We sat down with artist Will Child to ask him about how in a television world of sleek adverts and glossy montages, he made the most downloaded Premier League advert of last season out of plasticine, what his artistic aspirations are, and Marcelo Bielsa.
Will, from Leeds, makes plasticine models of celebrities and football players. Speaking to him it’s quick to see his passion for model making and the painstaking stop-motion short films that have become his forte. Formerly making papier-mâché music videos for Action Bronson, his recent efforts have been redirected to a more primitive approach, embracing the lo-fi nature of plasticine and find himself breaking new ground. Last season creating an official Premier league advert visualising the poetic shit-slinging match between Conte and Mourinho.
When talking about being asked to develop an advert for the biggest, richest league in the world, Will remarked that he had ‘only made about two of these animations at the time.’ It speaks volumes for the quality of Will’s claymation that he was able to develop, create, and film a short tale portraying Mourinho and Conte in just four weeks. The advert was aired at the time when the two were having a war of words and talking about each other in a very continental way.
“I had to find different ways of visualising the insults that they were throwing at each other and putting that into a minute long animated advert,” he says. “It didn’t air in the UK, but it went out across the rest of Europe and the Premier League said it was the most downloaded advert they’d had on their server. It was ace.”
Will certainly found his groove with this motion picture, absolutely nailing his translation of Conte and Mourinho’s ‘poetic insults’ and ‘jabs’ as literal punches and delusions, showing them as boxers, clowns, and possessed caricatures of their true selves. Seriously, look at the detail in that video. Imagine having the patience to take twenty photos to make up just one second of footage, each image painstakingly and minutely different to give the illusion of a smooth transition. This process is anything but smooth. This is for mentalists, but Will makes it look easy. He’s taking the piss out of us all here; he’s even done a Putin Salt-Bae.
While he had worked with papier-mâché and air dry clay before diving into the malleable world of plasticine, Will generated attention from the BBC’s People Just Do Nothing cast, explaining: “I love the show and I made a model of Steves, one of the characters. His girlfriend in real life Lily—who plays Mich in the show—actually saw it on Instagram and bought it off of me. So I ended up meeting them and making an end of season gift for the whole cast, just a little model of each of their characters.”
Aiming to make more responsive content, plasticine has allowed Will to work quickly without having to wait for materials to dry. Clay takes an age to work with, with a model bust taking about 3 to 4 days to create, paint, and dry, but the switch to fun ol’ plasticine has allowed him to make more models more quickly, with these new busts taking just half a day to develop. A good call all round then, really.
Despite playing around with plasticine for most of his days, Will still has an air of traditionalism about him: “There is so much good CGI animation but there is also just so much bad stuff out there, too. People are so used to seeing CGI now, so unless it’s really good your work can kind of just go missing. Something that is clearly handmade and you can see it exists in a physical space rather than just being a computer generated object, I like that and I think other people like that too.”
Working 9–5 most days, but not the hours you would expect, having to work through the night due to lighting requirements when making stop-motion pictures. Burning the midnight oil, slaving over tiny, mushy busts of Gareth Southgate and the like, and speaks passionately about his art as ‘much of a labour of love than anything else’. When I asked what his studio looks like he’s is quick to admit it’s a bit messy.
“My cousin came in the other day and he said he nearly had an anxiety attack!” he says. “I’m dead lucky though, my grandpa lives in Slough and he has a little workshop which I’ve been able to take over and work in whilst I build up a client base. It’s a little outbuilding which he doesn’t need to come in at all and stress about the mess inside. It is absolute carnage in there.’
Another of Will’s passions is Leeds United, so, of course, one of his recent models is of Marcelo Bielsa and his little blue bucket. Will’s efforts of generating more responsive content, and Leeds’ brilliant start to the season, have meant there was no better fit for his next project. Endearingly titled ‘Bielsaisms’, his video surrounds his subject with the philosophical quotes fans have come to expect from the man himself. Not only does Will rate Bielsa’s wisdom, but he reckons the footy is pretty good, too. Will fancies Leeds’ attractive style to mean times may well be changing for Leeds, arguing it’s the best football he’s seen the side play since the fabled Champions League days.
“Promotion, Milner in, crunching tackle from him on his glorious return to Elland Road on his second debut,” he tells me. “It’s what we all want.”
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“The last Leeds game I got to I think was when I watched Leeds lose 2–0 to Watford last year,” he says. “I do get to see quite a lot of football, though. I go and see my mate over in Wales a fair bit and we’ve been to see Port Talbot a fair few times. I’ve been to quite a lot of Newport games too. The Spoons there does Stella for £1.69.”
Always having been into the footy, when working for an agency called Golden he was offered the opportunity to showcase his talents beyond claymation and model making. “Golden’s main client was Nike, so I was involved in designing the Atlético store in Madrid. It was an amazing first job to have.” Will was responsible for designing and implementing a strip light installation, a screen-printed tile wall, and creating and developing multiple bespoke wheat-pasted posters. Check them out below. Boy, is it clean.
Will’s future is looking bright, telling me his dream project is already in the formative stages, planning on developing a modernised ‘2018, 18-rated, non-PG version’ of The Wind in the Willows. “There’s all this drink driving, crashing cars, and mental stuff like that throughout it,” he says, “so I want to give that a go and make a short claymation film all about that.”
We reckon Bielsa would make a cracking Badger.