Portraiture is notoriously
difficult. Like impersonation, it requires an almost unearthly talent
for occupying another person and shining out their likeness from a
neutral canvas. Von, a one-named phenom from Kent, England, does just
that as he channels people on the page—from Ronald Reagan to
British bass guitarist Jah Wobble—with intensely detailed, boldly
humanist renderings that demonstrate his affinity for the idioms of
music, fashion, politics, and design. He’s versatile, too:
He’s also a typographer and painter. So far, he’s assembled
an impressive alphabet of clients, including The Guardian, Nike,
Oglivy & Mather, Ted Baker, and Wallpaper, as well as private
commissions. His work has appeared in shows all over London, in Glasgow,
Paris, and Hong Kong, and at Brooklyn’s Espeis Gallery. Von also
runs an online store for limited-edition artwork on a section of his
website called Shopvon. (His blog? Blogvon.) Von, who attended
London’s Kingston University, now lives in the city’s Brick
Lane neighborhood, where he seems to be creating work nonstop.
He’s already drawn a self-portrait or two, but if he keeps going
at this rate, other artists are going to start doing portraits of

Where do you usually draw?
Almost always in my studio,
although in the summer I try to go and draw in the park when I
can—or, if I go back to my parents’ place, their garden is
great for working in.

What’s your most essential

If you can count it as a tool, I’d say my left

Who first taught you to make art, and what do you first
remember drawing? What do you most like drawing now?

I remember
sitting at the dining room table drawing a picture of our garden or
something, having drawn the sky in the image as a strip of blue on the
top of the page in the way that all kids do. My dad explained to me that
the strip wasn’t good enough, that the sky doesn’t actually
look like that and that I should try harder. I guess, without my knowing
it, he was the one that made me start really looking deeply at the
things I was drawing.

Right now I have become really interested in
drawing animals. I’ve always loved those meticulously rendered
ornithology books, and the self-initiated work I’m producing now
is my own slightly abstracted take on that kind of imagery. The most
recent example is a series of original bird drawings on antique

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I had my eyes set on being a stuntman at the age of 7. Maybe
it’s a little too late to pick that up now?

What is the
strangest job you’ve had?

I was an ice-cream man for a

What do you like about being an illustrator? What do you
like least?

I like most the fact that I can make a career out of
the one thing I’ve loved doing most since I was a kid. What I like
least . . . the tax return.

Where would you most like to see your

Ultimately, I would love for my work to be collected or on
permanent exhibition in a museum. Now, whether that is ever likely to
happen is another story.

If you could collaborate with one other
artist—in any discipline—who would it be? Also, if you could
illustrate any text, what would you pick?

Radiohead or
Björk, and the text would be selected lyrics from the back catalogs
of those musicians, made into a graphic novel, and beautifully bound and

What’s the last music you played?
Cooder’s soundtrack to Wim Wenders’s film Paris,

Do you have a motto or favorite

“You can do better than that.”