Football culture's favourite illustrator, Dan Leydon releases his fourth book which focuses on his journey from using portrait personas as a way to create props for the subject, to showing us the diversity of style and fashion that runs deeply through football culture.
We've been following Dan and his work for a long time now. He's the type of illustrator who can raise a smile with his work, which often makes you think differently about his subjects. His work is often replicated by other illustrators, and it has almost certainly influenced many in creative circles.
We caught up with Dan to find out about his latest book, Subculture ~ Football & Fashion and talk more about the collection which acts as a lens through which he examines consumerism, identity, diversity and football culture.
CK: First things first, what team do you support... (we) think you're a Liverpool fan, but for our readers can you confirm this?
Yes I’m a Liverpool fan. I try to branch out but the Reds keep bleeding into my work. It’s hard to separate what I’m passionate about and what I draw.
CK: Tell us a bit about yourself and your work to date?
I’m heavily into illustration and design. My output is generally veering between straight illustration, more graphical pieces and then motion design. The style of my work is quite dynamic/not well defined depending on your viewpoint. I experiment constantly and love developing bespoke methods for different ideas and projects. I’ve been freelance since 2012 and have been lucky enough to make a living doing what I love. It’s a privilege.
CK: So, what brought about the creation of your latest book/mag 'Subculture'.
When I was in college I used to look through the ‘Fruits’ photobooks in the college library all the time. The books are a compilation of Tokyo street fashion by photographer Shoichi Aoki. They inspired me a lot but I didn’t realise just how much until I visited Tokyo in 2019. When I got home I started drawing characters when I was sitting on the couch in the evening, not really thinking much about it. The main thrust of the project was to draw subjects I hadn’t yet approached i.e. the fans. I needed to get away from repeatedly drawing Messi or Zlatan, these things can get stale. As a result the final collections are quite diverse and the new subject matter felt like I was breathing in exhilarating fresh air for my ideas.
CK: Your style has developed over the years – is it important to refresh your own style, or have you now settled on the style you showcase in the book?
I can only do what works for me, and I have a style that's on shuffle depending on the needs of the project. There’s a lot of prescriptive talk in the illustration world about zoning in on one style and anything else is unprofessional. Developing a tool box for client problem solving was top of my list to be honest. I studied product design in college and this mindset has obviously informed that.
The style in the book is quite a clean one, with every area and element being defined. I use an inker for the line work and then use vibrant and saturated colours to bring the characters to life. I have other approaches, outside of SUBCULTURE, sometimes I use gritty inkers and draw quite free flowing shapes with dashes of colour. Sometimes I draw extremely restrained portraits with massive attention given to lighting details. As I said, it’s a tool box.
CK: It feels like you've identified the pocket of football tribes simply by recording your work down and developing your style. Were you surprised what you saw?
That’s a massive part of this book; recording what I’m seeing. I write about it in one of the essays; I can capture a cultural practice simply by drawing that thing. I’d never viewed my drawing skill as a recording device; it made me sit up and realise what’s possible. Allying writing with art is something I have just brushed the surface on and I want to explore what’s fun and possible in this area.
CK: Your book is a humorous take on what footballer's could be into outside of their day job, and how that influences their own fashion – have you had any reaction from the stars directly?
I used Salah, Mane, Firmino and Minamino as mannequins for my ideas, so maybe they wouldn’t connect with what they saw, however the internet is vast and deep and I doubt they’ve seen them.
CK: What's next for you?
Who knows? I like to practice, I like to experiment, hopefully I can keep improving, enjoying the process and making more books! I haven’t travelled since 2019 so I’m waiting for Japan to open its doors to tourists again and when they do I’ll head there for another wander.
CK: Will we see a Volume 2?
Who knows? My gut seems to think there’s more potential in this and I am definitely interested in the subject matter. If I stay interested, I’ll keep making work about it. Once the curiosity wears off I’ll follow my gut in some other artistic direction.