Name: Raul Colon
Location: New York City
Primary Medium: colored pencil and watercolor
1. Tell us about yourself / What makes you tick?
Art and music make me tick. Tick, tick, tick. I didn’t realize it then but as a child I was interested both in music and art beyond the norm. As far back as I can remember I always had pencil and paper in hand. I usually filled my Composition notebooks with drawings and ran out of space to do my homework.
I also read quite a bit. Especially comic books. “Spiderman” and “Sgt. Rock” were two favorites. I read my sister’s school books (She was four years older) and found that the stories in her textbooks were a lot more interesting than what I was reading in second grade. That’s when I read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” which became my favorite childhood story.
I cared for music too. I remember watching some movies and TV shows just because I liked the theme music (usually instrumental music, not the silly sing- alongs…).
As I got older, the British music invasion took place and for a while I tried my hand at rock stardom, but illustration won out, to my mother’s delight.
2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I was working in the graphics department of a TV Educational Center in Florida, and we used to get all the illustration annuals every year. By looking through them I learned what was needed to become a freelance illustrator. I spent a year putting a portfolio together in my free time — I payed my bills, saved some money, printed half a dozen postcards, made a list of clients, mailed my cards and eventually quit my job at the Center and took the plunge into the New York market. I steadily made cold calls to every art director I had mailed postcards to and showed my portfolio all over town. That’s the way it was done in those days — you actually met art directors. After a few months of consuming extra loads of peanut butter sandwiches I slowly got enough work to make a living. The New York Times Book Review, BusinessWeek and New York Magazine were among my first clients.
3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
My “style” developed through time. I was always experimenting with different mediums. That led to a breakthrough of sorts when I picked up an “etching” instrument that was supposedly used for scratchboard art and decided to implement it with my colored pencil and watercolor pieces.
4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I start a piece by covering my watercolor paper with a light wash of Aureolin (yellow). I then pencil in the image. I add halftones and darks usually with multiple browns and sepia washes. I etch lines onto the paper using the “scratcher”. Finally, I put layers of prismacolor pencils and lithograph crayons. The paper’s texture allows the layers of color underneath to show through, giving the piece a certain warm glow. The etched lines also allow more color to show through.
5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
For ideas I can look through magazines, watch MTV videos, movies, play music or stare at the sky. Putting things together that are seemingly unrelated helps you think out of the box and formulate unusual concepts — what is called vertical or horizontal thinking.
6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Creative slumps mean I leave the studio and do something totally unrelated to what I’m supposed to do. Go for a walk, read the newspaper or play the guitar. I still keep these activities related to something that require some form of creativity.
7. Best / most fun part of your job:
When you wake up from the trance and you find that what you’ve been working on turned out better than you thought, or at least as good as you imagined it. This doesn’t happen all that often though.
8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
Dead, dead, deadlines!
9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I do like to work on my own personal art which I hope to exhibit someday.
10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
I just wrote a story for a wordless picture book which I’ll be finishing for a major publisher in the next couple of months. I have another original picture book in the works.
Hopefully I’ll record some music with friends.
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5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
Rock music/ classical music.
“2001 A Space Odyssey”
3 constants in your day:
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Thank you so much, Raul!