I recently caught up with the hugely talented artist Steve Lilly to ask him about his wonderful art work. Steve creates wonderful tributes to some of our favourite comedy heroes - including of course, the Carry On team.
- First of all what made you want to become an artist?
My first recollection of being “struck by art” came at junior school. A couple of students were asked to create a mural of a steam train rolling through the countryside on the classroom wall. I thoroughly enjoyed the task which lasted weeks and excused me from endless tedious lessons and to cap it all I was rewarded with a book voucher…thanks Miss Williams.
- You are obviously a lover of British comedy - what made you decide to focus on this as a subject?
I put a flyer on the notice board while at my “day job” stating that I worked to commission and promptly received my first paid job, a lady in one of the offices wanted a portrait of her horse. When the work was finished she made sure it was passed round the building. I was then commissioned to create a “café warming present” by a work colleague who’s friends were opening a café in Derbyshire, it was originally named Godfrey’s, the new proprietors being big Dad’s Army fans decided they wanted to keep the name. I was commissioned to create a large group portrait of the Dad’s Army cast with Godfrey as the centre of attention and was given a free artistic rein. I enjoyed the job so much I wanted to do another for myself and with the support of a local gallery went to work on Dad’s Army mkII. Luckily for me the gallery loved the work and we agreed to do a limited edition print run from the original artwork from these beginnings the series evolved.
- I have blogged about your Carry On art work - can you tell me more about them?
There is not that much to say really, they are a labour of love with each 'Comedy Classic' portrait taking around four or five months to complete. Selling them is obviously a big bonus but they can be really hard to let go of! The Carry On artwork is actually a second take on the subject: It must have been around 3 o’clock in the morning, I had finished 11 of the 12 characters and was well into Barbara Windsor, the 12th and final character, I was that tired I accidentally spilt vodka and lime on her. I was devastated and ended up destroying it, but as they say “every cloud has a silver lining” Carry On was revisited a couple of years later and I think I did a much better job of it
- I notice from your website that you are an Artist in Residence - what does that involve?
I'm Artist In Residence with the Dad's Army Museum and On The Buses Fan Club. This just basically means they have 'adopted' me as their artist. I'll attend events a couple of times a year and I've also had the good fortune and honour of creating a number of exclusive pieces of artwork for the Dad's Army Museum to be reproduced onto their official merchandise.
- Why do you think the Carry Ons are still so popular after all these years?
Carry On is iconic and a big part of British cinema history. Some of the one liners are a little dated as you would expect but generally the films are still great fun and well worth a watch. I think they are in-grained into our culture.
- As an artist, why do you think the original Carry On poster art was so successful?
I love poster art and lobby cards especially when they are painted or illustrated. The artwork on most of the Carry On posters is executed really well. The posters appeal not just to film lovers and collectors but also to art lovers. My personal favourite is Carry On Spying , the version that is totally illustrated.
- Do you have any more projects in the pipeline? Can you tell me anything about them?
I'm always working on something or other. At present I have a couple of private commissions on the drawing board: A large Nottingham Forest portrait and the Lord Mayor of Walmington-On-Sea (from the new Dad's Army film). I am also on the dvd stage of Porridge: looking for expressions and character inter-actions....and having a good laugh in the process!
- I've heard you attend fan conventions and memorabilia shows. Do you enjoy going along to these events and will you be attending any more in the future?
I absolutely love attending these events. I get to meet some fantastic characters (celebs and fans) and I've made some great friends over the years. In June I attended an On The Buses/Man About The House event at Elstree Studios, this Friday (15th) I'm off to the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston (birth place of Stan Laurel) for the International Son's of the Desert Convention....then in August its Ramsey with the Dad's Army Museum for a 1940s weekend....brilliant.
- Who is your favourite Carry On star and why?
There are just too many great actors to choose from. They all work so well together and 'bounce off each other' great credit to the script writing here. If pushed to make a choice I think I would say either Charles Hawtrey or Joan Sims as they both epitomise Carry On and appeared in so many of the films.
- Which comedy star do you enjoy drawing the most?
I enjoy drawing them all, that's what makes my job so enjoyable. I just love the whole process: from watching hours and hours of great comedy footage to making marks on the paper to adding the final touches. I really strive to capture the expressions and mannerisms that are so characteristic of the great comedians I am trying to portray. I’m not just looking for a likeness but an essence unique to each character that will bring them to life on the paper. I think I owe these fantastic actors something for all the fun and laughter they have brought to me over the years.
- Finally, which is your favourite Carry On film in the series and why?
Carry On Screaming, it was my favourite as a kid. At the time I was really into my Universal and Hammer horror films. Screaming was just so funny and it had monsters too! I still love it today and how hot was Fenella Fielding? (pardon the pun).
Thanks again to Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Steve's work by visiting his website
You can also follow Steve on Twitter