where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and have been a full time illustrator since late 2006. I am currently living in Sudbury, Ontario with my wife Chantal and our dog Peanut.

tell me about peanut.
Peanut is our 1 year old beagle with incredible running and leaping ability. And cuteness ability. We bought him in Elliot Lake, Ontario and are half-training him to be a jumping, leaping and obstacle course-running champion. He'll do anything for a carrot.

im not sure how to describe your work - it feels very organic, but at the same time industrial -
that juxtaposition is really effective and makes me relook again and again. you mention on your website that you like drawing water towers, smokestacks etc. would you say you're drawn (pun) to industrial themes? maybe nostalgic for the olden days?

I think so. I like things that aren't too polished, with some nitty-gritty feel to them and I think that's why I'm drawn to industrial themes, I like the textures and mood. As for the water towers, I really love to draw them and put them in my paintings. The smokestack and industry thing probably started when I began visiting Sudbury, Ontario about 6 years ago. They have one of the world's tallest smokestacks here and a really interesting mining town surrounding it called Copper Cliff. It all makes me think of how things looked one hundred years ago, with billowing smokestacks, water towers and ... dirt.
I started researching all of these things more and read some books about the early 19th Century. I thought it would make a really interesting time to have my illustrations take place in. I'm pretty enamoured right now with the first 40 years or so of the 20th Century. The colors from tinted photos and rural scenes are inspiring to me. I think it would be awesome to go back in time and explore the working class side of that era, but I'll have to just settle on recreating it myself with a bit of a twist.

totally serious, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, whos better?
That's a tough one! I will have to say that Kobe is better, and that goes against my tastes in
basketball because I am a Laker hater (and proud of it). But Kobe has the championships right now and he's still as clutch as they come, as much as it pains me to admit it. I think LeBron is a better athlete, a better all-around player and has the chance to be one of the greatest, although his free agency stunt this summer knocked him down a few levels in my book. I'd rather play on a team with LeBron than Kobe though.
Larry Bird or Magic Johnson
Larry Bird. I'm too young to have seen those two play in their primes like I've seen LeBron and Kobe, but there's no way I'm going to pick two Lakers in a row! Magic has more championships and he was extremely talented but I love all the stories I've read about Bird's competitive nature, he was just a cold blooded scorer and he was tough. I love the story about how would bail hay all day on a farm and then go and score 40 points the same night. What's the illustration equivalent of that?

what would you rather do: play for the Chicago Bulls 1995 - 96 team, and be dead broke for the rest of your life OR getting handed 5 million bucks to never watch another basketball game in your life?
5 millon bucks is a lot of money, but you couldn't pay for the opportunity to play on one of the greatest basketball teams of all time! So I would play for the Chicago Bulls in 95-96, get yelled at by Michael Jordan for missing layups and try to guard Steve Kerr in practice on our way to 72 wins (and avoid Dennis Rodman at all costs). I would happily be broke for the rest of my life to have been on that team. That's probably ridiculous (and my wife would agree) but that was my favorite basketball-watching time of my life. I had so many superstitions about that team, I swear I helped them win the championship. I was also lucky enough to see them play twice, once in Chicago during the playoffs (and even more rare, I saw them lose to the Raptors). As great as it was to see them play, to play baskebtall with that team would be even greater and worth passing up 5 million bucks. Yes, I am crazy.

why should every illustrator live in NY at least once?
It's an inspiring place to live, that's for sure. For an illustrator in New York, you're surrounded by
so many other illustrators and have the chance to attend events and meet art directors in person. I loved being able to just hop on the train and go to the Society of Illustrators. I think it's also a great place to meet people in other creative industries and collaborate with them on projects you may never have been able to work on otherwise.
congrats on getting married this past summer! what does your wife think of those demanding illustration hours?
Thanks! I'm really lucky in that my wife, Chantal Bennett, is also an illustrator, so she definitely understands the hours we put into our work. She went to Parsons for illustration while we were in NY and now she is the owner of Papillon Press, our letterpress stationery company. She's also great at telling me when to take a break, helping me with sketches, finals and women's clothing and helping me take reference photos, to name a few things she helps me with.

how has your work been changing / where do you see it going?
For a long time I wasn't comfortable with anything digital in my work, but in the last few years I've slowly started integrating that into my work more and more. I don't ever want to work completely digitally, I love drawing and painting by hand too much, but I have been enjoying Photoshop as a very helpful tool in the last little while. As for where my work is going stylistically, I hope to improve on what I'm doing now. For ambitions, I have a few projects in mind. I have some ideas for children's books I'd like to develop, as well as a series of illustrated short stories. And being the basketball fiend that I am I'd like to do another series of basketball images.

what are you loving about illustration right now?

I love seeing new work by my illustrator friends and others in the industry, and I love how easy
it is to find it. I remember when I was in school not many illustrators had websites, so now I find new work from so many different illustrators through Facebook or Twitter, subscribing to blog feeds and through illustration sites like this one and many others.

why are magazines still relevant?

I love magazines, books and printed matter. I still think magazines are relevant because I don't know if everyone will want to get their news or read stories on a screen all the time. Personally, I wouldn't want to do that. Tablets have some pretty fascinating advantages but I think people want to turn pages and feel paper (I do, anyway). I think people love to get things in the mail, and when you have a subscription to a magazine it's always exciting to get the new issue in the mailbox.

parlez vous francais?

Well, my wife is French Canadian and Peanut is too, but I really only speak French to the dog
since we trained him in French. I'm not too comfortable speaking it, but I can understand it and pitch in with a few words when the mood strikes (like when Peanut starts to hump the neighbor's dog - which is often). I could have written this response in French, but it would have been really, really ugly.
what is Papillon Press, and how can it help me in the future?
Papillon Press is my wife's and my letterpress stationery company. We started just over a year ago when we moved back to Canada from Brooklyn. We do custom illustrated wedding invitations, cards and other fun, printed things. We really push the illustrated angle, since we both love to draw and we feel illustrations print beautifully with a letterpress and separate our wedding invitations from those designed with just type. As for how Papillon Press can help you: In addition to printing our own designs, we have a printing service and can print the designs of illustrators or designers with our 60 year old press. I've been doing a few letterpress cards to send to art directors since we started Papillon Press and they've had a great response.

best music to listen to while working?
Oh man, I can't narrow it down! I'm usually all over the map. For some reason I can never think of what I really want to listen to. Today alone I've listened to Elbow, Kid Cudi, Harry Chapin, OutKast, Triple J (Australian radio station), some of ESPN's basketball radio broadcasts and The Basketball Jones (a Canadian basketball video podcast). I think something more upbeat is good to get me going early in the day and then I usually mellow out as the day goes on.

advice for new illustrators looking for a piece of the pie?
I think the best advice I received was at a talk by Donato Giancola at the Society of Illustrators a few years ago. He just said that as an illustrator you are competing against so many established, amazing artists and that to get work you have to really push yourself to be great, or greater than the other illustrators. So I would say to new illustrators, push yourself to make each piece your best. Keep telling yourself to push yourself throughout the process of the illustration, from the earliest stages to the final. Is the sketch great? What can you do to push it even further? Can you add something or take something out to improve it? Don't take shortcuts with your work and don't give up. It's not an easy business to succeed in, but if you really want to succeed you can do it. Be patient.

advice for the established guys?

Be open and encouraging to newer illustrators who may be intimidated by the industry. I think
the illustration community is great but can be intimidating to some people. I've had some really welcoming and down-to-earth responses by emailing illustrators I admire and I appreciate that.
See more of Joel's fantastic work on his website: http://www.joelkimmel.com/
Thanks Joel, your answers were a SLAM DUNK **puts pinky to mouth ala Dr. Evil**


  1. Brilliant, really nice work from Joel too!

  2. Joel's work has real personality. I really enjoy every piece and can't wait to see what's next! He's a really down-to-earth, nice guy as well, and his wife is just as amazing. Talk about a power couple!