How Hewlett created his favourite Monkey

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The Independent Culture

This image is Hewlett's favourite drawing of the thousands he has made of Monkey. He named it Damon, after his collaborator working in the studio below. Why? "I dunno," he says with a smile. "It's just a bit cheeky, a bit naughty. Seemed right, somehow..." The picture shows Monkey squatting in a typical Chinese pose, the rounded body a motif that Hewlett often uses.

Hewlett explains his drawing process. "I start with an idea in my head. I sketch it out quickly as a line drawing, using pencil. It never comes out quite right – usually a bit better than my mental picture." But not always: scores of these drawings – little more than elegant, slightly smudgy doodles – end up in the bin.

"I have to get the character's personality across, but it is also about creating a nice shape on the page. That's very important to me. I like the way this one has a coiled shape, its feet on the floor. It's a shape I can't stop myself from drawing."

He then sketches it more fully, still with pencil, adding detail such as hands, feet and face. "This one looks like a naughty monkey. The character comes across quite well. It also feels very Chinese. If you go to China, you see people everywhere in this squatting position, eating their food or waiting at a bus stop."

The final version is scanned in to his computer, where it is digitally coloured. "I use watercolours to put in washes over the picture, doing it on paper put over the original. Computers produce flat colours, so this gives variation. If I was doing 50 pictures a year, I would do it all with paint, but this allows me to produce the number I need."