I’m a professional digital illustrator originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. With various moves westward across North America I’m now based in Seattle, WA. I co-founded renowned vector community Blood Sweat Vector, (BSV for short). From early 2008 until late 2010 I was Art Director for Berlin-based clothing label, laFraise. My main focus is character, logo, videogame, editorial, and textile design. I also specialize in art direction, branding & consulting. My client list includes Nike, Adidas, Coca-cola, Activision, K2 Snowboards, & CultureClub to name a few.
Motto: “Make art for yourself &, in time, everyone else will follow.”
When did you first become interested in graphic design & illustration?
I was always into art & my dad made sure we always had a computer in the house while I was growing up. It was a natural transition after playing with MSPaint & Corel Draw all those years. I don’t think there was a specific time I became interested, it just developed over time. I had been working for an online broadcasting company in Vancouver, BC & found myself with a chunk of extra time while traveling for them & decided to pick up a copy of Adobe Illustrator, & the rest developed from there.
Do you believe attaining a post-secondary education in Graphic Design is crucial for becoming successful in the field?
Absolutely not. I always tell people to take business courses. Graphic Design courses teach you programs, not style. If you don’t have that already, classes won’t help you. You can buy a book to learn a program, you don’t need to waste your money & time on art school unless you want to teach art. A degree in graphic design won’t help you get jobs. It will help you get unpaid internships where you end up taking out the garbage, sweeping the floor, & getting everyone coffee. Take business courses & learn how to market yourself. If the art thing doesn’t work out, you’ll have that to fall back on anyway.
Did you ever attend art or design school? If so, do you feel the time there helped you?
No, I’m self-taught. I don’t feel that the time & money spent on school would have helped me at all.
How did you transition from just being a talented individual to working with brands such as Nike and Activision?
6 years ago, I was still pretty new & fresh into design, but I was asked to do 13 promotional wallpapers for Suicide Girls. This transitioned into doing all the editorial illustrations for their second magazine. At that time, they had one of the bigger budgets that had come my way, so it paved the way for me to get my head into working with larger clients, gave me experience in working with print, and also helped me develop one of my various styles. After that, I started to be contacted by larger companies on a more regular basis.
Could you describe your typical day?
Really depends on what sort of client work I am juggling both that day & the night before. Since I deal with clients anywhere from Germany to China to the US, I find my schedule is constantly in a state of flux. When I first get up I normally do the regular email checks, social media checks, etc. & during the coffee & oatmeal phase I start up a video game to ease into things… I don’t suggest this process to anyone, & it could explain why things are always left to last minute. You can’t force inspiration I guess, you have to work with it when it comes, whether that be 4am or 4pm.
What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Seeing a project in completion that’s taken hours, days, sometimes weeks worth of work, that the client & I are both happy with.
What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Sometimes you don’t get the most clear or cooperative clients. Some clients just don’t know what they want. That can create issues as well. Finding inspiration sometimes is tough as well. You can’t rush or force it, but being under a deadline, you kind of have to.
Do you think it’s harder to be financially successful in a creative occupation than other job types?
Absolutely! There is so much more competition in creative fields. Let’s face it, not many kids want to grow up to be in middle-management or work in a cubicle. Everyone wants to do something creative so their job won’t feel like work. Add to that, anyone can pick up a copy of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop & call themselves a designer, so it floods the market.
What do you think the best tools are to promoting yourself as an illustrator? Are book portfolios still in demand?
I’ve never once used a book portfolio. Carrying around a giant portfolio is completely archaic. All it takes is a laptop or iPad to show your whole portfolio. The best tool to promote yourself is a good website. If you have a good client base, show it! Make sure the public knows who you’ve worked for. Also, getting your work up on a top portfolio site is a huge plus. I get some of my best clients from Behance. You’re always going to have face to face with potential clients & other artists, so good business cards are a must as well.
Any other tips you could share?
TAKE BUSINESS COURSES!!! I can’t stress it enough. You need to know how to market yourself, how to deal with clients, how to run a business. Like I mentioned before as well about being flexible, try not to limit yourself to one sort of style, and learn how to take criticism, that and practice are the only way you’ll improve yourself.