Daryl Rainbow: COPA90 Artist in Residence Q&A
Wildly talented artist Daryl Rainbow has spent the last week at COPA90 HQ, showing off his skills and helping us create some awesome illustrations. We sat down with him to chat about his career, comedic influence, and the future of football art.

How did you get into illustration?

I did a BA in illustration at Camberwell College of the Arts, but it still took a few years after graduating to find a voice/aesthetic with my illustrations. It also took a while to figure out what direction I wanted to go in with it. 

I left college thinking I was a reportage painter, then I tried my hand at animation for a little while, before settling on working in this kinda style.

How do you go about creating your illustrations?

All my illustrations these days are done digitally. They can start as a rough little sketch on paper, before they get worked on and finished in Photoshop.

What’ve been your favourite projects you’ve worked on to date?

I did a film poster last year for a South Korean independent film, called ‘Loud And Proud’ about Korean fans at the 2018 World Cup. It was a pretty nuts brief for the poster. It ended up being a weird melee of fans/footballers in the stands. That was really fun to work on.

Also, last year I got commissioned by the Eighteen86 guys to do a piece for their zine for Adidas London’s new partnership with Arsenal. Being an Arsenal fan that was obviously quite an exciting piece to do.

Who are the other artists that most inspire you?

There’re so many illustrators out there that I love and can’t help but copy. I love satirical illustrators/artists like David Shrigley, Mr Bingo, Andre Carrilho, Sara Andreasson, Hayley Tippmann, Reuben Dangoor. 

In terms of football specific creatives, I’ve always loved the work of Dan Evans, Federico Mannasse, Adrian Mangel, David Squires. Also I’ve got to mention William Child’s and Case Jernigan’s amazing animations. 

More broadly, what role does art have to play with football?

A huge role. I think it is a massive part of the culture and the community. There have been so many amazing fan made projects, especially in the last few years; from fanzines to films to repurposing old kits into custom memorabilia. 

It’s artists/designers just doing it off their own back because they love the sport and the community and the general fanship that surrounds football. You can see these creatives have ended up having a huge influence on the big, mainstream, obvious football providers. 

I feel like they’ve forced them to up their content/merchandise game, and really invest in creative content for the fans. Even with illustration, I see it being used these days more regularly than before, on the big platforms like the BBC, BT Sport and Adidas – all the big football clubs. 

It’s really promising and exciting to see the biggest players in football media embracing original and creative design. 

What would be your advice to up-and-coming illustrators?

Don’t bother, be a graphic designer instead. It is crowded here! Nah, only joking. 

I would say try and be original. Find a topic that you really feel passionate about drawing and illustrating. Try and have a voice/personality in your work. And try and be entrepreneurial with it. It’s important to also have a business mindset when approaching illustration, as well as a creative one.

What would be your dream project?

I would love to have something like David Squires’ weekly cartoon column in The Guardian. He’s hilarious, and he gets to roast footballers every week.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I remember a university tutor once said to me, he’d be lucky if he got 3 working illustrators out of this class…out of a class of like 50 students. Which sounded a bit daunting at the time. Especially as the art college I went to had a good track record of producing illustrators.

But I suppose, maybe what he meant was that if you genuinely want to do this, you have to really, really want to, and be really passionate about it, and be really smart about getting yourself out there. 

Otherwise you’ll just do something else, as it’s not a career path where you are guaranteed to get work. Or maybe he was saying that you would have to be really, really stupid to do this… 

Your work has a great comedic value, does this come naturally? Or do you work hard to incorporate this into your work?

I’ve always found it easier to be creative if there’s a bit of humour in the project. Otherwise it can be a bit more difficult for me to get into a project/commission if that element of humour isn’t there. 

The ideas for my self-initiated work usually start as a joke or a silly phrase, then I try and think how that would work visually. I suppose it fits quite well with the narratives in football. We have these athletes that are idolised, treated as gods, but actually they can be quite silly sometimes and behave quite weirdly.

What do you love about illustrating the world of football?

I think it’s the characters in football. I think there’s always going to be fascinating characters that give it so much drama. And football is on, literally, all the time. There’s always a new storyline in football, and that makes it more interesting. 

How have you been able to distinguish your style from the others and create a niche for yourself?

I don’t know if I have, you know. I always want my work to look different to others, but sometimes I’m not sure it does. I suppose my work can be a bit silly sometimes, but there also seems to be lots of illustrators doing funny stuff as well. 

What do you think about the future of football content in relation to graphics and illustrations?

I think the future looks bright in terms of graphics/illustrations and football content. Especially with the big football content providers and their social media presence, and how they all put up several posts a day. 

I think the presence of social media has given graphics and illustration more opportunities to be used. I think that graphics/illustration can fit that social media content provider slot quite well, in the sense that these are images that can be knocked up in a couple of hours, so you can produce reactive content super quickly. You don’t need to pay for a set, photographer, footballers, models, hair and make up, and a stylist to produce an image. 

Most of the big football platforms seem to be using graphics/illustration/animation fairly regularly, and more so than ever before. Hopefully it continues!

How much emphasis do you place on being first to illustrate a recent event in football? Or is it more about how creative you can be with the concept, regardless of time?

Yeah I suppose the illustration bangs a bit more the sooner you put it up after a big event. But I feel like, as long as you don’t wait too long after an event, and if the idea and concept is good, you can still get a decent reaction. 

Maybe like one or two days after an event max, otherwise the football world moves on pretty quickly and people can have quite short memories.

Did you fall in love with football and then art, or vise versa?

Probably art first. I think everyone draws from a very young age. It was the same with me. I remember just constantly drawing dinosaurs all the time when I was like 5. 

I remember always liking football from a very young age, but I think I only really properly got hooked on it with the 2002 World Cup. I loved watching that Brazil team – with Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. Also Arsenal had an amazing team back then of course. Football just seemed more fun back then I think.

Is there a community of illustrators or is it quite closed off and competitive?

I know quite a few illustrators who I’ve known for a long time who are a similar age to me. It’s great that I can ask them for advice every now and then. Generally though, I feel it can be quite closed off. 

I think mainly the community of illustrators is based online and on social media. Which can be good and can also be quite unhealthy I think. I had a stall at the Jumpers For Goalposts festival last summer, and I managed to meet a few football specific illustrators and creatives there which was great.

What does the rest of 2020 have in store for you?

I’ve just done some illustration bits for Harry’s, which should be coming out later this month, which I’m quite excited about seeing. Also, I’m working on a football illustration book which I’d love to get out at some point this year, and hopefully more commissions that come my way. 

I always find it hard to plan what I’m doing, even a month ahead, as illustration work can be very last minute and come out of the blue. Otherwise, I’ll continue to do the satirical/reactive stuff as football will always be there, and footballers will always continue to do amazing/silly/ridiculous things!