While my color mood project is officially over, I haven’t stopped keeping an eye for effective uses of color and geometry in illustration and design. Because I happen to be a musician, I’ve also started creating gig posters for my band’s shows. The gig poster is an interesting format–you have to draw attention quickly and effectively, which typically means that it needs a striking illustration or eye-catching typography.
Dan Stiles is a cornerstone of the gig poster world, and has continued to surpass its limits with his incredible command of color and use of interacting shapes. He’s a Portland-based designer and illustrator with an award-winning track record, and has worked with clients such as Death Cab For Cutie, Feist, Nike, Birch Fabrics, MTV, and Wired Magazine.
Dan, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, got his footing in Portland during his college years. He gravitated towards design by falling into the role of rock-poster-maker at the University of Oregon. Interestingly enough, he got his start as a pen-and-ink artist rather than a digital pixel-pusher (which he expounds on in his interview with WeMake). As a punk DIY-er, he originally was avoidant of graphic design. It’s a relief to know that there were others who resisted digital illustration at first aside from me!
From there, he fell in love with the design process as well as the silkscreen process, which is often a principal element in many gig posters. His minimalist aesthetic and focus on the integrity of shape only lends itself to his chosen medium. As a gig poster designer, he often has complete creative control over the concept and execution of his designs.
Since those early days, Dan has branched out to advertising, branding/identity, surface design, packaging, and even creates his own books and merchandise. He’s worked with Birch Fabrics on their Marine Too and Mod Squad lines (the former of which was borne out of his design for an A.C. Newman poster). Dan cites his success as being dependent on his abundance of completed work.
“I look at it like the sorcerer’s apprentice. I’m Mickey Mouse, and every project I complete is another broomstick out in the world doing work for me. The more quality work I release, the wider my reach.” -Dan, from his interview with Birch Fabrics.
I discovered Jon Contino by following the work of Jessica Hische and Drew Melton (the typography world is very small). The first two things that resonated with me was the fact that he, like me, didn’t go to art school, and that he also used his musicianship as a passageway to his passion for design. As much as I’ve grown to love digital illustration and type design, I’m always the most drawn to analog aesthetics–and Jon prioritizes them in his work.
Jon Contino is an award-winning designer, illustrator, art director and self-professed alphastructaesthetitologist. His style is strongly inspired by contemporary street art, his native stomping grounds of New York, and the grit of hand-drawn type. He’s worked with clients like Ogilvy, Nike, Whole Foods, McSweeney’s, Target and The New York Times. He’s also an ADC Young Gun 9 winner to boot, and happens to possess a heartwarming Long Island-born accent.
Jon cites his family as being vital in governing his design and illustration aesthetic. His mother and grandmother happened to be artists, both supporting and assisting in his pursuit of his craft by bringing home reams of butcher paper and instructional drawing books (more about this in the wonderful Shoptalk interview here). He discovered that the lettering he was seeing in movie posters and baseball adverts still counted as typography–even at a very early age. It took me much longer to figure out that illustration and beautifully drawn words weren’t just for books–the marks of our handiwork can truly be found anywhere, if you just slow down and take the time to look.
As a teenager, Jon got his freelancer chops very early on. As a designer geek and drummer in a hardcore band, he was constantly relied upon by his band (and friends’ bands) to supply flyer designs, gig posters and the like. Soon enough, he realized that he could actually “make money at this thing,” and he was preparing invoices and freelancing by the ripe old age of 15.
In 2006, after working for a few different companies and design houses, he opened his own creative studio and has been working for himself ever since. He’s constantly turning pet projects into mini-businesses–most recently, he started up Contino Brand. And even amidst his successes, he’s learned the art of saying no for the sake of self-preservation.
Jon has spoken about how his preference for modern minimalism and his hand-drawn gritty aesthetic meets with a clash. That clash has governed a unique vision that brings the best of clean design and true-to-form drawing together. I’m enthralled by this intersection, and so clearly see the passion and determination that stands solidly behind Jon’s work. His personal history only continues to illuminate it.
Back in 2009 when I first decided that illustration was definitely the route for me, I was finally beginning to stumble on a lot of other illustrators that really governed my taste and aesthetic going forward. Interestingly, a lot of them happened to reside across the pond in Great Britain. Julia Pott, Lizzy Stewart and Gemma Correll are a few that come directly to mind when thinking of the geography, and are some of my favorite working artists to this date. Lize Meddings also happens to hail from the UK. I stumbled upon her work via Tumblr of all places, and am quite happy I did!
Lize Meddings is a Bristol-based fine artist and illustrator with a penchant for the color pink, animals, nature and all kinds of positive self-expression. She works in both analog and digital formats, showcasing wonderful brushwork and gestural figures. Since finishing up the Illustration program at Plymouth College of Art & Design, she’s become a self-publishing fiend–constantly working on the next comic, zine, print, bag or fine art commission. The idea of a creative block seems far and away from this one’s mind.
Lize is quite interested in the act of characterization, if that wasn’t obvious before. Her medium of comfort is a brush and some ink, but she also demonstrates a natural comfort around the use of color. I particularly love the way she draws eyes–very fairylike for some reason.
Something I’ve noticed about several British illustrators is the tendency towards a more “naive” aesthetic. While that might sound negative, it’s completely the opposite. There’s a unique youthfulness in Lize’s work that allows it to appeal to a wider, younger audience, all while the messages remain witty and cheeky. It takes a special person to turn reality into something appealing, and she does just that by focusing on the relatable, more beautiful aspects of life.
This Art Crush entry has truly been a long time coming. I first came across Lisa Congdon by way of Meighan O’Toole’s former art blog and podcast, My Love For You (which is post-worthy in its own right–it was an enormous source of inspiration for me during my college years). While I definitely gravitated to Lisa’s work on a visual level, it was her personal story that drew me in. Freelance illustration had been her second career. She didn’t start painting or making art until she was 31, and here she was, participating in museum-level shows, working with clients like Chronicle Books, and just being a genuine, successful badass. Lisa is not only someone I look up to artistically–she’s also a prime example of a human being.
Lisa’s art career was secondary, after she accumulated over a decade of experience in the education and nonprofit industries. By pure chance, she stumbled into a painting class and began making art of all kinds from that day forward–fueled by pure joy instead of the desire to succeed quickly. Having always been an avid collector, her random ephemera would find their way into countless collages as well as a series of photos, drawings and paintings that would eventually make up her A Collection A Day project. As she continued to develop her craft and share it with the ever-expanding Internet, people began to catch on. Today, she is an accomplished and prolific working artist, blogger, illustrator, public speaker and writer. Some of her most notable clients to date include The Land of Nod, The Museum of Modern Art, Harper Collins, 826 Valencia and Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
Lisa unabashedly tackles the subjects she is most passionate about, and that fearlessness is expressed effortlessly in the execution of her work. She describes herself as a “visual junkie,” and is deeply inspired by patterns, travel, architecture and vintage packaging, just to name a few. A faithful blogger, Lisa writes about her own process in addition to other artists whom she admires, as well as her life “outside the studio,” which includes swimming, biking, sewing, and traveling. In other words, she’s just making all of us look bad! (I only kid.)
One of the reasons I relate to Lisa’s work is due to the versatility and ever-evolving nature of her aesthetic. Certain characteristics like neon hues and her penchant for all things Scandinavian are mainstays, but she continues to branch out and explore all kinds of mediums (block printing and calligraphy, to name a few). These explorations fuel her work and expand her direction, which is most recently geared towards abstract painting. She’s a wonderful example of why you don’t need to narrow yourself down to one specific style (something I often grapple with).
Lisa is quite a unique artist in that she is not only a creator, but a mentor as well. Breaking into freelance illustration can be a challenging and solitary undertaking, and she continues to give her generous time to those who wish to pursue and learn more about the field through classes, speaking engagements and conferences around the country. I first met Lisa at her first Freelance Illustration class at Makeshift Society back in December 2012, and it was one of my most pivotal learning experiences to date.
Lisa recently released her new book, “Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist,” which is a revolutionary and timely answer to the starving artist stereotype. It covers all areas of the freelance artist’s domain, such as photographing fine art, finding printing services, copyright, and diversifying income. It sits on the shelf above my working desk (I like to call it my “VIP” shelf) as I reference it constantly.
On that same note, I’m very excited to be taking Lisa’s “Become A Working Artist” class through CreativeLive next week! You can follow along with the class virtually by RSVPing here.
Natsko Seki collages lively, saturated scenes of urban life from her own drawings and photographs. Begging to be explored, each illustration is populated with human activity and contains clues left by a moment in time that—if only yesterday—is now lost. Iconic architecture stands as a grandiose reminder that Seki’s people are living in the shadows of history and are unknowing participants in the writing of their city’s centuries. Seki’s interest in architecture, fashion, and contemporary urban life has landed her commissions with Transport for London, Royal Historic Palaces, The Guardian, Bloomsbury, and Hermès. In 2013, Louis Vuitton published a book of Seki’s London illustrations as part of their travel books collection. Seki grew up in Tokyo and studied illustration in Brighton, UK. She now lives in London.
Self-described “designy illustrator” Mikey Burton is a Philadelphia-based creative with a serious bear preoccupation. His professional work centers around editorial illustration, infographics, and identity design. He’s also been bestowed with awards from ADC Young Guns, Communication Arts, & Graphis, some of the most prestigious organizations in the industry, and has worked with clients like The Atlantic, Converse, Facebook, Fast Company, and Wilco. Mikey values simplicity in principles of color and design, using minimalism and traditionally-inspired typography to an effective advantage. The understated elegance of his work is what secured his spot in the Art Crush Friday Hall of Fame.
Mikey’s aesthetic is identified in the intersection between sharp, geometric vector designs and substantial, meaningful textures. I use the word meaningful not to be an art school asshole, but to say that the textures have strong purpose and intent in his work.
As I’ve learned more and more about graphic design, I’ve started to see the fork in the road that exists between flat and realistic design (this gorgeous Webby-winning site explains this very conundrum in further detail). As I mentioned earlier, Mikey’s process allows real textures to shine through flat shapes, seemingly creating atmospheres within the simplest of flattened shapes. Interestingly enough, he’s referenced his really old HP LaserJet printer as being the very tool that creates these fascinating textures. [More about his process here.]
Mikey swears by two things in particular before starting his design process: coffee and preliminary sketching. He’s a refreshingly real person who needs to participate in real humany things before dragging along on the computer for hours on end. He will routinely post final work to his Dribbble account, modestly seeking feedback from the peers he so deeply respects. I admire his humility, honesty and continual hustle for meaningful work, even amidst his great successes thus far. For budding designers, here’s some of Mikey’s advice: create work that you want to be hired to do, and don’t be a lame person to deal with.
Follow along with Mikey and his adventures to come:
In my journey towards becoming somewhat of a graphic designer, I’ve gone through many bouts of chocolate-fueled rage, cursing when I can’t figure out how to line up my beziers correctly, or how exactly to create a seamless repeat pattern. Although there are loads of tutorials online, the Australia Graphic Supply Company is set to become the “square one” learning source for budding designers and typographers of all types (pun not intended).
Self-described “pixel-wranglers,” Dave and Laura Coleman are a husband-and-wife team working out of Sydney, Australia, focusing on a wide range of visual services from photography and branding to illustration and tattoo design. While Laura mostly manages operations & finances, Dave handles the creative side of their shared business–and both of them share a serious passion for design, photography and lettering.
They host a selection of their own client work on their website, but the primary focus is on their community and growing tutorial section. What’s neat to see is that their tutorial aesthetic matches up perfectly with that of their professional projects–the aim is clearly to give the viewer proper insight into the process of creating high-quality design and typography while simplifying the process down to layman’s terms.
Dave and Laura were briefly living and working abroad in Oviedo, Spain, but are now in the process of returning to their home base in Sydney. To follow along with their adventures, check out their travel blog.
I’ve also included a couple links to my other favorite tutorials below:
I can’t wait for more exciting tutorials and developments from the AGSC. Thanks so much to Dave and Laura for sharing their knowledge with us! Follow along with them on theirwebsite, Twitter, and Pinterest.
In writing these Art Crush posts, I’ve found that I’m usually late to the party. Meaning, of course, that literally everyone else has known about these illustrators already before I stumbled across their work, since I’m probably an unhip grandma. But in this case, I’m kind of excited–Kelly Thorn is an up-and-coming junior designer at Louise Fili Ltd. and generally amazing typographer and illustrator, and she’s already blossoming on the scene.
I stumbled upon Kelly Thorn’s work by way of Friends of Type, a “typography sketchbook” of sorts started by Erik Marinovich and a few of his illo-designer buddies. Kelly’s command of linework and her gorgeous color choices immediately drew me in. Her pieces demonstrate a solid understanding of design and composition, but still leave room for illustrative experimentation and expression. Lovely.
A 2012 graduate of Tyler School of Art’s Graphic & Interactive Design program, Kelly now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Have you ever awoken in the morning with a lingering feeling that’s something like queasy wonderment, with fading images of strange, unearthly places bobbing at the edges of your consciousness before sinking forever into the cloudy depths of forgetting? Well, what if at that moment you were able to hook up your dream-addled brain to some fantastical art-machine that had the power to transliterate the fevered firing of your synapses into psychic Polaroid snaps? The result might be something very much like the art of Josh Courlas.
This New York illustrator’s fantastically atmospheric work is filled with mysterious figures lurking in shadowy halls and trudging through foreboding, misty landscapes or worlds of nightmarish, geometric architecture. In quite what manner of quests these cloaked somnambulators might be engaged remains always arcane, but that’s all part of the appeal. It’s as though those crazy dreams of yours had something to do with those dog-eared copies of HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe sitting on your nightstand…
See more of the products of Courlas’s magnificent, spattery 1970s airbrush of gloom over at his website.