Will Rea is a British illustrator and muralist — and the artist behind our custom Jubilee totes.
Just shy of three years as a freelance artist, Will has already created murals and signage for well-known brands and received global recognition for his public artwork, winning a World Illustrator Award.
Photography by Joe Horner
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist.
I’ve always been happiest when being creative. From choosing creative subjects in my early education to a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration at Sheffield Hallam University, I’ve always tried to be true to myself and pursue a life that I’m passionate about.
After graduating with a First-Class Honours, I began working at a screen printer in Sheffield. Alongside this job, I took on freelance projects for local businesses, creating digital illustrations, painting murals and signwriting for a plethora of prestigious outlets. Six months into my printing job, I won a large-scale public artwork project at Orchard Square shopping centre. The brief was to brighten up a 100ft x 50ft wall in Sheffield’s city centre. Since then, the Orchard Square mural has been awarded a World Illustration Award and I’ve began working as an Arts Educator with The V&A and Sheffield Museums. I’ve painted murals for clients like Hendrick’s Gin, created signs for various establishments and worked on a multitude of digital illustration commissions.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
I’ve always had a fascination with how things work and the stories behind how they came into existence. I find myself thinking about who might’ve made something and how they made it when I observe the world. Heritage plays a huge part in the projects I enjoy most. Objects and machinery seem to shine through a lot. I like to use these to tell a story in my artwork.
Q: How would you describe your work in three words?
Technical, playful and colourful.
Q: What does it mean to you to illustrate a limited edition tote bag for Oxford Street?
It’s truly an honour. To have been recognised by one of the most popular destinations in Britain blows my mind a little bit. The opportunity has allowed me to see how far following your dreams can take you. Working for myself and being unrepresented by an agent, I hadn’t quite anticipated that I’d start working for such established clients as early as I have. I’m proud to be able to create new work that can be enjoyed by wider audiences, and hopefully brighten a few people’s days.
Q: What inspired the Jubilee illustration?
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the atmosphere of Oxford Street were the main focuses for the project. I’ve tried to capture the people, places and emotions that work together to make up its essence. I spent a lot of time visiting Oxford Street taking photographs and observing the location to determine what I would create. Early on I established themes such as fashion, colour, youth and diversity — and made sure that they shone through in my response.
Q: How will you be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee?
I’m up in Scotland during the Jubilee weekend climbing the Nevis Range with friends. There’s no plans on visiting Balmoral Castle just yet, but maybe I should suggest it for continuity.
Q: What are some of your favourite brands on Oxford Street?
Q: Describe your go-to outfit for a night out in the West End.
I always enjoy an outfit that blends tradition and workwear with modern streetstyle. I’d probably sport a Whiting overshirt from Wax London (available at John Lewis & Partners) and khaki Dickies 874 straight leg work pants (available at Urban Outfitters) with a pair of Salomon XT Wings on my feet.