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Luke Whittaker

How did you get started with digital animation and arts?

I first started using computers for digital work when I was around ten years old – an old Atari ST, painting pixel by pixel with a program called Degas Elite and 16 colours. I remember trying to maximise my palette by painstakingly half-toning two colours together with interweaving dots. It taught me a lot of things I didn’t know I was learning, but most of all patience. I then dropped computers in favour of drawing and painting until I started an Art Foundation course, and only really got using them seriously at university, but it’s never replaced the drawing.

What was your first image or animation piece you created digitally?

As far as animation goes, I think I recreated the James Bond title sequence frame by frame in Degas Elite, again when I was ten. But proper animation didn’t really begin until I was at art college, and one of the things to come from that was a 4 minute animated painting of a scene from King Lear, where I painted an inch at a time then took a snapshot, then painted over it to start a new scene. I’m not quite sure where we cross the boundary where a work is ‘created digitally’ – in my case most of my work starts off on paper but ends up on screen - and computers are now so much part of many artists’ methods the distinction is being blurred.

Congratulations on all the awards you have won! “A Break in the road” has been a great success for you, but which award has been the most gratifying?

Thank you! All the recognition has been fantastic, wherever it has come from. Winning the Mando Awards was a great honour, as was being nominated at the Europrix Top Talent festival in Vienna. They paid for the whole development team to be flown out there, put up in a hotel and generally treated amazingly well. It seemed that the event was less of a flag-waving opportunity and was there to promote creativity and interaction between designers, and I met a lot of like minded people who I hope to keep in touch with.

One of the main things that impressed me with “A Break in the road” was its sketchy street graphical style. What was your main inspiration for this project and experimenting with this graphical approach?

I’ve always loved hand-drawn work, and it’s one thing I think can help keep work unique and surprising in this arena of digital design. Sleek menus and smooth animation have their place of course, but the Break in the Road style came from a desire to add character and energy to digital animation, and I also felt it matched the subject too – imperfect, scruffy but weirdly interesting, just like a real city is. The drawings were all done pretty swiftly, and then the backgrounds colours were taken from a scan of an original wood-block print I’d made, and placed into the canvas in blocks, as you’d roll on ink on a print.


Do you find London an inspiring place to live? What are your other sources of inspiration?

London’s a great place to be. Having spent a good few years living in the country you really appreciate having so much going on and so much to inspire you. Other than that, music is a good source of inspiration – some my work ends up sound-based as a result – and also books, and internet link sites like Surfstation.lu and Netdiver.net.

With the Mando award you had the opportunity to travel to New York. Having been there myself I found the whole city and street life very stimulating to my work. How did you find the style of New York and did you find it valuable for your work?

New York felt like the creative parts of London – Brick Lane, Old Street, multiplied by a hundred, and yet it’s all crammed into such a small place. You can walk across it in twenty minutes, and down every road there’s something to inspire you. On a lot of the crossings they have rows of newspaper dispensers, and the newspapers you can get for free are full of creativity, whether it’s reviews, cartoons or opinion pieces. Like the best student paper but with a decent budget. It’s something I haven’t seen anywhere else and gives an idea of how the city seems to buzz with ideas.

You have done a lot of industry work whilst studying at university. Did you find this to be very beneficial to your career?

Definitely. More than anything else it helped solidify what I wanted to do. I originally thought I might want to work full-time on special-effects for film, for example, but then after working for a post-production company in Soho I realised how many hours that is doing work like removing wires or microphones from the scene, and I knew I could scratch that one off the list. Likewise, working on the music video for Lemon Jelly at Colony Media gave me an idea of how I wanted to work in the future.

What advice would you give to current students?

Get as much experience in the industry as you can, but don’t worry if you feel like you’ve got no contacts and nowhere to look. Everyone starts from somewhere and you find that over time contacts build up, unless you hide under your bed. Persistence and the real desire to do it are the best qualities to have – people will respond to your enthusiasm. Although borderline stalking probably won’t be so well received.


You are currently freelancing now right? How are you finding it and what are you up to at the moment?

Freelancing has been great so far, and there hasn’t been a week where I haven’t been busy. There’s an interesting possibilities of developing A Break in the Road into a commercial project, and, in the meantime I’m helping with the set up of Creative State magazine (www.creative-state.co.uk). It’s a magazine devoted to showcasing the ideas and the work of creative people the world over, providing a platform for graphics, writing, and art which might not usually see the light of day.

What does the future hold for Luke Whittaker?

Interesting question, and it’s something I suppose I only really think about it a nebulous sense. Creative positions are likely to change along with the industry in 20 years time so there’s no need to aim for a specific job. I think the most important thing for me is to be a part of that change and to be as involved in the creative and concept side of things as possible. We’ve only just started developing these digital spaces and there’s so much potential to explore. One thing I think we’ve got to remember is that the thought behind a piece of work is as important as the technology or the style it’s in. In the future, if I can be in a position where I can stay true to that, I’d be very happy. We’re as responsible for our content as a writer is for his book.

Thank you very much Luke.

To contact Luke, visit his website: