Tobias Hall

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

Technically, I have lived in Essex my entire life, but I usually advertise myself as being from London, partly through shame, but also because my town is on the Central Line so I figured that counts as London. I graduated in Summer 2010 so have been working freelance since then.

There's been a lot of talk lately about whether illustration degrees are worth their money, how do you feel now about your education and did it prepare you well for the professional market?

I can obviously only answer this question based on my University experience, and I think the answer would be 'No'. There's no doubting that I got about 10 times better at putting together a successful image, but i'm not sure how much of that is down to the tuition and how much of it is down to just drawing a lot. I feel as though the same would have happened had I practiced as much and compared the standard of my practice to that of the industry leaders, because that's essentially what pushes me to get better. Obviously the fact that you have a structure in place at University helps; the briefs are there for you and you are given honest critique afterwards, but you can find both briefs and critique all over the internet now. 

The other thing is that on my particular course there wasn't a huge emphasis on the workings of the industry, so on graduating I didn't necessarily feel 'prepared' to confidently quote a fee or interact with clients. That said, my illustration course was only in it's third year at the university and there were still plenty of positives (meeting like-minded people in the same situation etc.). I'm sure also, that there are plenty of Universities out there that offer a more complete course, but even so, with the increased university fees I'm still not sure it's worth it.

I feel the same way about the new fees, the degree courses are great for getting you motivated, making sure you draw every day to deadlines etc and at £3000 a year it's probably worth it just for that but at £9000? I think that's a lot to ask. So how do you create your work? I'd guessed it involved some kind of digital collaging but there's some pretty large-scale work on your site!

The process is always the same with my work; I always begin by drawing the focal point of the image in biro fairly accurately, but with semi-loose lines. Then I scan it into photoshop where I colour and texture it before adding other doodled and/or written elements which further portray the brief. Then if I'm going to be painting the illustration on a wall or elsewhere, I will use the original illustration as a guide, or sometimes as a template on an OHP, before painting with matt emulsion and acrylic and using Uni Posca paint pens for line work. 

That mural you did for Zizzi is huge!!! How did you get that job and how long did it take? From the pictures it looks like you worked through at least one night.

I assume you're referring to the one in Earls Court? That was my first job for Zizzi, they saw my work at NewDesigners soon after I had graduated, which is a huge design exhibition for graduates and takes place at the Business Design Centre in Angel, London. It was also my first even mural, so eve after practicing in the summer house at the bottom of the garden it was quite a nervy affair to begin with. The whole project was part of a major re-furb, so the restaurant was closed for a week or so. My work took 5 days  to complete, but thankfully no nights. I start work on my fourth project for Zizzi this weekend, it's at my local restaurant and they are keeping it open for this one, so i'll be painting through a saturday evening service, which should be fun. You can see all the work I have completed for Zizzi on my website.
So since we last spoke you've done another image for Zizzi, how did the painting go? Any nerves having to paint this in front of a crowd? No paint spilled into any soups I hope!

Yeah it went well actually, I just plugged myself in to some music and tried not to turn around to often! I had a nice space cordoned off, so that made the whole thing more relaxing, and meant there was no chance of painty pizza or the like. It was probably up there with my most ambitious mural in terms of detail with the pens, so i'm pleased with how it turned out.

Looks fantastic Tobias, really well done! And I hear you're now on the design team for Zizzi, is that correct? What is that going to involve?

Yeah basically I left my job working at a bar in the hope that I might find some part time work more relevant to what I do, whilst I knew it was a massive stab in the dark, Zizzi was my first port of call because I knew I liked how they worked. It just so happened that they were looking for someone in design and marketing, so Pia Fairhurst (head of design at Zizzi) recommended me to the Marketing Director, and we have just sorted out my contract recently. Like I say, we’re still in the fairly early stages, but I know I will be working three days a week and will be involved in design for print and web, as well as photography of some new/refurbished restaurants. I will still be doing the mural work for them too, which is good.

Sounds like leaving the bar job was a good move! Do your photography and design skills influence your illustration at all or do you find it's more the other way around?

I always use photography as reference when I draw, and it's always my own photography wherever possible. I also tend to use a few graphical elements in my work and I certainly have a love for beautiful graphic design, so yeah I guess I would say that they both influence my illustrations.

Are there any particular artists or illustrators that have influenced the development of your style?

I think initially it was David Foldvari who I idolised, in the early stages of uni I pretty much copied his style completely (the results are pretty embarrassing to look back on), but then it kind of grew into what it is today - it's still changing too. Keith Haring has always been one of my favourite artists generally, and he has inspired some of the doodled elements to my work. At the moment my favourite work is coming from Kilian Eng and Yuri Ustsinau, they're tearing it up right now. Oh, and one other artist to mention, Ruben Ireland - his work is incredible.

Any advice for young illustrators?

I'm not sure I am qualified to give 'advice' out to anyone, especially seeing as I am a young illustrator myself. But yeah, of course there have been times where I have thought, 'What am I even bothering for?', especially when there are so many other incredible artists out there - I just thought I could eventually be good enough to make money from what I did, and I didn't like the idea of giving up without having a real go. It seems to be paying off now, so that would be my 'advice'; just keep your head down, produce work you want to produce, and produce it as well as you can. I think if you are intimidated by everyone else's work it's probably a good thing, because essentially that's what will push you to improve, I know it did me.

Anything to say to the old pro's?

Thanks. They help me improve by creating work that makes me realise mine's not good enough, and I haven't come across an unhelpful one yet. I think that's one of the best things about this industry, yeah its hard to get by, but I think generally speaking there are friendly creatives about that will help you get your stuff out there, or give you good advice.

Thanks Tobias, great speaking to you! More of Tobias’ work can be seen at www.tobias-hall.co.uk and http://tobiashall.tumblr.com


Kelsey Dake

1. A/S/L


2. Like a ton of incredible illustrators, you choose to go to Art Center in Pasadena for illustration (Sooooo LA). Why did you choose Art Center and what is the biggest thing you learned while studying there?

Art Center and I sort of met by accident. I was supposed to be in LA to tour Otis but I got there a few hours too early for their tour so I headed up to Art Center and was floored, I mean come on, they had the Clayton Brothers in their catalog. I had also checked out MICA and RISD and I don't know Art Center seemed like the perfect fit. Besides, I had heard stories about how many kids drop out after the first term and that you had to draw 100s of strangers for a single class, so it sounded like a wonderful challenge! The biggest thing I learned there was that it's never cool to just be comfortable with what you know, but it's better to have a bag full of tricks you're constantly adding to and to always push yourself to do new and different things with each piece you create.

3. You lived in Brooklyn not long after graduating from undergrad and then moved back to the south west a year later. What was most beneficial for you at the time for moving to the east coast and what do you miss now that your not in Brooklyn other than not being able to quote the Beastie Boys everytime you went home on the subway?

Actualllllly I lived way way way downtown in the Financial District, right above the J&R actually! The main factor for moving to NY was basically the same as most folks, I wanted to launch my career (if you can make it here you can make it anywhere *add a dick masturbating hand motion*) no but yeah, that was the main factor. Besides, I had lived on the west coast my entire life and was a little sick of the sun. But now I definitely do not miss snow or humidity.

4. When I was in undergrad, all of my teachers yammered on about how none of us would make money if we didn't work in full color. YET, 95% of your client work is strictly black and white and the other 5% is one to three spot colors. What is it that you think makes your work appealing to Art directors to just use your black and white drawings?

I worked with a very smart guy named Frank DeRose when I was in NY, the most important thing I took away from that experience was that I need to do me 100% of the time, and that while not everyone will appreciate that, the ones who do appreciate it will be my biggest supporters. So with that being said, I think the ones who are hiring me are personal fans of my work and that they want me to do me. And part of me doing me is either it's completely black and white or a single spot color. I'm being hired because they know I know what I'm doing and trust me to make something they'll like.

5. This sort of relates to the previous question but alot of your illustrations are either straight up portraits or vignette still lives/conceptual still lives. Why is it that you choose not to draw backgrounds?

Sometimes I think they're way too distracting and never nearly as impressive than whatever is in the foreground, so what's the point in having one then? I'm more about making statements than scenes.

6. Boston Terrier or Pug? In and Out Burger or Shake Shack? LA or NYC?

Neither, In and Out, NYC

7. What got you into making zines?

Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson, and I was already way into making big screenprints so it was a kind of natural progression! Plus I think someone is more likely to hold onto and appreciate a hand pulled zine v a mass produced lazorrr printed postcard, so I did it a lot at first for the promo aspect too.

8. I know that your a pretty avid biker. Do you ever do biking marathons or run marathons at all?

I hate running and I've thought about bike racing, but I do it more for shits and giggles. Come on, I'm an artist I have never been athletic my whole life!

9. Why do you love to draw hair?

I can zone outtttttttttt, and I'm a bit like a squirrel, shiny things excite me. Nothing better than a pile of shiny, greasy hair.

10. Inkers typically have a particular brush and ink they use that they prefer. Nathan Fox uses a Winsor Newton Series 7 brush and speed ball ink, Yuko uses Japanese sumi brushes and Dr. Martins black magic. What do you use?

I use a Kaimei Japanese brush pen, and then just whatever ball bearing cartridges are made for it (it's all in Japanese?). I'm quick and dirty when I work so ink and brushes and I don't get along very well. But I do love me some Black Magic for large flats!

11. Do you have any advice for the young illustrators who are just getting started in the field?

DO YOU, NOT WHAT'S COOL (that goes for you too graphic designers!)

12. Any advice for the Vets?

Never get too comfortable? (my one year old career doesn't like doling out advice to vets hahaha)

13. Final Word?


All of the work is under copy right by Kelsey Dake.

To see more of Kelseys work check out: Kelseydake.com

Thanks Gurl!



1.Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I'm originally from Los Angeles. My family moved to Denver when I was in Elementary school, so I've been here most of my life. I was still working full time at a job I had worked at since I was 16 after I graduated, so I didn't begin illustrating full time until about three years ago. My first two years after school I was only illustrating part-time.

2. How was your experience at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design? Did you feel prepared for the real work upon graduating?
I lived at home and drove an hour across town each way, every day. And I worked whenever I wasn't in school, just to be able to pay tuition, so I don't feel like I had the "real college experience" that some people get. I wanted to go out-of-state. I really wanted to go to Art Center, and I was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but there was no way I could've afforded to live on my own, and pay my own tuition (plus, I got a really good scholarship to RMCAD). I think I was fairly ready to jump into reality upon graduation from RMCAD. I think that things change so quickly, it's hard for any school to really prepare students for what's coming. The best they can do is teach students how to adapt to changes in the market. I guess I wish they would have focused a little more on the business end of the profession. After all, you are running your own business.

3. How has your work changed in your 5 or so years as a professional image maker? what directions do you feel it going in?
My work has changed A LOT! What I was doing a year after I graduated, is completely different from what I was doing in school. And what I'm doing now is different than what I was doing a year after I graduated. I think it's just part of the way artists evolve. Artists are supposed to evolve. Maybe not quite as fast as that... but I thinks it's important to grow. I'm definitely moving constantly towards a more simplified, minimalist way of working. I'm really drawn to the colors and shapes in the design and illustration of the 1960s. I love images that communicate an idea, with as little visual information as possible.
4. your work is obviously very concept driven (and great ideas at that) - how do you go about brain storming when a project rolls in?
Most of the time I just start writing down everything that comes to mind. I'll read the story or brief, and try to get a main idea out of it. I'll reword that idea into a few different phrases, and jot down words that come to mind when reading that phrase. Nate Williams had a great tutorial on getting ideas, http://www.n8w.com/wp/3242 . The tutorial basically sums up everything I learned in school about deriving a good concept from a story.

5. what mistakes would you caution young illustrators NOT to make? what were some of your mistakes (if any) when starting out?
I don't know if this is good advice, but I would tell nubies not to obsess over "style." I know nowadays we're supposed to sell ourselves as a "brand," and you can't have brand recognition if your work doesn't look exactly the same as all your other work, but that goes against everything I've ever believed in, about art, creativity, human nature. I think the most successful illustrators have a style that can almost be copyrighted. And maybe I'll never be as successful as those illustrators, but I don't know if my restless tendencies will ever allow me to stick with a visual identity long enough to be characterized as "my style." So maybe my advice to new illustrators would be to disregard my advice!

6. you obviously put a lot of thought and care into your promotions - do you have any advice for new illustrators looking for ways to market their work?
Well, I think postcards still work. ADs and CDs will always keep the postcards they like. Postcards are easy to stick in a folder and carry around with you. But sometimes going the extra mile every once in a while pays off. I'll probably always send out a postcard or two, but then occasionally I like to send out something really special, like a booklet. Even if you only print up enough to send out to 20 or 30 people, if the illustration is really good, and you take the time to design it well, it'll get noticed. And that's the most important thing- making sure the work you're sending out is high quality. You can spend a thousand bucks on a really nice booklet to send to people, but if the illustrations inside are crap, they'll just toss it, and keep the cheap postcards with really great illustration.
7. what are your thoughts on working traditionally vs. working digitally? does your heart hold alliance to one over the other?
The computer/interweb has made life for illustrators exponentially easier. Can you imagine having to ship a huge painting to an art director every few days? But aside from the convenience of turning in assignments, the programs have made work quicker too. Not better, but quicker. And that's the reason why I think I'll always keep my work at least partially traditional. If the program doesn't necessarily improve the quality of work, why completely forgo the joy of getting dirty? My illustration is almost always some combination of traditional collage and printmaking, along with digital.

8. when do you experience your greatest periods of growth - either professionally, or personally?
When I stop to take a breather, and really think about things. When you're so busy that you can barely take a time out for a meal, it's hard to grow because you're on such a roll. You're not experimenting or going out into the world to experience things and be influenced- you're down in your studio or office, knocking out the illustration. It's good to look up from the drawing board/computer screen every once in a while.

9. tell me about cars.
Cars are fun. The older, the better. The older they are, the simpler they are. When I look under the hood of a new car, and see all those wires, I get very intimidated. I like just about any car made before 1970 (before they started worrying about fuel economy, unfortunately). The style of body, the chrome, the dashboard. It's like a time machine. I think the history is what's most exciting. My car has an old tube radio, that only has AM stations. I feel like I'm in a different time period when I get in.

10. i notice (and appreciate) environmental themes in your work - are you as scared shitless about global warming as i am?
In a word- yes. I think most people in this country are pretty insulated from the immediate effects (besides the Southern coast, with all the hurricanes and tornadoes and flooding), so we have yet to do much. And lest you think I'm a hypocrite, I do realize how my 60 year-old vehicle affects the situation. I try to limit my driving as much as possible. I put 20 bucks worth of gas into my tank at a time, and I only do that about once every other week, to give you an idea of how little I drive. I actually enjoy riding the bus sometimes.
11. whats the best part about being a dad?
How much she makes me laugh. I've never been the happy-go-lucky type (I'm actually kind of a grumpy old man for a 27 year-old), but I find myself smiling a million times a day. Of course that's not only due to my daughter. Her mother has a lot to do with it too. The two of them really make life fun.

12. whos work / what (in general) are you loving right now?
I feel like I should have been born in a previous decade sometimes. I like movies, t.v., cartoons, music, cars, art from previous eras. It's just what I'm drawn to. Most of the art and design that influences me, and that I most enjoy looking at, is from the 60s and earlier. I really like a lot of illustrators working today, don't get me wrong. I just pay more attention to the past. I know he isn't really illustrating right now, but I always loved James Jean's work. He is truly a talented artist. I got into Fables just because I liked the covers so much!

13. last words?
I hate caramel. It's sticky and chewy, and it's way to sweet. Thanks, Pete!Really big thanks to Justin for the great interview. All images above copyright Justin Renteria - check out more of his great work here: http://www.justinrenteria.com/


Victo Ngai

1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I am from Hong Kong and didn't become a full-time illustrator until I graduated from RISD in 2010. However, I started drawing since I was a kid; my parents were very busy and I would tell stories with my drawings to keep myself entertained.

2. How has moving from Hong Kong, to Providence to attend RISD, affected your way of thinking about making art?

RISD is awesome, I learnt a lot and have met some of the most influential people there_including my teacher Chris Buzelli . Chris reminded me why I like to draw in the first place when I was overwhelmed by grades and competitions . He also pointed out to me that" style is merely one's habit of drawing, everyone is born with a unique style as everyone is born unique". This helped me to be honest with myself and eventually found my own voice. Being away from home/parent's protection and the insanely high RISD tuition also motivate/haunt me to work my butt off.

3.What are the biggest difficulties of being a female illustrator from HK living in New York, and what are it’s advantages from not being born and bred here?

It's interesting that you emphasize "female" in your question. I have always been referred as "he/him" on blogs maybe because of my confusing name-"Victo", but I actually kind of enjoy the androgeness . Being a foreigner can be hard sometimes when it comes to socializing- not understanding cultural references and American slangs make it difficult to carry on conversations. I also have made many stupid mistakes because of language barrier. I once got a phone call asking me to do a full page and 3 quarter pages and I misunderstood it as one full page and one 3/4 page...
Advantage- I think the fuel of creativity often comes from our personal experiences. So having an international background and experience of living in different cultures definitely helps when it comes to finding inspirations.

4. Every time I look, I see that your illustrating for someone new, somewhere. Is there a particular method of promotion that you prefer over another that has helped you get work?

I think the new media, especially blogs, has helped me a lot to get my works out there. I e-mailed a few major blogs about my work when I graduated and they were kind enough to feature them. Then a lot of reblogging happened and everything kind of snow-balled from there.Through the power of internet, I was contacted for gallery shows, magazine interview and jobs from places and people I had never heard of and therefore wouldn't have reached on my own. I think it's important to keep it a two-way street -mailers and other promotional materials are great for reaching people but it's even better if people are able to discover you and come to you. For the same reason, I think getting into annuals and competitions is also a wonderful promotion.

5. Are you interested in animating your work?

For sure! I love animations and have thought about being an animator at some point. Actually, I have a little animation on my site.

6. How would you define a good illustration?

Well thought out ( communicate an idea clearly and creatively ) , well executed ( solid composition, intriguing style and characters .etc ) and hopefully thought-provoking.

7. Why do you work in a hybrid of making things, scanning them in, and changing them digitally?

The hybrid enables me to achieve the hand-made organic look I like while still enjoy the beauty of digital. Digital is great as it enables me to combine materials previously made with various media which are traditionally "incompatible". It also lets me work backward thanks to the layer function-i.e. have my line work done before working out the colors and value but can still have the line on top of everything in the final illustration.

8. What are you up to when your not illustrating? Do you find it important to take a break?

Just chill and enjoy life, I especially like to eat and travel! I think It's very important to take breaks for both the body and mind. Body- freelance illustration is a pretty high-stress job and since you are your own boss, it's very easy to overwork and compromise health if "breaks" are not planned into the schedule. I have learned that in the past 1 year with big prices paid. Mind- it's essential to take breaks to recharge and refresh, otherwise it's easy to run out of steam if there's only output but no input.

9. What’s your goals for 2011?

Get back at reading and exercising; travel to at least one new place; get better with using greys and subtle colors; work for new clients.

10. Any Advice for the young guns just getting out of school?

Not just work really really really hard, but work really really really hard at the right things at the right time. For example,concentrate on building a strong portfolio before being bothered and distracted with promotions.

11. Any advice for the old guys?

I don't think I am in the position to give them any advice. But I guess if I had been doing illustration for a while, I would like to remind myself from time to time why I started drawing in the first place, so illustration won't turn into a mundane job. Maybe also change things up a bit every once in a while to keep things fresh and interesting for myself?

12. Final Word?

Thank you very much Fish! I haven't typed so much since I did that Art History paper about Islamic architecture in senior year. :)

All work is under ©opyright of Victo Ngai

You can find more of her work: Victo-Ngai.com

Thank's Victo


Lydia Nichols

1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

 I hail from the Keystone State; specifically, a little piece of southeast Pennsylvania just outside of Philadelphia called Bucks County. I was born and raised there, though I've had many different childhood homes. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I started 'illustrating'–like every other kid growing up, I spent many days armed with a pencil, crayons, and several sheets of paper. In high school I juggled art and music (I played trombone in the marching band, jazz band, orchestra, and dixie band across all three years), but ultimately chose to pursue visual art in college. At that point, I hated painting, but loved to draw and write, so illustration seemed like a good fit for me. I attended Syracuse University and received my BFA in Illustration in 2007 and after that, I moved to NYC and here I am now–illustrating as much as I can.

2. A lot of your personal work, delves into growing up in the Keystone state (Pennsylvania). Either still life, animals, pattern, ect. Are you trying to document a sense of place with the work for others to appreciate or are you trying to say/do something else?

The old adage, 'distance makes the heart grow fonder'–I really think it's true. I have a lot of nostalgia for Bucks County now that I haven't lived there for a number of years. Part of it probably stems from the fact that I mostly grew up with my grandparents and as they get older and area changes, I grow wistful for the past. Bucks County is a really historic area (think George Washington and William Penn) and it used to be largely farmland when my mom and her siblings were growing up and even up until my youth. In recent years, however, it's been developed into McMansions which is just depressing. So I guess these pieces are trying to hold on to the Bucks County of yesteryear and the days when living didn't mean being glued to a computer and spending oodles on ugly, humungous, shoddy houses.
3. How has working as a sign painter/designer for Whole Foods affected your current work?

Hmm, I honestly haven't given it much thought. It definitely heightened my appreciation of hand painted signage–what an art form! It also helped to loosen me up a bit. It was certainly an interesting position, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm glad those days are done!  

4. Are you a trekky?

No, not at all. I'm not sure I've even seen one full episode, but still, it was a fun assignment.
5. One thing I’ve noticed about your work that I don’t see other illustrators doing, is that you have a lot of work that are broken up into panels. Is that a conscience thought or is it just a way you started weaving into your work without really thinking about it?

It happened slowly, and somewhat out of necessity. For a long time I struggled to create successful compositions that conveyed all of the necessary information, and then I realized that instead of one all encompassing image, I could create a group of little vignettes to accomplish the same thing. It was like a giant weight had been lifted (no joke!) I've definitely been influenced by comic artists–Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Craig Thompson, etc–as well as street/folk artists like Margaret Kilgallen, Barry McGee, Jim Houser. There's a certain amount of 'paneling' that appears in all their work and I guess it seeped into my subconscious and one day I just tried it myself. Since my style is fairly minimalist, I think it works well for me, and it also allows me to explore patterns and color in ways I otherwise couldn't.

6. I saw that you have a separate website for where your painted objects exist and another for just your illustration/design, though I don’t see much separation in the work itself. Why do you keep the two on two different sites?

You're right; there really isn't much separation aside from materials. I'm not sure I entirely know why I keep them separate–just for organizational purposes? It's funny that you say my 'illustration/design' work, because I don't really consider myself a designer. I tend to think of myself as illustrator strongly influenced by and in awe of design, but not a 'designer' per se. Actually, I know a fellow illustrator that signs his e.mails, 'visual communicator' and I think that that is perhaps the best descriptor. Anyway, I'm getting way off track. My painted pieces aren't as consistently narrative/functional as my illustration, so I think that's a big motivation to separate them. It's been really fun experimenting with paint, string, wood, etc. and I like how pressure–free it is. I suppose I want to stay free of expectation, so I don't display the two in the same place.
7. Have you ever considered painting your illustration work?

Yes, but deadlines make digital finishes so much more realistic. If anything, I'd like to get back to screenprinting and maybe even relief for some of my illustrations. There's a lot of incredible digital work being made out there these days, but I'm a sucker for tangibles–pieces you can hold and really look at. That's why I started painting again this past year! 

8. Have you come to a conculsion on what MFA program your going to go to this fall?

Haha, nice try. I have to keep some things secret, no?
9. What are you listening to these days?

Let's see, I'm totally digging Tokyo Police Club's 'Champ' and The Tallest Man on Earth's 'The Wild Hunt' for when I'm feeling a little more mellow. Also on the list: Girl Talk, Delta Spirit, Surfer Blood, Cut Copy, Local Natives, Caribou, Fleet Foxes, and two of my all-time favorites, Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens. I also love to listen to Ella Fitzgerald on vinyl, especially in the winter and with a cup of tea. I love jazz, but real jazz; none of this 'smooth' Kenny-G influenced junk.

10. Any advice to illustrators just breaking ground?

Perseverance. Figure out what you want and work until you get it. Sometimes that means a struggle or a bit of sacrifice, but it's worth it for those 'yes!' moments along the way. Use the internet. It sucks, but it's a reality. If you have a website, a blog, a Twitter account, Dribbble, whatever, you're more likely to gain exposure and a following than if you keep to yourself and just send out the occasional postcard. I've gotten a lot of work just by being visible on the internet. Draw/sketch. Really. It's good for you–like fruits and veggies.
11. Any advice for the vet’s in the field?

Golly, I don't think I could be so bold. Ok, one piece of advice (this goes to the new kids too)–get a decent website. One where every image doesn't pop out into it's own window, one that doesn't take 15 minutes to load, one that doesn't use Flash, one that actually allows you to see the work. No frills, no fancy background, no crazy type. Keep it simple–like a physical portfolio, it's there to highlight your awesome work, not overwhelm it (or the viewer!)
12. Final Word?  

Watch 30 Rock. Like sketching, it is good for you.

All work is under ©opyright by Lydia Nichols

Her illustration work: http://lydianichols.com/

Her Painted work: http://hulloitslydia.com/

Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed Lydia!



Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up most of my life in a trailer park south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, in 2007/2008, I started screen printing show posters for Siren Records. I had to take a regional rail train an hour north of Philly to get to every show to sell my screen prints at the venue to barely breaking even, but it was completely worth it! After making and selling prints I started illustrating tour posters, record covers, and t-shirts. This helped build toward my portfolio to aim for editorial work, ect…. I currently live in Queens, NY.

I often forget that you're in your final year at SVA MFA Illustration as a visual essay program. This is partly because you make a lot of commercial work, and partly because that work is so refined. So, I guess I’m wondering how you have time...
Thanks for the humbling comment! I am in the studio from 7am/8am until 11pm/midnight everyday for the most part. Sometimes I have to work later to meet a deadline but that’s the nature of what I get myself into. I have everyday blocked out in the hours I spend working on pieces for school/personal work, experimenting, client work, and even for the time I need to take off to settle down. I am in my second year so I have a super flexible schedule, where I write out what my thesis is, set the bar, and make the deadlines. All I have to worry about it showing up to class, and create work every week in the form of sketches, or finishes for my advisor.

How has your work changed over the past few years, what have influenced these changes, and where do you see it going?
When I was younger I always wanted to draw like an old master. At the time, I felt like that was what made you an artist, but I failed time and time again. After accepting how I drew naturally and worked on expanding that, I realized it was a better approach then trying to draw like Delacroix or whoever. What got me into illustrating and played some role on “style” were zines by Cristy Road, Raymond Pettibon’s record covers he did for Black Flag, Skateboard decks, and a hand full of show posters plastered all over the walls at the Ottobar in Baltimore when seeing the Subhumans/From Ashes Rise play in 2004. Seeing all this built a personal frame of reference that I often go to when creating images.

My drawing skills went from bad to satisfactory over the last 5 or 6 years. I am always striving to get better. I started making work in acrylic early on, and moved to rendering stuff out on the computer in art school. I wouldn’t have moved to the computer if Tom Leonard didn’t push me to continue exploring it as an option. I owe him a lot for that!!! I started out as mentioned by doing rendered out stuff, to doing flat silk screeny stuff, and now I am doing flat painterly stuff using exclusively photoshop. The next step is probably to explore limited color, adding more figures in my pieces and upping the contrast in my work. Application is up in the air. *Sirens call to all art directors*Why are you drawn to conceptual illustration?
If you eat candy, it taste really good, but it doesn’t really fill you up. Now if you eat a balanced meal, it will be filling, taste good, and stick around with you for a while. That’s kind of why I am drawn to conceptual illustration. It’s a lot like having a balanced meal. Not to say that once in awhile you can’t enjoy chocolate cake.

I know your process in a bit of a hybrid between traditional and digital, but do you prefer one method of working over the other?
Illustration = Hybrid, Gallery = Traditional. With my traditional works, I tend to take my sweet time and figure the piece out. So my fully painted traditional pieces take 10-80 hours unless they are super small. Most of the time, when I do a “hybrid” piece, it takes me 2-15 hours to go from start to finish. Also I am more confident with my color choices and composition when it comes to making doing a hybrid piece.

What do you like / hate to draw.
I love drawing everything, I hate it when a drawing goes wrong, but that’s the fun of it. Trying to work out the drawing and get it right.

I've noticed that you tend to draw people "looking away", is there some deeper, psychological reason for this?
I’ve been exploring in my recent work, various ways I can evoke a sense of tension. When a figure is “looking away” it’s usually my way of showing a dramatic emotional disconnect between either the viewer or another figure within the painting. I could use a facial expression to do the same thing, but when I draw it, it often comes off a little corny.

Define "being rich"
When you can legitimately “make it rain.”

How much of an impact has your time spent involved in the punk / hardcore scene had on your work?
Punk/hardcore taught me to think for myself, do things myself, and work hard to earn what you have. Of course the visual language of the subculture has played a role on my artwork, but its more transparent today than it was five years ago. All influence should be.
Why is being straight edge still relevant?
The Edge will remain relevant while drinking, and smoking remain relevant. I am a firm believer in the Edge and PMA. Other people’s habits are their anchors, not mine. I don’t let that stand in the way of me having fun.

Top 5 edge bands - NOT including minor threat or youth of today (far too obvious)?
Aw man! Well in no particular order….
1. Champion

2. Carry On

3. Floor Punch

4. The First Step

5. Chain of Strength

Honorable mentions…

1. Set it Straight

2. Let Down

3. Miles Away

4. Good Clean Fun

5. Mind Set

6. Down to Nothing

What do you do when you're not working?
I like to try out different places for dinner, I ride my bike when I can, go to punk rock shows, and occasionally I go to Philadelphia to hang out with friends down there if all my New York friends are busy. I visit galleries pretty often when I find out about an opening.

Who’s work are you loving right now?
Mia Christopher work is super fun! Clare Rojas is another fine artist I’ve been following whose work is incredible. I just picked up Blexbolex’s children’s book “Seasons” and it’s pretty breath taking.

skateboarding or hockey?
Although I am a Flyers fan, I got to go with Skateboarding since I have “Sk8 or Die” tattooed on my shin.
Any goals for 2011?
Gain more clients who want to use me for the printed page, the digital screen, or for the application of products.

Balance more time with people who want to hang out and professional work life.

Do a little bit of traveling for short spurts of time. Like going to Canada for a weekend or to other east coast jawns.

What do you want to tell young illustrators, just getting into the biz?
Know 150 Art Directors names off the top of your head that you want to work for and need to get your work in front of/keep it personal. Get to Know 50 Contemporary Illustrators you think are awesome and stay in touch. This business is about making connections not only digitally but also in real life. If you have the opportunity to meet them, do it. Don’t be shy or nervous. They are people getting/giving work, just like you.

One other piece of advice I have to offer for young illustrators to remember. YOU’RE AN ARTIST. Yes your work has to be within the context of whomever you are working for, but your personal work can be your illustration work. It’s probably as easy as shifting it 5 degrees to bring it into context for whoever your illustrating for.

What about the older guys?
Stay up to date on what’s going on around you (trends, technology, ect), and with that knowledge, don’t be bitter, stay honest, humble and cautious to younger illustrators. Your influence, for some young creative person can make or break their creative soul. Not everyone can take tough love.

Final words
“Unguard, I will let you try my wu tang style”

all images copyright Dan Fishel - check out his great work here: http://www.o-fishel.com - Thanks Fish!!


Marco Wagner

1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I was born in W├╝rzburg, a small town in Bavaria, central Germany
where I still live and work as a freelance illustrator since 2006.

2. What is the art/illustration scene like in Germany? I’m really interested to hear what’s going on overseas.

Like in the USA, Illustration suffered from the economic crises started in 2009, but now it feels like it’s getting better. Generally Illustration gets more appreciation in Germany than years ago, but I would love to see more illustration in advertising. Ad Agencies are very interested in illustration and create ideas on illustrated campaigns, but it´s often the client who does not venture it. Yet!

3. Throughout a lot of your work, nature and ornamentation (dots, map markers, rhombus, ect) play a role in how you develop concepts. Are you pulling from a personal frame of reference using nature and ornamentation for your conceptual solutions or is there another reason.

Well, my kind of developing concepts reminds me to a situation when I was a small child in kindergarten. We had a big box full of LEGO, 98% bricks and 2% special pieces like, colored glass bricks, flowers, wheels, .... Every kid tried to get some of the special pieces to improve and to decorate what he had built with the bricks. So now, I also have a box with special pieces that delight my heart like the LEGO pieces in kindergarten. And I try to use them ( dots, rhombus, needles, wires,...) to create my illustrations and make an illustration that fits for the concept and additionally makes me feel more in love with it. It’s a very good feeling when it works!

4. One of the reason’s that I really love your work, is that your concepts are very poetic. When your given an assignment/working on a personal piece, what do you do you’re your starting to crave out a conceptual solution? writing lists, lots of drawings, lots of coffee?

Haha, thank you. Well, few coffee, few drawings, but writing down every stupid idea coming into my mind. Best time for stupid ideas is short before sleeping so I have my list on my bedside table. Writing down helps me to draining my head. And when I think it´s enough for 3-4 good concepts I start to do the rough sketches. And they are very rough so thanks to all ADs who trusted me! So that´s how I work for illustration jobs. For personal pieces the process of cogitation is much longer as I love to do small thematical series of works.

5. Do you feel that there’s a lot of separation between your gallery paintings v.s. your illustrated paintings/mixed media?

Well, actually not. I know that my personal pieces are a bit morbid and dark and wouldn’t find a place in illustration. Furthermore I work digital/mixed media for illustration jobs by contrast to my gallery work. But they have also a lot in common, like composition, colors, ideas, elements and my box of special pieces.... I try to balance everything.

6. Do you think you were prepared leaving art school to start a career in making art for a living?

Not at all. Just this advice: it will be hard!

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7. If you weren’t living in Germany, would you live anywhere else?

Maybe in czech republic, as my wife originally comes from CZ. Landscapes are beautiful, and the mentality of people is awesome and the atmosphere often inspires me.

8. What are you up to when your not painting/drawing? Is it important to you to have down time?

Of course I take my rests. I love to spend time with the family, do sports, go hiking, cook, all the good things.

9. I know when I attended ICON6 in Los Angeles, there was a big divide between illustrators or were hesitant about illustrations being on digital tablets (iPad, Nook, ect) both still + animated/interactive, and those who were accepting it with open arms. With more and more things being appropriated for the web and digital devices, I was wondering what your thoughts were on these changes?

We should be open for all new developments that offer opportunities for illustration. As you know I love the mix of analog and digital regarding to esthetics, but my development in the last 2 years was contrary, because I spend a lot of time doing paintings and drawings for exhibitions. I really love new media, digital working but will never leave my paints and pencils.

10. Any advice for young illustrators just breaking into the industry?

Just one advice: it will be hard! ;-))

11. Any advice for older illustrators?

hm... Share your knowledge as much as you can.

12. Final Word?

I am looking forward to spring!


Thanks Marco!

To find more of Marco Wagners work, go to www.marcowagner.net/

All of Marco's work is under ©opyright.

-Daniel Fishel


Bradford Haubrich

1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I am from a lovely town in New Jersey called Haddonfield. I’ve been drawing since I was little, I guess I’ve been “illustrating” since 2008.

2. I love Philadelphia, but from your perspective why is Philadelphia, an up and coming city for art/design/illustration?

Well from what I can see there are a ton of talented people, both young and old, that are doing it for the love of the game. That combined with the low cost of living, and the pre-existing DIY ethos for which Philadelphia has become known and loved for, creates a genuine enthusiasm/energy that is, in a word, awesome.

3. The thing I really like about you is your persistence to continue to make art. If illustration work isn’t coming in, you just start making things and setting up gallery shows for yourself and selflessly for lot’s of friends and artist you wanna rap with. What sparked that idea and how are you able to curate shows/get into gallery shows?

Hey thanks, I really like that you really like that. I guess I wouldn’t say it’s an idea as much as it’s a mindset, I just feel compelled to make stuff, express myself, tell stories, and keep it moving. I don’t really like to sit still or be stagnant.

My new year’s resolution last year was to make more friends, so I made sure to do that and go out to as many gallery shows and pertinent events as I could. I made a record-breaking number of friends last year, shattering my long-standing record from first grade, which invited me to participate in gallery functions. It’s amazing what a few beers and some conversation will do.

Paper Blog Opening from TrickGo on Vimeo.

4. More and more I see that your tackling projects that are either on the web or are animated projects for the web. Are they getting in touch with you or are you getting in touch with them? What’s the process like building pieces of art to be handed off to an animator?

Those two projects were done with Oscar Productions, which is run by one of my childhood friends Ian Maguire. He approached me to storyboard and create the artwork for those projects.

The process was longer than a standard illustration or design project because there was a lot of preparatory storyboarding involved. Once the piece was laid out sequentially, we then began the familiar process of sketches, and then to the final. Also the finished art files had to be meticulously layered and named to avoid confusion, and even then there was still a lot of communication between the animator and myself. The most ridiculous part though, is that I still use Adobe CS (trade secret) to Photoshop stuff so I had to group all of the layers manually as opposed to selected them and hitting apple+G! ha!

5. I really love the honesty and rawness of your artwork. Can you talk alittle bit about the evolution of how you began making images the way you have now today? What are your thoughts on the new images your working on?

I think that today it starts the same exact way it did when I was younger, with drawing. The variety of end products, and the path that I take to arrive at them, is what is continuously evolving for me. I’m getting a better idea of how to build the bridge between my initial idea and the final destination. In my most recent work I am starting to introduce more of a personal narrative, projecting aspects of the culture that is immediately around me onto my artwork.

6. Your work tends to be both beautifully designed/hand lettered, and conceptual. I was wondering if you could talk about your process in coming up with idea’s for a piece of artwork, either for an illustration or a personal piece.

Thanks! I think a lot, I draw a lot, I am constantly looking around for interesting visual cues, I listen to people, and I ask questions. The older I get the more I realize that I prefer to keep record button permanently pressed down, as opposed to blocking out time in my life on a calendar to do sketches and systematically approach creating art.

7. What kind of music do you jam to when your skate boarding the streets or working on a piece of artwork?

Ha, that depends on my mood for both. I listen to a lot of different music from aggressive to mellow, from rap to old country music. It depends on the season, and how I’m feeling.

8. Genos, Pat’s, or Jims cheese steaks?

Pat’s, I guess, however; with prices on the rise ($9.00! for a wiz with!) who really knows anymore.

9. Dream Client(s)

Hmmm, you mean like the ones that approach you because they love your work, don’t give you grief about the fee, and then a few months later commission more art work because they like you so much? Yea, I think I’ve heard of them before.

10. What are you working on these days?

Oh man, well I’m in a group show about dinosaurs that opens next week, I’m working on an installation that will melt as the weather gets warmer, finishing up screen printing covers for a new ‘zine, I just started a commission of album artwork/web banners for a local rap trio, and I told my littlest sister I would make her a wooden bunk bed for her dolls as a birthday present, this last one could land me in some hot water if not completed in a timely manner.

11. Why not paint your illustrations instead of taking a mixed media/digital approach? Is it beneficial in how you think about making the art work? Is it important to learn how to make images digitally or is it just another way?

I like Photoshop because, if done right, I have complete control over all of the elements in the image. This makes it easier to change, fix, or re-color things if necessary. I don’t think it’s important to make the actual image on the computer, but knowing your way around Adobe’s Creative Suite is a good to know regardless.

12. Any advice for illustrators/artist breaking into the field?

Be ready to work extremely hard and push yourself with every project, if this is surprising to you then that is bad.

13. Any advice for the Vet’s out there.

Nope, I know better.

14. Final word?

If ever there was a blog title that summed up my life more than this one, I have not found it.

Thanks a whole lot Brad!

All work under ©opyright by Brad Haubrich
To see more of Brad's Rad work go to: Plaidbrad.com

-Daniel Fishel



where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up in a small, rural town just outside of Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I am not quite sure what is considered the "beginning," but I am definitely not one of those people who will say, "I knew I wanted to be an artist my whole life"-not even close. Truth be told, the word "illustration" wasn't a part of my vernacular until I transferred to art school in the fall of 2004, after two years of college in North Carolina.

are you as well dressed as the characters you draw?
Ha! I try to stay up on my fashion. When the occasion is right, life definitely imitates art...

you're one of those terrifying "double threat" illustrators - drafting as good as your ideas - does one come more naturally than the other?
That's a flattering statement-tough question, though. I guess I would say yes, ideas come quicker to me than the crafting of the art. I have an overactive imagination and wandering mind; "what if" is one question that continuously drifts through my thoughts on any given day. I believe it's this habit that serves me well in the business. As for drafting, I suppose you could say I was a kid who could always draw well, but I feel I've had to work extremely hard to develop as an artist. Being able to draw better than your friends when you are eight only goes so far until you actually have to study, practice, fail, and try again. I look back and see very specific times when I struggled with the different principles of art and design, whether it be poor composition skills or not being able to draw a hand to save my life. Growing through those challenges is a never-ending process.

what are your thoughts on working traditionally vs. digitally?
The debate concerning traditional versus digital work is irritating. I personally work with both together, back and forth; it's a very incestuous relationship. There is too much emphasis on whether you make artwork with a computer or with a physical material. There are plenty of people working digitally that look like traditional painters and vice versa. Great example: Guy Billout. Go back 20 years and tell me that doesn't look like Photoshop! The problem is that people use their medium as an excuse for whether or not they get hired and I'm not buying it. Let's not forget that this is business-it's about whom you target and how you sell your work that can really determine your success.
how was your university experience? - did you feel ready for the real world of illustration upon graduating?
I did not feel ready after undergrad schooling, but I had a great foundation from which to start. Thankfully, that didn't stop me from trying and, in turn, learning a great deal from failing. However, it was a different story when finishing grad school. At that point, I did feel comfortable with taking on my small part of the galaxy.

your work seems to juxtapose "golden age" imagery with modern subject matter and technique - how has your process evolved over time? where do you see it 5 years down the line?
Regarding subject matter, that was just a process of learning more about myself as time went on; the evolution was very natural. As for technique, I began as an oil painter, but always enjoyed doing the underdrawing the most. I worked in a constant state of disappointment, feeling that my refined line drawings kept getting lost under less developed paintings. One day, after a harsh critique, I had enough. From that point forward, I worked hard to find a way to preserve my drawing and still make rendered, tactile images. It was a very uncomfortable thing to do. I had already been promoting myself for a year (with minimal success), so embracing the idea of starting from scratch was difficult. I stumbled through different processes that focused on drawing more and more, eventually getting me to where I am today: a healthy balance of drawing and painting.
I have no idea what things will look like in five years-hopefully more refined and thought-provoking.

could you describe your ideal client / project?
I love posters; I also love when designers and illustrators collaborate to create something featuring type and image as one entity. My dream job would be doing a season's worth of posters for a theatre or opera.
it seems like you'd be able to transition into fashion design fairly effortlessly (your characters are always so fashionable). would that be something you'd be interested in exploring on some level?
I have strong interest in the fashion industry, but not much for designing clothes or anything like that. I would love to work with menswear in terms of advertising, in-store displays, or catalog work. I have things in the works for 2011 that put more of an emphasis on the men's fashion without sacrificing my creative sensibilities. We will see what happens...

i often see animals present in your work - is that a conscious inclusion, or are they just great to use as metaphor?
Animals just make sense to me; it goes back to all the time I spent outside growing up. Otherwise, yes; throughout history and literature animals have acquired so much symbolism that they are wonderful story-telling characters.

greatest hip hop super group of all time? (please say wu tang)
PART B: greatest MC?
Okay, you want to go there? Let's be clear that "super group" would imply more than two members, but if that were not the case, OutKast is hands down the case closed, undisputed champion. Justification should not be required. Otherwise, I acknowledge The Wu-Tang Clan as an obvious choice and clear frontrunner, but I would like to point out another little crew by the name of Naughty by Nature. You can't touch Treach's flow! I mean, three Grammy nominations and one win. On top of that, those guys keep it gangster, that's real talk. Solo emcee? This is difficult because there will always be a new greatest. Five years ago, no one would dispute Biggie and 2-Pac as the best of all time; now, Lil Wayne, Eminem, and even Jay-Z (who had a substantial career five years ago) are getting that nod. If I had to single out a personal favorite I'd go with Em. He's the only rapper who I have followed since the start and his rhyme and story-telling are incredible. Nowadays keep your eye out for B.o.B; he has the skill and marketability to do big things for a long time. Just my opinion.
what do you like to do with your off time?
Keep active, play hockey, explore New York, and do mildly immature things with my friends.

how important is it for you to make non commercial / personal work?
I always have personal work going despite how busy I may be; it is an extremely important part of creative growth. As I mentioned earlier, my imagination wanders a lot and if I don't get those ideas on paper and execute them visually I become very cluttered and overwhelmed in my mind. Those images come from very a personal place and it's not only liberating but therapeutic to see them executed.

what are some ways you promote your work?
I keep a rigorous schedule of promotion-nothing fancy, just getting the work out there. Gotta spend money to make money!

if you could ask Rockwell one question about his work / career, what would it be?
First, I would pour him a bourbon then I'd ask what he really thought of the world, if he truly saw life the way he painted it. I suspect not, but think that he was consciously sculpting an escape for the masses (and a giant bank account for himself).

what publications would you love to work with?
Being a long time Rolling Stone subscriber and music fanatic, I would die a happy man to illustrate the album review for them.

you mention on your website "growing up away from the city" - what impact has this had on your illustration work / creativity in general?
I rarely draw inspiration from city life or the "urban experience"; it just doesn't effect me emotionally. My experience growing up has a strong impact on my imagination. The angle that I approach my pictures from is one that has a history of small town life and a great deal of exposure to nature. When it comes to telling stories or drawing on personal experience to influence a professional job, this is the place I go. In my opinion it will be much different from someone who was raised in, say, New York City.

All images copyright Jonathan Bartlett
Big big up's to Jonathan for taking the time for this interview - to see more of his fantastic work check out his website: http://www.seejbdraw.com/