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05th Nov 2021

In conversation with viral Irish artist and illustrator Rob Stears

Rory Cashin

You have definitely seen his covid-friendly Santa illustration about the place!

As we get further into the Christmas spirit (which, at this point, is pretty much everything from November 1st onwards), we are all thinking about presents and cards and stuff.

And with that in mind, we want to talk about Rob Stears, the creator of a massively popular (and viral!) Christmas card last year, with the covid-friendly Santa.

This year, Rob is expanding into Big City Bots designs, a range of robots made up of iconic Dublin, Limerick Cork and New York landmarks, with more cities to be added to that line-up soon.

So we chatted with Rob about his process, his reaction to the sudden popularity of his designs, and more.

How do you begin the process of creating these cards?

To be honest they usually don’t start as a card, more like jokes. I used to do stand up comedy and would often sketch my jokes out on post-it’s as little drawings rather than write the whole thing out, it was just quicker. Now when I think of something funny I’ll do a quick sketch and later think “There’s a card in that”.

Do you have one design in particular that makes you laugh every time you see it?

I do have favourites, maybe the new baby card where the Dad says “Now what do we do with our old one?” Or the Christmas card where Santa calls the kid a nerd because he asked for world peace. Anything where somebody is being mean. That makes me a terrible person, doesn’t it?

How did you feel when your Covid Santa Card sold so well last year?

That was unreal! Really unexpected because I came up with it and debated about posting it online. I thought it might be depressing to have Santa wearing his PPE but my wife insisted it worked as a card. Within hours it was retweeted by a few large accounts and kept rolling for weeks. With the pandemic my business had taken a hit so we call it the card that saved Christmas!

What do you find to be your comedic inspiration for these card messages?

Misery and cynicism! Most cards are nice with a positive message which is great and we all need a bit of positivity but sometimes it’s your birthday on a Tuesday in the office. And sometimes you’ve been given your fifth pair of socks at Christmas. And sometimes you’re both too tired to really celebrate your anniversary in the middle of the week. I like to think my cards capture that energy.

What was the inspiration for the Big City Bots?

I love sci-fi and grew up with Transformers, Voltron, Gobots etc around and with a little boy at home here it’s robot this and robot that all day. Having been stuck at home last summer and with most of the wedding illustration work I would usually have been doing gone, I had a lot of free time to miss going out into town. I thought it would be an interesting departure from the jokes I usually draw to come up with a different and detailed way to give the city a personality. When that got a big reaction online I went on to draw Cork, Limerick and New York Big City Bots too and I’m sketching out more cities now.

All of Rob’s cards and prints are available for purchase through his official website right here.

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