1.Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I'm originally from Los Angeles. My family moved to Denver when I was in Elementary school, so I've been here most of my life. I was still working full time at a job I had worked at since I was 16 after I graduated, so I didn't begin illustrating full time until about three years ago. My first two years after school I was only illustrating part-time.

2. How was your experience at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design? Did you feel prepared for the real work upon graduating?
I lived at home and drove an hour across town each way, every day. And I worked whenever I wasn't in school, just to be able to pay tuition, so I don't feel like I had the "real college experience" that some people get. I wanted to go out-of-state. I really wanted to go to Art Center, and I was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but there was no way I could've afforded to live on my own, and pay my own tuition (plus, I got a really good scholarship to RMCAD). I think I was fairly ready to jump into reality upon graduation from RMCAD. I think that things change so quickly, it's hard for any school to really prepare students for what's coming. The best they can do is teach students how to adapt to changes in the market. I guess I wish they would have focused a little more on the business end of the profession. After all, you are running your own business.

3. How has your work changed in your 5 or so years as a professional image maker? what directions do you feel it going in?
My work has changed A LOT! What I was doing a year after I graduated, is completely different from what I was doing in school. And what I'm doing now is different than what I was doing a year after I graduated. I think it's just part of the way artists evolve. Artists are supposed to evolve. Maybe not quite as fast as that... but I thinks it's important to grow. I'm definitely moving constantly towards a more simplified, minimalist way of working. I'm really drawn to the colors and shapes in the design and illustration of the 1960s. I love images that communicate an idea, with as little visual information as possible.
4. your work is obviously very concept driven (and great ideas at that) - how do you go about brain storming when a project rolls in?
Most of the time I just start writing down everything that comes to mind. I'll read the story or brief, and try to get a main idea out of it. I'll reword that idea into a few different phrases, and jot down words that come to mind when reading that phrase. Nate Williams had a great tutorial on getting ideas, http://www.n8w.com/wp/3242 . The tutorial basically sums up everything I learned in school about deriving a good concept from a story.

5. what mistakes would you caution young illustrators NOT to make? what were some of your mistakes (if any) when starting out?
I don't know if this is good advice, but I would tell nubies not to obsess over "style." I know nowadays we're supposed to sell ourselves as a "brand," and you can't have brand recognition if your work doesn't look exactly the same as all your other work, but that goes against everything I've ever believed in, about art, creativity, human nature. I think the most successful illustrators have a style that can almost be copyrighted. And maybe I'll never be as successful as those illustrators, but I don't know if my restless tendencies will ever allow me to stick with a visual identity long enough to be characterized as "my style." So maybe my advice to new illustrators would be to disregard my advice!

6. you obviously put a lot of thought and care into your promotions - do you have any advice for new illustrators looking for ways to market their work?
Well, I think postcards still work. ADs and CDs will always keep the postcards they like. Postcards are easy to stick in a folder and carry around with you. But sometimes going the extra mile every once in a while pays off. I'll probably always send out a postcard or two, but then occasionally I like to send out something really special, like a booklet. Even if you only print up enough to send out to 20 or 30 people, if the illustration is really good, and you take the time to design it well, it'll get noticed. And that's the most important thing- making sure the work you're sending out is high quality. You can spend a thousand bucks on a really nice booklet to send to people, but if the illustrations inside are crap, they'll just toss it, and keep the cheap postcards with really great illustration.
7. what are your thoughts on working traditionally vs. working digitally? does your heart hold alliance to one over the other?
The computer/interweb has made life for illustrators exponentially easier. Can you imagine having to ship a huge painting to an art director every few days? But aside from the convenience of turning in assignments, the programs have made work quicker too. Not better, but quicker. And that's the reason why I think I'll always keep my work at least partially traditional. If the program doesn't necessarily improve the quality of work, why completely forgo the joy of getting dirty? My illustration is almost always some combination of traditional collage and printmaking, along with digital.

8. when do you experience your greatest periods of growth - either professionally, or personally?
When I stop to take a breather, and really think about things. When you're so busy that you can barely take a time out for a meal, it's hard to grow because you're on such a roll. You're not experimenting or going out into the world to experience things and be influenced- you're down in your studio or office, knocking out the illustration. It's good to look up from the drawing board/computer screen every once in a while.

9. tell me about cars.
Cars are fun. The older, the better. The older they are, the simpler they are. When I look under the hood of a new car, and see all those wires, I get very intimidated. I like just about any car made before 1970 (before they started worrying about fuel economy, unfortunately). The style of body, the chrome, the dashboard. It's like a time machine. I think the history is what's most exciting. My car has an old tube radio, that only has AM stations. I feel like I'm in a different time period when I get in.

10. i notice (and appreciate) environmental themes in your work - are you as scared shitless about global warming as i am?
In a word- yes. I think most people in this country are pretty insulated from the immediate effects (besides the Southern coast, with all the hurricanes and tornadoes and flooding), so we have yet to do much. And lest you think I'm a hypocrite, I do realize how my 60 year-old vehicle affects the situation. I try to limit my driving as much as possible. I put 20 bucks worth of gas into my tank at a time, and I only do that about once every other week, to give you an idea of how little I drive. I actually enjoy riding the bus sometimes.
11. whats the best part about being a dad?
How much she makes me laugh. I've never been the happy-go-lucky type (I'm actually kind of a grumpy old man for a 27 year-old), but I find myself smiling a million times a day. Of course that's not only due to my daughter. Her mother has a lot to do with it too. The two of them really make life fun.

12. whos work / what (in general) are you loving right now?
I feel like I should have been born in a previous decade sometimes. I like movies, t.v., cartoons, music, cars, art from previous eras. It's just what I'm drawn to. Most of the art and design that influences me, and that I most enjoy looking at, is from the 60s and earlier. I really like a lot of illustrators working today, don't get me wrong. I just pay more attention to the past. I know he isn't really illustrating right now, but I always loved James Jean's work. He is truly a talented artist. I got into Fables just because I liked the covers so much!

13. last words?
I hate caramel. It's sticky and chewy, and it's way to sweet. Thanks, Pete!Really big thanks to Justin for the great interview. All images above copyright Justin Renteria - check out more of his great work here: http://www.justinrenteria.com/


Victo Ngai

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

I am from Hong Kong and didn't become a full-time illustrator until I graduated from RISD in 2010. However, I started drawing since I was a kid; my parents were very busy and I would tell stories with my drawings to keep myself entertained.

2. How has moving from Hong Kong, to Providence to attend RISD, affected your way of thinking about making art?

RISD is awesome, I learnt a lot and have met some of the most influential people there_including my teacher Chris Buzelli . Chris reminded me why I like to draw in the first place when I was overwhelmed by grades and competitions . He also pointed out to me that" style is merely one's habit of drawing, everyone is born with a unique style as everyone is born unique". This helped me to be honest with myself and eventually found my own voice. Being away from home/parent's protection and the insanely high RISD tuition also motivate/haunt me to work my butt off.

3.What are the biggest difficulties of being a female illustrator from HK living in New York, and what are it’s advantages from not being born and bred here?

It's interesting that you emphasize "female" in your question. I have always been referred as "he/him" on blogs maybe because of my confusing name-"Victo", but I actually kind of enjoy the androgeness . Being a foreigner can be hard sometimes when it comes to socializing- not understanding cultural references and American slangs make it difficult to carry on conversations. I also have made many stupid mistakes because of language barrier. I once got a phone call asking me to do a full page and 3 quarter pages and I misunderstood it as one full page and one 3/4 page...
Advantage- I think the fuel of creativity often comes from our personal experiences. So having an international background and experience of living in different cultures definitely helps when it comes to finding inspirations.

4. Every time I look, I see that your illustrating for someone new, somewhere. Is there a particular method of promotion that you prefer over another that has helped you get work?

I think the new media, especially blogs, has helped me a lot to get my works out there. I e-mailed a few major blogs about my work when I graduated and they were kind enough to feature them. Then a lot of reblogging happened and everything kind of snow-balled from there.Through the power of internet, I was contacted for gallery shows, magazine interview and jobs from places and people I had never heard of and therefore wouldn't have reached on my own. I think it's important to keep it a two-way street -mailers and other promotional materials are great for reaching people but it's even better if people are able to discover you and come to you. For the same reason, I think getting into annuals and competitions is also a wonderful promotion.

5. Are you interested in animating your work?

For sure! I love animations and have thought about being an animator at some point. Actually, I have a little animation on my site.

6. How would you define a good illustration?

Well thought out ( communicate an idea clearly and creatively ) , well executed ( solid composition, intriguing style and characters .etc ) and hopefully thought-provoking.

7. Why do you work in a hybrid of making things, scanning them in, and changing them digitally?

The hybrid enables me to achieve the hand-made organic look I like while still enjoy the beauty of digital. Digital is great as it enables me to combine materials previously made with various media which are traditionally "incompatible". It also lets me work backward thanks to the layer function-i.e. have my line work done before working out the colors and value but can still have the line on top of everything in the final illustration.

8. What are you up to when your not illustrating? Do you find it important to take a break?

Just chill and enjoy life, I especially like to eat and travel! I think It's very important to take breaks for both the body and mind. Body- freelance illustration is a pretty high-stress job and since you are your own boss, it's very easy to overwork and compromise health if "breaks" are not planned into the schedule. I have learned that in the past 1 year with big prices paid. Mind- it's essential to take breaks to recharge and refresh, otherwise it's easy to run out of steam if there's only output but no input.

9. What’s your goals for 2011?

Get back at reading and exercising; travel to at least one new place; get better with using greys and subtle colors; work for new clients.

10. Any Advice for the young guns just getting out of school?

Not just work really really really hard, but work really really really hard at the right things at the right time. For example,concentrate on building a strong portfolio before being bothered and distracted with promotions.

11. Any advice for the old guys?

I don't think I am in the position to give them any advice. But I guess if I had been doing illustration for a while, I would like to remind myself from time to time why I started drawing in the first place, so illustration won't turn into a mundane job. Maybe also change things up a bit every once in a while to keep things fresh and interesting for myself?

12. Final Word?

Thank you very much Fish! I haven't typed so much since I did that Art History paper about Islamic architecture in senior year. :)

All work is under ©opyright of Victo Ngai

You can find more of her work: Victo-Ngai.com

Thank's Victo