Hello! I've added a small FAQ section to help answer a few things I get asked a lot online. Unfortunately I can't always get to emails in a timely fashion, so check here first if you've got something on your mind. If you don't see it here, please don't hesitate to get in touch—I'll do my best to add it up here when I can.
What process do you use to make your images?
All my pieces are hand drawn with pencil and sometimes ink on smooth bristol paper so that I can blend more easily. I also use watercolor and sometimes various other mediums like pastel, ink, or marker. From there I scan, (usually in several pieces because my paper is too big for the scanner bed) and then piece it together and color digitally in Photoshop. My files are generally quite large, and are created from basic digital painting methods and many textures I make myself. I try and document the drawing process as much as possible. I post a fair amount of snippets of my digital process in videos on my Vimeo like this one below.
What kind of pencils do you use?
All kinds of pencils. It really doesn't matter to me. Anything from pencils you hand sharpen to cheap mechanical pencils you can buy at the drug store. For extremely fine detail work I like the Pentel GraphicGear 1000 with .3 lead. I like harder leads like B and 2B. If I want lighter shades I just use less pressure as opposed to a lighter graphite, or I will smear a layer of graphite dust with my finger instead.
What kind of scanner do you use?
A really old one. Right now I have an Epson Perfection v33. I'm convinced though what scanner you use isn't really important, it's what DPI you scan at. I always scan at at least 600 DPI. Often I go as high as 1200 DPI. I rely on Photoshop for any color correction, etc. that I may need. I don't use any fancy scanner settings as I prefer everything raw and then to manage manually myself.
What are the most important skills for a designer/illustrator to develop?
Communication skills as well as accepting feedback collaboratively are pretty important. I've learned it's key to to successfully articulate your ideas to a creative team or creative director, and then take their feedback and apply it to your projects. You also have to learn your brands, learn the industries, see what other people are doing, and know what the ideas are that are driving the art direction. It's a lot to think about, It takes time, and I'm still constantly trying to learn this myself. This is a lifelong steeping process. Those are valuable practical things, but I think THE most important thing to remember as an illustrator or designer is that you really have to love what you do because freelance especially can be a tough world with floods and droughts.
What are some things that inspire you?
New York City and all of its people, textures, street art, fashion, food, and music. I always listen to music when I work—a lot of indie and alternative and electronic. And as I've gotten older my dreams have become more frequent and vivid. While I don't necessarily draw what happens in my dreams, I definitely pull from them. And lastly, and most importantly, I think the most important thing in life is being in love with a person, place or thing. Love untaps your energy flow and makes you want to get out of bed every morning.
Will you draw my tattoo?
No. I love tattoos, but I do not draw custom tattoos. While I'm extremely honored, this is not something I do. However, it's your skin and the decision is entirely up to you if you'd like to get something I've already drawn tattooed. I just ask that you do not get client work tattooed on you, for your own sake and the client's. Every project that has a client indicated in the project description in my work section. Everything else just usually says "personal work/piece." email me a photo of the final product so I can check it out!
Who does your tattoos?
All of my tattoos are by Steve Boltz, co-owner of Smith Street Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn, New York.
Is college/university a good investment for an illustrator?
This is totally a personal choice, but yes, I loved school and for me it was an amazing investment in terms of friendship, life experience, and education. I also got my internship during school which started my graphic design interest. If you have the opportunity to go to school, I see no point in rushing into the workforce and adulthood. School is a time to experiment, mess up, learn, grow, meet people, and travel. Some of my fondest memories of my total years in NYC were from the very first years in school. If I had never gone to college I don't think I would have the same combination of interests that I do today. And a college degree certainly opens up your job options for things you never thought you may be interested in down the road.
Did you study design? If so, where?
I went to NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study in New York City. I took some art history and fine art classes, but I never had a traditional fine art education. None of the methods I use to create my work were learned in school, nor did I take any classes for software or workflow. In that respect I consider myself self-taught, but school was very valuable for me in terms of appreciating art in the larger context through a number of disciplines I explored there: anthropology, creative writing, graphic novels, and even java coding. I think that freedom in school made it easier to find focus after I graduated. I think most of knowing what you want is knowing what you don't want.
What was your first job?
Skipping over the half a dozen jobs I had as a teenager and student (door to door petition signature collector, Cutco knife salesperson, American Apparel stockroom worker, gym attendant, shot-girl, freelance archivist), my first career related job was an internship for Engine Three, a small fashion focused digital agency in New York City run by Paris Fleezanis and Tim Miller. I barely knew how to use a computer and they really mentored me, were patient with me, and made feel like design was cool.
How did you get your first commission?
Good question! I don't know. It seems like it took forever! I was always made sure I had a full time job as an interactive art director and designer while I got my illustration career off the ground. This cut down on financial pressure and stress in a huge way, and probably gave me a little more freedom to play with what style I liked before worrying about what style paid the bills. However, it was a little less conducive to getting sleep. I think I went several years before ever getting paid a dime for illustration. I tried to keep my head down and focus on making the kind of art that made me happy since I already had a paycheck. Illustration fulfilled something different. I won't lie though, it eventually became very discouraging that I couldn't get anyone to hire me. I remember doing a lot of things for free (which in retrospect, I don't think I'd actually recommend.) Eventually people started recognizing my work, and I became involved with some artist collectives like the Keystone Design Union and Depthcore. I worked to grow my portfolio through free editorial work until I finally felt comfortable sending work samples to larger companies. Through a combination of luck, valuable recommendation and referrals, and sleepless nights, two big things happened: I booked my first solo gallery show in Australia and I got my first real client commission from Hurley for some women's t-shirts for their spring line.
Do you feel it is better to work freelance or part of a company?
I think it all depends on the individual and what your needs are. In the US it is still very desirable to have full time for insurance purposes. Insurance in this country is absolutely ridiculous and that can be reason enough. Everyone has their own particular personal and professional needs. For me I am most comfortable fully freelance. However I split that freelance between illustration projects and working regular hours in traditional agencies. After a few years of experimentation with that balance, I realized I prefer taking the financial pressure off my illustration work so that I don't have to choose projects based on budget. I would rather pay my bills as a designer, and fill my heart with creative freedom as an artist.
I'm just starting out—how do I find my style?
This is a tough one to answer. It takes a while and I struggled for a long time with it myself. The only way I know how to describe it is that it's like falling in love, and you just know it when you feel it. Find your style is what happens when you stop trying, and once you find it, you'll never lose it. I remember finding my style through a single drawing after a very long, frustrating day of failure. I decided to throw away everything and do one very last sketch with the plan of not caring and just throwing it away at the end too. It was a portrait of my little sister. As soon as I lifted the pressure, suddenly, for some reason, that day it came naturally. Looking back on the actually portrait, I of course think it's awful, but the sentiment and line quality all started there.
How you were personally able to find your style?
A lot of trial and error in the beginning. Learning about all kinds of work and then when it's time to sit down and draw, looking at no one's work. I had to work hard at accepting myself. I hated the way I drew for a long time, and still do sometimes, but I think it's like accepting a birth mark or something—wearing it with confidence, working it until it becomes your own.
Who are your favorite artists?
I'm extremely inspired by older artists like Ernst Haeckel and his nature studies, traditional Minwah Korean folk art, and art deco artists like Alphonse Mucha.
My favorite folks making things now are: Tomer Hanuka, Pat Perry, James Jean, Yuko Shimizu, Sougwen Chung, Teagan White, Darren Booth, Joshua Davis, James Victore, Nando Costa, Linn Olofsdotter, to name only a few.