Ask Kevin Stokes, creative director and cofounder of the Bay Area’s Splice Agency, what makes a good creative and he’ll tell you to look for “passion, an inquisitive mind and the ability to be disruptive.” These are all traits the UK-raised Stokes has developed over the course of a career that began in London in the mid-70s and they have taken him through stints at McCann Healthcare, Grey Healthcare, Leo Burnett Life Brands and Kane and Finkel, among others.

Although Stokes says a frown is part of his signature look, we think his mountain biking habit may well lead to some smiles he doesn’t want us to know about. Chops caught up with Stokes as he was, no doubt, sketchin on a pad.

So, what do you do all day?

Draw pictures, come up with ideas and have meetings.

How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?

I get paid to use my imagination.

Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do?

I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was 6. My godfather was a lettering artist in the business back in the day and encouraged me from an early age. 

What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?

My mother and grandmother nurtured my creative side and always encouraged me to draw and create things with my hands.

Any quirks in your career path? Odd jobs? Bad jobs? Cool jobs?

I started at the very bottom as an intern in an art studio in London in 1976. My first job was to change the artists’ water pots and get their sandwiches.

What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office?

I need quiet to create. Repetitive noise drives me insane, but I often play punk rock, so I guess I can adapt.

Name five things that help you do your job better.

Coffee, food, a good creative brief, a Sharpie and paper.

Signature look?

Jeans, tee shirt and a frown.

What piece of work/project/campaign/creation are you most proud of?

Anything that brings a smile to a client’s face.

What’s your favorite color right now?

Camo.

Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative?

My mother.

Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why?

I paint, create leatherwork, and, when I can, do woodwork and the odd blacksmith project. 

Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure.

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin.

Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that.

Any photo by David Bailey

Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?

Anything by an Old Master in oils.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

I’d be a marine biologist. 

How do you recharge?

By risking life and limb on my mountain bike.

What’s your happy place?

In nature, as far from people as possible, with my wife.

Speed round:

Pastel or oil? Neither

Sound or vision? Vision

Strings or horns? Strings

Clear or cluttered? Clear

Morning or night? Night

Design school or liberal arts? Liberal arts