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I'm a 31-year old man-child from Pittsburgh, PA, raised on MAD Magazine, Looney Tunes, and "Peanuts" reprint books. After bouncing around from various part-time and temporary jobs, I eventually managed to make a living as a full-time freelance illustrator. In my spare time (and often when I should be doing other stuff, too), I write, draw, and self-publish my own minicomics, mainly about my two favorite subjects: women and monsters. You can find 'em and lots more on my website:

When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

I guess I kind of fell into it. I always thought I'd draw a newspaper comic strip, but after a few years of attempts the submission process got frustrating."I was spending several months working on a submission and sending it to a half-dozen or so syndicates, then when the inevitable rejection letters arrived, I had to start over from scratch. At the time, I was temping to support myself, which I hated, so I started looking around for other ways to make a living with my art. I talked to a few illustrators here in Pittsburgh for advice and they helped me get started. I should stress that since then, I've really grown to appreciate the art form and I'm grateful that I found my way to this career.

Who or what inspires you?

Does everyone answer "caffeine"? A couple of hours in my neighborhood coffee shop, sketching and people-watching does wonders. I also read a bunch of creative blogs, make a point to socialize with other cartoonists, and of course, I listen to music constantly-all kinds, but right now I'm really into Wilson Pickett, the Zombies, and Chet Atkins.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I have a B.A. in English from Penn State, but as an artist, I'm totally self-taught.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

Sometimes I'll take on lower-paying jobs, with the client's understanding that I'll be using the
assignment to experiment with new techniques and styles, just to see what works and what doesn't. I also devote a certain amount of time to just playing around in my sketchbook and in Photoshop, hoping I'll stumble across something cool and different.

What are some of your current projects?

I just finished illustrating a series of books for a company that teaches English as a second language to Korean adults, and I'm doing some short comics on a variety of subjects for McGraw-Hill, to use in junior-high textbooks. My other big project is finishing up work on a collection of my own comics, which if all goes well should be out in stores by the end of this year.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

Like most artists I know, I'm pretty critical of my own work and tend to see the flaws more than the good points. So I prefer to focus on what I'm doing next rather than looking back. That said, the "superhero gallery" on my website ( is always fun to work-it's nothing spectacular, just a bunch of quick sketches of my favorite comic
icons drawn (mostly) from memory. Since they're only for fun, they tend to be some of my loosest, most spontaneous work, which I enjoy.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Next, I plan to write and draw some full-length graphic novels. Other things on my "to do" list that I may or may not get to include teaching myself to paint with acrylics, learning Illustrator and Flash and maybe starting up a new website or two. I have a ton of ideas, but never enough time.

Any advice to the novice designer/illustrator?

I guess the best advice would be to work fast and to always have a bunch of projects going on at once. Meet all your deadlines and be a pleasant person to work with. It seems like most really successful people are the ones who take initiative-if you want to illustrate, say, children's books, write your own. Make productive use of your down-time. I'd like to get better at this myself.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

For me, a great illustration or piece of design, no matter how abstract, creates (or implies) a unique world that the viewer can't help but want to be a part of. A world where everything is more exciting, better-looking, or more interesting than the one we live in. It draws the eye in and invites it to linger and explore.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

Switching gears often is essential. After I finish a big job, I like to work on something small and fast, maybe something that doesn't involve drawing at all-putting together a mix CD, going out and taking photographs, building a model. It's tempting to want to work constantly, but there's a real value in relaxing and recharging your batteries once in a while, too. Also, going to the movies in the middle of a workday is a great way to remind yourself what a great job this really is.

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an illustrator I would have been a..."

Gosh, I hope I wouldn't still be temping. My next career choice would probably be a writer of some sort, but that's just as risky as being a freelance illustrator, so who's to say if I would have been successful at that by now?

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

NBC's Thursday night sitcom lineup is pretty great, though I hope they bring back "30 Rock" soon. Letterman and Conan I guess aren't technically "prime time" but they come on when I'm usually ready to knock off work for the night, so they're prime time for my schedule, anyhow.

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Kyle Kesterson said...

Very strong characters man! I just kept thinking "self taught??"

Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

Choper Nawers! said...

nice charecters.....and you have a very nice style.....keep it up!

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