How and when did you know that you wanted to become an illustrator?
For me there are two times that together made this decision. The first time reaches all the way back to the last few years of design school. A vast majority of my student work featured illustrations I would create for my projects. I enjoyed it, but adding an illustration major to my workload was not an option. I was told during portfolio reviews to consider putting an alternate portfolio together of my work.
Fairly soon out of school I started working at a magazine, and I was able to commission a handful of illustrations every month. It was a wonderful experience working with all these illustrators I admired, and many I had never heard of who were equally amazing. Being in this environment fueled my passion for illustration, and I continued to create my own work. Once I felt I had a solid portfolio built up, I set up my website and marketing efforts and began my illustration career. Working with so many illustrators in itself was a big inspiration and influence on my decision to be an illustrator.
What type of environment do you prefer to work in? At home or in a studio? Listening to music?
Working at home is by far the best place for me. I have a place in the basement where my set-up is. I tend to work very late into the night, or even get up very early to work, so its nice to be home with my family even when I am working.
I always have music playing, and when I am working through concepts its usually something instrumental like Explosions in the Sky, then when I am creating the work it can be anything I’m in the mood for.
As a working illustrator, do you still find time to create art for yourself?
Not nearly as much as I would like, but I do find some time throughout the year to make it happen. It is pretty important to make the time if you find you become too busy.
What type of transition needs to be made between creating art for yourself and creating art that is commissioned?
Not much transition is needed, I go about it the same way for both. The biggest challenge or difference is that there is usually a story or summary when it is commissioned, and the timing is often up to the client. Work I do for myself is based on inspiration I have after something I have read, watched or talked about. Then the timing is up to me, and when I can fit it in.
When you are creating commissioned work, how do you take yourself out of the project and focus on the idea that needs to be conveyed?
I find I will often put myself into the situation to see what kind of emotion comes out of that. I straddle that line of viewing it from my point of view, and then also looking at it from the outside, and removing myself. Both will give me various viewpoints on how to handle the concept and idea. Then I use the one that works out the best.
What type of artwork do you have hanging in your home?
I actually do not have a lot of artwork hanging, but what I do have I love. My stand out items would have to be the 6 or 7 Nick Dewar originals, one of my all-time favorite illustrators. They are framed and in various spots around the house. One of them is even the first illustration I ever commissioned as a young art director. He was so gracious, it was a “welcome to art direction” gift.
I Also have a handful of posters some friends have created, and some photography. I used to collect photo and illustration postcards from my magazine days, and I still have a ton of those tacked up to my boards at home. They are their own little pieces of artwork.
Who was the first illustrator that you noticed and admired?
Brian Cronin is one of the first that comes to mind. He did the cover for AI 19, and had a handful of images in the book as well. The man ironing his lower half while standing at an ironing board is still one of my favorites.
What is your favorite way to get out of a creative block?
If time allows, then I put it aside and just do something else altogether, something that does not require conceptualizing. Read a magazine, make some french-press coffee, something along those lines. If I am pressed for time, then its just a battle that has to be won, and you push through it. I will do word association in my sketchbook to help me lead into a new idea and get over the block.
Is there any one publication that you still have aspirations to see yourself in?
New York Times Op-Ed.