Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up most of my life in a trailer park south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, in 2007/2008, I started screen printing show posters for Siren Records. I had to take a regional rail train an hour north of Philly to get to every show to sell my screen prints at the venue to barely breaking even, but it was completely worth it! After making and selling prints I started illustrating tour posters, record covers, and t-shirts. This helped build toward my portfolio to aim for editorial work, ect…. I currently live in Queens, NY.
I often forget that you're in your final year at SVA MFA Illustration as a visual essay program. This is partly because you make a lot of commercial work, and partly because that work is so refined. So, I guess I’m wondering how you have time...
Thanks for the humbling comment! I am in the studio from 7am/8am until 11pm/midnight everyday for the most part. Sometimes I have to work later to meet a deadline but that’s the nature of what I get myself into. I have everyday blocked out in the hours I spend working on pieces for school/personal work, experimenting, client work, and even for the time I need to take off to settle down. I am in my second year so I have a super flexible schedule, where I write out what my thesis is, set the bar, and make the deadlines. All I have to worry about it showing up to class, and create work every week in the form of sketches, or finishes for my advisor.
How has your work changed over the past few years, what have influenced these changes, and where do you see it going?
When I was younger I always wanted to draw like an old master. At the time, I felt like that was what made you an artist, but I failed time and time again. After accepting how I drew naturally and worked on expanding that, I realized it was a better approach then trying to draw like Delacroix or whoever. What got me into illustrating and played some role on “style” were zines by Cristy Road, Raymond Pettibon’s record covers he did for Black Flag, Skateboard decks, and a hand full of show posters plastered all over the walls at the Ottobar in Baltimore when seeing the Subhumans/From Ashes Rise play in 2004. Seeing all this built a personal frame of reference that I often go to when creating images.
My drawing skills went from bad to satisfactory over the last 5 or 6 years. I am always striving to get better. I started making work in acrylic early on, and moved to rendering stuff out on the computer in art school. I wouldn’t have moved to the computer if Tom Leonard didn’t push me to continue exploring it as an option. I owe him a lot for that!!! I started out as mentioned by doing rendered out stuff, to doing flat silk screeny stuff, and now I am doing flat painterly stuff using exclusively photoshop. The next step is probably to explore limited color, adding more figures in my pieces and upping the contrast in my work. Application is up in the air. *Sirens call to all art directors*Why are you drawn to conceptual illustration?
If you eat candy, it taste really good, but it doesn’t really fill you up. Now if you eat a balanced meal, it will be filling, taste good, and stick around with you for a while. That’s kind of why I am drawn to conceptual illustration. It’s a lot like having a balanced meal. Not to say that once in awhile you can’t enjoy chocolate cake.
I know your process in a bit of a hybrid between traditional and digital, but do you prefer one method of working over the other?
Illustration = Hybrid, Gallery = Traditional. With my traditional works, I tend to take my sweet time and figure the piece out. So my fully painted traditional pieces take 10-80 hours unless they are super small. Most of the time, when I do a “hybrid” piece, it takes me 2-15 hours to go from start to finish. Also I am more confident with my color choices and composition when it comes to making doing a hybrid piece.
What do you like / hate to draw.
I love drawing everything, I hate it when a drawing goes wrong, but that’s the fun of it. Trying to work out the drawing and get it right.
I've noticed that you tend to draw people "looking away", is there some deeper, psychological reason for this?
I’ve been exploring in my recent work, various ways I can evoke a sense of tension. When a figure is “looking away” it’s usually my way of showing a dramatic emotional disconnect between either the viewer or another figure within the painting. I could use a facial expression to do the same thing, but when I draw it, it often comes off a little corny.
Define "being rich"
When you can legitimately “make it rain.”
How much of an impact has your time spent involved in the punk / hardcore scene had on your work?
Punk/hardcore taught me to think for myself, do things myself, and work hard to earn what you have. Of course the visual language of the subculture has played a role on my artwork, but its more transparent today than it was five years ago. All influence should be.Why is being straight edge still relevant?
The Edge will remain relevant while drinking, and smoking remain relevant. I am a firm believer in the Edge and PMA. Other people’s habits are their anchors, not mine. I don’t let that stand in the way of me having fun.
Top 5 edge bands - NOT including minor threat or youth of today (far too obvious)?
Aw man! Well in no particular order….
2. Carry On
3. Floor Punch
4. The First Step
5. Chain of Strength
1. Set it Straight
2. Let Down
3. Miles Away
4. Good Clean Fun
5. Mind Set
6. Down to Nothing
What do you do when you're not working?
I like to try out different places for dinner, I ride my bike when I can, go to punk rock shows, and occasionally I go to Philadelphia to hang out with friends down there if all my New York friends are busy. I visit galleries pretty often when I find out about an opening.
Who’s work are you loving right now?
Mia Christopher work is super fun! Clare Rojas is another fine artist I’ve been following whose work is incredible. I just picked up Blexbolex’s children’s book “Seasons” and it’s pretty breath taking.
skateboarding or hockey?
Although I am a Flyers fan, I got to go with Skateboarding since I have “Sk8 or Die” tattooed on my shin.Any goals for 2011?
Gain more clients who want to use me for the printed page, the digital screen, or for the application of products.
Balance more time with people who want to hang out and professional work life.
Do a little bit of traveling for short spurts of time. Like going to Canada for a weekend or to other east coast jawns.
What do you want to tell young illustrators, just getting into the biz?
Know 150 Art Directors names off the top of your head that you want to work for and need to get your work in front of/keep it personal. Get to Know 50 Contemporary Illustrators you think are awesome and stay in touch. This business is about making connections not only digitally but also in real life. If you have the opportunity to meet them, do it. Don’t be shy or nervous. They are people getting/giving work, just like you.
One other piece of advice I have to offer for young illustrators to remember. YOU’RE AN ARTIST. Yes your work has to be within the context of whomever you are working for, but your personal work can be your illustration work. It’s probably as easy as shifting it 5 degrees to bring it into context for whoever your illustrating for.
What about the older guys?
Stay up to date on what’s going on around you (trends, technology, ect), and with that knowledge, don’t be bitter, stay honest, humble and cautious to younger illustrators. Your influence, for some young creative person can make or break their creative soul. Not everyone can take tough love.
all images copyright Dan Fishel - check out his great work here: http://www.o-fishel.com - Thanks Fish!!