Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MacUser Interview

I was lucky enough to recently be chosen as the featured artist in the September issue of MacUser magazine. Art director Camille Neilson contacted me with a great questionnaire about myself, my work, and the role technology plays in my work. And since it's a British magazine, I got to use the "favourite" and "colour" spellings!

1. What was your first Mac? 
My first Mac was white 13" MacBook. I bought it in 2006 right before I left for college in New York City. It somehow lasted me for over five years until it was tragically struck down by a rogue fireplace screen.

2. What is the current Mac you are using? 
I'm currently using a 13" MacBook Pro from late 2011.

3. What equipment do you use apart from your Mac (periferals etc)?
I do most of my illustration work as ink drawings on Stonehenge watercolor paper. I use a scanner to bring the drawings into Photoshop where I can separate and manipulate the linework. My Wacom Bamboo tablet is incredibly useful once I begin to work on pieces digitally. I've had this tablet between six and seven years now and I'm dreading the day that it dies on me.

4. What is your favourite current software programme and what was the first programme you used?
My favourite programme would have to be Photoshop. I don't think a day goes by that I don't use it. I'm also a big fan of GarageBand. Even though it's fairly limited and I know I should be using Logic by now, I've been totally satisfied with some of the songs I've been able to create for my music and animation project The Least of Creatures.
The first programme I used must have been this game my sister and I loved that was called Jill of the Jungle. It was this great sidescrolling game where you would climb trees, swing on vines, collect keys and apples, and fight monsters.

5. Can you offer any tips for success?
Some of the best bit of advice I can offer is to find a balance in your career between taking yourself and your work very seriously and the ability to have fun with it. I feel like one can very easily get bogged down in the monotony of their work and completely miss out on the learning experiences that it can offer. What has really helped me is giving myself assignments and projects to keep busy. By constantly working and practicing, you maintain an excitement about getting to make art.
Another thing that I think is extremely helpful is being part of the community that you want to be in. As arduous as things like Facebook and Twitter can be at times, they're a great way to keep in touch with the people in your field that you admire and you want to work with. I have learned so much from being in contact with other illustrators and discovered that it's a friendly and supportive community.

6. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I definitely knew I wanted to be an artist. I didn't know in exactly what capacity, whether it was comic books or animation, but I just couldn't imagine doing anything but art for the rest of my life. The one exception might be paleontology. I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs. I'm pretty sure I made the right choice though.

7. How did you get your first big break? 
I believe it was the spring of 2011 and I had been out of school for a little over a year. I was living in Brooklyn and barely scraping by on whatever jobs I could get my hands on. Then one day I got a message from an art director from the New York Observer. She had come across my work on Twitter and thought I might be right for a spot she had coming up. It was through that first real published illustration that I was able to get my foot in the door and start to learn how to work in the business.

8. What or who are your influences and inspiration?
A lot of my influences were instructors I had while I was at the School of Visual Arts. I was lucky enough to have teachers like Yuko Shimizu, Steve Brodner, Thomas Woodruff, David Soman, and John Ruggeri. Each one helped me grow tremendously as an artist.
I've also been exposed to an incredible number of illustrators who are just outrageously talented and constantly impress me. I adore the work of Frank Stockton, Tomer Hanuka, Sam Bosma, Kali Ciesemier, Jillian Tamaki, Joel Kimmel, Alex Fine, Thomas Pitilli, and PJ McQuade. I could go on and on as there's a wealth of great talent out there.
Another big inspiration for me, as both an illustrator and storyboard artist, is the work on cinematographers in film. I'm an absolute film geek and am constantly watching movies. I'm trying to study the way that films are composed and are able tell the story visually. Some of my favorites are Vilmos Zsigmond, Roger Deakins, Janusz Kaminski, Robert Elswit, and Conrad Hall.

9. What mistakes have you learned from?
I probably learned the most from the time after college where I was taking on absolutely anything and everything I could just to make rent. I got myself in over my head more time than I'd like to admit. I would scour Craigslist for any art-related jobs, whether it be a logo design, creating flyers, drawings for someone's children book, or images for tee shirts. It was unfulfilling and frankly debasing. Somehow, I managed to pull through and learn what I was capable of and more importantly what exactly I wanted to do as an artist.

10. What's your ideal project?
Because of my movie obsession, I would absolutely love to do illustrated movie posters. I've been a huge admirer of the work artists have been doing for Mondo. It's also been great to see more exhibits at places like like the Bottleneck Gallery, Hero Complex Gallery, or Gallery1988 with all of these incredible artists with a passion for pop culture. And if it ever happens I get to poster work, I certainly wouldn't mind doing anything having to do with Star Wars…

11. Tell us something good...
“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”

12. What's your favourite gadget and why?
I have to say my iPhone. Ever since my girlfriend convinced me that I needed to upgrade from my old BlackBerry, I've been so happy. It's just a wonderful tool for research, keeping in contact with clients, social media, and taking reference photos. It's unfortunately also fantastic for procrastinating. Bit of a double-edged sword.

Talk us through your work.

Revenge Story
This was a promotional image I created as a sort of still from a film that I wanted to see. In this case, it was a combination of inspiration from Cormac McCarthy's books and Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (which I believe is the most aesthetically beautiful film ever made) Although inking the piece was tedious, as well as eventually separating the linework in Photoshop, I ended up liking the process. It was a fun challenge to tell the story I was envisioning.

Better Than Goofy Golf
This image was created for a show at the Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, New York called Where Is My Mind? The piece is based on one of my favorite films Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This one was strange for me as it's the first illustration I've done from start to finish in Photoshop.  This allowed for me to get the level of extreme detail and accuracy I wanted in parts like the the grill of the truck or stalks of grass. While it was a great exercise for me, I don't plan on continuing to work strictly digital. I love inking too much.

Grenada Invasion
This was an illustration for the Village Voice's Fall 2012 Education Supplement. The art director wanted a scene of absolute mayhem as medical students from New York City colleges and the offshore school of St. George's battled one another. Even though I dread having to draw crowd scenes, this one was ridiculously fun as I had free rein to go as insane and over-the-top as I wanted. I enjoyed coming up with all of the different tools and weapons that the medical students would have at their disposal and use against one another. I also found that this piece gave me an valid reason to use some of my blood spatter brushes in Photoshop.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
This was a personal piece I did because I had been chomping at the bit to draw an animal as unique as the auroch. I also wanted to try and capture the strength in the magnetic little Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy. I did the auroch and Hushpuppy as separate drawings so I could adjust their scale and position once I started working digitally. When the piece came into Photoshop, I settled on a simple, earthy color palette and focused all attention on getting the two characters right. One of my favorite elements in the piece is a layer of thin pencil lines overlaid on the auroch's skin to convey the rough texture of the fur.

Father Vs. Son
A personal piece I did for fun. I am absolutely obsessed with Star Wars and have been throughout my entire life. With this piece, I wanted to depict an alternate angle of sorts of the climatic confrontation scene in The Empire Strikes Back. I gathered as many reference images as I could in order to very accurately depict the set, props, and costumes in the scene. While inking, I drew Luke as a separate image so that I could freely move him around in the composition once I began working digitally.

Thanks again Camille!


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