Illustrator and master of visual communication Ben Tallon is a man of serious talents. Having a wealth of work shaping a beautiful portfolio is one thing but the huge array of football commissioned pieces is extraordinary. In an exclusive interview, we caught up to learn a little bit more about his style, work and love for Leeds United.

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You have a serious portfolio of work, with some giant names of the game, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an illustrator?

I grew up in Keighley, pre-internet West Yorkshire. If it was decent weather, I was out kicking a football. If it was raining, I'd be indoors drawing footballers. It took me until the age of 16 to admit my on-pitch shortcomings and switch from my pursuit of an athletic career to an artistic one. I took a lot of creative inspiration from the passion and the tribal mentality that comes with following the game, constantly sketching new ideas for away kits, creating portraits of my heroes and filling scrapbooks full of clippings from Match Magazine and newspapers. I had a paper-round until the end of school, so I'd be able to choose the best images from each paper. I did this stuff purely for pleasure without realising I was already designing, but luckily for me I was blessed with creative parents and the right college tutors who helped me realise I was pretty good at this stuff, better than I ever could have been at playing the game!

It was that obsessive interest that led me through university and on to my first clients, football magazines who needed people who could create striking illustrations, but also artists who were fans, who they would not have to waste time educating about the fast changing events in the football world. Since then I've worked hard to build up a client base including UEFA, The Premier League, The Guardian Sport, Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds United among many others.

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Can you explain your style and design process?

My work is all created by hand, using pen and inks, paints and pencils and whatever found materials I can get hold of. It's loose, energetic and has a very honest, organic feel to it, which fits football imagery particularly well. I scan many textures and drawings and compose the final work using computer programs which brings a great flexibility to the process. I used to illustrate Russell Brand's weekly column in The Guardian and the deadlines were pretty ruthless, so it helped me to fully embrace my rough style and own it through intense pressure.

You have an ongoing relationship with Arsenal, how does it feel seeing your work being presented to the world through their channels?

Arsenal have been a joy to work with. They're a remarkably well run club who appreciate the need for good visual communication in an age when fans have so much ready access to news and content. They have many employees with real creative vision and they give me the freedom to really indulge in their projects. The club's global outreach has helped me to get my work out to fans in all corners of the world, so I take my work for them very seriously. Football fans will see through someone who doesn't understand what they're working with and the spirit of their team of choice, so it has to be right.

I've always loved what Arsene Wenger has done for the game. It's a guilty pleasure to watch Arsenal's free-flowing style and to have grown up during the late nineties/early noughties and witnessed the invincibles at their best was a rare treat. It took me over a decade to get over seeing Anders Limpar destroy Leeds at Elland Road with a fantastic brace, as a seven year old, so we're all good now...

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Football is in a strong place culturally, working on regular projects inspired by the game, have you noticed a shift in interest in the creative elements teams put out?

I started freelancing in 2008 and the visual content utilised by many clubs, publications and fans had already come such a long way since I started to watch football in 1989. But the explosion in technology and the way we digest our information has changed the world. It affects all areas of the game. As a kid, I'd wear these awful, gaudy blue and yellow Leeds United denim jackets and flat caps, but even then, choosing which replica kit or scarf to wear to the match was a life and death decision. In college I would be taught about the Bauhaus movement or art deco, but deep down, I was more interested in what the most shocking mid 1990's goalkeeper shirt was, or what kind of poster would be in the matchday magazine. I've never strayed far from my love of that creative side of the sport.

Luckily for me, as a visual communicator, there is so much fan demand for up-to-the-minute content. The clubs have to provide fresh interviews, features, behind the scenes and that generates work opportunities, but we all want to see the classics re-imagined too. Nobody tires of seeing that moment depicted in a new and exciting way. My best friend is obsessed with Arsenal and I saw him showing a girl he was dating the Bergkamp turning Dabizas inside out. She humored him the first couple of times, but when he insisted she show more enthusiasm, she got angry and on the third replay, she walked out and didn't come back. If he'd had an animated artwork of it, it might have been different...

What have been your personal stand out projects that you're most proud of?

Working for my boyhood club, Leeds United was a dream come true, but it's all pretty surreal to me. For two seasons, I worked on a feature for Arsenal, creating illustrations of past and present players, detailing their childhoods. It was the Arsenal Foundation part of the magazine and to know that my work was supporting their great charity work was special. Through that feature, I illustrated Bob Wilson and have since worked closely with The Willow Foundation, a fantastic charity set up by Bob and his wife, Megs. Willow provide special days for young, terminally ill young people. They work with the football and art community extensively and achieve a lot. For me to create football related artworks and see them used in that way is unbelievable.

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I've just released my debut book: Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries in which I recount how football led me into a career in the arts and back to football, full circle. I'm very proud of getting that published. There's a story about a friend and I going into business at 14 years old, attempting to make money from me creating naked celebrity pencil portraits that we could sell to our female mates in the neighboring streets. I started with David Beckham, hid it in Shoot Annual 1995 and then panicked, ripped it up and opted for a supermarket job instead...

You're a Leeds fan, a bit of a roller coaster ride at the moment, what does the club mean to you?

I hope your editing skills are sharp. Can. Of. Worms. In all seriousness, it's very stressful. I can't get away from it and believe me, I've tried. I managed to go cold turkey for two weeks recently. Our current owner is one hell of a loose cannon and I'm tired of the circus we've become. I'm not aware of any other addictions, but like a giant Yorkshire moth, but I'm bouncing off my monitor again, enraged and upset, obeying my instincts despite vowing to quit. The window to the Premier League seems no closer to being opened after eleven years of this grim scenario.

We all live and die by our clubs. The memories, highs, lows and shared moments. I still put on the VHS season reviews from happier times to hide from reality. It's incredibly hard to stop it from affecting the other areas of our lives. I know a Grimsby fan who went to Wembley for the Conference final and had grand plans for a night out in London with his dad, win or lose. They lost and I would later find out that he put himself to bed at 7.30pm with no tea, sending his dad home on an early train. When another friend questioned why he punished himself despite no direct influence on the result, he said he didn't deserve any tea for allowing himself to get his hopes up. We've all been guilty of losing it in times of ecstasy and agony...

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A true celebration of creative football and one of the many talents that helps bring another dimension to the game. A big thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions. His book, 'Champagne and Wax Crayons' is available now. You can see a wealth of his work here.