William Exley

William Exley was born in Sheffield, studied illustration in Brighton and has lived, worked and been a tourist in London since graduating. He uses a System 3 brush, spider black ink and a wacom to draw, and finds distractions in comics, movies and podcasts about comics and movies.
We sat down with Will and asked him a few questions about his time in the industry and his piece for Skull & Heart, the stunning ‘Escapees‘.

Q: Hi Will, how are you today?

A: Hello! I’m doing fine, thank you!

Q: So what are you working on at the moment?

A: Today I’ve been researching astronauts to put in some unfortunate situations for an album cover I’m in the stages of roughing out. I’ve been looking at a lot of pre-code horror comics for inspiration as the band requested something ‘gruesome’.

Q: So how did you get into illustration at first?

A: I wasn’t really aware of illustration as a discipline until a teacher at school suggested it. Up to that point I was interested in art and drawing, and specifically the art of comics, cartoons and album covers. Once I’d had it explained to me that your job could be to create those images, I was interested in illustration.

Q: Are you Self taught or did you go to Art School?

A: I took a path of least resistance through art classes at school, ended up on an art foundation and eventually on the illustration course at Brighton University.

Q: You’re quite well known in the Punk/hardcore scene with a lot of bands coveting your intricate work for their album artwork and posters, how important is it for you to be a part of that?

A: I started out doing artwork for friends bands, and that will always be an important part of what I do and have done. I’m wary of the term ‘scene’, but I’m constantly inspired by the number of bands that are now active and putting out great music in the UK. I also feel very lucky that the one’s I’ve worked with so far have been accepting of the work I do, and when a band like Bangers puts out some of the best records of the past few years I’m happy to be involved in even a small way.

Q: Talk us through a typical creation then, how do you go about your work?

A: Once a rough idea has the green light I’ve found a fairly even split between drawing with a brush and ink and then working in to drawings digitally with a Wacom tablet. I still like the sense of scale and level of concentration that you need with the brush, but I find I’m actually a lot looser when I’m drawing digitally. I’m stuck in the methods I learnt in technique books like “How To Draw The Marvel Way”, focusing on getting the line art as finished as possible, making sure it’s a balanced tonally then working in to it with colour.

Q: What are your Inspiration? Artists / designers / illustrators? I know you’re an avid film watcher, do you think this influences the way you draw?

A: Film maybe ends up as more of a distraction than anything! I’m a sucker for atmosphere and tone though, and also visual story telling. These are all things I’m trying more and more to get in to my drawings.

The comics artist Seth (It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Clyde Fans) always seems to loom in my mind when starting a drawing. He has an economy of line and sense of light and shade that I’m fascinated by. Harvey Kurtzman (Two Fisted Tales, MAD Magazine) similarly flirts with the line between energetic cartooning and grim realism in a way that I find very inspiring.

Q: Tell us about the piece you did for Skull & Heart.

A: I’ve been wanting to do a piece based around the idea of escaped animals and theories behind sightings of supposed mythical creatures like the Beast of Bodmin. I’m always drawn to the idea of worst case scenarios, and so I thought I’d take it to a logical extreme. It also seemed like a fun way to play with the two colours of the print to pick out the different animals.

Q: We know you and Dan are good friends, i already asked him, but could we ever see a collaborative comic of some sort?

A: This feels like an interview version of the “Mr And Mrs” gameshow! I hope we have the same answer. As well as being friends, I’m a big fan of Dan’s work, and it’s so striking that I think it begs to be used in a comic book form. I think it has to be done at some point and I’d loved to be involved in that.

Q: Can you tell us about any future projects?

A: Keeping up on day to day illustration work is my priority. I’m part of a screen print collective called Art Is Proof Press (along with designer Mark Pavey and illustrator Leah Stewart) that I’m looking forward to working on projects with. I’m also tentatively looking forward to dipping my toes back in the waters of self publishing comics this year, along with the second issue of my animals and crime zine Cop Dog which I’m working on at the moment.


All available artwork from William Exley is available to purchase in our online store. Please click the images below to be directed to the item you are interested in.