Tony Cullingham

Watford Advertising

My Creative Inspiration


 Photographer Ella Cullingham.These are  some of the people who inspire me. If I am stuck, I look at these images and a solution suddenly appears.

Top left to right:

Bill Hicks.

I like angry people. And I really like angry people who are funny.

Bill Hicks ranted against disingenuous politicians and media spinners. And he hated advertising. If he were alive today he would have a field day with the bankers. A hopeless romantic who was right about everything.

Message:Use truth and make it funny.

Charles Bukowski.

An alcoholic, a tramp, a fighter, a gambler.Bukowski wrote searing stories, dark twisted  fables  and evisceral prose based on his own miserable life.  When he was nearly 50 years of age  he put two fingers up to his low paid post office job and wrote his first published novel about a low paid postal worker. An inspiration for the older creative.

Message:It's never too late.

David Bowie .

I remember seeing  Bowie at Leicester Uni in 1970. He sat on a stool  crooning songs from  Hunky Dory while drunk freshers flicked fag ends towards his knee- high red velvet boots. I was awestruck. Anyone who is different has to be listened to.

A consummate showman who twisted the cultural zeitgeist around his musical incarnations with power, precision and intelligence.

Message: Always  be different.

John Steinbeck.

I have read every published word of Steinbeck. Even the rubbish stuff...Zapata,  Journals,Travels With Charley....

Steinbeck captured the real conflicts, and proud struggles of the ordinary working class with imagination and empathy . His cogent stories reflect society just as much today as they did 50 years ago.

Message: Great ideas stay great.

Middle row left to right.

Brian Eno.

Eno used to lecture at my art college. He used to talk to us about the power of observation.

Occasionally, Eno used to watch us play football in the break time.  Once he commented that  the sound of us running around on the dry concrete was rhythmic and  soothing. It was around the time he created a music label called Ambient and launched Ambient 1 Music for Airports. I thought he was a bit mad. As I got older I understood what he was trying to say and how he wanted us to think. A living genius.

Message: True creativity takes time to make sense.

The Clash. 

The energy they created on stage was intense. They took the Ramones blueprint added their brand of frenetic rage and wrote some damn fine tunes.  They were offered a million quid to reform and stuck two fingers up to the offer. They were the only punk band to have real integrity. And in songs like Guns of Brixton, they proved they were real visionaries.

Messages: Energy is everything.

The Prisoner T.V series. 1967 

A preposterous piece of work.The notion to challenge an audience with mind messing conundrums and unresolved plots sprinkled with  Kafka like paranoia and a tinge of Sci- Fi  produced the most audacious TV series ever.

A real turning point in pyschological dramas.  Lost, Twin Peaks  and Heroes owe a lot to The Prisoner.

Messages:Be brave, take risks.

Tim Buckley and Nick Drake.

These are the bona fide voices of torture and beauty. Their fragility and vulnerability is palpable in every haunting phrase. Listen to Northern Sky by Nick Drake or Pleasant Street (the live version recorded at The Royal Festival Hall) by Buckley and you will see what I mean.

Message: Your own pain is the most positive force you can use.  

Bottom row left to right.

Pre- Raphaelite paintings.

Rossetti, Millais, Burne-Jones, Hunt were all  extraordinarily eloquent and interminably bound by their conviction to literature.There are plenty of great painters. But great poets in painting are extremely rare. These painters were lyricists who  wrote great prose with their brushes.

Message: If images can speak make them talk for hours

Sea Biscuit.

Sea Biscuit was a  grouchy, lethargic, lazy race horse who ate hay and hated racing. In his first 10 races he came last in every one.

Enter a rubbish jockey and a drifter who trained horses. The pair of them literally whipped the horse into shape and put fight and fear into the horse's heart.

Sea Biscuit soon became the fastest horse in America and was a national symbol of optimism for a desperate population. ( Laura Hillenbrand's book Sea Biscuit is one of the best sports book you can read).

Message: You need fear. Find the right  people to make you feel it.

Pedro Almodovar.

No one defines sincere and quirky characters better than Almodovar. Films like Talk To Her are  modern masterpieces  of passion and insight. And very scene bleeds with raw human spirit. `

Message: Always show your emotions.

Hal Ashby.

A  film maker whose subject matter pierced the balloons of Hollywood pomposity with a big spikylens. The studios dropped him like a ton of Oscars. But not before he produced a  canon of  memorable cult movies including Harold and Maude, Being There and The Last Detail.

Message. People with power often don't know the value of things. Don't let them destroy you.

Frank Worthington.

In the 1970's there was a breed of footballers who took their their training ground tricks and ball juggling acts into the matches on a Saturday afternoon.

 QPR had Rodney Marsh, Man U had George Best and my team, (Leicester), had Frankie Wortho. His keepie uppies before the match was worth the admission money alone. 

The goal he scored for Bolton against Ipswich in 1979  (Youtube) is the best piece of football artistry and execution of a goal I have ever witnessed. Frank was an entertainer first and a footballer second.

Message; If it's not entertaining it's irrelevant.

Now who are your inspiration buddies ?