Interview with Pencil Bandit, animator and illustrator

Award winning animator, illustrator and designer Pencil Bandit talks about his career, the industry, and what to do if you want to follow in his footsteps.

Interview with Pencil Bandit, animator and illustrator

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I’m an animator, designer, director, illustrator and human person who legitimately calls himself Pencil Bandit. I draw silly characters and make them move for varying sums of money, often from my flat in East London.

Where did the name Pencil Bandit come from?

I found it carved on the underside of a log in Epping Forest. Fortunately nobody was using it on social media yet, and it had a nice ring to it. The log had several nice rings.

When did you first get into animation and illustration? Did one lead to the other or do they go hand in hand?

Well I think like most artists I can’t even remember when I first started drawing, or getting obsessed with animation, but I taught myself Flash in my teens, and started doing graphic design after studying Drama at uni. Over the years since then, I’ve gradually moved towards making characters and animation by bread and butter.

What is your creative process? Can you talk us through the steps you take when creating an animation?

In terms of animation, it totally depends on the job, and what cog I might be in that machine. But whether it’s a shot for a film or a drawing for Instagram, sticky notes are my friend. Doodling something small, with all the energy of the initial idea, is often when I’m most pleased with the end result.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

On a personal level, it would have to be the spots I did for Orangina on E4. After being a finalist in their E Stings competition twice in a row, they asked me to pitch for this whole set of summer stings, and the final job was really important for me. It allowed me to go freelance full-time, and all the studios I’ve worked with since have said that they came across my stuff via those animations.

890c0ac31bb5f3258d591f41576aebc0f7ca566e.jpgPencil Bandit

Conversely, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

Without being boring and just talking about some short deadline or other, the actual business of going freelance is probably the real answer. There’s a lot to juggle when you go from having a job on the side to going solo, and all the pricing, finances, time management and self-motivation that comes with it.

Do you, or have you had, a career outside of the creative industry?

I’ve really tried my darndest not to. Not with a Drama degree, dang it. I worked in a pub in my hometown briefly after I graduated, but as soon as I moved to London I managed to get a job as a graphic designer at Soho Theatre, and I haven’t looked back.

bc875850825b319b7a91f302abd014594fd91aaf.jpgPencil Bandit

What have been some of the changes you’ve seen in the industry over the last few years?

It’s hard to say for me, as I feel like I’ve not been inside the industry that long, but it sure feels like traditional 2D animation is making a big comeback in advertising at the moment. That’s obviously good news for people like me, and companies like Golden Wolf and Moth, whom I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

And what changes do you want to see?

As a straight white bloke myself, I’m always frustrated by the lack of diversity in and behind animated shows and films. I feel like I see a hundred Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon pilots every year about some straight dudes being manchildren and getting into scrapes, and I’m just kinda tired of it. It’s so lazy.

How do you enforce copyright for work posted online, and do you think it’s a workable model in the internet age?

I think you’ve just got to be savvy. I build my signature into every drawing I post up, and never put anything crazy hi-res online. There’s only so much you can do, and I’ve had to deal with my work being nicked and sold on stuff, but I think the pros outway the cons in terms of getting your work out there.

4c50f2d811bac8f1d438a622e240f77aee5fecaf.jpgYou designed the artwork for the winner of our Best Newcomer to Brighton Fringe, Hidden Track. How did that come to be?

Yes! That’s the headline. Well the writer/director duo are two of my best mates, and they’ve been commissioning me to do bits and bobs since the company’s inception. Thanks to the Arts Council funding for Standard:Elite, I could do a whole illustrated campaign for them this time. I couldn’t say I had much to do with their award, though. That’s all them.

What  is your earliest arts memory?

Watching VHS recordings of Wallace & Gromit over and over. Then drawing them a lot.

What are your interests outside of drawing?

Performance is certainly in my bones, having come from that background. Comedy, theatre, film; I like to keep my toes in all that good stuff.

If you could send a message back to 16-year-old you, what would you say?

I’d say that’s it’s all kind of worked out OK thus far, so don’t sweat it, mate. You learn and grow from your poorer decisions, so I couldn’t say to avoid anything.

What is something you wish you’d been told before you entered the industry?

Things you make for fun totally count. Nobody cares where you trained or who you’ve worked for, just so long as you make good work. Because they don’t have a clue what they’re doing either.

Do you have any advice to young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Make as much as you can! Post it online, talk to other artists, make yourself visible. It can be hard with a proper job taking up your hours, but you find the time in evenings and weekends until you can make art your proper job.
f5ad94462795fd6046d4e590ecd6bc9e1c052126.jpgPencil Bandit

Header Image Credit: Pencil Bandit


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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