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Inside the Mind of Monsterism: Pete Fowler

Highlights from Issue 26: The U.K. Issue

Creatures from Pete Fowler's world of Monsterism

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Friday, June 02, 2006

For more information on the U.K. Issue, click here

Born in Cardiff, Wales in 1969, Pete Fowler has been living and working in London for 10 years. Inspired as a child by cartoons, Japanese art and sci-fi books and films, Fowler has been fortunate enough to work in almost every medium afforded to a visual artist: comic books, digital sculpture, clothing and toy design, motion graphics, album packaging — his range is endless. The surreal cast of characters and creatures that inhabit Fowler’s world of Monsterism have been exhibited in Paris, New York, Milan, Tokyo and Vienna, as well as in his native Wales. With the help of London-based Heavenly Records, he released his first CD compilation, Sounds of Monsterism Island, in 2005. STOP SMILING met with Fowler this spring to see what else is keeping him occupied.

Question 1: What was the inspiration for the Sounds of Monsterism Island compilation?

Pete Fowler: I always listen to music when I work, and the origin of the CD came from a compilation I made that had the loose theme of Sounds of Monsterism Island. It contained various songs that fit the surreal, twisted criteria that Monsterism demands.

After finishing the compilation I began to think whether it would be possible to get clearance for the songs and release the CD properly. I got in touch with Jeff Barrett at Heavenly Records in London to find out if this was possible, and he offered to put it out on their reissue imprint, Forever Heavenly. All of the tracks were in my record collection. I compiled them myself with the mix being done by Brian Dougans of Future Sound of London and Amorphous Androgynous fame.

 

Q2: You’re currently developing a TV show for the BBC. What is the premise?

PF: I’ve been working on the concept at the writing stage for a number of years. In the last six months, the idea has come together with a couple of studios and production companies. We’re currently working on test animations to get the style down and putting together a pilot script. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s based on Monsterism Island and revolves around a group of characters that will take the viewer around the island. It will feature a lot of music and will be surreal, funny, abstract and beautiful, hopefully. It’s such a long process, even before the animation starts. I’ve been talking about it for years but the bottom line for me is getting it perfect: the look, the content, the production. I hope people will be into it despite the long wait.

Q3: You and your brother, Chris, both have a fascination with UFOs. Where did that originate?

PF: I was quite into science-fiction writing when I was in school, and was always as interested in sci-fi movies as I was with the supernatural. I remember going to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Chris. That probably sowed some seeds of interest in extraterrestrials for us. Years later we came across UFO Abductions in Gulf Breeze, a book written by Ed Walters about the sightings and experiences in Gulf Breeze, Florida, that contained the most vivid color photos of UFOs we’d ever seen. Most are the usual bad, black-and-white shots that look faked, but these really caught my imagination. Years later I visited the area on a road trip in the U.S. It made me think more about what was going on in the skies. Also, the crazy sightings during the eclipse in Mexico in 1991, captured in the documentary Messengers of Destiny, blew my mind. I was always kind of skeptical. But I was fascinated enough to create a strip about the subject, “Cooper’s Farm,” in a comic called Slouch, which I published with friends in the early ‘90s. My brother was a UFO researcher for some time, and still remains active to a certain extent in the field, although he has grown skeptical after debunking various sources.

Q4: What are you looking forward to working on next?

PF: My animation project for sure. It seems like the natural route to go with my work. Cartoons inspired me as a child, and still do. I love telling the story of each character, and I think storytelling is one of the most basic forms of entertainment. The world is such a messed-up place right now. We need some flight of fantasy and imagination to remind us that hate doesn’t rule.

Q5: Of all the mediums you work in, which do you like the most.

PF: I really love drawing with pencil. It’s the first stage of almost any job or project that I do, and the first spark of an idea. I always feel that I’m only as good as my last drawing. It’s a discipline that drives the rest of my work. I’d love to make a book of my drawings over anything else. I think sketchbook drawings are a pretty accurate peek into an artist’s mind and his creative approach.


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