Rectangles drift downwards on a darkened screen like paper flyers floating in a starless galaxy. The first depicts a cyborg perched on top of a catfish; the second a humanoid robot embracing a wolf; the third a man in a suit with a mushroom head and the word “synthesis”. With rough, textured surfaces, jarring typography and poster-like framing, these must be flyers for events taking place in a universe far, far away, and in a world dominated by cyborgs and feral creatures.
These skilful illustrated shapes are the personal work of London-based illustrator Pete Sharp, presented online in this innovative alternate-galaxy-style configuration. By day the art director creates animations for clients like Nike and Vice, and by night he designs ephemera for an imaginary, distant universe. Each poster features reoccurring characters and themes so that together they seem part of the same work of fiction. “Watching 2001: A Space Odyssey was one of the most important things to happen to me in terms of the way that I think about imagery as well as narrative arc,” says Sharp. “I guess my personal work is about exploring that. The meticulous design of the models and sets is also definitely something I’ve since aspired to achieve through drawing.”
After graduating from Brighton University, where he spent years mimicking and honing what other illustrators were doing, as well as savouring each panel in Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira manga, Sharp began to look beyond his own craft for inspiration. “My focus fell to graphic design,” he says. “I like that formulaic approach to creating an image alongside typography, and how the two work together.”
Sharp’s illustration style is indebted to graphic design principles, as well as those dictated by screen-printing, a medium he was drawn to through an appreciation of Tadanori Yokoo. It was while interning as a silk-screen print technician after graduation that the form’s limitations began to shape how Sharp approaches composition. “The internship was unpaid, so I had no money to spend on thick paper or multiple layered prints. I’d limit myself to two or three colors. It made me think about how to use color sparingly and still get the most impact out of an image.”
Although his poster-like illustrations seem to have fallen out of wild clubs in starry galaxies, actually, they’ve emerged from thrifty use of color, an appreciation for classic graphic design, and a lot of experimental play in Photoshop.