12.30.2010

Caroline Hwang



1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

Originally from Los Angeles and 6 years in the making of being a New Yorker. I've been illustrating for about 7 years now

2. How did you come to choosing embroidering, and stitching your artwork?

As a kid, I always loved crafts. I used to spend my allowance at the fabric store by my house and half-ass projects. When I got to art school, I was still trying to find my style and realized I would never be one of those painterly, super amazing figure drawing artists. I started experimenting with sewing and collaging which ended up being my approach to art.

3. I know that for some artist their personal work/gallery work is often similar or the same as their illustration work. Do you see any difference between what you would do for a gallery versus what you would do for an illustration job?

Yea, I try to keep it separate. Stylistically it is similar but conceptually its pretty different. Illustrations need to be eye-catching and my personal work doesn't need to be that. I have subtleties in my personal work that is best seen in person.


4. What’s the coolest thing to happen to you while living in New York?

There's so many cool things that happen every day in New York, things that are unique. I would say the coolest thing while living here is learning about underground supper clubs AND starting one!



5. Do you miss California at all?

I do. My family and a lot of my really close friends live there so I miss them. I miss the weather when I'm in the 5th month of the brutal winter.


6. What’s your process when coming up with idea’s for a piece for a client?

If its for an editorial illustration, I'll read the story and try to grasp the overall concept. I really try not to go for the obvious and will play around with several sketches. I used to turn in sketches that I didn't like, but I made a strict rule not to do that anymore. It would end up that the client would choose the one I hated and I would end up with a illo that I wasn't proud of.

I like to play around with the mood of the piece as well which will usually lead to my color scheme, then I'll start collaging.


7. Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what kind of jams are you listening to these days?

Sometimes I listen to music and sometimes I listen to podcasts. I like having the background noise of people talking in the room so I'll listen to NPR. Recently I've been listening to the new Kanye West, The Tallest Man on Earth, Jenny and Johnny, Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang, and I've recently started listening to the Lemonheads again.




8. How was it at Surtex this year?

It was a fun and new experience. My rep (Frank Sturges Reps) gathered a bunch of us from the group to show at the booth. It is definitely a new world to explore, especially for illustrators. There's so much stuff out there and so much ho-hum art on it. It would be nice to have a fresh take.


9. What do you do in your spare time, when your not making artwork?

I cook and bake a lot. Its my other passion, other than eating. And I cuddle with my dog.


10. Do you have a favorite place to get cakes/desserts in Brooklyn?

I recently discovered this new place in my neighborhood called Beny's. They have THE best chocolate eclairs. There's chocolate filling on the inside that oozes perfection.



11. Would you ever consider "yarnbombing"?

Not really, its not something that I'm interested in. I like the guerilla aspect of making an ordinary object crafty and I like it when I see it. But I think if I ever did something like that, it would be a little different.

12. What’s your dream illustration job?

Anything that's experimental, whether its an animated project or a huge 3-d installation project that can be shown as illustration.



13. What are you loving about illustration right now?

I love that it's starting to embrace mixed media far beyond collages with paper. When I first graduated, most art directors had a hard time envisioning my stitched pieces in print. So it's nice that stitched, 3-d, etc are being printed more.


14. Advice to young illustrators trying to get their start?

Don't send in a sketch you wouldn't be happy to taking To a final and seeing in print, you never know if it'll get chosen.



15. Advice to the established folk?

I thinking have far more to learn from them than to offer any advice


16. Final Word?

Thanks and bye!

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Thank You Caroline!
All images are under ©opyright by Caroline Hwang

Her illustration work can be found - carolinehwangillustration.com
Her Gallery work/Zines can be found - Carolinehwang.net

-Daniel Fishel

Jon Han



1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

Im from California, where I still live and I've been illustrating for about 3 years.



2. Tell me about your first job, how you promoted when you started and how you promote yourself now?

The first job I received was from the New York Times. Working for Brian Rea.

When promoting I would send out postcard promos, get into Illustration annuals and kept a blog of my work. Even now I like to follow traditional methods of promotion mixed with promotion that is available through the Internet.



3. It seems like there’s a lot of amazing folk that came out of Art Center (Jason Holley, Frank Stockton, Josh Cochran, ect). What was your experience like at Art Center College of Design and what makes their illustration program pour out great talent?

Art center was a great experience for me. The faculty and fellow students all helped to drive me to create better work. I haven't really seen how other schools operate so I have nothing to compare it to, but definitely the staff and fellow students push you to want to create something great visually. I felt like the staff had different of thinkers that helped me see different perspectives on art/illustration.




4. I went through your blog the other day, and went as far back as your entries from 2005. You have some incredible sketch book pages, and you really know how to draw a figure. In your work lately, you have been drawing figures that are more simplified into shapes/marks. How have you come to how you draw today, and what’s the benefits to drawing in a more simplified way?

By simplifying the figures, it helps me play with other elements of the picture, gives me a lot more room to play with different types of shapes and environments and compositions. Since the figures are secondary most of the time, I feel like I have freedom to put other elements instead of relying solely on a figure to drive the point. I think it’s what interests me right now. I’m sure that it will change in the future.



5. Your work tends to be very smart, and you use a lot of abstract elements to drive a point across. I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about your process when it come to generating idea’s for a project.

When it comes to generating the ideas, I try to understand the point and mood that needs to be driven by picture. Then I usually like to think about what makes sense with the article and sort of get a visual in my head of what the final will look like and draw sketches for them. Using icons, symbols and visual metaphors.




6. What music do you listen to while you work? Do you have a particular song you listen to when you start/finish a huge job (ie: Eye of the Tiger)?

Nothing in particular, just whatever is playing on my iTunes playlist whether good or bad.



7. I noticed that you did some paper cut work for one of the post it note shows at Giant Robot. Are you doing any other gallery work or is it on a as invited basis?

I love doing gallery work, and I'd love to do more gallery shows.


8. What’s your Dream Client/Dream Job?

I'm not to sure on that. I want to do everything to be quite honest, from books, print, gallery, motion, you name it. There are a lot of great publishing houses, motion studios, ad agencies and talented people to work with. I couldn't name just one.





9. What do you do in your free time outside of illustration?

Live life



10. Own any Dog(s)?

Not presently. In the past yes, in the future probably.



11. What are you loving about illustration?

The voice and the growth.





12. Any advice for young illustrators breaking into the field?

Do good work. And keep doing good work


13. Any advice for the veterans?

Probably the same.



14. Final Word?

Thanks

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Thank you Jon!

All images are under ©opyright by Jon Han - Jon-han.com

-Daniel Fishel

12.15.2010

Kali Ciesemier



1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I'm from Glen Ellyn, a tiny suburb outside of Chicago, but moved to go to school at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I've been freelancing for a little over 2 years now.

2. What’s the art scene like in Baltimore? Do you participate in gallery shows often?

Baltimore has a nice art vibe. There are definitely fewer galleries/venues than a place like New York, but a lot of the artists living here came from MICA so there's a shared community feeling. I don't often participate in gallery shows. I try to participate when asked, but in general I focus more on my editorial work.

3. I love how much fun your pieces are. Could you walk me through on how you come up with your fresh ideas for a piece of art for a client?

Thank you! Hmm, oftentimes I'll get an image popping into my head right away, but when the subject matter is tougher I try brainstorming a list of words or symbols. Usually then I'll start quickly rough-sketching in Photoshop to get things moving, and pick a few favorites to refine into sketches for the client.




4. In your portfolio you have things that are flatly colored and other things that have alittle bit of a rendering. Do clients ever say, do this style, or do you just turn in whatever feels right for the piece?

Both! The majority of the time I don't get a specific directive & run wild, but sometimes they'll say "Hey, I like the style/color/texture on this piece, can you do something similar here?" Sometimes the specific pieces they mention are a surprise to me, so it's interesting utilizing a style or color palette that I might have otherwise not thought about.

5. What kind of music/movies do you watch or listen to when you work?

Oh man, all sorts! Movies, tv shows, audiobooks, podcasts, music, there's always something playing in the background in my apartment. I downgraded my cable to local channels so Netflix Instantwatch has been an awesome substitution. Here's a list of some favorites in all categories!

Audiobooks: Harry Potter series, best audiobook series hands-down.

Music: Wildly varies, but lately it's been Kanye and Big Boi's latest albums.

TV Shows: 30 Rock, the Simpsons, SNL, and Arrested Development are often on heavy rotation, supplemented by True Blood, Dexter, and Project Runway when they're on. I love Mad Men, but it is impossible to work with it in the background!

Podcasts: "Stuff You Missed in History Class" and "Stuff You Should Know" are fantastic podcasts that will quench your learning thirst.

Movies: Hot Fuzz is an all-time working-movie all-star. Actually, all the special features on all 3 Lord of the Rings movies also make great working material. (Showing the painstaking years-long work that went into these movies is really inspiring and puts you in your place!)

6. Could you talk alittle bit about what you illustrate for Picture Book Report and how you got involved in the side project?

Yeah! The Picture Book Report is a group of people (really talented people I'm lucky to be a part of! check out picturebookreport.com) who decided to make an illustration a month for one of their favorite books. Most of the books are favorite childhood/youth books. I decided to do illustrations for "Sabriel" by Garth Nix. It has a darker, more adventurous fantasy feel than most of the regular work that I do, so it's nice to be able to switch things up and do more textural narrative work. I've really enjoyed having it as a personal project, but I've only been able to complete 3 illustrations so far. Unfortunately it has to take a backseat to paid professional projects!




7. How did you get into doing Roller Girls Posters?

When I was a junior at MICA my character development teacher, Brian Ralph, gave the class an assignment to create a roller girl character based on one of the individual names from the Baltimore team (they all have really fun names like Rosie the Rioter, Blind Banshee, Grand Theft Autumn, etc.) Brian was later asked to create a poster illustration for one of the team bouts, but when he wasn't able to spare the time he ended up recommending me. The team liked my work, and after that I was able to use my jr. illustration final project to create 4 more poster illustrations. The roller derby community is relatively small but very enthusiastic, so my work spread around and I've since done some posters for other teams around the USA.

8. So I heard you're teaching an illustration class at MICA. Could you share alittle bit about that?

Last year I was asked to teach a "Digital as Illustration" class for freshman, and this year I taught an illustration class in MICA's 4 week long precollege summer program and an "Intro to Illustration" class for freshmen. It's been really interesting being on the other side of the coin. It seems like I often come home after class in "teacher-critique mode". I was incredibly nervous when I first started, but it's been great working with young students and pushing them to become better artists. The freshmen I've had are generally very open to critique and are already interested in learning as much as they can. I've found that the more I expect from them, the more they rise to the challenge.

9. What are you loving about illustration and/or not in love with?

I love the illustration community. I think every illustrator I've talked to, in person or online, has shown a great amount of support and geniality. Despite contending in the same field, I rarely feel any sense of competition or malice. However, I am in not in love with the shrinking opportunities for paid/well-paid illustration. (go figure!) It seems like in times past it was much easier to make a real living on editorial illustration alone--illustrations populated magazines, book covers, and advertisements. Of course times change and there's a whole world of new media open to us, but no one seems to have figured out how to make money off illustrations on the internet. (yet!) Also, art directors, maybe switching tactics (interesting illustrated covers instead of generic celebrity photo?) could help boost magazine sales, just sayin'… :)




10. Thoughts on the iPad – illustration talk?

We'll see what happens. It would be lovely if the iPad led to a new paid outlet for illustration or existing editorial work, but at the moment it's hard to tell how much impact it will have.

11. Dream Client(s)?

I would actually like to do more narrative, historical, or fantasy work. I looove reading sci-fi and fantasy novels, and I really enjoy researching historical details! A lot of the personal work I do in free time, like the "Sabriel" illustrations, tends to have a more fantastical or fictional origin. Some of my favorite editorial assignments have employed an art deco, film noir, or fantasy style.

12. What sort of things do you do when your not making art work?

For me, there's almost nothing better than curling up in a cozy spot with a good book (especially if there are cookies involved as well). I spend a lot of time working at home, and with the freedom that affords I've gotten really into cooking as well. The process of cooking isn't therapeutic for me like it is for some people, but when things work out in the end it feels GREAT to eat delicious food.




13. Any advice for the young illustrators just starting?

Keep motivated! Surround yourself with inspirational and supportive friends. The people who succeed in illustration are the people who keep challenging and improving themselves and who keep pursuing illustration opportunities. It's easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed, but you have to be patient and keep at it!

14. Any advice for the older ones?

No sir! I'm still learning the ropes!

15. Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for interviewing me!

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All images © Kali Ciesemier - Find more of her work at ciesemier.com/

No, Thank you Kali!

-Daniel Fishel

12.08.2010

Ben Snakepit

BEN SNAKEPIT




1 - Normally we kick off the interviews by asking "where are you from and how long have you been illustrating" but I'm not sure that really sums up what you do. So with this in mind and for those who don't already know - Where are you from and what is Snakepit?
I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. At the end of the '90s I was living in a punkhouse on Grace Street called the Snake Pit. I was a huge fan of Jim's Journal by Scott Dikkers, and when I found out it was fictional I saw an opportunity, so I stole his idea and did it for real.


2 - When you started did you have any idea how long you'd be doing it for? And have the ethics of the punk scene influenced you along the way?
When I first started, July 2000, I was just kinda drawing strips on the days that I felt like it, without any sort of direction. After self-publishing little zines of it for the first five months, I fine-tuned it, started adding the theme songs and made the commitment to draw a strip every day for the rest of my life. Here I am ten years later and haven't missed a day yet.
I guess punk ethics subconciously influenced me in the sense that I didn't wait around for somebody to offer to publish for me, I just went to the copy shop and did it myself for the first two years or so.

3 - It must have been great to see them compiled together in a book, how did the publishing thing happen?
Well, I was doing it as a zine and trading them through the mail with people, and I met Maddy Tightpants. She an I hit it off really well and became friends. She suggested that I send some Snakepits to Razorcake for review. Razorcake loved it, and when I went through LA that summer, Todd approached me and offered to do the first book. Once the first one came out, it was pretty easy to find publishers for the next ones.

4 - As the popularity of the books has grown has it affected the things you write/draw about? It must be a bit weird to think that people around the world are reading the ins and outs of your daily life.
YES it has affected what I draw and how I say it to the degree that I decided to stop publishing! Earlier this year I had made a decision to stop drawing the comics on 12-31-10, as that would mark ten years exactly. The reason I'd wanted to stop was because the comics had gotten so boring, because I couldn't put the truth about a lot of things in there. If my boss read some of the things I wanted to say about him, I'd lose my job for sure (same thing with a lot of my friends). After a lot of thought I decided not to quit drawing, but rather to quit publishing them, at least for a really long time (look for a new book around 2030).

5 - That's a real shame, although completely understandable (and I'll be looking forward to 2030!) Following on from my last question, has writing the comics ever affected the way you live your life at all, or decisions you make in everyday life? I can imagine myself doing weirder and weirder things just to put in the comic!
For a while I was doing just that, making stupid decisions about stuff because it would make good comics. Back then I didn't have much else going in my life so I put everything I had into the comics. Nowadays I don't really care that much and I think the comics are more honest. They're more boring, sure, but keeping them exciting was never the point.

6 - Speaking of exciting, how chuffed were you when you were asked to join J Church?! (was it J Church you were touring with when you played in my wife's club in England?)
Being in J Church was definitely the coolest thing that ever happened to me. I worked in a record store (Sound Exchange) in Austin and Lance got hired there. After a few months of working together we became good friends, and when he started the band up again in Austin he asked me to play bass. I played with the band for the next four years, touring North America, Europe and Japan. It was definitely with J Church that we played the Cavern, and I do remember it to be a wonderful bar and everyone there was really nice!

7 - If the comic has become less important to you what do you do now to satisfy your creative urges? Are you in any bands at the moment and, if so, any chance you'll be touring around this way anytime soon?
Music has always been my real passion. The comics were born out of frustration with the band I was in in 2000, when I started them. Right now I've got a few projects going.. My main band has been Shanghai River, we have an LP on ADD Records in Florida, and we did a short west coast tour last summer. Right now Shanghai River is on indefinite hiatus. I also play in Ghost Knife with Mike Wiebe from the Riverboat Gamblers and Chris from J Church. We're mainly a side project but have recorded an LP's worth of songs that will hopefully see the light of day soon. There's talk of a split with the Arrivals. I have two other as-yet-unnamed projects going as well, but they are in the very early stages.

8 - Whether band related or comic related, from the experiences you've had have you got any advice you could pass on to someone just starting out?
The best advice I can give is to not procrastinate! So many talented people go with their full potential unrealized because they were waiting for somebody to come along and do all the hard work for them. That kinda shit only happens in the movies. If you want to succeed you have to make it happen by yourself.

9 - Top 5 bands?
Top 5 bands right now: Muhammadali, The Arrivals, Unfun, Stymie, Daylight Robbery

10 - Top 5 films?
Again, this is a "right now" list: Dead Snow, The Road, Human Centipede, Best Worst Movie, Twilight:Eclipse (I'm serious!)

11 - Top 5 books?
Sadly, I don't think I've even read five books in the last 10 years.

Thanks loads for the interview Ben! 
The Snakepit book is published by Gorsky Press, ISBN No. 0-9668185-9-8.

12.02.2010

Andrew Roberts



1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?


I was born in England, moved to the States when I was young and grew up in California. I studied graphic design at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, and then lived there for the next 12 years running a small graphic design studio. In 2007 I moved to New York to attend the MFA Illustration program at SVA. I now live in Brooklyn. If I don't count the artwork I did as a graphic designer, then I've been illustrating professionally for just two years.


2. Now I understand that you were a graphic designer for a while prior to being an illustrator. Is there a reason why you aren’t working as an “illustrator+designer” or is it because you just want to draw pictures?


I'm always looking for illustration projects that allow me to include type such as book covers and theater or music posters.





3. Most of your work has characters that feel like they come from another time period. Is there a particular reason why your choosing to make your characters look older yet feel contemporary?

It's true, the last few drawings I've made seem to incorporate retro-looking characters (men with hats). These characters seem to embody the "everyman" concept, and are hopefully, just a "guy," rather than a specific type of guy (Hipster, Dad, Wall Street, etc)



4. I noticed that you work both in a pen and ink style that is very bold, graphic with bright digital color, but you also have a paintings section with a beautifully hand crafted rendered pieces. Do you have trouble promoting your work having two styles and do you favor one over the other?

I've heard from art directors that although they like the painted stuff, they can't see how it could be completed in time to meet their tight deadlines. That said, I'd love to do more paintings.



5. What is your process when concepting sketches for an assignment?

I start with words, then rough thumbnails. Sometimes I'll show the thumbnails to my studio mates and just ask, "what's happening here?" If they get it, it's a keeper and gets sent to the art director. I usually send too many ideas. Self-editing is not my strong point.




6. I’m aware that you just finished your MFA in Illustration from School of Visual Arts. Do you think that the program helped you become a better illustrator?

Definitely! It was two years of nothing but painting and drawing and thinking and talking about painting and drawing.

7. I heard from someone that you’re sharing a studio space with a few people. Could you tell me a little bit about that and why are you not just working from home?

Sharing a studio with other illustrators really forces you to stay busy and inspired. Also, working away from home allows me to "turn off" at the end of the day.




8. What’s your dream illustration job?

A series of Crime Noir book covers.

9. Were you rooting for any particular team in baseball last season? (I had my sights on the Phil’s by the way)

What's that? The Premier League, did you say? United for the cup!




10. What are some things that you love about illustration right now?

I really love the variety of styles. If you look back through an illustration annual from the 80's or 90's, you see amazing technical skill, but also a lot of styles defined solely on the medium used (super tight oil paintings, pen and ink crosshatching, collage, etc.). These days, mediums are blended together and the variety of styles is limitless.

11. Any advice for young illustrators breaking into the field?

That's me! A young(ish) illustrator trying to break into the field! Help!

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All images ©opyright of Andrew Roberts.
You can find more of his work at http://andrewrobertsillustration.com/

Big thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer my questions.

-Daniel

11.25.2010

JOHN W TOMAC

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up in Stratford, Conn. and some how found my way to upstate New York and the Rochester Institute of Technology to pursue a BFA in illustration. My senior year there, one of my professors, Jay Lincoln recommended me to Paulina Garces Reid who was the Graphics Editor at the local newspaper, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. They were looking for some students to illustrate the covers of a five-part, monthly, special section on the future of Rochester.
I did one piece for them which was really well received, so I was asked to do the rest. I did another special section cover for them a few months later. During that job, I started complaining about the low fees and terms of the freelance contract and they stopped working with me. That was back in 2003, so I guess that means I've been doing this or at the very least trying for almost 8 years.


What are some of the pro's and con's of being a bearded man, in day to day life?

My rent is too damn high. I can't really afford to be wasting my money on frivolous things like razor blades and haircuts. I've noticed that when you look like Jesus, people are less likely to hassle you. The hoodlums and no-good-niks generally seem to have a crisis of conscience when ripping off Jesus and steer clear, even when you fall asleep on the subway. On the flip side, If I leave the house before showering or having coffee I tend to look homeless. People don't like standing near the guy they think is homeless when they're waiting on line for the ATM.

Tell me about running - what was your initial motivation to start, and what keeps you motivated?

I was talked into joining the track team by a friend in high school. I wasn't very good at first but stuck around because I was having fun and there were some cute girls. Over time, I got hooked. It started primarily as a social outlet, but became a way to be alone with my thoughts or to clear my head. I also got to be pretty good at it. In high school, I nearly won a state title in the 5k, but was out kicked in the last 50 meters of the race. I kept running in college.
At one point I was captain of the cross country team and an Academic All-American. I got to run across the country as a part of a relay team for the school's 175th anniversary, too. I ran nearly everyday for eight years, like anything that becomes habitual like that, it is hard to kick. It just becomes part of your routine. Plus, I've met some really amazing people through it that I probably wouldn't have otherwise, so it remains a social outlet. And it is a great way to clear the head after a tough day. That's why I keep doing it. Also, I like the idea of being able to out run the cops and/or trouble if I ever have to.


I always hear really interesting comparisons when people try to articulate what running a marathon is to them - eg. running a marathon is like writing an exam when you didnt study enough, running a marathon is like the movie Rocky (i've actually heard these) - what is running a marathon like for you?

The marathon itself is a party. All the hard stuff is done beforehand. In the months leading up to it you bust your ass. On race day, the city shuts itself down so a bunch of runners can take over the streets. People with no interest in running come out to cheer. The race is a celebration of the efforts of individuals who usually toil in anonymity. I think thats kind of cool. Afterwards you can get hammered on half a beer and people keep buying them for you.

You were an inhouse illustrator for a while, no? how was that experiece / what are some of the responsibilities of an inhouser?

I've had two jobs where I was lucky enough to do a fair amount of Illustration work.
The first was a the one-man graphics department of The Ithaca Journal, the daily newspaper in Ithaca, N.Y. I was primarily in charge of making locator maps and infographics, but for some reason I was also the "editor" of the weekly technology page. I downloaded all the content from wire services. After a while, I looked at the supplied art and decided I could do better than that. So I started creating my own art for the page. From there, I got to illustrate the covers of a few special sections and on occasion the weekly entertainment section.
I spent about two years there before moving on to The Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J. In New Jersey I was part of an eight person art department. There was still a fair amount of infographic work and page design, but I had a boss named Jerry Luciani who recognized that I had a little bit of illustration talent and was always on the lookout for work to throw my way. I did a lot of illustration work there in a relatively short amount of time. That's when my work really started to get better when I figured out what voice I wanted to speak with and how I wanted to say things. Had I not had that opportunity I think my work would have really stagnated.
The ability to do a lot of work and being forced to solve problems quickly was probably the best education I could have gotten.
On the other hand, working in house does have its drawbacks. The biggest is that at the end of the day, your work doesn't belong to you. When you are a full-time employee the copyright belongs to your employer.
Your commercial work is fantastic - how did this style develop / evolve? is it deco influenced? You would probably never guess it now, but in art school, at first I was doing a lot of work like I was going to be the second coming of C.F. Payne or Ismael Roldan. At some point, I realized there were a few other people in my classes that had the same idea and they might actually be better than me. This of course got me to thinking that perhaps this might not be the best road to continue down if I want to make a living as an illustrator. I started looking around at other work.
One of the things I was drawn to was the Russian Constructivtist art, the early, pre-Stalin, propaganda. RIT's library had some great books and an amazing poster collection featuring it and I spent hours just taking as much of it in as possible. From that point on I started working more graphically, incorporating that stuff and in some cases blatantly satirizing/ripping it off in assignments.
Eventually, I started looking around at more and more poster art from the early part of the 20th Century, like the WPA and WWII posters. At the same time I was discovering advertising and editorial work by artists from that era like Joseph Binder, Antonio Petruccelli, A.M. Cassandre, Paolo Garretto, Jean Carlu, Otis Shepard, Mario Puppo, John Gilroy and Frank MacIntosh.

I've noticed that your characters rarely if ever have eyes - is that saying something deeply psychological about you?
Well, when I was a younger, like five years old, I used to have these recurring dreams where I was kidnapped by people with no faces. I have no idea what that means. If there's a psychiatrist that wants to weigh in on what that means, I'd love to know what undiagnosed neuroses I suffer from. Maybe on a subconscious level that's the reason. The no eyes thing evolved out of working more graphically. At one point I had pushed the figure to a point where everything was really geometric and flat and always in profile. At that point all the detail fell off. I kind of pulled back from that a little and didn't see a reason to add a whole lot of detail back into the face. No one complained about the eyes missing and I thought it was kind of cool so I just rolled with it.
I think the generic people help drive the concept. The work becomes more about the story I'm trying to tell or the point I'm trying to get across. The time I would have spent drawing eyes and obsessing over every detail of the figure is better used to develop that concept

I see lots of baseball imagery creeping in - big fan? blue jays fan maybe?? (the 1993 verison of me is hoping you'll say the Jays)
I am a big baseball fan, a huge New York Mets fan. (To the early-1990s version of you I say, "you're welcome for David Cone") I usually have the game on while I'm working in the evening. Those west coast trips make it somewhat easier to burn the midnight oil to get work done. The baseball stuff is largely self-generated work. I'm like the six-year old that draws dinosaurs because he likes them. I'd like to think I'm doing something that's a little different form the typical sort sports related work that's out there. Of course, if there's Major League or minor league team that wants art for it's program covers or whatever, call me. I'll work with you.

Your concepts are so strong! tell me about your brainstorming process when a new job rolls in -
Thanks. I never know if they're that strong. Maybe it's the nagging self doubt creeping in, but I worry that I've pushed things too far or haven't gone far enough. In art school, I was fortunate enough to have a teacher, Don Arday, who drove home the importance of having a good concept behind your work. Don had a good analogy. Illustration without a concept is like a song without lyrics and there haven't been many hit songs that were instrumentals. He was right about that, I think the last person to have an instrumental hit was Jan Hammer and that was 25 years ago. And he had a hit TV show that was partially responsible for that.
I wish I could say I'm really clever and it comes naturally, but I've got to work at it. When a job rolls in I do a lot of thumbnails. It's not unusual for me to do 40 or 50 after reading whatever source material I've been given. These aren't detailed drawings they're usually pretty small and really basic and take about a minute or two to do. If I get an idea that I like I'll mark it and keep going. I think it's important to push past the ideas that you think are good. 15 minutes later you might realize that idea isn't so good that or that it might be the obvious solution.
I think at the brainstorming stage it is helpful to get out of the studio. I like to get out of the space I usually work in. Sometimes that means going to the living room and sitting on the couch. Other times I'm on the stoop, in the park, on the subway or at the coffee shop. I think getting outside of familiar surroundings, out of the comfort zone helps.
If I get stuck I'll re-read the story or synopsis and play some word association games in the margins of my sketchbook. I also try to make an effort to pick the brains of the Art Director's minds a little bit. Sometimes they have an idea that's solid or at the very least serves as a jumping off point.

now, you also work with illustrators day to day - what makes an illustrator fun to work with / NOT fun to work with?
Most of the illustrators I've had the pleasure of working with are pretty cool people. They're usually happy to hear from me and bring tons of good ideas to the table. I'm always impressed with the work they do. Especially with very dry source material I often give them. Sometimes it makes the phone book exciting by comparison. I'm always blown away when they create something awesome out of that dreck. I haven't had too many bad experiences working with illustrators.
Once was an incident where I was looking for something very specific, which happens from time to time for various reasons. I asked for a quick sketch and got something completely different back, the illustrator thought his idea was better than mine. So actually getting him to do what I wanted was like pulling teeth. He was resistant and in the end I got the feeling his heart just wasn't in the final piece. The end result was pretty underwhelming and it didn't have to be.
I'll be the first to admit that not every idea I have is brilliant, but if you want to convince me yours is better at least give me two sketches so I can see for myself and try to convince my bosses. I can also look at that situation and think maybe I did a poor job of communicating what I wanted so maybe I'm to blame, too.

Who's work are you loving?
Its kind of strange, I see a lot of work and I look at it from two perspectives. One is for my own personal enjoyment and there is a lot of stuff I'm really impressed by and could spend hours looking at. The other is work by illustrators I might be able to hire. I wish I could hire everyone whose work I like but I can't. I've got to keep in mind the audience that the magazine reaches, which is older and more conservative. I've also got to keep in mind the tastes of my boss, the design director, as well as the taste of the editors.
In the former category is a guy like Ryan Pancoast. I've know Ryan for what seems like forever he's two years younger than me and we both graduated from Bunnell High School and RIT and were members of the same track and cross country teams. I'm absolutely blown away by his level of talent and dedication. He's one of those guys that makes it look easy. He got his work into Spectrum and SI this year for the first time and he probably will on annual basis. I'd love to throw work his way, but at the day job we don't have much need for anything in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Nor do we use a great deal of realist stuff. So I can only bestow praise upon him

In the latter category, is Chris Whetzel. I've admired his work from afar for a while. He's got some solid concepts and I like the graphic treatment and bold colors. Recently, I had a job I thought he'd be perfect for. I threw it his way and he did a really great job. I've gotten to work with him a few times since then and he's always got great ideas and cranked out some really great work. I'm really happy that worked out.
At work, I spend a good deal of time on illustrationmundo looking at people's art. There's too much interesting stuff there.

What magazines would you love to illustrate for? what magazines do you love in general?

Over the summer I went to Spain for my honeymoon. While I was there, I took a flight from Málaga to Barcelona on Vueling (they're kind of a European Jet Blue) . I was absolutely blown away by the in-flight magazine, Ling. It had some amazing photography, great illustrations, good stories and was beautifully designed. It was unlike anything I'd seen. I spent the whole flight reading it, except for the parts where I was terrified we were going to crash. It was rather turbulent flight.
I think its cool to get published. I still get a rush when I see my stuff in print. I'm not too picky about who I'll work for as long as the terms are fair.
Recently, I've been approached by a few design firms that are looking for editorial work and their clients are asking for work for hire terms. I can't say yes to that. Especially when I know that their client is a big, profitable company. The economy may be in the shitter, but a lot companies are making record profits and hoarding. They can afford to fairly compensate freelancers for their work.


how do you see the industry changing, being on both sides of the fence?
I work for a magazine. We've got a print edition, a web edition and now an iPad edition thats getting ready to launch. A few years ago there was only the magazine. The content in the magazine almost always ends up on the web and will end up in the iPad. I don't think the fees for freelancers have increased to reflect that the work is being published in three mediums.
How do we address that? In 2010 and beyond, what is the magazine? Is it the print edition only? Is it the sum of all its print and digital editions. I think its becoming the latter. I think that is going to have an impact on how we get paid. Honestly, I don't think my bosses are going to say give the illustrators an extra 40% because they're work is going into the iPad edition.


Do you approach design and illustration differently?

Design and illustration are pretty intertwined. For me, the process isn't exactly the same, but I hope the results are. I like stuff thats clean, bright, bold, organized. In a perfect world, that's what I would achieve with my work whether its design or illustration. When I'm designing pages, in the back of my head I always have an idea of how I'd like my art to appear in context and I try to give other art that same treatment. When you are working with magazine or newspaper pages you're somewhat limited by the design. Not all of us get to do the kick ass stuff that Bloomberg BusinessWeek is doing.

Whats the best part about living in NY?
The food. There is no shortage of unbelievable food, from the street vendors to the restaurants that won't let me in. If I didn't run I'd probably be 300 lbs.

You've heroically survived leukemia, how has that experience changed you?
I can't give blood and I can't be an organ donor. Other than that, I hope that it hasn't changed me too much.
Being diagnosed was a little surreal. When you're 28, the last thing you never expect to hear is that you have cancer. However, at the same time it was a little bit of a relief. For months leading up to that, it was difficult for me to run, I was losing weight, I was having vision problems and I was getting these huge bruises for no reason. It was good to know that there was one reason why this is happening. I think it shook up my friends and family pretty good at first.
I think my wife, who was then my fiance, was particularly shaken. We were supposed to be planning a wedding and now we're not sure if I'm going to live to see our wedding. I think my parents had a hard time, too, as they were in the middle of moving 600 miles away. No one wants to see that sort of thing happen to their children. That was hard to watch that. I did my best to remind them that I'm still the same person I've always been.
It was a little weird to be in a hospital and to be cracking jokes and making light of the situation when everyone is coming in and in a very serious mood. I don't think it took long for them to realize I was going to be okay. There was never a doubt in my mind that I'd beat this.
Thankfully, what I have is treatable. I take a couple of pills in the morning and another at night. The most difficult thing is that I have to take it on an empty stomach. That means waking up taking my meds and waiting an hour for coffee and breakfast. That's what I have to put up with. There's no chemotherapy or radiation treatment or anything like that. I have to go to the doctor for blood tests pretty regularly, but thats not bad. There are a lot of people who have it worse than me. Part of the human experience is dealing with unpleasant situations, this just happens to be mine.
A little over a year later my blood levels are normal. There's no sign of the leukemia in my bone marrow and the residual leukemic blood cells are disappearing. It isn't in remission yet, but it's close. I feel great though. I ran the New York City Marathon a few weeks ago. At this time last year it was a struggle to run just a couple of miles. I think I'm going to be okay and thats good because there are a lot of things I want to do with my life. If anyone is moved by my story the best thing they can do is register as a bone marrow donor.
More info on that can be found at http://www.dkmsamericas.org/ and http://www.marrow.org/ All that is required is that you get your cheeks swabbed. If you're a match they pull the marrow out of your hip. It hurts but no worse than getting teeth pulled. You'll be recovered after a day or two.


What advice would others going through a similar experience?

When I was in the hospital all I wanted was for things to return to normal. I guess to the caregivers and friends and family try to give those who are sick as much normality as possible. Don't read too much into things if they're tired or cranky. Be supportive of the things they want to do. No one wants to sit around waiting to die or feel like an object of pity.


Top 5 albums right now?

I'm the wrong person to ask that. My brother is the one in the family with the musical chops and taste. He usually loads up my iPod when he visits from San Diego. Right now I'm enjoying the Delta Spirt. When I'm working I've usually got the satellite radio on. I'm usually on SiriusXMU unless Ron & Fez are on.

Any advice for new illustrators coming into the industry?

For those coming out of school, I'd recommend getting a full-time job design job at first. There's a lot to be learned working at a magazine or publisher, graphic design firm, ad agency, etc. The steady paycheck and benefits are extra nice because life doesn't put itself on hold while your trying to make it as an illustrator. Bills, like student loans, need to get paid. Big life changing events will happen. Some of them will be unexpected. Work hard, learn the business and save money so that you're prepared to work for yourself.


Any advice for the older / established ones?
I'm in no position to do that. Those who have made a living doing this as well as those who are still trying have my admiration.
All images copyright John W Tomac - to see more of John's work, check out his website: http://www.johnwtomac.com/ - Thanks John for a great interview!

11.23.2010

ANITA KUNZ


Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was born in Toronto and I’ve been illustrating for 30 years.

You've taught and given lectures all over the world, what are the most satisfying parts about teaching other creatives?
I love the enthusiasm of the students. And I love travel, so the travelling/teaching thing doesn’t get much better for me! I think travel itself is the best education possible.

You've had such a long and fantastic career - are there any highlights that still totally stand out for you?
Well getting to know my heroes has been amazing. One of my all time favourite artists has always been Ralph Steadman, and we’ve become good friends, so that’s amazing. There are some incredible people in the field...too many to mention really but Seymour Chwast, Marshall Arisman, etc have been such great people for me to look up to! I could go on...
To me it’s all good...making money doing what I love...what could be better?
How has the role of a female illustrator (in a previously largely male dominated industry) changed over time?
Well there are certainly more women in the field now, but I think it still isn’t an entirely level playing field. I think it’s a complicated issue but the situation gets better with each generation.

What excites you about painting and working traditionally?
I’ve always worked traditionally so that’s for me the easiest way to communicate. I do think the new technologies are awe-inspiring, but what interests me the most are ideas, so whether they’re communicated traditionally or not is irrelevant to me.

You were recently recently named one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by the National Post newspaper, whats one bit of advice you would like every young woman to know?
I wrote a whole long missive about gender and illustration on my blog at www.anitakunz.com
Basically I tell young women that their voices are just as valuable as anyone else’s and never to underestimate the power of their work.
In a recent podcast you explained a desire to branch away from doing editorial work exclusively - why at this point in your career? why was it so important to be an "editorial illustrator" for so long?
Well the field has changed so much. I feel as though I lived through a golden age in the 90’s. I worked with some incredible art directors (the great Fred Woodward among them), and I had so much freedom. I wasn’t art directed very much at all. The part I loved (and still love) about editorial illustration was the freedom to contribute visually to the culture...but earlier I had more autonomy. The amount of creative freedom in magazines has lessened, but I still want to comment on social and political subject matter, so I’m looking for other venues, and the galleries seem to be one way for me to go. I feel as though time is so precious and I want to make meaningful work, and whether it’s for magazines, or just for myself, I just want to make work that’s important to me.

Do you still enjoy magazines?
Yes of course!
What keeps you excited about illustration / creating?
I love ideas, I love conceptual art and I find it very exciting to see what younger illustrators are coming up with now!

You're very open about your feelings on illustrators "borrowing" to heavily from other illustrators, or ripping off for that matter, could you please elaborate on the impact you feel this has on our industry, as well as on the creatives?
Yes, we all have unique viewpoints, and I don’t understand why people borrow so heavily from others. It seems rampant these days. But I suppose when style is more important than concept that’s bound to happen. When people are only looking at the surface value of the image it becomes somehow easier to imitate. It’s a shame....
What is your favorite city in the world, and why?
Paris! It’s the most beautiful city!

What are you reading right now?
Well I’m a big nut for the TED conferences...I go every year, and when you’re a TEDizen you automatically belong to the TED book club. They send the most incredible books...books that really chaallenge what I previously thought to be true!
I just finished The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley, and Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. Books like that really give my mind a good work-out!

What are some ways you generate ideas / feel inspired when stuck?
I find that if I just let it go, maybe go for a run, or sleep on it, I can usually come up with something. If I’m really stuck, I’ll try word association...juxtaposing words together randomly to see if something comes out of it.

Any advice for new illustrators, just coming into the industry?
You know, I think it’s really true that the more you work the better you get...Malcolm Gladwell writes in Outliers that most ‘successful’ people put in 10,000 hours before they become successes. That rings true to me! Work hard, get your work out there as best as you can, listen to criticism carefully and don’t give up if it’s what you really want to do!

Any advice for the older / established ones?
Yes. Embrace change! Stay open-minded, and above all remain a lifelong student! It’s all good.

all images copyright Anita Kunz. Please check out Anita's website - im sure you'll recognize nearly every image! http://www.anitakunz.com

11.14.2010

DARREN BOOTH

Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I'm originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. I'm currently living in St. Catharines, Ontario. I graduated in 2001 and started illustrating full-time around 2004 / 2005.


Your color palette always seems very refined, how long do you spend laboring over choices - or does it come pretty naturally?
The color palettes sometime happen easily and other times they're quite labored. Most of the time I have a rough idea of what I want, but it rarely sticks to that. Typically I paint over things until it feels right. The mood a piece communicates is often through color and that is important to me, almost as much as the content is. Color is one of the first things a viewer notices, so having a good palette is half the battle.


What unique challenges do you face creating typography, that you don’t creating standard illustrations?
Because there's quite a bit of lettering in my portfolio, it's easy for a client to find something similar to what they're looking for. In one way that is a helpful when figuring out what direction a project needs to take, but in a way it hinders the process because I'm trying to avoid being repetitive or predictable and that's the most difficult thing for me. It's difficult to move ahead when you're looking behind.
Your work is very distinct, how has it been evolving and changing over time?
To me, my work is worlds apart from where it used to be, but from an outsider's view, it probably hasn't changed all that much. I don't know if it's laziness or fear, but I have a tendency to let influences creep in very slowly and as a result I think my work develops at a similar rate. If anything, it's the technical skill that has changed the most.


What do you think drew you to collage and paint as a means of image making?
I enjoy using collage quite a bit because of its immediacy. If I want a block of color or certain texture, I find the right piece and then stick it down. Painting is great because I can build up the tones and establish the color palettes...and those exercises appeal to the detail oriented side of my nature. However I always feel a need to develop the artwork with my bare hands and have fun with it and fight with it until it's complete.

What, in your opinion, are some of the pluses and minuses of a traditional approach to image making?
Traditional work in the last 10 years has faded in and out of popularity and that is a positive thing but also a negative thing because a lot of our industry is trend-driven. That said, I firmly believe that good work regardless if it's analogue or digital, always finds a way to shine through.
You also pursue personal, more fine artwork - how important is this practice as an artist / creative?
Does it find its way into your illustration work ever?
Every creative is different so I can only speak for myself, but I think it's important to explore other creative avenues, whether it's fine art or music, etc... Those explorations find their way into my illustration work and I welcome it when it happens. For the most part, impulse is what drives those other creative avenues and I place more importance on process than final product because more is learned from the process, essentially making it more valuable to me than having a pretty picture.

What are you loving about illustration right now?
I love how illustration is evolving to keep up with the technology that's available now. I graduated at a weird time because it was right near the end of being a part of the old school, and right at the beginning of the new school. Needless to say, a lot has changed in 9 years and it's both exciting and mildly frustrating.

What are your favorite bars in Toronto?
I've still got a Toronto phone number but I haven't lived there for about 5 or 6 years so I'm not hip to the bar scene any more.
How important is down time for you? How do you spend it?
Downtime is only semi-important to me because I prefer to keep busy. Taking time away from client work is important, though. If I'm not illustrating, I'm hanging out with my wife and friends, or working on renovations or fine art, or writing music.

Complete these sentences -
Everyone needs to read: It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. - Everyone needs to own: Stocks in twitter.com/jenniferdaniel or a copy of Steve Martin's novel An Object of Beauty. Or both.
The hands down, best album to come out this year is: In Another Life by Count to Fire. The production and guitar work is amazing on this album but it has shitty artwork. David Bazan is another good artist whose latest album is pretty damn fine.
I'm tired of: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Any advice for new illustrators coming into the industry?
I think it was Paul Rand who said "Don't try to be original, just try to be good." That's pretty damn good advice. Being patient and persistent is important for young illustrators, too. Finding your voice and place in the market doesn't happen overnight.

Any advice for older / established ones?
Older / established illustrators should make an effort to keep up with the industry and quit being stubborn about it. If you work traditionally, it doesn't mean you should still promote and act that way.

All images copyright Darren Booth. To see more of Darren's work dear reader simply check out his website! Thanks so much Darren, I love your work! www.darrenbooth.com

11.13.2010

Jorge Mascarenhas



1-Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I was born in Boston, but I grew up partly in Brazil and Mexico before moving to California to study College. I currently live in Alameda, a tiny island off the San Francisco Bay. Ive been illustrating since 2007.

2-You have a really strong sketchbook practice that really shows on your blog. How does working in your sketchbook play in the artwork you create outside the sketchbook?

At school I never carried a sketchbook or have a discipline for it. My current sketchbook paintings started two years ago, as an exercise to grow as an artist. It now serves me as a useful tool to come up with ideas and different approaches. It keeps me from having creative blocks, which every illustrator is familiar with.

3-The thing I love about your work is how raw, genuine, and emotional each piece is, that draws the viewer into a dream like reality that is strangely relatable. Could you walk me through how you would develop a piece of artwork for publication?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by book illustrations. Most of these were about dark fairy tales (which were scary!) and fables. Most of them dealt with consequences if you did not obey. Today the publisher would think twice before publishing these scary images for kids. I found them fascinating. When doing a piece, whatever the subject is, I try to merge the fantasy with the real world. For me emotion is a very important element. When I'm given an assignment, it is important for me to identify the core mood of the article or story. It's important to convey this emotion on my initial drawing. If it's not there, the painting will be also lifeless. In almost every painting I use a mix of acrylics, inks and oils. Once it's finished, I scan the painting and submitted via email or ftp.



4- For a while, I thought that the east coast was where lots of great illustrators were trained and or lived to be continually inspired by the large art communities that are in the big cities. But more and more, I am seeing a lot of great stuff coming out of schools from California, and illustrators that are moving from the east coast to the west coast. What makes California, unique that separates it from someone who went to school or works in New York/Boston/Philadelphia/Baltimore?

I'm not sure. I think California is getting a great generation of artists that are getting attention nationwide. When I was in school I learned from nationally recognized illustrators, and that was a great inspiration of its own. Plus, we had great guest speakers at our school. It was very interesting to learn how they think. But I think no matter where you are you can find inspiration. You just have to look closely at your surroundings. Inspiration is everywhere. You can get it from books, music, friends, your own life situations, architecture, movies, etc. It's a matter of what you can do with what you got. At CCA we were encouraged to be unique artists.

5-What was the best thing you learned when you started getting work as an illustrator?

The best thing is to explore subject matters that I would never think of. Illustration gives you the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of problems.

6-How has your work evolved since you left CCA?

It evolved completely. When I was at CCA, I was heavily influenced by illustrators like Gregory Manchess, Bernie Fuchs and Skip Liepke. With the exception of Greg, all the others were considered too old school for the modern illustration world. My work passed through many phases, I painted very colorful and reference based illustrations. I reworked my portfolio three times and then had an epiphany. I wasn't doing what I liked and it showed in my portfolio. The work was lifeless. Then I revisited what I liked when I was younger, when I had fun drawing. I borrowed some aspects of the past and merged them with the present. I liked the limited color monotype/etching like images from the books of my childhood. I was ignoring a the things that I truly loved. After working everyday on my portfolio, something was born.



7-I read somewhere that you were really into comics when you started at CCA, until you fell in love with creating works with paint. Have you now considered doing a fully painted graphic novel?

Yes! It's a project that's on the back on my mind. I need to come up with a good story though...

8-I hope I don’t sound patronizing when I ask this, but do you ever feel limited by working traditionally with the rising interest for digital/interactive illustrations, or is it just another medium to work in to get across ideas/stories?

No worries. I love to paint and I love the feel of it. With that said, the computer is an essential tool for illustrators. It's important to know all the software involved with image making. But I choose to use only as a tool for adjusting contrast, or making some last minute changes (for example, changing the color of a shirt). The way I work is fast, so working traditionally has never been an issue. If you not aware on how the computer can work for you, then you're in trouble. I strongly believe people will always appreciate traditional painting/drawing. Today I see a lot of digital stuff that looks the same. It's also hard to be a unique digital artist.

9-Are you teaching these days?

Yes. I teach a painting class at UC Berkeley.



10-What are you up to when you’re not illustrating?

Mostly traveling. My family is scattered all over the globe. I have relatives living in Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Denmark, Portugal and Japan. It always gives me an excuse to leave the country. If I'm not traveling, I'm probably catching with friends, visiting books stores, or watching movies.

11-What are you loving about illustration right now?

There's a lot of great stuff out there. More than ever! I see more and more a variety of personal voices.



12-Advice for young illustrators trying to get their start.

Be true to yourself. Don't try to imitate a known illustrator just to make a quick buck, or because you're lazy. Trends come and go. Work hard and smart! Remember, as long as you are honest with yourself, your work will standout. Be patient and disciplined.

13-Advice for the veterans?

I think I can learn more from people who been out there for years. Their work have survived many changes in the industry and they continue to adapt. One thing would be continue to inspire younger generations.

14-Final Word?

It's time to get my coffee...

--------------------------------------------
Thanks Jorge!
Check out more of Jorges work: www.jorgemstudio.com

All images copyrighted Jorge Mascarenhas