Born and raised in the Midwest (rural Illinois). Been an AD now for 7 years (2 of which were freelance while living and working in Europe.)
2. how was your university experience - did you feel ready for the
real world upon graduating?
I got my degree in communications. I was supposed to be a TV News Reporter, but after 17 internships and 2 national awards, I actually started watching the news with these excessive live shots, stalking behaviors and fear mongering ("how your credit card can be used to kill YOU!?!") that it defeated what I saw as the value of journalism: to educate. At the same time, I worked across all mediums from TV to radio and print, and after doing my time in AmeriCorps helping at-risk youth discover the arts in rural Washington state, I stumbled into design. Since then, I try and absorb and learn and listen as much as I can to improve. I believe I enjoy this work because I continue to learn.
3. Now, you sort of rule over several mags, how challenging is THAT?
(curious about the challenges of each mag having its own visual
identity , cohesiveness etc)
Not only are they different magazines, but at times, they are vicious competitors in the same market. We have different editorial teams for each of the magazines and I work with an exceptional design team that works to really understand the brand, even as it is a complicated mix of corporate voice and independent journalism. In this way, I have an idea in mind along with the editors and work to have the visual image of the magazines communicate that. MyMIDWEST, for example, represents an airline very focused on the people and communities that they serve, so the illustrations have a more hand-touched feel (Ilana Kohn, Yuta Onoda, Polly Becker, etc.) and the editorial will veer from harder sell travel to engaging pieces about cultures and discoveries in destinations. GO Magazine, on the other hand, is always trying to discover new trends and topics that continually engage a consumer to take a proactive role in their travel (hence the inspirational, movement-natured name of the title) so the illustrations will tend toward newer technologies and flavors (Si Scott, Thomas Allen, Army of Trolls).
4. what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
Answering email. :) Seriously tho, I am actively in design on at least two magazines at a time with the current schedule and doing the cover and feature design work. We recently took on a photo editor, but the bulk of that work continues to fall on my team. Also, as a photographer, I take on some of the feature photography (an exciting perk to the gig!).
5. you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your
attention / what does it take to work with Ink Publishing?
I think the primary thing is to really present a solid ability to translate abstract concept into meaningful compelling imagery. That gets you in the door. From there, you gotta know that the industry has changed a lot over the years and the parent company and these magazines stay strong by being reasonable when it comes to budget. High end newsstand magazines set a precedent with bloated budgets that we can't afford. I give illustrators up to five weeks sometimes to work on assignments so that they can be flexible with the budgets. Once I like you, I want to work with you, and I work hard to make sure I pay a respectable amount. And we do pay. Seriously, the money does show up. As a former freelancer, there is no undervaluing the idea of a client that follows through. Now, as the client, I will make sure it happens.
6. promotion wise, what do you like to see?
It's tough because other friends in the business also get inundated with postcards and mailers. Some I keep and some I don't. Those are really about the work. At the same time, what really pulls you into the pool of contributors will be regularity and forming the relationships. Not so much kiss ass as to do simple reminders about the latest work you are doing. We do come to recognize names. And a lot of us do at least look at the emails most of the time. Obvious other areas are awards. They do matter. We do look. 7.what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
It is rare an illustrator has gone too far. Most are respectful of my time. Photographers, on the other hand, can get under my skin. So, this is more a word of warning. Have limits. In this day and age, cold calling may get you one client out of 20, but most of us, will bag you then and there. Nothing bothers me more than calling to ask if I got a promo. Nothing. If you want a response of some value, run a contest, start a blog, something. But in this day and age, interrupting my day to ask if I got your unsolicited note: unforgivable. Same with sending books unsolicited. At larger agencies with huge photo and art departments, that might be cool. But with us, we are a small team working very hard. Keep it simple. You'll know if I am interested.
8. what are you loving about design right now?
Typography. I wish I had more time to be playing more in the world of less-digital type. One thing my schedule has NOT allowed enough of is play. INvaluable to the world of graphic design is the silly, slovenly mess of screwing things up only to put them back together in interesting ways. Sometimes you get an idea from the start, and that's great. Even in the best situation, inspiration and ideas need to be opened up. But when you got so many pages to move in a day, I don't get enough play. So I get excited when I see the returning trend toward non-digital type (can I call it analog?). I want to be hiring out more type to illustrators versus illustration. so that excites me.
9. whats amazing about living in New York?
What isn't? Every section of the city opens up new ideas, new opportunities to learn or expand upon existing ideas. In my first year here (four years ago), I read my spoken word at Lincoln Center, learned to make paper at Le Petit Versailles (a performance art garden space in lower Manhattan), saw Cassandra Wilson play for free in Central Park, danced away Sunday mornings at Club Shelter and started my much loved hiking in the Hudson Highlands. And that isn't counting the museums, the walking tours, the private art shows, the millions of conversations one can have in the cafes or sitting round the fountain at Washington Square Park. I have lived in eight cities and visited countless ones. At this point in history, nowhere is like New York City.
10. what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
I kind of divide these in two categories: those I pick up for visual reasons and those I pick up for the content. As an outdoorsman, I admit a bias to the well-designed Outside or the wonderfully redesigned Backpacker, not to mentions Men's Journal and National Geographic Adventure (rest in peace). For design and content, Esquire and New York continue to do interesting work. I like that they push the boundaries. Andrew Horton's stint at BusinessWeek has really given their covers such flare! Conceptual illustration at its best! I am always excited by the growing number of DIY magazines in the mix as the market changes to represent a new generation of readers and these homegrown publications really introduce the 'zine in a way that looks more together, more produced.
11. how important is down time, away from the office etc for your
VERY. I am lucky in this job to be able to shoot on location and also work off location. So, while I am working, I am still exploring the world and that hopefully reflects in the work. My vacation time is serious business for me, so I am planning jaunts pretty far out. This year, I got my eye on some backpacking excursions in Canada and California as well as kayaking in Maine. Save our parks!
12. best places to get lunch, coffee, inspired in the city?
Inspiration from people: Washington Square Park and the Village. For me, having always lived in Manhattan while in NYC, I admit a bias to the overcrowded island. But then you walk down past Sullivan Street Records (and the bizarre superhero-laiden store across the street), grab a bite at Cuba (after checking out one of TWO, yes TWO, chess specific stores), and then go sit and watch the kids run in and out of the fountain or local rock star hopefuls sloppily croon on some song or another. It's why I live here.
13. any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
I have many friends that are illustrators now, and I hear a lot about the ups and downs. Here's what I take away from listening: 1) Define yourself so that you are doing work no one else is doing, 2) Be controlled in your marketing so you don't throw money away on promotions that don't speak to your target group, 3) Share the new work and 4) Be social. I hate to think it, but I am just as susceptible to it as anyone I know. Once the name and the artwork are familiar, then when I am thinking of a story, it is easier for me to associate a particular illustrator to it. You want to be the image that comes in my head when I am plotting something.
14. any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry?
Think creatively. That doesn't mean don't do print like everyone keeps saying. It means, rethink print. The bloated beast and it's lazy brethren won't last much longer. expensive shoots for one photo, fashion budgets, credit cards without limits - those days are gone. Designers are expected to design. Art directors are expected to know the software. Production as a business is disintegrating and a lot of cash cows for a lot of less talented people are out to pasture. To hold course in this new world, you have to become famous (but you have competition) or indispensable. As I am not the former, I make sure I have the latter. Coming from the interactive sector, I continue building up my skills (recently completed a Flash minisite for TV Guide, finishing up a redesign of GO Magazine), as well as producing award-winning work for my main employer. Versatility is a tough trade to get into, but as the market changes and e-mags hint at their profitability and magazines begin Darwinian struggles, it is better to react to the instability by focusing on skills that go beyond the creative. Idealistic? No. Pragmatic? Totally. No one knows what will happen to this industry, so to be in it, you gotta be willing to ride where it takes you, and that could be anywhere.
More about Shane, including some cool projects can be found on his website: www.torquere.com
Thanks so much Shane!!
1. where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
I'm originally from NYC and have been an AD with ESPN the magazine for three years.
2. lets talk briefly about your job - whats great about being an AD?
For me it's always exciting to think of reader being entertained or enlightened by something that started out as raw copy, a handful of white pages and the seed of a rough idea. I also enjoy seeing the process transformed by pulling various resources together along with inspirational elements from everything around me to visually tell a story in a fresh way.
3. how was your university experience - did you feel ready for the
real world upon graduation?
Aside from having some terrific professors and a great foundation at F.I.T., the best part of school was having time to devote to study design in my free time. For example when I'd have time between classes I would hit the library and sit for hours devouring art books and pouring through back issue of magazines and spending my time sketching. But school also left me technically unprepared for the real world. I didn't have sufficient experience with design programs which I had to learn on my first job. Most importantly school opened the door for my first editorial job when I entered the SPD student competition.
4. i love your type treatments man - where do all of these great ideas
I usually start sketching ideas as soon as I have text to read. If I'm lucky I'll have a headline as well and that will help me to figure out how I can play on words or expand on what’s happening in the image while keeping with the tone and mood of the story.
5. do you design any of your own fonts - or do you like to kinda
manipulate and play with pre-existing fonts?
I mostly use pre-existing fonts. I know typographers dedicate numerous hours perfecting minute details that I haven't the slightest knowledge of so I keep all my typeface doodles confined to my sketchbook.
6. what are you loving about design right now?
I enjoy seeing all the different styles and integration of different materials and mediums in what seems like a tidal wave of constant output by designers. I also love how design in general is recognized and appreciated more as a sign of quality and value. And of course how type is given center stage and being treated like the main art.
7. does your approach to design or layout change when you're working
with illustration as opposed to photography?
My aim is always to compliment the art and never to overpower it. Illustration takes extra consideration in my execution since my design are a bit like illustrations and it can lessen the impact of the art.
8. can you give a quick once over of your process when designing a page?
We produce the magazine in two weeks and it's amazing to see the orchestra of writers, editors, photo editors, designers, production, photographers and illustrators co-ordinate to meet deadlines. It always ends in a blur.
So the process I mostly remember is meeting to discuss how to art the story, beg for a headline, commission art, approve sketches or make a photo selection, meet once again with editors to talk about all elements in story like sidebars.
Then I start to brainstorm opener possibilities while trying to keep in mind how those design elements from the opening spread can be carried into the interior pages to maintain a cohesive packaged feel from start to finish. I'm also trying to avoid overused or cliched sports metaphors in the design.
9. who's work are you loving right now?
Too many to list, I tend to fall in love easily. Anything that is clever or graphic gets my attention. I've also been admiring alot of motion work on motionographer.com. I'm always fascinated by movement since I stare at static images all day. So, I'm always trying to figure out how I can add the illusion of action in my layouts. I also love anything with infographics.
10. what magazines do you pick up on the regular?
I'm a magazine whore. I'll pick up or read anything. If I had to name the last magazine I read and enjoyed it was Monocle and Milk magazine.
11. can you list me some go to fonts? and maybe also so steer clear of fonts?
I'm a typeface whore too! It's hard to pick a favorite, because the typeface is usually selected after I've decided on the direction of the design. And unlike other magazine that have a specific palette of typefaces to work with, we are constantly switching faces to stay fresh. So it's not uncommon to have every feature in our well have it's own distinct typeface. Part of the fun is tracking down a new typefaces that fits with the story. If I had to name a typeface I've recently purchased and love using is Quanta and Composite. And no typeface is off limits.
12. how important is down time for you / how are you spending it?
I really love what I do, but i also strongly believe in a work life balance, so it helps to have outside forces direct your thoughts away from work. Like most creative types I don’t have an on/off switch so being home gives an opportunity to focus my creativity on other things.
13. advice to new designers or illustrators breaking into the industry?
-I feel lucky that I've worked with really great people at each of my jobs. I would say choose to work for some one who will offer criticism and feedback that you will value and learn from.
-Be comfortable and confident presenting your design and defend and articulate your design decisions.
-I find that keeping a sketch book and Keep all rejected or killed layouts useful.
-Learn time management. That will go along way in being able to show you can handle bigger jobs.
-Lastly sign up as a SPD student member and enter every competition.
For Illustrators: Have a clean easy to navigate website. I'm not a big fan of Flash or sites that don't allow me to pull an image off their site.
Thanks Lou! you can see more of Lou's work on his site: http://louvegamedia.com/
Great stuff - Awesome spread with Alex Nabaum!!
- where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
I’m kind of from the east coast generally. When I was a kid we moved every three or four years, so I grew up in a number of different places on the east coast: New Jersey, Atlanta, Suburban Maryland (Washington DC), Eastern Ohio (outside Youngstown), outside Hartford, CT. We kept moving back to Maryland, though, and I’ve lived in DC for 12 years and my brothers live in Baltimore and my parents in Annapolis, so I’ll say I’m from Maryland/DC. I’ve been the AD for the magazine since the fall of ‘05, and before that I was the AD for in-house creative services for Atlantic Media Company, which owns The Atlantic, National Journal, Government Executive, The Hotline, and a few other inside-the-beltway publications. I did house ads, media kits, marketing materials, that kind of stuff. I was doing that for three or four years before I got the opportunity to move over to the magazine.
how was your university experience -
did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?
Uh, not in the slightest. When I was in high school I had this amazing experience the summer before my senior year where it was kind of like 5 weeks of art school with a bunch of super creative people with minimal parental supervision at Wesleyan University. I loved it, but I also realized that if that was what art school was like, I’d never get anything done. So I actually went to school at a small liberal arts college in Virginia, which was about as far from art school as you could imagine. I loved it, but I had no academic training to speak of in terms of design when I graduated, even though I was an art and english major. I regret that decision a little bit, because knowing what I know now I’m sure I would have been great in art school, but I was young, and I loved my college experience, and without it I wouldn’t be where I am now. Life is funny that way.
the Atlantic is such an exciting magazine,
how thrilled are you to be directing its visual identity?
I really love my job. I work with what I consider to be some of the smartest people on the planet, and they happen to also be some of the nicest people around. Each issue is really challenging, in that you have to balance the ideas expressed in the article (which are usually very, very nuanced and complicated) with the legacy of a very old magazine with which readers have a pretty intense relationship. Which is to say everything has to be very well considered. Additionally, there are so many smart people here, and so many good ideas, that you really have to be open to anything and willing to listen, which I enjoy. There’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of discussion, and the best ideas often come from unexpected places around the office. It also doesn’t hurt that I really believe in our content and find it smart and engaging. It’s a dream job, really, at least for me.
what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
It really depends on where we are in our edit cycle. Because we’re a monthly, we have a ridiculously long lead time which often makes me feel like I’m living in a time warp. For example, today is October 14, and I’m sending my first batch of files to pre-press for our December issue, which won’t hit newsstands until mid-November. So for the past few days I’ve been viewing final color, proofreading pages, kerning headlines, that kind of thing. But three weeks ago I was doing a lot of reading and research, looking at portfolios for possible illustration and photo assignments, and trying to figure out how all the stuff we wanted to get in this issue was going to fit. I guess this is another reason I love my job: every day is different.
you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your attention?
The simple answer is: do great work. If it’s good, we’ll see it. The more complicated answer is: it really all depends on what I’m looking for. My job is almost like being a collage artist. I need to combine a lot of different elements together to tell individual stories that make up a more-or-less cohesive whole. Doing that requires certain artists for certain types of illustrations. There are tons of illustrators that I love, and would love to include in our book, but I just haven’t had the right story for them yet. I keep an eye out for them, and I have their work bookmarked and on hand, but the fit just hasn’t been right yet. It doesn’t mean I don’t like their work, or that I won’t hire them. The right opportunity just hasn’t presented itself yet. So to get my attention, I’d say do good work and get it in front of me. I get an absurd amount of spam, and 99% of the time I delete mass mailings that aren’t personally addressed to me. If you like our book and think you fit, write me a personal e-mail. I read those, and look at the work. It might not fit, but at least you’ll know that I looked at it. I like mailers too, and we keep and file stuff that we like. If we really like it, we hang it up in our offices.
what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
Spam really, really, really sucks. It’s a huge waste of time, and it almost always ensures that I’ll delete it. If you send out a mass mailing, make sure you use BCC, because otherwise we see who else you’ve sent it to, and how many. I know illustrators need to hustle, and I don’t mind that, but making it look like you’re NOT hustling goes a long way. Treat me like a real person, and address me like a real person. Send me a personal e-mail. Spell my name correctly. And don’t send me stuff every other day. One last thing: illustrators that send me snail mail and e-mail when they really don’t fit our magazine (or know anything about it) piss me off. If you know anything about our magazine, you probably know that we don’t do goofy animal illustrations of children’s type stuff. Illustrators that don’t take the time to think about and understand their potential clients definitely piss me off, and I say that with a lot of respect for illustrators and the work they do. It’s tough out there, and you’ve got to get your work in front of a lot of people, but there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Don’t be dumb.
what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
It’s obviously tough out there, and something has fundamentally changed in the nature of the industry. No one is quite sure how it’s going to shake out, but it will never be the same. So I’d say those that are doing what they were doing 5 years ago probably aren’t going to thrive in this new environment. It’s not going away, it’s just changing, and the roles that have been established based on the old economy are changing with it. So there are a lot of lines being blurred right now, and a lot of experimentation, and no one is sure what publishing will look like quite yet. But I know that there will always be a market for great content. I can’t speak to the economics of it, but I’m fairly confident that people will still be able to make money off of it. Which means that if you make great content, there will be a market for your work. Finding the right marriage between what that content is and where that market is and how big it is, I can’t say. But it will be there somewhere.
what are you loving about design right now?
I love that there is so much out there. It’s pretty intimidating, actually. You can’t keep up with it, which is pretty cool. I try to keep up with We Love Typography, but they post like 25 things a day, and you really only have time to explore one or two of those in depth. That’s a good thing, by the way. Everybody has different stuff that they see and that turns them on, and you can share that with people and they’ll have never heard of what you’re talking about but they’ll show you something that you’ve never seen before. It’s super-democratic, and it’s awesome. It really breaks down that idea of exclusivity built around knowledge, which I think is a good thing. The curatorial powers of the collective is mind-blowing, too. As a culture and a species we have a vast archive of visual material to reference and reflect on. Felix Sockwell turned me on to Eric Baker’s “Today,” and that totally nails what I’m talking about. I find a lot of cool design stuff in places that aren’t necessarily design-tuned also. I love Strange Maps and Awful Library Books for those reasons.
what are you into music wise - what are you listening to?
I’m a musical omnivore, and I go through phases, so it’s pretty random. I also have music on constantly. I’ve been on a pretty big Iron Maiden kick for the last month or so, and I don’t see this infatuation ending anytime soon, much to the chagrin of my wife and co-workers. Stop laughing. I never thought I’d really like them because in a way they are so ridiculous, but they’re so damn sincere, and I’ve really grown to love the epic metal. A lot of it is crap, but the good stuff is oh so good. Powerslave is almost a perfect metal album. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Scratch Perry (I go to the dub reggae well a lot). I keep listening to Tears for Fears a lot, mostly Songs from the Big Chair and The Hurting. Seriously, stop laughing. I’ve only streamed it so far, but the new Flaming Lips album really intrigued me. I’m going to buy that this weekend. Plus, it’s furry. Any and all Tom Waits.what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
Good, Wired, New York, New York Times Magazine. I actually like to read magazines as well, so I pick up some magazines that don’t necessarily catch my eye, but I know there’s good stuff in there. Those four, however, do both.
how important is down time, away from the office etc for your creativity?
It’s really important, but it’s so hard to do. I work hard, and I take it seriously, and that means that you can theoretically spend all of your time in the office. So it’s hard to get away. But I know when I’ve been working too hard, and for too long, and my brain will shut down and go on down time whether my body does or not. So it’s best to listen to yourself. When you’re bored, or when things get too rote, it’s time to go somewhere else.
favorite font and why?
I know this is lame, but I’m going to duck this question. I’m a font agnostic, I guess. There are fonts out there that are good solutions for different problems, and to fall in love with a font and to use it because you like it clouds your judgment, and might lead to a design solution that doesn’t work. That said, there are tons of fonts out there that I really love and appreciate aesthetically, but they have to be used in the right context.
any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
Don’t do it half-assed. Think a lot about what you’re good at, who you are, and how that translates visually, and think a lot about places that will value that work. Develop a style, constantly work on it, and make sure it’s yours. Make yourself unique.
any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry
Just understand what you’re getting into. It’s pretty volatile right now, and things are changing pretty drastically. If you’re still up for it (and from where I sit, it is worth it), make sure you’re approaching it from a content perspective. Know that it’s a content business, not a magazine business, and that your content needs to be accessible a number of ways, from printed paper to the internet to technologies we don’t even know about yet. Experiment.
Thanks Jason!! Everyone go buy The Atlantic, its always a fun read and you can be sure to get inspired by the design and illos inside.
Hi readers of Nonslick. November is going to be an awesome month. On top of lots of illustrator interviews to be posted, we've been lucky enough to get quite a few Art Directors donate some of their free time for interviews as well. The AD interviews will follow the same format as the illustrator ones. It just seemed to make sense to interview the people who give us such great jobs and make such a beautiful product. So, without further ado:
Sarah Garcea, Inc. Magazine
did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?
Inc. is an excellent financial mag, how thrilled are you to be directing its visual identity?
what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
what are you loving about design right now?
what are the 5 greatest things about living in New York?
- The majority of our close friends are here which makes for good times, great conversations, and networking!
- So many museums and openings, so little time!
- It’s the place to be for publishing, graphic design and art.
- I love biking and walking around the city and exploring new places and just being inspired by it all.
- Riding through the city on the back of my husband’s motorcycle!
how important is down time, away from the office etc for your creativity?
favorite font and why?
any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry?
thanks a lot Sarah!!! To see more of her work go out and buy a copy of Inc. Its a great read and always has great design and great illo's
I’ve been illustrating since fall of 2007. I was born in Bangkok, Thailand. As exotic and exciting as that may sound, I have no recollection of my time there. Canada remains my true home at heart… I’ve been living here in Ontario since I was 3-4 ish.
So you were born in Thailand - ever plan to go back for a visit?
south east asia is crazy inspiring!
I haven’t been back… But I’ve visited its neighbouring countries Cambodia and Vietnam earlier this year; And how beautiful and inspiring their culture is! My only regret is not bringing more of it back with me. I posted a few sketches and photos from my trip at my blog: http://christinaung.blogspot.
your graduate year was amazing, so many talented illustrators! Do you still keep in touch with alot of those illustrators?
We were definitely an amazing bunch! The majority of us have scattered about to new things but I have definitely kept in touch with a handful of them and it’s a wonderful thing. If I ever need a brainstorm buddy or someone to help me nitpick at bad contracts I know I have my back covered.
how has your work evolved post school?
I always draw my inspirations into my artwork and where I am now in terms or style and colour is the accumulation of all my past previous styles. When I first started off, I was extremely worried about the inconsistency in my images but now I just do what I feel is right. The trick is too not force a style into your images but to make a lot of images that will eventually define the style.
amazing client list! what are some dream clients you've yet to work with?
I’ve been blessed to work with many great clients. Honestly speaking though, I don’t have any preferences. My ultimate goal is to inspire people with art and illustrating editorially is just one the ways that I go about doing that.
How important is it for you to still participate in exhibition shows?
Participating in exhibitions is definitely important. I see it as an opportunity for the Illustrator to express a more personal side of their images that’s not timed and governed by deadlines. The commercial aspect of illustration is very fast paced and the end product is usually the combination of the artist’s capabilities and client’s vision together. Personally I still prefer editorial and commercial work over participating in exhibitions. Illustrating for other people allows me to work with themes that I may never want to pursue on my own. It challenges me to think outside the box and that in itself is very exciting.
Any plans to move to New York? - seems like the place to be for young illustrators!
I’ve always been tempted to, but Canada’s got a strong hold on me! Thanks to the internet, even though I’m here in Canada, I have still have lots of work opportunities from the US.I always really enjoy the way you solve your visual problems, whats your brainstorm process?
I do a lot visual research. Once I have a folder of images, photos, and inspirations, I sit myself down and sketch away. I rarely come up with a solution right off the bat. A good idea only comes after many bad ones.
any advice for new illustrators?
To believe in yourself and your work and then pursue it aggressively and passionately. You need a lot of self discipline and love for what you do.
any advice for older / established ones?
To continue to inspire.
1. where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was born in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada but grew up in a small town called Acton in Southern Ontario about an hour drive west of Toronto. Currently I'm living and working in Toronto and I've been illustrating since 2003.
2. Sault Ste. Marie is supposed to have a pretty badass winter carnival if im not mistaken, ever hit that up?
I don't think I ever did, we moved from Sault Ste. Marie to Southern Ontario when I was 5 years old so I don't really remember much. We used to go back a couple times a year to visit family but it doesn't ring a bell. Kinda wish we had, going to the carnival would have been awesome. The one thing that really stands out is the time my Dad and I went to a model railroad show. Loved it! Seriously, I long for the day to have the space for a model train setup.
3. think you'll ever move back up there, or is toronto your home for good?
I think Toronto will be home for a little while. At least for a year or two. My wife is from the states so we've discussed the idea of moving south someday.
4. were you a hockey player at all growing up?
I loved hockey when I was growing up but I was a pretty average/terrible player. I played street hockey with friends all the time and I tried playing in a league but my skating was not up to par. I didn't enjoy being the worst player on the team and it just wasn't fun anymore so I went back to playing street hockey for the next 10 years until I went off to college.
My favourite team would be the red wings. I was a huge Steve Yzerman fan but once I was in college I left sports behind. I don't know what happened, I just lost interest. I used to be up on all the latest hockey news and now I don't even know who won the stanely cup last year.
5. how was your experience at sheridan?
Sheridan was great. I was there for 4 years, one year of Art Fundamentals and three years of illustration. I think I learned a lot more after getting out and working professionally but it was good when it came to being around like-minded people and I really enjoyed the encouragement you would get from classmates. I'm still friends with many of the people I met there and I while it only prepared me for some aspects of the business and much of it I learned on my own I think it was better to have gone than to have tried to do it without.
6. did you graduate the same year as ben weeks? that dude is awesome...
Yes and yes, Ben is awesome.
Although I didn't actually graduate. In third year I decided I would spend all my time working on my portfolio and a comic book and not worry about life drawing and painting. So I just didn't go to those classes. I'm a few credits short of having my illustration diploma. Since no one has ever asked me if I graduated before hiring me to illustrate anything, I think it worked out just fine. I think the most important thing when getting out of school is having a great portfolio. If you have that, work will come easy (somewhat easy). I really concentrated on that in 3rd year but the funny thing was that I threw out my entire portfolio from school not that long after leaving. I learned real quick there is a big difference in getting an "A" on an assignment at school and having to compete in the market with the best illustrators in the world. I spent most of my first year out of school working and re-working my portfolio.
7. have you ever entertained the idea of becoming a teacher?
Thought about it, I would like to do that someday. Maybe the not graduating thing might be a bit of a problem.
8. your style seems to be sort of a collision of whimsy and concept - can you talk a little about your process?
Well I tend to do work that is more narrative than conceptual but often the two mix into one. I like to take the basic idea of the article and use that to tell a story. I start with reading whatever I've been provided with and do some very quick doodles. Occasionally I will write down words that stand out. Mostly I just turn a few doodles into clear sketches that I send to the client. Once on the final it's a mix of ink and pencil on paper, photoshop and scanned textures. Everything gets layered in Photoshop and that's it.
9. how is your style evolving?
Depth and more depth. My work used to be very flat but lately I can't help but add some shadow here and there. Also when I started my style came out of my love of 1930's cartoons like Betty Boop. I worked completely by hand for a couple years then eventually I started using photoshop to add a bit of colouring here and there and now it's a major part of my process. I think my work has been moving away from the 1930's look that I really liked when I was in school to something that is more my own. I'm still far from it but I'm getting there.
10. ever make work that you totally hate?
Yes. When I first started I didn't really like any of my work. I just wasn't getting it to look the way I wanted it to. Now I find I'm pretty happy with all my work, sometmes there is something that just doesn't feel right. I think it's just a lack of getting the colours right or the composition is too awkward. But there isn't time to dwell on it, the next assignment needs to get done and I've learned to not worry about work I'm not 100% happy with, let it go and move on to the next thing. The work gets better over time anyway.
11. i always seem to ask peoples views on the industry dying etc - so to change it up - whats awesome about the industry right now?
Lots of stuff, It's a good time to be making images, there are tons of places your work can go. There are toys, clothing, animation, online possibilities are endless. if you have characters and a story to tell you can put it out there yourself and find an audience. The internet is changing the way people get information and entertainment so there will be lots of areas to explore for illustrators.
12. any advice for new illustrators?
Work, work and work on your portfolio. You have to be good enough that the art director chooses you over someone who has been doing this for years. There are only so many assignments out there and you need to fight your way in. Take pride in your work and don't accept being average, try to be the best. And if that isn't for you, then pick a different career path.
where are you from, how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. I did one semester at OCAD before I moved to L.A. and studied at Art Center in Pasadena. I graduated in '98 and basically was working right out of school so I'd say I've been doing this for 11 years or so now.
how does teaching at OCAD help you personally as an illustrator?
It gets me out of the studio! I tend to wind up working indefinitely unless I've got obligations and teaching a class gives me a reason to get out. It's nice to see people and get some sunshine, and be around people who are enthusiastic and energetic about their work.
what are you loving about illustration right now?
That companies and ad campaigns are using illustration a tonne. I feel like I'm seeing a lot more illustration out in the world and, whether it's decent work or not, that's a good thing. And I'm also impressed these days with the entrepreneurial spirit that I'm seeing illustrators exhibit. Branching out into clothes and toys and all these other divergent markets, it's great to see. And with all the crazy tools at our disposal now, I'm seeing illustrators doing it ALL themselves from the ground floor: marketing, advertising, distribution. Everything. That's awesome.
where do you see your work going in the future?
I've been working on a lot more advertising jobs then editorial ones recently and I guess I don't really see that trend ending in the next while. I'm also pretty passionate about motion graphics and I'd like to dive into that world some day.
how do you get such crazy perspectives in your work?
I think by not limiting myself to safe, easy ideas in the early ideation stages of a piece by thinking "how am I going to make this work?" I try to come up with the best solution I can and then worry about executing it after so that I don't write off good ideas before they get a chance. Studying the work of the artists and designers of previous generations hasn't hurt me, either. When I get stuck, I can reference some ridiculously talented, brilliant old designer and try the "what would he/she do?" approach.
any advice for new illustrators trying to make it in?
Don't expect to be doing full page pieces for national magazines within your first month out of school. It takes longer than you'd think and you're going to have to pay your dues. Don't sell yourself and your industry short by doing work on spec or under abusive contracts. Strive to be original because taking the short-cut approach of trying to mimic someone else's style is only going to hurt you in the long run.
any advice for older / established ones?
If they're established, they've got it figured out for themselves already! I wouldn't presume there's anything I could offer them in terms of advice.
all images copyright Tavis Coburn - check out his site: http://www.taviscoburn.com
there is SO MUCH good stuff on there!