If you have seen any topical racing cartoons recently you have probably seen the work of Darren Bird know as Birdie.
During the Guineas Festival weekend @DarrenBirdie attended a book signing for 'The Best of Birdie' at our Rowley Mile racecourse shop. The museum’s Stephen Wallis caught up with Darren to find out his background and how he has become racing’s most loved cartoonist.
What is your background
I was born in Ipswich in 1971 and have lived and worked here all my life. I left school and went to college to study Graphic Design for two years. I chose Graphic Design because I wanted to see my work on display and in print. I have never tried to paint or draw just in one style alone. As a graphic designer I enjoy the challenge of dealing with varied design briefs and topics.
After a brief spell as a kitchen designer I soon realised that this role wasn’t for me so I then applied for a post at the Suffolk Constabulary working in their Print Unit. In 1994 the position of Force Artist became available so seized the opportunity and I have been there ever since. I am married and have three great children (one son and two daughters) who are all growing up far too fast!
Were you always interested in art/Drawing at school?
All my childhood was spent with some sort of pencil or crayon in my hand. At school I would be involved in creating stage props for plays and performances. I’d even create small tattoos for people using a ‘Biro’ during lunch breaks
Was there one key person who helped you with your drawing?
When I was young my father would always critic my work and point out small changes which he felt could improve the images, I guess this spurred me on to do better with each picture I produced.
I was always a big fan of ‘Giles’ the famous Suffolk cartoonist. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him as he was definitely the inspiration behind my cartoon work. Every Christmas he produced an annual and it was the first thing on my list.
When did you decide to take up drawing full time?
I chose Graphic Design when I left school because I wanted to see my work on display and in print. I have never tried to paint or draw just in one style alone. As a graphic designer I enjoy the challenge of dealing with varied design briefs and topics.
Where and when did you get the idea to focus on horse racing?
I had always followed racing mainly because my father was a regular visitor to the bookies and Newmarket. Every Saturday afternoon revolved around watching the races on T.V. so I feel like I grew up with the sport. Though, I never imagined I’d be focussing my art on horseracing. That part of the journey only begun roughly three years ago when
I tweeted a very simple Black and white sketch to At The Races one Friday night. I had 5 followers at the time and to my amazement it was brought up on screen within minutes.
What made you decide to compile a book?
I was approached by Brough Scott and the Racing Post – I couldn’t believe it when I first got the call. I feel very proud and honoured to have the Birdie book on the shelves of High Street book shops.
How did you decide the characters in your book?
I sat down with Brough over lunch one day and we carefully selected a range of images from my portfolio that covered both codes of racing (Jumps and Flat). I have to say I think we got the balance just right.
Do you draw all your sketches from photographs or have you had many personal sittings?
Most of my portrait/caricature work is created from photo references – My cartoons are just from my head after watching scenes and incidents on T.V. or at the track.
How long does a sketch take you?
A simple cartoon sketch with a splash of colour can be created in 30 minutes.
What is your favourite sketch/who did you enjoy doing the most?
One of my favourite images has to be my cartoon of the Queen and her racing manager John Warren celebrating Estimate’s victory at Royal Ascot.
How has the book been received by the industry (trainers, jockeys, journalists)?
I have had lots of lovely feedback from lots of people in racing - The book has really put me on the Racing map. One review in the Racing Post described me as ‘Racings artist of choice’... I’m very proud of that quote.
Has the book promoted other work?
I have had an increase in personal commissions since the book was launched.
There have also been other opportunities to create work live at different race course so I’m hoping this pattern will continue. I am also very excited to have my artwork utilised within the Newmarket 350 Monopoly board which is due to be released during the July Meeting!!!!!
What are your plans for the future?
My immediate plan is to try and turn what has been a hobby over the last three years into a full time job. I’d love to have a regular slot somewhere within a racing publication (in print or on-line) or maybe even on T.V.
The chance to create a weekly image to compliment key racing stories around the globe would be a dream come true.
I’d also like to create more large scale pieces of art at racecourses around the country. I hope ‘Birdie’ murals might become the ‘Banksies’ of the racing world one day. So if you work at a racecourse that could do with a little bit of brightening up, you know who to call!
Twitter: @DarrenBirdie Facebook: Darren Bird Art