Posted on 7:34 PM by James | 0 comments
—from Neptune Rising by Ian Gittins in Man About Town
Posted on 12:29 PM by James | 0 comments
She graciously agreed to an interview.
Over the course of the past week, we ended up exchanging emails back and forth. I was greatly appreciative of Annie’s quick responses to my questions.
I can definitely see how, given the right circumstances, this interview could have easily been further expanded. However, I was sure to let Annie know early on that I had wanted it to be brief. What I wanted was to find out more about her. I allowed the conversation to grow organically, sending additional questions in response to her responses.
You can visit Annie’s website and Flickr to view more of her work. She also keeps a very nice blog that will keep you abreast on what’s currently going on with her.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I was born in Florida, and by the time high school was over, I had quite enough of the sunlight and the mouse ears and the suburbs, so I moved to Baltimore for school. I'm honestly still not entirely sure how I ended up at the Maryland Institute College of Art, but I studied there for four years and left with a BFA in Illustration. I'm sticking around this city for a little while longer, though the siren call of NYC still rings in my head.
I can understand the lure of New York City. But it's interesting that you're in Baltimore. I was there at the beginning of the year for an exhibition. I had no perceptions of the city at all before I went, especially since I have never even seen The Wire. I feel that people's perceptions of the place, though, do come from that show. So this is what I would like to ask you: What's your perspective on the city and the creative community there?
Baltimore is very eccentric, and it can change very dramatically from street to street, neighborhood to neighborhood. So even after five years, I still don't know it as well as I think I should. Does anyone really base their perceptions of Baltimore solely on The Wire, though? Coloring an entire city with whatever crime show happens to be associated with it is dangerous territory... After watching a few episodes of Law & Order: SVU, anyone who doesn't hate their genitalia would probably never want to visit NYC. That said, I do occasionally tell people that living here is equal parts The Wire, John Waters's films and Ace of Cakes, just to confuse them.
As for the creative community... There's a good air of enthusiasm. Maybe this is just tinted by what I've seen from within the art school bubble, but I feel like Baltimore is especially great for those who are interested in collectives or collaborating to make stuff happen.
You know, I was also going to mention John Waters, but I would never have thought of Ace of Cakes. Maybe because I'm not really familiar with that show. I do think, though, that people will generally stereotype a place they have never been based on something they have seen on television or cinema. I mean, I live in Orange County, and how many people's perceptions of this place are based on The O.C., or Laguna Beach, or Real Housewives? Sometimes when I want to mention Orange County, I will jokingly say "The O.C." even though I don't know anyone who calls it that.
But that leads me to this question, and it's a subject that my peers and I talk about a lot. What influences does Place — living in Baltimore — have on your work, if any? I mean, obviously you work for clients, but do you think your way of working and the resulting work would somehow be different if you were living in New York? I'm asking this because I do think that certain places are more conducive to the creative endeavor than others. Perhaps it's the community or the energy that you draw from the place.
I don't believe living in Baltimore or New York would change my process or resulting work in any jarring way just because it's Baltimore or New York.
For me, location affects work indirectly. Not feeling sufficiently inspired, comfortable or in-tune with your surroundings... It's kind of like not having the right tools or facilities, y'know? You're always going to be a little off and not fully focused and maybe even a little miserable, because you don't have what you need to do your best. Personally, I like Baltimore, but I would benefit from NYC's faster pace and energy, so it makes sense to consider a move.
How did you get into illustration and design?
I don't know how I ended up in illustration and design. And yes, I realize this only perpetuates the sense that I have no control over my own life. I've been drawing for as long as I can remember (it was welcomed and encouraged by my teachers, friends, and family) and my fascination with design was just something that kicked in when I accidentally stumbled across Photoshop in the seventh grade. Then, aside from some financial things to consider, art school was the obvious choice after graduation. Everything has happened somewhat organically, I guess.
I guess this is as good of a place as any to start talking about your work. Who are your influences? Let's firstly talk about the ones that you had during your formative years as a student, and maybe then the ones that still influence you now as a professional.
I had phases, like a lot of students. During the transition from high school to college, I went through a huge street art thing and was obsessed with people like Banksy. So I would find excuses to make... if I remember this correctly... things like hand-cut, slightly larger than life-size crucifix stencils. It wasn't really right for me, so that whole phase is kind of ridiculous and hilarious to me now, but it was important to explore. I think this was followed by an exhausting obsession with Aubrey Beardsley, sprinkled with some lowbrow/pop surrealism for good measure.
The majority of my other influences have lasted longer though, including Robert McGinnis (pulp in general), Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Jamie Hewlett, Gustav Klimt, the guys behind The Venture Bros... It's all very scatterbrained because I'm interested in a lot of things. I mean, if I really wanted to push it, I could even say something like Monty Python is still a big influence to me (even though an untouched airbrushing set in my studio suggests otherwise).
How long ago did you graduate? Obviously you must have already started working professionally. What have your experiences with working for clients been like?
I graduated in May of 2010, so... about seven months ago? My experience with clients has been pretty good. I've been very lucky. Anything negative wasn't so horrible that I couldn't just chalk it up to a lesson and move on.
Can you talk a bit about your working process? How do you go from a client's directive to the finished illustration or design?
In most cases, I whip up some sketches or thumbnails, get approval, go to pencils, get approval, and then ink and color the final thing. Every once in a while, I have a client who lets me go straight to finals or near-finals and then if they have any tweaks they want me to make, I take care of those pretty quickly.
How much of your work is digital?
Usually, I ink over my pencils on paper, scan the line-art in and then clean up and color through Photoshop. I guess only about half the process is digital, though I feel like most of my time is spent in Photoshop.
Do you think that you would ever switch completely to digital? I have a friend that I sometimes go out sketching with, and he and I have recently been discussing the Cintiq. He's been trying to get one, and he's saying that from talking to people who are using it that the tablet can really change your behavior. I have had a regular Wacom tablet for a very long time, but I still find that it's difficult for me to draw straight on it. It's the reason why I haven't gone completely digital when it comes to drawings.
Oh, man. It blows my mind when someone can work digitally from start to finish.
I own a regular tablet, but I've worked on a Cintiq before. It's two really different experiences, and I definitely find it easier to do fully digital drawing on the latter (you probably would too). I imagine I'll end up getting a Cintiq in the future... I'm sure it'll lead to sketching and thumbnailing digitally more often, but it's hard for me to say [if] I'll ever switch over for penciling and inking. While it's very convenient and produces clean work, I still lose a lot of the line quality that I get with pen and ink. And there's something about the feel of the steel nib-drawn lines on toothy paper that I enjoy.
You mentioned that you are an insomniac. Do you have a specific time of day when you feel more energized to work? I sometimes am also an insomniac, but I tend to be up pretty early. However, I find that I can only seriously start doing anything around 11 A.M.
Strangely, I still haven't found that magic block of time. It's more a matter of slowly working until I enter the right headspace and I'm not compelled to stop until my eyes give out. Sometimes it happens during typical business hours, sometimes it happens from 5PM to 4AM. It's hard to predict or plan.
What is your relationship to fashion? I'm picking it up in your illustrations. Also I saw you mentioned something about a fashion thesis.
I follow a few fashion bloggers, and I occasionally check out some runway stuff. Fashion really interests me, but that scene is so huge, it's impossible for me to follow religiously. Mainly, I just know what I like and enjoy taking the time to detail my characters accordingly.
The fashion-related illustrations I did for thesis were almost purely an excuse to really focus on figures, clothing and style rather than story and context. I guess it's that Jamie Hewlett type of thing where you just keep putting stuff on the characters... I do that in my sketchbooks a lot, because it comes easily to me, so when there's an opportunity to spend time making refined versions of whatever I do anyway, I jump on it. I was also working on a portrait-based thesis at the same time, so it was nice to have something light and different to work on when not staring at reference photos for hours on end.
Since you have been working professionally, have you ever had the chance to do pure fashion illustrations, or fashion-related assignments, for clients? If not, is that something that you would like to do?
Oh, yeah, Paul Pope's fantastic with that. He and James Jean came to Baltimore a few years back and I got to hear them talk about their work. At the time, Paul Pope was working out a line with DKNY and James Jean was doing that huge project with Prada, and I was in awe that these guys could so seamlessly (oh-ho-ho) incorporate their style into the fashion world and still do all the "typical" illustration work too.
I've done a character design assignment as well as an online project with ELLE that involved clothing characters with existing fashions, but I've never gotten straight-up fashion illustrations. I'd definitely like to do some in the future, though.
Obviously you have said that you have been allowing things to grow very organically. But is there something that you would like to end up doing? A certain type of work that you would like to plan on doing in the future, or maybe certain assignments that you would like to do?
A lot of things come to mind. There's no "ultimate" job or assignment for me; I just want to do everything. Someday, I'd like to illustrate my own writing (most likely in comic form) and hopefully contribute to the animation industry... Then there's fashion and film and theatre and on and on. Not to mention the sad, crazy list of people I'd like to work with in some capacity. Many of those people are comedians, musicians, and others not directly tied to the visual arts, so it'll be interesting to see if and how I find a way to worm into their creative lives. It's going to be anxiety-inducing/great.
Posted on 4:06 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 7:49 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 8:46 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 3:57 PM by James | 0 comments
The ancestor of science fiction is H. G. Wells with books like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Those books involved things that are very unlikely to happen or are actually impossible, but they are ways of exploring possibilities and human nature and the way people react to certain things. And if you go to another planet, you get to build the whole society and you can draw blueprints and have fun with talking vegetation and other such things.
The lineage of speculative fiction traces back to Jules Verne, who wrote about things that he could see coming to pass that were possible on the Earth--this wasn't about outer space or space invasions--but things that we could actually do.
There were a lot of utopias in the nineteenth century, wonderful societies that we might possibly construct. Those went pretty much out of fashion after World War I. And almost immediately one of the utopias that people were trying to construct, namely the Soviet Union, threw out a writer called Zamyatin who wrote a seminal book called We, which contains the seeds of Orwell and Huxley. Writers started doing dystopias after we saw the effects of trying to build utopias that required, unfortunately, the elimination of a lot of people before you could get to the perfect point, which never arrived.
Posted on 3:02 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 11:34 AM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 12:17 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 8:04 PM by James | 0 comments
Posted on 7:51 PM by James | 0 comments