Andrew Archer on his drug-enthralled illustrations for sci-fi novel A Scanner Darkly

Andrew’s vision for The Folio Society’s illustrated edition of Philip K. Dick’s novel landed him in the World Illustration Awards shortlist.


Illustration by Andrew Archer from The Folio Society edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick ©Andrew Archer 2017

Self-taught illustrator and art director Andrew Archer was commissioned by The Folio Society to create the cover illustration and a series of internal artworks exploring the drug-infused, psychotic scenes and passages from Philip K. Dick’s 1977 cult sci-fi novel, A Scanner Darkly.

The Folio Society’s new edition brought together Philip K. Dick’s novels Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And A Scanner Darkly. Andrew’s illustrations for one half of the project, under the art direction of Raquel Leis Allion, earnt his spot in this year’s World Illustration Awards shortlist. We caught up with the New Zealander to find out a little more about the project and what’s next for him.

Each of his illustrations are based on a specific passage from the book, so we've included these beside each image. 

Image: "The creature had many eyes, all over it, ultra-modern expensive looking clothing, and rose up eight feet high."

Illustration by Andrew Archer from The Folio Society edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick ©Andrew Archer 2017

A Scanner Darkly explores a near future where the US has lost the war on drugs.  A narcotics cop Robert Arctor in Orange County, California becomes an addict to a popular drug, Substance D (for Death) when he goes undercover. The drug causes its user to develop split personalities.

Robert woos Donna, a dealer, in the hope to find the supplier, but at the same time receives orders to spy on his housemates, one of whom is suspected of being Donna’s biggest customer.

Andrew hadn’t read or seen the 2006 film (directed by Richard Linklater) before the project. While reading the book for the first time he knew the style he wanted to put forward to The Folio Society.

"It was a fresh look for me. I liked that I would read and watch it with the project in mind and find interesting parts of the writing which I wouldn't normally notice if I was involved in a brief,” he says.

Image: "She exhaled great grey forceful jets of hash smoke into him, filling him with her own hot and bold and incorrigible energy."


Illustration by Andrew Archer from The Folio Society edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick ©Andrew Archer 2017

"For A Scanner Darkly it was slightly different due to the huge amount of ideas and scenes I liked and wanted to put forward. I usually only have one or two per image but with this I had around a dozen ideas for each of the seven illustrations," says Andrew.

Once the final concepts were selected, Andrew finished a few rounds of rough sketches to finalise the composition. His mix of hallucinogenic colour and beautiful line work makes for true surreal indulgence, exploring the novel’s themes of paranoia, dystopia and thriller-like moments.

Image: "Jerry Fabin's brain as the fucked-over wiring of the cephalochromoscope: wires cut, shorts, wires twisted, parts overloaded and no good, line surges, smoke, and a bad smell."

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Illustration by Andrew Archer from The Folio Society edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick ©Andrew Archer 2017

"The cover image colour palette was created while I was testing palettes and it worked so well I just adapted it and used some additional tones," he says.

"Keeping a grimey and raw feel and linework to the series was a challenge and was always at the back of my mind throughout."

His favourite illustration is the cover for the novel (seen here), as it sums up the book and Substance D.

"It’s intriguing and familiar yet so uncomfortable," he says.

Image: "Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him there were no more bigs in his hair. After he had taken a shower for eight hours, standing under hot water hour after hour suffering the pain of the bugs, he got out and dried himself, and he still had bugs in his hair; in fact, he had bugs all over him. a month later he had bugs in his lungs.


Illustration by Andrew Archer from The Folio Society edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick ©Andrew Archer 2017

Andrew was given full freedom in his direction and approach to the brief, to the point of running with every idea he put out there.

Andrew’s style is normally a mix of art of Asia (after living there), pop culture and comic books.

"It's almost always fluid in the line work and off beat in colour palette," he says.

Image: "Once within the scramble suit, one cannot be identified by voice or even by technological voiceprint, or by appearance. he looks, does he not, like a vague blur and nothing more?"


Now living in Melbourne, Australia, Andrew works on visual branding, album covers, animated television commercials, film and sports posters, editorial illustrations and even a pizza-inspired typeface. 

Andrew never studied at art school, and says he only found himself in graphic design because he wanted to make skateboard deck graphics. His clients now include ESPN, Bloomberg and Rolling Stone.

His true passion is incorporating basketball and culture into his work, such as his Edo Ball series, of which he has a new release for later this year. Edo Ball is a series of artworks inspired by Basketball, Japan, NBA and Culture. Each artwork is created from scratch and has a unique story behind it.

Image:  The Wolfpack, Edo Ball

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He’s currently working with Chinese pop star Chris Lee on an on-going collaboration for her tour, creating artwork for the NBA players awards, "which is naturally the best since I love basketball," he says, and working on a campaign for Audi incorporating photo and illustration.

Image: Visual for Chris Lee's new album and tour, Liu Xing