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!
I'm Greek. I grew up on a small island called Spetses, which is two hours away from Athens by boat. During my childhood I used to draw a lot and with my environment's encouragement, I grew up having a conscious creative identity. As a perfectly logical step when I finished school I wanted to study painting. As it happened, I studied painting and attended the mosaic and graphic design studios at the Athens School of Fine Arts. The latter was the one that defined my next step. I loved its process and discipline and I started working as a freelance graphic designer. I came to the U.K to do a postgraduate degree in graphic design and I decided to stay in London for my present future. The graphical work that surrounded me influenced me a lot. I started illustrating as part of my work, and gradually it became my work! The transition came very naturally as a progress and it felt the very right thing for me to follow, it combines many things I love doing. I have been illustrating professionally for a little less than a year.
what steps are you going to take to have the career in illustration you'd like?
I think it is essential to be aware of what is happening around, what are the current trends, the concerns etc. so I try to keep up. I look to find the ways that enable me to get my work promoted better. I am taking care of everything that is related to my work, like my website, blog, flickr photo stream, prints and promotional material. I aim to update my internet sites regularly with new work, so to keep others well informed of what I am doing. Also I seek to introduce my work to people that I respect and admire because of their work.
can you talk a little about your process?
I always start by expressing my thoughts on paper. Rough sketches with several notes are part of my usual beginning. Sometimes I even add cuttings from newspapers, and alter the image with the use of a marker. When I reach a clear idea that I like, I start to create my desirable composition on illustrator software. This would be my framework. Sometimes a very careful and detailed sketch on paper may precede it to use it as a guide, and I may also use some pictures to draw specific information like: shoes, glasses, clothes etc. I create the artwork gradually, I make the outlines first and I always leave space for improvisation. Usually I don't care much about the details in the early stages. And quite often, I enjoy printing the work and interfere with my pencil in a way to speed up the process of finding design solutions, which I adapt afterwards on illustrator. As you see I may think with a pencil or a marker, but I prefer the digital medium to make my artwork. It offers high accuracy, which I like very much, and I maintain control of the result.
what inspires your work?
Everything I think; a phrase on the wall, a riddle, the clutter and the unexpected. Markets, vintage objects, toys of all kinds and books! The supermarkets, museums, the city traffic and the tranquillity of the countryside. The posters in the underground, the early Renaissance period, décor magazines, cheap gravures, newspapers, the news. Generally, I love to observe things around me. To observe people, guessing things about them from their behaviour and the traces they leave in their passing.
favourite time of day to work on a project?
Usually when I have a deadline I work without time preference. It could be all day long. But in general I'd say that I very much enjoy working early afternoon until evening. I think concentrate more at that time of the day.
what's the best way for you to come up with ideas?
Firstly, I want to understand what's the general idea of the subject, what are the key issues and what's the purpose. I always do research on the subject; trying to find as much information as possible. During this process, I begin to have many ideas and almost always I start to think about more than one at the same time. In the process some elements are merged, and I end up having at least one good idea to suggest. That's my standard way. But also sometimes my ideas start with a case and a lot of questions. Something like a mind game. For example, if the subject is migraines, I will begin to "play" with the things I see around me by having questions like: if my coffee mug had a headache what would it look like? That's actually great fun and very helpful to approach my subject from many angles and to enrich my pictorial narrative.
who are your top 5 dream clients?
Oh, I don't know, I haven' t thought about it.. Mmm... The other day I was looking at The New Yorker magazine's covers, and I got jealous! I would definitely feel ecstatic to make their cover. And that is not just because of the cover, but also it would mean being part of the tradition of good illustrators.
advice for new illustrators like yourself?
Never give up! Fabulous things are about to happen!! It's something I often say. So, keep going!!
advice for older/established ones?
Cannot think of something right now.
all images copyright Eleftheria Alexandri - check out more here: http://www.ilikeyellow.com/
its all very very awesome!!!
i read on your blog that you like talking to strangers, how far does one take that - just a quick conversation or full on, all night debates?
I think actions like that are character building - ever learn anything really insightful about yourself from a stranger?
I've certainly learned how to be an awesome first date and how to show up alone to events and not be afraid to talk to new people (which is SO important in New York / in general)
You might be best known for your type work, at least...thats how I know your work best. Im of the mindset that creative work is an extension of ones personality - how is your type an extension of yours?
I read also that you consider yourself a designer / illustrator as apposed to an illustrator / designer ... whats the real distinction between the two in your mind?
What are the best things to do on an average night in NY - not a special night, but a regular night off ?
You get alot of people asking you questions about you and your work - why do you think people are so comfortable approaching you for advice or insight?
what are your favourite things in the world?
any advice for new creatives, trying to get their foot in the door?
any advice for older / established ones?
all images copyright Jessica Hische - go here: http://jhische.com/index.html and take a long look through her typography section - its amazing!!!
I was born and raised in this great nation’s capital…Ottawa; home of beaver tails, the Rideau Canal, and incidentally…my parents! I graduated back in April, so I guess I’ve been “professionally illustrating” for five months now. But before that I’ve been involved in gallery work for a little over a year now.
so, apparently you come off as a "douche" in interviews, what do you attribute that to?
I don’t think you can attribute that to any one thing in particular…it’s taken years of practice and education…and let’s be honest, a little bit of talent. I’ve worked hard to become the mega-douche that you “see” before you…. and plus, I usually wear a really Deep-V when I write these things.
technically you're still a pretty new graduate, although in a way you seem like you've already done so much - what are you currently focusing on?
Thanks for saying that Pete :). The last little while has been kind of interesting, a large part of my focus has gone towards developing a larger body of work for two gallery shows I have coming up in the next couple of months one with LeBasse Projects in LA and the other here in Toronto at Show and Tell Gallery in March; I’m really excited about the work that’s being produced and to be able to share it with everyone…I hope it comes across honestly.
Along with that, I’ve been trying to reinvigorate some of my other art related passions…things like design, animation, and interpretive dance! Really just trying out as many different avenues as I can. Also, I’ve been super fortunate to be asked to contribute to a few really cool collaborative projects as well! One is this sweet deck of cards redesign which is being headed by my buddy Dave Murray; the project looks to have a book release as well as a sweet show tied in with it, and has about 19 illustrators and designers involved, including Juan Solon, Yuta Onoda and many more…it’s going to be pretty rad! Oh another thing, I’m actually gearing up for the release of my very first screen print! I got a chance to collaborate with Jon Todd on a screen print of my design that will be released on September 17th through my site. I’m really excited for it!!
(Wow, sorry for all the shameless promo…this is what I mean by ‘douche’)
how are exhibition shows different from illustrating?
Well from my experiences with illustration and gallery exhibitions I’ve found the two worlds sort of parallel each other in many ways; I find myself working up concepts or vision behind the pieces, and coming up with imagery that is true to me but that still conveys what I’m trying to say… and at times developing the work with the mindset that it will be viewed by a particular audience, and if there is a feeling or thought that I would like to resonate with them. The amount of time you invest in the work is usually considerably different; many people spend 3-4 months pouring themselves into the work for a single show at times. I’d have to say the biggest difference would have to be with gallery type work, it’s more about communicating your own personal narrative, and challenging yourself to develop and enrich your visual vocabulary and personal voice, so that you can invite people in to see and share this part of who you are…that’s how it is for me at least.
how has your work been changing post grad?
I had a really good conversation with Tessar a while back, I think it was around the time he was gearing up for his solo… and I was talking to him about the shift in his work and what kind of triggered it for him and simply put he said, “Why deny part of who you are?” It really resonated with me. I guess you could say with that I’ve been trying to do work that comes more naturally to me, and develop a process that is the same, be it the medium I use or the imagery…if it’s something that I think will challenge me and help me grow with the work, I’m gonna go for it! From a technical point of view you could say I’ve sort of embraced my love of black and white imagery, as well as the overall dark tone of the images I produce.
if juan and yuta got into a fight, who would win?
That’s tough…cause Juan fights dirrty, and the dude is built like Brock Lesner…and Yuta is Japanese…nuff said. Wow, kind of the most difficult question in this interview……maybe we should pitch this to Spike and get em on Deadliest Warrior!
do you wanna talk a little about your process - i know you're a painting man, but im pretty sure your real passion is graphite - please correct me if im wrong...
Sure! With my process, I usually like to start with a concept or a feeling that I have, and I try and work off of that…sometimes I have a title in mind and for some reason it helps fuel the process. From there I grab the old post it notes and I like to work up a few small black and white thumbnails that are very loose, and have a lot of energy to them…once I’m happy with the thumbnail, I gather any reference I might need and jump into the final, trying to keep as much of the energy from the rough stages as I can. I’d have to say your pretty spot on with the graphite, definitely the medium that comes most naturally to me…I think a contributing factor to that would be my affinity for black and white images…for some reason I think a little more clearly in black and white. I’ve been trying to expand and work in some inks and acrylic for my black and white work…but I think graphite will always be my go-to guy.
how important is non art related activity to you?
Absolutely essential! I’m kind of a bad example for it myself, because I’m a bit of a workaholic (is it work if I love it?). But I try to find time to get away from it and do something fun and different, things that make me happy. For me cooking has been a big thing in the last little while, music, running, reading, dinners, exploring the nature around me, conversations, writing, road trips, standing outside and looking at the sky. In reality I should probably be spending more of my time doing those things, for the betterment of my being…but sadly I don’t think that’ll reflect too too well on the ol’ T22.
any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
Go out and have confidence in your ability and who you are, and try and experience as much as you can, good and bad. A friend once told me that you can’t make anything great unless you’ve experienced such a thing…so find out what it is you love, work hard and then love like a hurricane!
any advice for the old dogs?
I don’t think I’m qualified…a request though - keep filling me with wonder.
all images copyright Nimit Malavia - check out his website here: www.nimitmalavia.com
Thanks nimit, I love how good you are at drawing!
I’m from a lovely little city called Exeter, 2 hours from London (on the good train) and 20 mins from the beach, which will be great if we ever have a summer again.
what specific challenges do you face as being a (relatively) new illustrator?
The main challenge would be the same for any new illustrator I suppose, juggling the dream job with having to pay the bills. All of my work so far has been editorial, which I absolutely love doing, but the pay isn’t really enough to provide for the lean times when I’ve got no work on. I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the odd shift at my wife’s club to cover myself during these times though.
what specific challenges do you face as an illustrator from the uk?
It doesn’t seem to matter where you live as far as getting work goes, the internet overcomes these problems. I would say that the high price of living in England is quite prohibitive (as you well know), space is limited here and you have to pay a fortune if you want any. But then working out of dingy little shitholes is the romantic view that people have of the struggling artist isn’t it? Is it romantic? Not from where I’m standing, but I still wouldn’t swap it.
how has your style evolved, what were some of your early influences?
I tried pretty much every way of working possible during college before I found the way I work now. Charcoal, acrylics, watercolour, pencil, ink, digital, figurative, abstract, naïve blah blah blah and loads of variations in between. I didn’t know what it was I was looking for at the time but something always felt wrong for some reason or other. With hindsight I think I was just looking for something that would be able to communicate the range of my ideas effectively and also kind of serve as a representation of me as a person, in the way that clothes might for example. Sounds easy when it’s put like that doesn’t it? No matter what medium I used it was always quite graphic and fairly minimalist and I think since then I’ve just focussed in on the essential ingredients. I love the deferred communication that suggestion and metaphor can give and I try to use this as much as I can. Noma Bar does something similar to this but with negative space, his stuff is amazing. An early influence from my childhood would include the MAD comic, I was too young to get most of the jokes but I loved the drawing, I think I learnt how to draw noses from looking at the drawings in there. I also used to have lots of Giles anthologies but I don’t know what it was that I got from these! The late 80’s / early 90’s skateboard scene has probably influenced me a lot too. I rode a skateboard for years and my first board was an old Gator deck (he seemed like such a nice young man!!), the graphics on these boards were great. The way the paint used to crack after skating around in the rain too much probably influences the kind of textures I’m using now.
whos work are you loving right now?
There’s so many people doing stuff that completely blows me away it’s hard to know where to start. There’s yourself of course, Zara Picken who, like me, is relatively new to this but seems to be a complete natural, David Plunkert, Shout, Emiliano Ponzi, Paul Blow, Paul Thurlby, Noma Bar, Daniel Pudles, Dan Page, Blair Kelly, Yuko Shimizu, Edel Rodriguez………I could go on for ages.
what can we expect (in your opinion) in the next few years for our industry?
I’m still a bit green to be answering a question like that. Maybe a huge upsurge in the demand for illustration, fees skyrocketing like never before, illustrators being treated like rock stars or football players and enough jobs for everyone! (if we build it they will come) If only everything turned out like a Kevin Costner movie. There seems to be a need for a worldwide illustrators union type of thing but that’s probably idealistic and maybe not very progressive thinking on my part. I’ll stop short of ranting about parallels in the fashion industry with Primark and H&M selling off the shelf ‘images’ for less than you would have paid 20 years ago but I hope some bright spark will come along with an idea that will divert the illustration industry away from the same fate.
tell me about your wifes punk rock club!!!
My wife is the coolest part about me! I have a wife that runs a punk venue (if you’re a purist I use the term Punk quite loosely). It’s called the Cavern Club (not the Liverpool one) and has hosted some of the best underground bands in the world. It’s a fairly small venue, 220 capacity, and is gorgeously rough around the edges and also one of the best places I’ve been to see a band. Some of the bands that have been through the place are – Quicksand, Sick Of It All, Burning Airlines, Rival Schools, The Hives, Jets to Brazil, Bluetip, Fugazi, Samiam, Agent Orange, The Spermbirds, RX Bandits and loads of other great names that I can’t remember right now. Coldplay and Muse also played early shows there, as did the Kaiser Chiefs, Ordinary Boys, Idlewild and other big names. Damon Albarn was even down there with The Good, The Bad and The Queen, mental.
your top 5 punk (or hardcore...or anything really) bands of all time...
That’s almost too difficult to answer! I’d have to put Fugazi in there though and I’ve always had a soft spot for Samiam. I think those two bands would always be in there but as for the last three spots, today I’ll go for Propagandhi, Husker Du and Refused. Those choices could be completely different on a different day though.
if you had just one dream mag to work with, who would it be and why?
I think the art director would be more important to me than the mag to a certain extent (although the cover of The New Yorker would be nice). I’ve had some great experiences with the art directors I’ve worked with so far but if I were to pick someone that I haven’t already worked with then I’d like to work with SooJin Buzelli one day. I consistently hear great things about her art direction and her results speak for themselves.
any advice for new illustrators?
Don’t give up, it might be just around the corner.
any advice for older established ones?
If I’m still getting work in 15 years time ask me then and I might have something worth hearing. If not, be nice to your dustman, it might be me!
All images copyright Mark Smith, seriously great work Mark!!
see more here: http://altpick.com/marksmith
The US market is huge but also there does seem to be a huge array of new illustrators coming onto the market every year - the choice of new talent on offer is incredible so getting yourself noticed is even more of a difficult task. One solution is an agent in the US they have a direct line to a lot of the zines over there and art-buyers - but that all costs 30%
It seems like you've had reps off and on during your career - although it might be off now...or on - what role to reps play for you / what should illustrators expect from a rep?
your beautiful work always has a wonderful conceptual edge, can you tell me about your brainstorm session / how you go about solving problems and coming up with ideas?
what role does colour play in your work and for you personally - because it seems to be a big one...
does the continuous crop of new illustrators ever freak you out?