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**



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!


Jude Buffum

Hello Everyone! My name is Daniel Fishel, and I am a new contributor on the non-slick blog. Before I get into the interview, I want to give a big thank you to Pete Ryan for inviting onto the blog. My goal is to do at least one interview a month if not more, so we will see what happens.

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

I moved around New England a bit when I was much younger, but I've lived in Philadelphia most of my life and currently reside here. I graduated from the Tyler School of Art in 2001 with a BFA in Graphic Arts and Design, but I was mainly doing graphic design at first. It wasn't until late 2002 I really started working on any illustration only projects when I was a part of Headcase Design. At first illustration made up only about 20% of the work I did, graphic design being the rest. By the time I left Headcase in October of 2007, nearly all the work I did was illustration.

2. What drew you to paint your images with Pixels?

Initially I just wanted to create some nostalgic artwork to hang in my apartment, so I experimented with blowing up "sprites" of characters from old video games I played when I was a little kid, enlarging them until each pixel was a full inch square. It was around this time I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the state of our country (this was right around when we first invade Iraq) and so I began experimenting with using the video game style as an outlet to vent. Instead of Megaman fighting Dr. Wily he was fighting Dick Cheney and Haliburton. It was through these early political-themed pieces that I realized the language of video games and pixels are rich with infographic metaphors, digital mythology and graphic symbolism that could be used to express almost anything I wanted.

3. You have a second style that still feels like the language you draw in, but it is a slicker illustrator version. Do you have problems with clients because you have two styles?

Generally most clients come to me knowing which of my two styles they want. I do prefer the pixel style, so there have be instances where I felt the pixel style would be stronger and I was able to convince them I should use that one instead. It gets a little tricky with self-promotion, deciding which style to focus on promoting. Generally I send out postcards with the pixel style, and that's the one I tend to get into annuals more frequently, but I do get a lot of work in the infographic style still.

4. There are some illustrators that happen to also be designers and include type in their work and there are some designers that just happen to also illustrate, but neither seem to have a balance. I find that in your work has an good balance of using type within pieces that could just be single image for a publication/gallery. Do you think because you work within the language of video games/8bit that allows you to do it, that seems pretty effortless?

I was trained as a graphic designer, but Tyler has a fairly illustration-heavy design program, so I have always tried to illustrate my design projects when possible. I think with the pixel style, pixelated type and pixelated art will naturally fit together, but that doesn't mean they will necessarily be aesthetically pleasing. On the contrary, I think there is a certain ugliness to pixel art and type that some people actually don't like, so I think the type forms need to be carefully constructed and considered.

5. I know that you've done some music packaging stuff for your brother's 8-bit jams, Doctor Octoroc. Do you ever collaborate musically? Also, how did the Keyboard Cat video come about?

While I wouldn't say I collaborate with him musically, he does play me all his tracks as he's working on an album and lets me offer my feedback. The Keyboard Cat video was something we did on a whim. I thought it would be funny to do an 8-bit version that played off a game fail, so we threw it together one afternoon and put it on youtube. I never thought it would blow up the way it did. The main character from the show The IT Crowd even wore the shirt I made from the video on a recent episode.

6. About a year ago, you worked on an installation at the 3rd Pictoplasma Conference, making 8 bit creatures on the walls with thousands of post it notes. How was it that you were able to get involved in such a project?

Jon M. Gibson, who founded the "i am 8-bit" art show, was the guy who really helped me get my foot in the door with a lot of the galleries I've been involved in. He actually found me through Myspace (remember that?) of all things. It's a long story, but after several years of working together on gallery installations he contacted me about the Pictoplasma thing. His good friend and photographer Love Ablan had been asked to put together an exhibition by the founders of Pictoplasma. Exhibitions of art on Post-Its were nothing new, and other people had created Donkey Kong or Pac-Man installations out of Post-Its, so we decided to take it to the next level and create original pixel art out of Post-Its and then have art on Post-Its hidden within that, an exhibition within an exhibition. I actually got a grant from the University of the Arts to do the whole thing.

7. Recently I have been seeing you work more and more doing Gallery stuff. How have you been getting involved with that, being someone who works digitally?

I do occasionally paint my work in acrylic, but given that my fan base is a younger crowd I try to make my work affordable so giclee prints from digital seems to be a better deal for everyone. As long as the work sells, most galleries don't seem to mind the medium.

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

You'd think by now I'd have a process. I really don't. I throw shit against the wall and see what sticks. Swear.
Nate Williams posted a great idea generation process on his blog that I will sometimes use when I'm at a loss.

9. I know that you teach a class or two at The University of the Arts. Could you share alittle bit what you teach there and has teaching there influenced the way you work?

I'm currently taking some time off, but the course I teach at UArts is an Illustration class called "Design Methods". Basically what I do with each project is assign the students the role of illustrator AND designer/art director. So for one project I give them several magazine articles and they not only have to illustrate the article, but design the layout of the spread as well. A project that I introduced to the department has them designing a vinyl toy (like Kidrobot) and then creating packaging for the toy. It's a very demanding project, but they have so much fun with it and the results are usually phenomenal.

10. Outside of illustration and galleries, what is it that you do when you have down time?

Karaoke, bird watching, cooking, barhopping, road trips, fixing vintage Polaroid cameras, and playing with my Boston Terrier

11. I've noticed a lot of well known/successful illustrators, such as yourself, Josh Cochran, Gina+Matt, Katherine Streeter, Pete Ryan, ect, all own Boston Terriers! Is there a skull and bones club for illustrators that requires everyone to own one?

I think there must be something in illustrator DNA that draws us to the Boston Terrier! I swear I got mine before I even met any of those guys, and in fact the only person I knew who had one when I got mine was a friend of mine who is a floral designer. I guess they go through phases of popularity... if you look at dogs used in advertising in the 1950s, they used Bostons quite frequently. I guess they are on an upswing in popularity again.

12. Because you work digitally, specially in adobe illustrator, it makes your work more adaptable for interactivity and animation for tablet devices (ie: ipad, Nook, ect). Are you investing time into interactivity and animation because of a rising interest in tablet devices and/or do you have an opinion on illustrators becoming more involved with animation/interactivity?

After the keynote at the ICON conference in Pasadena, I became very excited about the possibility of creating interactive and motion illustration for devices such as the iPad. I do plan on investing some time in the next six months to learning as much about the subject as I can. I see it as just another industry, so I don't really see what all the fuss was about. Some illustrators will want to add animation to their portfolio. Others will want to add textile design. Or food packaging. Or fine art prints. It's all the same thing, just different avenues to make a living off what you love to do.

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

I love that there are really no limits as to what you can do with your art. It's interesting to watch the many careers of all of the illustrators I admire, or know personally, and see where they started and where they are now, and there's so much variation it really shows you can do anything in this field.

14. Any advice for young illustrators/designers breaking into the field?

Personal work is good, but if prospective clients can't see how it could be used commercially they're not gonna hire you. If you're not getting jobs yet, or jobs that bring out your best work, create your own assignments (a good example would be the Heads of State creating concert posters for the local Philly music scene). Make them amazing and get them into Communication Arts and American Illustration.
Personal work for gallery shows are important too, but it's much harder to make a living at that, and I see way too many kids out of school focusing too much energy on that avenue and it's a long, uphill battle. Don't spread yourself too thin.

15. Any advice for the veterans out there?

Anyone who's been doing this longer than me is obviously doing something right. I could probably use advice from them.
That said, don't fear new things. Twitter and Facebook are amazing tools for advancing and sustaining your career. My biggest break into the gallery world came from MYSPACE. Yeah. And Myspace was a piece of crap compared to what Twitter and Facebook can do. If you think it's just some stupid way to share what you had for breakfast with the world, you really have no idea. Reach out to those in the know.

16. Final word?

Game Over


All images copyright Jude Buffum - See more of Judes work on his website: http://www.judebuffum.com/
Thanks Jude!