Posted by Nate Williams
What do you think hinders creativity?
Lots of things. Mainly lack of confidence in my ideas. Lack of time to see ideas through to a point where they start making sense. It takes time to nurture ideas, for them to gain momentum and take on a life of their own. I’m talking about personal work here, which is what excites me the most and which is like a fertilizer/tonic/ginseng for my portfolio.. Lately I have had too many random illustration jobs, with no time to breathe in between. I’m crap at juggling too many things because I’m pretty slow and perfectionistic, and always battling against time.. I’m a flustered mess a lot of the time to be honest! As for creativity in commercial jobs…It so depends on the job. Some projects really make you burst with creativity. Sometimes the art director has good intentions, but their boss/client is too conservative to give you any freedom, and everyone involved end up second-guessing what the people above them will think. I had a job like that recently. It really sucks the life out of you…
What helps you be more creative?
Well.. Balance is the key. Between commercial and personal work, but also having a good work/life balance in general. I definitely have workaholic tendencies, as probably a lot of illustrators do. It’s good to be passionate, but it might not actually make you that interesting a person or give you that many fresh ideas in the long run. I’m a bit worried about that. I’ve been working freelance, full time for 10 years now, and I’m actually toying with the idea of getting a part time job. Not just for some steady income, but just to force myself away from the drawing board, which I think could be healthy in a lot of ways. We shall see how that goes. Ha ha! Maybe it’s a mid life crisis. I started doing Yoga the other day, and I think that will be a really good thing. Trying new things I guess is my point. Take some classes, learn some new skills, a new language or whatever. It’ll all feed into your work eventually. I’m quite keen on doing a course in woodwork and/or ceramics. That might be my goal for the year.
What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?
I went on a trip to Sofia recently, with some friends (who also are linked to Nobrow) to give a presentation and a small workshop. We were shown such an amazing time by the local artists we met there. They were the nicest guys ever. Really fun to meet like minded people in a country I knew next to nothing about beforehand. I then went on to a tiny cultural festival in the Bulgarian mountains afterwards and met, among others, a group of English artists called “Friction” who are completely different from me, but who were super funny and inspiring. They aren’t interested in “themselves”, but work with others, kids/people/communities (locally and abroad), enabling them to tell their stories and then create amazing events and really shake things up, shifting peoples ideas in the process. Their tales were just incredible, and they really inspired me to maybe look up from my drawing board a bit more… (www.frictionarts.com)
Is your work more conceptual or decorative? Why?
I would say conceptual, because my best work tends to be an amalgamation (how poncy!) of at least two completely different ideas/concepts that come together to create something “bigger than the sum of the parts”. I do put a lot of emphasis on craftsmanship and skill though, so I guess I’m a bit of both. I have done a few things which I guess are purely decorative, and I don’t get much enjoyment from that at all. I designed a tea towel with birds on it a few years ago, but I couldn’t help sneaking some 1920’s “communist agitator birds” into the mix. I guess I try to put some “friction” into everything I do as well.
How would you like your work to be used in the future?
I want to to create more books really. That’s the best way I can create something of true artistic value as an illustrator. It does not come easy to me though. It takes a lot of effort. Ideally I would only do commissions for interesting clients whose values I share. I did a job for a Welsh jeans company called Hiut Denim recently and it’s one of the most enjoyable illustration jobs I’ve ever done. Full freedom to do whatever I wanted with some short little texts written by passionate craftspeople.
I really like their ethos of just making a product really well, taking pride and not contributing to the unsustainable “throwaway” consumer culture we live in. Unfortunately only well-off people could afford a pair of their jeans though… But I do think a lot of things (clothes and chickens etc.) are too cheap. Someone pays the true price somewhere I guess… (www.hiutdenim.co.uk)
Why should an illustrator take on a rep or agent rather than represent him/ herself?
In theory, so that someone is actively promoting you, giving you time to focus on doing the actual work. He is better at negotiating better fees and deals with all the admin and business side of things. In theory…. Everyone just needs to find out what works for them though. It’s too many “known unknowns” at play to give general advice. People are so different.
What can illustrators do to make the experience positive for an art director?
I think my teacher once said that the illustrator’s job is to make the art director look good. Remember, the art director has entrusted you to do the job over all the other illustrators in the world, maybe even fought a small battle to convince the client that you’re the right artist, so you got to appreciate that. Good communication is key. Good timekeeping. Take pride in what you do, but be flexible about doing changes etc. (within reason). Try and see things from their perspective. Let them know as soon as possible if you think you need a little extra time, but always deliver on the agreed time. Basically, just do the job as good as you can. Advice to art directors: Say thanks! It takes 5 seconds, but really means a lot to the illustrator.
What advice would you give to illustrators?
Basically. You’re going to spend your life squeezing ideas out of your brain, so the more you put back in the better. All your life experiences; all the films you’ve seen, people you’ve met, conversations you’ve had..etc, are just lying dormant in your unconsciousness, waiting for a chance to bubble to the surface as part of an idea. So yes. Travel and experience things! Also…Get away from the computer regularly. Make things with your hands. Experiment! Try to find inspiration from other places than illustration blogs. Go to the Natural History Museum and look at the mineral collection. (It’s incredible. )
It takes time to develop a personal “voice” , and it’s an ongoing process…I’m still trying to work out what the hell I’m doing.