To see Dreadfully Drawn caricatures is to see some recognizable and beloved figures with fresh eyes. At the helm is artist Joshua Gilroy-Rossi, We manage to catch up with him to ask him about his art, his process and his love of all things Liverpool Football Club
WBT: Hiya, Josh. Nice one on your work. We love your style and your sketches are instantly recognizable. How did you come up with your style?
DD: Thanks! To be honest, I’ve always had this drawing style. When I was younger, my family and I would visit my Gran every Saturday morning. Much to their delight, I’d spend an hour or so drawing every person in the room. Then when I was maybe 10 years old, I’d sit on my living room floor, draw different things (footballers, family members, pets etc.) and I’d sell the drawings to my Mam and Dad for 5p a piece. Loved it. Even now, I never intentionally draw people dreadfully. I can sort of draw, but just not very well. I draw people how I see them and it’s really fun!
WBT: At the risk of a tough comparison, your stuff has a Quentin Blake feel to it. Did you have any influences growing up?
DD: Wow, thanks. That’s a massive complement—I love Blake’s stuff.
To be honest, no. I’ve never really been into art as a subject, which I’ve always found strange. I’ve studied both graphic design and animation at university and grew up making my own characters and caricatures, but I never really took inspiration from other artists growing up. I’ve always tried to base my work off what I think looks good, rather than look at something and try to put my own spin on it. That way of working often left me frustrated. I remember when I was maybe 8 or 9, I bought a “How To Be A Caricature Artist” book. I attempted maybe 3 or 4 different people and techniques but got so frustrated that I couldn’t draw them that I didn’t draw properly for maybe two or three years.
Even now, I regularly go to galleries whenever I visit a new city or town and I often leave saying “what the hell was that all about?”. That being said, I’m a bit more open to influences now. I really like Carl Giles’ illustrations, Don Hertzfeldt’s animations and I spend a lot of time on social media taking in different people’s work so maybe I’m a bit more influenced by other artists than I think I am.
WBT: Well, for selfish reasons, we're glad that you overcome your block. Who has been your favorite person to sketch to this point? And Why?
DD: Jurgen Klopp is my favourite person to draw, without a doubt. Every time I draw him, something wild appears in my sketchbook. He’s got so many amazing little features that are so recognizable—his teeth being the obvious one. His nose is slightly arched (soz if you’re reading this Jurgen x) and of course his beard is instantly recognizable. Amazing person to draw. So many different facial expressions too.
WBT: We saw that you just had a couple of your Jurgen Klopp pieces signed by the big man himself. How did that come about? How much of a buzz did that give you?
DD: Yeah, this was amazing. Luckily my friend is the master at getting autographs and he very selflessly got my prints signed when he knew there was an opportunity to get Jurgen to sign it. I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to say how it came about, but a lot of luck was involved!
I think Klopp was actually the first person I drew when I was considering starting up Dreadfully Drawn (and he’s obviously a Liverpool legend) so for him to sign my work after three years of doing Dreadfully Drawn, was an amazing feeling and I’m ridiculously grateful that it happened.
At the time I was at a bit of a low. I have been on-and-off since Coronavirus struck the world, particularly since the lack of fans has taken that edge off football. Sometimes I feel productive and keen to draw, other times I wonder whether my attention would be better placed elsewhere. Moments like the Klopp autograph pull me right back in and make me want to do this as much as I can.
WBT: That's great to hear! This pandemic has put a lot into much starker light for many of us that suffer from various forms of mental illnesses. You have drawings from across the sporting and pop culture universe. Have you had anyone request specific players or sports personalities from you?
DD: Yeah, I get asked quite regularly. I try to be as polite as possible by saying either I don’t do requests, or you’re gonna have to pay. I think it depends on how busy I am with other stuff whether I’ll do it. I’m definitely in the camp that I draw the people I want to. I’m not keen on drawing things because someone wants me to do it, to be honest. Especially if they just message saying “draw me”.
WBT: So I guess I can't ask you to draw me like one of your French girls then? Ha! There’s a nice little video of your process. How long in general does it take to finish your pieces?
DD: If there’s a reactive piece to be made, I reckon I could have a finished drawing in maybe 15-20 minutes. If it’s a commission and I want to make sure it’s right, maybe an hour or two. It can also depend on the amount of interesting features a person has! I’ve got it down to a fairly nifty speed now though.
WBT: Living in the North East, how did you fall in love with the Redmen?
DD: Michael Owen. Yep, I know it’s not something you’re allowed to say as a Liverpool fan, but he was really, really good, wasn’t he? Oddly, when I started playing football as a young lad, I never really wanted to be him. I didn’t mirror my game off Michael Owen’s, I preferred the likes of Gerrard, Alonso, Zidane—the midfielders. For a couple of years, however, maybe 2000-03, Michael Owen was my idol. There was a spell when he did some advertising for Shreddies (I think)—I hated Shreddies but I wanted some because he was on the box. I even had his version of Subbuteo. I loved him and I am still very reluctant to put any slander on his name because of that.
WBT: What’s your most memorable moment as a Liverpool fan? It can be a good memory or one that was a real heartbreak for you. Or it can be both.
DD: Gerrard vs Olympiakos. Without a doubt. When Sinama-Pongolle scored, I knew Liverpool were going through. That Gerrard goal will live with me forever. I genuinely love everything about it; the header, the strike, the way the ball hits the net, the celebrations, the kit, the football boots, the PlayStation 2 advertisement board, the commentary, the roar. I never saw the Istanbul final as I was mid-flight (shocking I know) so that Olympiakos game was my moment. Pure elation.
The past 4 or 5 years have created some memories that will be immortalized with Liverpool fans for years and years to come; that Barca game, Divock’s occasional masterclass, Dortmund, the Premier League title, but eight-year-old me screaming the house down during THAT Champions League run in 2004/05 was something I’ll never forget.
In terms of heartbreak, I can bounce back fairly quickly as I understand football is just a rolling cycle of ups and downs so it’s just part of loving (and occasionally hating the game). The Champions League final in 2007 was particularly heartbreaking as an 11-year-old. The worst feeling, however, was unquestionably 2013/14. The highs of the City game at Anfield, destined to win the league after such a crazy game (and season), to the devastating and crushing blow of the slip and “Crystanbul”. That Crystal Palace game absolutely destroyed me. How I continued to watch football after that game, I’ll never know. It did always feel like that season was just a flash in the pan, but surely it wasn’t meant to end like that?
WBT: The Liverpool-inspired artist community has quite a few fantastic artists, and they are very supportive of one another’s work—which is great to see—do you have a couple of faves that you follow?
DD: Yeah, what a great community of ridiculously creative people. There are far too many to mention and I would hate to think I missed anyone out. I might have to give you a politician’s answer and avoid it.
Nah, only joking. Artists that I have a lot of time for, I interact a lot with, or love their work:
Dan Leydon: He has helped me a lot over the years and I think he set the bar of how football art should be done too. GOAT.
Karl Thyer: I think I’ve followed Karl since pretty much the start of his illustration journey and he’s taken it to another level and proved with hard work you can smash it.
Michael (ML_Design): Cracking lad, great designer who has improved massively over the years.
Dave (Liverpooltoonz): Lovely fella. Great caricature artist who’ll help anyone who needs it. Genuinely lovely.
Mike (twelth_red): Occasionally sarcastic, regularly gets his work stolen. Have a lot in common with Mike. Great designer.
Dan (HendoDesign): Very hard-working lad who puts a lot of effort into his store and art. BIG Adam Lallana fan too.
PoorlyDrawnArsenal and Panini Cheapskates: Fellow poorly drawn artists.
DCally: Not actually sure what DCally’s first name is… Dan? Dave? Dom? Think it’s Dan. Sure it’s Dan. Might not be though. Supportive artist with such a unique style. No one’s work is like D’s.
TurfDesign: Cracking fella who always gets me involved in any projects he has going. Love this guy.
Dan Hardman: His improvement in animation is amazing. Nice lad too.
Matty (_Matty732): Absolutely smashed the Corona lockdown by selling loads of stuff. Hope he can go full-time.
Shannxo: Her work has been stolen by pretty much every football merch site out there, including *cough* Liverpool *cough*. Love her kit designs.
Dave Carless: Fellow caricature artist (and North-Easterner) who is always willing to help out with projects. I have a lot of time for Dave.
Dave Will: Worked with everyone and that’s cause his work is mega. His MIFA projects are amazing too.
Special mention to ColdWarSteve. Amazing artist. Need more artists like him.
There are so many… Sorry if I missed you and we chat a lot.
I’d like to think I’m supportive of their work, even if I have missed them out. Great bunch.
WBT: That's an impressive list! I've got some of them on my Holiday list, and I'll defo have a look at the ones I haven't. But onto your stuff. You’ve got a shop for your prints set up, and now one for t-shirts. You wanna let everyone know how they can pick one up for themselves or for their special Reds fan?
DD: I certainly do. I tend not to sell a lot of stuff as I don’t like the responsibility of it, but it’s nearly Christmas, the year has been crap for everyone so I thought why not sell a few prints?
This is where you go for limited edition prints produced by myself.
My general Dreadfully Drawn goods are produced by the folks at RedBubble.
WBT: Who do you think is going to win the league winner this year and why is it Liverpool FC?DD: I genuinely don’t think this Liverpool team gets the credit it deserves. Since 2017/18, they’ve been one of the most exciting and successful teams in world football, yet every single year they’re written off. I don’t think that matters outside the Liverpool bubble, I just desperately want this team to know how much they’re loved by the fans. That Premier League trophy parade is gonna be ridiculous and I can’t wait to see some fans back in Anfield.
At the time of this interview, I think the only team that comes close is Spurs, but they’re prone to bottling and I think their squad will be tested later in the season. I’ll take a double Premier League trophy parade in May when those vaccines are in full working order. Up the reds.