Category Archives: new artist showcase

Celebrating Illustration Week with a series of interviews featuring brand-spankin’-new artists!

Illustration Week Round-Up

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – just like Ian Falconer’s Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris.

Phew, what an exciting week we had on the blog for the 1st annual Illustration Week! To be honest, when I first put out the idea, I completely underestimated what an amazing response I’d receive from my talented fellow illustrators, and what a positive reception the entire idea would get on the internet.  Thanks to everyone for tuning in!

I’d like to thank everyone who got the word out last week about our New Artist Showcase, starting with kids-lit blog gurus Betsy Bird at School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 blog, and Jules over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for their fantastic write-ups!  Also a big thanks to featured artists Chris Harrington, Heather Sisson, and Daniel K. Harlow for the nice words on their own blogs.

I also can’t forget to mention that numerous people gave this blog event a shout-out on Twitter… so if you have Twitter, go on over and follow them, please!  Thanks to my publisher Nancy Paulsen @nancyrosep, advisor for emerging illustrators Jon Woodward of Zero2Illo @jonwoodward, top-notch illustration blog A Journey Round My Skull @roundmyskull, starchitect/roommate Adrielle Emilia @adrielleemilia, alma mater Pratt Career Services @PrattCareer, too-hilarious writer/blogger/badger Merit Badger @meritblog, and one of the best children’s book news bloggers in the biz, Travis at 100 Scope Notes @100scopenotes.

Did I miss anyone . . .?  Let me know!

While I don’t think I could ever keep up with posting daily, I will continue to feature up-and-coming illustrators. I personally learned a lot from the artists who were interviewed, and I can’t wait to expand it more.  So if you are/know someone who would be great for the New Artist Showcase, do let me know!

In the meantime, here’s a round-up of all the artists of this week (in case you missed any), and don’t forget to check out today’s finale illustrator, Chris Harrington!

Danny Quirk: website / blog

Kevin Stanton: website / blog

Heather Sisson: website / blog

Dan Masso: website / twitter

Dan Harlow: website

Christee Curran: interview

Chris Mulvey: website

Alexander Doig: website

Shaina Koval-Kim: website

Alexa Macfarlane: blog

Chris Harrington: blog / youtube

New Artist Showcase: Chris Harrington

Chris Harrington

blog: http://chrishillustration.blogspot.com

Christopher Scott Harrington graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in 2010 earning a BFA in Communications Design with a concentration in Illustration. He primarily works in watercolor, ink, and colored pencil to create humorous, fun, illustrations that are narrative in nature. When he’s not at his desk sketching and painting he enjoys juggling, unicycling and having a good time.

What kind of projects have you been working on lately?

Personal projects, I’ve been working on drawing kids, kids are a bit of a weak point for me but not going to shy away from them, they are a work in progress as is everything. But whether it’s a job or just for fun I approach it the same way…It’s all fun. As far as freelancing goes I’ve been doing mostly some animal character designs here and there…A lot of fun!

What do you do to keep new ideas flowing and stay fresh creatively?

I am constantly on the look out for new ideas, I can’t stand when I get “artist block” so to fix that I sometimes take day trips to a park, or to the mall, sketchbook in hand and jotting down notes and crude looking doodles of the things I see or hear. My mind is always thinking in narrative although sometimes my ideas are just babble that doesn’t make any sense what so ever, and wouldn’t be a successful illustration conceptually…But I’ve found that real life is a good source of inspiration. Hearing or seeing something tweaking the story making it your own creation. What comes next? Who are these people, animals or things? When asking myself those type of questions it keeps me fresh because the possibilities of what actually could come next are endless…And up to you.

How do you go about promoting your work?

I try and target certain places where I think my work could fit. Researching the client first and foremost finding out what they publish, what they want and look for. Depending who the client is, some prefer e-mails, or snail-mail, and sending a postcard every 3-6 months. Although I bug them a little more then they might like with postcard samples…They can either give me a job or a restraining order. But I’ve found the internet is the way I like to promote myself, although I do enjoy sending postcards with my illustration on the front and contact info on the back. I enjoy getting mail…Do they?

Anyways the internet, it’s easy, it’s accessible to many, and don’t bother finding a postage stamp. Although it’s easy to send it’s also easy for art directors to click delete. Regardless you never know who may come across your website, blog, youtube account, or that cute picture you took of your dog sleeping. You never know if the right person is viewing your work and say your perfect for this type of job. I try and display my art wherever I can, in public places I’ll be sketching and someone might come from behind and watch me for awhile ask me a few questions, I also try and carry business cards or some kind of sample to give out.

I think of it this way, it’s like planting seeds unsure if it will grow but you plant them anyway.

What has your involvement been like in the online community?  How is having an internet presence been helpful or inspiring to you? Why?

I keep and maintain a personal illustration blog, been familiarizing myself with YouTube and numerous social networking sites mainly to prompt my illustration work online. As well as joining a couple illustration blogs all similar but slightly different they all have the same basic idea or objective. Each week they list a topic that you will have to interpret through illustration means. Being active in a few of them and given a week for each illustration is kind of equivalent to a illustration/freelance job. You have to budget your time and meet a deadline. It’s been helpful in numerous ways, such as beefing up my portfolio, getting helpful advice from fellow artists and illustrators some published some not. Also a great creative outlet to explore and experiment.

An art director calls you up and offers you the ultimate “dream job/assignment”.  What is it?

Good question! I really enjoy drawing animals, they are my favorite. If an art director called me up one day and asked I need a cover illustration with a variety of animals as if they were posing for a “family portrait” and a wee bit dysfunctional. Actually I take that back not a cover illustration, make it like a movie poster? I would start that project even before the conversation was over. I would be so happy!

New Artist Showcase: Alexa Macfarlane

Alexa Macfarlane

Blog: www.alexaillustration.blogspot.com

What projects are you working on lately? Anything you’re particularly excited about?

Currently, I’m working on writing and illustrating a children’s book about a brother, sister, and a fortune cookie. I won’t tell you what happens though… you’ll have to wait to read it! I’m also working on some oil paintings which I’m very excited about, and a handful of other little craftsy projects like textile designs, glassware/dinnerware designs, and some digital illustrations. I’m also in the process of getting a website up and running, but for the meantime have been using my blog to showcase recent work. I’ve ALWAYS loved art–at least for as long as I can remember–and am so excited to graduate from Pratt in the spring to start life in “the real world” as an artist.

How has your art evolved in the past year? Have you discovered anything new about yourself as an illustrator?

In the past year I’ve realized my passion for children’s books even more. I’m having a lot of fun writing and illustrating new stories. I’ve always had a love for illustration that intertwines with graphic design, like the prints and patterns on clothing and home goods, and am finally discovering how to incorporate that into my work. I would love to design for a company like Anthropologie. I am also completely obsessed with buying items of this sort! This past year has been a period of discovery and development for me; I feel that I’ve finally found my niche (what I enjoy doing, although of course I’m open to the changes/growth that will come in the future) in illustration.

What is your creative process like? What do you do to keep new ideas flowing, especially under stress?

I find that I get inspired most by reading books, listening to music, and looking at artwork. I think that always surrounding yourself in art, no matter what form, will keep the creative process flowing. When I’m stuck on an idea or can’t quite figure it out, I take a break and do something that is not related to what I was working on at all. Some of the best ideas come when you’re lying in bed or in the shower—when your mind has time to think freely or when you think you aren’t thinking about your art at all!

As a student leader, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen or young people pursuing illustration?

As a student leader, I would encourage young people pursuing illustration to draw, draw, draw. And then draw some more (and keep these drawings compiled in your sketchbook so you don’t lose them). As a young person, it’s easy to get off track with so many responsibilities, decisions to be made, and while living a new lifestyle, but remember to stay focused and on top of your work. As I said above, I’d highly recommend that young artists go to as many gallery openings, exhibitions, and shows as they can and keep themselves surrounded in art, especially if you live in NYC–we have SO many opportunities here and we should use them. But most importantly, have fun! You should be doing art/illustration because you love it… and if you made some money off of loving it that would be great too.

You’re about to graduate from Pratt this May. What would be your dream first year, career-wise?

I would love to have a children’s book published!! My dream first year would be to get a book deal, stay in NYC, freelance, and/or even work as a designer at a publisher or at a company for textiles, product design/illustrations for home goods, or a magazine. Basically, I’d be happy working in any of those areas and am open to many more. My number one goal is just to be able to support myself with my artwork and to have fun with what I’m doing.

New Artist Showcase: Shaina Koval-Kim

Shaina Koval-Kim

Website: shaina.kovalkim.com

What kind of stories and projects are you working on lately?

I’ve been itching to do a children’s book lately, since I really want to let loose and bring some fun into my drawings. I enjoy drawing weird things, like monsters and strange animals with bulging eyes and random patches of hair, and I’ve doodled a few before deciding to come up with a story about an ugly– yet beautiful– dog. At the same time, another part of me likes drawing dark, moodier things, and I find myself sketching out illustrations like that, and sometimes finishing them.

What was your process of developing your style?

I’ve kept a sketchbook since I can remember. At first it was full of hideous self-portraits and deformed horses (all of which at the age of 10 or so I thought were amazing), but as I entered my teen years I started look at things other than textbook and museum art. I found anime, and I found Ralph Steadman. Some people look down on anime/manga-style drawings, but it taught me that things don’t have to look realistic to be functional. As for Ralph Steadman, I wanted to be him. Or live my life as his work, if I could only transform into a drawing. There was more simplicity in my drawings than in his, with cleaner lines (perhaps due to the fact that I spent a while drawings an obscene number of anime characters), but I mimicked what I could, adding texture and exaggerating to the best of my abilities with my Walgreens-bought pens and colored pencils. I had a style going on, but somehow after leaving Vassar College and going into Pratt, I reverted back and thought that all “real” art had to be painted. After a semester of mediocre paintings, one of my awesome professors, Cheryl Gross, looked at my sketchbook, saw my black and white line work, and taught me how to color in Photoshop. Best. Lesson. Ever. As I got better at Photoshop, my style started gaining more texture and my drawing improved. I also experimented with linocuts recently, and have found using them a great tool in terms of thinking about composition and color. And they have a great organic texture!

What do you use to work with?  What tools, art supplies and materials can you not live without?

I must have india ink, a small brush, and a dip pen, though in some cases, just a few Micron or Faber-Castell black pens will do. I could do a black and white illustration with just that. But I really do love Photoshop. I can fix things, I can add things, I can take them away again and compare between different versions. It allows me to see thousands of options before deciding on a final product, and I really love it just for that. Plus, then I only have to carry around my laptop and a Wacom tablet for a large part of my work, so I can take in anywhere.

If you could meet any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

I have this nagging feeling that as soon as I answer this, I’ll think of at least a dozen more artists I would answer this question with, but for now I’d have to say my old favorite, Ralph Steadman. Though if I met him, I have no idea what I would do or say. Please let me live and frolic amongst your lines and splashes of color? His work is so loose, so inky, and so insanely alive that it boggles my mind. Though I no longer want to mimic him, every time I set pen/brush/pencil to paper, I aim to have that same vivaciousness exist in my own work.

New Artist Showcase: Alexander Doig

Alexander Doig

Website: www.alexanderdoig.com

What interests you about illustrating graphic novels? Tell us what you can about your latest project… how did it get started? 

The great thing about graphic novels is the ability to tell a story on a grand scale, and on a budget that almost anyone can handle. You don’t really need much more than a pencil, paper, and a story to get started. It’s also really nice because being the illustrator means your imagery is a large reason why people buy the book.

The project started after I did some political cartoons about the 2008 Presidential campaigns. The client liked what I did, and several months later they contacted me and we worked out a test comic together. It eventually evolved into a 100+ page novel. It has been a fairly long and involved project, especially considering I am the sole individual behind illustrating it. A whole book involves tons of work, especially considering each panel can be an illustration on its own. Throughout the project I’ve ended up drawing several hundred full-color images. Its definitely something I’m not used to, and keeping everything cohesive is a quite the challenge… especially considering my style has evolved a bit since I started. However, this book is really fun and has influenced my style quite a bit. I think its what finally helped me choose a direction with my work.

What are your favorite graphic novels/comic books/artists?

Growing up I was never really into comic books or graphic novels, even though I was surrounded by them. Almost all of what I know about storytelling comes from reading newspaper comics. As a kid, they came with the parents’ newspaper so they were ‘free.’ You also get tons of exposure to many different ideas and styles in a short sitting. To me, the champion of those has to be Bill Watterson. He will always will be my biggest hero. There was something about the way he communicated his ideas through Calvin and Hobbes, something I think all storytellers should strive for. He was able to reach readers of all ages, even though many of his ideas were quite grand and radical at times. I own almost all of the Calvin and Hobbes collections, which I thumb through often for inspiration.

Then there is Art Spiegelman who’s comics are a favorite of mine especially his graphic novel Maus. Karl Kopinski who is an absolutely phenomenal illustrator. He has some amazing black and white inkwork. I used to strive to be like him, although now my style isn’t like his all. Eric Palma is another favorite, and I had the pleasure of having him as a professor while in school. Lastly, I have some Punch magazine cartoon compilations that I grew up reading. Very dry and sarcastic British humor, which eventually rubbed off on me I guess.

How are you using the web to get freelance work? What’s the process of working with stock illustration sites like?

There are a bunch of websites out there that try to hook up small businesses with people who can provide work. Elance is the main website like this I have worked with, but I have also tried out oDesk and Guru. There is a decent amount of work to be found on these, but there are quite a few setbacks as well. Its quite competitive, and you end up dealing with a client who usually has a strong image in their head of what they want. However, I have met some great people on there that have lead to some fantastic opportunities.

The idea for stock illustration came from me having all of these old illustrations sitting around collecting dust. I figured that I might as well try and see if I can make some use of them. Its a little bit of a pain to get accepted, you have to take a few tests and some practice submissions. The main problem is that they generally only accept vector work, and it has to be absolutely perfect in terms of closed shapes, stray points, etc… The money from this is terrible, but terrible money is better than no money! Especially if it was never going to be used again.

What’s best part about being an illustrator? What’s the hardest part?

I think the best part is being able to help people visualize their ideas. Its very rewarding to see someone so excited about something you’ve done. Its even better when they come back for more work. Plus, you get paid to draw! What could be better than that?

The most difficult thing is having to work against your client. Some clients like to think they are expert art directors, and can demand changes that visually make no sense. While I gladly welcome feedback and changes, sometimes things do get out of hand. Thankfully this is fairly uncommon.

If you could have a career in anything other than illustration in another life, what would you do?

A Veterinarian would have been very fun and rewarding profession. I love creatures of all shapes and sizes. I’m also the kind of guy who catches that annoying fly in the house and lets it go outside instead of swatting it.

New Artist Showcase: Chris Mulvey

Chris Mulvey

Website: http://mulveyart.com
Email: Mulveyillustration@gmail.com

What makes you passionate about pursuing a career as an artist?

I think the main factor that motivates me is the same thing that drives most artists to do what they do. I’ve been doing this for such a long time, that I can’t picture myself thriving in any other field. You set yourself up for success in almost any skill that that you begin to practice at an early age. Ask any Olympic gold winner. They’ll probably tell you they’ve been training since the age of 4.

What kind of stories are you working on lately?

Right now I’m working on two stories simultaneously. They are both graphic novels. One of them takes place in a parallel universe, on a distant planet. It touches on many of the problems we have here on earth – war, economic disputes, pollution, etc. This comic won’t be done for many years, and I began conceptualizing it eight years ago.

The one I plan on finishing sooner is about drugs and substance abuse. Each character in the series is a drug, and they all interact inside the body of a 15 year old boy. I do not work any biased views into the plot, and make sure that each drug’s persona proves to be educational to the fullest extent of it’s nature.

None of my stories have ever involved humans. They’re boring and predictable.

Where do you get your inspiration, in or outside of art? Favorite artists?

Ren and Stimpy, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Anything that involves the Muppets, Looney Tunes, Calvin and Hobbes, The Crow, The “Bone” series, the Ninja Turtles, Dennis Hopper, Edward Munch, Salvador Dali, Magritte, Goya, and Hunter S. Thompson.

No matter who you are, your creations will always reflect what you were exposed to when you were younger. I feel like my generation was particularly lucky.

You’re an art teacher as well… does that inspire you creatively? What advice would you give to kids looking to pursue illustration as a career?

The kids I teach are mostly between 6 and 8 years old. every once in a while we’ll get a passionate teenager who requires more specific guidance. I can still easily relate to the little ones though, especially the stubborn ones that pretend I’m not there when I try to help them. The main thing we try to teach is hand eye coordination. We make them use a grid system so that they can map out the image in their brain and draw everything freehand. I feel like the earlier this type of skill is instilled in your mind, the more unstoppable you will be as a creative thinker. I want them to eventually feel like they can draw whatever they want. Once you have that kind of confidence, you can build off of your own ideas and produce images that have never existed before. Reference will be a tool, not a necessity.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Nobody knows, nobody cares, and nobody will ever care, unless you absolutely MAKE them.

New Artist Showcase: Christee Curran

Christee Curran

You’re about to enter your senior year at Pratt in the spring. Do you know what direction of illustration you’d like to go in for your final projects?

I’m definitely doing another children’s book, although I don’t know what yet! I’ll have to ruminate over winter break.  For my other senior project, I actually have no idea. I may just work on a series of promotional pieces to expand my portfolio, but I would like for the body of work to have a common thread. I know that in the Fall of 2011 I will be doing a lot of the characters that I’ve created in 3D, but not just yet for Spring! I’m really trying to find a way of working right now.

What kind of stories do you like to illustrate? Any favorite subjects?

I love to draw kids, especially in the classroom setting. I also love to play with drawing kids and animals together–except I put the animals on “human-level.” I think it makes a great story whenever humans and animals are nonchalantly interacting. I probably love to illustrate that subject so much because when I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to have some sort of animal who could converse with me in fluent English. That was everyone’s fantasy, right?

Who are some of your artistic heros?

Gosh there are a lot. Walt Disney and Pixar, for starters, not just for the art but for the amazing story and character developments.

Tim Burton’s animation, as well. As far as illustrators go: Norman Rockwell, Maurice Sendak, Chris van Allsburg, David Weisner, Mary Blair.  Two new favorites of mine are Suzy Lee and Peter Brown. As far as writer-illustrators, I will not ever respect any other poets as highly as I will ever respect Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss.

As a Peer Counselor, what career advice would you give to aspiring illustration students?

Well, I highly recommend that you take a class called “Self Promotion.”  Not only will it give you some really valuable information about getting jobs and internships, but it will force you to make a great resume, portfolio, and website. And you do NEED a website. I shouldn’t talk, because I don’t have one yet, but I will by the end of the semester!

While we’re on the subject of portfolios, make sure that every single assignment that you get in your classes is completed to a level of sophisticated finish. If that means that you don’t sleep for the night, that means you don’t sleep for the night. Trust me: when you are putting together your portfolio, and you have those great pieces, the bags under your eyes instantly become superfluous.

In addition, make sure that every single assignment that you do caters to your career agenda. Put it through your creative filter. Think of the assignment as a point of departure.

Do what you do. EVERYONE has a different “style.” Don’t get stressed. Look for patterns in the way you work or design a page. Sometimes just exaggerating these preexisting patterns can help you find your own visual language.  Stay more concerned with making each piece your best piece yet. You WILL be judged by the weakest piece in your portfolio.

Do NOT underestimate the importance of type. Take Type 3 or Graphic Design 1. Take it with a great teacher. You’ll go crazy during, but will be really happy you did afterwards. Seriously.

Make sure you know what’s going on at Career Services. The counselors are there to help you. Make connections with them and the teachers you love. Keep your eyes open for events posted on the bulletin boards around campus and friend “Peer to Peer” on facebook, because we totally keep you up to date on events you should be attending (like resume workshops, internship fairs, lectures from successful alumni, etc.).

Last one, I promise: This sounds weird, but always be friendly with people.  The kids in your major, the kids in other majors, the kids at other art schools. Strangers! Because guess what: A little kindness goes a long way and so does karma. Networking doesn’t start or stop at any specific time. NEVER cut off a potential connection. The person you flipped off on the way to your interview could be your interviewer.

What career advice would you give to yourself in the next year?

Dear Christee,

Hi, it’s yours truly! Don’t worry about sleeping, just worry about getting plenty of coffee and exercise. Keep pushing yourself and get an internship for this Spring. Focus on perfecting your portfolio and updating your website. Your getting really close to finding your personal voice; let it talk and listen to what it has to say, because then it will get stronger on its own. There are other things to keep in mind, but none that I can think of at the moment, except to keep worshipping Pat Cummings, and to believe in yourself.

Best,

-Christee

PS: Remember what E.L. Doctorow said (about writing, but it applies to careers in general):

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”