INTERVIEW: Drawing Passengers on the London Underground with Artist Curtis Valentine O’Malley

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London has and always will be a fantastic place for discovering new talent. As a city, it invests greatly in arts, music, theatre and fashion, giving creative people countless opportunities to make a name for themselves. The proof is in its entrepreneurs and startup businesses, along with the number of exhibitions, workshops and shows that take place each week.

Our mission, as a London-based brand, is to make sure those individuals are heard and, in recent months, we’ve forged some valuable connections with some truly inspiring people.

One such creative who caught our attention is local illustrator, Curtis O’Malley Valentine: a man who draws on-the-go, and takes inspiration from London’s hotbed of diversity. Keen to find out more, we caught up with him for a brief chat:

So, Curtis, what was the spark that first ignited your passion for illustration?

My passion for illustration began at a young age reading Batman comics and watching Japanese anime series, Dragon Ball Z. I was fascinated by the computer animation, and wanted to learn the ropes.

Wow, Dragon Ball Z – that takes me back! Describe your style to us?

I would say my style is gritty and a little bit wacky. I mainly focus on portraiture and concept art.

The Carhatt Zombie by Curtis Valentine O'Malley

The Carhatt Zombie by Curtis Valentine O’Malley

Which particular mediums do you tend to work with most?

I use a ballpoint pen as it’s great value and brilliant for adding texture. It’s such a simple yet effective tool, and one I always have in my arsenal.

I also use a touch of paint to bring colour into the mix, especially if I’m working on a big piece or a commissioned work. Moreover, I love drawing on wood due to the grain effect you get from it – it makes a terrific backdrop.

Where does your inspiration come from? 

I love pulling inspiration from reality and culture as it gives you so many angles to work with. My own personal experiences inform the twists I add to my pieces.

Who are the people that you draw and why have you chosen them?

Drawing passengers on the London underground has always been something that is key in my routine. As London is such a multicultural city, you can get a great library of references, from faces to body types. Sketching musicians is another big part of my work. I listen music a lot when I’m illustrating, so it makes sense makes sense to use it as a subject matter.

How do you see your art evolving?

I can only see my work getting weirder and better (technically) from here on out. As time goes on, I’ll  almost certainly discover new and wonderful ways to execute projects with morbid and gut-punching emotions.

Inner Reaper by Curtis Valentine O'Malley

Inner Reaper by Curtis Valentine O’Malley

How can people reach out to you?

Through my Instagram page @leadandink. Here, you’ll find everything from doodles to final pieces. You can also reach me on email at:

Keep your eyes peeled for Curtis’s work at our upcoming 2pac – Changes exhibition.


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