Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

IF Interview :: 10 Questions with Robert Neubecker

Name: Robert Neubecker
Location: Park City, Utah
Website: neubecker.com, neubeckerbooks.com
Blog: drawger.com/neubecker/
Primary Medium: ink & digital

1. Tell us about yourself. What makes you tick?
Coffee. Here’s a bio: I grew up in Wisconsin where the winters are long and cold. I was skinny, uncoordinated and blind in my right eye from a playground accident. Forbidden to play sports, I spent my time reading and drawing. I moved to New York City when I was nineteen and enrolled in Parson’s School of Design. In my senior year, I landed my first freelance job from The New York Times.

I spent nearly ten years there. I loved the newspaper. It felt like the cutting edge of history. We were all a big family, the illustrators, art directors and editors. We got free Yankees tickets in the era when Reggie Jackson anchored the line up and Lou Piniella played third… I freelance for the Times to this day, 38 years later.

In those days I had an unfinished loft on Fifth Avenue. It had seventeen windows with great views of lower Manhattan. In the eighties, I moved to a loft in Tribecca and began to work for the magazines: Newsweek, Business Week, Time Magazine. Over the years, I’ve worked for nearly every magazine in print.

In 1996, Bill Gates founded Slate.com, an Internet news website. I was hired to establish the look with illustration. I work there still.

I moved to Park City, Utah in 1995 for the fresh air and the skiing. My first book for children, Wow! City! came out in 2004, and won an ALA Notable Book Award. I’ve written and illustrated over twenty books since then. I live on the side of Iron Mountain, am married to a lovely woman everyone likes better than me, have 2.5 kids, nineteen pets, and have a ten point buck living out back with the mooses.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
Steve Heller. In addition to writing over 100 books on graphic design, he gave nearly every illustrator from two generations their first job with the New York Times book Review.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I don’t have a style. When I did the movie poster for “Sideways“, we ran a sketch.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I work in line, pen or brush, then scan it into photoshop and scribble on it with color.

 

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
That’s the hard part. Illustration is by definition visual storytelling. Finding the language is the job. I have a big library and dig through it. I look at Steinberg, the Euros of the last century, Glaser, everybody. I’ll see an image that will trigger an idea. Never the image that inspired the new idea, but a mental jump from there. The best images open your imagination and make you think.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Take a walk. Get the hell out of the studio.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Drawing every day.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
It’s isolated – I worked with a studio assistant for many years and that was always fun. Now I have agents that know what a telephone is and we talk a lot. We once had three lines in the studio – now everything is e-mail and mostly chat free… I love summers because my studio is full of kids, all day long. We have five Macs (and three dogs) in here, not counting laptops & tablets…

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I’m Vice Chair of the Board of a public Charter School with 600 students. It’s a lot of work, but tremendously satisfying.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
I’ve been working with a non-profit, FairHealth.org, on an extensive website and corporate identity program. I continue to do books – Time Out for Monsters by Jean Reidy and Shiver Me Timbers by Doug Florian came out this summer. I have two books that I’ve written and illustrated, Linus, the Vegetarian T-Rex (Simon & Schuster) and Winter is for Snow (Hyperion) coming out next year. Next, I’m working with Scholastic on writing history books for kids. History has always been a passion of mine.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
- I’m reading Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. What a girl. I think I’m a bit in love with her.
– Winter is coming.
– I love the new illustration I see in my Sunday Times.
Mo Willems
– Star Trek on Netflix- the entire franchise. Great for kids.

Only five?

3 constants in your day:
Sunrise
Lunch
Coffee at three

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Illustration is storytelling.

* * * * *

Studio:

* * * * *

Thank you so very much, Robert! Your artwork, ideas, and humor are so inspiring. They definitely make me think!

Posted by Thomas James on 09/19/12 under Interviews
1 Comment

10 Questions with Giselle Potter

Name: Giselle Potter
Location: Rosendale, NY
Website: www.gisellepotter.com
Blog: gisellepotter.com/blog/
Primary Medium: Gouache or watercolor

Sketchbook:

Studio:

Work:

1. Tell us about yourself.
I am mostly a children’s book illustrator. I wrote one about travelling with my parents’ theater troupe in Italy called, The Year I Didn’t Go to School. I have illustrated over 25 other children’s books, too.

I also do editorial illustration for numerous publications and some advertisement including a series of animated ads for the British laundry soap, Persil.

I live in the Hudson Valley with my two daughters and my husband who carves stumps into stools.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
After I graduated from RISD, I moved to New York and showed my portfolio to magazines. The day I went the New Yorker it was pouring. I was carrying a box of original paintings instead of prints and I had died my dress blue and all the dye was running down my legs. So it was a little embarrassing when the art director Own Phillips actually came out to meet me. I was so surprised that he actually bought art right then and there and then hired me to do more. Anne Schwartz, the children’s book editor I still work with now, saw a New Yorker illustration and offered me my first children’s book.

3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I never tried to find a style. I think the look of my pictures just comes from all the things that I like to look at: folk art, Italian frescoes, Mexican retablos, my grandfather’s portraits, and vintage clothes and patterns.

My work has changed because I used to use ink more that was translucent and textured but the inks faded over time and people complained. Then I began using thick gouache on thicker paper, and then a few people asked if I would ever go back to my early “style”. Now I am somewhere in between using liquid water color what more texture but less loose and free as my old pictures. Somehow the more pictures I make the more detailed and tight they are.

I guess I have a style whether I try or not, but my intention is to be honest and personal.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
I do rough sketchy sketches with pencil and scan them for the art director. When the sketch is approved I hold it up in the light of the window and transfer it to nicer paper and begin to paint. If the painting isn’t working out how I want it to, sometimes I paint layers over it or glue parts over it or just start over (but that is rare).

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
Usually I paint other people’s ideas or what I think other people’s ideas are because I get stories sent to me. It is usually pretty easy for me to think of the imagery when I read something, but sometimes no imagery comes to mind and I make frustrated, horrible doodles for hours before anything surfaces.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
Yes! Sometimes I try using a new kind of paint or just a new color. Sometimes I look at art books and old magazines and put pictures I like up on the wall above my desk. Sometimes I just take a walk.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
I feel so lucky to be able to do what I like most, make pictures, for a living. I am so lucky to have such a flexible, free schedule.
I also really like that I have to work with other people’s ideas and opinions and stories so my art isn’t just about me.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The times when I don’t know what is next.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
I make pictures from old photographs and collage and sometimes embroider.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
- I am trying to write another children’s book about my grandparents or my dad.
– I am going to paint from a friend’s collection of strange photographs.
– My husband and I are going to collaborate on some woodcuts.

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
German educational posters
My kid’s drawings
Vintage wallpaper and textile patterns
Metallic and fluorescent colors
Strange old photographs

3 constants in your day:
Coffee
Lying down and staring at the ceiling or out the window to think
Planning out my next meal

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Making art should be as fun as it was when you were little.

* * * * *

Thank you for this interview, Giselle! I know that I, myself, have swooned over every book of yours I’ve gotten my hands on, so I’m thrilled to know more about the illustrator behind the scenes. Your work is so fun and unique!

Posted by Thomas James on 09/10/12 under children's art,children's illustrators,IF Kids,Interviews
1 Comment

IF Interview :: Meg Hunt

Name: Meg Hunt
Location: Portland, OR
Website: www.meghunt.com
Blog: showandtell.meghunt.com
Primary Medium: Mixed media/Digital

Sketchbooks:

Studio:

Work:

1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?
Well, I’m an illustrator, originally from a seaside city Connecticut; I spent a few years in Phoenix, Arizona and now live in the wooded city of Portland, Oregon. I am really driven by making things and exploring the creative process. I work pretty much every day and I love it; I’ve been an illustrator for seven years now and the lifestyle suits me well. My goal is to make people happy and see my work woven throughout the world; while I’m a bit shy, illustration allows me to show the things I see and love to the world. I love illustration 100% and have been fortunate to know and befriend amazing, talented, funny and kind peers who inspire me all the time, both in Portland and beyond.

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I always loved illustration but never thought of it as a job until high school when we had a guest from SVA talk about illustration. I wanted to go there to pursue it as a career but it wasn’t in the cards; instead I went to school (at the University of Connecticut) exploring printmaking and illustration together. I nearly gave up illustration halfway through but found my way thanks to my excellent mentors; by senior year I started emailing art directors in secret hoping to get work. I was lucky enough to get an illustration in BUST before I graduated and when I got my copy in the mail I stopped my illustration professor in the hallway and showed her, totally proud. From there I just dove in, taking odd music illustration jobs and a few editorial pieces and it’s just snowballed from there.


3. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
It’s definitely changed; I think through my creative process I’ve figured out my own visual language. I recently compiled a slideshow of my work every year from 2005 to today and it’s fascinating to see what changed and what remained. But it’s one of those things I only learned by making and absorbing the world. I often liken myself to a sponge– I’ll see snippets of weird patterns and textures out in the world or odd photographs and see if I can assimilate little details into my work. Sometimes it works, sometimes I learn that it’s not part of my language.

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?
It’s one part chaos, one part experimentation, and two parts fun! Seriously though, it’s very much changed from when I started as an illustrator; there’s always a digital component, but it was much simpler and line-heavy when I started. Now I experiment with breaking down the image into layers of washes, pencil texture, cut paper, painted shapes– whatever I think will suit the piece I’m working on at any given moment. I get pretty indecisive and curious about new mediums so I’m always exploring.

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
I feel like it’s a pretty organic process; sometimes ideas come when I’m hiking through the woods or listening to music or from dreams; but other times it comes when I’m working on a project. On the times when I’m low on ideas, I tend to write a lot of lists and mind-maps, or ‘refill the well’ by looking at inspiration (not just illustration, but a lot of interesting visual ephemera) and reading.

6. Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I do; but I think most people I know do. I’ve slowly learned that that’s the process — we’re not machines, but are going to have peaks and valleys. Usually I try to work through them and be kind to myself; but sometimes I just need to get my mind off of it. Thankfully where I live now there are lots of places to adventure and explore, from the city to the coast to the forests near my house — I don’t have to go very far to reinvigorate myself.

Through listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of things, I’ve tried to remember also, that whenever I get into a slump, it’s just a bump in the road of my career. No matter how tough it seems at that given moment, I always pull out of it and usually am all the better for it — I’m my toughest critic, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that.

7. Best / most fun part of your job:
Getting to draw every day for a living, hands down. I’m always so thankful that I get to do what I love each day and make sense of the world with my hands and brain.

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:
The business/time management aspect of it, for sure. I’ve gotten better but it’s a lot to juggle day in and day out. It’s also really tough for me to let go and not work every day on things, but I’m learning that’s important too.

9. Do you have side projects you work on?
Tons! I’m always working on side projects — trying to get new work, and explore what else I can make. Right now I’m working on a couple of animation collaborations, a little bit of writing for a possible book, some screenprinting endeavors (my other true love), and looking to collaborate with other folk, from photographers to woodworkers to ceramicists! I want to branch out and explore every avenue, and make my practice a lush and vibrant thing.

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you¬†can share with us?
I just wrapped a lovely notebook design for my friends at Monoblock and have a line of cards to finish for Red Cap Cards, along with some other licensing work in the pipeline. That in addition to designing some new products for my shop in time for the holidays and teaching illustration at two local universities will definitely keep me on my toes, but I’m hoping to collaborate and find some amazing personal and client work to challenge me into the new year and beyond!

* * * * *

5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
mythology, animals, the forest, the human experience and travel

3 constants in your day:
my little dog, drawing tools all over the place (sometimes in my hand), and something playing in the background, whether it’s a podcast, music, comedy or Netflix

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
This business is not easy, for a billion different reasons. But I think the thing that has really gotten me through a lot of tough times is understanding that bad patches come and go, but you survive and get better by working through them and realizing they’re just blips in your career that can actually strengthen you. The more you avoid it the harder it gets, and it’s best to just be flexible and roll with the punches.

* * * * *

Thanks so much, Meg! Your art is incredible, detailed and beautiful. We feel so honored to have you share it with us!

Posted by Thomas James on 08/29/12 under Interviews
31 Comments

IF Interview – Christopher Silas Neal

Name: Christopher Silas Neal
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Website: www.csneal.com
Blog: csneal.tumblr.com
Twitter: @csneal

Sketchbooks:

Studio:

Work:

Video:

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?

Read.
Sketch.
Scan.
Email.
Draw, Paint, Scan, Photoshop.
Repeat.
Save.
Email.

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.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

Thanks, Christopher!!

Posted by Thomas James on 08/14/12 under Interviews
28 Comments

10 Questions with Karen Barbour

Name: Karen Barbour
Website: karenbarbour.com
Location: Inverness, California
Primary Medium: gouache, ink and pencil

Sketchbooks:

Studio:

Artwork:

1. Tell us about yourself / Bio?

I got my MFA in film from the San Francisco art Institute and have shown at Jack Hanley and Anthony Meier Fine Arts and at The Shiseido Gallery in Tokyo etc. I’ve done illustrations for The New York Times, Ralph Lauren Polo, Mitsukoshi department stores, etc.

 

2. How did you get started as an illustrator?

I had a show in San Francisco and an older artist came and told me that I should be an illustrator. He gave me a list of names at magazines in New York and I took my portfolio to every one. It was actually a bunch of slides and not very well organized. New York Magazine gave me a job to illustrate five nightclubs and then I was working a lot after the pictures came out.

 

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

I just stayed in my apartment and didn’t do anything but make these figurative pictures all day every day. I was trying to paint the figure in a graphic way and I outlined the people in pencil and then filled in the space with gouache and ink. I didn’t know what I was doing but somehow they all were similar. After awhile I had a bunch of work that was really consistent and held together — but it happened by chance. When I started to get a lot of work I was constantly rushing and doing every project that came my way and I think the stuff I was doing was not very good and I was always just trying to make money. After several years I started turning down work and then I pretty much stopped altogether. I was just drawing the people around me and stuff that I was thinking about and making paintings of dreams etc. and I didn’t like the old work anymore. So my work now is different.

 

4. Can you briefly explain your creative process, mediums, etc?

I mostly use gouache and ink and pencil but I also work in oil and acrylic and collage. I do a lot of different paintings at the same time and it’s always sort of evolving and changing. If I’m reading about something or want to remember something or if I get something in my head— I try to put it in my notebooks or sketchbooks—-somewhere so I don’t lose it. I keep trying to figure out where a picture is going and I don’t know how it will turn out. I go over different parts and then sometimes I try something out and it’s almost a surprise.

 

5. How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?

I have a lot of ideas that I’m working on and many times when I do an illustration I like to work with those same ideas and sometimes it feels like it adds another dimension because of the old layers underneath. When I get a job I like to look through different paintings that I have piled everywhere and I try several different directions and then see what the art director might be interested in.

 

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

I just keep drawing and working—–I  mostly feel like it’s all an experiment and it’s not that I feel great about everything I’m doing—I just feel like it’s all a work in progress and unfinished and so I can keep changing and adding and erasing. When I go to my studio I just start looking at stuff or painting on something and then one thing leads to the next.

 

7. Best / most fun part of your job:

I’m really interested in it.

 

8. Worst / most difficult part of your job:

It’s difficult sometimes to come up with solutions on tight deadlines. Self promotion is challenging and awkward.

 

9. Do you have side projects you work on?

I’ve been working on an illustrated YA novel.

 

10. What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?

I recently illustrated a poetry collection for children and I’m working on a picture book for Scholastic. Also doing some paintings for a group show in the fall.

 

* * * * *

 5 things inspiring you/your work right now:

1. Memories

2. history

3. Old books and magazines

4. My kids

5. Drawing

 

3 constants in your day:

1. Drawing

2. Reading

3. Music

 

Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:

Try not to worry too much.

 

* * * * *

Thank you, Karen!!

Posted by Thomas James on 08/08/12 under Interviews
5 Comments

EFII Podcast Episode 64 – Keith Gentile of Agency Access

 

 

Episode 64 of the Escape from Illustration Island Podcast features an audio interview with Keith Gentile of Agency Access. Together we discuss his many years of experience in helping creative professionals to create effective promotional campaigns. I also announce the upcoming launch of our new blog, Illustration Age.

Here are links to some of the things mentioned on the show:

Posted by Thomas James on 12/28/11 under Interviews
No Comments

EFII Podcast Episode 80 – Gerard Dubois

 

 

Episode 80 of the Escape from Illustration Island Podcast features an audio interview with Illustrator Gerard Dubois. Together we discuss his distinct approach to his art, as well as his conceptual and technical process.

Here are links to some of the things mentioned on the show:

Posted by Thomas James on 10/20/11 under artists,Interviews
7 Comments

EFII Podcast Episode 78 – Scott Bakal

 

 

Episode 78 of the Escape from Illustration Island Podcast features an audio interview with Illustrator Scott Bakal. Together we discuss his work as an artist and educator, his thoughts on promotion, and the creative voice of an Illustrator.

Here are links to some of the things mentioned on the show:

Posted by Thomas James on 05/24/11 under Interviews
No Comments

EFII Podcast Episode 77 – Jolby

 

 

Episode 77 of the Escape from Illustration Island Podcast features an audio interview with Jolby, an Illustration/Design duo consisting of Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols. Together we discuss their experiences with working as a collaborative unit and executing self-initiated concepts.

Here are links to some of the things mentioned on the show:

Posted by Thomas James on 04/20/11 under Interviews
No Comments

EFII Podcast Episode 76 – Greatest Hits Vol. 1

 

For episode 76 of the Escape from Illustration Island Podcast, we celebrate 75 episodes by digging through the archives to compile some of the most popular moments in the history of the show. Greatest Hits Vol. 1 brings you such memorable guests as Drew Struzan, Christoph Niemann, Scott Hull, and Gary Taxali, just to name a few. Enjoy this stroll down memory lane!

Posted by Thomas James on 04/05/11 under Interviews
35 Comments

 

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