John Welding

Long Division commissioned Wakefield based illustrator John Welding to document the festival in his own unique style. He produced a booklet of original illustrations as well as exhibiting some of his existing work.

How did you find the experience of creating illustrations at Long Division, was it challenging working quickly and ‘live’?

Loved the experience. Haven’t attended many festivals. My last one was Beyond the Borders Storytelling Festival in Wales 2014. I have to explain that I don’t like music. I do like instrumental music but not the singing to instruments type music. I suffer from tinnitus brought on from when I was young and working for a gun club with no health and safety awareness at all. Today I find ‘music’ irritating and distracting. Drawing at gigs is a way of bypassing the irritations, it gives me something else to focus on and perversely lets me enjoy the event a little bit more.

I’ve developed a drawing style where I can work quickly. I appreciate delicate, detailed realistic drawing but I enjoy expressive mark makers too. Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman and John Glashan are some of my illustration heroes and I’ve tried to incorporate their spontaneity into what I do.

What were you looking for at Long Division – was it large scale or small detail, place or people?

I was focussing on the crowds. Bands and events are nothing with out an audience. I wanted to capture the people in the town. Not focussing on individuals too much but the volume of bodies filling the space. Wakefield has that when it’s going about its daily business but Long Division was different, it felt like people reclaiming the streets, something which doesn’t happen that often in these corporate patrolled times.

Do you think illustrations can capture moments in a way that photograpy can’t?

Nowadays photography, editing and typography design studios are in your pocket. We’re all telling stories at the speed of whatever wi-fi we’re connected to, were not experiencing things as we used to. Standing in front of something for 20 or so minutes with pen and paper lets you absorb and interpret in a very personal way and I think that’s what people respond too. Drawing cuts a lot of extraneous detail and focuses the attention, allowing the viewer to respond more directly with their questions. I don’t know if that’s true or can even be proven.

Did the commission enable you to do or try something different?

I got access to a balcony in Wakefield Town Hall on a Friday night.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a commission from Wakefield Council/Pontefract Castle illustrating historical interpretation boards. Also been working with a friend on a comic strip for a while now, about a World War One decommissioned automaton that is activated and taken on a Friday night Westgate run, mayhem ensues!