In the Studio: Peter Henderson
La Paz, Bolivia
Peter Henderson’s simple yet undeniably charming work would set him apart from the crowd of young artists and illustrators, even if his multiple awards did not. While travel and exploration are among his many inspirations, Peter specialises in bringing vector imagery to life through subtle motion.
How would you describe your work in five words?
Playful, smooth, 2.5D, graphic, shadows.
What fuelled your development from static illustration into motion design? Did it feel like a natural progression?
I studied illustration at university which had a moving image section of the course. From the moment I saw my illustrations brought to life, I knew it was something that I wanted to develop. I was lucky, in that my style was still developing whilst I was learning motion design. As the two collided together it felt authentic and unique in both style and movement.
Tell us a little about your process; do you sketch out ideas first or use solely digital media?
I love to jump straight into the vector world, however if I am struggling for an idea then I will often give myself 30 seconds to sketch a tiny thumbnail of whatever pops into my head. Ideas often bounce off these thumbnails until I reach a solid concept. For animation I find it very useful to close my eyes and physically move within the imagined scene to decide on the movements and timing. Kind of like a personal VR headset.
What are your basic necessities for animating?
My needs are fairly simple.
1. Fast internet
2. My laptop, mouse, and headphones
In 2013, you cycled 8000km across South America. Did this trip have an impact on your illustration?
I learnt a huge amount about myself and what I wanted whilst on the saddle. It helped propel me into taking up illustration. Although the most useful experiences were the insane landscapes I saw and the vibrate cultures of the people I met along the way. To this day they impact my imagination and how I mold ideas.
Who and what keeps you inspired?
Firstly my wife. She is a huge inspiration for me, and has rooted my drive and passion into the career I have.
Then I take inspiration from many different areas; memories, travel, movies, fellow designers, culture, photography. Bringing it back down to reality a little, my inspiration for a lot of my character design actually comes from supermarket shopping. I think people tend to go to supermarkets in their most natural state, this brings out some really interesting fashion and movement.
Since graduating in 2017, how have you found the transition into freelance illustration?
It’s been an incredible jump into full time freelancing. I dreamt of how my first year might be, it’s been 10x more exciting, and I’ve loved every minute so far. I’m a very focused person, so the late nights and heavy schedule is something I thrive off of.
Thanks to Folio I have been able to reach jobs that fresh graduates don’t usually have the opportunity to be involved in. They support me in every part of the process and take care of all the extra areas of freelancing so that I can concentrate on just making work. It’s streamlined my life, and one of the best parts of being represented by Folio is the team – they are all lovely people and make every job a pleasure to collaborate on.
Moving from England to Bolivia earlier this year, how has this influenced your working practice?
It’s been a great experience. My wife is Bolivian, so we wanted to spent a year out here before settling back in the UK. Creatively, it’s really useful for me. I get to see new things that I wouldn’t be exposed to in London, I can see snow capped mountains from my desk, and get to try new food almost every week. It truly helps fuel the imagination.
How do you spend your free time, outside the studio?
Currently making my way around every restaurant in the city, support the local football team, and occasionally go quad-biking in the surrounding mountains.
In an ongoing collaboration with Wall Street Journal, you’ve been producing weekly content for their Snapchat. Talk us through your approach to a new brief.
As soon as I get a brief I have a scan through the article, and throw up around 10 related keywords. From there I like to quickly browse photography, and flood my head with random images related to the keywords. Then I can start to mould the atmosphere of the animations, whether corporate, techy or playful, I build a picture in my head of how the scenes will flow together. Finally a colour palette to match the mood and I’m off. I illustrate each scene then bring them to life and drop in music to pull everything together.
Looking forward, what would be your dream commission to work on?
A big name project which has a positive impact in the world. Google, want to make something cool?