Who’s Paul Thurlby?

We have all had to climb up some creaking stairs, which lead to an old attic, going to rearrange a bit of old things.

Unexpectedly, the boxes full of dust reveal old treasures from the past: yellowed love letters, dated postcards, old posters, maps… All of these items bring to us the memory of our grandparents, but for those who see them for the first time they represent an inexhaustible source of fascination and inspiration. These sensations are represented in the sensational illustrations by Paul Thurlby, a brit artist managing to combine an impression of contemporary vintage imagery. Paul was born in Nottingham and currently lives and works in London as a freelance illustrator of children’s books and for some of the most important newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, The Guardian, Tate Enterprises, It’s Nice That, The French Tourist Board, and many others.

Serge & Brigitte by Paul ThurblySerge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot 

In the followings you can find the interview about this particular artist featured in our “Creative Guide for Curious People“, a man able to build a world of ancient times around him, while continuing to walk the streets of busy London.

Your first project, last project and future project: how would you describe them?

My first commission/project was for an insurance magazine here in the UK. It was really quite an uninspiring subject matter (about re-insurance), but I remember that I was just very happy to get my first job.

The last thing I worked on was my 3rd children’s book, called ‘Numbers’. It’s the follow up to my first book, ‘Alphabet’. I’m very pleased with it and look forward to it being published by Hodder in October 2014. ‘Numbers’ was definitely tougher to work on than ‘Alphabet’. Not only because Alphabet was a purely personal project, but also because it is far harder to attach meaning to numbers.

The next thing I’m working on is a series of cards for Prince Charles’ charity, The Princes Trust. How would I describe that? I was asked to do letters similar (if not, identical!) to the alphabet images I made 4 years ago. After this project, I’d prefer to do new things rather than repeat the same thing. I would like my work to develop.

Spacejunk by Paul ThurblySpacejunk

What do you find inspiring and how would you describe your lifestyle?

I find it inspiring to see great work from other illustrators and designers whether they be contemporary or mid-century. 

I’m quite easy-going and a little bit eccentric. I’m busy with work, but I make sure I find time to enjoy discovering new places to go in London. Keeping fit and healthy is important to me and I try to run twice a week along the canal to Primrose Hill and back.

You’ll find that I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t watch American TV series and owns no box sets! In fact, I only watch TV through the BBC iPlayer on my computer and enjoy the experience of going to proper old cinemas that are, unfortunately, dying out.

I enjoy my work and, being freelance, I don’t live for the weekend. Monday is probably my favourite day of the week.

Travel is important to me and I enjoy getting away, especially to Paris, and prefer to go by train.

The White Stripes by Paul ThurlbyThe White Stripes

What would you probably be today if you hadn’t followed your dreams of doing what you do, or what is your actual dream?

It’s quite unthinkable, but I think that I would be doing some office work, completing mundane tasks in an unrewarding job. I would be staring at the clock all day wishing it were time to go home and living for the weekend. I know because that’s what I used to do when I worked as an administrator for the Royal Air Force here in the UK.

Gordon Ramsay by Paul ThurlbyGordon Ramsay

Artists and events: can you tell us the most interesting thing that you’ve found in your career until now?

One of the most inspiring exhibitions I have been to in the last year was that of the great French poster artist, Bernard Villemot, at the bibliothèque Forney in Paris last October. I remember coming inside from the grey skies and being struck by the vibrant colours and bold compositions of his many posters for the likes of Orangina and Bally.

Jake Gyllenhaal by Paul ThurblyJake Gyllenhall 

The place where you were born, the place where you live, the best place where you traveled with your work: can you tell us something that only you know to describe them?

I was born in Nottingham, though left there many years ago. My favourite place was the University boating lake. You could get off and explore the islands and pretend to be pirates. I stole some duck eggs from one of them when I was a kid. I’m not so proud of that…

Now, I live in London in a lesser known, but very pleasant area called Barnsbury that is not far from King’s Cross/St Pancras. There is a ‘secret’ garden just around the corner that is only open for 2 hours a week.

Paul ThurblyFree your imagination with a book

The best place I have traveled to for work has to be Bologna in Italy. Alphabet had just won the Bologna Ragazzi Opera Prima award. It was my first time visiting the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and it was awe inspiring to see so many books from around the world. I only wish I’d had more time to look around the city which is very beautiful. I think I was the only person to walk from the hotel to the fair rather than catch a bus.

I’d like to visit Finland some day. Last week, I was just across the Baltic Sea in Tallinn which is where my girlfriend comes from.

Text by Carolina Gestri

Find out more about Paul on the Creative Guide for Curious People!

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