When did you first realise you had a talent for drawing? 

Some of my first memories are of drawing with my mam so I think I’ve always been keen on it. At school, Art was probably the only subject I was above average in. I think the ‘talent’ probably emerges from simply spending a lot of time doing it. 

When did you first make money from your artistic endeavours?

I sold a few pencil portrait commissions, usually of footballers, when I was 12 or 13. Not for much money and they took hours. Hopefully I'm slightly more business savvy these days.

Does artistic talent run in your family?

My eldest sister is a very good artist, and one of my brothers is a professional musician.

Who have been the most influential and inspirational people in your career?

I worked as a graphic designer at The Northern Echo and that is where I had my first published caricature illustrations. My colleagues and manager, Steve Wetton, were always hugely supportive of my caricature work, along with the paper's editor Peter Barron and the sports desk. They were often keen to feature my work in prominent editorial positions; this gave me the confidence to work harder and develop my skills. 

My wife Emma is also incredibly supportive of my work and has never pressured me to get a ‘proper job’, even though at times it may seem a good idea!

What do you like most about your job and why? 

The fact that I spend my days working on a wide range of projects, from commissions, commercial work, live caricature and my own personal projects - generally whilst sat at home listening to good music, podcasts or Test Match Special.

I have developed my own range of prints and merchandise, when I launch a new print or product and it sells well, that is a great feeling. 

The freedom of freelance work is great - I have two sons ages two and four, and I get to spend a lot of time with them, that perhaps wouldn’t be possible if I was employed elsewhere and commuting.

What is the worst thing about it and why? 

As a freelancer I'm responsible for every element of my business from accounts, to marketing - the workload can be heavy. Having to chase clients for payment is by far the worst part of the job - it can be soul destroying at times. Thankfully it is rare, and most people understand the potentially precarious nature of a freelancer's financial situation, and pay on time.

As a caricaturist, how do you approach a subject, for example, what do you look for in a person when you are planning to draw them? 

I don’t look to exaggerate everything - it would look strange. I will generally push the boundaries in one or two areas of a face that stand out, the key thing is to do so, whilst keeping a strong likeness. I also treat the face like a piece of modelling clay. If I exaggerate one area by adding to it. I have to take that away from somewhere else - for example an exaggerated chin will usually mean a reduced forehead or vice versa. 

Who has been your favourite person to draw?

I think one of my favourite caricatures is of former cricketer David 'Bumble' Lloyd. There is a lot going on in his face, loads of character, fantastic eyebrows and expression. 

Which person do you think you draw best and is there anyone you've really struggled to get right? 

Studio work depends on the source images. My work is quite detailed so a good clear source image is crucial, well-lit and at a good angle. I'm confident that with a good source image or images I can produce a good likeness. For live work at events and weddings I love drawing older people. They tend to have a great deal of character in their face.

Have you ever upset anyone with one of your drawings of them? 

If I have, they've been too polite to say so. My level of exaggeration is not extreme or cruel in any way, most people take them in the good humour that they're intended. 

Have you heard back from any famous people about what they thought of your caricature of them? 

I'll occasionally get feedback on social media from people that I've drawn, predominantly ex-footballers, as most of my work is in that area. Former Wales and Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall and record-breaking Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips are two of the highest profile to appreciate my work - and were good enough to sign copies for me. It's the ultimate compliment to get approval from the subject of a caricature.

Which artists, caricaturists, cartoonists do you admire the most and why?

Jason Seiler is an American caricature and portrait artist whom I admire greatly - I think he's the best there is, having drawn covers for Time Magazine and more. On turning freelance full-time I completed his online 'Schoolism' course in caricature art in which I undertook nine modules and received direct feedback from Jason on each one - he would over work my final piece to show me what I could do differently, and what I did well. It was invaluable.

I also greatly admire the work of Paul Moyes, Tom Richmond and Howard McWilliam.

The artist that first got me interested in caricature was Nick Davies - who did the cartoons in ’90 Minutes’ magazine in the early 1990s.

Does digital media - which gives everyone the tools to do their own designs themselves from their laptop, iPad, mobile - make it harder for you to make a living from your work?

It's easy to put a filter on a photo or distort it in Photoshop, but I think it's obvious when that has happened - and rarely looks convincing in terms of caricature.  I've yet to see a really convincing app or programme that could take the place of a properly drawn piece. 

I work predominantly digitally, in that I use a 22-inch Wacom tablet and a pen stylus - but the process remains organic, especially coupled with the pressure sensitivity of the tablet - rough sketches, colour blocking, building values and refining - layer upon layer, all done by hand, much like you would with a canvas and a brush. 

There are cheap shortcuts out there, and maybe there's a market for them, but I think most people appreciate the craft involved, along with the finished piece.

You are best known for your football images, in particular of Sunderland AFC players past and present. Which other sectors do you cover?

The majority of my work is private commissions, both from businesses and individuals. I'm happy to work in any sector and would love to do more editorial work. I've worked with business producing branding, staff profile images, retirement gifts for staff, corporate gifts for clients and live work for exhibition stands and product and showroom launches. 

What would be your advice for anyone thinking of taking up caricatures as a hobby or even as a business?

It's great fun but can be a struggle, and you’ll draw a lot of bad caricatures before you get good - go online and study the work of some of the artists I mentioned earlier, and others - buy their books and then practise a lot, and always look to improve.

As a business I guess you have to find your place in the market, look at the competition and the standard of work they are offering. Make sure yours is as good - if not better - but don’t look to replicate them. Find your niche, then make sure you have a good web presence and you are professional in your communications, quotations, billing etc. Also know the value of your work and stick to your rates.

I am constantly working at all of these things.

For more information visit: www.dw-caricatures.com