Posted by Nate Williams
Raymond Biesinger’s taught himself how to illustrate in the pages of his university student newspaper in the Siberian clime of Edmonton, Canada. There he learned the wonders of concepts, minimalism, political history and Xerox machines; all kinds of real-world physical image-making techniques and mental approaches that are the spine of what he does today. He’s moving to Montreal in early August, bringing with him a satchel full of clients ranging from the New Yorker to GQ to Monocle to shitty photocopied zines and noise rock bands. He’s been accompanying the social economist Tim Harford’s “Undercover Economist” column in the Financial Times’ Weekend magazine for a few years now, too. Strange how that works. Oh, and he’s also in a music duo called the Famines, due for their fourth trans-Canada tour in the fall.
What is your typical day like?
Wake up at 9 AM, smooch wife, bike to the studio by 10 AM, check e-mails with a banana chocolate muffin from the tea shop from across the alley, deliver some roughs. Long lunch on Whyte Ave. Make some finals, stop at 6 PM, go home, commence leisure activities. It’s pretty tame.
Please describe your working environment.
For the last while it’s been the studio you can see in those photos–a 555 sq. ft. loft off what passes for a busy intersection on a nice avenue in Edmonton. I’m lucky to have that much space, with windows on three sides and skylights up above. Very bright, and a delightful place to sleep over at and stay up really late with friends at–it’s much closer to night life than our apartment. When my wife’s out, I pretty much move in to the place. It even has a claw foot tub. On one end is the Famines’ practice space, the other illustration space. In the middle is book publishing (binder, Xerox, stack cutter). In Montreal it’ll be a bright 7 1/2 near Parc Lafontaine, and my wife and I will both live and work there. Can’t wait to get that set up!
What’s your process for coming up with new ideas?
For editorial or commercial work it’s always the same: I turn the talk radio off, for a change. Look at the text I need to reflect on, lie face down on a couch (one without arms, of course), poking out the top, with paper and a pen directly below my face. Measure out the space that needs filling. Then sketches happen. Not many of them, actually. With the Tim Harford illustrations I usually go with my first good one (time’s of the essence!) and with everything else I go until I have three I’d be happy to bring to final. With personal projects it’s different. They’ll gestate, they’ll gather dust for years, sometime, waiting for the right final motivators and infos to fall into place.
What makes a good idea?
That it isn’t a cliche. That it isn’t just an aesthetic trick or empty decoration, and that there’s intelligence, research and content behind the rational part of the idea.
What do you get inspiration outside of art?
History and politics, a respect for innovation in the past, German frugality, Protestant work ethic, the feeling I get from doing small things that mean a lot (minimalism in life, in music, etc.), simple efficiency. I’m not the most emotive person (except for in private or with the band) and love rationality, numbers, geography, statistics, structure, wit. Also: my love of honesty, clarity, being candid, etc. These all dictate how I approach making an image and concept, and even my experimentation exists within the tent these things make. That’s where it comes from, I think, and I don’t pay much attention to what other illustrators are doing or what other artists have done.
What have you learned lately?
One can easily work themselves to death/unhappiness as an illustrator. Take breaks.
What 3 illustrators should we check out?
Hmmm…. Edmonton locals
- Genevieve Simms (www.genevievesimms.com)
- Josh Holinaty (www.holinaty.com)
- Marc Bell (marcbelldept.blogspot.com)
Top five influences/inspirations:
- Elizabeth Hudson
Top five favorite things in life:
- Elizabeth Hudson
- how the real world works
- one-on-one conversations
- being punctual but never rushed.
Three favourite websites:
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