Arsenal creatives - the brilliant Carl Bourke: 'Those that know, know'

Gooner Fanzine creative Carl Bourke says: 'My work is about iconic celebrations in iconic kits'

Arsenal creatives - the brilliant Carl Bourke: 'Those that know, know'

The brilliant Arsenal creative Carl Bourke's tribute charity image in honour of the much-missed and much-loved David 'Rocky' Rocastle

Carl Bourke: Those that know, know: It’s about iconic celebrations in iconic kits.

The Gooner Fanzine has always been amazed at the talent and creativity shown by artists and designers among the Arsenal community.

Gooner editor Layth has been chatting to the brilliant Carl Bourke, as part of our series which highlights such outstanding creatives. Artists that will be featuring in future issues of the Gooner and online. 

So, read on to learn more about Carl and his brilliant work, which has drawn praise from the late David Rocastle’s family as well as legions of loyal Gooners.


I’ve been a Gooner all my life. I was brought up as an Arsenal supporter. My grandparents came over from Ireland in the 1950s and settled in London. In the Kings Cross area. 

I’m 34 and from East London.  I’m a primary school deputy head teacher from Bow. I am self-taught in digital illustration.

I used to spent hours as a kid drawing Arsenal kits.  I particularly remember the blue 94-95 ‘lightning’ kit. There was nothing I would rather do. There still isn’t.

Arsenal and my drawings are now coming together. People are supporting me massively on social media.

I can’t believe it – I’ve been blown away by it all. Not to mention being able to raise money through my Rocky drawing [See back page of issue 286] for a charity chosen by the Rocastle family is humbling.

I tend to choose standout moments. There is a real sense of joy in that drawing and picture.

What’s interesting about it is that looking at the image of Rocky and Wrighty [see our front cover] you’d think Wrighty had scored, but it was actually Rocky who scored. Wrighty was so please for his old mate. I love the camaraderie and the story behind it.

I’ve been doing digital illustrations for three years - as long as my oldest son has been alive. I really didn’t think it would take off in the way it has.

I’d always loved my teaching. I did feel I had a talent and a passion for drawing from a young age, but I never got directed into turning it into a career.

The idea behind my work? It’s about nostalgia. Nostalgia brings back so many happy memories for people. It prompts conversations. 

I want my drawings to be about joy. I want them to be about a goal, or a celebration, or a kit. I want to capture a special moment.

It’s about iconic celebrations in iconic kits - those that know, know. 

I have two season tickets. My kids have been brought up as Arsenal supporters, it’s definitely a family thing.

I hope they’ll be arguing about who will go to the game with me, just like me and my brother used to quarrel about who my dad would take to Highbury with him. Despite the result it still annoys me that dad took my brother to the 1991 FA Cup semi-final as well as the 1993 FA Cup final replay against Sheffield Wednesday. 

I was lucky enough to remember Highbury. That whole era around Arsene Wenger’s first ten years was unreal. I recall going to the 2002 double celebrations at Islington Town Hall.

I started going on my own when I was 16. I’d go to all the Carling Cup games. It didn’t matter who we were playing, it was a chance to watch The Arsenal. You felt part of it. The freedom you had back then was wonderful.

I have a deep relationship with Arsenal. It’s more than just football. When I was 20 I had ulcerated colitis, which was a bit like Crohn’s Disease. I had to spend two months in hospital when I was 20. 

Arsenal have always been a constant in my life. They certainly were when I was lying in that hospital bed. 

You can go through tough periods in your life but it is comforting to know that the club have always been there. 

Between the age of 16 and 20, Arsenal was an escape for me, just when I needed it. 

My mum died when I was 18. In 2004. The year Arsenal were Invincible. Maybe that’s why there is such a bond between me and my club. Your mum dying is such a decisive moment in your life. 

My brother was 13 in 2004.  We all went to the victory parade after we won the league. A month later my mum passed away. 

My mum left me a note. It read: “Be nice to your brother. Listen to your dad.”

Do you know what else she’d written? “Never stop drawing.”

To learn more about the brilliant Arsenal creative Carl Bourke visit his website here


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  1. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Jun 02, 2021, 15:28 #117260

    Frank is my all time hero so I had to have the poster and it is now framed and up in my "den" as a reminder of the wonderful time I had in May 71 - Brilliant artwork.