Chris Whetzel Illustration [chriswhetzel]
What is your profession? What is your title printed on your business card?
"chris-whetzel.com: digital artworks and illustrations"
What did you study and why did you choose to study that field?
I studied Illustration at the University of the Arts from 1999-2003 under the tutelage of many great professors including Mark Tocchet, Megan Berkheiser, Roger Roth, and Sabin Howard.
What is expected of you in your job, and how do you accomplish it?
Smart, unique artwork provided by a specified deadline. I do whatever it takes to do so. Eat at you desk, and sleep less. Just get the artwork done on time.
Are you satisfied with the education that you received?
Good question. Yes and no. Upon graduation, I felt I was not adequately prepared to jump inot freelenace so I worked in-house design/illustration jobs to gain experience. This education proved valuable, and strange as it is, I feel that my on-the-job experience actually serves as a solid foundation for my school education if that makes sense. So all of it combined, although out of order, has definitely prepared me for the current situation of working as a freelencer.
How are you different from others in your professional sector?
Well, its come to my attention (not to speak poorly of others), that I put alot more time and effort into my conept sketches i.e. the drawings are far more realized than sketches some other artists provide. It seems like every art director is overly appreciative of my sketches and how easily it is to see what the final artwork will look like based off of the sketch. Also, I keep my clients updated even when not submitting sketches or artwork. I just let them know what I'm doing, how the piece is progressing, etc. This also seems to be appreciated.
What do you do to manage stress?
Ha ha! I really like naps. I love the saying "sleep on it" as things are always easier to deal with when I'm fresh. I also like to get in some exercise (walking, resistance, etc) if I'm frustrated or upset.
What is your motivation? What makes you get up in the mornings?
The cats meowing :)
But seriously though: validation. All artists just want to be recognized for their artwork. So you gotta get to the desk and make artwork. Then you have to get it out there where people see it. Thats how I spend my days.
How do you promote and move your work?
Constant website updates, blogging, linking to other blogs/sites, marketing/promotion thought direct mail as well as email, and recently an online portfolio at theispot.com
In which new areas would you like to experiment?
Well, any areas really. It would all be exciting as thats how illustration seems to work; every assignment is something new!
Shapes, color, concept: where do you usually begin when conceiving a design?
Definitely "concept." The idea is what is paramount; everything else neds to communicate the idea.
Up to what point do your designs reflect your personality?
Oh, I totally feel the visual style of my artwotk reflect me as an individual. I am very morally driven, and I tend to see things as "black or white," right or wrong. Also, with every piece, my thought, opinion, or viewpoint on the subject is present (although it may be subtle so as to not conflict with the illustration's concept).
At this moment, what would be your dream job or project?
Heh Heh. I'm actually starting to take steps toward my childhood dream of working in comics. Hopefully, it comes to fruition! But honestly, my current situation was a dream for along time as well. So I'm optimistic!
Can you see yourself in this field twenty years from now?
Absolutley. I plan to die with my pencil in hand.
What do you do? How do you define yourself as an artist?
Hi! I'm a freelance illustrator working out of New York. A description of myself as an artist? Well, I usually respond with "I'm a freelance illustrator" but since some folks don't know what illustration is, I summarize with "I create conceptual work that communicates a specific idea." I don't like to speak on technique/media when defining myself as I see all of that as simply a medium through which to communicate.
Your biography in four lines.
I was born in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley. I had a pretty normal childhood aside from a few incidents. I attended University of the Arts, and I left with a BFA in Illustration. I now live in Beacon, NY where I have the luxury of working in my jammies.
Do you upload your work to the web? If so, where could we see it?
How is an idea born? For you, what is inspiration?
I enjoy thinking up an idea more than any other part of illustration. Granted, usually I am given a subject to tackle, but its how you communicate that idea that is fun. For example, someone says "The ecomony is not doing well. Draw that." Thats where I have to think up a way to show an abstract concept. The idea can come from anywhere; I find the easiest way to let it come is to completely open up. For me, the creative process usually involves lots of music/silence, relaxation, research, and finally applying the subject to my personal life experiences. I find the best ideas come when I am most relaxed and least distracted: lying in bed for a spell before getting up for the day, showering, and falling asleep at night. Often, concepts will come while driving as well.
My inspiration is anything and everything; I feel keeping myself open keeps the art from becoming stagnant. So I guess my greatest inspiration is to not be complacent?
What role does technology play in your creative process?
Well, thats a iffy question. First, all of my artwork starts as a drawing or sketch. But my "final" artwork is created digitally. So really, neither could exist without the other. So I guess it like 50%? I wish it were less and that I could screenprint everything, but in my field, creating artwork digitally is faster and more convenient. I am happy to work this way as I do love the way an archival print looks/feels.
What is art?
I like a vague definition of art: anything that communicates an abstract idea. Art is for everybody; everyone should be able to partake. Who am I (or you) to say someone's efforts cannot be construed as art?
When and how did you begin to see yourself as an artist?
Ha Ha! May of this year(2008).
I never saw myself as an artist as a child, teen, or even when I was an art sudent. I had been working salaried illustrator/design jobs since my graduation from Uarts in 2003. But that was the month I got completely sick of working a salaried position, and I decided that I needed to
1) Make a name for myself with my artwork being the vessel
2) See my art as something that is marketable and salable
3) At least try :)
Why do so many artists and creators have such volatile personalities?
Honestly, I think artists just have so much going on inside themselves; our thought processes are unlike most folks. So there is (at least for me) a higher level of constant stress that needs to be considered: we are constantly in need of attention and recognition. We need validation. While folks are chatting away or enjoying a social dinner, we may be mulling over existential questions in our head. I have lost count of how many times someone asks me what I am thinking only to find that its not anywhere along the lines of what they were thinking. And to interrupt such thought processes can be very frustrating. I am very fortunate to have a lady and friends who are very patient with me and my nearly bi-polar personality. And sometimes, an artist just wants to WORK and not talk or go somewhere!
Must an artist reinvent him/herself everyday?
Absolutely not. An artist should simply push him/herself everyday.
Which artists do you admire and how do they influence your work?
I am not inspired by specific artists so much as techniques and genres. I enjoy looking at poster, comics, screenprints, woodcuts, graffiti arti, and anything else that is bold, bright, and captivating. I try to draw from these areas by having my artwork allude to them without existing within a specific one. Working digitally, allows my artwork to look/feel like any type of artwork which is very interesting to me.
If you would like specific artists, I take different influences form different folks. Some influence my artwork visually, and some influence my mindset:
And so many more!
Is art necessary?
Definitely. That's like asking if I need to eat. I need to make art as well as experience art. Its what separates us from animals.
In art, there is no guide. How do you know what the next step is?
As a prolific artist, you know when you need to take steps. Most of these should be natural, but you just know when you need to step it up to avoid falling into a rut or being repetitive. My basic rule of thumb was coined by artist Peter Wonsowski: "onwards and upwards." Push, push, push myself everyday to do something that pushes my art/thinking or pushes my artistic presence by marketing/promotion.
What types of jobs do you usually do?
Most of my commissions are editorial i.e. concept-based. I am asked to take an abstract idea and give it form so that a viewer can experience that idea on another level. I find this type of work the most rewarding as I tend to think/illustrate in metaphors. I am trying to break into other fields that would result in collaborations with artists such as music/live art as I also enjoy working WITH people.
Which of your jobs or tasks do you most enjoy?
All of them! When you ARE your business, everything is more rewarding. (except pay-outs like taxes and expenses :)
Do you personally collect any items?
Sadly, not as much as I used to. My comic and dvd collections are waning, but I have started buying lots of art/illustration books. Also, I collect artwork that I cannot afford via website bookmarks and blogs. I tend to also buy posters and prints which for some reason never make it onto the wall :)
Which websites do you frequently visit?
What hobbies have you got?
I consider coffee my new hobby. Making stews. Scribbling doodles and reading an article in a magazine or newspaper then trying to think up an illustration. Is that weird: working as a hobby? Everything else is pretty standard for hobbies: collecting books, exercising, online sites/blogs, etc.
If you were sent to a deserted island, which book, CD and film would you take with you?
Book: Jimmy Corrigan or a Tintin Collected (does that exist?)
CD: Two Gallants' Self Titled or Our Lady of the Highway's About Leaving
Film: Amelie, The Thin Red Line, or Lost In Translation
How do you find the balance between working to live and living to work?
Well, I don't see them as different. As Milton Glaser said: "ART IS WORK."
A simple pleasure that for you is quite big or important.
Freelancing is a pretty lonely/quiet profession. Having two rambunctious cats definitely keeps the studio energy up!
What is the greatest loss you have had in your life?
Losing a job. It really put my life in perspective and was a driving force in my considering freelance as a full-time career. So I see that as a "great" loss!
What do you currently have in your MP3 player?
As I type this, I am listening to freelanceswitch.com's "Freelance Radio," a podcast all about freelancing! Great stuff!
What books are you currently reading?
Currently working my way through "The Goon" tradepaperbacks in bits and pieces.
What is that special film you never tire of watching?
Its not a film, but I listen to and re-listen to all seasons of "The Office" while I work.
Do you defend urban graffiti?
I love graffiti provided it is culturally positive. I love graffiti murals or statements about society. I abhor "tagging," though.
For you, what is "the good life"?
This life! Enjoy the Day!
What is the secret to happiness?
Well, for me its achieving goals. I am very goal-oriented. Once again, its that whole achievement/validation-thing.
Chris Whetzel Illustration
Beacon NY, USA