where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I'm from Calgary, Alberta. I've been illustrating for about 19 years now, and full-time for about 15 years.
do you ever make it out to the Calgary Stampede, if so - do you have a favourite event?
Frankly, I'm about as un-Stampede as a local can be. It's really great that a city has it's festivals and so we have the Stampede here among others like the Jazz fest, Folk fest, and the Calgary Film Festival... The Stampede is just not my particular groove. I used to own a pretty sweet pair of cowboy boots though. Tan suede.
any chance you made it to any of the '88 Olympic events?
As crazy as it may seem, I did not, but I remember it well. The city was swelling with pride and I think it was a very successful games. That was my first year of art school and I was pretty enthusiastic about attending, so I was most likely preoccupied with that.
during Alberta's massive economic boom a few years ago, i remember hearing about kids getting jobs at fast food places for 20 bucks an hour! was it really that extreme? have things leveled out a bit?
I'm not so sure about level of pay here in Calgary, or Edmonton but we
did have quite an influx of people to the province at that time with
acceleration of the Oil Sands projects in Fort McMurray to the north.
Construction was booming all over Alberta and business in the oil patch
was going great, so a great deal of money was certainly being made, and
with even the lower level service jobs as you mention paying very well
in Fort McMurray.you've been in business since '91 - how has your work / methods evolved to meet the changes that have happened in the industry? how is your work still changing?
The evolution in my work is really driven by the process of making pictures, so I don't think my core methodology has changed so much in reaction to the industry or market economy, however, the types of assignments and content to which I'll apply this methodology may have me addressing different types of visual problems, and this may cause a shift in approach. All design and illustrative problems involve analysis and a series of logical and aesthetic choices, and so outside of making what I feel are the most appropriate choices toward resolving a particular creative problem, and the possibility of discovering something new by way of that, I don't think the essence of my creative process as applied to making pictures has much to do with more superficial matters of this business. For my part, meeting changes occurring in the industry involve strategic considerations existing somewhat apart from the art I make, like adopting the use of a computer, using online technologies, self-promotional activity or working with a rep, stock licensing, or seeking out alternative markets.
I've always felt it was important to allow the art to evolve and this process moves along at a fairly gradual pace. I like to think that there is some considered logic in this evolution, a result of observation and reaction to the work I've done previously, and how this is brought to bear on the present task; it's an ongoing conversation with myself, the work, external inputs, and this conversation evolves naturally, gradually over time.
before website portfolios, what was your main way to get work in front of people?
Much the same as it is now, only the web has taken up a greater position in the overall mix. I've entered work in juried annuals, used direct mail, and placed directory advertising. I used to shop my book around, but folks seem to have less opportunity now to sit down and visit over your portfolio. I still enter work into annuals, and place directory ads. My rep has been sending out postcard mailings since my start with them years back and we still do this occasionally.
what advantages does a traditional approach to image making have over a digital approach, in your opinion?
This is not an either-or proposition as I sometimes use both, but not in equal parts. The extent to which I've used the computer has involved scanning hand-done elements into the machine to manipulate and colorize them, but much of the work to date is still done using paint and paper exclusively. I favour the organic quality of traditional or analog process, and while I do attempt to achieve a certain, even mechanical, refinement in my work, I enjoy the occasion of imperfection and accidental nuance even if in a fairly controlled space. Brushes impart a personality to mark-making that I can't quite see replicated on the computer, no matter how sophisticated the software or input device. A well-used brush may exhibit a certain quirkiness in how it lays down a mark, and that becomes an interesting thing in itself. The beauty of using a brush or pen is that it is a relatively uncomplicated tool, a physical tool connecting directly to the hand, the paper, ink or paint.
I don't know if working traditionally vs. digitally yields a terrific advantage specifically in the context of making commercial art for print, but it does yield authentic pleasure in the process of making it. No matter how digital culture progresses, I think people still appreciate traditional methods — maybe more so, and using traditional tools and media provides me with the satisfaction of this immediate, physical experience and the occasion of accident — albeit without the benefits of command-z. I can appreciate the claims to increased speed afforded by using digital media and I think I've become pretty handy in Photoshop, but for the moment I can't see myself abandoning traditional tools. However, I intend to use the computer more in the future and I like what control it affords, particularly in mixing and matching colour which I tend to labour over. And for those who wish to make images move, this is the only way to go.what are some of the first steps you take after you receive a brief from a client?
I create a folder for the job on my computer and file any communication there for future reference. I'll give whatever material provided a quick read and if I've not had chance to speak with the AD, or if anything in the brief remains fuzzy I'll follow up with any questions. I'll sometimes ask what portfolio works in particular caught their attention or demonstrates a certain sensibility applicable to the project. Then I hang up the phone, stare at an empty white page and freak out a little.
while i'm sure you're maybe most known for the beauty and skill behind your images, your concepts are always bang on! whats your brainstorming process like?
Thanks. Conceptual thinking has had a place in much of the editorial work I do, where I'm developing visual puns, but not every illustration calls for a high degree of conceptual thought, so some work has me more concerned with the literal, descriptive and formal aspects of the image. I can't describe an exact method in how I develop conceptual ideas, but I have the habit of dealing in words first, and with imagery following later. Words are immediate and the quickest route in for me but only as a start; at some point the left hemisphere has to start dancing with the right, and this is when things become more interesting. Some ideas really hinge on execution, a particular twist in visual representation, so I may spend a lot of time scribbling and refining an idea to get it to work and sometimes this fails no matter what I do. As pencil work proceeds the better ideas become more apparent or may combine in more novel ways.
can you remember doing any really bad jobs when you were getting started, to get your foot in the door?
I can't remember any really bad jobs, but there were some trying experiences, challenges and work that had me examine what I was good at, or not so good at. I was a relatively late-bloomer as an illustrator. I tried my hand at a lot of different things illustratively; my first experiences in editorial illustration were in doing work for for a local papers and mags. Shortly after graduating from ACAD, I started working with Dennis Budgen, a former instructor of mine, on various projects ranging from info-graphics and illustrations for Parks Canada to technical drawings for the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller. These were great formative experiences and working with Dennis was a privilege. The work I produced at that time bears no obvious resemblance to what I'm doing now, though I'm sure bits and pieces must filter in. As things went on I was doing more work on my own, illustration for advertising, product packaging and point-of-sale applications. In 1999 I became affiliated with my present rep in the USA, Gerald and Cullen Rapp, at which time I became much more active in editorial work.what (and who) are you loving about illustration right now?
I am loving looking back at the history of image making, visual communication, and realizing how I connect to this. It remains a thrill to take part in such a rich history. What's happening now in illustration is so diverse and the creative talents so many, that it's hard for me to land on any particular thing in the contemporary scene and go on about it. Right now I'm in a historical mode, and looking more in depth at modern era painters and pictorial designers that I feel a growing affinity with. I'm enamored by the minimalist work of Charley Harper, the graphic genius of people like E. McKnight Kauffer and Abram Games, Victor Rodchenko and Wyndham Lewis.
best music to listen to while working?
Right now I seem to be on a nasty techno bender... I like a lot of different music and it's essential to life in the studio. My playlist forms a pretty mixed bag: Brian Eno, Curve, The Raveonettes, The Kills, Band of Horses, Arcade Fire, Vic Chesnutt, Goldmund (Keith Kenniff)... to name but a few.
any advice for new illustrators getting into the industry?
Know why you do what you do. Promote the value of the work you do and negotiate accordingly, but don't do it for the money.
any advice for the veterans?
I'm in no position to offer my fellow vets advice. And my (ten gallon) hat is off to anyone who can stick it out over the long term.All images copyright Brad Yeo. Check out Brad's website: http://www.bradyeo.com its Crazy awesome. Thanks Brad!