At 31-years-old, British artist Sam Taylor has already accomplished more in his career than many designers dream about for a lifetime. By his third year of art school, he was already completing commissions for VICE Magazine and Death Skateboards. The past decade saw the addition of even more impressive names to his client roster: Nike, Warner Brothers, The Guardian, Nickelodeon, and — most recently — Hop Culture. Over the past three years, Sam Taylor has drawn the majority of Hop Culture art, including most of Hop Culture’s apparel, glasses, posters, and even beer cans.

sam taylor illustrator interview

Much of Sam’s inspiration comes from cartoons as well as skateboarding, a hobby that impacted his decision to move to London and study illustration at Camberwell College of Art (UAL). He’s been a full-time artist ever since.

Today, Sam lives in London, actually closer to his art school than he lived when he attended. When he’s not drawing, he loves running, music, and (of course) skateboarding. Twice a week, he plays 5-a-side football (soccer) with his team Taste Athletic FC, and he also enjoys going to the pub. Like any good Brit, Sam likes import lagers like Stella, Holsten Pils, Heineken, Amstel, and Estrella. We’ll turn him to craft yet!

sam taylor illustrator interview

Yes, Sam Taylor roots for Leicester City. And he spells “color” with a “u.” But he’s so talented, we’ll forgive him.

An Interview with Sam Taylor

sam taylor illustrator interview

Kenny Gould: Where did you grow up? Any formative experiences from this time?

Sam Taylor: I grew up in Leicester, which is in the East Midlands of the United Kingdom. I spent most of my time skateboarding. There was (and still is) a great scene. At one point there were 3 skate shops, which is crazy. People from all over would meet up in the city at a spot called The Quay which was like our EMB (in SF); it even has red bricks.

One memory that comes to mind now is when my friend had a fight with one of the local low-level criminal guys that would hang about and shoplift. It ended in a draw. I’ve never seen that before or after — they just agreed enough was enough, shook hands and moved on. We would spend the summers at The Quay, drinking and skating. I met a lot of friends there who I still have to this day.

KG: At some point, I know you decided to move to London. What impacted that decision?

sam taylor bawrut vinyl

ST: I moved to London in 2008 to study illustration at Camberwell College of Art (UAL). I did an art foundation course in Leicester and all I knew was I wanted to move to London to go to university, mainly to skate. I already had some friends in London from a few trips so I knew it was the right choice.

I got accepted into Goldsmiths and Camberwell, I wasn’t sure what to do but Camberwell seemed the right fit. I had an amazing time there. I skated a lot and did enough to eke by academically.

If I could go back and concentrate more, I probably would. But I got a lot out of it. And, by my third year, I was getting commissions from places like VICE Magazine and Death Skateboards. I live closer to the school now than when I went there.

sam taylor illustrator interview

KG: What originally got you interested in art?

ST: My dad was and still is a graphic designer, so we always had good tools about. Plenty of pens and big sheets of paper, crayons, paints. Really everything a kid would want to make a mess.

So I’ve always drawn–really ever since I was a toddler. My parents were very encouraging and supportive with that. I used to just sit and draw all the sharks out of this ‘Big Book of Sharks’.

Then cartoons took over my life. I was obsessed with TMNT, Biker Mice from Mars, Street Sharks — basically anything with anthropomorphic animal creatures.

When I got a bit older I was into The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, all that sort of 90s stuff. Ren and Stimpy! Can’t forget them.

Plus, I’ve always been into painting and fine art, especially once I started school. Picasso, Franz Klein, Matisse, Goya, Warhol, Bosch, Lichtenstein, Rothko, MARK GONZALES. Shouts to all the heavy hitters.

KG: What clients have you worked with in the past? And what did you create for them?

sam taylor illustrator interview

ST: I’ve worked with quite a lot of different companies. I’m happy to have a style that can work in lots of different arenas. Whether it’s a kind of highbrow place like the Bavarian State Opera or The Guardian newspaper or something really fun and silly like doing stuff for TMNT and Nickelodeon.

The Get Animated project for Warner Bros was amazing. They flew me from London to LA to work on a Scooby-Doo installation at The Grammy Museum, which was nuts.

sam taylor illustrator interview

I’m really happy to have done t-shirts for Nike. There are some more coming out this year that I’m stoked on that. Then anything skate related is always a real buzz for me, like my recent collab with Burger Skateboards and the illustration I did for Thrasher’s Mail Drop book. Working with Thrasher was a real dream come true.

sam taylor illustrator interview

KG: What do you remember about when and how you were contacted by Hop Culture? Why did you take that job?

ST: I got an email from you asking if I’d be interested. I said yes and then didn’t hear anything back for a few months (Laughs). Then you got back in touch, saying you’d got everything in order and wanted to proceed.

sam taylor illustrator interview

I was happy to be involved because the initial brief was very open and fun. My main thing is that I retain creative control and can basically do what I want within the client’s guidelines. You were happy with that so it made a fun partnership.

sam taylor illustrator interview

Anyways, that’s the way I see it anyway, and I feel like we’re linked now! I think the first thing I did was for the NYC Juicy Brews event in 2017. It pretty much snowballed from there.

One of my favourite things about our collaboration is not knowing what the next theme is going to be for a festival. Then an email comes and you’re like “it’s basketball” or “it’s spooky” and I get to get into it.

KG: What’s your favorite piece of art you’ve ever created for Hop Culture?

ST: It’s so cliché but at this point, there are too many to mention (Laughs). Every time I do a glass, I think it’s my fave.

Hhhmm, I gotta think… I like when we can do collaborations with breweries. It’s rad getting to see my art on the cans and then the huge stacks of cans at the launches. Honestly, it’s mind-blowing. Then all of the people queuing to get the beer, I love it.

sam taylor illustrator interview

One of my favorite cans I’ve done is the Soldiers of Summer with Triple Crossing Brewery. We did 3 different variations of the can for that one and it tied in with all of the festival branding. Oh, and the rolling papers!

sam taylor illustrator interview

KG: Who else in the industry do you admire?

ST: Crit Club! That’s my gang. Usually, when we’re not in lockdown, we meet up every week for coffee and hang out. Thomas Slater, Kyle Platts, Charlotte Mei, Chris Harnan, Pete Sharp — that’s the main coffee crew.

sam taylor illustrator interview

It’s sick to have the gang to bounce ideas off or chat about a job with, we help each other out with fees or how to deal with a client and stuff like that. Also, WE INSPIRE EACH OTHER, (Laughs) — cheesy but true.

I’m a big fan of so many illustrators though, I’ll just do a list, Jiro Bevis, French, Tim Lahan, Sophy Hollington, Johnny Ryan, Sara Andreasson, Annu Kilpeläinen, Braulio Amado, Brian Blomerth. The list could go on for a while so I’m stopping it there.

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