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Posted 02.02.15

Introducing Tristan Manco

By Sarah Packer

Tristan Manco, Illustration lecturer

Tristan Manco is one of a number of new additions to our teaching staff this academic year – joining as a lecturer on our BA (Hons) Illustration programme. 

And like all of our programme leaders, lecturers, and technical staff, Tristan has a busy life away from his time teaching at the college.

Tristan is a designer, illustrator and art director, as well as being "the world's leading authority on street art". He's written a number of books on the topic (his most recent book Big Art/Small Art has just been published by Thames & Hudson Ltd) and even worked with Banksy on Blur's iconic 'Think Tank' album artwork.

We caught up with Tristan to hear more about his new book, his new role at the college, and why he finds street art so fascinating.

You are an illustration lecturer here at the college but what does your personal practice involve?

My main career focus is as designer, illustrator and art director for clients past and present including Real World, Womad, BBC, Habitat, EMI Records, Swatch, Cheltenham Festivals, Soil Association, Modern Art Oxford and the Arnolfini Gallery.  

I’ve worked in high profile projects like the iconic Blur Think Tank album. I also work with international contemporary artists in an art direction role for clients including Pictures On Walls and Choque Cultural.

Tristan project managed Blur's iconic 'Think Tank' Banksy artwork – including the artwork, promos, posters, press ads and large-sized fly sheets.

I also often contribute to arts and design publications such as Juxtapoz and Creative Review. And for several years I've lectured on the arts for institutions such as Tate Modern, the ICA and the Arnolfini, and on design at universities and colleges including the RCA.

And you’ve put together numerous books on the subject of street art.

Yes, in 2002 my first book, Stencil Graffiti was published by Thames and Hudson worldwide. This was followed by Street Logos (2004), Graffiti Brasil (2005), Street Sketchbook (2007), Street Sketchbook: Journeys (2010) and Raw + Material + Art (2012).

My most recent book of course was Big Art / Small Art, which was recently published in September 2014.  

Tristan's latest book 'Big Art / Small Art' was published in September. Front cover image by Jean-Francois Fourtou

What made you want to put this book (Big Art/Small Art) together?

There seems to be a universal fascination for art that is created both on a grand and or a miniature scale – from architecture to jewellery, from vast edifices to intimately precious objects. My idea was look into reasons for this fascination for artists and culture in general.

The research for this new book came as a by-product and a natural progression from my previous book, ‘Raw + Material = Art: Found, Scavenged and Upcycled’.

“Art to make you smile, and make you think too ... another delightful production ... a superbly chosen selection which will only increase the reputation of author Manco, already the world's leading authority on street art.” – Evening News

In Raw + Material = Art I wanted to explore the relationship and creative approaches different artists had to materials - in particular those using low-cost and low-tech media.

Whilst exploring this topic I began to think more about scale and so my study widened to consider artist’s working with interesting materials but also applying them to extreme scales.

Public art and environmental/land art are a particular passion of mine that I have explored in previous books, and by considering these art forms through the context of scale has been an interesting way to explore new artists in this field.

As I originally trained as an illustrator I also have an affinity for smaller scale works and artefacts, so it was fascinating to juxtapose with big art to contrast artist’s different approaches and motivations in the creation of art.

Jason DeCaires Taylor spread

What is it like working with the students here? As I'm sure most of them own your books!

I enjoy teaching on the Illustration programme, not only because I originally studied illustration myself, but because I try to give students an insight into the wider applications of illustration.

Besides teaching and writing, I work professionally with artists and illustrators in an art direction capacity – commissioning them to create products and artwork for murals for clients such as Wahaca and Habitat. So I use this experience to give an art director's perspective. My focus on the course is to prepare students professionally when considering their client focus and presentation.

Beautiful design work by Therese Vandling for Tristan's book

The books that I have written are all intended to be inspiration books. They advocate originality, look at artist processes such as sketching that go into developing ideas and finally the creative use of different materials.

All of these areas are part of the foundation in the day-to-day teaching of the Illustration course.

Why are you so drawn to street art/public artwork?

Street Art does creep into whatever topic my books focus on. For instance even in this book about scale, which deals primarily with contemporary art, street art is represented with a number of mural artists playing with ideas of scale.

Since my very first book ‘Stencil Graffiti’ I've been drawn to public art for three key reasons: Communication, Creativity & Community.

Communication - because of the unique way street art can reach an audience directly without the barrier of museums, galleries or censorship. Creativity - the freedom that it allows to interact with spaces, artists with each other leads to new creative heights and innovations. Community - through social engagement it can reach places other media cannot reach, to speak about society, local and global community issues.

As long as these three ingredients are working vibrantly then Street Art remains exciting and relevant...

You can buy Tristan's new book here.