Meet the Illustrator: Steven Prusinski-Stills aka The Happy Chappo
The Happy Chappo is the pen name of Steven Prusinski-Stills, an illustrator on a mission to spread love and positivity in a “super honest, super positive way”. The centre of his chappoverse is a little village in West Yorkshire called Slaithwaite, and it’s here that he plays with words, subverts sayings and makes motivating mantras from the “doodle trash” in his sketchbook. Trained as a classical painter, Steven talks to fellow Folksy seller Lisa Bennett from In the Making – Aprons about how he ditched the brush and learned to turn the ideas floating around his head into cartoon catalysts of joy…
To celebrate being our featured maker, Steven is offering 15% off all Happy Chappo goodies! Just use code CHIPCHOPS when you check out before midnight on Sunday 27 October 2019. Click here to shop The Happy Chappo on Folksy.
My art is like those guys with bed head: it looks messy, but damn they spent some time on that!Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
Your Folksy animation is adorable! I’ve watched it over and over again. I can see a contemporary Japanese graphic design influence in your work: the cute creatures, clean white backgrounds, bold line and fresh colour. It also reminds me of Spike Milligan cartoons with their quirky jokes. What would you say have been the main influences on your drawing style?
Ahhh thanks so much, Lisa! I’ve definitely spent a lifetime looking to the east but the white backgrounds probably come from an early age addiction to Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Men books. I’m either Mr. Bump or Little Miss Chatterbox. On my first ever market stall in 2018 a very nice gentleman compared me to Spike Milligan too. Alas I still haven’t looked into him too much, but I intend to, so thanks for the comparison.
Watch the brilliant ‘Folksy Not Yolks’ animation that Steven created using the Folksy logo
I was actually a trained painter until I decided to ditch the brush in 2015 after being introduced to a lovely illustrator out of Nottingham called Katie Abey. She taught me that all those odd ideas floating around your head actually make very nice drawings if you can get in touch with them and be honest with yourself.
Drawing legs was such a big endeavour for me that I started a new Instagram account just to secretly draw legs on the side. I started that on Christmas Day 2017 and by March it was bigger than my old account!Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
Where did the trademark hairy legs come from?
Oh the legs! Hahaha. When I started doing this everyone was drawing long spindly legs, so I made an effort to not blend in by just cutting legs out altogether. But one day the amount of versatility I could achieve with no legs became an obstacle. It was such a big endeavour for me to draw legs that I started a new Instagram account to secretly draw legs on the side. I started that on Christmas Day 2017. By March it was bigger than my old account! I’ve got some chunky legs myself but I’m not very hairy, so maybe I’m drawing my body goals too! Who knows : )
You just never know when you’re going to encounter something in life that will make you laugh your pants off.Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
There’s a paint-like quality of line and colour to your work. Do you use a tablet or more old fashioned methods?
You are so flippin’ nice!! Yes I use an iPad and Procreate now. The biggest change that’s had on my work is that I can go from doing one drawing a week to a couple of drawings a day. I learned to draw classically first and I would always invite other top chaps to do the same. What you learn in the real world can make your tablet sing later. I’m hoping it’s like a “wax on, wax-off” sort of approach.
How do you collect and store inspiration? Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yeah, I have a small army of sketchbooks, all half finished, all filled with what looks like doodle trash, but all my good ideas came out of those books. You just never know when you’re going to encounter something in life that will make you laugh your pants off. So it makes sense to carry a tiny notebook and write it down while it’s fresh.
It’s hard to say what’s coming next. I can promise you a lot of laughs, a lot of love and a lot of honesty…Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
There’s lots of wordplay and subverted proverbs in your work. How quickly do the accompanying visual ideas come together?
Oh they are always evolving. I might get a picture out in a day or two from a funny conversation but, heck, you bet I’m about to redraw that picture again and again for six months until it’s perfect. My art is like those guys with bed head: it looks messy, but damn they spent some time on that!
Do you have a dedicated workspace? What’s your typical working day like?
Yesss! Long time fans (chappos) might remember my original business name was ‘The SketchNook’. Well, that’s just what I call my little studio / desk space/ safe zone. It’s where I sit and just let my mind waterfall on to the page. I’m surrounded by people I admire and fond memories in there, so I always get my best drawings done sitting at my desk.
‘The SketchNook’ is what I call my little studio / desk space/ safe zone. It’s where I sit and just let my mind waterfall on to the page.Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
Which of your products are you most proud of?
It’s gotta be my duck poem. Have you seen it? It reads: “See a mallard, Pick it up, All day long, You’ll have a Duck!” In 2014 I worked in a particularly horrible admin job full of toxic people. Every day I would walk past this gang of ducks on a canal path and talk to them a little bit because I was hella lonely. I fantasised about running away with them one day and that’s where the poem came from. Flash forward to 2018 and the sales of that poem helped me take myself seriously enough (no one needs to be too serious) to actually make my art into a career. I gave myself the credit that I could see good things when everything was bad, and it ended up giving me a nice little career I can love : )
I used to work in a particularly horrible admin job full of toxic people. Every day I would walk past this gang of ducks on a canal path and talk to them a little bit because I was hella lonely. I fantasised about running away with them one day and that’s where the poem came from.Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
I don’t really do “proud of myself” moments, but I want to give the chappo version of me who wrote that poem in 2014 a hug and say: “You flippin’ did it, bud!” Then maybe we can go get a vegan shake together because 2014 me needs to learn I can’t drink milk.
I achieved none of my goals for 2019! But the things I did achieve I wouldn’t have set myself until 2021.Steven Prusinski-Still, The Happy Chappo
How has your craft business evolved? What’s next for Happy Chappo?
The business is still evolving. I’ve changed a lot since I started this in 2018 but I still draw everyday and interact with everyone on my Instagram account like I still have 200 friends following me. I’m not going to change that! Luckily my wife Becky is coming on board full time from November to run her knitting empire and my business side.
I achieved none of my goals for 2019! But the things I did achieve I wouldn’t have set myself until 2021. So it’s hard to say what’s coming. I can promise you a lot of laughs, a lot of love, a lot of honesty and a better run business end : ) The things I do know are happening next year though I haven’t seen anyone else doing yet, so I’m looking forward to bringing you something a little bit different… and of course staying happy ^_^
Get 15% off everything Happy Chappo with the code CHIPCHOPS until midnight on Sunday 27th October 2019.