Iconic Designer/Artist Stephen Bliss on Discipline, Experimentation, and Bathtubs

We are delighted to announce that the edgy, imaginative, and iconic Stephen Bliss has joined ATRBUTE's artist roster! Though best known for his work with Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto from 2001 to 2016, Stephen's career and work extends far beyond the gaming world into the realms of comics, murals, and fine art. When we sent Stephen our new artist questionnaire, we were excited to see how he would respond — and boy did he deliver. Take a moment to read through the below and be sure to take a spin through his portfolio while you're here.

Welcome, Stephen!


If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would those be?
Edgy. Recognizable. Humorous.

Was there a defining moment when illustration turned from a pastime to your career?

When Punk happened in UK I was about 14 and DIY punk culture showed me that anyone could be could be an artist and designer. The constant brilliance of the record covers fired me up and made me want to be a designer. I started designing gig posters for my various punk bands and metaphorically I’m still doing the same thing. So my career came from that root. I didn’t earn any money until I was at art school, painting dodgy portraits of the cook’s kids at the restaurant I worked in. My first real paid jobs were for underground comics in London around 1984 maybe.

What's the first thing you do when you get a new client brief?

Read it and think how the f**k am I going to this?

Early bird or a night owl?

I’m human… I don’t understand the question. You mean metaphorically? Oh I see — both, as I have to limit sleep to get the work done. More of a night owl.

How do you work past a creative block?

Disciplined routine combined with infantile play. I make sure I work, regardless of the block, and experiment, play, see what happens if I collage this with that, or what if I walk over a picture and leave foot prints? I write down streams of ideas, words; pulling out the blockage. You can’t unblock a bathtub by looking at the plug hole, thinking: “when is the bathtub going to unblock itself…?” or “The bathtub has abandoned me….”

How do you reward yourself when you finish a big project?

I actually high 5 myself, then look on nike.com for new clothes, and go for noodles.

What's your absolute favorite piece of work you created in the past 12 months? 

The illustration for Washington Post. I was so pleased to get a commission from them, I felt it was a big step for my career, and it was fun, challenging but fun. (Image included below.)

If you could give young Stephen one piece of advice, what would that be?

I’d ignore whatever advice I gave myself. I’d tell him the future was going to be ok, not a bed of roses, but nothing to… no, actually, scrap that… I’d say: “Start practicing gratitude, it will make life better.” Or “Draw more, push yourself, learn, become a better artist …” Then, as I said, I’d ignore me for f**k's sake.