Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
Lauren R. Weinstein is a cartoonist, illustrator, and graphic storytelling teacher based out of New Jersey. Her work is distinct in it’s raw, humorous approach to the human condition, and sometimes ventures into the realm of a dark, surreal head trip. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, her first comics would start popping up in various publications like the Seattle Stranger, and gURL.com. Then, a few years, she would debut the critically acclaimed Inside Vineyland, her first collection of comics. Girl Stories, a memoir of her teenage years, and the over-sized Goddess of War, a tale about the God of Thunder’s great-granddaughter’s exploits, would soon follow.
Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Glamour, Nautil.us, Lucky Peach, and Kramer’s Ergot.
She was a recipient of the Xeric Foundation’s grant for self-publishing comics for Inside Vineyland, and her comics have been featured in The Best American Comics book series twice.
She is currently teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and working on her next graphic novel, a follow-up to Girl Stories.
You can read her latest work Carriers, a very personal webcomic about a very serious health situation with her unborn child, and the life lessons she took away from that experience.
You can keep up with the latest news, and see more of Lauren R. Weinstein’s art on her website.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates
Jim Rugg is an illustrator, graphic designer, comics artist, and visual narrative instructor at the School of Visual Arts. He broke into the comics scene in 2004 with the publication of his comic book Street Angel from Slave Labor Graphics, which he created, and co-wrote with friend Brian Maruca. Since that time Rugg has worked on a number of high profile comics projects including The Guild for Dark Horse, The Plain Janes for DC/MINX, and more recently, Adventure Time for Boom! Studios. He’s also contributed cover illustrations for LA Weekly, Sleazy Slice, and IDW’s G.I. Joe Special Missions. In 2009 AdHouse Books published his Street Angel spin-off, Afrodisiac, to much critical acclaim, and next month will see the release of the new Street Angel hardcover collection.
Jim Rugg’s art has been exhibited at Iam8bit, Gallery1988, Mondo, and the Society of Illustrators. His work has been honored with an Ignatz Award for outstanding achievement in cartooning, and AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers Selection for best designed books.
You can see more of Jim Rugg’s work on his website.
You can read more about other great artists working in comics at my website here.
During the years 2009-2012, Illustrator Thomas James recorded 81 in-depth interviews with Illustrators, Art Directors, and Art Reps about the business of illustration. The Escape from Illustration Island series proved to be immensely popular due to its broad-ranging look at the industry and its long list of well-known guests such as Dave McKean, Drew Struzan, Christoph Niemann, Josh Cochran, and Marshall Arisman, just to name a few.
Even though the series released its final episode in September 2012, it is still a valuable source of knowledge and insight about the business of freelance illustration, and you can still enjoy all 81 episodes while working in your studio.
For your convenience, you can find a comprehensive archive of all 81 episodes here.
Posted by Thomas James on 05/23/14 under Interviews
This week we had the pleasure of catching up with Scott Brundage. Scott is an editorial illustrator best known for his humorous paintings, often involving a monkey. He also does book covers, bar mitzvahs, and birthdays.
Hi! Thanks for joining us on Illustration Friday, where we sketch to new words/topics every week. We like to draw on Fridays. What do you do to keep up your chops when not working on client work?
At any given time, I have 2-5 sketchbooks in various states of completion. I tend to collect them habitually and if a certain book has a cool texture/paper type/tone I’ll probably buy it. I try to keep 2 or 3 with me in a bag so I can sketch in transit or whenever I have downtime. Mainly brainless observational or stream of consciousness drawings or a blend of both. Plenty of pages begin with the old lady sitting across from me, then end with that old lady being courted by a minotaur. Similarly, I try to pick up new media when I have open time in my schedule. I picked up a bunch of inks and dyes then made a series of small paintings of scraps of whatever paper I had in my studio. Basically trying anything but my usual paint and usual brand of watercolor paper. Made a nice bunch of glorious failures (mostly monkey pictures), but NOW I can incorporate a lot of it into my work
More practically, I have, on more than one occasion, gotten so wrapped up in one particular project that I end up finishing and realize no one has heard from me in months. To counteract that, I keep a steady stream of back burner projects. A stack of possible paintings that I really want to do but probably won’t be hired for until I have a similar sample. This has served me well in the past. Most of my current work is from personal projects that fit a market I’ve been aiming for for years, but only just now had a chance to create real samples for.
Why did you become an illustrator? Why art, why not fine art, why not a designer?
All I knew before art school was that I really wanted to draw for a living. The how-to-get-paid aspect a mystery. I had a lot of interest in comics and animation and figured I’d find my direction at a school that had a major for illustration and animation. I found I really liked the storytelling and problem solving aspect of illustration a lot more than the grind of animation. I also really liked having a finished product to look at and move on from. Animation’s process seemed too long term for me personally. But I did supplement a lot of my illustration classes with drawing studios meant for animators. I think, if left to my own devices, I’d still end up painting illustrations. Even if I wanted to make fine art, I imagine I’d keep injecting a narrative or a joke. And regarding graphic design, I admire people who find a real love for it. I could never really scratch my own creative itch by moving type around. I’d never disparage it because when it’s done well, it’s so freaking beautiful. I just know I’d crash and burn if I ever attempted to make money with it.
How did you find your first client, or how did they find you?
On the advice of several mentors, I started sending out postcards well before I thought my work was professional level. I had a functioning, if simple, website portfolio, and I would send out cards every other month. The third or fourth of these mailers got me a call from Eric Seidman at The AARP Bulletin. When he called, I initially thought it was a prank from a friend trying to mess with me. Turns out it was legit and he really liked the small drawing I had printed on the back of the mailer (me slouched on my desk chair looking longingly at my phone, which is on a very fancy pillow).
What were the biggest mistakes you made early in your career? What did you learn?
I think John Hendrix said something along the lines of “getting work in illustration is like staying on a floating log. It’s really difficult to start, but once you start, you just need to keep moving” (definitely butchered the actually quote, my apologies). When I started getting a handful of clients, I was too ignorant to realize how good the handful I had were. And then I started taking them for granted, and the work slowly deteriorated. With a new client, I’d want to blow them out of the water with an epic painting. Then after a couple jobs, I’d just get it done. Well, I learned that the AD’s may stop calling, and even if one AD is still happy with my work, he or she may leave the next week. If the replacement doesn’t dig what I’ve been creating for their publication, I’m donezo. Now I treat each job like it may well be my last one.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming illustrators who want to break in?
My favorite quote about the lifestyle of an artist is from Steve Brodner, “The most important drawing is the next one.” Getting into a mindset where you are always creating is the best thing you can do for yourself. The earlier you adopt it, the better. Look at any of your heroes and you’ll see they spent xxx amount of time simply toiling and struggling to figure out what their work is. Instead of fearing that or hiding from it, produce as much work as possible, then when you finally make a piece you like, start another one.The easiest and hardest thing in the world.
Sam Wolfe Connelly’s star is rising. Just a few short years out of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Sam has done everything from Magic cards, to gallery shows. He boasts both illustration and gallery representation in NYC, one of the toughest markets around for this kind of work.
Sam was kind enough to take a little time to answer our interview questions this week. Enjoy his answers, and some of his work below.
- Hi! Thanks for joining us on Illustration Friday, where we sketch to new words/topics every week. We like to draw on Fridays. What do you do to keep up your chops when not working on client work?
I dont really keep a sketchbook, but I’m always working on something. Between jobs I tend to use my time towards gallery paintings and finishing other side projects.
- Why did you become an illustrator? Why art, why not fine art, why not a designer?
I mainly chose illustration because it seemed like a somewhat steady way to still draw what I wanted and at the same time, have a constant income of clients that could help me pay the bills after school. Lately I’ve been seeing my work move more into a gallery setting, which is where I’ve always wanted to end up, and it seems like the natural progression for my stuff to take since I like working more with personal themes.
- How did you find your first client, or how did they find you?
My first client was with Playboy, who ended up contacting me after I had sent them a pamphlet with a number of my colored prints and a few hand drawn details on it. It came as a total shock and I remember feeling so nervous to work with such a big publisher at the time. The more jobs I got though, the more comfortable I’ve been around art directors and it really reflects in the work I think.
- What were the biggest mistakes you made early in your career? What did you learn?
My biggest mistake was probably to try and formulate my style to what I saw was succeeding around me. Towards the end of school I felt really out of touch with my work because I had spent too much effort towards wanting to be an artist clients would want instead of drawing for me. As soon as I started drawing things the way I wanted them I began to really see my own ‘style’ begin to flourish.
- What advice would you give to up-and-coming illustrators who want to break in?
Dont take failure to heart. Everyone gets rejection along the way, but you’ve gotta keep going.
Fox in Socks
Posted by Thomas James on 03/31/14 under Interviews
Hello Illustration Friday community!
We caught up with Rebecca Guay this week and she has tons of gems to share in her interview below. Rebecca is a hugely successful illustrator, fine artist and educator. She has done more Magic cards than anyone on the planet (pretty sure), multiple books and graphic novels, held her own gallery shows, and founded both the Illustration Master Class and Smart School. She is also one of the nicest most kind-hearted people I have ever met. I am very excited to share this interview because Rebecca has helped me immensely with my own career, and I think her words below will be useful to many of you.
Rebecca also just launched a Kickstarter for her Very Fancy art book, Evolution: the Art of Rebecca Guay. The book contains everything from her Magic card work to illustration to fine art. The books will be beautifully bound with red or gold dyed page edges. It is already funded, so buy with confidence.
And now, Rebecca Guay!
Hi! Thanks for joining us on Illustration Friday, where we sketch to new words/topics every week. We like to draw on Fridays.
1. What do you do to keep up your chops when not working on client work?
This is a challenge for everyone! Most people don’t even consider that it is actually really really emotionally hard to sit down and work sometimes – and that more often than not you just have to put your butt in the chair and DO. I’ve often mentioned that quote by Picasso (I think!) “there’s such a thing as inspiration but it must find you working” that could not be more true!!
Sometimes i just sit down with a book on tape and start – sometimes I set artificial deadlines – whatever it takes to get me working. Sometimes I take a week off too!!
2. Why did you become an illustrator? Why art, why not fine art, why not a designer?
I thought I would major in painting at Pratt but found out really quickly that in the late 80s the only teachers TEACHING anyone how to paint something figurative or narrative in any way were the illustration professors! So I went into the COMD dept and majored in illustration. I know that the lines are ( gratifyingly) much more blurry across the genres now- illustrations and gallery- but they weren’t then. If you wanted to paint ANY kind of narrative or figures in any way at all with some real serious skill- it was only the illustration programs that seemed to produce the solid foundations. I have loved doing illustration over the last 21 years- adored so much- and I am equally adoring where artists can go within the gallery world – its an intoxicating time to create work.
I never ever wanted to be a designer- so that was never in question- My mom was one for the Boston Globe and she adored it- but I knew early it wouldn’t be for me. My helpless dramatic heart needed an outlet in paint.
3. How did you find your first client, or how did they find you?
My first real client fount me in an industry paper that used to get sent to publishers- I was a senior at Pratt and was chosen to have a small feature as an “up and comer”. Ron McCutchan from Cricket Magazine called and I did my first peace for cricket in 1992.
4. What were the biggest mistakes you made early in your career? What did you learn?
Even though I started to work pretty quickly and went fully freelance within 8 months of graduating I still regret that I did not have the social confidence to talk more and get to know my illustration community. Even when I was going to big parties when I was a penciller for DC comics -I wish I had spoken more – asked more questions of the great artists I was meeting. I was so nervous when I was introduced to Frank Miller at a DC party they I spilled a drink on his shoe and blurted an apology and ran away. So many missed opportunities! I was at small parties with everyone you could think of: Chris Claremont, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, so many others- I could have easily had more than one valuable chat with any of them MORE than once! But I was truly painfully shy – I did not discover myself socially within my artistic community until I was about 35!
Be inquisitive, ask questions, let people get to know you, and be truly INTERESTED in THEM.
Oh yeah- and don’t book yourself up so heavily when you start to get busy that the work suffers. We ALL seem to do ihat early on– but try not to.
5. What advice would you give to up-and-coming illustrators who want to break in?
First- be really serious about where you need to beef up your portfolio and skills – do GREAT work. Go to all the industry shows all the events where you can meet people face to face, set up table give out cards sell prints at these shows, and go hang out after with the other artists. Always remain strong with your traditional paint skills – don’t go all digital – it is cutting yourself off from a major source of income if you can’t sell paintings.
Get back to people promptly and very briefly. Beware of an email to an AD or editor that is longer than a well done paragraph.
The time to fix the problems with your portfolio is before you hand it to someone for their opinion – don’t apologize for failings that you know are in it while the AD is looking at it – if there are problems that you know are there then then fix them – apologizing for your portfolio in the moment is a baaad thing.
Be open to constructive critique.
Be fierce, friendly, sincere, KIND, do not trash people (dish a little maybe- but don’t trash anyone!!) and be diligent diligent diligent.
Posted by Thomas James on 02/11/14 under Interviews
The polls were unanimous, and interviews have been missed. So we’re back!
This week we caught up with Victo Ngai. Only five years out of art school, Victo is no longer a “rising star.” From Tomb Raider to the official NYC MTA poster, she not only has a broad client base, she has more gold medal awards than most industry vets. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Enjoy the interview, and enjoy a few of Victo’s wonderful illustrations below.
- Hi! Thanks for joining us on Illustration Friday, where we sketch to new words/topics every week. We like to draw on Fridays. What do you do to keep up your chops when not working on client work?I love playing drawing games with my friends such as the exquisite corpse and paper telephone. There is this game I came up with during Art Hist class in RISD which is still my favorite: one person doodle random marks/shapes on the paper while the second person complete the drawing into something meaningful with as little strokes as possible. I find games like these really fun and helpful in working out my creative muscle.
- Why did you become an illustrator? Why art, why not fine art, why not a designer?One of my RISD professors told me this back in freshmen year “Fine artists like to create problems for themselves while illustrators like to solve problems given to them.” I love drawing and I love problem solving, hence illustration.
- How did you find your first client, or how did they find you?My first client was CD SooJin Buzelli. She is the wife of my RISD teacher and mentor Chris Buzelli. I did a piece in Chris’s class which SooJin saw and liked, that’s how I got my first published piece. Very lucky, I must say.
- What were three mistakes you made early in your career? What did you learn?1- Acting too much like a scared student in social events. It made it hard to carry normal human conversations with other illustrators and art directors.
2- Thinking ADs are above illustrators in the illustration ecosystem. Now I learnt the best working relationship is an equal and respectful one.
3- Afraid to ask for more budget. It’s a business, if you think your work deserve more money, there’s no shame in asking.
- What advice would you give to up-and-coming illustrators who want to break in?“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” – Paul Arden.
Childrensillustrators.com, the premier online resource for the children’s illustration market, has published this great interview with the Art Director of Peachtree Publishers, Loraine M. Joyner. Loraine has art directed and/or collaborated on about 300 books over her career, and shares some unique insight on her experiences in the industry.
Check out the interview here.
Posted by Thomas James on 08/06/13 under Interviews
Here’s a sneak peek:
“As an illustrator, It’s really important to know your craft. Spend the time and dedicate yourself to learning your medium(s) and really experimenting, pushing boundaries.
Be good at what you do. We love to see new fresh illustrators who have their own signature style which is unique to them. It really is important to take time out and be patient and develop your skills and art. Being passionate about what you do comes through in your work too. We love enthusiasm and originality! “
Read more of this insightful interview here!
Posted by Thomas James on 06/06/13 under Interviews
Name: Ryan O’Rourke
1. Tell us about yourself / What makes you tick?
I received my BFA and MFA from the University of Hartford in Illustration. I taught at The Hartford Art School for seven years before I moved to New Hampshire in August to teach illustration full-time at The New Hampshire Institute of Art. I started my career doing editorial work then gradually moved into other markets. Over the last four years most of my work has been for children’s books. However, I still do a fair amount of editorial illustration.
I love the mix of teaching and doing illustration. I go a little stir-crazy if I spend too much time in the studio. I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to share my knowledge of the field with my students. Teaching core concepts about working with different medias and how to build effective narratives with an image or series of images has helped me improve my own work. I feel that since I’ve started teaching illustration consistently I’ve made some giant leaps and bounds in my own work. I have to give a fair amount of credit to my students and co-workers for the amount of progress I’ve made. I feel blessed to be a part of an amazing illustration community.
2. How did you get your start in illustrating for children?
I credit my start in children’s illustration to luck, timing, and hard work. Between 2006 and 2008 I had a great opportunity doing a weekly spot illustration for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. The exposure my work received during my time with The Globe proved to be invaluable, leading to a number of different projects outside of editorial illustration.
Susan Sherman, an art director at Charlesbridge Publishing saw my work and approached me about illustrating a book of poems about rain. A year later, the book, One Big Rain, was released. Since then, I’ve been consistently working with different publishers on a wide variety of projects.
3. You illustrated Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ and Shakin‘ released by Sterling Publishing. Can you tell us about this project? What was your creative vision for it?
First of all, I can’t say how great it’s been to work with Lisa and the good people at Sterling Publishing on Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’ and the predecessor to this book, The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs. When we started the project, my wife and I had just gotten married. We created a wedding cookbook full of recipes from our family and friends. We laid out text and I created lots of little drawings, hand-lettered text and design motifs in the negative space. I sent the cookbook out to clients for promotions. My first art director at Sterling, Merideth Harte, thought it would be fun to approach the Lisa Loeb books in the same manner. She created a smart, clean design, then I created my illustrations around the text. I was able to bring all of the elements from the cookbook to Lisa’s terrific, catchy songs. I had Songs For Movin’ and Shakin’ playing on repeat while I was working on the book. I walked around for three weeks whistling the tune of “Going Away” and some of the other songs.
4. Can you tell us about your creative process, mediums, etc?
My process has changed a lot over the past few years and it’s still evolving. I do all of the hand-lettered text, design motifs, and patterns in pen and ink. I paint all of the figures and other objects in oils. Then I use acrylics, oils, or a mixture of the two mediums to create my backgrounds. Last, I merge everything together digitally. Before I start sketching for each book I do a lot of research. I print out reference material and post the images on my bulletin board to use as inspiration.
5. Do you ever get stuck on how to illustrate a particular scene or character? How do you move past that?
I think every illustrator occasionally gets stuck. When I feel blocked, I try to step away and do something that doesn’t involve too much brain power like cleaning my studio or doing laundry. It gives me some time to think about the problem without trying to force a solution. Eventually, I look through books and images I’ve saved on my computer for inspiration. When I go back to the problem, I do lots of thumbnail sketches and try to explore every option.
6. What were your favorite children’s books when you were little? Why?
I remember loving Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Shel Silverstein’s book were also a big part of my childhood. I still remember laughing hysterically when my first grade teacher would read his books to the class. I loved to draw when I was a kid which is why I think I loved Harold and The Purple Crayon. I loved the idea of creating a new, imaginative world with my own drawings.
7. What is a typical work day for you?
One reason why I love being an illustrator is that no day is really typical. I love having a new, different challenge every day. I often stick to a similar routine but the work I do varies depending on the projects I have on my plate. One good thing about teaching is that it offers a little bit of stability to my schedule. I wake up early, prepare for class, teach all morning, grade or handle administrative duties, then paint or draw the rest of the day. My wife is good about getting me to stop to take breaks. I usually try to relax around 8 or 9 at night.
8. Best / most fun part of illustrating for children:
The rewards of illustrating for children are many. However, there are two that automatically stick out in my mind. First, I love being able to create something that people will remember as part of their childhood. I have two nieces and two nephews, they have all of the books I’ve illustrated. I love seeing them interact with the books, especially the Lisa Loeb sing-along books due to the songs and activities throughout the books.
The second reward is seeing all of the images come together in one cohesive package. Compared to editorial illustration, children’s books are more of a marathon than a sprint. I get a lot of pride out of seeing months of hard work come together. I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate with art directors and editors who have helped me create books I feel proud to show off.
9. Worst / most difficult part:
For me, the hardest part is the waiting game. After I finish each project I’m excited to share it but I usually have to wait a few months until it hits the shelves.
10. Are you working on any new projects?
I have a number of projects coming out soon. Along with Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’, I have another book, Alphabet Trucks, written by Samantha Vamos that will be coming out in August. I also just finished the final art for Bella: Lost and Found, the first book I’ve written and illustrated for HarperCollins. The pictures provided are progress shots of art from the book. It’s the first book of a two part series. I’m currently writing the second book. I’ve also been hard at work on a series of hand-drawn patterns that I plan on marketing for licensing. Along with editorial, it’s been a nice break from working on books.
5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
-Edward Hopper Landscape paintings
-Charley Harper animals
-Tad Carpenter’s amazing work
3 constants in your day:
-Catching up on the Red Sox
-Chai Tea Lattes
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
In my experience I have found that faith in your vision, a willingness to learn, hard work, persistence, and a little bit of luck are the keys to success in this business.
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