5.10.2009

KYLE T. WEBSTER

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was born in NYC, but grew up in Pakistan, Singapore, Cyprus and Taiwan (my parents are overseas school teachers). I have been illustrating professionally since
2003, full-time freelancing since 2006.

AMAZING client list - is there anyone you still havent worked with that you're dying to?
Yes, many folks: Rolling Stone, Spin, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Fast Company, Wired, Runner's World... and lots of the big ad agencies (hey, that's where
there is BIG money, right?!).

Ever get nervous when bigger clients come calling?
I used to get a bit nervous, but over time that feeling has changed into determination to make them call again by doing something better than they expect.

Can you walk me through your process when a new project comes in?
Most of my work at the moment is editorial work and a lot of it arrives with a very short deadline as part of the package. So, I read, sketch, send, get feedback
and then finish the final, sometimes within only a few hours. Specifics: if an art director calls (I prefer this) rather than emailing, I start sketching while we are on the phone. I have a big New Yorker planner on my desk and I draw my doodles there when thinking about new projects. These are very rough. I then draw them again in Photoshop and send those sketches to the art director. When I have an approved sketch, I resize the file to about 150% of actual print dimensions, knock the sketch back to about 10% opacity and then do my 'inking' and 'coloring' for the final in Photoshop. Sometimes I'll do the same thing in Painter - just depends on what I feel like doing on that day, really. I use a 6x8 Wacom Intuos 3 tablet, but I really want to buy the Intuos 4 - looks great!

you strike me as a real draftsman - ...hahaha, i guess theres no real way to turn that into a question...just judging by your work it seems like you must be drawing all the time. I guess that works - Are you drawing all the time?
I drew every day in middle and high school in textbooks, notebooks, etc. - everywhere. I went to a Liberal Arts University, but it may as well have been an art
school, because I continued the habit and drew in every non-art class. And, before I became a full-time freelancer, I drew Wolverine, Batman, my co-workers, Tintin, and everything else during 'status' meetings, and all the other ridiculous and unnecessary time-wasters that came with a full-time job. I still draw all the time, but it's nice to get paid for most of it!
You're a pretty established illustrator - is promotion still really crucial for you - or can you kinda sit back and let it roll in?
Promotion is a huge part of my daily life as an illustrator. In addition to contacting new and familiar art directors with emails, cards, and my monthly newsletter, I update my blog(s) and website, and add news and work to altpick, Illoz, and IllustrationMundo. I also do my best to create new ways to keep my name front and center with unique promotions or projects like the Daily Figure (http://www.thedailyfigure.com) and The Original Design Gangsta video (sequel on the way this summer!). Finally, I enter several shows every year (CA, SoI, AI). Art directors are so busy and have a long list of great artists to call, so keeping their attention can be tricky.

What are you loving about illustration right now?
Despite decreasing fees and attempts to secure all rights to our work right off the bat (and for little money), illustration is prevalent in all media. Additionally, the
variety of styles is exciting.

How important is doing non-illustration related activity for you?
It's crucial to keeping my creative pistons firing. If I did not have an interest in playing music, I probably would not have made the ODG video. If I did not play
tennis, I probably would not have known how to approach Tennis magazine for commissions - I was able to 'talk shop' with the editor and art director and it made me a good candidate for the assignment that eventually came my way. Everything I do in life seems to somehow make an impact on my illustration work.
what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry? - its seems like times are tough for alot of people.
I have not been illustrating for very long. I am friends with people who remember what could be described as 'glory days,' as far as fees and volume of work go,
but I am satisfied with the living I am able to make as an illustrator. It is frustrating when clients try to nickel and dime, but as my client list grows, I am able to be more picky about which jobs I take. However, in this economy, I haven't said no to much, just to be safe! I have been able to keep fees fair, though, except for a few special cases. A friend of mine said this about the current state of affairs: "If you're good at what you do, you're probably doing fine. If you're only OK at what you do, you're in trouble."

Do you do much reading? If so - can you gimmie some good recommendations?
I used to do more reading, but we had a baby a few months ago, and now my free time is spent sleeping! Now, I seem to only read magazines. I read The New Yorker more than anything else.

How has your work / style evolved - where do you see it going in the future?
I think my understanding of color and value has improved in the past few years. I hope I continue to improve in every possible category - otherwise, I'll just wind
up repeating myself. I do not know where my style will go, because I don't feel like I have much control over it. It seems to change in a more organic way- if I force things, I tend to do really wooden work. Happy accidents usually lead me to good places.
advice for new illustrators?
The business side of things may not come naturally to many people starting out. I think it is important to really stay organized, commit to a schedule (work a lot
- no slacking!), promote like crazy, network effectively, and if things are slow, keep drawing and make sure people see what you are creating. Doing great work is pointless if nobody sees it - advertise your awesomeness! Then, the clients will call.

advice for old / established ones?
Don't be a jerk. Seriously - this is a one heck of small group of people (working illustrators), and there is no reason to act like you are better than everybody else
(even if you are). If you have 'made it,' then show some love for those who are just getting going. 99% of the established illustrators I have met have been lovely people... but the 1% who brushed me off when I was starting out still stick out like giant, throbbing sore thumbs. I don't want to end on a negative note, so I will also say a big thanks to some of the illustrators I met early on who welcomed me into this weird business with kindness: Sterling Hundley, Chris Gash, John Hendrix, Arthur Mount, Gary Kelley, Chris Neal, Grady McFerrin, Marcos Chin, and Yuko Shimizu.
All images copyright Kyle Webster - see more of his work here:http://kyletwebster.com

3 comments:

  1. great insight on his process!
    its good to know personal experiences outside of art can lead to professional opportunities!

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  2. this interview was VERY insightful. Also very interesting to read about the process..

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  3. Thanks for the shout out! Too bad I've turned into a total jerk now.

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