· How did you get started working in this area? ·
I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I grew up in books, or in adventure games, or the antics of my stuffed animals, or old Arthur Rackham illustrations, or unbelievable tales of my grandfather (he was a merchant marine). Everything was filtered through stories for me.
The nature of start-and-end stories held some greater truth for me than day-to-day, and even on the day-to-day I would somehow try to impress the structure of a story. This is where we begin. Here comes the conflict. The denouement. Then all is well again, and it has somehow worked out.
So I turned to telling stories. I read, and wrote, and researched. I tried my hand at it but, for better or worse, I ran out of gas trying to be a writer. It was a few years until I would rediscover a love for drawing and painting, where I would become drawn to the visual aspect of storytelling, and where design or the right mark-making could turn any day-to-day moment into a work of fancy and imagination quicker than any of my prose. From there, it was no longer a choice.
· Where do you find inspiration for your work? ·
An easy one. Aside from my wife, I get inspiration from the Golden Age of Illustration illustrators. The likes of Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, J.C. Lyendecker; or, a little later on, NC Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Frank Schoonover. There’s a lot of them, but you get idea. Technique aside, the Golden Age represents a period in which illustration exhibiting technical and narrative mastery constituted an essential component of virtually ALL entertainment, publishing, and advertising pipelines. The work was incredible. Masterpieces of fine art plastered over every scrap of pop culture and leisure entertainment. And taken for granted.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
As a rule, though, I get inspired by stories. An aspiration for good storytelling is at the core of everything I try to do. Compelling storytelling that doesn’t take shortcuts. So that’s what I work towards: good visual storytelling.
Also Wylie Beckert’s work. Wow.
· What’s a project you’ve done that you’re proud of? What made it stand out to you? ·
Encounters With the Imaginary. It’s an art book on which I collaborated with a group of 19 other artists. We all met and came together through a sort of composition boot camp under Chris Oatley, a former Disney character artist, and decided to collect work from all of us in the form of a miniature illustrated story each. We formed a company in the process, Boneshaker Press (boneshakerpress.net), started the wheels churning on a number of other collaborations, and ultimately released the book to a hugely successful Kickstarter that funded our print run.
It was a massive project, with collaborators with whom I shared more than a business relationship. Nobody was contributing to the book to make money. We all just wanted to see it succeed. And it did.
· What tools do you use? Have a favorite? ·
My number one tool is my Wacom Cintiq, which is a digital drawing tablet. It’s a precise tablet that essentially functions as a monitor on which you can draw and paint (or drag, select, click) with a pressure-sensitive stylus at over 2000 levels of pressure. Trust me, I know what people think when they hear “digital art.” They think photo compositing in Photoshop and vector designs in Illustrator. That certainly covers the graphic design portion of my work, but no; digital painting these days is extremely sophisticated and has gone through so much evolution to achieve the aesthetic effects of traditional materials.
I in no way mean to eschew the craft and technical skill required to effectively handle traditional paint and other mediums, but the minimum necessary distinction of the final artwork produced by either process is now minute. Painting is manipulating value, color, and edges, whether you use oils, charcoal, pixels, or coffee stains. Painting is making marks.
But digital makes the early planning and iteration phases a lot more fun and efficient.
When working traditionally, gouache and charcoal are by far my favorite mediums. Gouache is a water-based paint, which as a result makes it very much like watercolor in the images it can achieve. At the same time, gouache can be manipulated to full opacity to achieve an effect closer to acrylics or even an oils sketch. The biggest distinction, however, is that gouache is a paint that can be “reactivated” with additional water once it has dried. So it’s a forgiving medium, which can build upon itself. At its best, gouache has a very unique look and matte quality of color that really recalls pulp illustration and a balance of graphic and realist aesthetics.
· What’s your workspace like? ·
Well I work from home, so my workspace is really a small nook in what was meant to be our pantry, but I don’t need a lot of space for what I do. Using traditional media can require a lot of space, but I’d prefer a window or to be outside if I’m going to break out the paint or charcoals. In my closet space, it’s just a desktop, a monitor, my Cintiq, and a comfy chair with back support. And a lot of books. Lots of books.
· What kind of projects can someone try with you? ·
I’ve had success in the past helping other people nurture their own projects into taking shape. I’ve helped develop children’s books, video games, graphic novels, or just provided general critique for creative writing or illustration. With me, you can design and paint your own lineup of fantasy characters. Or we can create a brand new illustration from start to planning to finish on your favorite fairy tale or myth. Or you can learn how to approach drawing portraits. Or caricatures. Or we can create storyboards for that script you’ve been sitting on. Or you can create your own illustrated social media avatar--a stylized self-portrait!
· Favorite spot in the Bay Area? ·
My favorite area in the SFBay is Berkeley. The north side. My favorite spot was a swelteringly hot no-frills cafe called Brewed Awakening. Had the best Americanos.
Half-Priced Books in Berkeley, too, was another favorite spot, right next to Fantastic Comics. A dangerous collection for a bibliophile.
As for the city, one of my favorite restaurants has always been Cafe Claude, since my now-wife and I first found it.
· What music do you work to? ·
Now that’s tough. It varies wildly, from Flogging Molly to Johnny Cash to Lost Dog Street Band to Sam Cooke or Miles Davis. Recently I’ve gotten into Shakey Graves and Coeur de Pirate.
· What have you always wanted to try? ·
I’m fortunate to say nearly everything I’ve wanted to try I’ve tried.
Except maybe glassblowing.