I had our friend Simon interview two talented and in-demand designers James White aka Signalnoise and Fabio Sasso of Abduzeedo. James and Fabio are speaking at the first ever Montreal Meets on Tuesday, January 25th at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. You can learn out more about Montreal Meets in my introductory post.
Fabio and James are two designers who embody the lifestyle of a Weapon of Mass Creation. That’s why we chose to sponsor Montreal Meets.
Let’s Chat with James and Fabio
GoMediaZine: James, Fabio, could you provide a quick, 3 to 5 sentence introduction about yourselves for our readers (in the unlikely event some of them don’t know you)?
James White: I’m a visual artist and designer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I’ve been working in the design field for about 12 years now and have worked on everything from websites, identity design and print collaterals for companies such as Google, Nike, Universal Music, Wired Magazine, Toyota, VH1, etc. I own and operate the art & design blog Signalnoise.com which serves as my connection to the online design world, and also the Signalnoise Store where I sell my designer posters and t-shirts. I like heavy metal, video games and comic books.
GoMediaZine: Could you guys talk about your debuts as designers? Did you become freelancers right away? Did you have a part time job at first? Did you work in a studio with other people?
James White: I worked with various local companies in Halifax for 10 years, mostly in office settings. By day, I would go to work and design websites and print stuff for local clients. I was hired right out of school in 1998, part of the big web boom at the time so I got a lot of experience right off the bat. By night, I would go home and continue working on my personal projects like my website, my own comic books, children’s books, rave flyers, anything cool I could apply my design skills to. I never really stopped, sometimes staying up until 3am working on my own stuff. After working like this for 10 years with no real direction, I decided to turn my then stagnant website, Signalnoise into a design blog to properly house my work and give me the opportunity to talk about design and processes.
Fabio Sasso: My first design job was an internship in a printshop, the main product was stickers so most of the times I had to prepare the arts to be printed and some times I had to create some designs too. After that decided that I wanted to focus more on the web, it was 99.
GoMediaZine: Can you talk a bit about how you grew into professional designers? How did you measure your growth? Through more technical knowledge, more clients, more pay, more press?
James White: Professionally, sure we could adequately gauge our levels of “success” through things like money and clients. But I think the level of success is better measured with how well you know yourself. Having a bunch of clients doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing the work you want to do. I think there comes a point in every artist/designer’s life where they take a step back from their work to look at what they enjoyed, what was successful and what they learned over the years. Personally, I think this is the key to growing as a designer because it brings focus to what you ARE doing, and what you WANT to be doing. Positivity resonates in the work we do, and people take notice of that.
Fabio Sasso: I believe I started growing more in the moment I started sharing my knowledge and everything I was learning while practicing. That really gave me more exposure.
GoMediaZine: You both seem to have achieved a lot of passionate fans and readers. What do you think was the reason why those readers are so loyal to your sites? Why do you think it’s difficult for other designers to cultivate such an avid readership?
James White: I think it’s simply the fact that my readership and I have things in common, we all tend to like the same nerdy stuff and enjoy using that inspiration to create things. As I said earlier, positivity resonates in what we do, and I try to keep everything on Signalnoise.com as positive as I can so readers can have a nice break from their day to swing by and see some cool art and learn about other designers. I keep things honest, where if I’m heavily inspired by another work I’ll post it and put links to where they can check out the source. In such a competitive industry I decided a while ago to do things differently, to forget about competition and enforce the fact that we’re all in this together. My readership all feel like friends to me, and I like that.
In terms of other designers trying to cultivate a readership, I’d say just forget about it and do the work you like doing. When I started the blog in 2007 my intention was never to get people to my site to raise my pageviews. I didn’t care, I just wanted a nice blog to update with my art and the rest happened completely by chance. Positivity has an odd way of coming full circle, man.
Fabio Sasso: In my opinion it’s all about doing what you love because with that you will be able to be consistent in what you do. It takes time to create a readership and I believe the main reason you create that is because they see that you are passionate about what your doing the same way they are.
GoMediaZine: Let’s talk about Montreal Meets. Can you tell us more about it?
James White: Montreal Meets is an event organized by my pal François Hoang, and will be taking place on January 25th at Concordia University in Montreal. Myself and Fabio Sasso of Abduzeedo fame are being brought in to do hour-long presentations each about art, design, inspiration and advice for a packed room of young and seasoned designers. It’s a wonderful way to get people motivated to create and to talk with like-minded creative individuals whom I only know through the internet. François really knocked it out of the park, and we’re really looking forward to getting onstage.
Fabio Sasso: Montreal Meets will be a great opportunity to share experiences and talk with the Montreal design community. It’s also a great initiative of François Hoang, I’m really excited because of that and because I will be sharing the stage with James White, I am a huge fan of his, since the first time I saw some of his works a few years ago.
GoMediaZine: Have you done speaking engagements before? If so, why are you doing them? Is this something every designer should consider doing to further his or her career? What are the benefits you get out of it?
James White: Yes, I’ve spoken at a few other events, most notably being FITC Toronto 2010 where I did my ‘Back to the Future’ talk. I really enjoy doing presentations like this because it’s a much better way to connect to the audience when you’re face to face, rather then in a tiny box on a computer screen. Being from Halifax, a small city, I rarely get the opportunity here to talk about Photoshop to any great length, so any chance I get to run around onstage and talk about Blending Modes, I’m all for it! Woohoo! I’m not sure presenting is for everyone, I know quite a few people that are mortified of standing in front of 200 people to speak, but I think it’s a lot of fun and brings with it a new set of skills where you really need to analyze your processes in order to speak about them clearly. I really enjoy it, and want to do more.
The main benefit I get out of speaking at events like this is the connection to other artists and designers. I know there are a lot of questions and confusion about how the industry works and what a young designer can do to get on the right path, and I like being there in person to let them know it will be alright and remind them to not lose sight of their personal creative goals.
Fabio Sasso: Yes I have done a few, and I think it’s a great experience because you have to organize and communicate your ideas in a concise way, it’s pretty much the same thing we designers do in our design solutions but talking. It’s also very challenging.
GoMediaZine: Do you want to reveal a few details about the program or is it a surprise?
James White: There are a few surprises mixed in with my jokes and banter, but the portion I’m most looking forward to is the Hobo With a Shotgun case study I’ll be doing. I included all of my progress pieces as the poster took shape and I’ll be telling stories and explaining things as I go. Outside of that, I’ll be offering up a short bio on me and my work, how I do what I do, what inspires me, and an advice section. I’m really looking forward to showing this new presentation.
Fabio Sasso: I will be talking about the importance of practicing and sharing your knowledge to evolve as professional. I will show some cases and tell some stories of how Abduzeedo started.
GoMediaZine: Will we see you at WMC Fest come this June? Will our fans get the chance to meet you?
James White: Unfortunately I will be in Barcelona for OFFF when the WMC Fest is happening. So sorry, however I’ll let you know if things change as I would love to come visit.
Fabio Sasso: I will definitely go, especially because I am moving to the US in February so it is going to be easier for me to attend to the WMC.
GoMediaZine: A goodbye note?
James White: Thanks very much for the coverage and help with the Montreal Meets event, guys. It really means a lot when creatives come together to help one another out. We’re all in this together, man. Keep rockin’!
Fabio Sasso: Keep practicing and learning always. Also remember that the easiest way to get motivation to do that, in my opinion, is through sharing knowledge.
This interview was initially published in the Go Media Forum but we decided it was relevant to all our GoMediaZine readers as well.
Ray Frenden the Artist. I think it’s necessary to put this all in context with a brief overview of the insane force of nature that is your work. What is it that you do, how did you carve out a name for yourself, and what are you currently up to?
The usual spiel I trot out for these sorts of occasions is that I’m a self-taught illustrator with a penchant for monsters and the macabre who draws things for money and likes to write. I was weaned on old horror comics, pulp fiction, and sci-fi. I’m a bit of an anachronistic fella. I’m not big on current pop culture and I’ve always felt a bit out of place and disjointed from it. That separation started as a default state when I was a kid and became a conscious choice as an adult when I moved to rural Illinois after having grown up in Chicago proper. I like seclusion and am most creative when I’m alone and distractions are at a minimum.
Outside of your work, what do you like to do, what causes are you interested in, and what do you think defines you as a person? Basically just, who is Ray Frenden?
I spend the majority of my free time working with animals. My wife operates a trap, neuter, return service for feral cats – we catch cats and get them fixed and put them back in their natural environment. She runs a cat shelter too. More info on that, if you’re curious about cat overpopulation and the difference between a feral and a house cat, can be found at my wife’s site, http://cattaxi.org.
Our rural shelter developed a relationship with several city shelters. They get a lot of farm animals that either are gotten as pets and abandoned or escape from live markets and are caught stray in Chicago. They have neither the capacity or resources for farm animals in the city so my wife and I snag them. Whatever we can’t place on local farms ends up being an addition to our motley crew of misfit animals.
I’ve currently got a couple dozen chickens (reformed fighting birds and rescued laying hens), five ducks, four dogs, a gaggle of barn cats too feral to be placed into homes, fourteen house cats, three sheep, a piglet (and not some pot belly pig, a real pig that’ll weigh a veritable ton eventually), and a horse.
Our latest addition, the aforementioned piglet, fell off a hog truck on a busy interstate. The little fella is barely four pounds and is covered with road rash. We’ve got him on piglet milk replacer and he’s living in my home office. The animals make for a lot of responsibility, but I dare say they’re a more rewarding part of my life than commercial illustration. If rescuing made money (rather than sucked it out of my pocket), I’d devote myself to it full time.
Current art. What currently holds your interest? What techniques are you enjoying using? What subject matter really gets your gears turning?
Inspiration-wise, I just got back from a trip to D.C. The National Gallery had an exhibit featuring the masterworks of German artists. Lots of great charcoal, wash, and ink drawings. Those fellas really appreciated preliminary work. Seeing those studies reminded me that the drawings which are important are the twenty you cut your teeth on. It’s hours spent gesture drawing and drawing from life that most will never see that separate the good from the great. I’m still learning that myself. I get impatient and want to rush ahead and forego the preliminary work. Whenever I spend the time to do studies, make a maquette or take photo reference, and really plan a drawing, things go smoother. I’m continually inspired by illustrators from the golden age of illustration such as Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff, Mort Drucker, Johnny Craig (perhaps my first exposure to the sort of work I do and easily my first inspiration and biggest early influence), Alfredo Alcala, Pete Hawley, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, and Frank Frazetta. Everyone loves Frank’s paintings, and rightfully so, but it’s his brush and ink work that floors me. Most of these guys can be seen on the inimitable Leif Peng’s Flickr account here if curious: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leifpeng/
Materially, I’ve been mixing up my usual Rosemary and Co. sable brush and ink work with some Japanese manga nibs from JetPens. Using the techniques in the Famous Artists Course, I’ve used transparent layout paper as one puts separate elements of a piece on different layers in Photoshop. If you sketch the primary elements on a transparent paper, you can arrange them for the most pleasing composition, scan them or tape them together, and print them or transfer them onto your final substrate for inking. I’ve been doing my spot colors this way and will have a 100% traditional process soon aside from the scanning and bundling of the file for clients. It’s not too dissimilar to what the proto-illustrators of yore did to prepare “camera ready” artwork.
My work has been moving to a more realist, painterly style for some time. I’ve been practicing that style digitally as I’ve not got the ideal setup in my home office for busting out oil paintings. I’m hoping to change that and start working with real paints soon. In the meantime, I practice mass drawings and am interested in seeing where mass drawings and lineart intersect. I’ve done some experimentation marrying the two to varying degrees of success.
I want to be trying new things constantly. I get bored easily. If I’m bored, I create boring work. I’m not worried about confusing art directors by displaying a myriad of styles. That may be a good rule of thumb for most situations, but I can’t adhere to it. It’s not in me to be comfortable with, and willing to stay true to, one style.
You are the go-to guy when it comes to questions about Art Programs. Any suggestions for budding artists as to how they should approach the topic? Personally, I feel like it’s better to develop the skills on paper and then find a program that helps you to more easily convey your own personal style. I know that you really explored your art mainly through the tip of a Stylus early on though. What are your thoughts on the matter?
This is tricky. I’ve seen both sides. I drew a bit as a kid traditionally, but I really learned most of what I know on a tablet. If you watch some of my old tutorial videos, you’ll hear me wax poetic about my love of digital art.
I started to hit a few semi-local art meet-ups hosted by my friend Charlie Athanas featuring the likes of traditional heavy weights like Dave Dorman. I asked questions about traditional art supplies and the same curiosity that urged me to learn more about digital art kicked in. I didn’t even know what the gradations of pencils meant. Asking Dave Dorman what a 4B pencil is is sort of like asking Lance Armstrong what a pedal is. To he and Charlie’s credit, they fielded some pretty obvious questions and never made me feel stupid for asking. Dave recommend I read George Bridgman and Charlie really helped me on the art supply side of things. About that same time, I started a dialog with Coop of all people about traditional inking. Those guys are passionate about their methods and that sort of thing rubs off. I was hooked.
I learned that a five dollar synthetic brush and a two dollar bottle of ink was more accurate than my $5400 worth of MacPro and $2000 Cintiq. (http://frenden.com/buyers-remorse/) I was making prettier lines traditionally in a week. I felt good about my progress when Michael Cho (a fantastic illustrator and kindred spirit when it comes to all things linework) told me that most guys take years to get that level of traditional control. I was flattered. The digital practice carried over towards traditional skills. That’s my only explanation. Muscle memory is muscle memory. A stroke is a stroke, be it via stylus or brush.
I cut my teeth on digital. I see its uses. I still employ it here and there. It’s fast. But I’m pretty sold on traditional art. More accuracy, more life in the lines. They’re both tools. Learn both. Each has strengths.
You’re releasing some brush settings, which is very cool of you. Do you have any reservations about this at all? I remember when you first released your Manga brushes on Emptees and about 9 million people started aping you. I’ve met lots of artists who are very insecure about releasing their process and techniques. How do you feel about it?
I had a very open policy about that sort of thing. Before I became a full time commercial illustrator, I toyed with the idea of releasing all my works into the public domain. I’m a reluctant capitalist at best.
I offered a lot of tutorial videos and brush settings and developed a bit of renown (insofar as an illustrator can – we’re talking about a pretty small niche of interest here). I was surprised at how closely some of the derived works were to my own.
I need to be in a constant state of evolving and it’s petty to be threatened by those who want to learn from you. If they catch up to you, so what? Great, I say. Being scared of that is like admitting you have no more room for personal growth. I’m no advocate for finding a style and sticking to it come hell or high water. That sounds like a boring existence to court.
I’m self taught (http://frenden.com/hindsight-is-2010/). If it weren’t for other artists sharing their trade, I’d be nowhere. My favorite sources of instruction are Harold Speed, Bridgman, Hogarth, Vilppu, Loomis, Will Eisner, Preston Blair, James Gurney, and, grouped together, the Famous Artists Illustration and Cartoon Course crews. With their examples of spreading vast wealths of knowledge, I’d feel pretty small for not spreading what little I do have. There’s a tradition of shared knowledge that is bigger than any commercial concern or personal insecurity that one might have.
Ray Frenden the Future. What’s on the horizon for you as far as work and plans? What are your future aspirations and goals? I’ve heard you have a large interest in designing for 2d gaming, can you tell us a little about that?
I originally got my Wacom to make pixel art. I worked in the games industry making 2D, sprite based art and UIs for a casino games company for about a year, you can see some of the work on sites like https://www.bestuscasinos.org/legal/delaware/ who feature a lot of it . I still love games and enjoy thinking up game systems be they for video games, collectible card games, or even board games. My two areas of intense interest have almost always been comic books and video games. Comics were more of my focus as a kid and games more so as an adult.
I want to move away from making art for other people and start working on my own ideas in both those areas. I hope I can do that.
Any final thoughts, tips and suggestions for aspiring artists, or general tomfoolery?
I got asked this on Formspring the other day. I’m regurgitating part of that answer here because I think it encapsulated my feelings on the topic in a more pointed way than I’m typically able.
As far as getting into the market is concerned, be patient, work hard. Put your work in everyone’s face and be an aggressive advocate for yourself. Be your harshest critic but also your biggest fan. Otherwise your insecurity will eat you for lunch. You owe it to your potential to not beat yourself up and stifle your growth.
Style wise, try not to think about it. If you’re drawing all the time, that will come naturally. You will make the marks that feel right to you. The ones your muscle memory has absorbed and saved and cataloged are the ones that add up to a style.
If you want to spread across the tubes and get attention, being memeful helps. Make images that are loaded in advance to appeal to one demographic or another. If you make art about video game characters, video game blogs might talk about it, etc. It’s a cynical stab at self marketing at its worst, but a genuine expression of interest in a given topic at its best. I see peers having great success with jumping on the story of the moment and making art to match.
“I’M WITH COCO.” That image was everywhere a few months ago.
More importantly than anything else mentioned above: do what you love. It shows in the work. That will get you more attention, more deserved attention, in the long run. We live in a plastic world that places a high value on moments of fleeting authenticity. Being yourself is the best way to stand above the pack. Knowing who you are in the first place is the hard part.
Ray Frenden the Contact. I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer questions, and for helping out on this particular project.
We’ve already posted 4 of the video interviews we were lucky to film with attendees of the first Weapons of Mass Creation event last fall. Currently we’re busy planning a much more ambitious festival to celebrate contemporary creative visionaries, called Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. Visit the home page to find out what it’s all about, who will be attending, and how you can participate.
Enjoy this video interview (with transcript below) with incredible illustrator Chad Lenjer (Discordant Art).
Chad Lenjer: My name is Chad Lenjer. I go by the alias Discordant Art. I guess people would know my work if they were into the metal / hardcore scene. I predominately do merchandise designs for bands of that sort.
GoMediazine: So who are some of your biggest clients right now?
Chad Lenjer: You know it sort of varies. I’d say some of the most stable, solid bands would be Job for a Cowboy. I’d say Three Inches of Blood even, I’m just a huge fan so they’re bigger to me than any other thing.
GoMediazine: I guess the better question is who your favorite client is?
Chad Lenjer: Uh right now – I mean, it’s not like I have “favorite clients of the month” or anything, but – probably my favorite client is this band called Irepress from Boston. It’s just nice to actually – when it comes to the music industry – being able to do work for a band that I found myself being a huge fan of before I even knew them or did a doodle for them.
GoMediazine: Why did you come to the Weapons of Mass Creation campaign today?
Chad Lenjer: Well, because Jeff hit me up about it. And I just think it’s a really good thing. Of course there is exposure involved & what not. But at the same time, it does make a big difference. Go Media is just completely flawless in everything they do. Their stock art is… I mean you could go to Half-Priced Books or some used book store & buy one of the twenty page things with a bunch of banners & scrolls printed. But then you have to scan that in, and the quality is not anywhere as good to what it would be. So it’s really worth using.
GoMediazine: What’s your opinion of stock art & design resources?
Chad Lenjer: I mean, I have absolutely no qualms with using them. In the past I have felt a little bit guilty. But I mean, they’re royalty free for a reason. It’s not like someone slaved over it and was super pissed or rolling over in his grave over something we’re using. I think they’re a huge positive when appropriating old ideas in newer work. I don’t know, I don’t feel like there should be any guilt involved honestly. I’d say if you were just creating solely pieces of art in a non-conceptual sense of only stock art – then – you’re doing something wrong. But otherwise, it’s really good.
When it comes to music people use the same drum beat in multiple songs. It’s just whatever fits. Whatever the whole piece comes out looking like or sounding like, each thing has its own feeling.
GoMediazine: Your illustrations have been described as extremely detailed & meticulously done. Can you talk a little about your process for it?
Chad Lenjer: Uh, basically, I dunno. Paper. Pens. Draw pictures. I start with a really lose concept & draw a dozen or so thumbnails of compositions that could possibly work or ones that are really garbage. When it comes to pencils, like the initial sketches… When I’m working on a project sometimes I feel bad because it doesn’t really compute. Like I don’t have very much to show in the very first stages. I’m really loose – it’s just a couple scribbles. But I can totally envision what it’s going to look like once I start fleshing it out.
And then from there, it’s just inking. Which is really fun because it’s when I get to add all the detail. But at the same time it’s a little big grueling sometimes. Coloring is usually an afterthought, but I’ve been trying to have the best possible piece envisioned in mind so that there’s not going to be some snags along the way.
When it comes to tee shirts, I’m guilty of it, that’s almost everyone’s last thought: “Oh, let’s just throw the band’s logo on it.” I guess it works, but at the same time it totally looks completely different. You can add something on top of anything.
GoMediazine: Who would you say are some of your biggest inspirations right now?
Chad Lenjer: Uh, right now… I’m still influenced by illustrators greatly. There’s Horsebites (Richard Minino), Justin Kramer (Angryblue) that are here. Angryblue, he was actually one of the first people, when I was in the sixth grade, I would just look at everything he had up on his website. He would worked for a bunch of my favorite bands. He was honestly one of my biggest inspirations.
I really like John Dyer Baizley from Baroness – he’s a fantastic illustrator. But I feel like I get the most inspiration from people that don’t do exactly what I do. I really like photography, but it’s sort of hit or miss with me. It really all depends. I’m an avid lurker on FFFFound.
GoMediazine: What are you working on currently that you’re really excited about?
Chad Lenjer: A couple of designs for Irepress, which I was telling you is my favorite band to work for. So I’m excited about that. Probably just being able to actually do some personal work. Starting to do some prints. And a little side project that I started a year ago. It’s not even anything gallery-worthy, it’s just for fun. I loved the show “Are you Afraid of the Dark” as a kid. So I find myself rewatching old episodes and drawing little pictures based on scenes for them. I always liked macabre & horror and I feel like it’s the perfect balance between being too gross and still having some really scary concepts in mind. It’s just fun, and a little bit of nostalgia.
Can you start by telling us about who you are, what you specialize in and where you’re from?
My name is Dan Mumford, i am an illustrator/screen printer and i live in London.
I know you had formalized study in illustration, did you always plan to do band art or was that just a natural progression? How did this shape the way and style in which you work?
It was very much a natural progression for me, i was playing in local bands when i was younger so i always knew people in bands and when i got asked to work for some friends it just seemed like a natural thing to combine music and art, my work has just grown out of that really.
Do you keep a sketchbook? Do the contents typically evolve into your finished work or is it more a collection of loose ideas and doodles?
No, i really should sketch more though, the digital age has made me a lot less dependent on the classic pen and paper, and i tend to sketch out ideas on the computer a lot more than i ever used to. But ideas and sketches do end up being used in final pieces sometimes yes, just not as much i would probably like!
How do you approach a project from start to finish? Are you 100% digital or is there paper involved?
It depends on the project involved, a lot of the time recently my work has been completely digital, but i am heading back to doing more work with pen and pencil in the future, there is something you cant beat about the control, but at the same time working on a tablet is great for quick jobs.
Are your tools any different now than when you started? Do you have any favorites or old standbys?
I use the same sort of pens and paper that i have done for the last few years, i dont really feel the need to change up the technique i use for hand drawing at the moment, apart from the move to working digitally with a tablet and cs3, my techniques not changed all that much over the years, i think i have just got a bit quicker!
Do you work in Photoshop or Illustrator? How has that changed the way you draw or finish a piece?
Yeah i use both for various things. It has changed the process a lot actually, learning how to use photoshop properly and learning how to use a tablet has changed my working times and the way i go about creating a piece quite a bit. If anything it has sped up the process for me, i think the ability to use both is invaluable for an illustrator.
Are there any common obstacles you run into as a result of your process?
Repetition and typography, type has always been my weakest skill, and im working on making my type skills a bit better, but i do still like to focus on the artwork itself. Repetition wise, i just get asked to do a lot of the same thing again and again, and its just a bit boring sometimes, its always nice when a client has seen what ive done and then asks for something completely different, its a breath of fresh air.
What’s been influencing your work lately?
A lot of old movies and ideas from the 80’s, i try not to reference the present too much, im far more interested in sci-fi/action movies from the 80’s and 90’s, theres something special about that time period for film, and growing up it really shaped me, so its nice to revisit those ideas now!
Do you keep a morgue file or any other reference around?
Not really, i tend to use my self or people in the studio for reference, that or there is always google, but its nice to not rely on google for reference images, everyone does it nowadays so you can end up seeing the same images cropping up in designs.
Do you typically work from ideas you already have or do the ideas come after talking with the client?
No, generally its from ideas that the clients have, its always nice to be thrown the seed of an idea, and then be able to elaborate on their idea and put my own spin on it. Even if its just a word or a theme, its always nice to have some sort of idea of where the client would want to take the project.
When you’re working is it a locked down kind of process, chained to your desk, or more casual with friends coming and going?
Well, generally i sketch out things in a big block and get all my roughs out of the way over the process of a week, then i will go through and turn those ideas into final pieces. The sketching process is quite laid back, a lot of procrastinating etc, but when i am locked into the actual design part, i tend to do long 12 hour days in the studio etc, but i dont generally end up working away into the night, its the nice part about working in a studio, i have to go home at some point and leave the work!
Where would you like to be with your illustration 5 and 10 years from now?
I would like to be creating work in the same sort of style, but hopefully have a bit more freedom with what i am doing, probably just creating work more for myself and creating a lot more prints, and at the very least just making a living, i still find it crazy that i can make a living from this, its a great job.
Have you ever had to walk away from a project / client relationship going south? What was that like?
Yeah, a few times. Its not a nice experience, generally its amicable, just because its not going the way the client wants it to, but ive had a couple of jobs where i have just felt like a puppet trying to create what the art director has in his mind, and its just not fun in any way, you have to question your integrity and decide if its something you really want to do.
Do you have anything coming up you’re excited about, or recent favorite projects?
My recent batch of black dahlia murder tees was great fun and came out really well, and coming up i have a new project that im working on thats hopefully very exciting, i cant say much about it, but all should be revealed in the next few months, its a nice change of pace for me.
I think the shark devouring the ship thing you did for Gallows is probably my favorite. How did this come about?
Well, it was the follow up single to abandon ship, so we thought it would be nice to keep the second single in the same style and theme as the first. Thus rather than a giant sea squid, its a giant shark! That and the name of the song was ‘in the belly of a shark’. hahaha, not quite as imaginative as you might hope! but the design came out real nice, and it was definitely one of my favorite projects to work on.
Do you have any favorite things to draw? I see a lot of sharks and tentacles in your stuff. Is that what your sketchbook is full of?
Not really, thats more to do with the client base, its the style and theme that the music scene is essentially asking for most of the time! Obviously i enjoy drawing that sort of stuff, but im far more interested in natural looking shapes, and beautiful linework than the grim side of things.
What have you been listening to lately? Are you an iPod or vinyl kind of guy?
Im most definitely an ipod guy, 100%. Vinyl is great for the artwork, but i really dont care about the better audio quality. I get the feeling in the age of mp3 download codes with vinyl purchases, that most vinyl doesn’t ever really get played anyway, which is a shame. But you cant beat the size of vinyl packaging.
Are there any other illustrators you think we should check out?
Theres too many, Godmachine, Ben Lande, Joshua Belanger, Chad Lenjer, Brian Morries, Drew Millward, The black Axe, Greg Abbot, Wil Exley, Charlie Duck….and many more..but thats a good start!
Welcome to the fourth interview of the Weapons of Mass Creation video interview series. Not sure what this is all about? Read the kick-off article to get caught up!
We sat down with Adelle Charles & Joshua Smibert of Fuel Brand, Inc and chatted about their background, goals, and views on the design industry. You’ll find both the video interview & the typed transcript below. Enjoy.
Adelle Charles: Alright, I’m Adelle Charles from Fuel branding, and I’m the CCO.
Joshua Smibert: Joshua Smibert, same. I guess most designers would know us through the site Fuel Your Creativity.
GoMediazine: Who are some of your clients? We talked about this before because you guys don’t essentially have clients, so why don’t you talk about that a little bit.
Joshua Smibert: We’re a publishing network, so no clients but lots of readers.
Adelle Charles: No clients is good.
Joshua Smibert: Both of us have come from production world though so we’re used to client work but now we just serve the community.
Adelle Charles: Yea, we serve the creative community.
GoMediazine: How has that been for you guys? How is that better and how is it worse? So before you actually had clients, you had people you were responding to but now it’s a bigger entity.
Adelle Charles: It gets a little crazy sometimes, not gonna lie.
Joshua Smibert: But we don’t have deliverables so we get to respond to more the flow of what’s being asked but not specifics.
GoMediazine: So it’s more organic.
Adelle Charles: Yeah, it’s about building relationships.
Joshua Smibert: With a lot of people at once rather than one on one with a client.
GoMediazine: Why did you come to Go Media today, to the Weapons of Mass Creation campaign?
Adelle Charles: Well, Fuel is really about the community and your brand Go Media and Fuel, it’s what we’re about. And we totally wanted to meet you guys.
Joshua Smibert: We love the fact that you guys are reaching out and doing things that focus on creatives. It’s not about a single vein or a single person or competitive – it’s about, we’re all part of creating things and making things and doing cool stuff. So it seemed to fit.
GoMediazine: I see Fuel and other companies having a single brand name to which they launch a series of related sites. Is this planned from the beginning and why keep all the sites under the same brand? Does this strengthen or dilute the brand?
Adelle Charles: It actually started with Fuel Your Creativity. It just kind of, I met Josh and it kind of went on fire. No pun intended I swear.
Joshua Smibert: Fuel your creativity started as a single entity and as a really grassroots effort to try and share what you were working on with the community.
Adelle Charles: It was about a year and a half ago.
Joshua Smibert: Almost two years ago. So what happened was, we had to discuss what might be the next step for something. We built this community of designers, community of creatives. Where do we go from here with it? Fuel as a concept was about building on creativity and adding to it. So we kind of launched into other areas but still under that same concept. So it made sense to keep it all under Fuel but to build a brand to extend the reach because it meant the same thing.
GoMediazine: So Adelle you are coming from a background where you went to art school and so you have an eye for what looks good and what doesn’t look good.
Adelle Charles: I hope so!
GoMediazine: You have worked on projects where you had deadlines. What is your opinion of stock art and what the Arsenal has?
Adelle Charles: I love what you guys do. I use Go Media’s stuff. It’s a great tool to build on. Amazing things can come from it. I’ve used it on posters, art work, website design, I love it. I’m not just saying that because I’m here.
GoMediazine: What would you say to someone who’s kind of knocking it?
Adelle Charles: Knocking it?
GoMediazine: You would be like “have you ever had a deadline?”
Adelle Charles: Yea, exactly.
Joshua Smibert: What isn’t stock art anyway? Everything is a shape, everything is taken from something.
Adelle Charles: It’s true. It’s all about what you’ve done with it.
GoMediazine: That’s a great overarching philosophical way to look at it. I’ve never thought that way about it.
Adelle Charles: Trademark that quick!
GoMediazine: What is your ideal project? That is an interesting question for Fuel as an entity, I guess it would be what is your ideal situation or what is your ideal vision for Fuel?
Joshua Smibert: To us the concept of Fuel links to it’s name of creative development. Building on or adding to. For us creating an entity which has things that flow through it but uses what we do to add to it. If that makes sense. So information comes through us and other people can come consume that information. Hopefully apply it to their design work, apply it to their illustration, apply it to their motionography, whatever they are doing.
Adelle Charles: The fuel brand network is the umbrella of the publishing sites. So it’s “fuel your”, fuel your creativity, fuel your illustration, fuel your apps.
GoMediazine: In my head I’m envisioning this circle, almost like a cyclical thing, you put out these resources, you’re developing this community, people are responding, and then they are coming back. They’re doing their work, taking from these resources, and they’re coming back and leaving their resources.
Joshua Smibert: Again, back to the name. Fuel doesn’t do anything unless it’s applied to something. So the idea is, it’s a community publishing network where we take people in an industry and allow them a platform to get good quality, good feedback. So for designers working on something, they can come and publish to the community and the community can respond, engage, learn from, take away from, rebuttal, and disagree. It’s a way to be able to bring out the best of and the most interesting and do something with it to create new stuff.
Adelle Charles: The engagement is the best part.
Joshua Smibert: For us it’s about doing and creating new stuff. And hopefully that’s what the resources we provide do. And that’s again why we think it’s kind of a cool concept because you guys can take something and add to it to make something new. And that’s the whole concept of creation for us.
GoMediazine: Do you have any current projects or undertakings that you’re allowed to talk about right now? Or do you have to be kind of secretive about it?
Joshua Smibert: Sure. We have an events circa we’re working on.
We’ll be doing some Fuel workshops and hopefully in the next year second quarter, a Fuel conference.
GoMediazine: Alright I have to go tweet about this right now. I have to tell everyone!
Joshua Smibert: There’s a lot of stuff. Fuel United is another project we’re working on which will be a way for creatives to contribute back more of a hub, a charitable hub where everyone can offer their talents to organizations doing something. Sometimes a lot of freelancers may not have massive amounts of cash to hand out, but still want to contribute. We all have talents; we all do amazing stuff, so Fuel United will be a hub for allowing other organizations access to the creative community. It’s something we’re doing with some other partners. We’re trying to look for ways that we can all as a community give back.
Here’s the third installation of the Weapons of Mass Creation video interview series featuring designer & illustrator Mark Weaver. Not sure what this is all about? Read the kick-off article to get caught up!
You’ll find both the video interview & the transcript (to make up for poor audio quality) below. Enjoy!
GoMediazine: How would people know you?
Mark Weaver: I’m a graphic designer & illustrator. And basically, I started doing this project called “Make something Cool Every Day”, which was started by Olly Moss who is kind of a famous graphic designer. I started working on this project doing designs every day. Eventually people started blogging my stuff. It got kind of, I don’t know, it got on some big graphic design blogs. I started getting some work from it. Did some work for Wired recently. I got some recognition from that project – just a personal project.
GoMediazine: Who are some of your clients?
Mark Weaver: Paste Magazine.
GoMediazine: Wait, did you say Paste?!
Mark Weaver: Paste.
GoMediazine: Oh, I love that magazine.
Mark Weaver: Oh really, I used to work there. I worked there for two years. Yea, it’s good. I did some layout for them. We did the whole magazine redesign. I’ve done work for NASCAR.com through Turner Interactive. They do all the NBA, NASCAR – all that stuff. Georgia Music Hall Fame, I did some work for.
GoMediazine: So, what was your favorite project?
Mark Weaver: Definitely Wired, because recently they asked me to do an illustration, just whatever I wanted as long as it had the date in there. So it was really open ended and really fun.
GoMediazine: So why did you come to the Weapon of Mass Creation campaign?
Mark Weaver: I just thought it was a really cool idea, and some good exposure to get my name out there. Seemed like a fun thing to do.
GoMediazine: What’s your opinion on stock art & design resources?
Mark Weaver: Well, a lot of the stuff I do is based on public domain images. I take a lot of different images & create something new out of them, kind of like a collage style. So I think it’s great to have stuff like that out there for designers to use & be creative with.
GoMediazine: So how did you get started as a designer?
Mark Weaver: Oh man. I mean, I’ve always had a love for drawing. Started drawing at an early age. It was just a natural path for me to go in that direction – to do illustration & design. It’s not something I really chose. It was natural to do.
GoMediazine: I would doodle on the side of my math homework.
Mark Weaver: Yea, I’d rather be drawing!
GoMediazine: What is your ideal project?
Mark Weaver: Oh man. Probably my ideal project would be doing a series of posters for the White Stripes.
GoMediazine: Who are your inspirations?
Mark Weaver: Like, artists? Or?
GoMediazine: You know, you could name artists, or just whatever inspires you?
Mark Weaver: I would have to say Stanley Kubrick is kind of a big inspiration for me. Just, the way he shoots film. Everything is very structured & precise & really clean. I feel inspired by his work and I try to emulate that in my work. Especially ‘2001 A Space Odyssey”, which is like my favorite movie.
GoMediazine: Your work has a nostalgic vibe to it, what draws you in that direction?
Mark Weaver: You know, I’m really not sure why I’m drawn to that. I really like vintage looking mid-century style things. I just love clean typography – like Swiss typography style. I can’t really explain it. I just feels real. It feels … I don’t know. I really can’t explain it. I just love it.
GoMediazine: Lately there seems to be an abundance of people latching on to the style of retro-futurist-modernist-whatever. Do you worry that’s a passing trend?
Mark Weaver: Sometimes I do think about that. I have seen a lot of people doing that sort of style. But even when I started doing this ‘Make Something Cool Everyday’ thing, it wasn’t even close to what I’m doing now. My style is evolving even from when I started back in January. So I’m just trying new things. I could be doing something totally different next year or next month. It’s just an experiment.
GoMediaZine: So who are you and how would people know you?
Tyler Stout: My name is Tyler Stout. And I would guess people know me by seeing my stuff somewhere, or personally meeting me at some point in my life.
GoMediaZine: Those posters you’ve done for the Alamo Drafthouse are everywhere. Can you explain your relationship with Alamo and how you got started working for them? Do you get paid to do these insane posters?
Tyler Stout: I started working with them due to my friend Rob Jones, who is very involved with the Alamo as well as being a big-time poster artist himself. He was putting together a poster series for them and asked me to participate, and it started from there.
GoMediaZine: How does a typical project with the Alamo Theatre work? Do you choose a film and create a poster based on your own concept? Or does the Alamo give any direction?
Tyler Stout: They usually come to me with a film they’d like a poster for, and I can either say yes or pass. If I decide it’s a movie I can do a poster for, then I just do whatever I think would look cool, they give me complete freedom to do whatever.
GoMediaZine: Has the Alamo changed your life? Do you do any other film poster work as a result?
Tyler Stout: It has indeed changed my life, or certainly my career. I am able to do posters much more full time, though I still do quite a bit of freelance illustration/design stuff. It has brought me a lot of exposure and people interested in buying stuff from me. Plus I did the theatrical poster for Hell Ride, so that was nice. I’ve had a few other film offers, but it’s really hard to do a poster for a film you haven’t seen yet. It’s hard for me, not everyone I suppose.
GoMediaZine: I noticed you’re also are part of All City Media‘s new gallery opening this year. I have a poster in the show as well as Oliver Barrett and Chris Comella from Go Media. Can you tell us about the poster you did for it and anything you know about the event?
Tyler Stout: Thank you for reminding me, ha ha. I do indeed have a poster in that show. I should get started on it, ha ha. Let’s see…the movie I’m doing it for…I can tell you it’s a movie I really enjoyed and came out much more recently, so not 1980’s like most of my film choices.
GoMediaZine: When doing a film poster based on an existing film, do you worry about copyright or getting in some sort of trouble? How do you handle this? Especially when you’re selling prints with the film’s titles and actors likenesses on it.
Tyler Stout: I actually mostly do all those through the Alamo, so they take care of all that, they have a longstanding relationship with a lot of people in Hollywood and get the rights / permission to make these promotional things, so that keeps me out of trouble. Same with the posters I do for bands, it’s all with the bands permission, otherwise I could get in trouble. The only stuff I put out on my own is mostly fantasy based sorta stuff, alien nature scenes or whatever.
GoMediaZine: As you may know, I’ve been really trying to get into film poster design. I’ve done some indie work and am hustling to get exposure, but have you got any advice for someone trying to break in? We’ve done work for a local theatre, but they don’t seem as open to custom illustrated posters like the Alamo is. Their reply is that they get official posters from the distributor and they are required to use those. Also, they have no budget for “extra” stuff like illustration, posters, or other creative/art projects. Your thoughts?
Tyler Stout: That is a tricky one. The Alamo has obviously made a name for themselves in that they are a unique movie experience, more Hollywood type movies premier there than anywhere else and people in general love them and allow them a lot of freedom. Other theaters would take a more business minded approach I would guess, you’d need to find a more independently owned one, a smaller one I suppose. I haven’t tried it so I am not 100% sure. The stuff I do wouldn’t work for pretty much any other theater. Possibly film festivals, those would be pretty film based while not necessarily need to be ok’d by theater owners etc. Also, creating posters that feel ‘film oriented’ but aren’t actually for a specific film is an option, I obviously take a lot from exploitation posters, so if I was starting out I could do a promotional piece that felt like those posters while not actually being for any film. I think if people create good work they are bound to get noticed. Or they could just luck into it like me.
GoMediaZine: Besides these film posters, what other work are you proud of? Is there anything you’re doing you’d like to let the world know?
Tyler Stout: hmm…I think I do some pretty ok illustration stuff, I’ve done a few snowboards here and there that I’m proud of, some shirt designs. I just put together a nice snowboard wax catalog that I’m currently stoked on, but that’s probably just me, ha ha.
GoMediaZine: I aspire to break into doing film work, like Neil Kellerhouse for example. Is there a niche or industry you want to break into or any people you really look up to?
Tyler Stout: I really look up to people that can paint, like Drew Struzan or Reynold Brown, but I have tried painting and I’m rubbish. I might take some more painting classes in the future, see if I can get better at it.
GoMediaZine: Last question… Where can I readers soak up more knowledge about doing art/design for the movies? Do you have any links of other designers you like?
Tyler Stout: Well…I get all my film info from slashfilm.com, aintitcool.com, and chud.com – so that’s where I’d suggest starting, learn about all things movies. As for recommendations, I just picked up Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box,and I recommend that, tons of awesome stuff. The author of that also wrote a book collecting exploitation style posters, called Trash: The Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters,and its great as well. Plus just watch a ton of movies.
Check out more of Tyler’s work on his website http://www.tstout.com/
Welcome to the second installation of the Weapons of Mass Creation video interview series. Not sure what this is all about? Read the kick-off article to get caught up!
Our first interview was with Richard Minino, otherwise known as HORSEBITES. If you missed it, you can watch the first interview here.
The second interview is with Geoff May. We’ve got 8 minutes of revealing video for you to watch! Inspired by all the negative comments about audio quality on the last interview, we’ve once again transcribed the interview for you to read along with! You’ll find both below.
Geoff May: My name’s Geoff May, G-E-O-F-F, and the design community would know me for merchandise design. I’m all over the board with bands I’ve worked with. I mean, I was doing Bee Gees earlier in the week, and then Guns & Roses at the end of the week – so it’s kind of all over the place. But, yea, people would know me through that.
GoMediazine: So what’s your story? How did you get started?
Geoff May: I was working a job as an illustrator for this gaming company. They’re the biggest bingo distributor in the world, and uh, it sucked. It was so corporate. I quit and said “yea I’m just gonna freelance”. I was doing print & web design and hated it.
I want to do band t-shirts & album art & skateboards & just, cool stuff! And one day, I just contacted some merch companies. I thought maybe I’ll hear back from them, maybe not. Well, I heard back from them. I kinda fell into it that way.
It’s cool, but what’s funny is I contact all these record labels, and none of them replied. None. And after I’d been working for the merchandise companies, all of the sudden these record labels were contacting me. These same ones who never replied to any emails or anything.
GoMediazine: Oh, yea, now you want me?!
Geoff May: Like, now? Really? C’mon, where were you six months ago?
GoMediazine: So what’s been your best project?
Geoff May: Anything where there’s no production, and it’s just like “do something” I like to draw, so anything hand drawn. I was talking about doing Guns & Roses this week. They said “do whatever – make it 80s rock style, but do whatever”. Yea, I’m making skulls, snakes. It’s fun when you have free reign to do whatever.
GoMediazine: So you were talking that you’re excited that Chad’s (DiscordantArt) here, Angryblue’s here. Are these guys you’ve drawn inspiration from? Who else has inspired your work?
Geoff May: Yea, if you’re gonna talk more industry known – merchandise design known? Yea, Chad’s Killer. And the kid’s only twenty, which just makes me sick. Angryblue is big. Jeff Finley & Oliver Barrett – those guys are giants too. Who was a big inspiration, Illustration wise? Todd McFarlane Derek Hess.
GoMediazine: Do you have any current projects you want to talk about? Are there any you can talk about right now?
Geoff May: It’s all hush-hush. All lock and key. No, uh, right now there’s Guns & Roses that I’m working on and I’m pretty stoked about that. I had to put some stuff on the backburner, like this design for Trivium, coming up which I’m pretty stoked about. It’s Kali Ma, which is a Hindu god. She’s blue with four arms & wears a necklace of skulls & a skirt of arms – you know, severed arms. It’s pretty gnarly, and I can’t wait to get back to doing it because I think that’s going to be a fun shirt.
GoMediazine: So, unrelated question: What’s the story of your tattoos?
Geoff May: odd McFarlane. 50s pin-ups. I love 1950s art and 1950s ads.
GoMediazine: So is that another inspiration of yours?
Geoff May: Yea… it doesn’t transfer over to what I’m doing really. But I like the aesthetics of it. Now and then I do do more graphic design based stuff. I always think about that. The 50s stuff was real cool & clean. And the artists were phenomenal. I mean, there wasn’t clip art. You had these guys like Gil Elvgren (http://tinyurl.com/yatcoo6), fucking hand painting these images. You don’t see that anymore.
GoMediazine: So you said stock art. That brings me to a question that we wanted to ask you. And you seem ready! It can almost get philosophical. What’s your opinion of stock art and design resources.
Geoff May: I’m a huge fan of it. I have a lot of Go Media Vector Packs. What I’m against is people just taking something & slapping it on, and making that the main image. That’s not really… you didn’t do anything. You took something that somebody else did. But – there’s plenty of uses. I use a lot of the distressed vectors & splatters & stuff like that. I like using those because it takes my art and enhances it. And it saves me a ton of time! I could pull out the ink & brushes & make splatters. Or I could just go & use some & they’re right there. I save a ton of time & it’s the same result. There’s plenty of people using that stuff in creative ways. And there’s also a ton of people abusing it, slapping a bunch of it together & calling it art. There’s something to be said for found images, and repurposing, but uh–
GoMediazine: It’s a thin line almost, isn’t it?
Geoff May: There’s a really thin line. But I’d say I’m definitely for it, because I use the stuff all the time. On my latest project I was using Go Media Vectors. I think: I don’t have time to draw these wings, these are cool wings & they’re not a main focal point of the art. These will fit perfect for what I was going to do, get the point across. It’ll save me a ton of time.
It comes to saving a time. I want to get something done as quickly as possible, because I get a flat rate, not hourly pay. But it still needs to be quality. So, I could either spend two hours drawing this image, or I could use theirs – which is the same quality. It’s what I need.
GoMediazine: So do you have a lot of ebbs & flows in your work right now? Jobs coming in & out?
Geoff May: Yea, yea. I’m constantly busy. And that’s important. It’s to the point now where people contact me, I don’t have to look for work. Which is really nice. I think that anybody, in any profession, want people to come to you. I have the ability to turn down projects. If it’s not something I want to do and I don’t really need it, I’m like “I’m not going to do it”. I’d rather do something cooler.
There’s times. If things are slow I’ll whore myself out. Yea, I’ll do Backstreet Boys, why not? I mean, it sucks, it’s not going to be in my portfolio! But I’m still going to do a great job. I don’t treat it like any less of a project. I mean, my name is still attached to it. I still want to do a good job. I’m not going to put up shit just because I don’t like the band or whatever.
You’ve just got to treat everything like that’s going to be the one that your name is always going to be attached to. Some random project. It’s always going to be one you don’t like. You’ve got to try to do your best work always.
Welcome to the first installation of the Weapons of Mass Creation video interview series. Not sure what this is all about? Read the kick-off article to get caught up!
Our first interview will be with Richard Minino, better known as HORSEBITES. We’ve got 10 minutes of awesome video interview for you to watch. We’ve also transcribed the interview for folks in a hurry who’d rather scan than watch! You’ll find both below.
This is cool to actually meet, like physically meet, people that I’ve looked up to, or just seen their work. I don’t recognize them by face because I only know them through the internet.
If a kid wants to start out designing, and he can use the illustrations you’ve provided as stock art. Even if he uses it at first and doesn’t use it later, he’ll always remember that he needs to make it as professional and high quality as what Go Media puts out. I think it’s great.
And then having the option and the confidence to start up another business with someone and put out a little series of things. I would have never thought that would have been possible five or six years ago. It’s just awesome. I’m “living the dream”!
It’s still weird to me.
This past September, fourteen fantastic designers, animators, web developers, strategists and illustrators visited Go Media’s studio to be part of the Weapons of Mass Creation art campaign. It was exciting for us at Go Media to meet people that we’ve known and respected only through the wonders of the internet. We thought it’d be selfish to keep all the fun to ourselves, so we pulled out the video camera and chatted it up with our guests!
For the next couple of months you’ll find a new video interview every week right here on the GoMediaZine. For now, watch the trailer and whet your appetite for our upcoming interview series: Weapons of Mass Creation.
Get ready for upcoming video interviews with these leading artists, designers, and entrepreneurs!
In late 2007, Adelle Charles started Fuel Your Creativity, a fast-growing design & creative inspiration site that is now the flagship of the 11-blog network. The Fuel Brand Network, which includes such titles as Coding, Writing and Illustration, is aimed at creative professionals.
Under the Angryblue moniker, I design posters, art prints, album art and do way too many shirt designs full of strange imagery. Though I’ve mainly done aggressive work for metal bands, I also do merchandise design for Genesis and Ashlee Simpson as well. I am an art whore.
Brad spends part of his days wondering how to combine his two loves, comic books and easter eggs. The rest of his time he spends trying to design killer user interfaces.
Chad Lenjer is an illustrator from the outskirts of Cleveland who focuses on line-work and and amalgamating techniques and conflicting themes. He creates unsettling, sometimes macabre depictions, for the hardcore/metal music scenes he’s worked in for the last six years.
Owner and Creator of IFYOUMAKEIT.COM. I also play drums in Halo Fauna, Thousandaires, Golden Age of Radio, Kudrow and Air Raid Barcelona.
Geoff is a graphic designer, illustrator, guitar god, Cleveland sports nerd, and day dreamer hailing from Cleveland, OH, whose main focus is merchandise design in the music industry. He also likes curling up on a bearskin rug before a roaring fire with a fine bottle of merlot.
In addition to being editor of the GoMediazine, George Coghill is a humorous illustrator and cartoonist who specializes in cartoon character design for logos & mascots. He loves to share what he’s learned from his 10+ years as a professional freelance artist.
I am a designer, animator, creator and co-owner of nah design. I am always looking for new and exciting clients and projects. Feel free to contact me for any reason.
My name is Richard Minino aka HORSEBITES, born and raised in Orlando, FL, and full time designer for about 5 years. I teamed up with some of my best friends in the design world to form The Black Axe which will be melting faces for years to come.
Joshua Smibert directs his creative passion into the Fuel brand, where he oversees marketing and strategic direction for the company. Australian by birth, he loves travel and is the quintessential entrepreneur: intense, sleep-deprived, passionate and forward-looking.
Mark Weaver is a designer and illustrator living in Atlanta, GA via Boston, MA. He has worked for clients such as Wired Magazine, Good Magazine, and Paste Magazine. He currently works from home with his wife, Jessie and their dog, Sgt. Pepper.
Web designer and developer interested in web applications, identity and advertising campaigns. Interested in front end design implementation as well as back end administration. Has experience working with advertising agencies, corporate clients and independent artists.
My name is Aaron Sechrist. I design within the realms of print, web, apparel and broadcast. I like to make things look cool, and the fact I get money and occasional high fives for that is a great bonus.
Dave is a guy that has always impressed me. He manages to run a site that produces all its own video and audio content, play in 5 different bands, do freelance design/coding, and have a social life. This interview probes deep into his brain and covers everything from being an entrepreneur, a designer, and a musician. Something a lot of our readers, including myself, struggling with keeping them balanced. — Jeff Finley
I get a lot of help from friends, especially these 4.
Eric Ayotte and Dominic Armao contributed heavily to the Series section, and have stepped up to record a handful of shows on the site. Jeff Ledellaytner has helped me out so much with technical advice and creating bumpers for each section. My roommate and great friend Katie Pallatto has also been a godsend in helping me with Pink Couch recordings and filming the bands that I’ve been in.
As far as shows go, I never really checked out sites like punkrockvids. What really drove the site was France’s La Blogotheque and their Takeaway shows. I loved the idea of showing the bands in a different way that wasn’t a music video, but was still visually interesting. It got rid of the visually interesting part and focused on the awkward times in between. If you haven’t checked them out, you should. They are doing some awesome things over there, and their high contrast look is being copied all over the web.
IYMI is on it’s 3rd 4th iteration right now, and I think it’s the most stable it’s ever been. The backend runs off of PHP and a large MySQL database hosted by a MediaTemple DV, which helps with a lot of the load. I have a lot of fun adding modules to the site, and utilizing jQuery to spiff the site up. Recently I added in a Vanilla forum and WordPress Blog, which shares a unified login throughout the site.
Currently I’ve decided to jump back on the all WordPress bandwagon, and started developing the site locally. It’s going to take some time to merge all the tables, but in the end it’ll be a lot leaner, and meaner.
There are couple of awesome videos/bands that people need to check out including Ultra Dolphins, where the guitarist plays a second drumset while fingertapping out his parts. The Brainworms video is also amazing from ABC No Rio. All the Kickball videos are also great and they were also some of my first. Francois Virot of Clara Clara did an amazing Pink Couch for a song called Dummies, which everyone should watch. His playing/singing style is definitely different and really interesting.
A lot of the time, the Series section gets shelved and neglected. Fortunately I’m trying to remedy that by starting to contact people who want to fill in the cracks. I’m hoping to fill that section with programs that are updated often. It’d be great to have some interviews, music lessons, and a cooking program. Right now I’m working with some friends on a write-in cooking show that could be produced and edited quickly and feature music from the site and the local scene.
Eric is a great friend, and has always been a supporter of what I’ve been doing with the site. Right now he is working on a monthly short film movie challenge called “Instant Gratification”. You can find out more at gadaboutfilmfest.com
Photo by Twinkleaira
Another way I balance the time is through merging all of my work together. I work on record label sites (like Plan-it-x.org), and record covers, go to and play local shows where I film for the site. IYMI is basically a calendar of my life at any given point, you can see the places where I’ve been, and pick apart the gaps when I’m too busy to bother with it.
With the free time that I have left, I spend it on playing in a bunch of side projects. I don’t really have the time to be in anything full time, so it’s nice to be in something that’s low pressure and sporadic in nature. Unfortunately I have to play in 5 bands to approximate the output of one normal group.
My list of must-haves include Mike Kinsella of Owen, Ted Leo, Hutch Harris of the Thermals, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. When I first start IYMI, I had a link to email and tweet Ted Leo, but I took it down soon after realizing how annoying it could be. Some day Ted… some day.
My ultimate plan for this is to have the Pink Couch Sessions be more regular, and put them out twice a week, all year long. Financially it’s nowhere near that point, but I can still try.
As far as filming goes, I am talentless. Work on IYMI is just scratching the surface of what you can do with video and audio. I’d love to work on larger scale project, but it’d be in more of a producer/director capacity. I have a bunch of friends who are great at this kind of stuff, it’s just coming up with an idea to base it around.
There are tons of awesome bands in New York, and there are shows every single night here, especially if you have broad musical tastes. I would name some of them, but it seems almost pointless, because I have 100% chance of forgetting someone.
Currently we have a handful of great spaces to play in the Brooklyn area, which we are eternally grateful for. Some of the places that regularly host shows include the Silent Barn, Death By Audio, The Glass Door, Tompkins, Lulus, Tommy’s Tavern, 538 Johnson, The Fort, The Boneyard and many more.
Drums are all about tempo, you can play the craziest parts, but if you speed up and down to much it’ll never matter. The most important thing to do is play to a metronome and work on your sense of rhythm. I need to follow my own advice.
It’s exciting to keep contact with the people you meet on tour, and I think it makes everything more personal. Working on IYMI has helped me interact with a whole new set of people all over the world who I would never meet, or interact with.
Up until this month I have worked alone, which has been very stressful at times, but now I am getting some help from my wife. Our youngest child just started preschool, so she now has free time to help me with a lot the tasks that don’t necessarily require design skills, but have to be done.
Card Observer was built on WordPress, which made development quick and painless. I created a custom theme that was very minimal so that the site design wouldn’t get in the way of the business card designs. Although it has been modified a bit by the new owner.
My intention from day one wasn’t to sell the site, but I’m always open to selling a site if it makes sense. In this case it did. The money made from Card Observer allowed me to focus more on growing Web Design Ledger, which was the direction I wanted to go.
Another factor that made Card Observer appealing to buyers was how easy it was to update the content. It only required about 15 minutes per day to add new business cards to the gallery, which would leave a lot of time to spend growing it and thinking of more ways to monetize it. Having a good design also plays a role in selling a site. I think people are willing to pay more money for a site that looks great.
I plan on keeping Web Design Ledger. It’s grown much faster than I thought it would and has really blossomed into a valuable resource for web designers. It’s also coming up on it’s one year anniversary, so after investing so much time it would be difficult to give it up. I’ve become attached to the site and the readers. Going forward, WDL will serve as a “flagship” blog and as a launching pad for new sites.
Getting the money from Card Observer was big for me because it allowed me to quit taking client work and focus on growing my business as a full time blogger. The decision should really come down to your own business goals.
The amount of time it takes depends on how hard you work and how much money you want to make. I could have held on to my sites longer and grown them more, which would have meant making more money from selling.
I thing whether you’re going to flip a site or keep it, your focus should be on building great content and building traffic. A few of my favorite sites that offer great tips on how to grow a site are ProBlogger.net, Performancing.com, and DoshDosh.com.
After countless hours of looking at type, learning how type and image work together, filling up sketchbooks, learning how to code HTML and CSS and even sleeping in the art building, two soon to be “little fish” in the big sea that is graphic design wanted to get to know one of Cleveland’s heavy hitters (Go Media President William A. Beachy).
Where did you receive your education?
I attended The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio. My degree is in Industrial Design which included studies in product design, interior design and my focus, visual communication. Ohio State’s design school is highly competitive only accepting approximately 60 students per year.
When you got out of school what did you see yourself doing? How does that match up with what you are doing now?
When I first graduated I immediately attempted to break into the comic book industry as a writer and illustrator. When I couldn’t get someone to hire me I decided to self-publish and open my own studio. That failed miserably. Eventually I found that I could get enough jobs illustrating to fill that need and spend the rest of my time doing layout and running my company. In truth, I’m not far from where I expected to be. I’ve always wanted to run my own company, I’ve always wanted to draw and I’ve always wanted a cool warehouse studio. Right now I have all of those. It didn’t come as easily as I had imagined, but I’m here – so I’m thankful for that.
Who influenced your career choice? Any reason you chose design?
Todd McFarlane. He is a comic book artist. He was the most influential artist in my generation (in my humble opinion.) After I took one quarter of fine arts I realized that I needed more technical skills that I wasn’t going to get as a fine art major. I read Todd’s biography and it said he studied design. I checked out what Ohio State had to offer, and its industrial design department was ranked 2nd in the nation. All I had to do was take a portfolio exam and beat out 300+ other students that were applying for the 60 spots. I got in!
What made you want to merge businesses with Next Level Multimedia? Did you think it would make you more successful together than separate?
When you run a business there is a LOT of work beyond just design services: billing, accounting, legal stuff, payroll, advertising, selling, on and on and on. One person only has so many hours in a day. I had watched my friends at JakPrints build their business much faster than I was. I’m sure a large part of it was that they had a few partners to divide up the load. There is truly efficiency in division of labor. I could focus on the book keeping and Chris could study programming code.
The reason that I picked both of my partners; (first Chris Wilson then Jeff Finley) was because they were both doers not talkers. When I was running around town passing out flyers – there was Chris doing the same thing. When I was at the printer picking up stuff, so was Chris. He was out actively building his business. Both him and Jeff were quick to take action and build their business. So, that’s why I knew they would make good partners.
Not only did I think it would make us more successful if we worked together, it DID! I couldn’t imagine running this company without their daily support. I think we have a magical partnership. There is serious mojo here at Go Media. We love what we do and the sky is the limit.
Your website refers to Go Media as a Progressive Design Studio, what does this mean to you?
It means that we’re on the “cutting edge” to use a cliché term. Actually they have another term – the “bleeding” edge. That means we’re sometimes so ahead of the curve that people don’t get it. Not designers mind you – I think fellow designers get us easily. But when you’re on the bleeding edge of design or technology sometimes there is a price to pay. It means you make a sacrifice for your love of the art. You say: “everyone might not get this, our clients may tell us to dumb it down, but we’re going to invest the time and energy to do it the very best and deal with the consequences even if that means we lose money.”
What makes Go Media different/better than other design studios in the area?
Hmm, I wouldn’t necessarily say better. Each firm has its own strengths. Our strength is artistry and creative thinking. We got started working in the entertainment industry so, that kind of set up a really high standard for the art coming out of our firm. It also lead us to hire characters that I would say are “out of the box.” One of our most senior designers (Oliver Barrett) is a bass guitarist for the rock band Above This Fire. These guys are seriously hard-core musicians. Several other employees have also put together a punk band. Last fall they held a concert in our building. And that all fits right into what makes Go Media special. We’re highly creative and expressive individuals that are ridiculously passionate about the things we do.
Music seems to be the connecting point for many people in your firm. Is doing work for the music industry something that you strive to produce? Or does the music industry find you?
It’s funny how I answer one question and it leads immediately to the next. We all love music – who doesn’t. And there is a rich history of innovative art and design being associated with music. Whether it’s the packaging, apparel, music videos or gig posters, music has been one of the very best vehicles for driving innovative art. Initially we made massive efforts to break into the music industry. Once we had done that and became known as a reliable go-to creative firm, then they started seeking us out. It’s been great.
What do you think about knowing how to design for the web? Most people seem to think it’s a must for people coming out of school. Do you agree?
Ha ha… well, do you want to find a job and make money? If you answered yes, then I highly suggest you dive into web design. The facts are that the demand for web design is massive, and you can charge more money for web design over print design. The number of students coming out of school with GOOD web skills is not what it should be. No offense, but print designers are a dime a dozen. I get 5 resumes a week from designers looking for work that don’t know web. I’m not saying you HAVE to have web skills. But I would guess that web skills will quadruple your chances of landing a job, probably more. And the job you do get will pay more.
When I left school I had almost no web designing skills. But the demand was there immediately. So, I learned Go Live (a precursor to Dreamweaver) and started building websites. Since then I’ve hired lots of web designers and I don’t do that work anymore. But when you’re getting started you don’t have the luxury to write your own perfect job summary. You have to take the jobs that are available. Right now the web is where the demand is.
What would be your dream company/brand/person to design for?
Marvel Comics of course! If I could do a massive marketing campaign for the entire comic book industry, that would be amazing.
Who/What influences you now? Where you do you find inspiration?
I still like comic books. I am also influenced by my staff. They each have their own styles and skill sets. I am also heavily influenced by great business minds. Since that is now a huge part of my day, I read lots of business magazines and biographies.
What is your process to deal with unruly clients?
We work VERY hard to “kill them with kindness.” We bend over backwards trying to keep our clients happy, maybe too much. Occasionally when we have a complete and total jerk (or crazy person) we will refund their money and respectfully decline to take on any future projects.
It’s very important to always be professional, courteous and kind. It’s a small world. The older you get the more you realize that the things you do get around. When you kick ass for a client, they tell their friends. And when you make a mistake, they tell their friends that too.
The trick is to not give them any reason to be unruly in the first place. You need to communicate clearly from day one. You have to establish a good relationship and set reasonable expectations. “Under promise and over deliver” is a phrase we use around here a lot. If you say it will take 10 days to complete this project and you complete it in 7 – you have a happy customer. But if you tell them it will take 5 days, and it takes 7 – you have an angry client. In both cases you did the job in 7 days. But the expectation of the latter was higher. So, it’s important to manage those expectations!
Explain the Go Media hiring process?
I ask potential employees to send me a cover letter, resume and 5 jpeg samples of their best work. If they follow my directions I keep their documents on file. When it comes time to hire, I start reviewing everyone’s files. But I also recruit potential employees. The truth is that Go Media doesn’t hire a lot of people. We have almost 0 turnover. Our employees are happy. We haven’t hired a single new designer in over a year and a half. So, by the time I need to hire someone – there is probably someone in the community that I’ve already identified as the next Go Media employee. They need to have mad skills and the right attitude.
Once we’ve identified several candidates we will have interviews and maybe go out for a drink. Sometimes getting out of the office is a good opportunity to get to know the REAL person.
When we do hire it’s on a 3 month probation period. Sometimes designers will have these AMAZING portfolios but when it comes time for them to perform they’re nowhere near that talented. I wonder where all the art in their portfolios comes from.
In the hiring process, do you look to further develop that personality in potential employees?
Personality is very important. This is a check-your-ego-at-the-door firm. Work ethic, loyalty and humility are hugely important to me. I love my employees and will “go to bat” for them. I expect the same in return. When the chips are down we will all have to work to right the ship. And when the times are good, I share the profits with my staff.
What’s the most important thing you look for in a potential employee’s portfolio?
You have to be good and well rounded. I want to see a variety of skills, because you’re going to need it all. For instance, I will get a lot of nice portfolios from illustrators. Their drawings may be amazing, but if I ask them to layout a print article – they will be clueless about how to organize the text. That’s a problem. Here is a base set of projects you should have in your portfolio: Illustration, corporate Identity (logo), brochure (with lots of text layout), web page and some specialty skill like 3d modeling or animation.
What’s the best advice you could give soon to be Graphic Design graduates, preparing to enter the work field? What do you wish you had known at the time?
Other than my previous lists of skills that I think people need, I would emphasize humility. The real world is not necessarily what your teachers taught you. I have a lot of designers come in here with some false impressions of what their lives as designers are going to be. The real world is not a stereotype.
One way to quickly get an idea of what the real world is like, while simultaneously increasing your value to potential employers is to start freelancing. Do it while you’re still in school. Walk door-to-door from business to business and volunteer your design services for free. The experience of working with a real live customer will help you learn faster than any book or any class.
Any other comments, words of wisdom or advice?
Keep an eye on Go Media, our GoMediaZine and the Arsenal. We’re working VERY hard at enriching the design community. We have tons of tutorials, products and services that will help designers coming out. So, just stay in touch with us and we’ll keep kicking ass for you.
I went to college at Berkeley, and fortunately they didn’t have a design program which forced me to get a much broader education than I would have gotten if I went to art school. I majored in Rhetoric, thinking I would go to law school after graduating. But it was a crazy time in the Bay Area with the dot-com era at it’s peak. There was a voracious appetite for designers at the time, even for an untrained amateur designer like myself. So I worked as a designer while going to school and fortunately, it got my foot in the door. I learned a lot and I began to think that I could actually make a living doing what, until then, had just been a hobby. After that I attended the MFA program at Yale for a year, but I dropped out because I was young and stupid. And I’ve been working since then thankful that I’m designing rather than writing depositions or preparing legal documents.
As for the white frame, it really just started with the impulse to brand the work with a watermark so that if a particular piece got passed around, at least people knew where it came from and where they could find more if they wanted to. At first, I wanted to do something more subtle, placing the watermark on top of the work, but eventually I just went with the white frame. If you go to the website and scroll down the page, you’ll see the logo over and over again. It’s definitely not subtle, but hopefully you’re more likely to remember the name. That was the idea, anyway.
As for favorite designers, I’ve always admired and been humbled by the work of Mark Farrow. With a few gestures, he’s able to evoke so much with his work. The economy of his design always impresses me. Not surprisingly, then, I’m also a big fan of Peter Saville. Mostly, I’m inspired by his inventiveness, trying something graphically new and interesting with everything he touches.
Speaking of sketches, let’s talk a little bit about your workflow. Do you prefer working in Photoshop or Illustrator? What are some pieces of the process (without giving away too many secrets, of course) that create your incredible style?
In terms of process, I’m afraid there isn’t anything too enlightening to reveal. I get a few ideas quickly down on paper and then dive right into Photoshop. I find that starting out with only a vague idea of what I want the finished product to be is best because it then allows you to roll with all the happy accidents and revelations that come from actually working in the application. I think it allows the work to be more spontaneous and surprising. When I start out with a very rigid finished product in mind, I find it sucks the creativity right out of the process, making designing very tedious and the finished product less interesting.
The main application I work in is Photoshop. For fine-tuning pixels and colors, no other application comes close. The secondary application I used to use most often was Illustrator, but more and more, I find that that secondary application is now Maya. It’s a vast program that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of. Working in 3D has really opened up a whole new world of visual possibilities. My feeling is that in the next few years, knowledge of a 3D application will be par for the course for any designer. If it isn’t, I really think it should be. Animators and Illustrators have worked in 3D to amazing effect, but I really think it’s time for designers to bring their sensibilities to 3D. It’s a whole new dimension out there to be explored. It’s changed my design dramatically and visually, and it’s opened up a whole new space to play in.
After feeling a little burnt out by design, I picked up photography a few years ago and since then it’s become a great passion and hobby of mine. You can see some of my photos here: http://www.paulleephoto.com (My dirty little secret is that I do wedding photography on the side to finance my photo gear which gets really expensive!) Learning how to use a camera and understanding lighting, color and composition has really developed my eye for the way I use photography in my design, cheesy wedding photography notwithstanding.
Paul Lee: I see design work as a spectrum. On one end is design that’s strictly confined (by a client’s demands, by technical constraints, by strict brand guidelines, etc.). On the other end of the spectrum is design that’s completely unfettered by any constraints or parameters. The confined side of the spectrum sounds limiting, but there’s actually quite a bit of satisfaction that comes from working within tight constraints, finding the right balance and solving complex problems. The freer side of the spectrum sounds like a lot of fun at first, but designing with no constraints is actually quite paralyzing and can be aimless and meaningless.
To answer your question, on that spectrum, the ideal project is somewhere in the middle, perhaps leaning slightly more towards the freer side of the spectrum.
First, I think it’s made me an easier, more humble designer to work with. Since I keep a healthy distance from the work that I do, I can hear criticism and comments about my work more objectively, and the work can change and morph without me feeling like things are getting butchered and mutilated.
Second, and more importantly, not taking design too seriously gives me the freedom to explore and try new things without the weight of feeling like I have to create something of significance or merit. It’s only design, so let’s try these shapes, or these color combinations or this crazy composition. When I don’t take myself so seriously, it allows me to wander down the alleys of serendipity and whimsy. And it ultimately makes the work more interesting and novel. So in the end, the work that I create isn’t the result of some magical inspiration, but a series of accidents and discoveries that I’ve managed to corral into a finished design.
Those are my two cents, anyway. Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts out loud. And thanks for the interest in my design. You guys, keep up the good work.
If you aren’t already familiar with Von Glitschka’s art, you should be. An ‘illustrative designer’ as he’s coined it, Von’s work is a tour de force in the vector art world. Flexible and versatile in both style and technique, Von’s unique talent shines through in every creation that flows from his vector tools.
Go Media goes in-depth with this master of vectors, and Von shares some insight on the techniques behind his creations using Adobe Illustrator CS4.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What does Glitschka studios specialize in?
Creative ideas. That may seem like a condensed response but it’s true. People hire me for my ability to take their project and execute a well crafted idea. Most of these ideas are carried out through what I call illustrative design. Leveraging illustration through a design context.
Tell us about your first experiences with Illustrator. What version/features were you using?
I once was a diehard FreeHand user. I used FreeHand from version 2 until version 11a, which was a beta never released to the public. I’ve dabbled with Illustrator since version 5 but used to only use it to open files, save files or check color – which ironically enough FreeHand sucked at.
Back in 1997 I worked for Upper Deck Company in California. Our art department had around 25 designers all using Illustrator and I was the sole FreeHand user. It worked fine, there were never any issues and I could do way more than the Illustrator users at that time. I continued to use FreeHand as my core drawing application and augmented it with Illustrator whenever I needed too.
When Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005 I saw the writing on the wall. I held out for almost a year and then a Portland ad agency hired me to create a poster to promote Creative Suite 2 (CS2). They assumed I used Illustrator, and I didn’t tell them I didn’t and forced myself to learn it in about a week. (More about this story here.)
So from late 2005 until now I’ve been using Illustrator as my primary weapon of mass creation. The first year was frustrating, losing features I had grown to love. But in all honesty I can say now I wouldn’t want to go back. (More about my switch here.)
I currently use Illustrator CS4. I don’t get into tools like the Blob Brush, it just doesn’t fit my personal creative process. But I really love the blend modes. Being able to layer colors to achieve a rich detail is something I could never do in my old app. The simple fact is Illustrator facilitates and brings to life my artistic passions.
How did you get started using vector art? Tell us about your experience of the transition from traditional media to digital.
For the first five years of my professional career I worked at a large sportswear company in Seattle. Everything was drawing by hand, shot on a stat camera and hand separated into film positives. True craft and skill was needed to pull off design and illustration well – something that’s unfortunately being forgotten in our industry now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love digital, it has equipped me to produce far easier and with much more control than ever. But the computer has also lowered the bar in terms of what innate level of skill and craft one would need to even consider this a career as a designer or illustrator. So the digital tools have enabled a legion of marginal talent to survive. But every industry deals with that at some point in terms of progression I guess. I just hope future software doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator, but rather pushes the higher-end users instead.
Even though I consider myself a digital artist I think it’s important to have solid, refined analog skills as a designer. In other words it’s important to be a good drawer whether or not you ever want to be a full-blown illustrator. (More about my view on this here.)
For your workflow, what are the biggest benefits of a vector-based workflow in Illustrator over traditional media?
Flexibility to explore variations in content and color, edit, refine, adapt and repurpose with ease across a broad range of technologies and media formats. Vector-based art’s resolution independence is its biggest asset. Traditional art is great, and can and should be integrated into a digital work flow when appropriate, but it’s almost always built to size even if the traditional style is created in a raster environment.
I think of vector-based art as free range creativity.
Do you have any favorite Illustrator time-saving techniques?
I love the fact that Adobe lets third-party developers create useful plug-ins that expand the application’s ease of use and flexibility, so the user can adapt their personal preference with regards to vector building. I use a very helpful plug-in called XStream Path by CValley Software that makes creating and forming vector shapes a breeze.
I like to use Illustrator styles a lot, custom-designed actions, and a full range of keyboard shortcuts that are now second nature and make going from a sketch to refined vector art a smooth and precise process. I also have an unhealthy fondness for the inner glow effect which makes detailing my art fun.
For more information about how I build my vector shapes visit my Illustration Class tutorial site.
What are your favorite features in Illustrator CS4?
The improved building methods and point control, the ability to control gradients on objects, and the new masking features and multi-page capabilities.
What other Creative Suite 4 products do you use for your designs?
I use Photoshop all the time. I import smart objects into my Photoshop files and Photoshop files into my Illustrator files, though I do wish that Smart Objects in Photoshop linked to the source Illustrator file. That’s the only part of using Smart Objects that isn’t so smart. I also use InDesign and Fireworks when needed.
Are you seeing ways in which CS4 is improving your workflow? Are you able to quantify improvements, i.e. number of hours/days of work saved; profitability percentage/dollar amount increases due to efficiency improvements with CS4?
Being able to customize Illustrator and Photoshop via “Actions” and “Keyboard Shortcuts” and “Graphic Styles” etc. makes for a more streamlined creative process. The ability to add in third part plug-ins furthers the customization for my own preferred creative process.
ARTWORK & TECHNIQUE
You have a very broad range of styles, all of which you have mastered. The recent ‘Molar Madness/Ramp Champ’ iPhone design, your ‘Keyboard Characters’ and your Sports Identity designs all have a unique and distinct look while each retains their respective stamp of expertise.
Talk us through this in general. What Illustrator features do you primarily use? Any overall advice or techniques in Illustrator you can share? How do Photoshop and other CS4 apps figure in to your overall vector art workflow?
All my projects are style driven. Each project has its own unique aesthetic and genre that my art has to adapt to. There’s also genre, product and target audience to consider. Sometimes that style is dictated to me by an agency and other times I determine an appropriate style for the given client. That said, I have my favorite styles but it does keep things interesting so I can’t complain.
My creative process follows the same general framework and structure for every project regardless of the style direction I’m taking. My favorite tools within Illustrator CS4 are of course the Pen Tool, PathFinder Palette, Gradient Tool, XStream Path Direct Edit Tool and Blend Modes. The combination of all those with others when needed produces everything one can see on my own Web site. (More about my “Illustrative Designer Creative Process” here)
In particular, what Illustrator tools did you use for the excellent Cubist-style effect for the Keyboard Characters? How do the other Adobe CS4 applications play a role in your creative process?
Whenever I create my segmented style illustration it’s all about shape building. Sometimes I have to create three steps forward and then go two steps back in order to build what I need. For the Keyboard Characters I actually posted a tutorial that takes you through the entire process from sketch to final printed piece. You can view that here.
I use Photoshop every day. It’s second only to Illustrator, but I couldn’t do what I do without it. I love how flexible Photoshop is. The same thing can be done in so many different ways, making it very easy for a designer to adapt it to their work flow and preferences. To be honest, I think the Illustrator team could learn a few things from the Photoshop team. There – I said it.
The Ramp Champ artwork is particularly nice. Were there any Illustrator tools that were especially useful in creating artwork specifically for an iPhone game/app? Any particular advice for other Illustrator artists working on artwork for an iPhone app using Illustrator?
Ramp Champ is a project that required both Illustrator and Photoshop. Everything in the art needed to be either animated or have the ability to be modular. So most of the base art was created inside Illustrator and extensively layered as Smart Objects. We actually had Smart Objects within Smart Objects. Double click a layer and it would open up another layered Photoshop file which had its own Smart Objects in it. But all was masterfully contained in one Photoshop file. This enabled easy editing when beta testing and revising art.
The key to any GUI graphics, iPhone or otherwise, is to build the art at 100%. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vector Smart Object, you need that pixel precision sans the fuzzy factor and that is only accomplished when working at the final size. This is often the problem with many artists trying to design or illustrate for onscreen content. They assume since it’s vector it can be smaller or larger and they’ll just scale it either way – a rookie mistake. If you want to see some of the best examples of this visit The Icon Factory. They’re the originators of Ramp Champ and the masters of all things GUI.
Your Señor Skully illustration has some great texture effects. Were these created within Illustrator? If so, how were they achieved? What Illustrator tools did you use? If not, how were they implemented within the Illustrator document/artwork and what tools were used?
No, those are authentic textures. I always try to avoid faking an effect, especially when it comes to textures. A few years back I had a local silk screen shop print a throwaway shirt with just a huge white rectangle on it. I then had my wife put it in the wash every time she did laundry and after about a year this wonderful texture came about.
I scanned it into Photoshop and created the texture which is just a hi-res tiff image I placed into Illustrator and colorized the same as the background. Some might Live Trace a tiff like that but I’ve always found it looks far more realistic and detailed to leave it as a tiff image. It’s a less complex vector file too. (I posted more about this texture experiment here.)
Tell us how CS4 played a part in your pattern art creation.
Illustrator is ideal for creating tiled repeat patterns. Once your tile design is complete, the flexibility of applying it using the color palette and other controls such as rotate and scale make it easy to adapt them into your own creative projects. I did a tutorial for VectorTuts on how to create a pattern here.
Also, anyone is welcome to visit VonsterBooks.com and download sample patterns and spreads.
Tell us more about how CS4 was used to create your “Beautiful Vectors” artwork.
I was asked to be part of the “Adobe Illustrator CS4 WOW! Book” and so I decided to do an illustration in a style I don’t often work in. I felt I had to really challenge myself and wanted to push my comfort zone and get far more extensive with my detailing and methodology. I love the control of gradients you get in Illustrator. I used to avoid gradients like the plague in FreeHand, they just never looked that good. So now that what you see is what you get in Illustrator I use them more and more.
That said I don’t like the whole blended look. I wanted a clean graphic style that retained an element of realism and detail that would carry it forward – a balance of refined simplicity with just enough application of gradient detailing to enhance it. I utilized extensive blend modes, layering, transparency and subtle blurring of shapes to create this artwork.
In the end I felt like I had created work worthy to be part of a WOW! book.
Do you find yourself using the newer Illustrator tools, such as Live Color, the Blob Brush, the Eraser, or do you stick with the more traditional Illustrator vector tool set?
Traditional all the way. Augmented by third party plugins like Xtream Path by CValley Software. I’ve used the eraser a few times but probably won’t use Blob Brush or Live Color –they just don’t fit with my creative process. I never create on the fly, I create from an informed point of view knowing what I need to build before I build it because I’ve drawn it out before I touch the computer.
I’d like to see Adobe focus on improving existing tools and adding missing features that should be part of the core building methods, like “Sub Selection” of shapes without having to mess with the layers palette or fiddle with a sub menu. Adobe is well aware of this limitation. InDesign does it this way so it’s possible.
What features would you like to see in future versions of Illustrator? How would you improve on existing features to increase productivity for vector artists?
I’m on the Adobe beta team and know what I can’t say, so I’ll just share what I’d personally really love to see in Ai.
- Layering controls and layer folders and layer masking (like Photoshop).
- A preference that forces all guides to one “Guide Layer,” thus making guides non-objects.
- Redesign the Color Palette so the Fill and Stroke aren’t overlapped. Add the ability to drag and drop color to both at same time.
- Make all the blend modes from Photoshop available in Ai (Example: Vivid Light).
- The ability to customize the tool bar at the top of screen so it always shows what I want it to
- Better font preview in font list
- Make Adobe Illustrator customizable by letting users buy a base app and offering additional features á la carte.
- Push Zoom to 10,000%.
- Team up with “What the Font” and add the ability to select converted text and determine source font it was converted from.
- Make free distort work just like Photoshop. Remember KPT Vector Effects? Make it work like that.
- Create patterns, styles, borders etc. to include in the app that are pro quality.
- When upgrading to new versions, have the installer retain all custom settings and plug-ins.
Erika Simmons’ ‘Ghost in the Machine’ series is an imaginative approach to image creation/illustration. The concept of incorporating elements of the subject matter as the medium is a great example of thinking outside the box. The use of the cassette tape forces the viewer to envision the process, which thus incorporates an element of the passage of time—intrinsic to the experience of music—into the artwork. The idea of introducing the element of time into musician-themed artwork has echoes of Denny Dent’s “performance portraits”.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m a 25 year-old woman who lives in Georgia. I am a self-taught artist. I try to focus on using found materials, or donated materials. A lot of my supplies come from places like Goodwill.
I try to make things that showcase some idea, through simply cutting up and re-arranging the pieces of everyday items, like cassettes, old books, or even credit cards. Basically anything I can get my hands on! I like working with these older, strange materials because they have a mind of their own, and come with cultural connotations for me to play with—like a springboard for your imagination.
Art school or self-taught?
I never went to art school or took any traditional art classes, but I did go to college and make up school. I waited tables to pay the bills for years. While I was working at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, the idea struck me to make some musically themed art. I had some old cassettes laying on top of a blank canvas… that’s how it all started! Mostly luck and a lot of hard work.
What inspires you?
My greatest inspiration comes from big ideas… mostly those found in science and psychology. It is endlessly fascinating to begin to understand how we organize the world around us, how we come to understand meaning in things.
How did you develop the cassette tape series? What was your inspiration?
The cassette tape series came out of a desire to explore a theme of recursion… tangled hierarchy. Where is the music? On the cassette tape? In the head of the musician portrayed? Where does one begin and the other end? But you don’t have to look at it in that way to enjoy it. I tried to make something fun and easy-to-understand, but with deeper things to think about, if you so choose.
‘Ghost in the Machine’ series—the process
To make a cassette tape portrait I draw the desired shapes. Then I glue down the tape in the desired shaped that I have drawn. For my favorite ones, I attempt to cut the tape as little as possible, to make it look like it has just sprung from the case mostly intact. I fold and sculpt it into place and twist it to give the illusion of a thinner line… it takes forever, but I love it.
Upcoming projects and shows
Some upcoming projects… I’ve got a charity gallery show I’m participating in at UCLA October 4th with REVO. I’ll be there to help support the need for education in Papua New Guinea. Please come if you are in the LA area!!! We’d love to have you.
I’ve also begun experimenting with other media. Right now I’m using different rope textures to make portraits. Tomorrow I’ll be doing something else, I’m sure. : )
I love to do custom work for people, so if anyone ever wants to shoot me an email and bounce an idea off of me, please email me! Thanks again!