IF Interview with Phillip Fivel Nessen



I was raised in Vermont but came to Brooklyn to draw pictures. I just graduated from Parsons School of Design.



How did you get started in the illustration field?

The first time I noticed illustration was a Henrik Drescher drawing in the New York Times book review. It was an Uncle Sam head, with spider legs, and I think lasers for eyes. It had people running through the spider legs. I think thatâ??s where my interest in visual arts started. I find Monet sort of boring. As for doing work, I got a few jobs just through my website before I started doing any promotion or meeting with anyone. Then I sent out postcards and took my portfolio to a few places and got some good advice and some more jobs. And then I did an Illustration Friday interview.

How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

At first it was a very calculated thing. I spent like a month cutting things out and taking notes. Just sort of figuring out where I could fit into the illustration business and be sort of novel but also reflect stuff I really like. I also wanted to sort of look like a late 1950s, early 1960s illustrator. After I started drawing more new stylistic things popped up in response to different things. Thick lines, thin lines, abstract people, figural people. Whatever. Things are still working themselves out. I sort of hope I end up like one of those guys comfortable enough to do work thatâ??s not the same story over and over. There is definitely a fine line between hopeless and multi-dimensional.

What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job?

A lot of times it is through email. Sometimes the art director will give me a call. Maybe there is a contract I’ve got to look over and try to get something changed. And then sketches and some explanations are sent through email. Sometime I need to do revised sketches. Then finals are sent with invoices. I really appreciate how ideas sometimes get a lot stronger with the input of an art director.

What is your creation process (start with sketches, etcâ?¦)?

I try to write the ideas I have out as a sentence. I think if it looks funny as a sentence it wouldn’t make a good illustration no matter how much you decorate it. Then I sketch it out and then if its approved I use a light box and draw the final picture.

How do you market/promote your work?

A mix of my website, postcards, and a few drop offs has been somewhat serviceable. Its been okay. I’m also a member of a certain well-known, for-pay web portfolio site that has had pretty disappointing results for me so far, though that could all turn around any day, I don’t really know.

Do you have a rep? Why/why not?

Yes. Our business relationship hasn’t become all that serious yet, because I just started with them. So, I can’t really share my experience them. It is somewhat comforting knowing that they’ve been around for a while and know what they are doing.

What was one of your favorite assignments?

Once my travel sketches from India were re-worked and then published. That was pretty exciting for me.

What is the best part about what you do?

I get a nice buzz when I finish something I’ve been struggling with.

Describe your work setting.

I work in my bedroom. I just have a couple of desks and a shoe box full of pens and things.

Do you have side projects you work on?

I am co-writing an illustration a graphic novel about this city in China, Harbin. I’ve also got invited into a few group shows this fall. So, I have started to make some paintings for those. Its been a long to since I made a straight up piece of art, and I am pulling teeth trying to get them to look right. I’ve also got a group blog called Blow Your Horn Hunter that has peoples’ music and pictures on it.

How do you maintain balance in your life between work and play?

When I get jobs I can sort of throw myself into them, and hang out inside for a week. And then when work clears up I can throw myself into something else. My schedule hasn’t gotten super hectic.

Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?

Sure I do. I just enjoy myself in the ways the rest of America does.

What do you do for fun/when you’re not working?

I am really into listening to records and drinking at bars. I am learning how to play Banjo. Last week, I tried making things out of paper mache.

What has been inspiring you lately?

I got into this band called Life Without Buildings. I really like Siggi Eggertson a lot. I really like Sean Starwars. He’s a Southern printmaker. I was lucky enough to buy one of his prints. I always really like late 50â??s artists who also did illustration like Jacob Landau. I got this book by Alfred Lansing about the Endurance, this boat in a failed Antarctic expedition in 1914. Its about their boat getting by ice and all these guys trying to stay alive in Antarctica and get themselves rescued. How’s that for inspirational? Something like 500 of 550 days in Antarctica and not one of them died. Also, foreign people.

Any advice for others who are pursuing creative goals?

Sometimes folks say things about your work that’s delivered pretty coldly or harshly, but they may have a point. So, don’t discredit them because they are no good, because following their advice could make you a better illustrator.

Thank you for this interview, Phillip!

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Posted by admin on 08/08/07 under Interviews

  • http://www.lucworks.com Lucas Fehr

    EEEEeee. Nice lines. Very emotional.

  • Steven Guarnaccia

    Beautiful work as always, Phillip. Congratulations on the recognition.

  • http://www.valgalart.blogspot.com valgalart

    Amazing nostalgic and wonderful feelings emanate from your work! You will go very far!

  • http://www.esaiasson.se/blog/ Maria E.

    Beautiful drawings. Keep up the good work! :)

  • http://inprocess Katie Stevenson

    Your style, line, and use of bold flat colors give an Asian almost woodcut-like feeling. What media do you use?

  • http://www.maethebear.blogspot.com mae t.b.

    i left uni a coupla yrs ago an havent really illustrated since…ur work is inspiring me to get a black biro an some paper out,thanks.

  • http://www.TannerNilsen.com Tanner Nilsen

    Hey I really like your style alot. My work is also digital and i think our styles are very similar. good stuff. my website is http://www.TannerNilsen.com

  • http://www.phillipfivel.com Phillip Nessen

    Thank you all so much!

  • http://lblf.free.fr loubard

    It’s wonderfull!
    the texture, the composiotion, the ideas, everything is such a masterpiece!

  • http://bouchergallery.com Carter Boucher

    I really enjoyed viewing your iluustrations. The drama in the horses going over the cliff was incredible.

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