Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 16 Sep 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Keith Negley

I’m 35 years old. I just moved to Seattle Washington from Brooklyn NY. I have been an illustrator since 2000. graduated with my BFA in 2000, worked as a graphic designer for two years and then went full time freelance in 2002 and moved to Seattle. After 9 years I decided to go back to school for my MFA in illustration, and just graduated last spring from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I decided I wanted to be an illustrator the second I realized I didn’t have what it takes to be a comic book artist, around junior year in highschool. To be honest I didn’t actually know what an illustrator was until college, but I knew there were artists making a living drawing for magazines, but I called them “Commercial Artists” then.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
That’s a very personal question and my answer would depend on the kind of person asking it. I personally value my education a great deal, and would not have the career I do if it were not for the schools I attended (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts). They gave me confidence, connections and camaraderie, not to mention foot hold (however slight) into the industry. But I know very talented illustrators who did not get an art degree. I think it’s entirely possible to become successful without college, but it would require someone extremely self disciplined, with inert raw talent and sense of self. I lacked most of these things when I graduated high school.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Almost 2 years exactly.


Could you describe your typical day?
I get up around 7:00. Get my son ready for school. sit down to work around 8:30. Check email, FB, twitter then get to work around 9:00. I’m either concepting for a new job that’s due that afternoon or the next day, or taking an approved project to finish. I work until 5:00 or so, have dinner with my wife and son, put my son to bed around 8:30, and then if it’s a busy week I go back to work until midnight, and if not I work on a personal project, or if I’m really lucky my wife let’s me watch a movie with her. You mentioned being an illustrator is more than just drawing pictures all day, and while yes there are tedious parts like reading contracts and invoicing clients, by and large the majority of what I do is sit at a desk and draw pictures all day, and it’s pretty awesome. I wake up every morning feeling like I have the best job in the world, not too shabby.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
To trust myself. To understand that clients are contacting me to do what I think looks good, not for me to try and guess what they think looks good. And also that I already have a built in unique and authentic way of drawing (we all do) if I only get out of my own way, and stop trying to draw the way I think I’m supposed to. Honestly these are still lessons I struggle with even today.


What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Being a master of your own time.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Seclusion, It can be a lonely job if you’re not careful. Also never knowing for certain how much money you’ll make the next year makes it difficult to plan a future.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
Probably a bar tender at a rock club somewhere playing drums in mediocre bands.

Any other tips you could share?
Look inward for inspiration, not outward. Find a way to make every assignment personal. And living off of freelance is not about how much money you make, but about how little you can live off of. When starting out get expenses down to nothing and you won’t need as much work to support yourself.



One Comment

  1. Amy Peglow (Shultis)
    November 15, 2013

    I love your new work! I’ve been trying to track you down since MIAD. Plz email me.

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