Interview: Manchester-based Illustrator Michael Thorp

We’re pleased to bring you our latest interview here today, this time with Manchester-based illustrator Michael Thorp. Throughout our chat, we pick his brains about his freelance work, his involvement with Blank Media, as well as inspirations and experiences to date, enjoy!

You’re involved with Blank Media, tell us more about that.

I’ve been working with Blank Media Collective since 2009. We’re an artist led organisation that promotes the work of emerging arts practitioners across all disciplines. We do this through exhibitions, events and performances at our Manchester gallery, Blankspace, as well as working in partnership with other arts organisations and venues across the North West. We also showcase a wide variety of upcoming creative talent through our website

Why do you work freelance? Why not have the security of a permanent role?

For me, freelancing seems to be the only thing that fits. I would definitely consider working 9-5 if the right opportunity came along, but at the same time I really enjoy working for myself. It was tough at first but I feel lucky that I can be flexible with how I work whilst also focusing on projects that I’m passionate about.

What are the typical projects you work on as an illustrator? What has been your favourite project to work on to date?

Projects can range from posters and advertising to editorial and book illustrations. I’ve been lucky enough to work on some really great projects, one of my favourites came last year in the production of Inside, a screen printed book created as part of Blank Media Collective’s exhibition under the same name. For this project I worked with Simon Meredith, a talented Designer and screen-printer himself. It was a chance to be creative with a medium I love, to create something unique and learn more about the process of screen-printing.

What was your route through education to be the illustrator you are today?

I started with a Diploma in Foundation Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. I then completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and Illustration at Coventry University. After that, I found myself split between working as an artist or starting a career as an illustrator. After a few months on the fence I decided I that illustration was definitely what I was best suited to, and what I was most passionate about.

Why did you go back to study again for an BA Hons after your time at MMU?

The foundation course was really an entry point into the creative arts, It was a chance to experiment across multiple areas including art, illustration, graphic design and animation.
It was from this exploration that I knew I wanted to continue with a degree in Fine Art and Illustration.

What emerging designers have you been inspired by in recent years?

For a long time I’ve been a big fan of Tomer Hanuka. He’s the kind of illustrator who always goes the extra mile to perfect his work. Other illustrators whose work I follow include Chris Haughton, Timothy Reynolds, Hanoch Piven and Raymond Pettibon. I also enjoy scrolling through image posting sites such as FFFFound! and often spend hours rooting around the internet for inspiration.

What do you think of the creative community in Manchester? Are you involved in many events or groups?

The one thing I would say about Manchester’s creative community is that it’s very accessible. I’ve often found that it’s as simple as saying hello to get involved in a lot of great projects. In the last couple of years I’ve taken part in events and projects such as Manchester and Salford Illustrated, It’s a Shape Christmas and Type Tarts to name a few.

Do you enjoy to connect and network with new media and sites like Twitter? Is this a positive community to be a part of for you?

I’ve always been a big advocate of twitter. I think it’s an immensely powerful tool for both freelancers and creatives. I find it’s a great forum to showcase work, get feedback and search for opportunities. The community is really what you make of it – don’t just sit back and expect people to come to you, get involved and talk to people.

Who are your favourite people to follow on twitter?

@ZacGormania always has some great tweets, he’s a great illustrator and shares some fantastic images, but he also tweets about the life of a freelancer; a slightly neurotic blend of late nights and isolation. A recent follow of mine, @Jamfactory, is great for making you want to create something amazing, he just doesn’t stop. I also like @inkygoodness for a constant flow of great illustrative work.

What do you enjoy away from working? How do you relax?

I find it hard to turn off completely, so I like to be productive in my hobbies. I’ve always enjoyed bookbinding and hand-printing, they’re both areas I’d like to spend a bit more time exploring. Other than that I do find myself playing lot of video games. Recently they’ve become an inspiration for certain illustrations, especially the more recent polygonal pieces.

Thanks Michael, all the best for the future from the Business Boom team!

See more from Michael Thorp on his website at and follow on Twitter @Michael_Thorp.

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  1. […] The friendly people over at Business Boom deemed myself worthy of an interview about my illustrative practice and also my work with Blank Media Collective. You can read the full thing here: […]

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