Artist Interview – Tony Riff

We caught up with the man behind our Dead Ringer design to talk about Hip Hop, colours and life as an illustrator.

How would you describe your style?

Hmm, that’s a tough one, for lack of a better term I just describe it as being heavily cartoon influenced. I tend to leave the describing to other people though, it’s not really my strong point.

When did you first start drawing and how did you learn the techniques you use today?

God knows when I started, it feels like I’ve been drawing since day one! Whenever I get asked how I developed my style its pretty simple, I just drew a lot, over and over again..I went through tons of sketchbooks when I was younger and messed around with different pens, paints, a big part of getting better for me was obsession / experimentation.

Can you talk us through how you approached your dead ringer designs for us? Was it different to designing T shirts or did you approach it the same way?

The process for this design was fairly organic, I had a really loose sketch I previously did when I first got the brief, so used that as a template for the main bulk of the final design as well as adding extra elements as I went along, there was a bit of trial and error along the way, but I prefer working that way instead of sticking to a super rigid plan, over all it wasn’t all that different to making a t-shirt design (apart from the size difference of course)

We’ve heard your a bit of a hip hop head, what draws (excuse the pun) you to hip hop and do you think it had an influence on your illustration style?

I guess my favourite thing about hip hop is that it introduced me to so much music I might of not heard otherwise, via samples used for beats, etc.

Earlier on hip-hop probably had a more direct influence in what I drew in terms of subject matter / style..I guess as you get older you open yourself to more genres of music and I think that reflects the type of things I draw too, although I still like to sneak in a little reference for the heads every now and then.

What are your top 5 Hip Hop LPs?

I can never answer these kind of questions, but here are a few of my favourite LPs (in no particular order)

Madvillian – Madvilliany

Edan – Beauty and the beat”

Black Milk – If there’s a hell below–IIHEa8cZHg0D9

Busta Rhymes – The Coming

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

You have a really distinctive use of colour in your illustrations, how do you go about selecting colours?

Trial and error mostly, at this point I have a few colours I tend to use pretty often, so I’ll use one main colour, and work all the other colours around it, sort of like figuring out what pieces of the puzzle fit together

What cartoons are you watching at the moment?

I’m really into a cartoon called “Rick and Morty” right now, although the 2nd series finished recently, so I’m looking for my next cartoon fix at the moment.

Talk us through a typical Tony Riff day?

It mostly involves staying up way too late (I always prefer working at night) hunting for the next illustration gig, and being on’s all very rock n’ roll.

Is it tough being an illustrator and when did you think start to think being a full time illustrator might be a viable thing for you to do? Do you feel you are any nearer to your promised land?

It’s always tough, but I feel like I’ve stepped things up the last couple of years and the work I’ve been getting is hopefully a reflection of that, I still have those days where I’m not sure if I can keep it up, but the work seems to be a lot more consistent these days so it would be hard to completely turn my back on illustration, it’s such a big part of my life.

Any advise for anyone that’s looking to be an illustrator for a living?

Only get into it if you’re 100% sure you want to, you really can’t half-ass it, there’s so much crap you have to go through before you see any results, so if that passion isn’t there you probably won’t last long..not saying it’s all doom and gloom, but getting in the creative industry can be an uphill struggle, so it’s good to be aware of that.

Which artists are you feeling at the moment?

Aryz, Phil Blake, Tea Wei, Fanakapan, The Weird Crew..Plus loads more that I can’t think of off the top of my head

What do you get up to when your not drawing?

Drawing can be a bit of a solitary existence, so I do party pretty hard once I put the pen down and the weekend’s hard to find a struggle between doing my own personal work and client stuff so it does result in me spending a lot of time constantly drawing things / thinking of concepts.

Tony Riff’s Dead Ringer design is now available in our store for iPhone and Samsung, SHOP NOW.

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