Meet the Maker: Dick Vincent
Can you Introduce yourself and describe your practice?
I’m Dick, I live and work in Macclesfield with my partner, embroidery artist Leigh Jennings, and our two-year-old, Eddie. I’m an illustrator and my practice is often traditional techniques using gouache and pencil which I scan and turn into merch/stationery and homeware. Recently I’ve been using digital illustration a lot more. This is mostly down to being a parent, I don’t have as much time to get the paints out as it’s such a time-consuming process.
My work is often inspired by nature, the great outdoors, pop culture and food. I’m really obsessed with midcentury Americana so I like to think I bring that aesthetic to the Peak District with a dry northern wit.
Have you always been creative? Do you remember the first time you put pencil to paper?
I don’t remember the first time I picked up a pencil, but my mum relishes in telling people that as a kid I was really shy and would clam up and refuse to speak to new people but would happily draw them a picture. I’ve always found drawing a way to express my thoughts and feelings or a way to break through my shyness.
Who are your art and design heroes?
I remember my first year of art school I suddenly felt really out of place in the art world, then I caught a Hockney documentary on tv and at the time I just assumed he was American, but I heard him speak and his accent was similar to mine, it suddenly made me feel like I could fit in. I read Keith Haring's journals a few years ago, which is more of a manifesto than a journal and that was a total game changer. His work ethic and how he wanted to make art affordable for everyone is inspiring, and similar to what I try to do with my print business. Another one would be Tove Jansson. I’m always inspired by artists that can do everything - not only was she a great illustrator, she was an incredible painter and writer too. It’s frustrating how good at writing she was.
You and your partner recently opened your own physical shop, Dick’s General Store, located in the fabulous Picturedrome Macclesfield. What has the transition and process been like?
We’ve spoken about opening a shop since we met. Leigh was a buyer for one of my stockists and we met on a business meeting that turned into a date. I've worked in retail of some form since I was 16 so it kind of made sense to eventually have a presence on the high street. In lockdown we started to weigh up our careers and we both found we were getting frustrated with client work but really enjoyed markets and the shop elements of our jobs. We were really lucky to get offered the entrance to the Picturedrome as a space, and the owners were happy for us to work around childcare. We’re celebrating six months of opening this month and we’re really enjoying it. The thing we weren’t expecting is that it’s given us a structure, so we’re finding we have at least one day a week for family time. We’ve just joined a local high street campaign and it’s been great to meet other businesses and be part of a community. I don’t think people talk often enough about how lonely a career in illustration can be, so it’s amazing to feel part of something.
You started your career in retail. How has this informed or helped you in setting up your own business and becoming a self-employed illustrator?
I always say I learnt more working in retail than I ever did at uni. Things like customer spending patterns - for instance, the middle of the month is always going to be quieter than the end / beginning because of pay days, or how things like weather / politics / football etc can affect sales. Doing things like pushing your best sellers on leaner days or making sure I have plenty of ‘pocket money’ products available at markets etc. They're all ideas adapted from working in retail for big brand businesses, it works the same for a smaller independent business.
A recent commission saw you painting a skate park in your hometown of Macclesfield. Did you enjoy this process? What were the benefits and challenges of working on such a different canvas and scale?
I really loved it, it was massively daunting as I’ve never used spray paint before and couldn't really do much forward planning. The transitions and textures were so varied, I was fortunate the council trusted me and just let me crack on and I find I do my best work when I’m just left to it. The more re-draws I have to do the more I lose interest and it shows through in the work. Larger scale and mural work is something I really want to do more of.
Many animals appear in your illustrations, especially the fox. Can you talk about these recurring motifs, themes, and characters?
The fox has almost become my brand logo. I can’t really remember why I started drawing foxes. I often use them as the narrator within my drawings, but it doesn’t have a name or anything, similar to the bearded guy, although I say he’s an idealised version of myself as much of my work is autobiographical. I’m a big fan of folklore and how traditionally folk stories aren’t written down, that instead they should be told as everyone tells them differently - I feel like this about my work as people interpret each piece differently or connect with the pieces in their own way. The fox is interpreted in so many ways by so many different people, and in my work too.
Much of your work is reflective of your locality and the surrounding Peaks. How do these landscapes and environments influence and inform your work?
It’s the place where I spend most of my time so often it can be a fairly subconscious decision. I once read the Peak District is the least painted landscape of all our national parks which I found surprising, so it geared me on to document it more as it’s so stunning. It’s just up the road so that always helps.
If we made our way up to your neck of the woods, what three small businesses or creatives should we check out?
Treacle market day is always the best time to visit, it happens the last Sunday of every month and completely transforms the town. When the market started in the mid 00s, Macclesfield was dubbed the least creative town in Britain. The people running the market set about to change this idea and now there's over 155 stalls selling everything from fresh produce to art, antiques and clothing. It's had a huge impact on the town and I don’t think we’d have our little shop without it.
Yas bean is a coffee shop and LGBTQ+ safe space run by husbands Mika & Dan. It's amazingly pink and they do great coffee and food. Mika and Dan are annoyingly good at social media which has turned them into local celebs. If you get a chance, watch their reels on Instagram, they’re hilarious. It makes me happy that a place like this exists - growing up, Macclesfield was a very stereotypical, small northern town so it didn't really feel like a place you could be your authentic self. Yas Bean have really changed that and it’s amazing.
As a record collector I couldn't go without mentioning Vinyl Planet, they have a great varied selection of records from affordable classics, to new pressings & collector's issues. The owner really knows his stuff, and works really hard to clean up second hand records so you know the quality will be tip top.
Interview by Retail Buyer Lucy Martin.