the journal LevinLand’s
JADE DRESSLER Marketing Expert
ALEXANDER BOSTIC Modern Master
ANGEL ALVAREZ Fun and games artist
Illustration by Alexander Bostic
Front Cover Art : ALEX BOSTIC
Co-Publisher/Editor Gregg Masters
The Illustrators Journal/Spring 2020
Publisher/Creative Director Lon Levin Contributing Writer Leslie Cober-Gentry Contributing Writer Heather Leary "Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." — John Wooden
All the work depicted in this magazine are the property of the artists who created the work and cannot be used in any way without the expressed written permission of the publisher and artists.
STAY CALM The Editor expresses his feelings about “iPhones, electronic devices and keeping your cool”. HEATHER LEARY'S "SHOUT OUT" I'm a Freelancer now is Heather's personal account of starting a career in art and animation. JADE DRESSLER
Marketing, Branding and “big ideas” are the staples of one of the country’s best creative minds.
ALEXANDER BOSTIC The brilliance of Mr. Bostic's work is highlighted in this vibrant interview. ANGEL ALVAREZ A lover of all things Disney, Angel is now creating memorable characters of his own. KEVIN ATKINSON The creator of the brilliant "Complex World" series speaks candidly about his life and work. DONNA BARSTOW The comic and cartoony mind of Donna Barstow has been featured in newspapers, magazines and in her own books. CHUCK PYLE In the tradition of Norman Rockwell, Chuck Pyle is one of the finest artists of his generation. JACK FOSTER Kidlit artist Jack Foster's friendly and funny imagery projects the positivity and spirit of the artist. DANA COLLINS An innovative artist/designer puts his own stamp on all of his projects.
Just My Opinion
by Lon Levin
calm: /kä(l)m/ adjective
“Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion,you ruin what was almost ripe. Therefore the Master takes action by letting things take their course. He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning.” - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Illustration by Lon Levin
Are you feeling me? I cannot leave my house without my iPhone. I find it unnerving to not know that my phone is charged and safely in my pocket. In fact I’m more concerned about that than brushing my teeth or my hair. So many of us have grown dependent on these hand-held devices—perhaps even addicted. We’re not be alone, thank God: a Stanford University survey administered to 200 college students claims just that. On a scale of one to five, where five is full blown addiction and one is not addicted at all, 10 percent of the respondents ranked themselves as a five, 34 percent a four, and only 6 percent were a one. That’s okay, but 32 percent of the people who said they weren’t completely addicted said that they worry they may someday walk among the iPhone-addicted. Join us please.
Among those surveyed, I can sympathize with the 85 percent who use the phone as their watch, and even the 89 percent who use it as an alarm clock. Those jungle chimes, that righteous guitar riff? Much more peaceful than the BLARING SOUND of any alarm clock I’ve owned. As for the 75 percent who fell asleep with their phone and the 69 percent who were more likely to leave their wallet behind? I’ve done both, and just the other day! And the 15 percent who claimed the iPhone was turning them into media addicts? Well, it’s easier than ever to watch news videos, play music, games and to turn yourself into your own social media PR agent!, so why not? But then you get to the part where students talk about how the iPhone is like an extension of their bodies, and it starts getting a little looney. A startling 41 percent said that losing their mass-produced iPhone would be tragic, while 30 percent hailed the device as a “doorway into the world.” WHAT?? And 25 percent thought the phone was “dangerously alluring,” which is perhaps why 7 percent had a roommate or a partner that felt abandoned by the device’s constant use. Then you get to the affection that a curious minority feels for their iPhones: 9 percent have patted their iPhone; 3 percent claim that they don’t let anybody touch their iPhone; 3 percent have named their iPhone; 8 percent even thought their other devices were jealous of their iPhone. Truly, the pet rock of old has some real competition these days. The survey’s administrator doesn’t think that it’s an unhealthy addiction; the article points out that it’s still left to question whether or not addiction to personal electronics even qualifies as a mental disorder. Seriously?? Rather, it’s just that these students really like their iPhones. With 70 percent claiming that the iPhone has made them more organized, 54 percent claiming that it made them more productive, and 74 percent claiming that it made them feel cool, it seems as though it might be a net positive effect. Look, who am I to pass judgement? I use my iPhone for so many things and I do think it makes life easier and more efficient. Now if I could just train my phone to walk my dogs my life would be complete!
HEATHER LEARY 'S
I’m A Freelance Artist - Now What? So, you have everything you need to start your Freelance career. You have a portfolio, website, resume, and even business cards. Now what? In this article I am going to cover what comes next when diving into your new career. After graduating from art school, I was quite lost on where to begin as a Freelance Artist. I never got an internship while I was in school, so I had no connections to the Animation Industry. A couple months passed and despite applying to multiple jobs on Indeed.com, I was unsuccessful. I had no clue what I was doing wrong. I had received an email that my college was having a portfolio review event. Thus, brings me to my first important tip, go to events! The Animation Guild, Women in Animation, and Animation World Network are a couple places that hold events that can be beneficial to
you. If you are feeling particularly gutsy take your portfolio to a Comic-Con. You never know who you are going to meet let alone who would be interested in hiring you. I realize, being an introvert, that this can be absolutely nerve wracking. If I had let my nerves get to me it would only have hindered my chances of finding work. Going to this event was beyond helpful to; my portfolio, demo reel, and resume where critiqued by those who were heavily connected in the Animation Industry. Most importantly I got my first gig as a Freelance Artist. Let’s say you have gotten your portfolio reviewed, the next thing is to take that advice and make those changes. Now we have come to my second tip, don’t be too sensitive about your art. Artists can get
"If I had let my nerves get to me it would only have hindered my chances of finding work."
especially attached to their artwork. I have been guilty of this. This sensitivity can get in your way of improving. Art is a very personal thing and it can be hard to receive criticism, but when someone who has a better understanding of the industry and what they are looking for it’s in your best interest to take that advice. You also can’t grow as an artist if you don’t push yourself and try new things. I have a terrible habit of falling in love with the first design I come up with for a character design. Due to this, I never push myself let alone improve my art. Pushing yourself is such an important aspect in being a Freelance Artist. It’s something I am working on everyday so I may become a stronger artist.
Your art style is always going to change. I started art school in 2013 and my art style has changed a lot since then. This leads me into my next tip, stay educated. I’m sure more schooling is the last thing anyone wants, especially when you have graduated. For artists the education never stops. Like an athlete, an artist’s skills need to stay in peak condition. I personally have found some great ways to stay educated without having to go back to art school. The Internet can be a very helpful tool to you. Which brings me to my final tip, use tools. Freelance Artists don’t need a fancy gallery to show their work. The Internet and social media are excellent to get your artwork viewed. It’s hard to get hired as a freelance artist when no one knows who you are which is why started putting my work on a wide range of sites. Instagram, Twitter, Artstation, Tumblr, YouTube, Upwork’s, the list goes on. By putting your artwork out
there you start to develop a presence. People in the art
©Lon Levin/Heather Leary
community will have an easier time finding you and you can get some great feedback. Putting your artwork on the internet can be scary. I didn’t start doing this until last year. I was afraid of people stealing my work and being trolled for something I put time and love into. I started to fear I was getting behind other artists and that my career would never fully take off unless I bite the bullet and put my art on social media. Once I did, I found such a wonderful community of artists who are supportive and give me lots of encouragement. This only fed into my desire to create more work, develop a larger portfolio, and share my art. In conclusion, being a Freelance Artist is not the easiest job. There’s no manual and a lot of it has to do with being at the right place at the right time. By sharing my story and tips I want to reach out to fellow artists and give them a guide so they may not have to go through the same struggles I faced while working as a Freelance Artist. Heather is a regular contributor to The Illustrator's Journal and has work with the editor on various projects like the artwork depicted in this interview. You can find Heather's work at https://www.artstation.com/ heatheraaleary and her animation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JnQqdDwUGk
had a confident curator’s eye and I knew it even at a very young age. I remember clearly one day teasing the kids we were playing with that I could draw a perfect circle. Which I then executed perfectly with a red crayon."
When did you first think about art/design/ marketing as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I was the type of kid born with imaginary, oversized, futuristic Hollywood sunglasses looking at the world as if every molecule was a crystal ball into the future. I was always confidently doing things a little different like in third grade, deciding to defiantly wear a brand-new crisp light blue Swiss dot pajama top as a blouse with my grey flannel pleated skirt as a precise outfit choice full of contrasting texture and meaning. (for me in any case) I vividly remember the thrill of sitting in class with a secret, that I was wearing a PJ top. At 15, I was instructing my needle-pointing Aunt to make a Warhol soup can on a lime green background for a pillow she wanted to make for my bedroom. My visual and style confidence was in the creation of art, no matter what form.
I always felt like a playful old soul, always creating, always inspiring, lovingly-teasing and suggesting to other kids what they should do with their art. (that’s where the PR, brand consultant aspect comes from!) In high school pottery class I convinced a classmate to a challenge that, whatever the assignment was, we had to over-embellish and go a million miles beyond in the assignment. It was like the “Showstopper” challenge on The Great British Baking Show reality show except with clay. My family were fiddlers who created outside of the lines. My Aunt Adele colored flowers on her plain white curtains with Crayola crayons for décor and I was mesmerized.
“My influences as a teen were considered “alternative lifestyles” back then in the 70’s” (Continued) My Dad would tinker in the garage to take a copper cooking pot lid and make it into a centerpiece of an antique fireplace grill. My mom wrote a silly poem with little drawings on every birthday or Xmas gift. I collaged the walls of our playroom with magazine images and drawings which became my studio in later years. I always think where your ancestors came from influences your life path, those that came from Romania and Russia give me my gypsy spirit and the side from Vienna gives me the focus of a meticulous crafts-person. I was encouraged by family and teachers. I had many mentors. One, Frank Hyder, artist and teacher at Moore College of Art taught me the sacred art of non-doing, just looking at a simple object or scene and taking time to visually record it, versus feeling that lines, brush strokes or marks be made on canvas with the fierce passion of an abstract action painter. Slowing down has always been a teacher! What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
I was an alternative, nerdy, cool kid that grew up in the suburbs. As a toddler, my toy preferences were pouring over magazines. Saturday morning cartoons were shunned in favor of Soul Train, voraciously
consumed and studied, and of course, being a suburb of Philadelphia, the Gene London show, featuring an illustrator who drew pictures and then went into magical worlds. I was also very influenced by a relic from my mother’s youth. Her next-door neighbor growing up was a lawyer named Ilo Orleans, who illustrated a 365-day book with little rhymes for his kids. I was fascinated by the charm of it all, the simple, humorous illustrations & poems. Impressed and influenced by the idea that a man self-published his own book! My influences as a teen were considered “alternative lifestyles” back then in the 70’s, the African American and gay cultures. They seemed to know how to have more fun in life. I tell a story in my book about my first encounter with a gaggle of fantastically-dressed trans-people at a Gay Pride parade. Around color, the worlds of fashion, art and entertainment opened up. I wanted to be there! Then, when I was 16 I entered a national Levi’s denim design contest and won an award. That set my path towards fashion and fashion illustration. When I was 16 in 1976 I went to Europe for the first time. I was like a sponge in London, awed by the people on the streets, the punk rockers with huge, colored Mohawks contrasted with the proper banker types. I still have the ID magazines documenting the street style photography and describing the individuals photographed. It really was the first I saw the documentation of street style that is huge today on Instagram. Capturing moments and sketching inspiring people and making little stories today, well there’s where it all started for me!
How has the background you got at Moore College, Parsons Paris and in Siena played a part in your career? I got a first year scholarship and majored in fashion illustration at Moore College of Art with fantastic teachers and mentors. Moore gave me life drawing, solid tools in illustration and my classes in the rich history of mythology influenced me greatly. Parsons Paris gave me precious access to the archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre and a new love of architecture. Siena, Italy was a month of richness in a precious medieval town, where drawing in pastels was luxurious and hours upon hours to sketch with pen and paper was so freeing. While at Moore I also found my first freelance job, sketching garment trims for a manufacturer to share with clients. You’ve worked in a couple different genres with your clients. How did that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem getting those clients? My first “real job” as a Visual Merchandiser at Macy’s had me creating for a wide range of brands, from fashion to housewares, from kids clothing to cosmetics, etc. You’d go from installing your delicate, surrealistic, sophisticated window design for Obsession perfume to creating a jungle for a summer shop for the Junior clothing department complete with a massive, illustrated cut-out Tarzan and Jane floating above. I was able to make my art and I liked the refreshing constant change of channels. Today, I think a certain type of client is turned on by the creative mix of our clients and work. In the late 80’s visual merchandising at Macy’s was like a reality
show between brands. I’m grateful that overall the company had very strong visual standards, yet each store’s Visual Merchandising Director could invent fixtures, shops, and store windows. Creative concepts could get picked up to roll out to all stores. I was only in my 20’s and was lucky to have designed a branded shop that rolled out to all stores. That level of standards and knowing that each genre was a chance to learn, I think that really enhanced my boldness in being able to see the creative possibilities in different genres! Over the years I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with talented personalities, brands and non-profits that have gone on to do great and important creative things in the world. I like to say that I’ve creatively directed with all types of people from coaching Michael Phelps and Olympians for an ESPN Cold Pizza segment to directing video interviews with Karl Lagerfeld + Marc Jacobs backstage at Paris Fashion Week. The history of how you arrived to where your agency is now is fascinating. Can you give us a brief overview of how that happened? I designed jewelry and accessories in the 80’s with my company called Jamp. We dressed the runways of Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Mary McFadden, had major media coverage and sold to stores all over the world. It was a very conceptual collection, inspired by the micro
"When I was 16, I entered a national Levi’s denim design contest and won an award. That set my path towards fashion and fashion illustration."
to macro cosmic patterns in the Universe. I noticed when I spoke to the media about the collection, my exact words appeared in print. It made me realize the power of PR which I had never really thought about. I actually don’t know if I even knew PR existed then! After my jewelry design days I took corporate positions in the fashion and music fields. My title was Marketing Director, so I used the creative skills I knew and learned many new ones. The music business had 5 offices internationally and I directed their PR agency in London in between raves at night and balancing the huge marketing budget in the morning. While I was still managing teams of creative people, somehow PR seemed like the next level of messaging and creativity. I then left my corporate position and freelanced with PR agencies to really learn more. From celebrity events, to mass brands like Sunglass Hut and Speedo, I really enjoyed when a creative idea became real, like proposing a beach scene to the Today Show with a lifeguard touting sunglasses. The arc from my email idea pitch to the Today Show producer to the show actually creating a huge beach of sand in the middle of NYC was a kind of a thrill! After freelancing and developing my own clients at a certain point I decided to have my own PR agency focusing on the clients I was fascinated by. Over the years we did a lot of creative work in addition to PR and so a few years ago I declared that overall we are a creative agency! Our next focus is our artisan collaborative work via Slow Luxury creative co*labs and the launch
of our 9 Star Passport, a revolutionary way to design + live more creatively in our bodies, our spaces, our world. Based on a new take on ancient divinatory systems amped up dimensionally, the 9 Star Passport process reflects how we work with brands and physical spaces. Your style is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or did that naturally came out of you? I love drawing a free, expressive line! It is pure communion. We can’t capture the glint of a star or the state of love, this is the closest thing. I am most inspired in nature for this reason. The eye sees ephemeral beauty, the pen is that gesture of love replicated. It is what naturally desires birth! My style was and still is inspired by the glory years of fashion illustration, the 1970’s and 80’s. I poured religiously over the illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti in Anna Piaggi’s Vanity, an Italian concept magazine based on illustration vs. photography. Jean-Paul Goude’s drawings and videos with Grace Jones ~ these influenced my abstract visions. My line was always
fluid and dramatic with a solid life drawing/Renaissance love for the human body like the masterful Antonio Lopez. The outsized expressions of Japanese anime fascinated me and still do. My illustrations for my coloring book Immortal Beloved, The World’s First Goddess Perfume and Coloring Book, are done in a more intricate style with many details that I think were more influenced by my giants of illustration like Andy Warhol, Peter Max and Chris Ware. The comedic story-telling aspects were definitely inspired by Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. I think the art sits between Warhol’s early frilly and fancy illustrations as fantasies to amuse and Peter Max’s simple spiritual illustrations for an obscure how-to book on how to survive on wheatgrass called Survival into the 21st Century. For the coloring book, which is also has written stories of 12 global goddesses, I wanted people to have a wild coloring orgy discovering cultural ideas, shapes and interactions that spark memory, connection or a release of held karmas. I always felt I had several styles, even now I feel
like my style is evolving and I’m less focused on perfection. “Perfection” is of the moment and sometimes what the brain says at first is a wrong turn, is actually one that expresses something, reveals something valuable. Today I am most inspired by something I see on the street, an interaction or emotion that strikes me as vibrant and very quickly out comes the simple and silly illustration (ala Ilo Orleans) I work with an everyday Bic pen on paper, I really like the simplicity and the effects are more endearing to me. I notice the edgy quality to your work and the clients you serve. Is that intentional or did that evolve out of who you are? The edge is where the boldest explorers go and that’s what turns me on. Astrology is a window into the “edgy quality” as I am an Aries with Aquarius rising. My Aries sun sign translates to being a pioneer and the rising Aquarian aspect means I am wired to feel and see what the future is. I’ve always have been tuned into what people will be looking for.
How do you stay up to date on styles outside of your projects? Instagram is an illustration networking event of the highest order! I like to see the work of other artists there, it’s heavenly! I keep a visual digital and physical file of images that speak to me, especially from film. A genuine human moment on film is my holy grail. It’s about developing your eye/heart to what makes it react and why that emotion is so human and so relatable. What do you recommend to younger art director/brand designers who are just developing their portfolios? Go to Europe, Asia, or the next town over. Get out of Dodge, get on the streets and let yourself be the free artist your soul desires! Pay attention to dropping your ideas and expectations. Drawing is a ritual and it is sacred. If you are not in that vibe your work will be stale. Go to HR or the jobs center if you are in school, they are a source for freelance jobs to get your feet wet in a professional opportunity. Work to your passion. Whatever it is, draw that. It could be cars, emotional moments, or erotic fantasy scenes. The point is that your art will be at its best when you are true to what you love. You do so many different types of branding, art and design. What is your favorite area to work in?
Video. Film. I really adore doing videos for clients. Creating the story, enlisting the talent and the editing … orchestrating all those creative elements. It’s really magical.
That said I am looking forward to working with animators who can take my work to the next level! How has the computer affected your work? Does your agency work traditionally and digitally?
We work digitally and traditionally. I put together PDF sample drafts of the creative whether it is a website or a video shoot. Sometimes I sketch things to direct the creative but it’s more effective to make a mock-up with digital images. In many ways I believe I came back to illustration because the simple non-digital act of drawing feels like a soothe and a defiant gesture to having my nose constantly in the machine! What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished?
What I’ve learned is that even the best-planned projects have their own organic way and timetable in coming together. Tough spots are asking for a re-look. I keep entertaining and giving space to my playful imagination until something comes up that just feels right. Sometimes the idea, tag line, concept comes instantly. Or even the finish of a creative project can come instantly. I trust that. Your artwork for your portraits is great. Love the “Empire” piece. How did that end up as something you do a lot of ?
Thank you! I love Empire too!
The funny thing is that I did about 24 of these celebrity portraits at the request of a large agent’s talent scout to propose representation. It took me a while, as you might imagine, to decide who to draw and then finish all 24! The agency was interested in my work but their first offer was to sketch customers in a cosmetic counter at a department store. While I was honored, the opportunity wasn’t really for me, and I actually declined the offer and thus they did not represent me. I can’t explain exactly why that opportunity did not appeal to me, but most importantly, I trusted and followed my instinct. What made you focus on luxury lifestyle and pop-culture brands?
That tag line occurred to me when my clients at one simultaneous moment included a Parisian luxury expert and XXL, the famous hip hop magazine. I realized these were two of my favorite expressions and celebrations of life and thus they became my favorite areas of focus. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or client you gravitate towards?
At the beginning of my agency, I would do bold outreach, like calling a 100-year old luxury hat maker brand in Vienna on a whim to see if they wanted to sell in the US (which they actually did with our help) These days most clients come by referral, and we are now working with the next generation, who now have their own businesses and join our client pool!
The credo: “benefitting the world, creativity or turned-on ideas” is my main benchmark. There are things I’ve said “no” to for those reasons. Also if the potential client demonstrates a way of working that is not the right vibe for us before we even begin…then it’s a hard no. Who if anyone influences your work? Everyday people! Living in NYC is an endless inspiration. I love the everyday moments of humanity or goofiness I witness on the street! Another influence is a dear friend, the very talented TV and film producer Little Marvin… he always remains a muse. A SuperCreator, he always encouraged me to “just do it.” It’s the basis for my own work on a whole other scale: live performance art installations like the award-winning Love Notes in Union Square; my Slow Luxury co*lab’s Beauty and The Beasts in NYC’s Bryant Park; and our Green
Provocateur in Milan for Salone.
THAT is a turn on!
Creators inspire me. An art disruption on the street to women marching with a global protest song and dance to bring attention to gender inequality. Stunning sculpture in a vast NYC gallery or the takeover of a museum by a giant like Matthew Barney. Warehouse music in Detroit in my ears via my Iphone. Indigenous cultures protecting the earth to Brooklyn roof gardeners.
What do you do to promote yourself and get work?
I think it used to be that what was a shock in gallery spaces eventually filtered back reinterpreted into popular culture. An advertisement mimics or references the concept then suddenly it’s on the street via fashion, music and even coffee cups. But in a more true form, art is now seen, made and acknowledged in the raw street, the playa or social media. This is a democratization of creativity that was always there and is bringing the globe together.
Connecting with my networks, either online or at events is the best way. I’ve had a blog since… let’s just say a long time! Sharing the blog with my email list has been the most formal way to network. I’ve spoken at conferences and met many great people such as leading a future trend panel for the massive design trade show, ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in NYC to speaking about our Portal du Sol project in Brazil for Boomspace, a design conference with Karim Rashid and other top designers on the bill. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? We’ve been developing my two brands for a while now and the future goals are so exciting!
QUEEN We are bringing my Immortal Beloved goddess book to life in a docu-series called QUEEN. We filmed this summer in NYC and we will expand the idea globally for a multi-touch point ART & COMMERCE global platform celebrating global goddesses, both in real life & those in mythical legends. THE 9 STAR PASSPORT I designed this system as a treasure map to enhance engaged awareness, connection, and balanced relationships of Body to Spaces to the sacred geometry of Earth. Today I use the 9 Star Passport method with clients to sync plans and intentions and to the design of private or public spaces, and also to the development of a new brand or even to a new sense of Self. I’ve studied and practiced ancient divination methods from many cultures all my life. When I studied Feng Shui over 20 years ago, I discovered intriguing links and patterns that became my 9 Star Passport system. We are currently working on the launch of a new site with expanded services and a booking system. The dream is to apply this to projects which benefit the world. This could take the form of books, games, a web or TV series or even a travel/learn program to sacred sites on the planet. Slow Luxury co*labs are where these two long term projects, among others, are shared. Ultimate goal through all is to create, share and help to evolve the planet towards MORE LOVE!
If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why?
There is a way he lightly and deeply sees life and culture and I’d love to sit and chat with him.
Jessica Walsh, the Creative Director who famously worked with Stefan Sagmeister, graphic design powerhouse. She now heads her agency, &Walsh and Ladies, Wine & Design, a nonprofit organization to encourage women to work together rather than compete, with 73 local chapters around the world. Not fun-fact: only 0.1% of creative agencies are women-owned, while women drive about 80% of consumer purchasing. Jessica’s talent is off the chain and I’d love to partner with her in a white gallery ala a Marina Abramović or Jay Z performance.
That would be full circle. From the perfect red crayon circle I drew as a kid to talking art with an idol in front of Jeff Koons’ floating basketball.
I wish I had more time with Franca Sozzani, the Italian Vogue editor. I met her once, we had a long talk and was captivated. She glowed. Her desire was to change the world, open up the fashion and enterprise dialogue with countries like Africa. She invited me to her home in Marrakesh, which would have been amazing, but she sadly passed on. I did draw her as Italy itself. My other idol naturally is Stefano Tonchi, former editor of W Magazine, which he joined from the same role at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. We’ve crossed paths literally at least 5 times, in my total nerdiness and fandom I’d either stare in sheer idolatry from across the room or one time he was entering his home on Park Avenue just as I walked by and I cheerily said, “Hi Stefano, it’s Jade!” to which he smiled and waved. I am most obsessed with one of his eloquent editor letters describing living with Jeff Koons’ One Ball Total Equilibrium, a sculpture where a basketball floats in the center of a water tank. Eventually the ball sinks reflecting impermanence.
CONTACT JADE DRESSLER Instagram.com/jadedressler/ Twitter.com/plantme Thejadedress.com Thejadedressshop.com Slow-Luxury.com
thing you wanted to do? discouraged
Were family, friends,
you encouraged or teachers,
I was seven years old when art came into my life. When I was young boy my mother would go grocery shopping, and during that time she would go to the A&P grocery store. She would give me the brown paper bags from the A&P and I would open them up and use them as drawing paper to do my art with. I’m the second oldest of five children and the only one who would get the brown paper bags, well I was the only one who wanted them. My siblings were not interested in the arts at all. This is how it all started, the dream of me wanting to be an artist. With that kind of support what else can I do but to dream big and pave my way to a career in art. I would like to talk about support and why it’s important. For a young artist and for that matter any artist to have support in the making of their career. I know that most parents never ever want their child to grow up to be anything in the creative arts. But I’m telling you now if you take on this fight you will lose, I know my mother and stepdad did. You see don’t give a stray cat milk if you don’t want them to stay. But my story did not start with my mom, it started with my older brother Charles. Yep my big brother.
Let me tell you how this happen. Well this story starts with fire. Okay it was a match, one day my brother and I was playing on the stoop in Brooklyn, and we decided that we're going to play with matches. My brother liked to play army, and with a book of matchsticks, we decided we would get an army together. My brother and I were just striking matches trying to make an army when an old lady stuck her head out the window and told us to stop playing with matches. My brother told the old lady to mind her business and she stuck her head back inside her apartment. Ten minutes passed and then we heard a fire truck. The fire truck went streaming down the street and it stopped right in front of my brother and I. A fireman got out of the truck and said, “Are you kids playing with matches?” Of course, we said, “No.” We were then asked to get into the fire truck and they drove us to their fire station. At the fire station, they gave us a tour and showed us where they slept, where they ate, and even went up and down the fire pole which was fun.
"I was seven years old when art into my life.
"I grew up in Bedford -Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, (Yes do or die Bed Sty) "
I would draw all the time since I was seven, and I was pretty good at it if I had to say so myself. I did the usual stuff like draw superhero like Captain America and Batman and yes, I was happy when Black Panther came out I would read comics until the paper would wear out but I loved to draw like you wouldn’t believe. If I wasn’t playing basketball I was drawing, I would draw all day and most of the night when my brother would fall asleep. I love my brother Charles, still do. He believed in me but he would say why don’t you just agree with mom and dad and they would leave you alone. I don’t know I guess I was hard headed or I just knew I can make it no matter what anybody said.
(Continued) The fire chief gave my brother and I paper and crayons then said, “play with these instead, then come back tomorrow and show me what you’ve done.” We were put in the back of the fire truck and dropped off where they found us. My brother started to draw fire trucks and they were wonderful. So, what do I do as a little brother, I cried until he said, “Okay, I'll show you!” He showed me how to draw fire trucks which I started to draw all day, probably most of the night. I was very excited about what I had done. So, I told my brother we have to go back and deliver this artwork to the fire chief. My brother said, “I'm not going.” So, I threw his away and went to the fire station with just my drawings. The fire chief put my drawings in the Marquee which was in front of the fire station. That moment is when I got hooked and that fire station marquee became my personal gallery, I would show my friends, my brother and sister as well. My brother was my first supporter of my art. My mother and stepfather didn’t want me to be an artist, I was good at math and all of my other subjects. So being the second oldest of five children they had a lot of hope of me being something other than poor. I grew up in Bedford -Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, (Yes do or die Bed Sty) like most black families and I’m sure some white’s think that being an artist is not a good career choice. As far as my mother and father was concern. This on one thing divided my parents and me. I was so certain that I would become an artist nothing they would say can change my direction I had for my life.
"I would draw all the time since I was seven, and I was pretty good at it if I had to say so myself. "
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
I notice you do a lot of life drawing studies. Do you do that on a regular basis? Do you recommend that
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. And I went to the High School of Art and Design where I studied Illustration and advertising New York have professional art schools and trade schools. Being in New York was great because you are around really good art and that’s were everything starts. I can get to museum’s and art galleries. The neighborhood that I lived in was pretty bad, drugs gangs and prostitutes. But I had a lot of fun I went to the Pratt institute Saturday art program and private art lessons with my seventh-grade art teacher, Ellen Kuenzel who is my life long teacher and mentor. Since I was a kid I love her and listen to her until this day. I loved John Singer Sargent and Norman Rockwell who are on the top of my list and it changed throughout the years from Illustrator’s to Painters. Illustrators are Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, N.C. Wyeth, Paul Calle, J.C. Leyendecker, Mark English, Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Drew Struzan, Ezra Tucker and Thomas Blackshear. I played High School and College Basketball. I got a full ride to Pratt Institute to play basketball it was hard and fun at the same-time...
Your style is very uniquely classical. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you?
to younger illustrators as an alternative to working
I do like to do of life drawing studies it’s like when you play a sport if you lose your edge you go back to the fundamentals to keep you in line with your core. I teach a course on digital painting and they have to start each project with an analog drawing before they do anything digital. Your
almost like you’ve created another world dimension and character.
How did you arrive at that image?
I was asked along with about a hundred other artists to do a painting of the Star Wars Universe and to use our imagination to come up with whatever we want and this is the painting I came up with, we had a lot of freedom and they give no real instructions, it was a lot of fun and I got it done in three days. I did it in oils and I sent it off wet. It was an honor t do the painting and to be with a list of artists that I respect. What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc. How do you know something is finished?
I Came to my more classical style over time, it happens more when I came out of graduate School, I studied Illustration at Syracuse University and was a studying artist that was illustrator and fine artist at the same time, which I think I am at this time. And the ones that can do it well are the ones that have a more classical way of working. I went to the Illustration house and talked to Walt Reed about this. He was a wealth of information and told me the who was the best at it, the list of artists he named was Skip Liepke, Burt Silverman and Marshall Arisman. And My buddy Thomas Blackshear does it as well.
Well the first thing is coming up with an idea. Doing a lot of drawings and doing more drawings most of the time they are thumb nails but they get the job done. When I was in school I hated them but now I love them. Mark English was a master of the thumb nail and I love him for it. The fear that I have for any painting is if I would like it or not but worse if the client like it or not. I know a piece of art is finished when I can do my rule of six. At the end of each painting I put a list of six things I have to get the painting to and it’s finish. When I get through the list I do a new list of six if the list gets to five or four it’s done.
worked in a couple different styles.
traditional and one that is more caricature.
that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem for art directors?
I don’t do a lot of caricatures, but I do them when called upon, but my traditional styles is what I live and die by and get work into shows. Most art directors want more of my traditional way of working but every now and then they want something different and if I know them and it will not confuse them I’ll do it.
made you focus on the traditional style of
I tried a lot of techniques like watercolors, acrylics, gouache, airbrush and now oils. I was a studio artist for almost ten years and we had to copy every illustrator known to mankind, if you were on the top ten then you were on our list to copy. The companies I worked for was in the Mid-West. And if we couldn’t figure the technique out we would call the artist or illustrator to give us the information we can’t get. They would give us the formula. It was a fun time and I found out illustrators love to share. I know if you want to know anything about what or how I do anything, I would tell you, this gives
me the opportunity to learn something new and keep growing as an artist. I love giving information and techniques away, this will keep you from living in a hole and not adjust to change. Change is good for any career because our field keep changing and you should always adjust. Who if anyone influences your work?
At this time in my career its nobody and everybody if that makes any sense, I’m always looking but now it’s artist all over the world. I look at all kinds like, world class painters and sculptures, digital artists, female artists, artist of color I like paper illustrations, comics 3D and fantasy art. Anything with the movie ¬industry... I like everything.
What do you do to promote yourself and get work? There is a number of things you can do to get work. Social Media like Facebook and Instagram, But the best way is the word of mouth, I also give out a lot of business cards about 600-1000 a year. I also get into as many magazines and art shows exhibitions get awards if you can and be someone art director can trust with their baby. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? I would love to continue to work and paint. I would like to paint more of my own ideas and do a few one man shows and have my work travel around the world. Alexander Bostic is an illustrator and fine artist. He is an Art Professor at Mississippi State University.
" I was a studio artist for almost
ten years and we had to copy every illustrator known to man"
Alvarez Angel M.
drawing, I’m usually thinking about giving these characters life and a personality. I try to feel the emotions and expressions that I am drawing. "
When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? Art has always been a big part of my life. I remember winning first place in a watercolor competition in kindergarten for painting a flower and drawing for family and friends every chance I got. My family was encouraging and my mom was always looking to enroll me in art classes when I was a kid. When I was in high school there was a Spanish teacher that saw me drawing in her class, and instead of getting upset she recommended I audition for an art magnet school in Miami. I ended up getting accepted to Design and Architecture Senior High, it was a great academic environment surrounded by other art students in high school.
Style is something that just develops over time after you make tons of work and find your voice.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? My childhood was spent playing baseball and drawing. I grew up in South Florida in a very family oriented Hispanic community. My biggest artistic influence as a child had to be the hours of Disney animated films and cartoons I would watch. When I was a kid, I wrote a letter to Disney animation telling them I wanted to be an animator and they sent me back a packet all about drawing and animation. I also spent a lot time drawing ninja turtles, cartoons and comics. I loved comic strips and I would get so excited to read and draw from the Sunday paper. Your style and take on creation of art is unique. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? Style is something that just develops over time after you make tons of work and find your voice. I think most artist are a product of all their influences and life experiences, you take all that in and a new mix comes out that is hopefully unique and authentic to you. Style is also something that should evolve as you grow. Over the course of your artistic journey, your artwork will change depending on your inspirations and interests.
You do a workshop about character design and illustration. How did that happen and why?
You do a workshop about character design and illustration. How did that happen and why?
I teach digital art and animation at North Broward Preparatory School. I also teach illustration workshops at the De Vita Academy of Art. The students I get are very excited about drawing comics, illustration and storytelling. I have a lot of fun drawing with them and I try to give them as much of my knowledge as possible. I find that I’m an artist first, but I really enjoy teaching. I’ve also created a series of videos on how to draw characters on my youtube channel: Cartoon Drawing Studio. I teach viewers how to use proper drawing construction techniques, and the best way to draw anything is to think about volume, shape, form and structure of the drawings. So this is what I try to teach these young artists that are just getting started.
When I’m drawing, I’m usually thinking about giving these characters life and a personality. I try to feel the emotions and expressions that I am drawing. I am heavily influenced by traditional animation, so I’ve always admired the great animators of the past that become the characters they are drawing in their mind. Also, I usually feel a drawing is heading in the right direction if I find myself amused with it. Sometimes I chuckle at a drawing or feel joy looking at it, which
Will you explain a little about the origins of your characters and their meaning to you? Do they come from people you’ve seen or know?
Drawing characters is the part that excites me the most about creating an illustration.
What do you do to promote yourself? Since I teach digital art and animation full time, I’m lucky that I can be selective with the freelance projects I take on. This really gives me some freedom to work on projects I really enjoy. This year, I have a book I wrote and illustrated that will be published titled Alphabet Amigos. I’m also involved with SCBWI and I attend professional conferences, those networks usually help me connect with opportunities in the industry. I think it’s important to create a consistent and professional online brand through you website and social media platforms. I find that projects you choose will usually lead to more projects you want. I’ve not worked with European publishers yet. I have a Spanish and English dual language children’s book that will be published this year in the US, and hopefully that is a book we could expand to other markets.
tells me that hopefully, the viewer will feel the same thing. The ultimate goal is storytelling with my illustrations; I want the viewer to go into this world, even for a little bit. Has the computer affected your work? Do you work traditionally and digitally? My workflow includes both digital and traditional methods. One of my problems as an artist is that I like to play with a lot of mediums. My studio is full of art supplies and at times I will play with watercolors, oils, acrylics, color pencils and even sculpture. However, most of my finished illustrations are created as traditional pencil drawings with digital color. I now use the iPad Pro to do a lot of sketching and I also carry around a regular sketchbook and pencils. I think digital art is just another tool available to illustrators that has a ton of benefits in expediting our workflow. Artist should use everything at their disposal to create the best image possible.
What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished? Once I settle into a concept or idea I make sure to follow all the steps in my process. I’ve learned through experience that if I ever try to cut corners, my chances of a successful illustration go down. If I follow all the steps in my process: from thumbnails, research, drawing, color study, value study to final painting my chances of success are higher. I guess the part that stresses me out the most is working out my color pallet and values. I will take a lot time with that to make sure I am happy with that before I start painting.
" When I’m drawing, I’m usually thinking about giving these characters life and a personality. I try to feel the emotions and expressions that I am drawing."
If I’m going to spend hours on an illustration, I have to make sure I’ve studied all my options for that image. My drawing is created over the original thumbnail sketch. I find that the closer I stick to my thumbnail, the better off my composition and design will be. After that, I usually gather visual reference. Even if I’ve drawn an elephant hundreds of times, I still look at tons of reference to draw an elephant. Reference is there to give you visual information, but you should also push and combine reference to make something unique. I sketch my drawings on a Wacom Cintiq using Photoshop or my iPad and Procreate. Digital sketching gives me the most flexibility and is faster for corrections. After I’ve worked out my drawing digitally, I create my final drawing traditionally over my digital sketch. I just like the feel of drawing with a pencil, and I get more pleasure out of drawing traditionally at this phase. I always do a color and value study to work out my color pallet and value structure. At this point, all the problems in my illustration should have been worked out and the rest is just a matter of painting the image. This part should be easy and enjoyable because of all the steps that were taken to ensure success.
You offer drawing and painting info on your website for other artists. When did you start that and Why?
I got my MFA in illustration from the University of Hartford during Murray Tinkelman’s last year and with the new program director C.F. Payne. I was fortunate to be surrounded by amazing illustration faculty and peers that work at an incredibly high level. I got inspiration from so many amazing artists in that program. It was truly a humbling experience and also a point of great artistic growth in my life. The info I share is meant to pass some knowledge on to individuals interested in storytelling and illustration. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. What’s does your process entail? Start to finish. Can you give us a short step-by-step?
Like many artists, I have more ideas than I have time to execute. I have periods where I’m disciplined about drawing in my sketchbook everyday and other times where I put it down for a while. I think the sketchbook is a great place for me to generate ideas based on things I see, hear or read. I start off with thumbnails to work out ideas, designs and compositions. I’ve learned the importance of exploring various ideas before committing to one.
What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? My goal is to continue to grow as an artist and find more opportunities in the children’s book market. That is something that I am continuously focusing on. I have three kids and they are my biggest motivation and inspiration in life. My older kids are seven and five, and we have a newborn. They are constantly teaching me about true artistic freedom. They love to draw and are totally uninhibited with their art and unbound creativity. My ultimate goal is to make them proud. They love that their dad is an artist. I love the idea of walking into a bookstore with them and they see their Dad’s book on the shelf. If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in, who would it be and why? My art hero for a long time has been Scott Gustafson. I love everything about his work and how he approaches illustration. I’m always excited to see what he's working on. I’m fortunate enough to own some of his original drawings and they serve as a constant inspiration in my studio. I’ve not met him in person, but I would love to hear him speak about his work one day
atkinson KEVIN by Lon Levin
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
As a kid I did not have too many typical interests, especially sports, which I thought was very boring. I grew up in Texas, initially in a very suburban kind of place. My friends were mostly of the outsider stripe, like myself. When I was 13, my family moved to a very small, rural type of town. Really deep in the middle of nowhere. So I spent even more time than before, immersing myself in comics and art and drawing. I also got very into music, specifically stuff like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. My early childhood influences were television like 60's Batman and Dark Shadows. Also comics, Marvel, DC, Gold Key Horror and tv adaptions. Disney animated films, Harryhausen. Lots of stuff. By age 12 I had discovered Golden Age comics, EC comics, R. Crumb and the Undergrounds. Also the golden age of newspaper comics with Alex Raymond, Windsor McCay, Caniff and all those legendary cartoonists. Painters like Van Gogh and Rembrant. By my mid teens I discovered Heavy Metal and the Europeans. When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I wanted to be a cartoonist since I was 4, in 1965. I used to copy the funny papers. Charlie Brown, Dennis the Menace. Popeye, etc. My dad noticed me doing this and encouraged it. He told me it was a job people had and comics became the one I wanted, never was interested in another career path. I was a little bit of a child art prodigy, took art lessons from age 6 and began winning prizes in local art shows. My teacher in first grade hung up a big piece of butcher paper and had me draw cartoons all over it while everybody else had to read or something, so that was a nice piece of early recognition.
Your style is very classic yet contemporary. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? The way I work now is what I've seen referred to as automatic drawing/writing. I'm not really consciously influenced by anything as I'm working, although I think I the results come from my influences and life experience. I'm kind of a late bloomer. My style didn't really emerge until I was 28, and out of art school. When I have time and want to look at comic art, I usually go to the masters. Eisner, Kubert, Wrightson, Crumb, Moebius and many others. When I started getting my work published 30 years ago, I was also very interested in a few contemporary artists that were around, Mike Allred, Chester Brown, Charles Burns, and Dan Clowes. I'm also influenced by art forms outside of comics, like music and film. I sometimes play a lot of music while I'm drawing, Lou Reed, R.E.M...Blues and Beat!es. In film.I'm particularly attracted to David Lynch.
"Cartooning was an arduous climb up the ladder. Several rungs were missing."
How did you evolve as a comic artist? What steps did you take to become a comic book artist? I always wanted to be a comic artist of some sort from age 4 up. But I just sort of generally drew cartoons until I was 12, when the Marvel/DC superhero bug really hit me.Then I started actually drawing strips. I wasn't really interested in drawing other people's characters at that point, though. My friend David Price and I created our own superhero universe and that kept me going for a few years. By the time I graduated High School I still had the thought in my head of being a comic artist but I didn't really know how to get there, being in TX. Comics genius Joe Kubert had started his school in New Jersey, and I knew about it, but I didn't have the nerve to go there. So I went to a regular commercial art school to get a conventional education. Comics, being a somewhat unlikely occupation, I wanted something to fall back on. I was a terribly mediocre student, though, and wasn't very interested in most of the classes, graphic design for the advertising industry being the main focus. I just wanted to draw and didn't fit in terribly well at the school. I did well enough to get jobs once I got out, but just felt like I wasn't going anywhere near what I wanted, which was a job in the comic book industry. When I was 24 I finally signed up for Joe Kubert's school and that was a really great move. Like paradise, compared to what I was used to. Drawing comics all day, into the night.
Do you work traditionally or digitally? Or both? I pencil, ink, and letter my comics traditionally. I color them digitally. I've recently acquired most of the hardware and software to do it all digitally and will soon be experimenting with that. I checked out Complex World and it looks great. Love the dialogue…What’s the story behind it and is this a personal project that’s coming out soon? Complex World evolved out of the comics I did after graduating from the Kubert School in 1988. I had spent three years at the school hoping to attain work in the comic book industry and so I figured it would be best to concentrate on samples for the two major publishers who also happened to be local, Marvel and DC. I spent the summer after school let out drawing comic book pages with their characters. I showed them to Joe Kubert, and he wasn't very encouraging. He felt like I was knocking my brains out trying to be like everybody else and I suggested I try and do something more original. He thought I had more potential than to be just another superhero artist. He was right, my samples of that summer were pretty generic.Truth be told, my interest had waned in Marvel/DC product at that point. The comic book field had greatly expanded in
the late 80's and their were lots of publishers putting out all kinds of diverse books. I had enough general commercial art experience I didn't really need to try and make a living off comics so I decided to strike out on my own and pitch my work to other publishers. I got immediate acceptance from places like Ripp Off Press and Kitchen Sink Press, who were legendary in those days. It was almost beyond belief to get published and checks from those companies. The work that emerged after my discussion with Joe was unlike anything I had done before. An entirely different style, raw, immediate, darkly comedic. Many of the pages were done very quickly. I wanted my comics
to be more like the music I listened to. Expressive, emotional, directly related more to my own inner life than adhering to any company's house style. I was very influenced by artists like Crumb in that regard. My first book length work followed the exploits of a damaged character named Caleb Steel and was called Eaters, with a series title of Snarl. It was a very turbulent, time for me and the title reflected that. Snarl was a reasonable success for it's publisher, Caliber Press and I proceeded with my next graphic novel length work, Planet 29. I went into my own psych even deeper for that piece, and ultimately followed a lighter, less personal direction for the comics that followed, a collaboration called Rogue Satellite Comics with a writer, the late Chris Reilly. The book went on for a number of issues and combined Chris's universe of characters with my own. At Rogue Satellite Comic's conclusion I decided to diversify my portfolio, and illustrated for Eureka Publication's Graphic Classics series of books. There I had the rewarding experience of interpreting, Poe, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Lovecraft and others. During that time I also had my singular experience with corporate owned superhero comics, working for several years on New England Comics Tick line of books. Which brings me to Complex World... I think it was 9 summers ago, 2010, for the first time in more than 20 years nobody was asking me to do anything, no gigs lined up. I began to think about what another comic, entirely written and drawn by me would be like. What came forth was Eaten by Planet 29, it's title a consolidation of two earlier story titles, Eaters and Planet 29. At first, it was just my own characters, but soon collaborative characters with Chris Reilly found their way in. After four books in the series, I changed the title to Complex World, from a spin off series I had done with Chris Reilly who had recently passed away. Complex World is currently where all my creative energy goes. I've mostly dropped out of gigs Many of the people I've worked with in the comics field have died, gone out of business or both. I don't know where Complex World and Eaten by Planet 29 will end up, with a publisher or doing it myself. I'm hitting 59 in age and have had a few health bumps, 5 eye surgeries in 3 years. Right now I'm trying to keep my hand in, and tackle publishing later. One of the last things Chris Reilly did for me before he died was turn me on to the work of Fletcher Hanks. Hanks was a comic book artist/writer who produced very amazing work for about 3 years in the late 30s. No one noticed at the time but decades later people discovered him and his work is now widely read. I find Hank's career path inspirational and making all my original work available online for free. If I never muster the energy to publish, hopefully the work will be around long after I've stopped doing it.
What’s going on in your head when you work on a project like Complex? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc. How do you know if it’s working?
servicing the writing. A few years later I was lucky to hook up with Chris Reilly who was an immensely talented writer and even more aesthetically askew than I was.
I have a very simple philosophy in Complex World. I want every page to be as amazing as I can make it. Life is short and I don't want to spend time drawing anything boring. I often start with a visual idea and leave space for word balloons which aren't written, or maybe half written in my head. I think this would be called the Stan Lee style of comic book writing. There is no script, no preliminary sketches. Doing comics has become much more interesting for me if there's little or no pre-planning. Just sitting down and letting it flow. It often seems as though it's coming from somewhere else, and I'm just a receptor for it. It's always very exciting for me to start new pages as I often don't know exactly what's going to happen and I literally can't wait to find out. I set the series up like a soap opera and I hope it continues far into the future. Many of the plot threads and characters have been running for over 30 years now. The characters appear out of nowhere, but it's rare for them to arrive. Many of the characters I'm now using came about 14 years ago, in a period of about two weeks. My mother was dying and I was very distressed but I wanted to keep drawing, so every day I would do one drawing of a character that didn't exist before. Among others, my characters Devil Damsel and Mr. Mirth sprang from that, and it's that random element that keeps me entertained and interested in producing comics. I feel like the comics are working when it comes forth naturally when I was in "The Zone" and their was little sweat or effort in creating it, just having the energy to get it down. These days I find the Zone much harder to achieve with commissioned work.
Who if anyone influences your work?
What made you focus on this style of comic book art? When I was in the Kubert School I was just desperate to get into comics and be the next inker of Iron Man, or whatever. The classes were diverse and you had to please a lot of people. I had a great teacher named Dennis Corrigan for the humor class and he emphasized cartoonists like Kliban and a wide range of stuff. I was really able to hone in on a humor sensibility there. Then at the end of the courses it was helpful to have Joe tell me I was trying too hard to be a dime a dozen superhero artist. He told me I had the potential of a Walt Kelly, (Pogo creator) and not really having the chops for that sort of rigorously muscular art, I thought it was smarter to go with that. I needed stories to draw and I was going to have to write them myself. I'd always watched things like Saturday Night Live and read Heavy Metal and Underground comics so humor seemed to be a through line to whatever I was doing. The art style evolved out
I once met Will Eisner and he asked me who influenced my work and I told him he did, and R. Crumb. He was surprised by that as he thought the two artists were diametrically opposed. I don't really think so. They both have a certain comic fluidity and mastery of black and white ink work that I'm attracted to. I also greatly admire the film work of David Lynch, and his ability to create arresting visual images combined with thematically challenging and mysterious concepts. I also get a lot from the music I play as I work, such as the narrative story telling and poetry of artists like Lou Reed, Dylan and the Blues. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or client you gravitate towards? Currently I'm semi-retired from commercial work. If I need to make money I will try and draw anything the client asks, period. What do you do to promote yourself and get work? I have several Tumblr Blogs full of my comics and good old Face book. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? I hope to stay healthy and keep drawing. If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why? I've met some of the greatest in my field already. Kubert, Eisner, Crumb, Wrightson, Kurtzman, Gil Kane. David Lynch is film maker but he also paints and draws so I'll say him. I also would've liked to have met Aubrey Beardsly and Edward Gory.
Kevin Atkinson was born and raised in Texas in 1961. Between 1985 and 1988 he was in New Jersey to study at the Joe Kubert School. Since then he has done short stories and full-length comics for various publishers. He wrote and drew two series, 'Snarl' and 'Planet 29' and collaborated on another, 'Rogue Satellite Comics', which climaxed with a guest appearance by 'The Flaming Carrot'.
Barstow An Interview with Lon Levin
CARTOONS THAT CHALLENGE YOUR SENSES
When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers? My mother and step-mother were both artists and my grandmother on my father's side was very artistic. I never thought about doing it! I played in my mother's studio a bit and gave up on being a good artist early. I did well in grade school, but got a D in my only art class in high school. In college I was more Bs, but got a comment from an upper student assisting in reviewing our sketchbooks: she said I had a great, cartoony style. I liked that! I took a couple of figure drawing classes after college and also modeled in art schools myself. It wasn't until I was in my thirties and kind of floundering in direction that I decided to try doing single panel cartoons. Both my boyfriend at the time, who was not much of a reader, and one of my best friends, a lawyer, laughed at them til they got tears in their eyes, so I went forward with that encouragement.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? Heavy reader and an introvert! Philadelphia. Our newspaper in my family didn't have many cartoon strips, but I loved comic books. I was most interested in the old magazines at my grandmother's apartment. They were mostly Saturday Evening Posts, with tons of black and white cartoons. I devoured them. She helped to nurture my passion from a young age. Your style and take on creation of art is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? Thank you!! I just draw as best as I can. To me, the perfect cartoon would have just one amazing line on the paper and make everyone laugh. I'm working on that. My mentor here in Los Angeles was Marty Murphy, a classic Playboy cartoonist, a great draftsman and a true curmudgeon. But we got along well and talked about cartoons all the time. We both agreed that many cartoonists - in strips and in MAD and the New Yorker, particularly -have pigeonholed their style, afraid to change anything, lest they lose their jobs. I'm excited when I discover a new way to draw! You do a lot of cartoon work for various publications. How did that happen? I like a challenge, so it was fun to try wildly different publications. I probably sold most to law and business pubs, because they pay the most, and I'm very practical. :) I also sold a ton to women's magazines,
(Continued) because they weren't afraid to buy from a woman, and of course I had the topics down!. (Believe it or not many magazines and mainstream papers like the Wall Street Journal wouldn't buy from women until 15 years ago.) Will you explain a little about the origins of your characters and their meaning to you? Do they come out of your head or from people you’ve seen or know?
I don't have any characters. I wish I did, to have a kick-ass comic strip, then move on with it to TV and movies. The people in my cartoons are extras - one day jobs to match whatever caption I am working on. The writing comes first. Unless I'm doing political cartoons, and then I have to make real people recognizable, yet my own. They are so hard!
Has the computer affected your work? Do you work traditionally and digitally? I draw everything first, usually copying the rough on a light box. I do like my Wacom tablet to touch up and color, but have never been able to draw with it - maybe my problem, not setting it up right. And Photoshop (Elements) was the best ever when I finally got it going, for color. Not artistic like watercolors, but there is still a lot of fun and discovery to be had. What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished? Do you write your own lines? Ha ha, yes I write everything myself. I would say about half the cartoonists you see can't write, but are able illustrators. I know when I have a good caption, but struggle with the blank page and how to draw it.
(Cont.) Perspective is scary!! And sometimes I forget what things look like. I have met artists who have pictures of things in their head, so then they easily draw them. I just try to get it to look normal. I know when it's working when I laugh out loud at the finished product. You offer publishers info on your website for other cartoonists. Why did you do that?
Ha, ha, again! I was in the National Writers Union for years and also ASJA and the LA Press Club. There just aren't that many cartoonists, so most of my friends are writers. I don't mind sharing editor's names with anyone, to give back a little. And as far
as competition...I'm very competitive, but I know cartoonists as a whole are not, and even given the contact info, won't do anything with it! I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. What’s does your process entail? Start to finish. Can you give us a short step-by-step?
1. I write the caption, always. 2. think of point of view on how to draw it. 4. rough or 2 or 3 roughs. 5. scan to desktop and touch-up - sometimes a lot of touchup - and color.
What do you do to promote yourself and get work? Have you worked for publishers in European countries like England or France or US? If not would you want to?
I guess I answered part of this. I will pitch all kinds of venues - that’s how I got in Psychology Today the first cartoonist in there - I don’t think there are any others. Same with Parade Magazine; they had used one team, husband/wife for 20 years and they opened it up for me and then others. Don’t be afraid to ask! I occasionally have other countries want to buy a cartoon for a textbook, or even reprint one of my books. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? I want to try an ebook. My other books were traditional hardcopy publishers. But an ebook could be fun to market and watch! And maybe edit some other cartoon books. While I was doing editorial cartoons for Slate and Yahoo, I was so frustrated with the terrible editorial cartoons in the LA Times
that I started picking my own best 3 cartoons of the week. I’d like to start that up again, because some people don’t understand opinion cartoons, and this is a year when people are going to follow politics hard! If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why? This is the hardest question!! Gary Larsen was a game-changer, and Scott Adams is brilliant. I like several rather tame comic strips, too. I have met a lot of single-panel cartoonists like me, and can’t think of someone I want to meet right now. But I would like to sit down with Robert Mankoff (who I have met) and Lee Lorenz, both of whom are cartoonists AND were cartoon editors of the New Yorker. I would like to grill them about why they so very rarely bought cartoons by women. I got evicted last year, like so many in Los Angeles, and lost my home and studio of 19 years. I’m still looking for my next home. I had a poster up in my office that said something like “The arts must survive as a business, to thrive as art.” We need to work on that.
w w w. l e v i n l a n d s t u d i o. c o m
Pyle . .A Master artist Charles Pyle was born in Orange County, Ca., and spent most of his growing up years in Bakersfield. He always drew as a kid, for himself and friends. He did illustrations for his high school yearbook and cartoons for the spirit posters. His art heroes were in comics and especially political cartoonists, which he hoped to become.After a year in junior college, he visited the Art Academy, which was the Academy of Art College back then, and was hooked by what he saw on the drawing boards in the 2A studio at 625 Sutter. It was a magic moment to him, and those artworks were speaking to him. The School of Illustration founding director Barbara Bradley interviewed him and suggested, trying Illustration. He has been with the Academy since 1972, first as a student, then as successful alum and now Department Chair.
value to that for a long time. Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? A Mixed bag. Dad? No. Mom? Sort of. Teachers? Some worried about me, some encouraged me, but let me draw and paint. In junior college, my art teacher, Ray Salmon, said that I should go to art school and suggested that I visit the ones in San Francisco. What kind of kid were you? Painfully shy, goofball. Where did you grow up?
When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
It has always been a calling. You get picked by the muse in that it sets you apart from everybody else in class. It was what I was good at, though I did not assign much
Mad, comics, sort of National Geographic Tom Lovell stuff, lots of books.
What were your influences?
Do you recommend that to younger illustrators as an alternative to working digital? An iPad is a great tool, but I can work when the power is out. I can draw with anything that makes a mark and on anything that will receive it. Breadth and mastery of hand, eye and brain is what is key. Don’t be a one tool only artist.
Your style is very uniquely classical. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? It came out of discovering Norman Rockwell and Dean Cornwell at the end of art school. Prior to that I tried many approaches to being an illustrator, which was my major. Art should feed you was my attitude. You’ve worked in a couple different styles. One traditional and one that is more caricature. How did that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem for art directors?
Caricature was first. I wanted to be a political cartoonist like Thomas Nast, or Pat Oliphant. I wanted to bring Richard Nixon down. In art school, my teacher, Barbara Bradley suggested that I ‘try illustration’ and then spent three years broadening my horizons. The caricature side yet lives, though. I notice you do a lot of life drawing studies. Do you do that on a regular basis? Life drawing is key, keeping a sketchbook of the world around you is key to developing a way to process the world around you into what it needs to become in your pictures.
How has the computer affected your work? HA! Computers have completely upended research, process, and delivery. Markets have died, been augmented, and replaced by computers. You can’t fight change. You can’t fight the ease and speed of results that they give. Do you use the computer in your work at all?? Yes, for photobashing, adding type, color correcting and uploading to clients.
What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc. There is an arc to any piece. Research and excitement to come up with ideas that work. Anxiety and excitement of assembling the needed models, props, and components to make a painting or illustration work, and on a deadline. Time management constantly whispers in my ear that I am behind and that I am stumbling. Each successful step, though, builds a little excitement and AHA moment that this will be fun and a good job. The final execution phase is both serene and increasingly driven by the ticking of the clock. Sadly, the final result never ever quite matches the inspiration, but you have to keep trying. How do you know something is finished? Tough. It is a gut feeling for me. Enough paint on the surface, enough sense of whatever I want the viewer to experience showing up, the calendar says it is due at dawn tomorrow, and so it is done. What made you focus on a traditional style of illustration? I got into the business in 1976, so the choice to work digitally did not exist. I work in gouache, oil, watercolor, and even pen and ink. It just feels right. Style? The masters I revere all were able to draw people in situations well, and the evidence of their hand IN the art was clear. Who if anyone influences your work? Oh my. Rockwell, Cornwell, Bruce Wolfe, Barbara Bradley and all my teachers, Mort Drucker, Gibson, Flagg, Maynard Dixon, the Taos Masters, Howard Brodie, and so on….. Herblock, Oliphant, John Cuneo, Nast, Joe Kubert, Kley and on it goes I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project you gravitate towards? I am better at people, and I prefer narrative that captures emotions. Not a pin up guy. Cartoons? People, a gentle satire, observing the foibles of friends, me, and the public. What do you do to promote yourself and get work? Lindgren and Smith. Linda DeMoreta, Workbook. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? Gallery work, self-directed assignments, continuing to teach
If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why? Obviously, if Rockwell wasn’t dead…but contemporary artists? Oliphant is retired…hmmm, draw alongside Will Weston for a week, because he is so good.
"DEVOLVE" Artwork by Lon Levin
TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THAT.
An Interview with Lon Levin
When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
To this day, I’m not sure if the motivation to succeed as an artist came from trying to prove my mom right, or trying to prove my dad wrong.
When I was in first grade, the teacher, Sister Rose, asked the class to draw a self-portrait. I drew myself walking home from school. At a parent teacher conference, Sr. Rose showed the picture to my mom and told her that she thought I had artistic talent because in the picture, I was leaning forward as I walked against the wind and my tie (yes, we wore ties to school back then), was blowing over my shoulder. Sr. Rose told my mom that knowing how to draw was just a small part of art. Perception was the rest. So my mom hung my self-portrait on the fridge and told me what Sr. Rose said. I knew that I liked to draw, but the encouragement I received from my mom and Sr. Rose ignited a passion in me that has never died down. My dad on the other hand was a hard working sheet metal worker and tried to discourage my art and pushed me to focus on a trade where I could make money.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? I was a very quiet kid, the eldest of seven. We were raised just northwest of Chicago. I loved baseball. Every day during the summer, we would walk around the neighborhood with our bats, balls and mitts, gathering the “regulars” together for a game. In grammar school, I was a bit above average, but excelled in art and would volunteer to do posters for library events. In the evenings, my family would gather around the TV. I would take the Sunday paper comics, which I guarded with my life all week, lay them out across the kitchen table and trace them or draw them freehand. Drawing a daily comic strip for the newspapers was my dream. So naturally
some comic strip artists became a big influence in my art, which is still obvious in my work. Mort Walker was my biggest influence in my early days. He drew a strip called Beetle Bailey and another called Hi and Lois in which he teamed up with Dik Browne. The strip is still going today being produced by his sons Brian and Greg
packet of 30 strips every other week, and when they would be rejected and returned, I would redo the strips, altering my style a bit. Some rejection letters would be the standard “No, thanks. Good luck.” But once in a while an art director would give me some advice. One director pointed out that my characters were “too cute” for the comics. So of course, I tried to ugly them up a bit, but they kept coming out cute and kept getting rejected. I submitted for 25 years, so you could imagine the metamorphosis my style went through. Ultimately I landed on my own style which was the most comfortable for me to draw, made the most sense to me and was easily recognizable. There isn’t any of your political artwork on your site. Why is that? What inspired the change in the direction of your work?
along with Browne’s son, Chance.Of course Walt Disney was a huge influence. I read his biography at a young age and was fascinated by him. And the fact that he grew up in Chicago was even more of a “draw”. When I was about 13 years old, the Muppets came on the scene. I loved how Jim Henson could get his puppets to show facial expressions with just eyebrows and a mouth. Jim Henson has really influenced the large eyes, bright colors and character design in my work.
Your style is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? Throughout the years of submitting to the newspaper syndicates, my style changed drastically. I would send out a
Yes, you are right. In my pursuit to be a comic strip artist, I took a job as a political cartoonist. It didn’t pay much, but I thought it was a foot in the door. I did it for a few years, however, even though I have a good sense of humor, satire didn’t really suit me. I have filed away all my political cartoons. Maybe one day I will revisit them. Even though my political cartooning stint didn’t open any comic strip doors for me, working for/with an editor did give me valuable experience in the publishing world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything I notice your blog “Mr Biblehead” uses your artwork and is instructive in a very positive way. Is that another passion of yours? To help people understand about being a better person? Thank you for noticing. Yes, I have a passion to teach children about the Bible and want them to read it for themselves. So ten years ago I began illustrating the Bible from
the beginning, in hopes of giving kids the context in an easier, simpler way and a way to apply it to their lives. I offer all my biblically based artwork on the site for free to Sunday Schools and anyone who wants to share the “Good News” with their children. It has been so rewarding. I have received emails from children’s ministries in 19 different countries thanking me for the artwork and teachings. I have also received emails from adults telling me how the illustrations and teaching have affected them. Two years ago Mr.BibleHead was picked up by FreeBibleImages.com (a UK based ministry that supplies free powerpoint presentations, and artwork to third world countries to help children learn about God’s amazing love). Every year they send me an encouraging email listing all the countries that have downloaded my work. To date, Mr.BibleHead has been downloaded more than 60.000 times in 177 countries! It is hard for me to believe how God is using my simple blog to reach so many kids. What a blessing! Has the computer affected your work? Do you work traditionally and digitally? In 2007 my daughter Jenny suggested that I learn digital art. At that time I didn’t own a computer, as a matter of fact, at my first class I had to ask the teacher how to turn it on. LOL! So here I was, 50 years old and back in college, but I was glad I took my daughter’s advice. Previously I was an airbrush artist and even though my work now is digital, it still shows through in my art. I still enjoy working with pencil, ink and paint, but the computer has opened up a whole new world for me. (and a lot less clean-up LOL!) I still do all my story boards and character design with a pencil and paper. Then I scan it into Illustrator, clean up the lines, add base color, and then export into Photoshop where I paint it. Digitally I can adjust colors and tone, which is something I could never do traditionally and it’s a big part of my process. What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece? Your fears, anticipation, confidence , etc. How do you know something is finished? When I first get a manuscript, I have to be able to see it in my head before I agree to illustrate it. I work for self-publishing authors as well as several publishers. My publishers are pretty good at matching me up with something that fits my groove. Once I sign a contract, there is always the initial fear of not meeting a deadline, not pleasing the author, computer malfunction, or permanent brain freeze. But the moment I get something solid down on paper as far as a character or background is concerned, all fears dissipate and I am in Kid Book mode. I start to see the pages in my head as if it is already complete. Sometimes it turns out like I envisioned and sometimes not and sometimes better. I usually like to work on two books at a time so I don’t get too burnt out (drawing a penguin over and over for 2-3 months). To me, it seems like a book is never really complete. Sometimes I will review it and add a small detail here and there. Then, the fear kicks in again! The file usually doesn’t get sent for a couple days. Is it done? Will they like it? Did I mess up somewhere?
Sometimes I depend on my wife, Aleithia, to convince me that all is well and to hit the send button that my index finger has been hovering over for 15 minutes. So, there is fear before I begin, and after I am finished, but while I am working, it’s pure contentment. What made you focus on children’s books? Who if anyone influences your work? After I completed the digital art class in 2008, I still was focused on doing some kind of comic strip. I knew my digital skills were not up to par yet, so I set up a goal for myself. I’d illustrate 3 digital pictures a day for an entire year. I figured by the end of a year, I would have 1000 illustrations complete and hopefully a better skill set. So after a year, I posted some of my best work in an online illustrator group. One of the members, John Blackford, saw my characters and emailed me. He said that he knew a publisher that was on the lookout for someone with my style. And would I be interested in doing children’s books. Well I hadn’t really thought about it, but thinking back on those 25 years of rejections from the newspaper syndicates, there was a mention a time or two about trying kid’s books. (But I was too stubborn to consider deviating from my cartoon strip dream) Now, I was open to the idea. (It only took about 28 years to get through my thick head LOL!) I submitted a very minimal portfolio along with a query, and to my surprise, Guardian Angel Publishing hired me to do 2 books! My first book ever was called Poodle and Doodle, written by Donna Shepherd. I educated myself in current and past children’s book illustrators and have come to admire many of them. One of the biggest influences in my kid’s book work has been Will Terry. He not only is a great illustrator and has many books under his belt, but he is a teacher. He is very generous with his knowledge and he has online classes at SVS learn. (Society of Visual Storytelling) I have learned so much from him and my work reflects his influence.
I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. You’ve done a lot of artwork for Bible stories. Is that a passion of yours?
I admire his work very much and would love to meet him someday.
I have always loved drawing animals. So if a script with our fourlegged friends comes across my desk, it is hard for me to turn down. But I will turn down a manuscript that doesn’t match my beliefs or is not uplifting in some way. We have a great responsibility as producers of kid lit to incorporate positive morals and values and to inspire goodness and caring. Which leads right into the second part of your question. The Bible has many inspiring stories. God has created all men equal. He loves each and every person and asks us to do the same. So hopefully by illustrating a lot Bible stories, some people may crack open the Good Book and let the light shine in their hearts.
I'm highlighting the last part of my interview with Jack because it is a message we should all appreciate ––
What do you do to promote yourself and get work? I don’t do a lot of promoting. Every time I finish a couple of books, I think to myself, “Okay, now it’s time to start advertising”. But inevitably, for the last 8 years, another book or two comes along and I haven’t had to look for work. I guess word of mouth is the best promotion. I am on social media however and I have a website: www.jackfosterart.com What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal?
Well, my three year goal is to illustrate my 100th book. I am up to 86 now, so I think it is a reachable goal. I am also hoping to get an agent. I really don’t like negotiating and looking over contracts, and I am hoping to do some work for some of the larger publishing houses like Zonderkidz, Tyndale House, Penguin, Simon Schuster etc… (Agents have the inside track on the bigger houses). My ultimate goal is to illustrate the complete Bible for kids. I am almost half way through and I started 10 years ago, so hopefully I will survive long enough to complete it. If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in who would it be and why?
When I was a kid, Bambi and Dumbo captured my imagination. I loved the characters and the animation, I always wish I could have met Walt Disney, but he died when I was 9 years old. As an adult, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin completely mesmerized me with the artistry and animation. Aaron Blaise is an artist and an animator that worked on all these films for Disney. He loves drawing animals as I do. He has been all over the world photographing and sketching elephants, giraffes and many more creatures. His blog is even called Creature Teacher. He does a live drawing and painting show with his son. He seems like such a good guy, and he is an amazing artist!
Jack, please add anything you’d like to say along with these answers. And thanks for being a positive influence to kids and parents thru your artwork. My sincere belief is if we artists contribute positive messages thru our work we can help bring more peace and love to the planet. - Lon Thank you Lon. Yes I agree. We can bring a little joy and be a positive influence. I would just like to say an encouraging word to any upcoming illustrators that may be reading this. If your passion is to create, don’t get discouraged. Every setback is an opportunity to improve your work, strengthen your character and add a little more heart to your art.
"We have a great responsibility as producers of kid lit to incorporate positive morals and values and to inspire goodness and caring."
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An Interview with Lon Levin
“I grew up with my sister and
mother. I grew up in a Navy town within a very conservative machismo military culture, isolated on an island (Whidbey Island, in the Puget Sound.”
When did you first think about art/design as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? I was doing design actually before I knew what it was. I played in a punk/hardcore band from age 13-20. We toured, made records, the whole shabang. We would make our own flyers, stencils to graffiti with, xeroxed record covers … etc. After the band, I worked at a small newspaper company. The company published 5 or 6 small neighborhood daily newspapers. I used to work and maintain the stat camera, spec type for the typesetter, do pasteup, cut rubylith …this was around 1988(?) just before computers came along and changed how print work was produced. I was doing these things but wasn’t aware of the term graphic design.
Shortly after that, I went to Seattle Central Community College, and was accepted into the graphic design program there. It was an excellent program. I went in thinking that I would be an underground comic book artist. I really had no idea what graphic design was—even though, in some very low to the ground ways, I had practiced it. My first year of school, I struggled; I just kept getting in my own way. I equated graphic design with what you saw at shopping malls and banks. Every shitty brochure I saw at a dentist’s office or whatever-I thought that was the be-all and end-all of what I was being trained to do. It didn’t feel right. I was quickly losing interest. Claudia Meyer-Newman, an instructor there, pulled me aside and asked me about punk, my record collection …etc … and finally told me “this (punk) is what you should be doing with graphic design.
Be who you are, stop trying to play it safe.” She lent me her Neville Brody book and ended up giving it to me. I started barreling through my record collection linear notes to figure out who designed what. Not long after that, the student AIGA group invited Art Chantry to
speak. I wasn’t familiar with him or his work. I almost didn’t go—I thought this student group was a kind of a pretentious butt-sniffing party for a particularly annoying click. Claudia suggested I should go regardless. At the talk, Art walked in and it immediately dawned on me that I have seen this guy at punk shows for years. We where kinda sizing each other up ala-familiar. We struck up a conversation. After I graduated, He hired me for freelance work at The Rocket, a monthly music newspaper in Seattle. Charles Burns, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry all had quarter page comic strips in the pages of The Rocket. Before Sub Pop was the now famous record label, it was a music column in The Rocket, written by Sub Pop founder, Bruce Pavitt. What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? I guess I was maladjusted for a lack of a better way to say it. My Father was a Navy pilot. He flew an A-6 Intruder. He was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam war. He was a radar jammer—flew
low and fast through mountains—a hazardous occupation by its very nature. I guess the “enemy” had a lock on him, he tried to shake ‘em, was fired upon, and flew into a mountain side at 600mph. I was born in 1967. He died in 1969. I don’t remember him (or at least I don’t think I do). I have what might be my only memory of him(?) or maybe it was a dream(?)—I honestly don’t know. In this memory-or-dream thing, he was wearing formal Navy digs, white gloves, the black and white barrel hat, shined shoes, black lapels with gold stripes, medals…polished to the nine’s…while he was teaching me and my sister how to eat spaghetti without making a mess. I grew up with my sister and mother. I grew up in a Navy town within a very conservative machismo military culture, isolated on an island (Whidbey Island, in the Puget Sound, about an hour north of Seattle). You where either a rich officers’ kid, or enlisted and living in a trailer-court or on-base housing. I was supposed to be the officers kid, but ended up being neither. I tried to fit in early on, but around 5th grade, I was pretty fed-up with it all. Skateboarding and punk rock ended up being my safety valve. I spent a lot of time by myself. I was avoidant, flippant. In 7th grade I met the only other punk rocker on the Island. His parents where stationed in from Oxnard/Point Hueneme.
That’s when the band started; With us two. It was a “ok you sing and I'll learn the drums” kind of thing. We got a healthy ration of shit on that Island. You were either a stoner or a jock there. There wasn’t any room for deviation. I would tell my mom I was going to school, and would head to Seattle to practice with the band, go to record stores, get loaded … etc. We would book little two-to-three week tours to Eastern Washington State, Vancouver, Victoria, Oregon, San Francisco, Montana, Idaho …etc. I would tell my mom I’m going, she would protest. I would go anyways. I ran away a few times. I was living in one place, but my life, my people were in another. How has the background you got at Art Center played a part in your career? I went to Art Center midway through my career; I was 42 (I am 52 now). My stint at Art Center is referred to as “the midlife crisis” in my current household. Before Art Center, before moving to L.A. I cut my teeth art directing at a weekly newspaper in Denver, Colorado called Westword. This was from 1994-2000. I was very much influenced by the editorial illustration work of the 90s; The stuff found in the American Illustration annual.
—Jordin Isip, Melinda Beck, Marshall Arisman, Rob Clayton, Gary Baseman, Mark Ryden … etc. I was also delving into graphic design history head first; where I discovered such luminaries as David Stone Martin, Richard Powers, Fritz Kahn, Ben Shahn. Brian Stauffer was an art director at a sister paper in Miami (Miami NewTimes). Miami NewTimes and Westword where both owned by the NewTimes Corporation. He was doing his own illustration for the covers at Miami. I would call him and bug the shit out him, but he always answered the phone and spoke with me anyways. I think with Art Center, I was (admittedly) being nostalgic, grasping back for that era in hopes of re-stoking that flame to some degree. You’ve worked in a couple different styles. How did that evolve and was that an asset for you or a problem for art directors? I would sift through all the illustration annuals, would ape those I liked, would experiment by mixing and matching. I spent a lot of time (probably too much time) trying to find that “silver bullet” style … totally overthinking the shit out of things. I was (and still am) very intrigued with what I regard to as “the 3,” Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. I am a comics/graphic novel dilatant at best, but those three guys are my favorite within this industry (design and illustration). The humor, the narrative, the beautiful hand-done typography, the inking, the level of obsession behind it all … never gets stale.
How do you stay up to date on styles outside of your projects? What do you recommend to younger art director/designers who are just developing their portfolios? Claudia had it right (see my answer to the second question). I believe we all have a “something-or-other” that is unique to each of us; a psychological/emotional slant on things that is unique, like a fingerprint. If one is curious about discovering what this is within themselves, and applies it to the world around them, that will culminate into
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something that will serve the world much more than some focus-grouped “how-do-we-make-every-one-like-it”, mindlessness. I think it is much more important to create your own path, develop your own voice and answer those questions only you can answer, than it is to be concerned with style or trend; being true to yourself and being dedicated to honing your own voice will sustain and evolve; trying to follow hollow trends without idea, without a unique voice; trying to do work everyone will like, will die from a lack of guts. Your design work for magazines is superb. How did that end up as something you do a lot of? Thank you, Lon! I honestly stumbled into it. I do like to read. I like thought-driven things. I tend to get on with writers, idea people, eccentrics. I moved to L.A. when I was hired as an associate A.D. at LA Weekly. I thought I would do that for a while and then jump over into designing music packaging. This was 2000, a lot of music work walked off the cliff at that time. I cherish that I was involved with music at the time that I was, but think my mind has grown and allowed for other things. I have really enjoyed the handful of book designs I have done very much and hope to do more—I would like to replace the periodical work with book design. … Or at least swap the current lopsided balance between the two things. I very much miss working at CityBeat. That editorial crew where total pros, amazing big
hearted people. It was the first publication branding/template that I built from scratch. The other weeklies I worked at previously, where pre-existing templates. What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/campaign? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished? I honestly don’t always know when Im done. Sometimes I do know when I’ve applied that one thing that tips it all over the edge, and then I step it back. I always start with a thumbnail; get the thinking done first; build a map of sorts and then execute it. I do get fed up with myself when it comes to repeating similar formula; reaching into my old bag of tricks to make things go. I also am equally frustrated when I go too far the other way and walk away from what I know, only to end up making stupid mistakes; Mistakes I know by experience not to make. I think its good to have worked long enough to have devised a good cache of chops, but also think its important to experiment against this safety net I have built for myself. That’s the balance to strike for; use those things that experience has taught me, so that it all works to the final purpose, is on time, will not cause problems at the press ...etc, but also search for contradiction to the limits I have set for myself. Force that evolution to move forward and continue learning, without throwing out the language/purpose/service of the work.
Who if anyone influences your work? Its honestly all over the place; I did mention a good amount of “who” names here; I think “what” influences is worthy of mention as well. I like to observe people, eaves drop, the humans … oh man; Great ideas waiting to happen there. A lot of funny, scary, strange, smart, dumb…etc …going on in the grocery line, the book store, the school fundraiser, the unnecessary boardroom meeting … etc. It's such a strange ongoing comedy if one pays attention. I love finding old printed matter, books, packaging, records, pamphlets, cookbooks, manuals… etc. some of the most amazing printed matter I have found, I don’t think it is even possible to know who designed or illustrated most of this stuff. Los Angeles is particularly rich with it; all the swap meets, garage sales, the cultural mishmash … its a seemingly bottomless well of archival artifacts from humanity. Being in a place like L.A. --if man has made it, it's been through here. I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. Is there a certain type of project or client you gravitate towards? What is amazing about this industry is that as you move from one workplace to another, one client to another, project to project, you end up seeing and learning a lot about other industries and how people work and behave. Its like travelling from one puny planet of humans to another puny planet of humans. I am going and seeing what “that” may be like “over there” and if I am of service there. Even if it is a bad situation, you learn from it. Ultimately, there’s nothing to lose. Again, I would like to do more books. I love the idea of doing high end art gallery type of books. Artist’s monograms, hard cover things—Phaidon, Taschen, The Folio Society, come to mind. Interesting subject matter--where the design serves by being smart and well crafted; where the design has a voice, but sits back and doesn’t interrupt the content What do you do to promote yourself and get work? In the past I have always geared up to promote myself, and then have gotten hired at an in-house gig right when I’m about to launch it all. Its always hard to say no to an inhouse gig when there are car payments, a mortgage, children …etc. I have a profound, neurotic fear of letting my family down.
I have created postcards, business cards, a new website …etc … all designed and ready to go to press, but that stuff has yet to see the light of day. It is currently just sitting in the hopper. The pattern is such that I either quit or get fired/layed off. I then get a headful of steam and update/ re-strategize my promotional effort, put it all in the proverbial catapult, and like clockwork, right before I’m about to unleash it all into the world, I then get work and it all gets pushed back into the chamber. With that said, two things have seemed to work well within these interims; 1.) I have gotten my best work unexpectedly and by word of mouth. 2.) It doesn’t happen often, but every few years, someone needs a magazine designer and/ or art director, and as they try to suss one out, they discover there just aren’t many experienced designers that hold editorial design as a forte anymore. Editorial design is a practice that brings with it a lot of moving parts. Most people who have decided to publish a magazine are searching for someone who has done it before and can hit the ground running. There aren’t a lot of us left. 99.9% of my career has been that of editorial design and editorial art direction; I’ve been at it since 1992; It’s the whole chimp and the typewriter thing. What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal? Well, I do have all that promo stuff in the catapult… ha! I would like to do more work that is in service of sub-culture, intellectual pursuit, art, literature,— those beautiful strange things usually found at the low end of culture or at the high end of culture; to hell with all that mainstream garbage in the middle—it is infested with mediocrity. I want to collaborate with those who do things to promote thought, not sequester it. I’ve been pondering the thought as of recent and do think it may be relevant here; In this economic infa-structure, we are all consumers. There is no way around it. But we are also human, and death is the only way out of that one. So … we are both. If you decide to try and escape this by telling your boss to go piss up a rope, cutting the soles off of the bottom of your shoes and climbing a tree to play a wooden flute, it still applies. If you have billions of dollars and have all the toys that come along with that to hide behind, an island with your name on it and servants to serve your every beck and whim, it still applies. I think we need to ask ourselves: Am I more human or am I more consumer? Which one of these two forces am I going to hand the wheel over to?
I really like how you arranged and designed each page with my illustrations. It gives the whole a really a fresh look and elegant touch. What I really like about your Journal is the diversity of illustrators you choose for each issue. It gives a sense of where illustration is going through the multitude of talents on display. And it's a good source of inspiration for those starting out in this profession, as well. Stefano Imbert/Award-winning Fashion Designer/Board Member SINY
"The Illustrator’s Journal, a wonderful online magazine about everything illustration. Thank you Lon! I really enjoyed doing this interview, thinking about the answers to your great questions" - Wendy Edelson/Award-winning illustrator
"The Illustrators Journal looks great!" - Rolli Writer/Cartoonist
This looks so fantastic Lon! I love the big photo of the Corey Haim canvas you included! It's a beautiful piece, thank you soooo much! - Sarah Beetson/Award-winning Illustrator/Artist Rep/England
The Illustrators Journal! Yaaaay! Thank You - Agata Karelus/Award-winning Animator/Illustrator/Designer/Poland
ILLUSTRATION BY LON LEVIN
CONTACT: Levinlandstudio@gmail.com 818.268.9953