We Talk Adi’ Illustrations, Casual Culture & Graft With Peter O’Toole
We paid the West Yorkshire based illustrator, Peter O’Toole, and ‘studiotoole’ a visit.
If you had to describe Peter O’Toole, it would be something along the lines of he’s from Huddersfield and pretty humble, considering the size of his ‘illustration net’ he has thrown all over the world. From notable work with adidas Originals and their Island Series campaign to endorsing his own 3 stripes trainer, its fair to say he is one of the best illustrator talents to come out of the industry. Stepping foot into ‘studiotoole’ is kind of like an Aladdin’s cave for all different collector types. There’s original WWF wrestling toys from the early 90’s, 3 stripes artwork, lego pirate ships and everything if you grew up at the same era will appreciate for being magical at the time. You don’t have to venture very far to see some of his most admirable work, with the adidas ‘Jamaica’ trainer illustration from 2015 hanging behind his work station.
So first of all why don’t you tell us about what you’ve got going on for 2018 and what we can expect in the world of Peter O’Toole?
I’m currently working with my studio mate/photographer Tom OD on starting a video series about the creative industries. Hopefully going to be doing lots of illustration tutorials, interviews and podcasts, as well as some videos about things I’ve collected over the years for reference material for my work. I want the production quality to be spot on so I’m getting mates to design the logos, do the music from scratch and animation sections. Its all new to Tom and I so we are learning as we go!
A little birdie told us you’re one of the few Brits to have their face attached to a 3 stripes tongue, as well as your very own trainer, how did it all come about?
I think thats right, as far as I’m aware, and I’m just going from memory. Noel Gallagher, Ian brown and Daley Thompson have their faces on their specific adidas shoes. I think Kate moss might have had a one off made for her with her face on so that doesn’t really count. I created some posters illustrating all the adidas city series trainers I knew of (a personal project that I had wanted to do for years) and I ended up doing about 196 pairs spread across 2 posters (including the original Island Series). It got a good response so I wanted to do a different spin on it, I got in touch with an old mate from the Crooked Tongues forum days called ‘Quote’, who was one of the biggest vintage collectors of adidas in the world and already had a shoe with adidas (ZX500). I approached him and said, I will do a new poster with 98 of your favourite pairs from your collection and your side of the deal is to maybe try and get adidas to produce it officially.
We both kept our end of the bargain and adidas came back with the idea of us doing a book with maybe 50 of the pairs from the poster, and Quote would research the history of each in detail. That book became ‘Quote’s Archive, illustrated by Peter O’Toole’. Just at the end of the project adidas asked if we wanted to release a shoe to go with the book but we only had a week to design it. We had both seen the upcoming (at the time) ZX420 model on our various trips to the adidas offices and we instantly agreed on that runner as there was more potential for colours and materials compared to a classic City Series silhouette. We really liked the vintage adidas Denver as it was really unusual in colour. So we basically transferred that colourway to the ZX420. I came up with the name ‘Quotoole’ which is obviously our names combined. It has the tongue illustrations, Quote on one and me on the other, and our respective logos on the insole. It was released under the Consortium banner with premium materials and released in limited numbers worldwide. Even KITH in New York stocked it, it was crazy. We had a launch in Berlin which has to rate as a highlight of my career so far. It also sold out in a week and the book in about 2 weeks so that was the icing on the cake.
Talk us though some of the projects you have worked on and which you have enjoyed the most?
I always like projects that are ‘milestone’ clients, clients you always want to work with as a kid in art college and then years later it actually happens. One of those was adidas obviously but the first one was addict clothing. When I was in art college all my favourite artists at the time (Mr Jago, Will Barras, Swifty ect) were doing stuff for addict and pretty soon after I went freelance I got a call from Chris Law who was working with them at the time (I’d later work with him at Clarks Originals) and got to do some tee shirts with them, it was a dream for me to do that even though my skills at the time were ‘primitive’ to say the least! Other notable clients would be Variety Mag, Forbes, The New Yorker, Clarks (for the 65th anniversary of the desert boot) and Nike. I also did something with Puma when Leicester won the league which is good, even though I’m not a Leicester fan (my wife went to De Montfort Uni so I spent a lot of time down there) it was such a moment in history and unexpected, it was good to somehow be a part of that.
“Ive grafted and I knew it was about longevity and nothing was going to come over night. “
Growing up in Huddersfield and the North throughout the 90s and noughties what kind of music/subcultures were you involved with and how does this influence your work today?
When I was a teenager I used to love the local casual scene but I was pretending I was something that I wasn’t, just being an angry kid. I soon grew out of it but took certain elements with me like the fashion, specifically adidas trainers. I knew that there was a gap in the market in the illustration world when It came to casual culture and my first port of call was to try fill that gap with artwork that I would want to put on my wall if I came from that scene. It worked pretty well as for the first 5 years of business I think my core audience came from that background. I still have a big casual following and I owe a lot to them.
If you had to name 5 of your favourite trainers of all time what would they be?
I’ve sold my collection on since we had our kids but the favourite pairs I owned have to be the following;
adidas Romanian dublin
adidas Gazelle from around 1986
If you had to name 5 of your favourite brands of all time what would they be?
I go through phases like everyone but currently I really like;
For those who are maybe looking at getting involved in illustration what advice would you have them for them?
Get your head down and crack on, its a really hard industry to get established in. You have to think. I’ve been freelance for 8 years (that’s making a living solely from drawing) and before that I was studying and building clients up on the side for another 10 years, whilst working other jobs (KFC, Morrisons, Next, building sites, cleaning pub toilets, working in a vintage shop) so that goes back to 2000. That’s 18 years work and I’m only 32. I’ve grafted and I knew it was about longevity and nothing was going to come over night. You need that kind of mentality, you also need to be original and not follow trends.