ART OF BEER: DREW MILLWARD/ NORTHERN MONK

Drew Millward’s artwork for Northern Monk caught our attention for its vibrant illustrations for a special series

It started as so many collaborations do, through a beer. Drew Millward was dropping off a portrait of John and Jane Marshall. John Marshall was responsible for the building Temple Mill, Leeds, and by extension of that, building the flax store, home to Northern Monk. A bond was formed. Here we speak to Drew about his remarkable artwork for the new Northern Monk Northern Tropics series and his other work for clients including Bundobust, BrewDog and 21st Amendment.

What was the brief you were given from Northern Monk?

There really wasn’t one. In fact, it was almost the other way around. We drank beer, we discussed what we like about beer, I told them that my ‘holy grail’, in beer terms, is basically to find something that tastes like a hoppy Um Bongo. They went away and concocted ideas for what sort of beers might fit that bill, and I just got to work drawing pictures that combined Leeds’ industrial landscape and a load of tropical nonsense. It was pretty much a dream project really. Like having a suit tailor-made. The Northern Tropics series have genuinely been some of my favourite beers I’ve had in years and to play a part in how those are presented to the world has been an absolute pleasure. Long may it continue.

How did you first get into illustrating in the first place?

Somewhere, in the mists of time, I started making posters for gigs that myself and some friends were booking. We needed to advertise the shows, so myself, and my buddy Luke Drozd took turns in designing flyers and poster for the stuff we were putting on. That friendly rivalry between us probably spurred us on to do better things as time progressed. From that, people saw the work and started asking me to make posters and such like for them. I think someone offered me about £35 to make a poster for a show in London, shortly after which I quit my job. That was about 14 years ago. Since that point, I’ve more or less, kept the lights on by drawing pictures. I suppose I fell into it, as it was never a goal or ambition to do this, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

You have such a distinct style, where does your inspiration come from?

Anywhere and everywhere. I suppose my roots in posters and screen printing plays a massive part in the way I work, and the work I make, and certainly the worlds of music, DIY and punk rock all play a part in what/why/how I operate. I would say, stylistically it’s probably a progression over the past 14 years of looking at design, illustration, art and ephemera, filtered through my own mind and limited capabilities.

You’ve done quite a bit for Bundobust, how did that come around?

Those folks are good people. Leeds is a small enough place that most people know of, if not know each other, certainly in more independently minded circles, so things often come about fairly organically. Marko Husak asked me to get involved with what they were doing, and since I drank (at The Sparrow) and ate (their street food before they got the bricks and mortar place) there, it was foolish not to. I love what they do and how they do it, so it’s not difficult to get behind working collaboratively with these people. I think a lot of people within the independent community, and you see it a lot in the smaller end brewing industry as well, have a great attitude and mind set about taking risks and working with artists or other like-minded people. It goes back to the principals that punk rock and the DIY music communities are built on. It’s a good way of going about things.

/ northernmonkbrewco.com

/ drewmillward.com