I am a creative director at Initio Advertising. I also provide illustrative commercial art for other creative agencies through Schwartzrock Graphic Arts.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
As a kid, drawing was the only thing I could do… so it was always understood that I would be an illustrator. Seriously, I'm not good at anything else. I now consider this a blessing. As an example, there was a girl in high school that was a brilliant student, a musician with honors and a very talented illustrator. She had so many options that I don't think she could focus on one. She had so much talent but never did anything career-wise. In high school, I knew I didn't have the chops to be a "Norman Rockwell", so I steered towards graphic design.
Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes in the industry?
You've got some of them on your website, Jeff. I deeply am in awe of Paul Howalt, Von Glitchka, Chris Parks and Ty Mattson. I also worked as a comic book artist, so I've been influenced by Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola and others.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
As a kid, I holed up in my dad's vacant office and drew all day long. We also had a hobby farm and I shared the responsibility of herding our 40+ goats in the summer time. I would take my paper and pad with me and sketch in the woods and hills. But, I never drew goats. I hated those creatures.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I now find it super valuable to surround myself with young talent. It's very helpful to get their perspective… because it is so easy to keep doing what you're comfortable with. Even so, I feel my age much of the time. It helps to have fun-loving clients like Target, but I think the best way to stay fresh is to be surrounded by fresh ideas.
What are some of your current projects?
Honestly, all I'm working right now are ads for hospitals, hearing aids and medical devices. In recent years, I've tried to get an education in marketing and strategy. To that end, I'm now a partner and creative director for a small advertising agency. I feel like I'm in school again. As we get older, our real value is based in smart thinking, not so much about pretty pictures.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I actually don't like anything I produce. Once I finish a project, I begin to hate it. All I can see are the things I could have done better. If I had to show something, I would say the whole comic book series, ArmorQuest. So much of my work is small pieces (a logo, picture, etc.). ArmorQuest was a year of my life. The whole series is being published soon. It will feel good to hold it in my hand.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Of course. I'm excited to get deep into video. Drawing comic books was actually good practice in telling stories visually. Even though I didn't make any money in comics, the discipline of drawing comics has paid off in many other ways.
Any advice to the novice designer/illustrator?
Yes. Decide early on if you are going to be an artist or a communicator. I categorize artists as people with their own voice. Designers or commercial artists are communicators… communicating their client's voice. Knowing this important detail goes a long way. I've seen so many talented designers flounder in their careers because they work as graphic designers with an artist's ego. Serving others is the most noble occupation anyone can have.
What makes a design or illustration successful?
Mostly hard work. I've never seen a great illustrator or designer who hasn't put in his time. Timing and luck has a lot to do with it as well… but we don't usually have control over that so stick with hard work.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Starving to death works for me.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a…"
Preach or write theology. I love the wonderful joy and simplicity of Jesus' gospel. God loves His creation. This is really good news for everyone.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I don't watch TV. I do, however, rent Mad Men, The Good Wife and White Collar on Netflix.
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