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.