5.28.2009

BLAIR KELLY


where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I am from Toronto, Ontario and I have been illustrating for 10 years

sheridan grad eh? awesome! how was your experience there?
My experience at Sheridan was amazing and I look back upon my days there fondly. I originally attended another local college for graphic design but dropped out during my first year because I really disliked the program, so when I went to Sheridan it was like a breath of fresh air. I was the kind of student who would complete a project 3 or 4 different ways as personal experiments and hang out in the library researching other illustrators and artists. If I could be in school forever, I probably would!

you got your first job while in school, remember what it was?

I will always remember my first job. It was an illustration for a book review for the Globe & Mail newspaper. The art director who commissioned me was very ‘hard to please’ in retrospect and I probably went through 10 or more sketches before she finally approved one. Its not one of my favorite pieces but it was definitely a learning experience. I am way more confident in my ideas now than I was then.
your work is really strong conceptually - what do you do for brainstorming?
Thanks! I brainstorm like crazy....I don’t have one set of way of doing things but most of the time it involves a bunch of sketches, followed by some research or wordplay, followed by some hair pulling and maybe some coffee, then back to more sketches. The creative process is really magical to me because I am still surprised that it always seems to come together in the end.

thoughts on working traditionally vs. digitally

Being more of a traditionalist at heart, I personally can’t imagine creating an image digitally from start to finish without there being some other traditional elements involved like drawing, painting or collage. Though the guys that are really good at that really stand out.
how long after graduation till you were working full time?
I had many other jobs first starting out to supplement my illustration work. I think it took 4 or 5 years for me to be able to just rely on illustration as my only source of income.

thoughts on the current state of the industry

I actually haven’t noticed any change in the work flow yet based on the state of the economy, but I have heard that some people have been affected. I think (and hope) that illustration will always be relevant and needed, to communicate ideas from a fresh perspective.

what are some of your influences?

My influences are many and change constantly...Anything printed (especially stuff from the 50’s ), Paul Rand, the Dadaists, Early Russian & Dutch Design, Warhol, Japanese Woodcuts, comics, animation, the list could go on and on.
advice for new illustrators?
I’d say definitely do what you love most and experiment alot, have fun with your work because if you don’t love what you’re doing it will be obvious. You have to be resilient and resourceful, nothing is constant when working as a freelance illustrator so being inventive can get you far. You also have to get your work out there...You could have the most beautiful images, but if no one is seeing them you aren’t going to get the work.

advice for older/ established one?

I’d never think of giving them advice, I’d still appreciate advice from them! :-)

see more of Blairs work here: http://www.blairkellystudio.com
thanks Blair!!!

5.27.2009

KATHRYN ADAMS

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I've lived in a lot of places but my family eventually settled in Ottawa so I guess you could say that's where I'm from---but Toronto has been my home longer than anywhere else. I've been illustrating for more than 20 years.

You teach at both Sheridan and OCAD - it must be rewarding educating some of the industry's top working illustrators!

It sure is. I get a charge from students' enthusiasm and from taking part in helping new illustrators start their careers. Being around people who are stoked about illustration all the time is great. I don't know if I can adequately describe how I feel about teaching...it's a weird mix of pride, envy, inspiration and responsibility. (only two of those feelings are deadly sins although gluttony comes into play at the Sheridan Tim Hortons.) Watching my students' careers take off is wonderful even though it's a wrench when they leave the nest at graduation time.


What's your favourite part about teaching?

When my students tell me they understood a licensing contract and had the confidence to negotiate a fair agreement for themselves. It makes my day every time I hear one of their success stories.

It must be awesome too to be EVERYONES favourite teacher (not really a question there - just wanted to sneak in a compliment)
Such a nice compliment but I'm not sure that everyone is on board with you. I've sharply hoofed a few backsides and some might be nursing a bruise, if not a grudge. I'd like everyone to succeed but I guess it's a message that might be lost on the students busily removing boot prints from the seat of their trousers. My ferocity comes from knowing how important business skills are to long term survival. Having valuable business information snubbed makes me grumpy, on occasion. However, my students do laugh at my very tired jokes and tolerate my war stories, so now that you mention it--that IS pretty awesome. I'm very lucky to have the best students!

What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
I've noticed a curious dichotomy: some people are declaring illustration dead (for the millionth time) meanwhile I'm seeing it in TV commercials, fashion ads, music videos, movies --- everywhere. Maybe illustration is dead but refuses to lie down? Beats me. My best guess is that things are changing, which is normal. I've seen a lot of change in 20-ish years and the pace of it all seems to accelerate.


What needs to change for things to get stronger?

Education, education and education. Did I mention education? Both new and, um, 'less new' illustrators need business training. Now. As much as they can get. Negotiation skills would be helpful too. Illustrators are much too squirrelly about negotiating for work but it's vital to understand fees, copyright licensing and contract terms. I learned this stuff the hard way. Learning it the soft way, by having someone teach you, is much better. Read and understand what you are signing, people! There is a really good glossary available at http://www.useplus.com/useplus/glossary.asp which illustrators can use to look up contract terms if unsure about the meaning. It's free online. Tad Crawford's books about business and legal forms for illustrators are also good resources. Illustrators can't afford to be afraid of business. Reps are business people and prefer working with organized, professional artists who understand what they are doing. Looking for a rep simply as a way to dodge learning about business is not the best idea.
It's hard for new / struggling illustrators to turn down low paying work / work with no rights - what advice can you give to people who feel stuck within these options?
Well, you know this topic gets me foaming at the mouth. To answer your question: Saying "no, thank you" isn't hard. No need to be a jerk about it. Better yet, try negotiating better conditions. The feeling of being stuck comes from muddled logic that is entirely self-imposed. New / struggling illustrators cling to, and defend, the baseless notion that habitually working for peanuts (or even less), will lead to well-paid work in the future. Similarly, the habit of drastically slashing prices in tough times in the belief that fees will rebound in good times is also adopted. That theory only works if illustrators are in short supply and can't meet buyer demand, which has never been the case.

Supply & demand is a basic economic tenet. A century of evidence proves that low-balling prices is counterproductive and only serves to set the commercial value of illustration even lower---for everyone. Considering it 'student rates', 'pro bono', 'done for the experience' or any other rationalization might make someone feel better about working for free, but it's an economically unsustainable and unsound practice. Since when is prolonged desperation a winning strategy? Desperation leads to deals about as shrewd as selling the island of Manhattan for $24 dollars worth of cloth and buttons. Such deals tend not to work out quite as hoped.


Let me sneak in some math here to put it into perspective: To borrow an expression from a witty friend, illustrators are "one hundred dollar millionaires". (Wow! $100...I'm rich!) Around here, the poverty level is anything below $23,000 per year. At $100 a throw, an illustrator needs to create 231 illustrations a year to rise ABOVE POVERTY LEVEL. That's about 9 illustrations every two weeks---assuming there is that much work available. There probably isn't. A student of mine was just approached to do custom illustrations for $25. To get above poverty at that rate requires creating 924 illustrations a year or 18 per week. Yet another student was pressured to create images for $2 each. That's not a typo....two dollars! To get above poverty at that rate means churning out 11,500 illustrations a year. That's more than 31 illustrations EACH and every DAY. Yeowza. Better stock up on pencils and Red Bull.
What advice can I give?

Always do the math---in full context to a living wage.

What's the worst a client has asked of you - work or contract wise?
I've got many a craptastic tale, but one comes to mind that I don't think I've used in class: A new magazine client contacted me to fill in for their regular artist who was away on vacation. When I sent my sketch, the client complained that it didn't look like the other artist's work. Yes, the client wanted me to exactly copy the other artist's style and couldn't understand why that was a problem---for any reason. I was able to think of quite a few. Yeesh. They very reluctantly accepted an illustration in my style. And never called me again. I have no idea why they called me in the first place. The two styles weren't even remotely similar.

Switching gears a bit - what are you loving about illustration right now?
The incredible variety of work, and high standard of quality, that is being produced makes me love being part of this business all the more. I'm kept on my toes scrambling to keep up with the brilliant new talent appearing on the scene. That includes you, Pete! Take a day off, buddy. I'm getting tired.


You work in two different styles - what's the benefit of that for you? Why not just Kathryn Adams portfolio one, portfolio two?
I guess for the same reason you don't name your pets 'dog one' and 'dog two'. The two personas are distinct enough to merit separate names. I had a hunch that, after being known for one style for so long, a second one would fare better as a pseud but I have no solid evidence to back up that theory. I'm not really fooling anybody and 'Sophie' consistently shows me up by winning more awards than I do anyway. Nobody likes a showoff.
Where do you see your work going?
The embroidered stuff is so much fun to do and has so many possibilities that I can't even imagine where it might end up and I still love doing my more traditional illustrations, too. On top of all that, I'm currently organizing my illustration consulting business to launch in the next few months. With that service, I'll individually train people in business skills they may feel they are lacking and advise people who have gotten themselves into a business jam. I get hundreds of emails a year asking me business-related questions and it's gotten to the point where I can't manage it all so informally anymore. Broad questions like "how do I become an illustrator?" and "how does copyright work?" take quite a bit of time to answer.


Advice for new illustrators?
Persist. And find a way to love business.


Advice for old ones?
("Old"? You're killing me, Pete!) Same advice as for the young 'uns.

sorry Kathryn, i meant to write established, not old :)
All images copyright Kathryn Adams.
Thank you so much Kathryn for your invaluable wisdom. best - interview - ever!
see more work at her site: http://www.kathrynadams.com/

5.18.2009

DANIEL HERTZBERG


where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I'm from a town called Bellmore, on the south shore of Long Island, NY. I graduated from RISD in 2003 and tried being an illustrator right after school. I would get clients here and there, but my work was quite terrible. I interned at a bunch of places and freelanced at others just to make ends meet, but always wanted to get back into illustration.
After a few years doing graphic design, I started my illustration blog in February, 2008. So, if you don't count my early failures, I guess I've been illustrating for a year and a third.

hockey player huh, what position?
Defense.

any chance you're a leafs fan?
cause - its a widely known fact that leafs are the best team in the NHL...

I'm actually a Colorado Avalanche fan... who are the other best team in the NHL.

did you collect hockey cards growing up? I had (and might still) a sergei fedorov rookie - by default i loved him!
Of course I did! I had a large Joe Sakic collection. I probably still have them somewhere.
so you have beautiful work - so simple - it seems like you've boiled your style down to the most essential graphic elements -
Graphic design really influenced my thinking. The whole "Less is More" thing really got me thinking about what elements are really important to communicating the message. Does it really need a foreground? Background? Does color need to play a role? Is this detail distracting? I think I'm struggling to find absolute consistency with my style right now, actually.

can you tell me about your influences / method of working?
Swiss graphic design and silk-screened event posters are the biggest influences. I think it was looking at a lot of painting that got me to this style too. Painters like Anthony Lister, Helio Oiticica, Michael Raedecker. Only recently have I discovered the designs of Otl Aicher. His posters for the '72 Munich Olympics are eerily similar. As per method: 98% of my assignments come to me by email. But i've found that by calling the AD and letting him/her talk about what they're thinking, it's a bit easier to focus my ideas during the sketching phase. Sketching is VERY loose, until I layout a few in Illustrator. The sketching/research process takes like 60% of the time, while the sketch-to-finish process takes 40%. Also, I give the AD a bunch of color options for the final (this is a major advantage with digital).

how are you finding these "hard times" for illustration?
I actually work full-time as a graphic designer. All of my illustration work is completed at night. So, I'm working everyday and (nearly) every night during the week. Being a designer all day and having meetings with co-workers and being a part of a team is so important to my stability. I am fortunate not be itching and scratching for work.
where do you see your work going?
Though all my work is digital, I can see it being silk-screened and printed some day. Also, a lot of my work is flat, and I think it needs to have more depth/sense of space. I need to find time to take it to the next level. Selling prints and the occasional threadless.com submission are possibilities too.

what are you loving about illustration right now?

Flipping the pages of some magazines and newspapers and finding my favorite illustrators just KILLING IT time and time again. Seeing brilliant editorial solutions never gets old. You've actually interviewed a couple of the illustrators I'm talking about. Alex Nabaum, Brian Cronin, Shout, Dan Bejar, Gérard DuBois, Edel Rodriguez, Christoph Neimann to name a few. Seeing their work makes me quite humble too, they are real masters of communication. I almost take Christoph's work for granted, because his illustrations appear so simple and so clear. His financial page illustrations in the New Yorker continue to amaze.

what, in your opinion, needs to change about our industry to make it stronger for new / working illustrators?
Well, it's pretty clear that some magazines and newspapers will not exist in the future. And if they will exist in the future, you can bet the art budget in them will tumble. The same could be said for books and most publishing companies. Everything is changing quickly. It feels like illustrators need to be more than just illustrators to make a living. Most graphic designers I know do web design now. Heck, many of them do inter-active web design and animation too. A terrific example of what I'm thinking an illustrator could/should be is Jessica Hische. She's an amazing graphic designer, typographer AND illustrator. And her work could lend itself to so many other mediums, I mean, there are companies that could use her illustration and typographic work as their whole brand, and ad campaign, logo included. And all of it would be her own style, still. So, maybe we (editorial illustrators) just need to find other avenues that our work can exist in, besides printed/published media.

beautiful new work on your blog...thats not really a question...just wanted to let you know...
You're kind. I don't think my work is beautiful at all. It's a curious question though: Does illustration need to be beautiful?
what non illo stuff are you really into right now?
I take very long walks along 8th, 7th, 6th Avenues after work everyday, listening to my iPod. There is nothing better than walking around NY. Music tastes are electronic music and hip-hop. Autechre, Peanut-Butter Wolf, Junior Boys, Monolake to name a few. And i've really gotten into poutine.

any advice for new illustrators?
I live by this quote: "Diligence stands higher than talent" -Paul Klee. Try pulling some all-nighters if you havn't already, you'll probably have to at some point. Oh, and health insurance is kinda important too.

advice for older / established ones?
Oye, I wouldn't dare.

all images copyright Daniel Hertzberg. Super crazy well thought out work.
http://www.danielhertzberg.com

5.15.2009

SPARROW V SWALLOW (PHILLIP NESSEN)


where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I am from Marlboro, Vermont. It's a small town in Southern Vermont. I went to Parsons School of Design, first in an interdisciplinary design program, and then later focusing on illustration. I did my first illustration job the Summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, that was 2005 I think, and I started doing a a bit more work later near the end of that year. I wouldn't say I am a professional illustrator. I am a professional creative though. I get by on a mix of illustration, graphic design, web design, and photo editing.

You've only been a professional creative for a few years but already have a pretty amazing client list -what can you attribute that to?
I had one really good mailer. Everyone loved it. Also, I picked up quite a few jobs by friend and clients recommending me for things, which I am thankful for.

Would you recommend artists reps to younger/new illustrators?
No. My grandfather and his brother invented a certain meat product that is made out of a different meat than it should be made out of. I won't say which. They were good business men, and told me you have to open every bill and sign every check yourself. They learned that from their dad, a farmer. Illustration is a business too. I had a rep pretty much right out of school and looking back I should have developed better business practices early on. No one is going to handle your career as carefully as you will.
What can you tell me about Sparrow v. Swallow?
It is my creative studio. I am getting it LLC'd.

It seems like you've done several major changes to your style post grad, whats behind that - have you found any difficulties with this choice - in terms of clients, promotion, work etc.?
I don't think there have been too many major changes? I just want to be multi-dimensional. I wouldn't push a different style on a client who is hiring me for something or anything like that. It's not like, this is me now. I do different things so I can solve different problems better, and make myself available to solve more types of problems. When I graduated school and my portfolio was twelve pictures of sad guys coming out of holes. Work like that was influenced by the school environment, you know? It was forged without real world pressures like: can it be applicable to many situations? do I like making it enough to do this day after day? I do a lot more work now. This new stuff goes easy and is sort of catchy. Before, I knew what I wanted things to look like and was good enough with the computer that I just made it happen, but now I enjoy drawing for the first time ever maybe. I'll look out of a window and see a building and go, drawing that building would be fantastic. I think before I would have said, oh god I hope no one hires me to draw anything with that building in it. It's weird, yeah?

where do you see your work going from this point?
I have never sold a print before. I never tried to before because I never really though my work was appropriate in that context. Recently, I feel like it would look great on a wall, so I would be interested in selling some prints. Otherwise I would like to keep growing my client list and trying new things. I am also working on this art project, it's not really an illustrated thing, that examines interpretations of field recordings.
did you find University prepared you properly for the real world?
Nothing can do that. I had two really great teachers though. Neil Swaab was the only person who taught me anything about business. Neil definitely made it sound like the world was full of possibilities. The other teacher was PJ Loughran. He judged class work by real world standards, and I really respect that. He really got everyone to produce the best quality work they could make. The head of the illustration department, Steven Guarnaccia was also very supportive. I feel like he went out of his way to make me feel aware of this lineage of illustrators we are all part of, though in my case in a very minor way.

How important is NYC to you as a creative / person?
For design things, New York is pretty much a giant ripe fruit. For better or worse I walk around with big hungry eyes. Sometimes I am surprised how easy it is to get a bite though, yeah?

How do you go about solving problems / coming up with ideas?
For conceptual illustration, I prefer to write out my ideas as opposed to using thumbnails when developing ideas. I like to be able to explain to myself in writing why the idea would work.

thoughts on working traditionally vs. working digitally?
I like working digitally. That works for what I need to do. I really don't have an ounce of artist in me, I like solving problems that are put in front of me. I think I read an interview with George Sanders about how the energy level of his writing drops when he does anything else. I just have a lot of energy to spend on work when something is put in terms of a problem. I feel like if you are making something that is the thing in and of itself, then you sort of owe it to the work or whoever is buying it to make it legit, and paint it or whatever. But if you are just making a thing that is doing some job I can't see a problem with making it look like a silkscreen or painting on the computer. I really love experimenting with the computer too. Messing things up and seeing what weird things I can come up with. I take screenshots and put them in a folder.
how important is getting out of the house and doing non work related activity
- sports, movies etc.
It used to be not very important, but my girlfriend is working with me on it. It's very My Fair Lady, you know what I mean? Actually, I know folks with babies say something similar, but in my own sad, miniature way, with the more I have to do in the real world, I find myself focusing better and developing better work habits. Also the illustrator Ilana Kohn got me to start running two years ago, which is good I think for the circulatory system.

what are you loving about illustration right now?
Siggi Eggertson. He's an amazing genius, yeah? My friend Max Holyoke-Hirsch is a treasure. Rutu Modan's work is catchy. I think Jennifer Daniel's work is funny. Jashar Awan's stuff has really, really grown on me. I can't quite understand what he is doing with his drawing, but he just nails it every time.

anything in general you'd like to see get more hype?
Gene Clark never gets enough credit. Secular humanism?

advice for new / young illustrators
Keep widening your interests, don't narrow them. Someone told me that four years ago, it took me a while to realize that they were right.

advice for established / old illustrators
I wouldn't dare.
All images copyright Sparrow v Swallow. See more great work here: http://www.sparrowvswallow.com/

5.14.2009

JUAN CARLOS SOLON


where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was born in the Philippines in Quezon City, then hopped around alot, but most of my life I was raised in Toronto Canada. I recently graduated 3 weeks ago so I guess you can say I've been "professionally illustrating" for three weeks.

so, are you freaked out?
Of course, everyone gets a little freaked out after they graduate. A lot of questions are raised and a lot of wallets are very empty. I always hear the scary stories about what it feels like after graduating. So during school I tried my best to use the momentum I had after I graduated to keep myself busy and positive about the future. Even though its only been threeish weeks and I have those scary feelings that I'm not in school anymore, I'm excited at the prospect on what I can accomplish in the future.
how was your school experience?
It was amazing, I practically lived in school and I loved it. What I'm going to miss most is having that sense of an artist community around you all the time. Everyone in my class did such great work that it was hard not to be inspired and motivated. The profs were wonderful and truly helped me find my path as an illustrator. It was also nice to learn different things each week. I think that's also important when your out of school, to keep learning and never stop. But what I'm going to miss most is room A128 (Shoutout!!) and Vietnamese Pho trips we took like everyday haha....damnit I wanna go back to school now!!

what are you anticipating in the next year?

Well I don't wanna jinx anything! but I'm anticipating and hoping for myself to be busy with illustration. Even if its just still promoting my work or trying to get my book published or even doing illustration work. I feel that if I try to keep myself in a rhythm and work hard ultimately I will see results, no matter what form it takes.

if I'm an AD why should i hire you as apposed to someone more established?
Ooh, hard hitting question!! Well, every illustrator has something different they bring to the table and that's their personality in their work. I feel that my work speaks honestly to myself as well as the ideas that I portray. The images I make are colorful, bold and in your face but are held together with an idea. I think it doesn't matter if you're established or just graduating. If I can make images that speak to the message and to an audience (and have them in on time) then I think I'm just as effective as an established illustrator. Even though I just graduated I consider myself professional and I am pretty confident in what I do, and I hope AD's see that as well. However I know I'm still really fresh on the scene and there's a lot you can learn from experience, and I'm really excited to experience and learn more.
how are you gonna blow some minds promotion wise?
I try to keep in contact with different illustrators to see what works best when promoting themselves. The unanimous answer is always to keep sending promotion at least 3 times a year and to A LOT of clients. The aim promotion wise for me now is to be unique and not just show my best pieces, but be creative and make it stand out.

what / who are some major inspirations?
During my first 2 years in School, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I also didn't really have any artists that I admired. So one of the things I did was buy books of artist's that spoke to me. It's one of the best choices I have ever made, artists like: Ralph Steadman, Joseph Clement Coll, Gerald Scarfe, Franklin Booth, David Levine etc. Their images opened my eyes to the possibilities that someone can achieve with illustration. Also they pretty much taught me that anything and everything can be done with ink. I recently interned with Kagan McLeod in the summer and he has been a huge inspiration for me as well.
list your top 5 - just graduated - dream clients!
Well in no particular order: 1. New Yorker 2. Sports Illustrated 3. Rolling Stone 4. Complex 5. Wired

advice for fellow grads / new illustrators?
My girlfriend got me an autographed copy of "Drawing Blood" by Gerald Scarfe for Christmas and he wrote inside. "To be a successful illustrator, you need hard work, talent and determination" its straight forward, true and hopefully written by him!

advice for old / established ones?
Keep making inspiring beautiful work so that I may be jealous and work harder.
All images copyright Juan Solon
thanks Juan, looking forward to seeing where your work will go
see for yourself: http://juansolon.com

5.12.2009

CHRISTIAN NORTHEAST

where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was Born In Bath, England. I came to Canada ( with Parents ) when I was about 2 years old. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto. I have been an illustrator for about 16 years.

how long did it take for illustration to become your full time job? did your career have a "big break" - if so what was it?
It took about 5 years for me to become a full time illustrator after graduating from art school in 1990. I quit my art supply store job when I got an assignment from Rolling Stone in 1995 . My "big break" was submitting work to American Illustration and being invited to do the cover. It was a huge boost.


can you remember doing any really bad jobs when you were getting started just to get your foot in the door?
Not really. I think I would have been happy to work and pay the rent.

although totally coherent, your work seems to encompass several different styles - from more serious to light hearted. when given a brief do AD's request a certain look or is that all you? how do you decide which direction to go?
I usually ask the AD if there is something of mine that they are looking at / like. This helps establish a direction. Many times the AD will leave it up to me, and I will work out my solution based on the story, audience, mood, etc.

characters in your work seem generally pretty happy, are you a pretty happy guy?
I tend to fall into the cynical and paranoid category. I guess I'm happy with that.

stylistically, how did you wind up where you are now?
I'm not exactly sure. I just try to do things that keep my brain engaged.

what is it about the aged look that draws you in?

I've always loved old print and vintage images, I've collected stuff for years, it just works it's way back into my work. It's also a way of softening up the sometimes harsh quality of Photoshop.

what are some major influences in your work?

As a kid, I loved Mad magazine, SCTV, Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python, and 50's horror/sci-fi movies, I see bits of those things in my work....I've always been drawn to anything bold and graphic. Old movie posters, signs, collage, punk/new wave stuff from the 70's, folk art, vintage graphic design, and cheap printing.

what can you tell me about "prayer requested", that looks pretty awesome...
A few years ago I was asked by Bulb comix ( http://www.bulbfactory.ch/ ) to do a tiny accordion style, two color comic. I was looking for subject matter on the internet and came across online prayer groups. People who post prayers online in hopes of having other people pray for them. Most of the prayers were related to illness and financial problems, but every so often there would be an oddly worded one, or a strange request. I collected a bunch of them and created artwork to go with the text. I just finished the book and I think it will be out in about June ( in time for Christmas ) It's a small book ( 96 pages ) and its full of new images and prayers... the images on my website are not in the book.

is this the first time you've worked with drawn and quarterly?
how did that relationship come about?

Yes. They emailed and asked if I wanted to do a book for their Petits Livres series. They originally proposed it as a book of my artwork, but I offered up the prayer idea, and they liked it.

you seem to have a bit of love for cinder block buildings, whats that all about?

I think I've used those types of buildings for some overly ironic paintings.

working traditionally vs. working digitally
I like to mix the two. The computer has been an incredible tool for work, I couldn't work without one now.


do you listen to music when you work?

I listen to a lot of WFMU.


what are your thoughts on the illustration industry right now?

I worry that the devaluation of print is going to make it very tough for illustrators to make a half decent living. I make the mistake of reading The Media is Dying ( http://twitter.com/themediaisdying ) It's informative, but a little painful to read.

what effect is the recession having?

I'm having good year so far, and haven't really felt any drop off in work....but it's only May, maybe the remaining
7 months will be a total horror.

how important is getting out of the house and doing non illustration related activity
- sports, movies etc.

I have two kids that keep me from staring at my computer all day.
you have a few short movies on your site, think you'll work on anything longer in the future?
My movies are a few years old, and not very good. Attempts at figuring out AfterEffects. I'd love to work on something bigger, but time, and lack of skills get in the way.

anything in general you'd like to see get more hype?
Listen to The Best Show on WFMU, buy my book when it come out , Susan Boyle ?

advice for new / young illustrators
If you work really hard, and really believe in what you are doing, you will most likely find some success......also, don't be in a rush to make money........and a little bit of youthful naive optimism can go a long way too.

advice for established / old illustrators

You can throw out your fax machine.
all images copyright Christian Northeast. wowzers!!!
see more work here: http://www.christiannortheast.com
thanks christian!!! COOOOOL stuff

5.11.2009

JON KRAUSE

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
Born, raised, and still live in Philadelphia. I got out of school in 1999 and have been doing this ever since.

Right off the bat, when going to your website up come 3 words: Times, Tones and Temperatures - Im curious about this - what its in reference to etc
Basically these were how my web designers (Red Canoe) chose to organize my work on the site. The different times of the day that I work, color palettes, etc.

According to your bio you grew up drumming - do you still drum?
Im always drumming. I took both drum and art lessons up until about the age of 14 when my mom basically told me to pick one and stick with it.... I guess artist or drummer doesn't exactly sound like two viable career options to most parents. I stuck with art, but continued to hit things with sticks.

Who were you listening to when you go into drumming? (Im semi picturing one of those Tommy Lee double bass drum stacks)
I listened to a lot of different drummers- Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Joe Morello, and Ginger Baker to name a few. I was in high school during the grunge years, so I played a lot of Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden.
I actually just got a new kit, not Tommy Lee style, one built for a row home to minimize police involvement.
I assume you're still teaching - how has that helped you grow as an illustrator / person?
I actually stopped teaching last year. I might take another teaching job at some point, but for now Im focusing on some other things. Ill definitely miss helping the really hard working and gifted students cultivate their talent. I love seeing the light go on.
I was also very fortunate to have some great people come in to Tyler and present their work in exchange for paltry compensation, praise, and a ride from the train station.
Probably wont miss sending deficiency reports, filling out evaluations, doing gradesheets, or any other paperwork though...

Conceptually your work is above and beyond ... well ... almost everyone - whats your process for brainstorming etc?
Thanks Pete. Basically Ill read the story or brief a couple of times and try and get the simplest essence of what its about, whether its a straightforward story on a subject like love, or something more complex like whether or not mandatory arbitration clauses should be allowed in nursing home contracts (just completed that one today.)
Ill highlight words that I think will further the visual, and start sketching out whatever comes to mind. I try and mesh the article with my own visual vocabulary, or whatever Im interested in at the time, and produce as many quality solutions as I can. Sometimes the ideas come quickly, other times its a struggle. Sometimes you might have to go back and forth with the art director on a couple of rounds. Hopefully at the end, one of the sketches grows up to be an illustration
I remember first seeing your work about 4 years ago - at the time it seemed a bit more painterly - How have you noticed your work changing over time?
I think I've simplified things a lot, both in how I work and what I paint. Every artists work evolves over time through new experiences. I've never looked back at an old piece and not recognized I did it, although sometimes its so bad I wished I never did it.

Is your work traditionally done, or was it ever for that matter? Its one of those styles that you're almost sure is traditional - but its done so exact that its sometimes good for my self esteem to assume its not
I still work old school. Acrylic paint on paper or wood usually with the rare canvas thrown in when Im feeling ritzy. I occasionally use the computer to finish a job up against a quick deadline but everything originates by hand.

Being as established as you are, do you get more freedom from ADs now to kinda "do what you like" then you did when first starting out?
If there are art directors out there with editors willing to tell artists "do what you like" please pass them my phone number.
I think you have to treat every job like its a job interview, because it essentially is, no matter how long you've been illustrating.
Im not sure if you caught it, but recently Gary Taxali made a post titled "Dont Call Me" - in reference to clients trying to get work for free or having unfair / full rights - have you experienced this much / whats your reaction to this?
I didn't see the post, but I would think and hope every artist would feel similarly. Illustrating is a career, not a hobby. I think if schools taught the business end more it wouldn't be so prevalent a problem. If illustrators agreed to having their fees driven down and rights grabbed up by voracious corporations, whets left will be a watered down industry devoid of the talent it thrived on.

What, in your opinion is the state / future of illustration
The current state of illustration for me hasn't changed that much in the time period I've been involved in the business. If you ask someone that's been doing it longer, they might have a different opinion.
Because most of my work is editorial, Im definitely worried about the future of magazines and newspapers as a venue for illustration. I hope that if there is a total shift to web content that illustration is still valued and that there will be the same emphasis on design of the e-zine as there was in print.
Where do you see your work / career going?
To be completely honest, I have no clue. I work a lot, and hopefully that doesn't change for the sake of my mortgage and my dog's treats. I think the more work you do, the more it has a chance to evolve.
I started participating in gallery shows, and I might do more of that. At some point I might teach again in the right situation.

advice for new illustrators?
I was very lucky to have a great teacher in college (Dave Noyes) who taught both the artistic and business side of illustration. One of the most important things he said was that art directors cant hire you if they don't know you're out there. Initially, besides having a strong portfolio, the willingness to go above and beyond in promoting yourself is the most important part of starting your career.
If you are successful in getting work, its essential to know the business side of illustration, which we touched on above. I wish more schools brought in contracts, explained rights, ethics in business practice, etc. so that students would be better prepared.
I guess the best advice would be to ask questions if you don't know. Most illustrators are more than willing to help if they get an email from a student or recent grad looking for a little guidance.

advice for older / established ones?
I still feel like Im learning, so I dont think I would have much wisdom to impart on anybody that's been doing this for awhile.
All images copyright Jon Krause - have a look at his website everyone: http://www.jonkrause.com
Thanks Jon, you're the man!!!

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

5.08.2009

JACK DYLAN

Heres a new interview with my close personal friend and tragic clown Jack Dylan. I love Jack and his work - please soak in his professional glow...

where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
Stratford Ontario (like you, Pete.) I've been illustration professionally for like, God, four years.

you started your career as a fine artist / painter, is that fair to say?

Yeah that's correct, I made show of 20 paintings, than sold them and moved to Montreal.

then a poster artist?
Correct again, I moved into a warehouse space with some friends, mostly musicians, and I started to make posters for the events we would hold there.

so, if someone were to ask now, if you were a painter, poster artist, illustrator or all 3 - whats the response?
I'd say illustrator, because really my paintings were quite illustrative, and I never quite bought the whole "fine art" vs. illustration thing.
how is illustration different from the other two?
Well, I guess I see what you mean... "Illustration" is when an art director contacts me, and it pays, and it's sometimes a thing you never expected to do, like drawing the finance minister. --- Poster art is for someone who usually knows me, and usually knows nothing about the process. They knows a lot more about Bonnie Prince Billy than they do about illustration, they likely never say the word. --- Painting (these days) is for me, and is generally considered to be a waste of money.

would you consider yourself a "JACK of all trades"?
Yes! Jack of all trades master of none, is the full expression.

did you find university helpful in your illustration career?
I didn't go to university. I didn't go to college either, I went to a two year program in the basement of high school in London Ontario. --- University probably would have helped a lot because I know nothing now. I think about what I missed out on a lot. I thought I could teach my self how to draw, I figured that it was just practice, not science. --- I didn't go because I was too anxious to start making "art". --- Now everyone my age is finished university and I haven't started anything.

i understand you date alot of models - whats that all about? what do models have the regular girls dont?
Complexes. That's a major turn on for me.
your work is closely related to the montreal indie scene - in fact, in some ways you're a montreal celebrity - why do you relate to that particular scene so well / why is it so important to you?
Hmm... I don't know. Really I'm in a transition right now I think, I'm growing up and I'm feeling like I need to move on, but it's difficult. pretty soon the scene is going to move right out from underneath me and I wont be missed. --- Music scene's are kind of like that, you know. --- The thing to do now is to grab hold of something else if I can, but I'm grasping. I'm not sure I'm strong enough for something more...

I got into show posters and music because I was surrounded by that, instead of going to art school I opened a loft venue in my house; so poster art in that way was an adaptation, a way for an artist to work in an all music environment. --- The energy and the audience is exhilarating, it's fun to be a part of, even if you're just on the side lines. But you're never center stage, ultimately your just attached to someone else's art. (That's how I see it on my dark days at least.) It's a collaboration, which is fun, but you're no equal. --- I would like to work on something which can stand on it's own. Something which is %100 my own.

Also too, when I was working in music I was working alone. It had nothing to do with the world of art, except the small amount of other poster artist, but I didn't think about them to much because our styles were usually so different. Since then though, I've entered commercial illustration, and I've had to measure myself against others in that field.


you do some work with the CBC, is that right?
I recently made one poster for Wire Tap, which is awesome because I love Jonathon Goldsteins work; and it was a real pleasure to work with him. --- He lives in Montreal and knew my work from my posters in the neighborhood.

what are your thoughts on working traditionally vs. working digitally?
Well, working digitally in the way that some illustrators do is certainly no short cut, they're doing totally new and beautiful things with a cutting edge medium, so in some ways digital can be more exciting. But on the other hand many do use it as a short cut... and well, there can be good and bad illustrators on either side. Too me it's like the different between oil and acyclic.
rumour has it you had a bit of a "break down" recently, can you elaborate on that?
That's how I described it to you, yes. --- You should have opened with that question, we'd still have people reading.

Yes, I look at the body of things I've produced and I think about all the time I've spent to create them. --- What's there was ok up until about a year ago but then it just stops.... I thought that I would have done so much more by now, a comic, an animation, learning how to ink properly, learning how to draw hands; people, a cup! --- I'm starting to think that I'm just not capable of it.... It's become very frustrating, lately I've been unable to finish any ideas and what does come out is never satisfying. I thought I would have gotten better at drawing but it just seems to be getting harder. My standards have gone up, but my abilities stopped following.

I look at a lot of other illustrators work these days and it just really depresses me.

The oddest thing is that I feel like I have no style, (something I never even considered before) I worry that I've just been ripping people off for the past four years and hadn't noticed.


does mental illness run in your family?
It's rampant. --- I do worry about cracking up. Sometimes it can happen to people. I think I'll be fine I guess. I'm just very upset about the caliber of my work. I really hope that it improves, because otherwise I'm not sure I can be happy. I have a lot of ideas, but I feel like I lack the talent or time to implement them. That bothers me more than anything.

where do you see your work going from this point?
I want to make comics, films, animations, and become a good illustrator. I want to do the cover of the New Yorker. I love that magazine and am I huge fan of all it's content. --- What I'm interested in more than anything is story telling, so I want to tell stories in all the ways possible, not just through illustration. I'm a huge fan of radio and I try to write... what I'd really like to do next is add that extra ingredient to my work: Words, as in the case of comics, or Movement as in animation. I want to take what I have now, and I want it to evolve in a pretty big way. But it's not clear whether or not it's possible.

congrats on the NMA - when do you find out the results?
I don't know. I really don't expect to win. But it's nice. I like a lot of the people I'm up against and I would like to be more like them.

what do you do to promote yourself?
I'm part of collective, so we're up on ad base, and they send promo in the form of email an postcards. Any agent I've haven't applied to has rejected me or not written back. Sometimes I send my own post cards, a lot of my best work, like with Toronto Life, CBC, or Pop Montreal, has kind of been through friends. --- I wish more people hired me actually. I probably do a pretty poor job of promoting my self.

how long till NY comes calling...or vice versa?
I don't know, maybe a year? I have a wonderful girlfriend and she's just finishing at Mcgill, so maybe after that.

do you still advocate that global warming is a hoax?
Dammit Pete, you said that. I'm terrified of Global Warming! Frightened to Death.

advice for new illustrators trying to make a name for themselves?
No, sorry. --- Wait, Stop trying to compete with me, it's driving me crazy! I can't take this doom stricken economy and it's never ending stream of art grads. FUCK.

advice for old / established illustrators???
No. --- Please help me though if you're out there. Seriously, I'd really love guidance or an apprenticeship or something. Seriously.


All images copyright Jack Dylan
Jacks beautiful work can be found on his website www.jackdylan.ca
Thanks Jack...feel better :)