Published on March 9th, 2005 | by Christian Cawley
Interview: Pete Wallbank
Pete Wallbank is a professional illustrator who applies his talents to various fantasy and sci-fi genres including Planet of the Apes, James Bond, The Avengers to name but a few and of course Doctor Who. His work has appeared on BBC videos, in magazines, on magazine covers and books. His current Doctor Who work can be seen in a limited edition print of the Ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston.
Pete, what first got you interested in art, when did you realize that this was the type of career you wished to pursue?
Really, can’t remember exactly what got me interested in art and drawing – as a kid I was very much into the visual thing like tv and film, so maybe it stems from that – I really used to love the old hammer and Universal Horrors.
Art and wanting to do it as a career happened quite late in the day, in fact if memory serves me well it was not until the 5th ( last year at the local comp ) I decided to try and become an illustrator, unashamedly I totally adored the work of Andrew Skilleter – I wanted to be just like him.
With all this in mind I rather “in youth”, arrogantly assumed that I could leave school without very much in the way of qualifications and become this great self sufficient freelance illustrator – was I wrong!, You bet I was!
What courses/qualifications did you undertake and at which university?
In terms of what I thought the right way to go, to go in some way of achieving my aims I got myself on to a graphic design course which was in retrospect a wrong call as I was someone who believed he could draw and wanted to be encouraged to do exactly that, it soon dawned on me that the course I was on was perhaps going to enlighten me on areas of design and print but do little to help polish an illustration skills.
The plus side of this was the college was based in Birmingham and Birmingham was a city I totally loved.
What was your first artistic job upon leaving university or college?
Whilst still at college I offered myself up for a job as an illustrator with a local advertising agency – not believing in a million I would get the position , well stranger things of happened and amazingly I got the job!
For the most part I illustrated packaging design for computer peripherals as well as general advertising work, to say I was uncomfortable in the job was an understatement, all my time there I really longed to be freelance and sole sufficient.
One thing lead to another or should I say one artistic difference lead to another and it was a,” parting of the ways” – I was off to pursue my new career!
What are your influences, artistically and generally?
Have been greatly influenced more so than anything by the world of cinema particular influences being the directorial work of James Cameron and the film poster illustration of Drew Struzan – why these people? These guys always appear to work towards the highest of standards.
As previously mentioned the work of Andrew Skilleter was so pivotal in my initial drive to become an illustrator.
How did you get involved with in-vision magazine, how did that come about?
Jeremy Bentham who publishes the magazine was and had always been a great supporter of my work for “Who”, whether it had been for the work I had done for the books, BBC video, New Adventures, laser-Discs, Marvel magazine etc – it was just a case of would you like to do some work for us.
Was the offer for work with in-vision just a short tenure, as your work is well suited to that media. How come you only worked on a few covers?
In an attempt to keep things fresh, Jeremy and co rather sensibly used different people to come up with different ideas.
I think I would probably have done more, but for time and the fact that that I am a commercial artist with fingers in lots of other pies, one cannot live on Doctor Who illustration alone.
Of all the pieces you have worked on regarding Doctor Who, your Robots of Death particularly stands out and reminds me of Drew Struzan’s work for Indiana Jones. Where did the origins of this piece come from and what inspired you?
The origins of the piece are based on a private commission I completed for a collector of Who artwork in 2003.
I wanted to concentrate upon the “art nouveau” aspects of the story production design as well as the locale in which the story was set.
It is true to say that the piece was heavily inspired by the brilliant work Drew Struzan created for the Indiana Jones promotional posters.
What kind of techniques are used?
Always and typically paintings are brought to life using a combination of Acrylic and designers Gouache.
Painting technique is usually combination of fine-art airbrushing using a Paasche AB Turbo Airbrush together with fine brush work usually a No1 Dalon brush.
Whatâ€™s your favourite Who related piece?
The painting I created for the McGann film – it’s like the film itself very Hollywood!
Where you ever a fan of the show to begin with, or was it more of just sci-fi in general?
As a kid I loved the Jon Pertwee shows. Earliest recollections being the one with the “maggots” in.
Continued to watch the show into the Tom Baker era and kind of lost interest in the show around 1977, got back into it, I guess around the time Mr Baker left and watched avidly up to the end of Peter Davison era. From that point onwards you could well and truly say I fell out with the show and shall we say “gave up the ghost”.
I’m a big fan of high production values and even as a kid watching I wanted Doctor Who to look better! The McGann film fulfilled that measure.
Did you have a favourite story or villain or particular character you admired? Similarly who couldnâ€™t you stand?
Great Question! Without a shadow of a doubt my favourite “Who” character has to be “Linx”, conversely the worst Character(s) have to be the 6th and 7th Doctors.
Did you have any particular trouble drawing a particular character or element that you can remember?
Can’t remember being fazed by any one particular element or character, you can get fazed with poor reference material, though.
Do you have any Who-related image in your head that you have been unable to realize?
Not really. Nine times out of ten i tend to come up with the relevant idea.
What was the last Doctor Who project you worked on?
A limited edition Art print of the 9th Doctor published in November of last year.
Which current works, Doctor Who or otherwise do you currently find inspire you to get to work?
Currently have a connection with the world of “Planet of the Apes”, am working on the third of limited edition set of prints.
You are building a strong reputation for your work, what are your targets and do you plan to tackle any new mediums within your work?
I would hope to continue in the field of publishing and to maintain the growing folio of Limited Edition prints that are being published in connection with my work.
Which artist do you currently admire and what was the last piece of work you saw that inspired you to work?
Drew Struzan, the American illustrator of all things film I greatly admire, the last work I saw of his was I think the Star Wars film poster, “Attack of the Clones”.
Are you looking forward to the new series at all and what do you think of the casting choices?
I am looking forward to it full stop because of the casting choices. I think the whole Doctor Who franchise is very lucky to have someone of Christopher Eccleston’s calibre in the lead role.
Do you think the new series should retain continuity from the show or shy away as much as possible?
It has to be created for a new audience, to try and do what has already been done would be major mistake – I look forward to a totally new show.
What direction do you expect your career to develop in? Do you expect to be associated with Doctor Who in the future?
I donâ€™t think you can predict how a career will develop, all I want really is to continue working in someway shape or another.
What are you working on right now at this very minute?
The third in a limited edition set of prints based upon the Planet of the Apes films.
Do you expect contact over the glut of new Doctor Who merchandise that will undoubtedly follow the new series?
Who knows! I’ll wait for the call!
To find out more about Petes work you can visit his website here
You can buy the limited Edition print of the Ninth Doctor by Pete by clicking here and visiting Galaxy4.co.uk.
We’d like to take the opportunity here at Kasterborous to thank Pete for his time wish him the best for the future.