own mugs because they were free but, no, I don’t want to look at my own artwork. Obviously, I have it in the studio, but I don’t want to come home and look at it. I’d rather look at someone else’s work.
What do you like about Sunspel?
I was aware of the brand and already have a few bits and bobs from Sunspel. I guess it's my kind of style; it's quite classic and timeless. I’ve always felt like it sells really good staples. If you want a really nice merino wool sweater or something that just fits the bill, you can buy it over and over again for your entire life. It always looks smart and is always really reliable.
You collaborated with Sunspel last Christmas. How does this new collection compare and what was the aim?
I do a few brand collaborations but generally I try to work with people whose products I actually use and like, which is obviously the case here. The problem with Christmas projects is that they are not very sustainable – you only wear them once a year – so we decided to do a winter sweater with an environmental message so that it could be worn all winter long. It went down really well, and the product was really nice. Now we're doing a spring/summer range, which is I suppose a natural progression, and much more about re-imagining a historical Sunspel motif which is based on the growing of the cotton which requires both sunshine and cloud.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career to date?
I always say that I want to live every day as if it was my first day. Not necessarily my first day on Earth, because I would just be born, but your first day at art school where everything is new and an adventure and exciting. It’s really desirable to try and see everything anew every day. You always learn something and if you don't have that attitude, then maybe you become jaded and bored and unhappy. It's good to feel like you're always at the beginning rather than at the end. I'm very opposed to this idea of art as a demonstration of excellence and of trying to make the masterpiece, created by the master. I'm never going to be the master; I'm always going to be the student.