“Making work makes me want to make more work” – Interview with Henry St.Leger (aka Sainty WHAT)

1 Comment | February 9, 2011

"Chameleon Tree King" by Henry St.Leger

"Chameleon Tree King" by Henry St.Leger

What’s your name?

Henry St.Leger

Where did you grow up?

A town called Bridport in Dorset

Where do you live now?


How old are you?


What is your educational background? What, if anything, did you study?

I have a degree in illustration with animation from UWE in Bristol.

Self Portrait by Henry St.Leger

Self Portrait by Henry St.Leger

How do you make a living?

I am a freelance Illustrator, Animator, Character designer and Storyboard artist.

How long have you been making art, and what role does that play in your life?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I used to sit there with a pile of paper my parents had got me and my brother and draw constantly.

It’s hugely important in my life and I still draw in my down time. I think I’d still make images even if it wasn’t what I did for a living. I was not very good at very much else at school and nothing brings me more pleasure.

What does “art” mean to you?

I think art can cover so much. I think it has to be something that makes you feel something. So much of it is a gut feeling that happens when you first see a piece or hear some music or watch a film or animation. You know almost instantly. For me Art is something that inspires and pushes my own work or makes me look at something differently.

What role does drawing play in your work? Is it a means to an end, or an end in and of itself?

I work in illustration or even just drawing for the pleasure of doing so, it’s what I want to do and I don’t particually care if it sells or if people even like it (although both are always nice).

Making work makes me want to make more work and develop and evolve as an artist.

What would you consider your “style” of art to be, if you have one?

I would consider my art to have an illustrative style. For years I thought I was a fine artist but then on my foundation course someone pointed out that I was an illustrator. I sat there and looked through my sketchbooks and realised how obvious it was.

"Tree Whale King" by Henry St.Leger

"Tree Whale King" by Henry St.Leger

What’s your weapon of choice? What medium and drawing tool do you prefer to use?

By far my favorite pen is the Pentel Brush Pen. I spent a while looking for a good brush pen and this is the best by far. It doesn’t dry out and keeps its shape beautifully. You can achieve such fine lines and massive fat ones with one pen.

I also use a Pilot G-Tec-C4 for super fine work. I hold a pen at a strange angle and so a lot of fine liners end up breaking or become stubby. This is a super fine roller ball that holds up.

Some of my work is done digitally on Photoshop. I learnt to use it so much in the industry i work in and you can do so much with it. However there are things i can do on it that i can’t do hand drawn and vice versa.

What approach do you take for your work? Do you plan it out or does it emerge spontaneously? How long do you usually work on a piece?

It can vary really. I usually doodle in a sketchbook and when I draw something I like I develop it further and then sometimes that develops into a more final piece outside my sketchbook on a lager scale.

Sometimes I draw an image straight off and it doesn’t need any more work to it. Often these more spontaneous drawings are what I consider my best.

I often make a pencil plan first and then go over in the pen if I am planning composition a little more. For example with the large skull piece called ‘Nest’ i did i made a rough pencil line showing the shape of a skull on the page and then went straight on with pen to make the detail that makes up the piece.

I work pretty quickly. I have quite a short attention span when it comes to my work. I need to get the image on the page. The ‘Nest’ image i mentioned before was probably my largest piece. It’s about two meters squared. It took me two long evenings to complete.

"Nest" by Henry St.Leger

"Nest" by Henry St.Leger

Are there any people that influenced you that stand out? What current artists do you follow?

Ralph Steadman was a huge influence to my work and also comic book artists like Jack Kirby have made their mark.

At the moment I’m really into Charles Burns. His graphic novel Black Hole is a lesson in black and white illustration. I have a massive signed screen print of one of the panels from it above my desk at home. I’m trying to get some of his style to rub off on me.

I’ve been making screen printed gig posters through a company called Jacknife who are based in Bristol. The world of gig posters has a huge amount of very talented artists and designers that have inspired some new approaches and ways of working. One artist that particually caught my eye recently is Aaron Horkey. His attention to detail is mind blowing.

Whilst I was growing up my brother, Sam St.Leger, was a huge influence. We now have very different styles but i still get inspiration from his work.

I am also lucky to be amongst some hugely talented illustrators and artists who I can bounce ideas off of and I think we influence each other.

What are you currently working on?

My day job at the moment is at Aardman Animations doing some photoshop work and a bit of animation.

In my spare time I’m currently designing a gig poster for the band Chew Lips.

Also me and my brother have been discussing an animation project for a few years now. I am determined to get it going this year.

Do you have any upcoming events?

I’ve got a joing show called ‘Deep into the Woods’ with a load of very talented individuals in May at a gallery above Start the Bus in Bristol.

The show is including work from:

Stuart Kolakovic
Log Roper
Jon Boam
Matthew the Horse
Seb Burnett
Dave Bain
Rosie Miles
Amy Brown
Paul Roberts

What would you tell aspiring artists?

I don’t know really. Just keep at it I suppose. If you really want to do it keep pushing. I’m freelance and it is pretty hard work sometimes but when it pulls off it can be so rewarding.

"Big canvas" by Henry St.Leger

"Big canvas" by Henry St.Leger

"Big canvas" (detail) by Henry St.Leger

"Big canvas" (detail) by Henry St.Leger