A Conversation with

Simon Cook

British artist Simon Cook is known for the colorful, whimsical works of art and merchandise he creates through his company, Stone and Spear. We talked to the Paris-based artist, who is currently working as a freelancer for Givenchy, about his creative process, the importance of humor in art and why collage is such a great artistic tool for hairdressers.

Tell us about your design company, Stone and Spear.
Stone and Spear came about after I finished university. I didn抰 want to launch just another .com. I created Stone and Spear (the name comes from the Greek meanings of my middle name) as an alter ego; it抯 another world I can escape to.

How would you describe your art?
It抯 a crossover between our world and the world of Stone and Spear. I mix photography, geometric shapes and landscapes.

How did you find your artistic voice?
I come from a fine art background, although I also studied photography and graphic design. I抳e always loved anything creative. Once I started down the illustrative route, everything just clicked into place. I never wanted to be pigeon-holed; I just wanted to be free to express myself.

How important is humor in your art?
It抯 very important for me to create things with a sense of humor because I want people to enjoy looking at my work. There抯 a lot out there that doesn抰 seem fun or relatable. Everyone can connect with pieces that are cheeky and playful. Plus, it抯 essential for me to have fun when I work.

Describe your creative process.
I usually don抰 go into a project with a definite strategy. Having a plan limits me匢t抯 nice to be free and let the art work take you for a ride.

The first thing I do is think of the color(s) of the work. The color selection determines the mood of the whole piece of art. Then I use origami paper to hand-make shapes and geometric forms. I scan those creations into the computer and fiddle around with them. I add in digital shapes, photography, paint and pencil markings and more. I like to mix techniques.

You use a lot of bright colors in your work. Does that translate to a love of color in hair?
I wore my hair stark white one summer, which was fun. I don抰 usually do anything too crazy, but I have friends that do. Haircolor allows you to express yourself in an obvious way.

Why are collages such a great tool for creative people, such as hairdressers?
Collage is so easy and quick, and it抯 a great way to get your ideas down and start your thinking. They allow you to start with a small idea and really see where you can take it.

Tell us about some of your favorite collaborations.
I really enjoy collaborating with people because it takes me out of my comfort zone. When I work with people who have different skills, I can learn from them and be inspired. The main rule with collaborations is that they have to be 50/50. The finished product has to feel like part of both designers.

I recently did a project with photographer Olivia Rose, who is very serious and dark in her photography. I worked around her pictures for an exhibition called "Hidden Gems," which takes viewers on a journey through the gothic hallways of the historic St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London. Part of the project, "The Four Handlesmen," debuted at the Getty Gallery in London last month. I also teamed up with acclaimed silk scarf designer Lucy Jay, whose work I really love, on a line of pocket handkerchiefs. This was a challenge since I抎 never created on fabric before. Our handkerchiefs were recently featured in Nylon Men.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
I like art that lets your imagination run wild. Mary Blair, the Disney illustrator who worked on the 揑t抯 a Small World ride, is so colorful and playful. John Stezaker is also one of my ultimates more so than Dali, whom I admire for the way he uses contrasting images without making them seem out of place. I saw Stezaker抯 exhibition earlier this year and it really inspired me. I also like Matthew Barney, a performance and installation artist who creates intricate characters and worlds. His project for the Guggenheim, the Cremaster Cycle, was so surreal...and just a little bit freaky.

What would your self-portrait look like?
Surprisingly, it would probably be quite dark and satanic. Haha. But, of course, I抎 infuse it with an element of magic that would make it a little playful.

Do you have any pets?
I have two guinea pigs, Phillip and Norman. Norman surprised me by giving birth, so my mother now (probably correctly) calls him Norma.

What抯 your guilty pleasure?
I抦 obsessed with the circus. I used to be a member of the Circus Friends Association (CFA). I went for the first time when I was 7 and thought it was the best thing ever. I love the performers卼he characters卼he lights 卼he music. It抯 all so brilliant. One of my favorite collections, the Big Top project, was inspired by my love of the circus.

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