*By Victoria Béguet Day
¨I love Owls¨, Percival states in an interview. Sure, foxes, bears, wolves and even lions also inhabit his work, but he seems to have a soft spot for these peculiar birds, with their comically sanctimonious, yet non-threatening air. Many of them glance nonchalantly over a pair of glasses that would look more fitting on a cranky old character straight out of a children´s book.
Positively unconcerned, unruffled if you will, by the pair of eyes staring back at them, they seem to exude a sort of charming and endearing pride. Much like children. There´s an unmistakably playful, carefree, spontaneous and fun quality to his work and his illustrations are quirky, original and refreshingly unpretentious. Ashley Percival, a freelance illustrator currently working in the UK, has created work for brands including Urban Outfitters, IPhone and Forever 21.
When asked about his artwork he says that he would like to make ¨people laugh and smile¨. There certainly seems to be a sort of discreet, almost hidden, sense of humor that comes across in his work. Although his illustrations are described on his website as ¨decor for children and nursery rooms¨, Percival also mentions that he would like for his illustrations to be ¨liked by all ages¨.
One could assume that there is clearly a market for his work, outside of nurseries. Maybe adults and not only children enjoy artwork that, like Percival´s, captures a sort of childish innocence and even naiveté. I know I really loved one illustration of his in particular: a lion with a faint comic air, a ridiculously stern look and (my favorite part) a flamboyant and unlikely blue mane.
Percival´s illustrations definitely have a quiet and unexpected charm to them. So where does Percival get his inspiration from? According to the illustrator, most of his inspiration comes from wildlife and nature, which isn´t surprising considering Percival studied Marine and Natural History Photography. ¨When I’m not illustrating I like to go walking with my camera photographing wildlife¨, he comments in a recent interview and adds, ¨some of the inspiration for my illustrations comes from myself, like the hats, jumpers, and expressions¨. The result ? Owls, foxes, wolves or bears that (despite exhibiting human traits, like wearing oversized glasses, sweaters or riding bicycles) manage to come across as very dignified creatures, full of character and maybe even a little reticent to be portrayed. Much like animals in real life.
Aside from their mock seriousness, Ashley Percival´s illustrations manage to flawlessly convey each animal´s character. Or the character we tend to think of when we think of a certain animal. The owls are vigilant, even suspicious (though never threatening in any way), the polar bears convey warmth and a caring quality, and the foxes´ stares have a certain shrewdness and coyness to them. Percival, whose favorite materials are pen, pencil, colored pencil, colored pen, water color and pastel, is a unique, quirky and exciting artist worth discovering. His artwork will be included this December in a film called ‘Lucky Dog’ starring Paul Rudd.