You are Australian. When and why did you decide to move to New York?
I moved to New York because I won a Green Card on the internet, ha. I’d been thinking about moving here for years so when the opportunity was placed in my hands I fled Australia as quickly as I could.
When did you decide to pursue a career in the world of art and design?
When I was a kid I used to take a gridded sketchbook around with me everywhere, I’d sit at my grandparents and redraw the floor plans of their house choosing which walls I’d knock down etc. The same books are also filled with attempts at creating logos out of my initials and sketches of famous paintings – I guess it was inevitable I’d end up in one creative field or another.
In New York you created Darcel, your real alter ego, who thinks and says things that in real life are impossible to say with the amiable malice that distinguishes him. Why did you decide to give life to him?
I started Darcel when I first moved to New York as a means of remembering the menial observations I had made about my new city. Instead of it being a traditional blog I thought I should illustrate it, since that’s what I do. A lot of my artwork at the time was rather complex, Darcel also became my way of simplifying things and it kind of flourished from there. At the time I remember a friend referring to our group as ‘eggs on stilts’, basically out of shape bodies stuffed into skinny jeans which is where the look of Darcel himself came from.
In Paris at Colette you showed 150 portraits of important people from the world of fashion, design and art. How did you choose them?
Sarah (the owner of Colette) and I met up in New York just before Christmas in 2012, she had mentioned it was Colette’s 15 year anniversary the following February and would I like to do something for it. For some insane reason I suggested doing portraits of 150 people that have contributed either directly or philosophically to Colette over those years. We pulled together a preliminary list then back-and-forthed over email ’til we hit 150. From there it became a race against time: drawing, printing, mounting, installing that many pieces in 6 weeks was pretty stressful.
You run a studio together with Karl Maier called Craig & Karl, although you live on opposite sides of the world, New York and London. How did the idea of this collaboration come and how can you manage your working relationship with the distance?
Karl and I met when were 17, in the first year of university and have been working together in one form or another ever since. We know each other very well. We worked in the same studio side-by-side for almost 10 years, so by the time we ended up in different cities the distance between us wasn’t a problem because we understood each other so instinctively. We talk on Skype most days to discuss projects and we’ve become pretty good at dividing up our time, having the distance between us forces us to be more decisive and efficient with our decisions.
You and Karl were part of an Australian collective called Rinzen, that you left a few years ago. Why did you decide to leave Rinzen and what did you learn from this experience?
We started Rinzen with three friends when we were 20 and were part of it for 10 years. It was a brilliant way to start our careers and really taught us how to take charge of our work, to be confident and experimental with it. It was an invaluable experience but after a period of time everyone starts heading in different directions with their work and we wanted to try something new, starting Craig & Karl made sense and was kind of a fresh start.
What kind of technique do you use to create your portraits?
If I can I photograph the subject then go back to my studio and sketch out a plan for the portrait. Then it gets taken into the computer and redrawn; this is where I consider colour and pattern options. Depending on the final outcome I’ll then get masks made and begin painting. The whole process is rather long but I enjoy the obsessiveness, it allows me to fully explore each subject’s personality, which allows each portrait to be much more personal.
You paid tribute to director Michelangelo Antonioni with a sculpture and a portrait. What link does your work have with Antonioni’s movies?
I’ve always been obsessed with Antonioni movies, particularly when I was at university. The acidic colours in ‘Blow Up’ really influenced my work back then, and even now, so my portrait of him was a nod to that. The piece was also created for an exhibition in Ferrara, where Antonioni was born and shot a number of his films, so it was also a nod to the town’s history.
Your works are also linked with the fashion world. What was the most important collaboration that you followed?
I think the most fun collaboration was when I was invited to a Louis Vuitton opening in London and to illustrate my experience for Nowness. The drawings where due the next morning so it was a little hard to finish the project that night as I came home skunk drunk.
Who has influenced you most over the years?
My influences are all over the shop, it could be the composition of a Renaissance painting or something that Nene Leakes says on Real Housewives that triggers a new idea. I’m into: PONPONPON, Urs Fischer, Peter Max, Cocteau Twins, David Hockney, Memphis design and John Baldessari. There’s no conscious decision to head towards one thing or another, it’s just my personality loosely guiding me in a direction that seems to change every year.
When and where do you usually listen to music?
Mostly when I’m working. My tastes are pretty specific and haven’t changed too much over the years, I’m into My Bloody Valentine and whatever current band sounds like My Bloody Valentine.
What is the first thing you do when you start new work?
Photos by Alessandro Simonetti