Rob Flowers is hoping that one day his enviable toy collection will be stored in a Pitt-Rivers-style museum. Walking into his studio is amazing, if a little overwhelming, there is way too much to take in for one visit. The Hamburglar sits next to Garbage Pail Kids, and bootleg cartoon characters lurk in-between with slightly warped faces. He began collecting as a child and still owns many of his childhood toys, although most of them are now broken. His collection is so large that he has had to limit himself to toys whose design he really loves, or who have interesting faces, so that they can count them as tools for research.
Toys started Rob’s interest in drawing; his first drawings were of his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as well as toys he draws inspiration from rituals, mythology, folklore and costume. In terms of other creators he loves the 70’s aesthetic of Sid and Marty Kkroft, his description of their work could be applied to his own: “garish and trippy, it seems really weird and is a bit dark. It’s so bright and happy that it becomes a bit disturbing.” Famously McDonald’s ripped off their work to create the McDonaldlands characters, and food and advertising run throughout Rob’s work. He even created all of the imagery for London burger restaurant Burgershack!
In between the toys in his studio hang Transylvanian costume masks, found during a holiday there. Costume design is something he’s keen to try his hand at in the future: a lifetime ambition is to create a live-action children’s TV show. Inspired by the liked of Adventure Time and Lidsville, he admits some elements might be aimed more at adults than at children. Although there isn’t much of a difference for Rob “you can be a lot more sophisticated and intelligent than people think, I don’t approach illustrating for adults or children differently. Everyone likes fun and being silly don’t they?”
He had a chance to experiment with film-making recently, when he directed an advert for Maynards. He said that the advert is favourite piece of recent work, as he loved seeing his characters come to life. The same characters pop up throughout Rob’s work, you get the sense that they have a life beyond the page for him, and he says that that they inhabit a world called the Crystal Wood (the name of a past exhibition) and if he does end up making a TV show they will a central part of it. Anthropomorphic trees, burgers and mushrooms stand next to wizards, and in his green lab coat, surrounded by toys, he almost seems like one of his own characters.