1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?
Chris Silas Neal is an artist and illustrator, born in Texas and raised in Florida and Colorado. His work has been published by a variety of magazines, book publishers and television, and has been recognized by the AIGA, SPD and Type Directors Club among others. His first book, Over and Under the Snow, with Kate Messner is a 2011 New York Times’s Editor’s Choice, was selected to the Notable Book List and won an E.B. White Honor Award in 2012. He exhibits drawings at various galleries and speaks at events across the country. He currently works and lives in Brooklyn and teaches Illustration at Pratt Institute.
2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I found illustration in a roundabout way. It started with a Graphic Design elective in the School of Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I started undergrad as a music major (drums) but switched to advertising half way through. The last semester of my senior year I took the one and only design class offered at the school. The teacher and I hit it off and by semester’s end, I was offered a job at his small design studio. It was just the two of us. I worked at his shop for nearly four years learning about type, composition and idea making. Though I wasn’t making illustrations, working as a designer really provided the foundation for my art career. Eventually, I moved to New York working as a designer and making drawings at night after work just for fun. Through a mutual friend I met Rachel Salomon and seeing her work successfully as an illustrator changed everything. I left my job and starting making an illustration portfolio. I haven’t looked back since.
3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I’ve always used flat shapes, color, decorative elements, texture and conceptually tried to elicit an emotional response- a smile or something sad that tugs at the heart. My work for the most part has been simple and quiet. But, the drawing and technique has shifted over the years while experimenting with media, surface quality and visual tricks. It’s sort of like fashion. At its core, my work is anchored to something individual, personal and immoveable but in order to be in the moment and reflect culture, the surface has to change each season.
I can’t say exactly why my work looks the way it does other than I am bound by my limitations. I enjoy having to navigate around my quirks and peculiarities in order to arrive at a picture.
4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
Draw, Paint, Scan, Photoshop.
5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
Ideas mainly come from drawing. Sometimes, I’ll arrive at an idea while going for a walk, surfing the web or just thinking- starring off into space but mainly, the act of drawing is what generates the most ideas. I most enjoy when a concept is intrinsically fused to the medium or drawing technique- the idea simply couldn’t exist if the artist didn’t draw with scribbles or use acrylic paint. Those are the best ideas and often feel the most personal.
6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
All the time and no matter how long I work at this business, I’ll read a manuscript and think, “I have know idea what I’m going to do” But I suppose thats a good problem to have. I simply freak out and have a miniature panic attack until I figure something out.
7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Two things I enjoy most are creating something personal and making my own schedule. I pretty much get to do those two things everyday.
8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
It’s really hard to plan in this business. It seems like everytime I go on vacation I’m offered the coolest job ever and have to turn it down.
9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I just bought an apartment and working in our garden keeps me busy.
10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you¬†can share with us?
I just published a picture on Chronicle Books with author Kate Messner. We are working on a follow up. I’m also pitching my own ideas and hope to have something published soon.
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5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
swimming, travel, colored pencils, stand-up comedy, walking
3 constants in your day:
cat poop, drawing, food.
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” – Bill Cosby
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More art inspiration!
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